Monday, December 31, 2007
Corporate Rock Still Sells #6 went up on Idolator a few days ago, and it might be my favorite to date, mostly because I got to look over Billboard's end of year Modern Rock chart and do a big overview. Happy new year, everybody.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

This month on, I posted my personal top 50 list of Baltimore albums in 2007, as kind of a companion to the list in the City Paper's Top Ten Issue. The list has Darkroom Productions, Jade Fox, Say Wut, Ogun, Comp, Labtekwon, Blaq Starr, Bossman, D.O.G., K-Swift and a whole shitload of other artists on it. Otherwise on Noise recently I covered the Blammy Awards at Hip Hop 101 at the 5 Seasons, and shows including Monarch, Yukon, and Jason Dove & The Magic Whip at the Ottobar, Lake Trout and Gunwife Gone also at the Ottobar, Ted Leo's two night stand at the 9:30 Club, and Carbon Leaf also at the 9:30. And there's been a whole lot of other local music news on the page recently besides my posts, too.

My Top 50 Albums of 2007 (part 2 of 2)

Friday, December 28, 2007
I've consumed more new music this year than pretty much any year of my life, somewhere between 100 and 200 albums and mixtapes (although a lot of those were local things that, at least for this round of year-end stuff, I'm limiting to stuff like my local music list on the City Paper site). I probably heard almost as much music last year, but was fine keeping my list to a top 25. That's largely because I was reviewing albums for Stylus every week at the time and was more concerned with finding albums to write about (random promos, stuff I bought that I knew no other reviewer would have any interest in), so I heard a lot of crap that never got seriously considered for the list. This year, I pretty much focused on hearing every album that I thought I might actually like, although of course a lot of them ultimately weren't very good. As Jess said recently, "Even professional listeners are largely bullshitting when attempting to seriously rank albums after about No. 20 or so." So the bottom half of this top 50 was mostly and indulgence for me, to acknowledge all the records I liked but didn't quite love, but the top 25 is full of records that really made me feel like this was a good year for music. And I think it'll be useful a bit further down the road, after I've fallen out of love with a bunch of the records in the upper reaches of the list and want to reevaluate 2007.

1. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It (Yep Roc)
Sloan's albums have always been kind of hit-and-miss, and the ratio had been steadily tilting toward more misses than hits since 1996's One Chord To Another. But for their 8th album, the band's four singer/songwriters (two of whom are very good, and two of whom are OK with flashes of brilliance) threw everything they had at the wall and ended up with a sprawling 30-song set that actually works. The consistency is still somewhat spotty, but with twice as many attempts they ended up with twice as many keepers, and most of the lesser songs are short transitional tracks that help make the album a cohesive whole.
Sloan - "Another Way I Could Do It" (mp3)

2. UGK - Underground Kingz (Jive)
Rap double albums always get shit on, but sometimes they make sense, especially in situations like this where the artist could've gone in 2 very different directions: a UGK album in the classic mold, with country rap beats and hooks by Pimp, or an all-star comeback album with tons of guests and outside producers. Instead, they made an album's worth of tracks with each method, and threw it all together to satisfy pretty much every expectation you could've had for the album. A few weeks ago, I was listening to this a lot and had just bumped it up to #2 on my year-end list literally the day before Pimp C passed away. And I'm glad that I did it then, so that I don't feel any conflict now about whether I'm just pumping up my opinion of the album in light of his death.
UGK - "Swishas & Dosha" (mp3)

3. Prodigy - Return Of The Mac (Koch)
It's really just as simple as this: Havoc's beats aren't what they used to be (see also: Kush) and G-Unit's production stable, for the most part, ain't shit. So Alchemist is pretty much the only guy who can bring out Prodigy's A game.
Prodigy - "Bang On 'Em" (mp3)

4. Parts & Labor - Mapmaker (Jagjaguwar)
I've done a pretty good job of ignoring most hip New York bands this decade, but if there are some more that sound like this, maybe I should take off my blinders more often.
Parts & Labor - "New Crimes" (mp3)

5. Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - Living With The Living (Touch & Go)
Ted Leo is one of those artists that's pretty much a lock for my top 10 every time he puts out an album, even with an overlong one with a few genre exercises that bite off more than they can chew. Time will tell whether these songs stand up with the best of The Tyranny Of Distance or Shake The Sheets, but this year I loved a lot of them. I'm pretty frustrated with Ted's live picks from this album, though. I saw him live 3 times this year, and he played "Colleen" and "Anunciation Day / Born On Christmas Day" and "The Unwanted Things" every time, but never "La Costa Brava" or "Some Beginner's Mind" or "The Toro And The Toreador."
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - "A Bottle Of Buckie" (mp3)

6. Freeway - Free At Last (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Onetime exec producer 50 Cent only contributes one track of his trademark 'aggressive content' on "Take It To The Top" (I kid, but the hardest beat on the album, "It's Over," does come from a G-Unit producer, Jake One). Instead, Free takes it back to the old Roc-A-Fella soul beats that he rides with more urgency than anyone else, and succeeds despite a lack of Just Blaze, who was the main ingredient in making his debut a near-classic.
Freeway - "I Cry" (mp3)

7. Paramore - Riot! (Fueled By Ramen)
Female-fronted alt-rock acts rarely break through to the mainstream, but when they do, they have a tendency to end up massively popular (No Doubt, Evanescence, etc.). And right now, I'd be fine with Paramore getting that huge, and even if they don't, "Misery Business" was one of the best reasons to listen to rock radio this year and much of the rest of the album lives up to it.
Paramore - "Born For This" (mp3)

8. Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five (Zedtone)
Sleepy-eyed torch songs with slight touches of jazz and country that I'd probably think I was too cool for if this was Norah Jones huge, but I'm glad I don't.
Eleni Mandell - "Somebody Else" (mp3)

9. Scarface - Made (Rap-A-Lot)
Scarface is one of the last dudes I'd expect to take a turn toward relationship rap, but he makes it work better than almost anybody because he addresses the topic with the same dread and blunt honesty as everything else he's ever written.
Scarface f/ Nina - "Go" (mp3)

10. T-Pain - Epiphany (Konvict/Jive)
Even though it went platinum, it kinda feels like this album got a little lost in the shuffle with T-Pain was becoming the guest spot MVP of the year, and the two big singles are among my least favorite songs on the record. But there's a half dozen coulda/shoulda been hits on here, and the versatility he displays as a producer on this album is really impressive. I think the follow-up might leave this one in the dust if he can keep his career momentum up, though.
T-Pain - "Sounds Bad" (mp3)

11. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis (Rough Trade)
A brilliant malevolent asshole mellowing slightly in middle age, but still squeezing out a little bit of bile here and there.
Jarvis Cocker - "Tonite" (mp3)

12. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond (Fat Possum)
One of the more dramatic reunions of the many in recent alt-rock history, and easily one of the best albums to result from such a comeback. I wish the Meat Puppets had stepped back on the scene this gracefully.
Dinosaur Jr. - "Back To Your Heart" (mp3)

13. Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face (Star Trak/Interscope)
This wouldn't quite measure up to New Sacred Cow even if Pharrell didn't totally kill the mood with the 2 songs he helps with, but the broadened palette of guitar and more 'live'-sounding drums is a great fit for Kenna's voice.
Kenna - "Baptized In Blacklight" (mp3)

14. Beanie Sigel - The Solution (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
The most unexpectedly enjoyable club rap album of the year.
Beanie Sigel f/ Diddy, Peedi Peedi and Ghostface Killah - "Shake It For Me" (mp3)

15. Say Anything - In Defense Of The Genre (Doghouse/J Records)
As a follow-up to Is A Real Boy (which, seriously, might be one of the best rock records of the decade), it's a mild disappointment. But it's also an expected and admirable one, since this band was pretty much destined to make an overreaching double album. All the gratuitous vocal cameos by people from more famous emo bands get a bit ridiculous after a while, but there's still plenty of Max Bemis blurting and screaming and being a funnier, more fascinating character than any of the guests ever are on their own albums.
Say Anything - "About Falling" (mp3)

16. Travis Morrison Hellfighters - All Y’All (Barsuk)
I never thought Travistan was the travesty it was made out to be, and in a way I'm disappointed that he backed down from its eccentricities and overtly political themes to make basically a more relationship-y Dismemberment Plan album. But it's also kind of nice to hear one of the better songwriters in indie rock back in his comfort zone and starting to gel with a new band.
Travis Morrison Hellfighters - "Hawkins' Rock" (mp3)

17. Kanye West - Graduation (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
His two previous albums were pretty much my #1's for the years they came out (Late Registration still is, College Dropout not so much), so in a way this one represents a big drop for Kanye in my esteem. But I pretty much always knew his appeal would wear thin at some point, and based on Graduation's first 2 singles that that would start right here. Aside from that middle stretch that I pretty much never want to listen to, though, this album still has some awesome songs near the beginning and end. Kanye may not have my album of the year, but he still does have that I Got A Lotta Cheese Award.
Kanye West f/ DJ Premier - "Everything I Am" (mp3)

18. Cassidy - B.A.R.S.: The Barry Adrian Reese Story (Full Surface/J Records)
Cassidy had more to prove as an MC coming off "Hotel" than he does coming off of a car accident that nearly killed him, so it's not as vicious an album as I'm A Hustla, but this is still an underrated MC at the top of his game.
Cassidy f/ Swizz Beatz - "I Get My Paper" (mp3)

19. Talib Kweli & Madlib - Liberation (Blacksmith Music)
A free download album from two guys that respectively represent my love and hate for the late 90's/early 00's backpacker rap boom: Kweli, long my token favorite 'conscious' MC, and Madlib, who I hastily wrote off long ago after hearing The Unseen once and hating it. Turns out he is a dope producer, though, and Kweli's got almost as much chemistry with him as he used to with Hi-Tek, resulting in his best album since Train Of Thought and one that's unquestionably better than his so-so major label release this year, Eardrum.
Talib Kweli & Madlib f/ Candice Anderson - "Happy Home" (mp3)

20. Camp Lo - Black Hollywood (Good Hands records)
You think that when Jay sat next to Ski this year for that "Classic Albums" show to talk about Reasonable Doubt, it ever occurred to him that the guy who produced some of his most important early tracks still has some jams in his back pocket, many of which are better than anything he ended up with on the album he made soon after? The only part of the Scratch blog's fake Top Producers of 2007 list that I didn't think was funny was the diss of Ski for making this album, which has some pretty great beats. He does deserved to be clowned for his role in "Girls Kiss Girls," though, I didn't know he produced that bullshit.
Camp Lo - "Money Clap" (mp3)

21. Trans Am - Sex Change (Thrill Jockey)
Trans Am sometimes scare me off with all the genre pastiches and vocoders and kidding-or-not ironic undertones, but when it's just those 3 guys in a room jamming and bouncing ideas, I tend to love what they come up with.
Trans Am - "Reprieve" (mp3)

22. Rich Boy - Rich Boy (Zone 4/Interscope South)
At the very least, this is something to hold me off until Polow Da Don drops a solo album.
Rich Boy - "Touch That Ass" (mp3)

23. Jay-Z - American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Whatever the opposite of a backlash is called, that's what this album is benefitting from as everyone tries to boomarang back from the disappointment of Kingdom Come. It's good, but is it as good as even The Blueprint 2 or The Dynasty? Hell no.
Jay-Z f/ Nas - "Success" (mp3)

24. Styles P. - Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) (Koch)
My favorite Lox/D-Block member tends to be whoever has a record out at the moment, and with 3 good albums in a row it's been Styles P. for a while now. I dunno if Jadakiss will be able to top this one whenever he drops on Roc-A-Fella, though.
Styles P. - "Da 80's" (mp3)

25. Thurston Moore - Trees Outside The Academy (Ecstatic Peace)
My hopes of this being as good as the last few Sonic Youth albums, or even Psychic Hearts, were dashed, but it's still pretty cool to finally hear the acoustic album Thurston had been threatening to make for almost a decade.
Thurston Moore - "Silver>Blue" (mp3)

My Top 50 Albums of 2007 (part 1 of 2)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

26. Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High (Fueled By Ramen)
Although the first single made me fear a post-stardom freakout and shark jumping even worse than My Chemical Romance's, it turned out they made a better album than their breakthrough, or at least one that better suits Patrick Stump's great voice and puts less emphasis on Pete Wentz's ridiculous lyrics.
Fall Out Boy - "I've Got All This Ringing In My Ears And None On My Fingers" (mp3)

27. The Nels Cline Singers - Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone)
Nels Cline played on 3 good albums I heard this year, and none of them was Sky Blue Sky.
The Nels Cline Singers - "Confection" (mp3)

28. Swizz Beatz - One Man Band Man (Full Surface/Universal)
Fuck Timbaland, this is the best goofball barely rappin' producer-rapper album of the year.
Swizz Beatz - "The Funeral" (mp3)

29. Keyshia Cole - Just Like You (Geffen Records)
Sure, she belts out every song the exact same way, but this time, most of the songs actually justify that drama.
Keyshia Cole - "Was It Worth It" (mp3)

30. Alicia Keys - As I Am (J Records)
Her "raw and intense new vocal style" (which kinda makes her sound like a wannabe Keyshia) makes the plodding serious songs even more of a chore than they were before, but there are a handful of tracks that do live up to the singles from Diary.
Alicia Keys - "Teenage Love Affair" (mp3)

31. Mary Timony Band - The Shapes We Make (Kill Rock Stars)
Although I remember liking a couple Helium songs back in the day, and seeing Mary Timony open for Sonic Youth during that weird period when she was wearing a cat mask, but I'd never really actively followed her career. Having members of Faraquet and Medications as her current backing band was just enough motivation for me to finally pick up one of her albums, though. I'm still getting used to the weird valley girl tone of her vocal delivery, though, I can't tell if she's doing that on purpose or what.
Mary Timony Band - "Rockman" (mp3)

32. Styles P. - The Ghost Sessions (Streetcore)
Shame about those rock remixes at the end, but just about everything else on here is great.
Styles P. - "The Lessons" (mp3)

33. Eddie Vedder - Music For The Motion Picture Into The Wild (J Records)
It's a short, deliberately minor record that's designed to fade into the background as a film score, and two of the only songs with vocals are covers. But it's still a really lovely aesthetic exercise that succeeds on its own terms better than the last two Pearl Jam albums.
Eddie Vedder - "Far Behind" (mp3)

34. Playaz Circle - Supply & Demand (Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam)
A solo album from Tity Boi would be better, but I fuck with this. And I like the fact that one of the best songs on this album is randomly produced by Kon Artis from D12 and features Phonte from Little Brother singing the hook.
Playaz Circle - "Paper Chaser" (mp3)

35. Consequence - Don’t Quit Your Day Job (GOOD Music/Columbia)
At first I dismissed this album as being unjustifiably underproduced, considering that it's on Kanye's label and all. And it still is, but the thing is that Cons has punchlines for days, and I'm pretty much fine listening to him drop constant wordplay even if both the beats and his voice are pretty monotonous.
Consequence - "Uptown" (mp3)

36. Maroon 5 - It Won't Be Soon Before Long (A&M/Octone)
Their first album had a nice aesthetic going for it but sounded way too thin and unconvincing, but Mike Elizondo does a great job of filling out the bottom end on this one. And it's nice to finally hear the song Adam Levine wrote that he ended up cannibalizing for Kanye's "Heard 'Em Say."
Maroon 5 - "Nothing Lasts Forever" (mp3)

37. T.I. - T.I. Vs. T.I.P. (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
Urban Legend was, as an album, as much of a disappointment as this was, but there were lower stakes and better singles to help look past it. Dude just kinda dropped the ball with most of this, although maybe we'd be comparing it favorably to King if there were a few Toomp tracks (or more of those great Danjahandz tracks).
T.I. - "Respect This Hustle" (mp3)

38. Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (RCA)
I still think it's weird that this is the album they got all the big Grammy noms for, and I wish it rocked as hard as disc 1 of In Your Honor, but I still enjoy just about everything they do to some extent.
Foo Fighers - "Summer's End" (mp3)

39. Statik Selektah - Spell My Name Right: The Album (Showoff Records)
A better mixtape DJ album than the Khaled or the Drama, not because of any pro-NY bias on my part but because the DJ actually produced all the tracks, and most of the guests aren't guys who phoned in 50 other cameos this year.
Statik Selektah f/ Uncle Murda, Sev-One, Termanology and Jadakiss - "G Shit (Showoff Mix)" (mp3)

40. Bruce Springsteen - Magic (Columbia)
If Bruce had done a full-on retro E Street record, or a lean, guitar-driven modern rock album produced by Brendan O'Brien, I'd probably be down with either. But the way he tries to do both at once here is kind of a mess, aside from a few really strong songs.
Bruce Springsteen - "Gypsy Biker" (mp3)

41. Trill Entertainment presents - Survival Of The Fittest (Trill Entertainment/Asylum Records)
Lil Boosie is pretty much the only guy who was on XXL's 'leaders of the new school' cover this year who I think has a good chance of actually becoming a major mainstream star anytime soon, and he inched a little closer to that spot with this record, although it probably won't fully happen until a solo album or two down the road.
Foxx, Lil Boosie and Webbie - "Got Me Bent" (mp3)

42. Enon - Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds (Touch & Go)
Still probably the best indie band of their kind working today, but I think I'm just enjoying that kind less and less, if that makes sense.
Enon - "Labyrinth" (mp3)

43. Twista - Adrenaline Rush 2007 (Atlantic)
Twista was never gonna stay on the mainstream radar for very long, and I'm glad that he spent maybe the last gasp of his major label career making a record that's mostly really faithful to his classic sound, even if when all is said and done I like the splashy pop moves of Kamikaze more.
Twista f/ R. Kelly - "Love Rehab" (mp3)

44. Rasputina - Oh Perilous World (Filthy Bonnet)
The show I went to when Robbie was in town was one of the best concerts I saw this year, but Rasputina's new record doesn't quite size up to their live show. They do have a live album, though, I need to check that out.
Rasputina - "1816, The Year Without A Summer" (mp3)

45. They Might Be Giants - Cast Your Pod To The Wind (Idlewild)
TMBG released an album this year called The Else that, though it included a handful of memorable tunes, was a dishearteningly bland 13-song collection. The bonus disc included in initial retail pressings of the album, however, is much more in the spirit of the band's first 5 albums with 20-something goofy, tossed-off outtakes and rarities and alternate versions.
They Might Be Giants - "Brain Problem Situation" (mp3)

46. Redman - Red Gone Wild: Thee Album (Def Jam)
Fuck LL, Redman is the former franchise player that Def Jam should feel guilty about failing when he turned in a solid record that got delayed half a decade.
Redman - "Gilla House Check" (mp3)

47. Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars (Geffen)
Rufus Wainwright's self-titled 1998 album has always been a sentimental favorite of mine, but I kinda lost track of him for a few records before picking his latest up. And the appeal is more or less the same, even if the arrangements are a bit schmaltzier now.
Rufus Wainwright - "Between My Legs" (mp3)

48. Kelly Clarkson - My December (RCA)
After all the controversy and hubbub, this was probably as good an album as Breakaway, and just about as accessible, too, minus a surefire single or two.
Kelly Clarkson - "How I Feel" (mp3)

49. Hurricane Chris - 51/50 Ratchet (Pologrounds Music/J Records)
The Mr. Collipark beats could stand to be better, but the Phunk Dawg beats pretty much make up for them.
Hurricane Chris - "Beat In My Trunk" (mp3)

50. Elliott Smith - New Moon (Kill Rock Stars)
I haven't thought about or listened to Elliott Smith much in the years since his death, but then, I didn't in the year or two before his death, either. Still, I have a mild interest in hearing his posthumously released material, particularly this one from the period when he made his best albums. I'm not sure if the material isn't as good as what made it on those albums, or if I'm just not as easily drawn in by his songs anymore, though. There are some enjoyable moments, though, particularly hearing alternate versions of a few songs from other albums and Heatmiser's Mic City Sons.
Elliott Smith - "See You Later" (mp3)