Staff Favorites of 2007: Stephen Slaybaugh

Having done one of these top tens every year for some time now, looking back it’s hard to recall a year as pervasively boring in terms of music as 2007. There were few new ideas from new places, while veteran acts (Arcade Fire, Spoon, Radiohead, Wilco, etc.) seemed content to merely meet expectations rather than surpass them. I found it hard to put together this list, and as such was tempted to put a book (Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris) on here instead of a record as it’s probably the best thing I’ve read in five years and was more rewarding than anything I heard this year. But this is a music list for a music website and admittedly all of the below are well worth your time.

10. The Lodger, Grown-Ups (Slumberland)
Sounding (to these ears) somewheres between the Delgados and Housemartins, the debut from this Leeds, England group is an arresting bout of vitriolic pop.

9. CocoRosie, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (Touch & Go)
While I dug the Casady sisters’ debut, their sophomore album lost me. Less nefariously obtuse then, their third album is an enchanting mix of worldly rhythms, hip-hop chants and siren singing.

8. Calla, Strength in Numbers (Beggars Banquet)
One of my perennial favorites, Calla parted their oceansize electric guitars with acoustic reveries and Tex-Mex accents for their fifth record. The result is no less consuming.

7. Githead, Art Pop (Swim)
The “other” band of Wire’s Colin Newman, Githead bears much resemblance to Newman’s main preoccupation: glassy guitar riffs, angular rhythms and a mix of pop and avant garde ideas. The band’s second full-length strikes the perfect balance of these qualities.

6. Times New Viking, Present the Paisley Reich (Siltbreeze)
Locals Times New Viking’s last release with the rejuvenated Siltbreeze label before their out-soon debut with Matador, the Paisley Reich shows the band continuing its expert dismantling of pop archetypes.

5. The Maps, We Can Create (Mute)
The debut full-length from the Maps (a.k.a. James Chapman), is a lovingly textured mix of shoegazed electronica. Awash in warm tones, the record is much more affecting than the sum of its effects.

4. Von Südenfed, Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)
This curious collaboration between the Fall’s Mark E. Smith and electro experts Mouse on Mars, turned out to be one of the best of both’s output. Mutated pulses and jarring beats clash with Smith’s distinct mutterings, making for a truly unique and ingenious record.

3. M.I.A. Kala (Interscope)
With her second record, M.I.A. proved that her multicultural tract on debut Arular was no flavor of the month. She returned with an album enriched with sundry influences manifested in cohesively infectious songs.

2. Shout Out Louds, Our Ill Wills (Merge)
Sweden’s Shout Out Louds increased the pop quotient for their second album, creating a contrasting blend of bittersweets and melodies.

1. The Horrors, Strange House (Stolen Transmission)
I once had a friend tell me that “there are two kinds of people in the world: freaks and weirdos.” So with its liner notes transcription of “Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdos,” could these British upstarts’ debut unite the two? I don’t know, and it certainly doesn’t matter. The band’s blend of Iggy-ed caterwauling and Birthday Party?recalling rumble is top-notch, while their sense of humor (“Sheena Is a Parasite”) helps lighten the batcave aesthetic. I’m always suspicious of the authenticity of any band (especially one that’s British) with this much put-on, but when it’s this good, best just to suspend any disbelief.