NPR logo The Year's Best Music Was...

The Year's Best Music Was...

On Monday December 3rd I'll have a conversation with Carrie Brownstein, Tom Moon, Meredith Ochs and Will Hermes about the music of 2007. We'll post that conversation for you to hear on our Web site Dec 6.

Here's what I asked them to share, and what I'm now asking you to dig into your 2007 collection and ponder:

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?
2. What was your biggest letdown?
3. What was the most innovative album of the year?
4. What was the best new band?
5. What was the best song of the year?

You can also vote for your favorite album of the year. We'll reveal the results of that poll on All Songs Considered Dec. 20th.



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1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?
P.J. Harvey's "White Chalk" - Normally, I hate the loudness in her music, so this album was a nice surprise. When my friend let me listen to a few tracks, I went out and bought it immediately.

2. What was your biggest letdown?
Josh Ritter's "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" was disappointing. Yes, there were excellent tracks in it, but I didn't like it overall - I expected more from such a talented person.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?
Dan Deacon's "Spiderman of the Rings" - I hadn't heard anything like it before. It was enjoyable.

4. What was the best new band?
Tulsa, from Boston. Their album "I Was Submerged" is great.

5. What was the best song of the year?
Nellie McKay's "Mother of Peal" - I like a song that can make me smile.

Sent by Pablo | 6:28 PM | 11-29-2007

1) My pick is actually an EP, not an album. It's _The Last Little Life EP_ by the Rentals, essentially a one-hit wonder ("Friends of P") band from the 90s I'd forgotten about. But I heard their new music on some podcast or another, and bought the EP, which is gorgeous. It's full of intricate, layered pop music and very nice male-female vocal harmonies.

2) Rilo Kiley's _Under the Blacklight_. I'm a big Rilo Kiley fan, and I thought Jenny Lewis's solo album was one of the three best of 2006, so I had high expectations. But _Under the Blacklight_ is the perfect example of a band changing in the wrong way. Instead of retaining the band's basic spark of personality and taking it in new sonic directions (the new New Pornographers album is a good example of this), Rilo Kiley lost everything that made them interesting in the first place - intelligent lyrics, good storytelling, a whistful old-country-meets-indie-rock sound - and replaced it with a catchy but generic mess of schlocky music and stupid lyrics that I would've expected from a much less talented band.

3 I'll skip, since my tastes don't run to the more experimental end of things. And I'll skip 4 too, because I don't think any of the new albums I've bought this year are debuts, oddly enough.

5) "Intervention" by The Arcade Fire. The absolute best bombastic, over-the-top, nothing-subtle-about-it song I've heard it years.

Sent by Josh Burnett | 9:02 PM | 11-29-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year? Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon. I wasn't the biggest fan of Gimme Fiction but their latest is pure classic.

2. What was your biggest letdown?
Also Under The Blacklight by Rilo Kiley. Although I will proudly stand by both Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett in anything they do, I was slightly let down by this one.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?

4. What was the best new band?
Elvis Perkins, absolutely incredible.

5. What was the best song of the year?
No Ones Gonna Love You by The Band of Horses, also the best live band I have seen all year.

Sent by Kyle McKay | 12:16 AM | 11-30-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?

I would say Feist's The Reminder was a pleasant surprise for me. Comming off some decent albums, she really produced something special with this one. I think its nice she recieved all the publicity, however it did become a tad overwhelming and its sad that Broken Social Scene was more or less left in the dust.
2. What was your biggest letdown?

It was easy to pick out this category. The latest helping from Montreal's The New Pornographers wasn't impressive. Truly a sad situation considering the brilliance of Twin Cinema; They will come back though. Not every band can be Pavement and have a flawless catalog.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?

Scribble Mural Comic Journal by A Sunny Day in Glasgow easily takes the cake or whichever cliche you prefer. Doing a wonderful job mixing Twee and Shoegaze, they were one of the best 5 buck shows I have seen in a while.

4. What was the best new band?

The Twilight Sad came to rule this portion of the year. I'm a big fan of the Glasgow scene and this band doesn't fail to produce an epic noise laced commotion. With thick Scottish accents a plenty, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters is a winner by these new commers

5. What was the best song of the year?

The Great Unwanted by Lucky Soul off of the Great Unwanted LP. The band was able to formulate a perfect balance of sugar-ie music with sophisticated lyrics. The best indie pop album of the year in my opinion, and this track is the albums strongest offering amongst many great singles.

Sent by Devin Rodgers | 1:52 AM | 11-30-2007

1. When I first heard "To The Dogs or Whoever," off "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter," I was floored. It was Dylanesque to be sure, but far from a knockoff. It sounded like absurdist poetry pumped through 1940's speakers deep underwater, and I mean that in the best way possible. The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to the first track, but it is thoroughly excellent and bursting with creativity - it came out of nowhere to become one of my favorite albums of the year.

2. "Wincing the Night Away" was a disappointment. Although it did feature the excellent "Australia," it also featured many weak songs which pale in comparison compared the the awe-inspiring "Chutes Too Narrow".

3. In an unexpected way, Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky" struck me as innovative. I found it a bold move to strip away their typical indie tropes and obsession with the sound of static and just make a deceptively, almost primitively simple album in an age of increasingly complex production. And the songs were just gorgeous.

4. Vampire Weekend. I defy you to listen to "Walcott" and not hum it for days. They put on an amazing live show, too.

5. So hard to choose. I'm going to go with "All My Friends" off LCD Soundsystem's "Sound of Silver". A truly epic song which starts with a simple, off-kilter riff and builds, agonizingly slowly, to a truly emotional climax. The intensity in every second of that song is impressive.

This was a great year for music!

Sent by Walker Anderson | 2:51 AM | 11-30-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?

Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City. I liked their first album, and I thought their second album would be more of the same, similar to The Arctic Monkeys and Art Brut sophomore releases.
When I listened to the leak of the album in early January I was impressed with the lyrics, I wasn't a big lyrics guy, and they were usually secondary in the evaluation and enjoyment of an album, but A Weekend in the City was the first album that I started loving because of the lyrics and ideas. Musically the songs were slower and longer, the structures more complex, the way the vocals were recorded were amazing too with double-tracking and layering weaving in and out of the record. I just fell in love with this record and listened to it nonstop for two months. Some Bloc Party fans may have wanted another album of fast rockers, but I say if you want that listen to their first album, this album is a more mature album that shows that this band has more sides then one. instead of staying a little punky-new-wave band they started ascending to stadium greatness.

2. What was your biggest letdown?

Albert Hammond Jr. - Yours to Keep. I really liked The Strokes 2006 album and I thought some of the same stuff would be on Hammond's solo debut. The songs are good, the problem is that they just don't stick with you, they don't make you want to came back to them. I don't know what's missing, but something is.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?

Radiohead - In Rainbows. From the first beats of the spastic drums on 15 step to the hip-hop beat on All I Need to the crazy shaker collage and strawberry fields like drumming on Reckoner and finally to the looping drum transition on Videotape that turns into a rumbling thunder, the drums on this record are innovative in the way they turn rock rhythm on it's head. It sounds like they spent days on getting the drums right, and It's not just for the sake of it they add huge amounts to the songs which are already lushly and expertly produced.

I have to sneak another album in here too. The new Kenna album "Make Sure They See My Face" is innovative in the way it blends rock and hip-hop so perfectly. It doesn't feel forced or manufactured, it just feels like Kenna's influences coming out in beautiful unclassifiable music. And the Neptune's production is stellar too.

4. What was the best new band?

I don't think I listened to any band this year who truly formed in 2007, but justice had their debut album after a few ep's which was great.

5. What was the best song of the year?

I agree with walker that All My Friends was a great one. I like to think of this as best radio single though, and there were some great ones this year. Stronger by Kanye West was a great dance-hip-hop track, Icky Thump kept The White Stripe at the top, Dashboard made Modest Mouse danceable, and What Goes Around...Comes Around gave Justin Timberlake another Cry Me a River.

Sent by You-Know-Who | 9:18 AM | 11-30-2007

Here's my list...

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year? Panda Bear???s Person Pitch. A notable departure from his previous work, and if I didn???t know any better, at times I could swear it was the Beach Boys. Amazing album.

2. What was your biggest letdown? This one is easy. Rilo Kiley???s Under the Blacklight. It tried to be a lot of things, and it failed at most of them.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year? This is a tough one since I don???t always step outside my comfort zone, but The Battles??? Mirrored was wildly different from anything I???ve heard in years and in a good way.

4. What was the best new band? I???m not sure if it???s new or just new-to-me, but the best new band this year was The Tough Alliance with their album New Chance. I don???t see how anyone could listen to this album and not have a good time.

5. What was the best song of the year? I know some will probably disagree with me, but I???m casting my vote for ???Red Rabbits??? from The Shins??? Wincing the Night Away. The music???s a little psychedelic, the lyrics are trippy, and I???ll be damned if the song doesn???t get better every time I listen to it. If it???s not pop perfection, then it???s mighty close.

- Bill

Sent by Bill | 10:32 AM | 11-30-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?
-Everytime I Die- The Big Dirty. I'm usually not one for hardcore, but this album is booty shaking.

2. What was your biggest letdown?
-Bloc Party,White Stripes and Coheed & Cambria put out disapointing albums, but Nine Inch Nails: y3ar z3r0 took the cake as most heartbreaking.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?
The Locust- New Erections - i think this is the locust's defining momment.

4. What was the best new band?
-I'm pretty late to the game when it comes to "new" bands. Any band worth its salt usually has paid some dues to not be called "new".

5. What was the best song of the year?
-"Spitting Venom" by modest mouse.

Sent by Noa | 5:12 PM | 12-1-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?

This has to be Of Montreal's "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer." Their past two albums were average indie-pop albums at best. This one put them over the top with their fusion of more electronica components into their music as well as a significant increase in Kevin Barnes' songwriting ability. The best example is in the song "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" where the only thing carrying this 10+ minute song is his lyrics like
"I'm so touched by your goodness
you make me feel so criminal
how do you keep it together?
I'm all, all unraveled
but'cha know
no matter where we are
we're always touching by underground wires"

This album was a great surprise, plus they put on some great performances throughout the year. Just youtube for examples.

2. What was your biggest letdown?

As already noted before, this is HANDS DOWN Rilo Kiley's "Under the Blacklight." Easily the biggest letdown, especially after Jenny Lewis's fantastic solo album. This album was such a disappointment I gave the album away to my friend.

Other letdowns had to be The New Pornographers "Challengers," Architecture in Helsinki's "Places Like These," Bjork's "Volta," and as much as it pains me to say this, Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky," which seemed more tailored for the (inevitable) series of commercial ads than making groundbreaking music.

In addition, I thought this year was kind of a lull for world music.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?

I felt like this has to be a tossup between Battles' "Mirrored," and M.I.A.'s "Kala."

The Battles album is definitely something that I have never heard before in my life. I believe it was Bob Boilen who made the comment how music tends to be leading somewhere, but with the Battles' album, you have these loops which don't ever resolve. This technique is something new and unusual (just listen to "Ddiamondd" or "Atlas" to understand this).

As for the M.I.A.'s album, it completely DESTROYS her "Arula" album. I mean her voice matched with the samples is a completely unique affair. Also, she has some interesting guest artists on the album (Afrika Boy, Wilcannia Mob, and even Timbaland) that compliment her style nicely. "Bamboo Banga" and "20 Dollar" are highlights from the album.

4. What was the best new band?

To be honest, some of the best music came from bands who were either 2 or 3 albums into their collaboration. So as a cop-out I'm going to choose a solo project from a veteran band. Panda Bear's "Person Pitch" was a great listen. As a side-note to Robin Hilton's blog about bands that they know they should like but can't, Animal Collective would have to be at the top of my list. However, I found Panda Bear's solo venture a better listen than the other Animal Collective albums. And yes, I would find this strange...

5. What was the best song of the year?

This is just a ridiculous question. It is tough enough to find the best album of this year, yet alone the best song. I don't think that there is any clear cut winner this year (as opposed to last year's: TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me")

Some of the great ones that I can't get tired of playing:

Radiohead: Jigsaw Falling in Place
Arcade Fire: Ocean of Noise
The Go! Team: Grip Like a Vice
LCD Soundsystem: Get Innocuous (the Soulwax remix is good too)
Gogol Bordello: Ultimate
Bright Eyes: Four Winds
The White Stripes: Effect and Cause
The National: Fake Empire
Justice: Phantom Pt. II or even Genesis
Kanye West: Stronger
M.I.A.: Bamboo Banga
Stars: The Night Starts Here
Two Gallants: Despite What You've Been Told
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Rockers to Swallow

If I had to choose, I would say "Stronger" only because it is nice to see hip hop get creative again. I mean sampling Daft Punk, are you SERIOUS?!?!

Sent by Bryant Heath | 6:47 PM | 12-1-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?
John Fogerty's "Revival" album was the biggest surprise album to me. I was going to get the album anyway because I'm such a big fan of his work but this album sounds like a long lost CCR album. A very enjoyable listen. Honorable mentions: Dinosaur Jr's "Beyond", Gravy Train!!!!'s "All the Sweet Stuff"

2. What was your biggest letdown?
Interpol's "Our Love to Admire" was kind of a letdown. The whole album was just meh.
3. What was the most innovative album of the year?
Is anything really that innovative anymore? Either way, I didn't hear anything that really blew my mind in that sense, this year.

4. What was the best new band?
I got into tons of new bands that the whole world knew about that I just discovered this year. (Television, Mastodon, fIREHOSE)

5. What was the best song of the year?
Queens of the Stone Age's "Misfit Love". Hands down.

Sent by Ivan | 4:34 PM | 12-2-2007

1. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver. James Murphy's self-titled debut was full of great hooks and the occasional single, but this latest effort, beginning to end, was my favorite record of the year.

2. New Pornographers - Challengers. Perhaps my expectations were way too high after their last two albums.

3. Radiohead - In Rainbows. If for nothing but the radical distribution strategy.

4. Can't help you here.

5. LCD Soundsystem's "Friends," with Spoon's "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb" a close second.

Sent by Augustine | 6:12 PM | 12-3-2007

this year was a year that had a lot of 2. albums that at first I couldn't get into, but then they just grew on me to become some of my favorites.

1. the biggest surprise for me was the new pornographers. at first I just couldn't get into it, except for a few songs, but now I love the whole album.

my biggest letdown, and I hate to say it, was the kings of leon. maybe I havent given it enough time

3. the most innovative.... I agree with some on the wilco comments

4. haven't heard enough new bands to comment

5. I can't choose between, "look at you now", or "without a struggle". both on that way too short but fantastic golden smog album.

Sent by Bill | 3:19 AM | 12-4-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?
I didn't expect to like LCD Soundsystem's "Sound of Silver" nearly as much as I turned out to be my favorite of the year, hands down, and an album I can see myself listening to in 30 years and still finding it as wonderful and relevant as I do today. I get knocked out by any album you can both dance and cry to (especially simultaneously!).

2. What was your biggest letdown?
Okkervil River's "The Stage Names" ... although I still think they're one of the best (if not THE best) current American bands to see perform live. After the heartbreaking, genre-bending "Black Sheep Boy" and the possibly-even-better "Black Sheep Boy Appendix," I guess I was bound to be disappointed by what turned out to be a far more slickly produced, "mainstream" album from them. Probably more my fault then theirs, as it's not a bad album (just a personal letdown ??? and I find it a bit boring even after endless listens).

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?
Marketing-wise: Radiohead's "In Rainbows" (natch). Aurally: Old Time Relijun's "Catharsis in Crisis" stood alone with its amalgamation of psychedelic 60s-garage rock, backcountry moonshine-drunk folk, avant jazz (dig that saxophone!) and slinky Middle Eastern basslines, all topped off with the howling, bone-rattling vocals of Arrington de Dionyso. They also blew me away in concert.

4. What was the best new band?
As much as I enjoy the Vampire Weekend EP, I'd have to say my favorite debut of the year was Chris Garneau's "Music For Tourists." He's got an eccentric (to say the least) little-boy voice that can sound like a put-on at times, but beautifully orchestrated, deeply melancholy songs like "Not Nice," "We Don't Try" and "Relief" made Garneau seem like one of the first worthy successors to Elliott Smith. Ironically, the worst song on "Music For Tourists" is Garneau's cover of Smith's "Between the Bars."

5. What was the best song of the year?
As a writer/editor, I liked Vampire Weekend's "Oxford Comma" as soon as I saw the title, but the song itself turned out to be probably the catchiest darn thing I heard all year. It's also really, really fun to interpretive-dance to.

Spoon - "The Ghost of You Lingers" (Another brilliant marketing plan, releasing this sparse, intriguing song that sounded almost nothing like the rest of the album and yet stirred up a ridiculous amount of hype for "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" anyway. I also love that Britt Daniel anticipated the reaction of "leaking" this song first almost to a T.)
Jose Gonzalez - "Down the Line"
Battles - "Atlas" (I enjoy playing this for people who've never heard the band; it always gets such a wide and wacky variety of reactions, especially from people who don't know anything at all about them or how well-regarded they are in critical circles.)
Justice - "D.A.N.C.E."
The Mendoza Line - "Aspect of an Old Maid" (Oh, THERE'S the old Will Sheff! Hiding on The Mendoza Line CD, singing someone else's lyrics.)
Aesop Rock - "None Shall Pass"
Pelle Carlberg - "Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls"

Sent by Sara | 5:03 AM | 12-4-2007

1. The biggest surprise for me (besides just being blown away by all the really great music this year) was Feist's album. I had never heard her solo stuff before, and it was impressive what a beautiful album she created.

2. My biggest let down was easily Bloc Party's new album - even though their debut had some flaws (it would have benifited from some editing), it showed a lot of promise and their follow-up did not deliver.

3. Most Innovative - In Rainbows. The marketing aside, it is amazing to me that a band can be expected to change the face of pop music every time out, and still deliver an album that doesn't disappoint. Their big leap forward this time was the nuance - they didn't need to smack in the face with their sound like normal. This time, they were whispering genius in our ear.

4. Best new Band - Beaten By Yuri. An unsigned band from Detroit, they self-released an album called Gerta, and as an album it stands up among the year's best. Check out their MySpace page.

5. Best Song - I have to jump on the "All My Friends" Bandwagon. james Murphy is easily the most consistently great lyrists working in pop today...

Sent by Ian | 11:50 AM | 12-4-2007

1. Biggest Surprise Album
Arcade Fire-Neon Bible. I hadn't really enjoyed their music until I heard this album. On the real big tunes, the vocals are balanced with some really lush orchestration: organ, strings, bells, why not??

2. Letdown album.
Feist-the Reminder...sorry, I loved "Let it Die" but just cannot dig on this one.

3. Most Innovative album.
Rufus Wainwright-Release the Stars...Yes Wainwright's songs and singing haven't changed much, but wow, check out the songwriting and arrangements!!!

4. Debuts...Sorry, haven't encountered anything I am crazy about.

5. Best Song.
Rilo Kiley: Silver Lining. I know a lot of people don't love this disc, but it is really the same music, just a different sound. This song is just great pop music.

Sent by Geoff | 8:22 PM | 12-4-2007

to set the record straight Radiohead wasn't the first to execute this distribution method.

look up Jane Siberry

Sent by Devin(shire) | 1:40 AM | 12-5-2007

Best song-"Mamma You Sweet" Lucinda Williams or Flight of the Conchords "If you're not into it"
Biggest Surprise (good)- Amy Winehouse-wow good pop music
Biggest surprise(bad)-Ryan Adams
Biggest letdown- Smashing Pumpkins
Most innovative album - Battles "Mirrored", Panda Bear "Person Pitch"
Best new band- Fujiya & Miyagi, Beirut
Betta Recognize- The Shins "Wincing..",Iron and Wine "The shepherd's dog",Maps, Blonde Redhead,Tinariwen

Sent by Becket DeChant | 11:14 AM | 12-6-2007

Alright, I know I'm a bit late on this, but I had to ponder for a bit. Here are my picks:

1. Biggest surprise album: Mandy Moore - Wild Hope.

I know, I know, I sound insane. But honestly, no one expected her to actually put out a decent pop album and I think she definitely did. I'm gonna stick to my guns on this one, no matter how many people tease me. And anyway, all the other albums that I loved from 2007 were by people like Josh Ritter, Modest Mouse, Jens Lekman, etc. And where's the surprise in them putting out another great album? It's just a given.

2. Biggest letdown: The Good Life - Help Wanted Nights.

It's funny because this is their only album I can listen to straight through, but their past albums always had a few songs that were undeniable and just completely gripped me. I was so looking forward to Help Wanted Nights, but even though it's their most cohesive release to date, it's also kind of the blandest. Which is really too bad. Still doesn't suck, just not what I was hoping for.

3. Most innovative album: ???

Ahh, I'm terrible at this type of category. Everyone's choosing Radiohead but I'm not so sure about that. I think I'll leave this one to the pros.

4. Best new band: Via Audio - Say Something

I was intrigued when Chris Walla called them his "favorite new band," but having listened to them, I can definitely hear why.

5. Best song: Shout Out Louds - Tonight I Have to Leave It.

"Our Ill Wills" was incredible straight through, but that first track especially...ahhh. So great. I do echo the props above for Rilo Kiley - Silver Lining, though. That's also been a favorite.

Man. That was hard!

Sent by Tamara Vallejos | 9:33 PM | 12-7-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year?

Sunset Rubdown's "Random Spirit Lover." Didn't like "shut Up I Am Dreaming" but for some reason really enjoyed this one.

2. What was your biggest letdown?

Bloc Party's "A Weekend in the City." "Silent Alarm" was so solid, catchy, dark, danceable and fresh. BP's latest comes off as overtly poppy and full of angst with no delirous dance/stop go songs.

3. What was the most innovative album of the year?

Panda Bear's "Person Pitch." He really pushed a unique sound in an expanded form with longer songs and subtle touches that made the record beautiful and unmistakeably original.

4. What was the best new band?

It's a toss up between Vampire Weekend, Justice and St. Vincent.

5. What was the best song of the year?

"Someone Great" LCD Soundsystem.

Sent by sonokrug | 6:44 PM | 12-13-2007

1. What was your biggest surprise album of the year? Rilo Kiley " Under the Blacklight, Tegan & Sara " The Con. I was previously not a fan of either.

2. What was your biggest letdown? The Shins & Mary Timony

3. What was the most innovative album of the year? Santogold. It is all I can think of even though the album isn't out yet.

4. What was the best new band? Coconut Records & The Affair

5. What was the best song of the year? Feist "I Feel It All"

Sent by Peg | 6:35 PM | 12-20-2007