NPR logo The Best CDs of 2007, from World Cafe

The Best CDs of 2007, from World Cafe

The best albums of 2007 include a plethora of reliable favorites, whether they're treading new stylistic ground (Iron and Wine), returning to roots (Wilco) or merely holding steady (Spoon). And, of course, a few new favorites join the mix, too.

The Best CDs of 2007, from World Cafe

Wilco art
Impossible Germany
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Wilco

  • Song: Impossible Germany
  • from Sky Blue Sky

As the year progresses, it's remarkable when an album from earlier in the year has staying power. Sure, Sky Blue Sky doesn't push the envelope as much as other recent Wilco albums, but Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline and company accomplish what they set out to do. (Listen: "Impossible Germany")

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Song
Sky Blue Sky
Album
Sky Blue Sky
Artist
Wilco
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2007

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Spoon art
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
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Spoon

  • Song: You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
  • from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I so loved Gimme Fiction that I resisted the charms of its follow-up. But as always happens with good albums, it continued to reveal itself all year; I'm still discovering gems. It's pop music with an edge, not to mention a horn section and undeniable melodies. (Listen: "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb")

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Song
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Album
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Artist
Spoon
Label
Merge
Released
2007

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Josh Ritter art
To the Dogs or Whoever
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Josh Ritter

  • Song: To the Dogs or Whoever
  • from Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

More emphasis needs to be placed on the breadth of Josh Ritter’s work: Too many praise him as a Dylan disciple, but Ritter is a product of his own time. This album is filled with his own off-kilter metaphors, as well as songs that sit comfortably alongside everyone from Simon and Garfunkel to Spoon. (Listen: "To the Dogs or Whoever")

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Song
Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Album
Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Artist
Josh Ritter
Label
V2
Released
2007

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Iron and Wine art
"Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car"
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Iron & Wine

  • Song: Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car
  • from Shepherd's Dog

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam is better known for one-off projects (his Postal Service cover on the Garden State soundtrack, his collaborations with Calexico) than for his stellar albums. On his new album, he wisely expands his palette with perfectly realized arrangements. (Listen: "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car")

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Song
The Shepherd's Dog
Album
The Shepherd's Dog
Artist
Iron & Wine
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2007

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The National art
Start a War
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The National

  • Song: Start a War
  • from Boxer

Another slow revealer. Dark, haunting, redemptive: The National's Boxer actually lives up to those adjectives. It's a "difficult sophomore release" that doesn't make you yearn for the debut. (Listen: "Start a War")

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Song
Boxer
Album
Boxer
Artist
The National
Label
Beggars Banquet
Released
2007

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I'm Not There art
Ballad of a Thin Man
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Original Soundtrack

  • Song: Ballad of a Thin Man
  • from I'm Not There

How could an album of Dylan covers captivate me after all these years? As I played this soundtrack to Todd Haynes' film over and over again, I kept asking, "Who is this?" as one terrific cover after another rolled by. From Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Richie Havens to Cat Power and Mason Jennings, it's remarkable how few missteps there are over the course of two discs. While seeing the film helps, the album stands on its own. (Listen: Stephen Malkmus, "Ballad of a Thin Man")

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Song
I'm Not There
Album
I'm Not There
Artist
Original Soundtrack
Label
Columbia
Released
2007

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MIA art
Paper Planes
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M.I.A.

  • Song: Paper Planes
  • from Kala

I claim no expertise in M.I.A.'s genre, but who can? This woman has invented her own. The second M.I.A. album broadens her personal/political viewpoint in terms of both subject matter and her selection of beats and samples. It's exhilarating and empowering, but that wouldn't mean anything if it weren't fun. (Listen: "Paper Planes")

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Song
Kala
Album
Kala
Artist
M.I.A.
Label
Interscope
Released
2007

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Teddy Thompson art
Walking the Floor Over You
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Teddy Thompson

  • Song: Walking the Floor Over You
  • from Up Front and Down Low

An album of mostly countrypolitan and honky-tonk covers from Richard Thompson's son isn't going to make Top 10 lists this year. But to my ears, he nails these potentially maudlin songs with understated performances and heartbreaking string arrangements. (Listen: "Walking the Floor Over You")

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Song
Up Front and Down Low
Album
Up Front and Down Low
Artist
Teddy Thompson
Label
Verve Forecast

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Amy Winehouse art
Rehab
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Amy Winehouse

  • Song: Rehab
  • from Back to Black

Moving forward by leaning back. Another from early in the year that continues to captivate -- a perfect marriage of gripping performances and impeccable arrangements. (Listen: "Rehab")

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Song
Back to Black
Album
Back to Black
Artist
Amy Winehouse
Label
Republic
Released
2007

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joe henry art
Time Is a Lion
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Joe Henry

  • Song: Time Is a Lion
  • from Civilians

Joe Henry continues to write deep, thoughtful songs and record them with a band of friends who understand what they're about. The result is one of Henry's most personal and political albums. (Listen: "Time Is a Lion")

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Song
Civilians
Album
Civilians
Artist
Joe Henry
Label
Anti
Released
2007

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Featured Artist

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