The insider's view: The best records of 2007
Published 21/12/2007 | 03:27
Music stars reveal their pick of this year's releases...
JOHNNY MARR (MODEST MOUSE)
The Cribs are the best group out of the UK for quite a while. Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever is witty and rocking with thought behind the songs and why they're doing what they do. Ryan Jarman fizzes with the ghost of Johnny Thunders on his shoulder sometimes. Nice production, too.
CHERYL COLE (GIRLS ALOUD)
Made of Bricks by Kate Nash. It was good to see another young girl coming through with a great album. I wasn't sure what to make of the song " Foundations" when I first heard it but by the third time I was hooked. It has some really clever lyrics and she is so descriptive that you can picture the situation as she is singing. The boyfriend in the song is such a loser and she gets it across so well. "You said I must eat so many lemons as I am so bitter", is one of the lines of the year and it makes even more impact because of the way she sings it.
JAMES CHAPMAN (MAPS)
My favourite album of this year has got to be Liebe ist... by Stephan Bodzin. I guess it's techno in a sense, but to me it seems like nothing I've really heard before. The melodies and the builds are so euphoric, but never in a predictable way. The production is sublime: glitchy electronic noises mixed with deep electro bass lines. Any fan of electronic music needs to check it out. I think the guy's a genius.
There's a young singer and musician from Wolverhampton called Scott Matthews that you should definitely check out. His album is called Passing Stranger. You can hear a little bit of Jeff Buckley in there but he's got his own thing going on as well and he sings like an angel.
I love Version by Mark Ronson, especially "Valerie" [featuring Amy Winehouse]. They took a familiar song that wasn't very old and made it so fresh and new. Amy has an incredible voice that people forget about because of all the drama surrounding her personal life. She brings so much emotion to the song by just singing it without going over the top.
SøREN CORNELIUSSEN (THE KISSAWAY TRAIL)
Blonde Redhead's album, 23. If I had to pick some favourite songs I'd go for " Dr Strangeluv", which makes me think of fairy tales, and " Dress" , because it pulls you in and makes you listen so intensely you almost forget to breathe. I love to put on headphones and disappear into Blonde Redhead's dreamy universe. I first listened to the album in the summer, so it reminds me of sunshine.
A friend recommended the album In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marnie Stern to me only recently, and it stands out a million miles from anything else I've heard this year. She uses a self-taught, hammer-on, metal guitar style to create Captain Beefheart style havoc, and she has way more punk-rock spirit than any of the sub-Libertines boy-bollocks-bands fighting for attention at the moment.
FELIX WHITE (THE MACCABEES)
We dearly love Interpol and Our Love to Admire lived up to our expectations. They keep repaying your faith by moving forward. "Pioneer to the Falls" is the most beautiful and haunting opening to a record imaginable. I love how simple everything still is despite the playing being even more assured. The lyrics feel really reflective, as if he's been through a tough and debauched period and is summing it up for you, putting his head back on.
Teenager by The Thrills. All the tracks are great but the two that stand out for me are "This Year" and "I'm So Sorry". They are such a unique band with really original material. I love their style, and sound. The album is especially good to listen to when I get home after a performance and need help winding down.
DAN GILLESPIE SELLS (THE FEELING)
I've been stuck in my own little world, so Release the Stars by Rufus Wainwright is the only record I actually bought this year. I don't think it's his best record, necessarily, but he always has wonderful ideas in his music. He's not afraid to modulate between keys, and he summons up some great V C imagery. I admire his lyric-writing because it's something that I sometimes struggle with.
It has to be Graduation by Kanye West. He's still pushing the boundaries of music and that's refreshing. I first heard it when I was on tour in Sweden. I like the way he's gone a lot more electro because everything he done before was more sample-based and shit. Check out " Flashing Lights" , "Stronger" and "Can't Tell Me Nothing" .
Radiohead's In Rainbows is just beautiful. They manage, again and again, to be innovative, heartfelt and rocking all at the same time. It's hard to pin down a favourite track but "Nude" is one of those songs that goes deep. There's a lovely film on YouTube just now of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood doing an acoustic version of "Faust Arp" up a hill.
MARK OLIVER EVERETT (EELS)
The greatest compliment an artist can give is to express feelings of deep, bitter jealousy. When I first heard PJ Harvey's White Chalk, a wave of envy washed over me, growing greater as each incredible track started and finished. I would like John Parish and Flood, the co-producers of White Chalk, to produce my next album. And I'd like Polly Harvey to write, sing and perform the songs. I'll check in now and then to see how it's going.
DON HENLEY (THE EAGLES)
That girl from Canada called Feist is the whole package. I love her voice and her songwriting on her album [The Reminder], and her videos are amazing. But the best album I've heard this year is by a woman called Erin Moran from New Jersey. She goes out under the name A Girl Called Eddy and she sounds like the love child of Dusty Springfield and Burt Bacharach.
NICK HODGSON (KAISER CHIEFS)
Cross by Justice is quite unusual for a contemporary dance album because you can actually listen to it from beginning to end. It's extremely musical and the songs never stop getting bigger and better, because something exciting is always about to happen. I saw them live this year and the crowd was full of rock and indie types moshing, which was weird.
Plastic Little are this rap and two-step group from Philadelphia and they're kinda my Noughties – or maybe that should be Naughties – version of The Smiths even though they sound nothing like them. Their album She's Mature brings us the funniest version of the modern American youth. They're a band with no compromises.
My favourite is Sky Blue Sky by Wilco, the first album of theirs that I've really got to know. The arrangements are beautiful, and they have a fantas tic sense of melody and dynamics. Now I'm looking forward to acquainting myself with the whole of their back catalogue.
CALEB FOLLOWILL (KINGS OF LEON)
Queens of the Stone Age
Era Vulgaris by Queens of the Stone Age is pretty hot. You can hear that they have classic influences, but they don't really sound like anybody else. There's this other band from Atlanta called The Manchester Orchestra that I've been listening to a bit because they kinda remind me of us. Their par ents were preachers too, and they've got a lot of passion and desire.
GLEN TILBROOK (SQUEEZE)
The Mark Ronson album Version is head and shoulders above anything else I've heard this year. It's extremely confident, and I love his use of different singers. For all her troubles, Amy Winehouse is a supremely gifted vocalist, and Ronson's handling of her album was fantastic too. He was absolutely instrumental in how that record sounds.
CHRIS DIFFORD (SQUEEZE)
I downloaded the album These Friends of Mine by Rosie Thomas from iTunes, and that's great. I saw her support Bryan Ferry once, and I've been a huge fan ever since. She's Canadian, and her songwriting has real charm. " All The Way To New York City" talks about her travelling to a gig with her boyfriend, and it's a great little story. Her characterisations of her personal and family life are always nicely done – in the past she's even used recordings of her mum and dad speaking.
IAN WILLIAMS (BATTLES)
Sensuous by Cornelius gets our collective vote because it's a great balance of plastic and flesh. There is a polish you can hear on the album, like Jeff Koons in song form. It's the sound of man alongside machine – but here the machine is man! On "Fit Song", rhythm gets distributed like a welfare check to the less fortunate instruments so that everybody can feel funky. Democracy, baby!
The Kissaway Trail
I can't stop playing the [eponymous] debut album by The Kissaway Trail. It's like eating really good candy. The music is sweepingly beautiful and the songs are totally infectious. They paint this grand sound that makes your heart feel torn and full all at once, plus they have are such genuine sincerity onstage that it made me love the record even more.
TOM SMITH (EDITORS)
"My favourite album of the year is Boxer by The National. Matt, the singer, sent Russell our bassist a copy in a plain brown cardboard sleeve and he'd written "sounds good with a glass of booze" on it. I loved it before I'd even heard it. "Fake Empire" creeps up on you with a strange familiarity, much like an old friend, and the moment in " Slow Show" where Matt sings "You know I dreamed about you for 29 years before I saw you" ruins me every time.
Whenever I hear Modest Mouse I'm struck by the honesty in their music, and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank is so uncontrived that you have to sit up and listen. The first track, "March Into the Sea" is so dark, and Isaac Brock's fragile, engaging voice draws you in. But for all the darkness there is a side to this kind of Americana that I find very playful.
The boy who runs the record company I'm on – one day he was playin' this album by Grinderman. I says: "Who's that, Andy?" He says: " That's the guys from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds." I don't buy records no more but I hear lots of stuff and something about that record grabbed me up because it was so down in the mud and such.
I've enjoyed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds albums a lot in the past, but I've really fallen in love with the latest Grinderman CD. It feels anarchic, libidinous, joyful and destructive in much the same way as the early albums by [Cave's early outfit] The Birthday Party do. It's not particularly easy to listen to and it's not something that you'd play on a quiet Sunday morning, but it's a truly remarkable record.
ABI HARDING (THE ZUTONS)
Queens of the Stone Age
Era Vulgaris by Queens of the Stone Age sounds really fresh and original. I love Josh Homme's voice. One of My favourite tracks is "Make It Wit Chu" . I first heard it on The Desert Sessions, which is something Josh Homme does periodically with other musicians. He produces it himself and records it very quickly. The version on The Desert Sessions has PJ Harvey singing, so I found it fascinating to hear the version without her on the new record.
On Trespasser Chris Wood summons up the radical priest of the Peasants' Revolt, John Ball, to help him deliver a lesson in song about how the land was taken from the people of England. Enclosure is the theme of this album, be it literal, spiritual or cultural. The final track, "Come Down Jehovah", is a measured statement of atheism that puts Dawkins to shame.
DAVE ROTHERAY (THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH)
Conor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes, has proved himself wonderfully gifted in the art of melancholy, but he could be painfully self-indulgent at times. On Cassadaga he tames his adolescent whine and focuses his vision, sacrificing nothing in passionate intensity. It is a beautiful album that deserves to win him a legion of new fans.
The best album I've heard this year is Paul Weller's new album, which isn't actually released until early next year! We are mutual fans of each other's work and I was lucky enough to meet him last month. He invited me to his studio and played me the demos of his new album. It sounded great, I really admire him as a songwriter and musician. We are both hoping to do a collaboration soon.
SIMON ALDRED (CHERRY GHOST)
It would have to be Woke on a Whaleheart by Bill Callahan (previously known as Smog). I think he's the greatest songwriter of the modern age, comparable to Raymond Carver, and the greatest such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. His voice is the most beautiful baritone I've ever heard. It's a superb album. For me, as soon as a Smog album comes out that's the benchmark you've got to lyrically achieve. All these songwriters who claim to be poets are literally nothing more than sixth-form writers. That's the competition. For me it's always a proper kick up the arse.
SAM DUCKWORTH (GET CAPE. WEAR CAPE. FLY)
Band of Horses and Burial
The Band of Horses and Burial records were my two discoveries of the year. With Band of Horses, it's nice to hear a rock band being really heart-on-sleeve. It's incredibly honest and the melodies are really passionate; it's a really well written album. In Americana rock, especially, you just don't get that heartfelt honesty. Band of Horses have just got a really classic, powerful songwriting.
SCREECH LOUDER (THE LONG BLONDES)
Person Pitch by Panda Bear: the sound of this record is so melodic and warm, like a big musical blanket you can wrap yourself up in. It's really great to put on in the morning and just lie in bed drinking cups of tea and listening to it. It makes you feel all warm and summery. It has a really lazy, content, feel to it.