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January 03, 2008 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-03

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4B - Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


From page 2B
8. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
Spencer Krug's taking risks. "Should I
try some tribal chanting? Sure. How about a
track about riding leopards? Definitely." Do
they all make sense? Maybe not. But some-
where in the swirling, galaxy-sized mind of
Sunset Rubdown's leading man, everything
does. The same goes for the album. Every
track works its way to a riveting climax,
and the whole thing explores three differ-
ent movements of sound. It's a well-tailored
suit. Nothing is out of place. Chaos inter-
locks with carnival sideshow riffs and falls
into melodic, charming running water riffs.
You'll hate it if you pick and choose tracks.
But if you listen to it in whole, hold onto
your headphones - you'll hear the leading
man in indie rock at his best.
9. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
James Murphy has not lost his edge. The
man behind the keyboard and drum loops
finds abalancebetween cold, repetitive elec-
tronica and heart as he grows up on Sound
of Silver, LCD's sophomore release. From
the tumbling sirens of the "Someone Great"
to the battered piano of "All My Friends,"
the New York lover knows when to keep it
simple and when to empty the sounds of his
synthesizer into layers of catchy, danceable
10. Kanye West - Graduation
Perhaps the most anticipated rap album

of the year, Graduation was also among
the best. It isn't car music: It's headphones
music. And it's damn good headphone
music. Songs such as "Good Morning" and
"Everything I Am" are smoother -- both
musically and lyrically -- than anything
Kanye's done in the past. And it's not like
there's no flair -- the Daft Punk sample for
"Stronger" made for one of the better sin-
gles of the year. Kanye might not have had
as much fun with this album as he did with
Late Registration, but Graduation proves
he's better as mellow and serious than bois-
terous and obnoxious.
11. Jay-Z - American Gangster
In the fall of'07, former Def Jam Record-
ings President Shawn Carter caught a
glimpse of his past life in an advance screen-
ing of "American Gangster." Hova's infatu-
ation with the crime epic led to a series of
inspired studio sessions and an album of the
same name. His vivid imagery and lyrical
dexterity on tracks like "Pray" and "Fallin"'
make American Gangster a worthy addition
to Hova's expansive back catalog.
11. Feist - The Reminder
Feist's vocal ability wildly manifests
all over The Reminder. From stacked har-
monies resembling synth wood pipes to a
growling, pissed-off-preteen overdrive, she
is willfully whimsical. It's gorgeous. Lyri-
cally, she's quainter than Neko Case, more
nuanced than Nora Jones. Her hits, "1234"
and "I Feel It All" are solid enough, but "The
Path" is a single acoustic guitar, a few con-
cert horns and a whole lot of crickets - it's a
singular track, a standout on an record full
of outstanding tracks.
12. Lil Wayne - Da Drought 3

Wayne decided to overplay himself with
mixtapes, there was the masterful compo-
sition, Da Drought 3. Weezy spit his raspy
flow over 27 different instrumentals to
make one of his most focused and admired
creationstonotbesold inFYE. Even though
the instrumentals are from other songs, he
makes every track his own, and laces them
all with his memorable style and excep-
tional flow. Though it never reached the
Billboard charts, Da Drought3 is still one of
best pieces of hip-hop to come out of'07.
13. The National - Boxer
It's almost too damn subtle. Matt Ber-
ninger's rusty voice dominates throughout,
and the sleepy, plodding drum lines nestle
right up against the interjections of horns
and piano plinks. But then you hear the
lyrics. It's the most honest and emotion-
ally precise album of the year ("You get mis-
taken for strangers by your own friends"
and "Do you really think you can just put
it in a safe behind a painting, lock it up
and leave?"). Between the throbbing gems
like "Fake Empire" and the breezy, unem-
ployed-but-I-need-to-find-a-job-now feel of
"Start a War," Boxer shreds your heart and
meticulously patches it back up at least 17
times. Nope, not subtle at all.
14. Justice - t
was so big this year, even the old folks at the
National Academy of Recording Arts and
Sciences noticed. With the now-Grammy-
nominated single (starring the Foundation
for Young Musicians choir's pretty young
things), and club entrance anthems like
"The Party, stacked high with thick, hiccup-
ing bass, the French duo put electro label Ed
Banger on the map marked by abig, light-up
cross. If t doesn't make you dance, you best
check your pulse.
15. Menomena - Friend and Foe
Born of joyously singable melodies, plod-
ding though danceable bass lines and sear-
ing guitars, Friend and Foe comes about as
close to classic indie rock as any album in
2007. And, miraculously, it didn't suck. For
the long-since stagnant genre Menomena's
sophomore effort was like bonging a gallon
of Red Bull. It was downtrodden and melan-
choly, but simultaneously frantic and uncon-
trollable. It was the embodiment of the

angst and precision that defined early indie-
rock releases, without being too derivative.
Friend andFoe is a 1997 release that came 10
years later, equipped with the technology
and swagger of the new millennium.
16. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
On its triumphant return, Winn Butler's
musical machine effortlessly slayed the
fire-breathing sophomore slump jinx, then
pointed its sword to the sky as it stood at the
(almost) summit of the American charts.
Back are the cranking hurdy-gurdys and
bellowing pipe organs, but instead of help-
ing pay homage to David Bowie, Arcade Fire
now transports a god-fearing, Nebraska-era
Bruce Springsteen disciple to a melancholy
midnight fantasyland in purgatorybetween
dream and nightmare to come face-to-face
with the prospect of mortality and over-
whelmingself-doubt. The tensionis palpable
in Butler's urgent pleas as fate approaches.
17. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
In 2007, Amy Winehouse's distinct ver-
sionof soul gained an international platform.
Back to Black, her stateside debut, exuded
a freshness unmatched by her contempo-
raries. Producers Mark Ronson and Salaam
Remi responded to Winehouse's affinity for
classic '60s soul with a collection of 11 tight-
ly composed tracks. The Motown-inflected
title track and the Ashford & Simpson cover
"Tears Dry On Their Own" are standouts on
an album that pushed genuine soul music
back into the international spotlight.
18. Talib Kweli - Eardrum
Blending the swoons and chords of old
gospel and smooth R&B with his hip-hop
veneer, Talib Kweli developed a voice that
spoke stronger and louder than any could
imagine on Eardrum. The Brooklyn MC
emerged from his rap hiatus with a prod-
uct that shows growth, skill and longev-
ity. It's the strongest album he's produced
yet. By maintaining his concern for the
issues plaguing his people and expressing
it through lyrical aptitude, Kweli's Eardrum
needs to be heard. Who says socially con-
scious hip-hop is boring?
19. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100
Days, 100 Nights
Although the mainstream has taken its
time to recognize the dap-dippers and their
queen Sharon Jones - who, at 51, sings big-
ger, struts sexier and has simply got more
it than the girl-child singers currently
crowding her onuthe charts - there couldn't
have been a better nudge toward the back
catalogues than 100 Days, 100 Nights. "100
Days, 100 Nights," is the sultriest goddamn-
that-man song in a longtime, and when Ms.
Jones moans "Maybe I need to slow it down
just a little" and the band slumps accord-
ingly into half-time, it's near impossible for
your heart not to break. (And that's only the
title track.)
20. Matthew Dear - Asa Breed
From the DJ that created the original
"Hands Up For Detroit" (with the late
Disco D, a fellow University of Michigan
kid) comes one of the year's most perfect
pop albums - think Bowie-meets-Eno all
over again. On his third album as Matthew
Dear, the Ghostly posterboy delivers cleanly
crafted electronic music stuffed with soul.
Further messing around in this marriage
of pop and minimal techno, Dear squeezes
out more handclaps and jittery toms, steep-
ing his effects in equal parts spaciness

and country-western fatalism. The result?
Songs alternately cuddly ("Pom Pom") and
doom-and-gloom ("Midnight Lovers"), but
all very, very good for a dance party.
21. Liars - Liars
It might be difficult to say that Liars is
currently the best band on the planet, but
their rdsum6 is pretty hard to fuck with.
After a stellar debut and follow-up, the
group seemed to find its stride with 2006's
Drum's Not Dead. But the troupe thought
otherwise. With its self-titled release, Liars
cements itself as an unstoppable force, rein-
venting its sound once again. Liars sees the
group return to its rock and punk roots,
and stands as the most straightforward and
accessible album the group has released to
date. Though this incarnation of the group
may be gone with the release of its next
album, this disc will unquestionably stand
as a stepping-stone toward Liars's next
record and fagade.
22. R. Kelly - Double Up
Every album R. Kelly makes, nay, divines,
is a revelation and Double Up is no excep-
tion. The man wrestled the title "King of
R&B" from Michael Jackson's deformed
corpse in the '90s and has risen so far since
then. He has produced and written so many
hits and deep cuts that I actually got a seri-
ous e-mail from a reader with a detailed
comparison of Kelly's discography and The
Beatles. That might be ridiculous, but the
fact someone could put together a coherent
argument on the topic is a testament to R.
Kelly's gift for polished beats, impeccable
harmonies, hilarious lyrics and pure enter-
tainment value.
23. Kevin Drew - Spirit If...
A solo album released by Broken Social
Scene's poetically vulgar founding father,
Spirit If.. encompasses the whimsical
instrumentals and off-beat rock that estab-
lished Broken Social Scene as an indie rock
giant. The album has a guest list 19 people
long- mostly Broken Social Scene members
- that gives it the rich and diverse sound
Drew's fans have come to expect from his
previous work.
24. Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab
Although Ghostface invites friends and
fellow Clansmen (Raekwon, Method Man)
to this seventh solo effort, released the
week before Wu-Tang's first group album
since 2001, his own fierce and often funny
raps prove why he's one of today's pre-
mier MCs - not just within Wu-Tang but
greater hip hop. Mixing in Palestinian pal-
aces and cabana hysterics, Ghostface's dis-
tinct cinematicism keeps the album's usual
blood-letting and drug-slinging "fresher
than produce." While 8 Diagrams is a solid
album, missing the irreverence of the late
ODB, perhaps, Big Doe Rehab is a stunner.
25. TI. - T.I. vs. T.P.
Forget the whole TI. vs. T.LP. thing. The
Half of the time you can't even tell the dif-
this album was simply great. The sirens and
guitar on "You Know What It Is" make for a
bouncy hit and Just Blaze's uplifting organs
on "Help Is Coming" are the perfect back-
drop for TI's braggadocio rhymes. So ignore
the skits where the two characters are argu-
ing with each other, turn up the volume and
enjoy another classic TI. album.







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