The Top 50 Songs of 2007

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Top 50 Songs of 2007

Sea Wolf – “You’re a Wolf”

Who or what, exactly, is a Sea Wolf? Is it a band? A dog-like animal that has an affinity for the ocean? Or the musical project of one man who has the gall to call himself Sea Wolf? The answer is yes. The man is Alex Church, with his breathy ballads backed by a sit-in band to compose debut album Leaves In The River. Whatever his magic potion is, it works. The mystery formula yielded “You’re a Wolf,” this year’s most intense and well balanced indie pop single. This song is so easily infectious, it can be played on a continuous loop and never retire its luster. It conjures images of a fantastical forest, like a dark version of a children’s tale, equipped with a drunk gypsy woman instead of a wicked witch. Alex Church is no stranger to the music business, but he has lapped up one great project with Sea Wolf, reiterating his howling presence with this perfect tune. – Nikki Marra
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Joanna Newsom – “Colleen”

In 2006, Joanna Newsom released Ys, an intensely magnificent album that dazzled and inspired and enthralled with each sprawling arrangement and fabled set of lyrics. The recorded album featured Newsom and her harp backed by a full orchestra as arranged by Van Dyke Parks; a stunning feature, but one that would prove difficult for Newsom when it came time to embark on a full tour. Hence, we were introduced to her touring band, a set of five or so musicians picking nimbly at guitars, banjos, tamburas, bouzoukis, fiddles, mandolins, and guitar saws, bringing the orchestral arrangements of Ys to life by turning them into intimate, folksy renditions. In tribute to the unique beauty of this touring band, Newsom released Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band in 2007, a three-song EP featuring the Ys tour versions of “Cosmia,” “Crab, Clam, Cockle, Cowrie,” and a new song, “Colleen.” This band debuted this tune on tour and on this EP as one of Newsom’s most distinctly epic songs yet – the melodies at her most winding, the lyrics at her most poetically whimsical, and the addition of lightning-fast vocal squeaks that bring the wrought uniqueness of her voice to an entirely new level. The vocals tumble fiercely against a backdrop of intricate strumming, and when Newsom transitions into the lyrical line break, the band explodes into a flurry of airtight plucking in between said punctuating squeaks. If “Colleen” alone represents what Joanna Newsom still has in store after The Milk-Eyed Mender and Ys, then I am beyond excited, and as always, I am simply in awe. – Anna Gazdowicz

Björk – Earth Intruders

The release of this single signaled Björk’s venture back into pop. As it is Björk, she undoubtedly left her imprint on the definition of “pop” with the release of Volta, as songs like “Innocence” and “Hope” were suddenly considered “pop” when prior to Volta, they’d be considered “Björk”. Regardless, “Earth Intruders” is one of the straightest pop songs that Björk has released in a while, and the effort is appreciated. The steel percussion creates an exotic sounding rhythm that is exciting even to musical xenophobes. Timbaland’s production is evident to those even vaguely familiar with his work, sudden jolts of sound shooting up like water on a Blue Man drum. This song also gives Björk’s wide voice all the range it needs, sometimes softly talking, other times ringing that rattling rebel yell out her mouth with her lips warbling in flux. The song is a chaotic order, chock full of sounds that jump on top of each other to be heard, but certainly has a distinct method, melody and rhythm, melody into rhythm, melody as rhythm. It is all completely unabashed, loud and forceful and screaming. It’s a riot. – Paul Bozzo
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Yeasayer – “2080”

No other debut in 2007 sounded quite as foreign and as fresh as Yeasayer’s All Hour Cymbals, and from that album, no song mesmerized and seduced quite like first single “2080,” a paean to the future with a Fleetwood Mac-like lush melody combined with a sleek TV on the Radio groove-gaze trajectory. It’s an exotic excursion, with a hint of African rhythms here, a dash of Far Eastern mysticism there, but mostly a dense and heady mix of beautiful pop music at its most perfect and innovative. For all its elegant whimsy, it’s a surprisingly dark look at our time ahead, as Chris Keating sings “I can’t sleep when I think about the times we’re living in/ I can’t sleep when I think about the future I was born into.” And still, it’s romantic, it’s dreamy, it’s delicate. Even when the song breaks down into its bridge of tribal shouts and stomps, a twinkling piano soothes it back into a dewy-eyed chorus. Even if the future’s as bad as Keating suggests, it can surely be made less tragic with a song like this. – Jeff Terich

Andrew Bird – “Heretics”

Despite the stark guitar starting the track, this is one of Andrew Bird’s most mellifluous tracks, and one wherein his violin training seems to have done him quite a service. The violin carries the drums and strums of the guitar into another distinct part of the song, flowing into higher pitched violin riffs, and then into Bird’s far off wails, “…Whooa-Ohh… ” The flow between the different parts of the song is something too smooth for water or nature. This sound is high crafted, whittled and waxen like Stradivarius woodwork, and surely treated just the same. The flow of the song seems so specific that some brutish hands calloused by a rough guitar would shatter the fragile flow between its fingers, breaking bridge, neck, strings: all little splinters of sound fitted poorly together, jumping out of the violin flow to prick the ears painful. Bird has created something so fine and faithful to flow that it’s a wonder what the song might sound like if it were just a little off. A quarter of a second only, and the wails might come too early, chopping off the tail end of a high violin riff, leaving too much space between itself and the lyrics that follow it up, giving the listener space to ask, “What was that?” – Paul Bozzo

Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”

Modest Mouse’s sound on We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank was beefed up considerably with the welcoming of Johnny Marr into their creative circle, an addition most apparent on “Dashboard.” The omnipresent single boasts an infectious groove of dueling guitars augmented by a crisp horn section, and out of all the not-so-good music that is played on most alternative rock stations these days, I’m glad to see that a single of this quality received just as much airplay as the rest of the commercial muck in 2007. “Float On” was a monster of a single back in 2004 that received an overwhelming amount of airplay and circulation, and the fact that “Dashboard” burst forward with the same quality and caliber this year only further justifies the fact that Modest Mouse nabbed the #1 Billboard spot upon release of We Were Dead. In the mess of the Fall Out Boys and the Paramores of the commercial rock biz, it’s good to know that the music consumer masses are listening to at least some good music these days. – Anna Gazdowicz
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Feist – “My Moon My Man”

Okay, so I’m one of the few who didn’t go absolutely bonkers over The Reminder. The commercial appeal of the album is far too great for this snob to live down. It’s likely because “My Moon My Man” was available well before the album that any future prejudice I may have had towards the song would be overwritten. That and I guess it may just be a damn good song. The unrelenting piano thump and Feist’s heavenly vocals seem to do the trick and the high-heeled shuffling at the end of the song, in a bizarre way, really works for me. A chick’s song through and through, it makes you want to stomp around while swaying your head or at least move briskly with the beat and leaves you bent with lines like “take it slow/take it easy on me.” – Tyler Weir
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Okkervil River – “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe”

This song is the opening bookend to the album, The Stage Names, and the closing bookend will appear later in this list. What that signifies to me is that Will Sheff was able to frame his narrative with two incredible tracks, only to fill in the gaps with equally engaging tunes. “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” might have some listeners finding similarities with the Arcade Fire, especially in the “whoo-whoo” backups and building instrumentation. But whereas Win Butler meditated on the Bible and politics this year, Sheff explored literature and film. The title says it all, but then again, so did The Old Man and the Sea. It’s not so much the message as it is the journey in getting there. And I can listen to Okkervil River’s journeys over and over again. – Terrance Terich
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Kevin Drew – “Gang Bang Suicide”

For fans of “Lover’s Spit,” there was reason to rejoice this year as Kevin Drew, the creative force behind that particular Broken Social Scene tune, released his first `solo’ album (despite heavy involvement from most BSS members), Spirit If…. Many of the songs on this solo album were welcomed with open arms by BSS fans, but a few songs in particular stood out, none more so than “Gang Bang Suicide.” As I stated in my review of the entire album, “Gang Bang Suicide” is easily the least polished cut on the record, sounding like a bedroom recording of Drew going through this song in one take. But that makes the song all the more memorable as we are let in on the intimacy. When Drew sings that his heart is as big as a house, we hear the sincerity in his breaking voice. – Terrance Terich
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Matthew Dear – “Deserter”

Asa Breed found Dear all but disposing of his house phase and wreaking pop havoc. Filled with tinges & twinges of glam, darkwave, and funk and overrun by neon backrivers of splotchy, exhausted graphics, it’s one of those albums that artists burst utterly out of themselves to make. In “Deserter” Dear cues a personal Jesus for all the midnight saints, a perfect piece of winelogged, winking elegia. A friend gushed on hearing it, “it’s the new `Someone Great’!” I had to concede his point (`you have a point—an idiotic one, but a point,’ as George Sanders would say), that my up-to-then go-to song for glorious disco ruin had itself some serious competition. “Deserter” may wrap its girly arms around its head but it’s not loner rehab per se—it’s more Nietzsche’s thing about solitude `misinterpreted as a flight from reality, whereas in fact it will be a dwelling in, a dwelling on reality.’ Dear, for his part, just says, “keep on searching.” Lurk in a moonlit alley with “Deserter” leaking from your ears and you’ll be searching everything but the garbage cans. – Anthony Strain

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