Advertisement

Top 50 Songs of 2007

This list leaves us wondering if music will ever reach these heights again

Advertisement
Advertisement

    Decades is a recurring feature that turns back the clock to critical anniversaries of albums, songs, and films. This month, we dial it back to the top 50 songs of 2007.

    Ten years is enough time for a song to infiltrate the consciousness of music fans and for us to really evaluate what that song means to us. Though 2007 was dominated by indie rock albums, the songs that stand out were so much more ambitious than the groups making them initially came across. Maybe that’s why the years following 2007 would find some of these indie acts like Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, LCD Soundsystem, and The National becoming rock and roll luminaries, while other artists like Rihanna, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, and Kanye West saw some of their best-known material surface in that year.

    How far did the ripples spread? Well, if you said LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” became an anthem of a generation, you wouldn’t be wrong. Alt radio found a few of its staples in songs like “Kids”, “The Pretender”, and “Dashboard”, while Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was a pop breakthrough that would turn the rising star into a household name. Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” was an electronic game-changer that helped usher in the age of rave music hitting the big stages at festivals. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is as likely to be heard at a sports event as on the radio, while songs like Spoon’s “The Underdog”, The National’s “Fake Empire”, and Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You” increased their exposure through widespread television syncs. These weren’t just songs that bounded leaps ahead of their artists’ previous work. They are songs that have become cultural moments.

    Advertisement

    The following are 50 of the best from a particularly strong year, songs that might make you feel old and will definitely make you wonder whether music has (and can) reach these heights again.

    –Philip Cosores
    Deputy Editor


    Era+Vulgaris50. Queens of the Stone Age – “Sick, Sick, Sick”

    Era Vulgaris



    After the surprise mainstream success of single “No One Knows”, Queens of the Stone Age could’ve gone the route of Fall Out Boy and become reliable purveyors of pop rock. Not to say that what Fall Out Boy does is easy — just that frontman Josh Homme had shown the kind of knack for melody that buys a guy a vacation home on the ocean and a boat to get around. QOTSA could’ve gone in that direction, instead of doing what they did, which was leaning into the weird. Lullabies to Paralyze was full of droning, riff-heavy rock songs, and Era Vulgaris sounds like a bit of every era, including the future. But one of the best songs off it, “Sick, Sick, Sick”, is a full-throated throwback to thrash that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Metallica concert. The jittery drums, the relentless guitars, and the screams of “Sick!” are a sonic shot of adrenaline. It’s a chug-a-shaken-can-of-Red Bull kind of experience. –Wren Graves


    blonde redhead 23 Top 50 Songs of 200749. Blonde Redhead – “23”

    23



    Shoegaze, alt rock, and trip-hop never really died; they just threaded themselves together into the skeletal serenity of Blonde Redhead’s “23”. Kazu Makino’s wordless vocal harmonies dominate the track almost as much as her nearly-in-the-red leads, slipping by sweetly at the back of the rushed rhythm like a beautiful landscape smeared through the car window. Like many of the best songs on this list, “23” got placement in a piece of crossover pop culture, namely an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and though it’s perhaps a little more esoteric than that might suggest, the song carries an easily digested yet thrumming, anxious energy. “23 seconds, all things we love will die/ 23 magic, if you can change your life,” Makino cries out, controlled yet pushed as far as that control will allow, as she and the Pace brothers build an equally tight yet constantly pushing backbone. Makino’s voice, too, has a chill to it (think Massive Attack and the like), yet an undeniable urgency as well. Much like the four-legged classic beauty on the cover, the song is entrancing and stunning, yet there’s something not quite right — and you’ll need to keep staring, dissecting, analyzing to find an answer. –Lior Phillips


    shout out louds Top 50 Songs of 200748. Shout Out Louds – “Impossible”

    Our Ill Wills



    Ten years later, Shout Out Louds are barely a blip on the musical radar. But on their Björn Yttling-produced second album, the band laid out a successful blueprint of lovelorn, wistful indie pop that catapulted the Swedish group to big festival stages. Our Ill Wills contains three Cure-esque home runs (honorable mention to “You Are Dreaming” and “Tonight I’m Gonna Leave It”, the latter of which I literally thought was a Cure song for several years), and best is the sprawling “Impossible”. Running nearly seven minutes, the track doesn’t attempt to be more than a romantic pop song about heartbreak and healing. It’s just a supersized portion, complete with orchestral swells and a bridge diversion so effective that the listener nearly forgets where the song had been until the chorus comes swirling back. The song’s inherent sadness is culled by frontman Adam Olenius and tempered by his wise sense of perspective. “Stay out of love until you’re ready,” he warns, his own longing songwriting standing as a lighthouse to guide others through the storm. –Philip Cosores


    chromeo Top 50 Songs of 200747. Chromeo – “Fancy Footwork”

    Advertisement

    Fancy Footwork



    The only thing Chromeo ever needs to worry about is whether or not their fans are having fun. That’s sort of their wheelhouse, and they do that by mining the same ’80s rhythms that once soundtracked your parents’ Friday nights with China white. But fiddling around with 808s and tossing in a little synth is any fool’s game. What separates the Canadian duo from the million other retro-gazing acts doing the same thing is their knack for melody and emotion. Their songs are often ludicrous, but they tug at your heart like the ending to a really good John Hughes movie. “Fancy Footwork” bottles that feeling by framing Dave 1 as a benevolent mentor who raises a troubled teen’s sprits with a dance lesson to win over the girl: “But if you let her see that fancy footwork/ Show her that you’re not that shy/ Let her see that fancy footwork/ Show her you’re that type of guy.” Sigh, where’s Anthony Michael Hall when you need him? –Michael Roffman


    new pornographers - challengers46. The New Pornographers – “Challengers”

    Challengers



    The title track from Challengers is as much of the backstory of how AC Newman met his wife as we get on the record, though the relationship is an overarching presence. During this duet between Neko Case and Newman in which Case is in the forefront, Newman’s songwriting is at its most poetic. At that point, The New Pornographers were not known for restraint, but “Challengers” is subtle and delicate, as close to Case’s solo work as the band had ever recorded. The details of meeting and connecting with someone new while both are involved with others feel real because they were. Instead of acting on their passions, they maintain contact and wait for each other to become available. It’s romantic in a way that is mature and almost old-fashioned, but with the knowledge that the pair wind up getting married, it’s sweet in the way most love songs aren’t. Case and Newman manage to turn the characters’ romantic chemistry into a musical one, giving Newman’s tale the treatment it deserves. –Philip Cosores


    ac025 15 Top 50 Songs of 200745. Los Campesinos! – “You! Me! Dancing!”

    Sticking Fingers into Sockets



    “If there’s one thing I could never confess/ It’s that I can’t dance a single step,” sings Gareth David in the pre-chorus of the euphoric “You! Me! Dancing!”. He is, of course, using one of the song’s key moments to confess just that, but before he has time to feel self-aware the song explodes around him with chants of “It’s you! It’s me! And there’s dancing!” One could search high and low across the vast universe of post-2000s indie rock and not find a more singularly endearing moment.

    A Welsh group weaned on North American indie classics, Los Campesinos! took all the sloppy, meandering cues from bands like Pavement and Built to Spill but injected their end product with pop rocks and caffeine, proving once and for all that, in indie rock, cool doesn’t have to mean aloof. This band’s version of cool is letting it all loose and reveling in the messy majesty of life, and the sprawling, six-minute “You! Me! Dancing!” still never fails to elicit a smile or a shake of the hips. –Collin Brennan


    jay reatard Top 50 Songs of 200744. Jay Reatard – “Let It All Go”

    Singles 06-07



    Jay Reatard’s “Let It All Go” might be the only song on this list that never found its way onto a proper album, being featured instead on a split single with Boston Chinks and, later, on Reatard’s Singles 06-07 compilation. All the same, the tune lives on as a prime example of the singer at the peak of his chaotic, whimsical powers. A swirling guitar riff gives way to the four-word chorus of “Now I need you,” each repetition sounding more desperate than the last. And then — all of a sudden — we’re back at square one, Reatard pulling himself away from the brink as if finally realizing that punk, even at its lowest and most dejected, should never take itself too seriously. –Collin Brennan


    grinderman grinderman Top 50 Songs of 200743. Grinderman – “No Pussy Blues”

    Advertisement

    Grinderman



    Time makes quite the difference. Considering his recent elegiac, heartfelt turn with Skeleton Tree, the idea of Nick Cave jamming out on his guitar, sticking his tongue firmly in his cheek, and singing about how he wasn’t able to get any seems almost absurd. But that’s exactly the story of the second single from his raw-edged alt rock outfit Grinderman, “No Pussy Blues”, a not-super-subtle blend of blues, rock, wah pedal, and lyrics about the dog-toting starlet who doesn’t dig Cave’s appearance, no matter how much poetry he reads her. But then at the time Cave’s rough side was more prominent, and Grinderman explored that aggressive garage side even further, this track emblematic of the id-driven energy that the project explored, as well as the smirking knowledge of just how over-the-top and silly it all was. The only thing as connected to this song as Cave’s then-still-not-fashionable moustache was the knowing wink that surely came with it. –Lior Phillips


    mia kala Top 50 Songs of 200742. M.I.A. – “Boyz”

    Kala



    Sure, Kala, M.I.A.’s sophomore studio album, eventually spawned the massive “Paper Planes” (released as a single in 2008), but the previously released “Boyz” immediately captured Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam’s complex identity politics and musical tradition experimentation long before that massive crossover hook. As a preview of Kala, it rode a simple percussive loop and celebratory horn samples, M.I.A. spitting deceptively simple lines about “no money boys.” It plays for the dance floor, but its questions about “how many start a war” belie the potential violence innate at the other side of the coin from the Carribbean “duppa bounce.” Tamil drums fuse with Jamaican touchstones, M.I.A. continuing to push at the rules of geography, culture, and space-time, fusing overlooked communities into a song at once undeniable and unflinching. –Lior Phillips


    nine inch nails year zero Top 50 Songs of 200741. Nine Inch Nails – “Survivalism”

    Year Zero



    Trent Reznor was on a roll in the mid-aughts. 2005’s With Teeth introduced a poppy side to Nine Inch Nails, one that connected to a new generation of fans ready for an all-out industrial dance party. Naturally, he obliged, and even when he returned to the dark side with 2007’s Year Zero, he wisely kept the balloons at his side. Remember, though, these were the waning days of the Bush administration, and youngsters were obsessed with revolution rock (see: Green Day, My Chemical Romance), which is why a rousing anthem like “Survivalism” easily swept them off their feet. It helped, of course, that it was part of a larger political concept album and that Reznor was teasing fans with then-unprecedented viral marketing — from mysterious phone numbers off tour shirts to hidden USB sticks at shows — but really, the song’s a tropical storm and one of the last times the muscular frontman sounded edgy, sexy, and downright prescient. –Michael Roffman


    Advertisement

    rilo kiley under the blacklight Top 50 Songs of 200740. Rilo Kiley – “Silver Lining”

    Under the Blacklight



    It’s easy to forget that when Under the Blacklight first slid out from under the covers and into the world, many fans felt cheated. This wasn’t Rilo Kiley, this was pop. Gasp. A decade later, “Silver Lining” feels like a harbinger of songs to come (though sadly not from this band, may it rest in peace). Jenny Lewis’ track is a slow, smooth song with an alt-country center buried way, way beneath all the glittering pop sheen. It’s such a pleasure on the ears — Lewis’ voice is, as ever, a lovely thing — that the bitter taste of the lyrics can be overlooked. How can a phrase like “I never felt so wicked/ As when I willed our love to die” possibly exist in a song so sweet? Fans may have thought this marked the end of Rilo Kiley, and to be fair, they were right, but my god, what a curtain call.–Allison Shoemaker


    modest mouse Top 50 Songs of 200739. Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”

    We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank



    When Modest Mouse scored a massive alt radio smash in 2004 with “Float On”, it was such a surprising moment for the indie rock graduates that replicating seemed impossible. But, with “Dashboard” as the first single from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (and later with “Lampshades on Fire” from Strangers to Ourselves), the Washington natives proved a penchant for penning alternative hits without losing the quirky, singular sound they were known for. The story goes that “Dashboard” stemmed from the first jam session between Mouse leader Isaac Brock and Smiths legend Johnny Marr, who joined the band for the record. Brock improvised the melody and lyrics on the spot, blowing Marr’s mind by how naturally the songwriting occurred. On record, it’s a propulsive number, employing horns, strings, and unexpected flashy production that made use of the band’s major-label budget. But the heart of the song is how unhinged Brock gets without losing the song’s central hook. Like the song’s most memorable lyric, their radio sensibility could withstand even the most intense of blazes. –Philip Cosores


    strawberry jam high res cover Top 50 Songs of 200738. Animal Collective – “Fireworks”

    Strawberry Jam



    Never quite as explosive as its name would suggest, Animal Collective’s “Fireworks” is a shuffling psych-pop poem that captures the feeling of listlessness without ever sounding, well, listless. Stuffed to the brim with metaphors about recapturing a lost paradise of the mind, the song’s seven minutes almost seem too short to contain a stream-of-consciousness narrative gently eased along by a swirling rhythm. Some bands (and critics, for that matter) mistake “long” for “important,” but “Fireworks” is that rare example of an extended pop song that feels perfectly edited. “And I can’t lift you up, my mind is tired/ It’s family beaches that I desire,” goes the chorus, condensing that familiar mixture of heartbreak and exhaustion into a couplet that kills every time. “Fireworks” may never offer that one huge bang, but it dazzles all the same. –Collin Brennan


    okkervil river the stage names Top 50 Songs of 200737. Okkervil River – “Unless It’s Kicks”

    Advertisement

    The Stage Names



    The Stage Names is full of big moments from Okkervil River. Opener “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” takes a cinematic look (complete with plenty of projectionist imagery) at lyrical storytelling while closer “John Allyn Smith Sails” drops in an album-ending sing-along of “Sloop John B”. But it’s the record’s second song, “Unless It’s Kicks”, that Will Sheff turns into the biggest anthem of his career. Building upon a muscular guitar riff and a stomp-along rhythm, Sheff allows himself the opportunity to wail into the microphone with steadily building gumption. When Sheff sings “some rock ‘n’ roll fan” with a snarl in his throat, it’s the work of a longtime songwriting master realizing he is also a captivating frontman. And this self-awareness carries the track into satisfying climax of rare proportions, with Sheff reaching and hitting the high notes, sticking the landing on his most acrobatic vocals. The song would go on to be a frequent set closer for the band for the next decade, something that anyone could have predicted upon listening to the song for the first time. –Philip Cosores


    sky blue sky Top 50 Songs of 200736. Wilco – “Impossible Germany”

    Sky Blue Sky



    The best song on Wilco’s underrated Sky Blue Sky deals with the “fundamental problem” of distance and disconnect between lovers. It’s never clear if Jeff Tweedy is referring to actual, physical locations when he sings of “Impossible Germany/ Unlikely Japan,” but that level of ambiguity helps to drive the song into more contemplative territory. In this sense, it’s one of the most lyrically accomplished songs of his long career, both reflecting and echoing the notion that two sides in a relationship might see a problem in fundamentally different (and possibly irreconcilable) ways. Also worthy of a shout-out here is the tasteful, gorgeous guitar work of Wilco newcomer Nels Cline, whose solo dominates a full half of the song’s six-minute runtime but certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. –Collin Brennan


    st vincent marry me Top 50 Songs of 200735. St. Vincent – “Your Lips Are Red”

    Marry Me



    Wanna know how long it took Annie Clark to become St. Vincent? Eight minutes and 21 seconds. Because by track three off her debut full-length, Marry Me, she had already planted her feet firmly into the ground, drawing up a song that could in no way belong to anyone else but her. Even today, the murderous delicacy of “Your Lips Are Red” feels like it could sneak onto any of her three other studio albums, what with her hypnotic use of repetition (“Your face is drawn/ Your face is drawn from drawing words right from my lips”), ricocheting guitar riffs, and anxious Wall of Sound that would push Phil Spector to turn the gun on himself. Ten years later, it’s a priceless, velvet-draped nightmare that’s worth reliving again and again — and she does. The song has haunted every one of her supporting tours, which is always a perfect tell. –Michael Roffman


    black lips good bad not evil Top 50 Songs of 200734. Black Lips – “Bad Kids”

    Good Bad Not Evil



    My personal relationship to the Black Lips’ “Bad Kids” is colored by the fact that I performed it hundreds of times as a member of a punk rock a capella group in Chicago, but the song’s scrappy appeal doesn’t require that hard-earned knowledge to appreciate. Built around a drunken, sloppy chorus that mines the middle ground between garage rock and doo-wop, “Bad Kids” remains one of the catchiest anarchist anthems ever put to record. Like most great rock ‘n’ roll songs, it seems engineered to push parents’ buttons and move teenagers’ feet, though the sentiments expressed here don’t bother to hide among metaphor and euphemism. “Bad Kids” openly revels in rebellion and destruction and fuzz and scuzz, setting the stage for a decade in which garage and punk would continue to inch closer toward one another and, in some cases, become virtually indistinguishable. –Collin Brennan


    beirut Top 50 Songs of 200733. Beirut – “Elephant Gun”

    Lon Gisland



    Zach Condon floated into the upper echelons of indie stardom with 2006 debut Gulag Orkestar, a hot air balloon of eastern European folk-indebted harmonies and horns, a scrapbook of warmth and sweetness. As if to capitalize on the moment he created with that record, Beirut quickly followed the album with the Lon Gisland EP, which featured one of Condon’s most enchanting compositions: “Elephant Gun”. The song’s strings, brass, and ukulele evoke the same nostalgia that Condon had thrived on, but lyrically he begins to address that past lean that had so defined his earliest successes. “Let the seasons begin, take the big king down,” he sings, as if challenging the past to try to creep up on him. Time will pass and Condon is ready to face it down with a blithe smile. With “Elephant Gun”, the accordion-toting wunderkind readied himself to further develop his own voice beyond temporal tourism and does so with a majestic sway. –Lior Phillips


    boh_coverfinal32. Band of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”

    Advertisement

    Cease to Begin



    Do you remember NBC’s Chuck? No? Bummer. The show was good. Really good. Part of what made it so successful was turning melancholy moments into cinematic gold — you know, kind of like what NBC’s Miami Vice pioneered in the ’80s. Anyways, one particular ending to a very integral episode involved Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You”, which, yeah, is a great song by itself, but one that was brought to life by showrunners Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak. As vocalist Ben Bridwell does that wonderful croon of his, we watch the show’s titular geek/super spy slowly realize he’s not only losing his close friend, but possibly the woman of his dreams. For those who were invested in the series, the scene hit really hard, elevating the tongue-in-cheek dramedy to a more tangible, teary portrait of angst and confusion. Yet one click on the mute button would have totally stripped those emotions away. Alas, the power of Bridwell. –Michael Roffman


    ugkunderground kingz Top 50 Songs of 200731. UGK (feat. Outkast) – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”

    UGK (Underground Kingz)



    Through the ‘90s and ‘00s, Outkast, UGK, and Three 6 Mafia were three of the most influential Southern rap groups, bringing their distinct culture into the mainstream and cementing their status in history. For their last collaboration together, they flipped a soulful 1973 cut from Willie Hutch into a celebratory masterpiece. A decade later, people still argue over which of the four had the best verse, whether it was Big Boi’s frantic plea for birth control, Bun B’s bravado, Andre 3000’s tongue-twisting romanticism, or Pimp C’s distilled code on how to live. All had stronger verses earlier in their career, but together they crafted one last classic showcase of the era they represented. Who could have known that this would not only be one of the last times Andre & Big Boi would be on the same track together, but one of the last songs Pimp C would write before his untimely passing six months later. A nearly perfect song, it’s what Outkast closed every night with on their 2014 reunion tour, and it’s still a favorite at every Bun B concert. As for Pimp C, play this beat anywhere in the South, and you’ll hear the whole room sing his verse back word for word, a testament to his enduring legacy. –David Sackllah


    ickythump Top 50 Songs of 200730. The White Stripes – “Icky Thump”

    Icky Thump



    Has any rock song aged better over the last decade than The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump”? A gritty, angular diatribe against the United States’ modern immigration policy, the single is worth revisiting in 2017 for its lyrics alone, in which Jack White addresses “white Americans” with a scathing rhetorical question: “Why don’t you kick yourself out?/ You’re an immigrant, too.” Putting aside the prescient politics for a moment, “Icky Thump” also deserves credit for being the most gleefully guitar-driven single in The White Stripes’ extensive catalog. The chorus is basically just a huge blues-metal riff buoyed by one of the best drum beats of Meg White’s career, and it’s easy to imagine the two jamming this one out in a Nashville practice space. While it may not have had the immediate success of “Seven Nation Army”, it’s a good bet that “Icky Thump” will survive the test of time as an example of mainstream garage rock executed to brutal perfection. –Collin Brennan


    of montreal hissing fauna are you the destroyer Top 50 Songs of 200729. Of Montreal – “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal”

    Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?



    With 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic and 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, Kevin Barnes and his merry band of revelers ushered us from the offbeat folk of their early days into a peripatetic new vision where disco lives, gender’s fluid, and demons are real. It was Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer, however, that served as the journey’s climax, with the album finding Of Montreal crashing through the walls of whatever box we’d tucked them in, proving themselves a vicious, dangerous force in the indie rock world. Eerie, shrieking synthesizers float over terrifyingly consistent drumbeats and harmonies, steadily building towards a catharsis that burrows out of your skin with purposeful abandon. “Let’s tear the fucking house apart/ Let’s tear our fucking bodies apart/ Let’s just have some fun!” Barnes screams halfway through this 12-minute deep dive into regret and rebellion, a song that mobilized their casual fans into rabid ones, turning Of Montreal into more than just a mere curiosity. With “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal”, they built a cult. –Randall Colburn


    flight of the conchords Top 50 Songs of 200728. Flight of the Conchords – “Business Time”

    The Distant Future


    Okay, count on your fingers how many musical comedy acts hold up a decade later. Can you make it to your second hand? Probably not. While humor may surface in songs all the time, comedy is far more scarce. That’s why when an act can actually combine tunes and laughs in an enduring way, we’re willing to hop a Concorde all the way to Kiwi country to share in the joke. With a knack for musical pastiches, impeccable comedic timing, and humor dryer than shrimp left on the barbie too long (wait, that’s Australians), Flight of the Conchords took America by storm a decade ago and have kept us laughing ever since. And, of course, part of what makes the sultry, seductive “Business Time” so hilarious is that any couple listening knows the humdrum, unromantic routine that Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie sing of and just how silly things can turn when you try to spice that rut up. No matter how many times Clement indulges in the foreplay of sorting recyclables, slips into his business socks, or turns tripping over his trousers into a “sexy dance,” we’ll keep our business hours open for “Business Time”. –Matt Melis


    tegan and sara the con Top 50 Songs of 200727. Tegan and Sara – “Call It Off”

    Advertisement

    The Con



    On an album filled with heartbreak and endings (The Con was notably written following the end of a long-term relationship for Tegan Quin and the death of a grandmother for the twins), album closer “Call It Off” is as explicit and straightforward as breakup songs come. Tegan injects her voice with a healthy amount of twang, evoking the duo’s folky past and brokenhearted country ballads, but even more notable is how sorrowful her cadence becomes. Sara’s backup vocals become emotional support as Tegan cries, “Maybe I would have been something you’d be good at,” capturing the moment following a split when the wound is still fresh, when any contact might result in spiraling back into self-destruction. It works as a conclusion for an album when sadness is wrestled with from a variety of angles, but it also packs its punch as a stand-alone, clear-eyed monument to pain and healing that rings as honest as anything the group has ever released. –Philip Cosores


    in rainbows bonus disc 2 stream Top 50 Songs of 200726. Radiohead – “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”

    In Rainbows



    The mystic spiral of guitar arpeggios and simmering percussion at the core of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” draw the listener deeper and deeper into the ocean along with Thom Yorke, the surreal aquatic creatures of his subconscious mind arriving fully formed and floating past. The bubbles of air escaping and struggling toward the surface start to foam and froth, until everything fades: “I get eaten by the worms/ And weird fishes,” Yorke manages, repeating those last two words until they become as much mystified as they are frightened. The darkness and strangeness the world is capable of are majestic, in a sense, compelling despite the harm they might do. Though their previous album, Hail to the Thief, achieved similar fear and anxiety in more direct terms, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is the ultimate highlight of the way in which In Rainbows allowed for more nuance, more complex emotion, and more interesting narrative. The boogeyman was far less stiff, less obvious, instead haunting the corners and floating somewhere in the deep water of the mind. The dread was existential and shadowy, rather than stomping around in plain sight. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” returns a sense of wonder to the world of Radiohead — even if it was still a very anxious, difficult, heady wonder. –Lior Phillips


    strawberry jam high res cover Top 50 Songs of 200725. Animal Collective – “For Reverend Green”

    Strawberry Jam



    Prior to 2007, it’s doubtful that anyone besides die-hard fans could differentiate between the members of Animal Collective. But thanks to the landmark solo album Person Pitch from Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s dominating performance across Strawberry Jam, music fans widely became aware of the tics and quirks of AnCo’s two biggest voices. It helped that Avey delivered the best vocal performance of his career this year: the unhinged, psychedelic big top of “For Reverend Green”. The song reconciles the traditionally ugly (Avey’s wild, guttural screams) and the traditionally beautiful (The Beach Boys-inspired harmonies that ground the song throughout), resulting in a piece much more emotionally complex and exquisite that those two binaries. Of course, as good as the song is, it all comes down to the climactic moments near its conclusion where Avey shouts the song’s title. As it builds in intensity, the singer’s volcanic eruption is the most purely cathartic moment in the band’s history and an indelible moment for music as a whole. If listeners had trouble telling their Pandy from their Avey before that, the confusion was surely mended. –Philip Cosores


    arcade fire neon bible Top 50 Songs of 200724. Arcade Fire – “Keep the Car Running”

    Neon Bible



    Raise your hand if you knew what a hurdy-gurdy was before 2007. (Or, I guess, after 1800?) I thought not. But when Arcade Fire returned from their post-Funeral moment, their second single came complete with the constantly cranked string instrument, Regine Chassagne standing front and center with the old-fashioned instrument fuelling an insistent, escapist epic. “Keep the Car Running”, though, is far more than “the hurdy-gurdy song” — the song continued the band’s tradition of us-vs-them heroics in the vein of Bruce Springsteen, a band capable of convincing you that you were along for the ride with them as “they” tried to keep you down. But it’s far more subtle than that, too. Win Butler’s opening lines do a lot to set the somehow universal disorientation in place and kick-start that twisted experience: “Every night my dream’s the same/ Same old city with a different name.” It’s not really clear who they are or why knowing his name is enough to strike fear. But it’s still so real, the stakes so high, because Arcade Fire are masters at building drama and making it feel earned. “Keep the Car Running” further solidified that their masterpiece debut was no fluke, that Arcade Fire would be plying this powerful narrative for years and years to come. –Lior Phillips


    against me   new wave Top 50 Songs of 200723. Against Me! – “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart”

    New Wave



    Before they became the poster band for transgender issues in punk and alternative music, Against Me! were struggling to find their footing at a very different kind of crossroads. A punk band with ambition is a tenuous thing to be, and the group had already isolated some of their early fans by signing to mid-level label Fat Wreck Chords and releasing two albums — 2003’s As the Eternal Cowboy and 2005’s Searching for a Former Clarity — that expanded their sound beyond the DIY basement venue.

    Advertisement

    New Wave, which arrived on Sire Records in 2007, represents a permanent break with the band’s past, and no song embodies that quite like “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart”. A lovelorn duet featuring Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara fame, the song blows up Against Me!’s established formula and trades politics for the more personal topic of making love work long distance. It is at varying points intimate and huge, with the verses satisfying the former quality and the blown-out chorus the latter. No song on New Wave won and lost Against Me! more fans; for better or for worse, there was no looking back from here. –Collin Brennan


    jay z american gangster Top 50 Songs of 200722. Jay Z – “Ignorant Sh*t”

    American Gangster



    Jay Z gave us a peek at the playbook back on “Moment of Clarity”, when he bragged, “I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars.” That philosophy of dough before prose resulted in a string of dumb-fun classics, but many fans missed his early, more challenging songs. Well, on “Ignorant Sh*t”, Jay Z tries to have it both ways — to go for a swim without getting wet. At the beginning of the song, “Ignorant Sh*t” is exactly that: an orgy of excess, of naked women, gun shots, drug dealing, and balling at the mall. It’s amusing, but we’ve heard it before. Then comes the hook: a fat finger pointed right at the audience. “This that ignorant shit you like/ Nigga fuck shit ass bitch trick plus ice.” It’s about how he makes music for his fans, but he thinks his fans have terrible taste. The next verse is a frank discussion about the artifice behind gangster rap: “Actually believe half of what you see/ None of what you hear, even if it’s spat by me.” The final verse is a shot at the hypocrisy of white people who criticize violence in black music, leading Jay Z to shout: “It’s only entertainment!” Thus ends one of the more thought-provoking songs ever written about the making of popular music. –Wren Graves


    panda bear person pitch Top 50 Songs of 200721. Panda Bear – “Bros”

    Person Pitch



    Person Pitch was Noah Lennox’s love letter to Lisbon, Portugal, the city where he’d made a home and built a family after a chance visit years earlier. On “Bros”, the album’s sprawling, kaleidoscopic centerpiece, the city’s warmth and vibrancy is explored via chaotic, celebratory loops that clang and clash against found sounds that include a hooting owl, a plane taking off, kids playing, and even a woman sobbing. As such, it’s as much a portrait as it is a song, an illustration of a living, pulsating place that’s ever evolving. Holding it all together is Lennox’s gentle, yet embattled, melodies, which exist somewhere between tribal chants and The Beach Boys as they guide us through street corners, concert halls, and even the city’s sweaty, neon-lit clubs that ignite when the moon rises. His voice never dominates, nor do his lyrics really matter all that much. They’re immersed, then bobbing; they’re part of a community. –Randall Colburn


    Advertisement

    public enemy Top 50 Songs of 200720. Public Enemy – “Harder Than You Think”

    How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?



    Political music isn’t an easy sell. Part of what allowed Public Enemy to reach cultural-phenomena status during hip-hop’s golden age was their understanding that the PSA could also be a party. It wasn’t enough just to clean clocks with a powerful message – knowing what time it was meant both pumping fists in solidarity and busting moves in defiance. It’s that formula that Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and longtime producer Gary G-Wiz turned back the giant clock to on How You Sell Soul…, especially on third single “Harder Than You Think”. Sampling Shirley Bassey’s “Jezahel” and Flav’s own banter from the group’s original single, “Public Enemy No.1”, G-Wiz amps the former’s horns to 11 as Chuck booms atop about both the state of hip-hop and the black community. It’s a rally, it’s a dance-off, and it’s a reminder that PE are still in full effect boyeeee. –Matt Melis


    yeasayer Top 50 Songs of 200719. Yeasayer – “2080”

    All Hour Cymbals



    Sometimes a first taste is the best. And while this is arguably true for Yeasayer, who certainly have released a handful of excellent tracks over the last ten years, it might have been the first impression that made the biggest impact. Emerging out of a Brooklyn indie scene that was on a particularly vital upswing, Yeasayer was informed by their contemporaries (it’s hard not to hear Animal Collective’s freaky influence through a particularly accessible filter on “2080”) while also showcasing global sounds that weren’t usually heard in Western rock and roll. On “2080”, the song is elevated by the vocal performance of Chris Keating, whose singing walks a graceful, elastic tightrope. There is tension throughout the song, enough so that when the track reaches its schoolyard chant crescendo, it’s as if everyone within a mile radius needed to join in the number. In a time when communal bellowing was en vogue (thanks Arcade Fire), “2080” took the trends around them and made it sound like a wondrous, global future. –Philip Cosores


    spiderman of the rings Top 50 Songs of 200718. Dan Deacon – “Wham City”

    Spiderman of the Rings



    Two years after the release of “Wham City”, Baltimore artist Dan Deacon would release Bromst, an album of digital orchestrations that’s about as symphonic as electronic music gets. “Wham City”, more than any other track on the excellent Spiderman of the Rings, provides probably the best hint of Deacon’s talent for managing and balancing so many disparate influences and instruments. It’s easy to miss the refinement of his melodies amidst all the Saturday morning jingle flourishes, zippy sound effects, and playfully modulated vocals, but there’s nuance to be found in this confluence of synthesizers, the likes of which still hasn’t been replicated in the music world. Deacon’s beats, in both their presentation and organization, tell stories. In their juxtapositions, he ignites bygone emotions and memories. In their execution, he makes you long to leap out of your skin. This is what stupid joy sounds like, and he’s crafted it exactly so. –Randall Colburn


    Kanye West Graduation17. Kanye West – “Stronger”

    Advertisement

    Graduation



    It’s difficult to fully appreciate “Stronger” a decade after its arrival, if only because we no longer live in a pop cultural universe in which artists like Plies, T-Pain, and 50 Cent represent hip-hop’s best and brightest (yikes). Gangsta rap had a stranglehold on the wider genre of hip-hop by 2007, and it took a game-changer by the name of Kanye West to smash that status quo with a robotic sledgehammer. “N-now th-that that don’t kill me/ Can only make me stronger,” he raps in the hook to Graduation single “Stronger”, and what he really means is that he might be committing career suicide by pairing his beat with a sample of electronic French duo Daft Punk. No other rapper — seriously, no other rapper — was taking that kind of risk in 2007, but it’s exactly the kind of move that set the stage for West’s unparalleled success in the 2010s. These days, mashing together hip-hop and disco and electronica and whatever else seems like a matter of course for young artists, and we have West and the quietly revolutionary “Stronger” to thank for that. –Collin Brennan


    in the city Top 50 Songs of 200716. Chromatics – “In the City”

    In the City



    The crackle of a vinyl record was neither the sound of original inspiration nor a played-out trope in 2007, but its placement throughout “In the City” cemented the trajectory of Chromatics. It was a time of transformation for the band, with Night Drive and the Italians Do It Better comp After Dark, establishing Johnny Jewel’s aesthetic in synthwave and move away from their punk roots. In hindsight, it was a move that cemented the band’s legacy. And in hindsight, the poise of “In the City” screams of a band that knows what it’s doing, even if it couldn’t be sure that their sound would become tremendously influential in the decade that followed. Maybe best about the track is how the melody finds a sturdy groove for a couple minutes in its outro, plummeting down a windows-down, skyline-flickering rabbit hole that is transportive and evocative. “In the City” is Chromatics at their height, signaling a decade-long mastery that shows no signs of slowing. –Philip Cosores


    the national boxer Top 50 Songs of 200715. The National – “Fake Empire”

    Boxer



    The National’s close involvement with Barack Obama (including use of an instrumental version of this track on a campaign video) would come later, but from “Fake Empire”, it’s clear that the seeds had been sown a good long while prior. Bryce Dessner’s lulling piano polyrhythm sets the scene, followed closely by Matt Berninger sighing deadpan about diamond slippers and bluebirds on our shoulders. But, of course, there’s something rotting underneath that veneer of apple pies and lemonade. Berninger has admitted to political roots for the song, and it seems clear he’s rolling his eyes at hipster sweetness in the face of the “fake empire” of the George Bush era, at those pretending that everything’s fine while the world burns — though, of course, everything is sung from we, he as complicit as any of us. And, really, when everything goes wrong, it’s hard to argue against “no thinking for a little while.” In its sweetness and horn fanfare, the song is an ironic twist, itself doing the very thing it’s inspecting and poking at, a genius twist from a group who has produced many. –Lior Phillips


    MGMT - Oracular Spectacular Artwork14. MGMT – “Time to Pretend”

    Oracular Spectacular



    In Alexander Payne’s 2004 dramedy, Sideways, Paul Giamatti plays a miserable, unsuccessful writer who’s tasked to spearhead an entire bachelor party weekend for his chummy, goofy college roommate, played to perfection by Thomas Hayden Church. At one point, when things start getting sour, Hayden tells Giamatti: “Try to be your normal, humorous self. The guy you were before the tailspin. Do you remember that guy? People love that guy.” One might say the same thing to MGMT these days, especially when they start comparing their more recent work to, say, an unstoppable single like “Time to Pretend”. Similar to Payne’s chilly humor, the Oracular Spectacular hit works off a little dark whimsy, doubling as a tongue-in-cheek anthem for spoiled teenage narcissists and a straight-up dance floor stunner that’s too catchy to ignore. It’s smart, it’s sassy, and it’s sarcastic, all without the eye-rolling pretense that would glaze their dubious follow-ups and marginalize the majority of their early fans. Though, as they sing here, everything must run its course. Yeah, yeah, yeah. –Michael Roffman


    spoon gaga Top 50 Songs of 200713. Spoon – “The Underdog”

    Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga



    If you were to tell someone in the early aughts that Spoon would write a song that would neatly fit on ESPN March Madness promos, they’d think you were crazy. But Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga saw Spoon breaking a lot of their own expectations. It was their first trip into the Billboard top 10 for albums and some of the most commercially viable music that the Austin band had ever written. “The Underdog” is chief among these, employing a bouncing horn section, a hand-clap chorus, and hip-thrusting acoustic guitar strums. More than any other time in Spoon’s history, it’s a song without a pinned-down time or place. It could have been written by Elvis or The Replacements, not reliant on the wave of indie rock ascension to find a sonic foothold. More than any other time in their career, Spoon sounds timeless. And hell, the song works great for sports, too. –Philip Cosores


    85ac8 lcd soundsystem   sound of silver Top 50 Songs of 200712. LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great”

    Advertisement

    Sound of Silver



    Patience is key for James Murphy. The way he slowly laces together his greatest and most emotional jams is one of the divine novelties of LCD Soundsystem’s body of work. “Someone Great” revels in taking its time, allowing the beat to sink in before embellishing the rhythms with a number of accoutrements. Yet this is exactly how our minds process dusty memories. We see an image, we let that image focus, and then we start chiseling down that image until we’re facing the juicy micro details that cause us to sigh, laugh, cry, or whatever. That’s a power Murphy and his team have always recognized — “Losing My Edge” is a testament to that, though more for the smarts than the feels — and one they harnessed to perfection on Sound of Silver. It’s fitting then that “Someone Great and “All My Friends” are side by side on the album, as the two tracks form an emotional core that’s achingly symbiotic. It’s kind of like Queen’s double whammy of “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions”, only it all plays out like a modern twist on Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill. And you just know Murphy’s a total stand-in for Berenger. –Michael Roffman


    battles mirrored Top 50 Songs of 200711. Battles – “Atlas”

    Mirrored



    The great contradiction of “Atlas” is this: How can something that sounds so dark be this much fun? The standout track from Battles’ thrilling Mirrored gallops along to the pace of John Stanier’s gruesome yet playful drums, a rhythm that all by itself would make this track a winner. It’s as though “Atlas” itself is fleeing from a crazed wild hog, running for its life with a jaunty smile on its lips all the while. The sonic landscape created around those drums and a killer guitar riff reinforces the feeling that there’s a monster on your heels, a snuffling, snorting monster with a drunken chipmunk on its back. You can’t really understand what the chipmunk is saying, and well, that’s probably for the best. If this all sounds chaotic, it is, but the truest virtue of “Atlas” is unbelievable focus. This track is tireless, relentless, a total blast. It’s gonna getcha, and when it does, won’t that be grand. –Allison Shoemaker


Around The Web

Latest Stories

Top 10 Movies of 1977

Top 25 Songs of 1977

Top 25 Albums of 1977

Top 25 Songs of 1987

Advertisement