DJ Blish
(July 28, find 1987 to January 4, 2008)

I’d like to dedicate this post to my cousin DJ, who passed away on Friday, January 4th at the inconceivable age of twenty years old. Although I am more than a decade his senior, I was excited to get closer with him and we recently started emailing each other more frequently and had plans to do a little street art tour around the city. I was the youngest cousin of my generation, he was the oldest of his, so there was a natural opportunity for us to get closer. Not to mention that we both had a penchant for scruffy beards and wearing hats. He would have been the only person I would divulge my hat-buying resources to. Now, it will forever remain a secret.

DJ loved music and I remember jamming in his garage years ago when he was still in high school. He was always quizzing me on new bands I had never heard of (I should have brushed up on my ska-influenced punk rock) and I am sure he would have grown into an even deeper love of music. He had the bug. DJ clearly loved his friends — who showed up at the wake and funeral in multitudes — and even in the brief time we would get to talk or see each other during the year, always had great things to say about them. He loved his family — his mom and dad, his brother Stephen — and always made time for them, sharing holidays and important days together. The kid had charm. He had a great smile and a fantastic sense of humor and it’s truly a shame that life unravels in such a random and seemingly unfair manner.

I think it’s fitting to dedicate this post to DJ. Songs remind us of so much. Of people, places and experiences. Hopefully there are songs from the artists on this list that will remind you not only of 2007 but perhaps of your own deceased loved ones or of people that you’ve lost touch with. Reconnect, remember, and don’t wait because you never know how fleeting life is until it takes someone close to you. Now and forever, when I hear my clear single of the year — LCD Soundsystem’s bittersweet requiem “Someone Great” — I will think of DJ, who truly was, without a doubt, someone great. He will be terribly missed.

Now back to the scheduled programming. We promised you our picks and after much deliberation, we settled on 34 38 an uneven 37 records that — whether you love ’em or hate ’em — made an impact on us this year. And yes, I mean us, because this year’s list is influenced by a number of friends who’ve been kind enough to send in their personal lists of the year’s best. After tabulating the results, I think the 37 records below represent a truly unique cross-cut of artists — from relatively obscure indie offerings to hugely anticipated and successful major label releases.

In my opinion all of these records are worthy of a listen and all have topped my playlist for an extended amount of time. Compare and contrast to other “Best Of” lists and please be sure to leave your comments. Like every year, I definitely missed some and forgot others. But with the help of Andi Azarias, Aaron Schultz, Sam Valenti IV, Paul Irish, Dan Finkler, Ben O’Brien, Oz Maguire and Beau Lamontagne, Paul Rodriguez and Mogolodi Bond, I’m pretty happy with these picks and I hope you agree.

All records are listed in alphabetical order:

!!!
Myth Takes
(Warp)

Anchored by the album’s best track “Heart of Hearts,” Myth Takes is arguably !!!’s finest record to date. No current band from New York sounds more like the rock/dub/disco of old New York than !!!. Think Konk, ESG, Liquid Liquid updated for the 21st century. Warp stole them from Touch & Go and I think it’s a perfect marriage of band and label.

BEN BENJAMIN
The Many Moods of Ben Benjamin Vol. 1
(Ghostly)

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Ben Benjamin (Ben Mullins) writes music for the scenes you’ve been replaying over and over in your head. No, not the one with the lemons and the rubber bands, but the one where you just did something sort of amazing, uncommon, and perhaps uncharacteristic. Go put this record on and finally do that shit for real!

BJORN TORSKE
Feil Knapp
(Smalltown Supersound)

If you can’t find something about Feil Knapp that appeals to you, I don’t think I can hang out with you. It’s not like cat people vs. dog people. It’s like pet people vs. alone people. And Bjorn Torske makes music for pet people. It’s warm, dubby, highly musical stuff that belies its Scandinavian origins. I think this is what losing weight sounds like.

BLITZEN TRAPPER
Wild Mountain Nation
(Sub Pop)

You know that dude with the heavy greenery? Your bearded hondo that hooks you up and occasionally hits you with something so tasty you freak a little bit? If he hasn’t heard this record yet, play it for him the next time you roll over to pick up some quantity. And be sure to thank me for the free weed.

BLONDE REDHEAD
23
(4AD)

What a handsome band. And 23 is all about handsome music. It’s Blonde Redhead at their most mature — not just grays peaking in but the confidence to rock the full-on silver fox. Again, the move to 4AD makes so much sonic sense. Swirling guitars, smart textures and some epic moments not unlike their first two Smells Like Records LPs.

BURIAL
Untrue
(Hyperdub)

Critics were absolutely losing their minds over this record when it first dropped and while I enjoy the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea dubstep, I didn’t get as excited. Initially. After time I realized that listening to Untrue is a lot like playing Wii for the first time. Totally new, incredibly foreign and a recalibration of expectations. Thus, this shit is the future.

CARIBOU
Andorra
(Merge)

Panda Bear. Animal Collective. Caribou. Who would win in a fight? I guess it depends what animals are in the collective, but my money is on the Caribou. Dan Snaith truly updates Pet Sounds-era Wilson for a more contemporary set. “She’s The One” and “Sundialing” are stained glass perfection, mostly light and airy, yet darkly stained in all the right places.

CHICO MANN
Manifest Tone Vol. 1
(Kindred Spirits)

Seeing Chico and the Man and the Man and the Two Women live is a revelation. The first time, I think I may have coined it 8-Bit Afrobeat but that does these tunes a disservice. There’s much more going on. Latin, electro, breaks. The whole Northeast gumbo. This is the sound of young New York to people who actually grew up in and around the city. Party band of the year.

CHROMATICS
Night Drive
(Italians Do It Better)

The strength of the “In the City” single might have been enough to propel this record onto the list but with a handful of other fantastic cuts on Night Drive it was a no brainer. Chromatics should win an award for most suitably titled album because if this isn’t the perfect score to cruising through bustling (or half empty) streets before dawn breaks I don’t know what is.

CHROMEO
Fancy Footwork
(Vice)

Didn’t Yazz say something about a sweet hangover like two decades ago? They must have had a time machine or something because how else would they have known about Fancy Footwork? If you thought She’s In Control was mere 80s novelty, you better buy another vowel. Dave 1 and P-Thugg are as serious about their electrofunk as the Bar-Kays circa ’84. Snorrrt.

DAN DEACON
Spiderman of the Rings
(Carpark)

I sort of love and hate Dan Deacon at the same time and for some reason I think that would be cool with him. It might even be his objective because Spiderman of the Rings is an amazingly polarizing electronic freak-out record. And that’s why it deserves to be here. He’s like the new Geddy Lee with those processed vocals. And that video for “Crystal Cat” is pure fucking genius.

DEVIN THE DUDE
Waiting to Inhale
(Rap-A-Lot)

From the US Govt Guide to Drug Street names:
420. A-bomb. Acapulco gold. Ace. Afgani indica. African black. Airhead. Airplane. Alice B. Toklas. Amp. Angola. Astro Turf. Atom Bomb. Aunt Mary. B-40. Bay bhang. Bad seed. Bale. Bambalacha. Bammy. Bash. BC Bud. Black Bart. Black Gold. Black mo.
And I didn’t even get through “b”!

DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
Ire Works
(Wea/Relapse)

I know that many will argue there’s harder, faster, louder, more aggressive, more brutal, more complex metalcore out there but the Dillinger Escape Plan combine raw power, maniacal energy and sharpened intellect like Mike Singeltary crossed with an F-16 in that steel chamber Goldblum cooked up in The Fly. Waiting for the Aphex or Amon Tobin remixes.

DISRUPT
Foundation Bit
(Werk)

A near-perfect appropriation of Jamaican styles filtered through an 8-bit electronic sieve, Foundation Bit should have received equal praise with Burial’s Untrue. That it didn’t is pure injustice. With bass so low it’s nearly inaudible and intoxicating, constantly shifting digital melodies, Disrupt has earned a starting spot in the rotation with Pole, Deadbeats, Modeselektor and rookie upstart Burial.

DJ VADIM
The Soundcatcher
(BBE/Beat Generation)

To be honest, this record of tight reggae, downtempo, dub and more definitely sneaked up on me. Not that I counted DJ Vadim out for the count; I just didn’t know what to expect. And if I keep the lame boxing metaphor going, The Soundcather would be something akin to getting roundhouse-kicked in the face in a sanctioned WBA title fight. Unthinkable, illegal and hopefully witnessed by a large audience.

DO MAKE SAY THINK
You, You’re A History in Rust
(Constellation)

Why couldn’t we take the jam band circuit — bands like Moe, Galactic, Leftover Salmon, etc. — and substitute them with the Constellation roster? Then we could psych it out in a good way, and we could count on Do Make Say Think to be in town every two weeks. Epic title, epic album, lined with fortuitous twists and unpredictable turns.

edIT
Certified Air Raid Material
(Alpha Pup)

Genre names can be so gay. Yeah, I use them to qualify music just like the next guy but I can’t say they always work for me. Take “glitch-hop” for instance. Poor Edward Ma (aka edIT) has to read that shit in nearly every review (one more, bam!). Truth is, his complexly edited, bass-heavy hip-hop tracks are way ahead of their time and defy easy categorization. Think of a club scene from some crazy post-apocalyptic anime and you’ll be close.

THE FIELD
From Here We Go Sublime
(Kompakt)

When I finally figured out that “A Paw in My Face” was built around a small sample from Lionel Richie’s “Hello” I sort of half lost my mind. When I solved the not-as-cryptic source for “Everyday” (Fleetwood Mac) I reached critical meltdown. One of the best minimal records ever released and the first of a golden pair for Kompakt in 2007 (see below).

FRIDGE
The Sun
(Domino)

I bet you didn’t know that Bruce Springsteen used Fridge as his closing music a couple of years back. Pretty awesome. The Sun is a producer’s rock record. A jam session deconstructed by Kieren Hebden and reassembled with a methodical producer’s eye. In this case, that eye is a crazy kaleidoscopic glass one that shoots light in all kinds of unpredictable directions.

GUI BORATTO
Chromophobia
(Kompakt)

Like I hinted at above, Kompakt had two uncontestable winners in 2007 with The Field and Gui Boratto’s Chromophobia. Songs seem to move at two speeds at once, ebbing and flowing between tempos and tones. Sometimes ambient, and sometimes reaching trance-like lockstep (in a good way), Boratto manages real happiness in the layering momentum. A winner.

HIGH ON FIRE
Death is This Communion
(Relapse)

Monumental metal requires a relatively straightforward shortlist of features: flawless musicianship, earsplitting volume and fantasy-themed artwork. Check. High on Fire has them in spades and continues to wage a strong argument as one of metal’s finest contemporary trios. Buy this record and trade it with your friend to finally get your 20-sided dice back.

JOE BEATS
Diverse Recourse
(Bully)

Did someone pass a law that said people making instrumental beats were uncool or something? Because all the dudes that were great at it are making shit records with untalented vocalists (or singing themselves). Except Joey Beats. Diverse Recourse is sample-based music at its finest and perhaps the most unpretentious record of 2007. Like a musical Heimlich. Shit may just save you.

LES SAVY FAV
Let’s Stay Friends
(French Kiss)

Having already won the award for best beard in the game (by a hair over that fucking psycho from Static X), Tim Harrington and the boys decided to make another awesome record. Isn’t there a limit to the amount of great records you can have? I think there is. Stop it guys. Bands are breaking up everyday because you’re stealing all the good songs.

LIARS
Liars
(Mute)

I used to use a PC. Now I’m a fervent Mac guy, an evangelist if you will. I also used to dislike Liars. But a good record — no an amazing record — will change your opinion right quick. In my humble opinion, the band has never sounded better, never written more solidly, and have never successfully meshed experimentalism and accessibility in such a palatable package.

MARCO POLO
Port Authority
(Rawkus)

From the cover art, I’m guessing producer Marco Polo didn’t pick his moniker because he was a fan of backyard pool games. Dude looks tough. Just like his beats. Classic old school sample-based production in the style of the masters. Seriously. I’m thinking Marco and myself are around the same age because the dude’s beats sound as nostalgic as a 30-year old fed up with the state of the hip-hop nation.

MODESELEKTOR
Happy Birthday!
(Bpitch Control)

I guess I didn’t really put it together until I started this post but 2007 was a good year for electronic music. And it seems like the Germans are the ones leading the charge. Especially Modeselektor, who locked up a slot on this list by featuring both Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and the Puppetmastaz, Germany’s lovable rapping version of the Muppet on this amazing record.

OWUSU & HANNIBAL
Living With…
(Ubiquity)

Technically a 2006 release but it really didn’t come to popular attention until DJ Dixon included the stellar “What It’s All About” on the Get Physical label’s Body Language Vol. 4. With further exploration, what I discovered was a can’t miss amalgam of German minimal techno, late 90s dancefloor jazz and LA digital Soul. Living With… takes the Sa-Ra formula and actually makes it work.

PANTHA DU PRINCE
This Bliss
(Dial)

Another beautiful, atmospheric piece of post-minimal ambient techno. German producer Hendrick Weber builds blissful crescendos by layering strings and keys, often cinematically, in preparation of methodically released beats. Here, the virtue of patience is well exemplified. This is polished, ethereal stuff that has true 24-hour playability.

PELICAN
City of Echoes
(Hydra Head)

Just when Pelican begins to embrace the praise for its newest offering, some rabblerouser at Pitchfork has to tear the drummer a new asshole. When did Pitchfork become Modern Drummer? Anyway, be the better men Pelican, and refrain from delivering that writer the beating he rightly deserves. If it’s half as epic as this record, you’d all be looking at 25 to life.

PISSED JEANS
Hope For Men
(Sub Pop)

Feel good about life. Someone was awesome enough to name a band Pissed Jeans. Even more awesome still, that same person(s) decided to make a sloppy, angry triumph of a record and call it Hope for Men. Said someone or someones then decided that a good accompanying visual would be two shirtless dudes in serious embrace. All is right in this god forsaken world.

POLE
Steingarten
(Scape)

Stefan Betke has been quietly making music under his Pole persona for over a decade. Steingarten may rate as his best recording yet. It’s as clean as that old guy’s house in Creepshow (before the roaches come) and beautifully paced. I am sure — deep down to my core — that more graphic designers listened to Steingarten in 2007 than to any other record released last year.

SAMAMIDON
All Is Well
(Plug Research)

My sleeper hit? Could be since this is perhaps the most obscure record on the list. But I can confidently say this is my favorite folk album of 2007, a minimal acoustic/voice experiment that has ties to both the Appalachian tradition and more contemporary footprints like Oldham, Beam, etc. The most beautiful and morose record you didn’t hear this year.

THE SEA & CAKE
Everybody
(Thrill Jockey)

Let’s make a new genre. We’ll call it “Dinner Party” and I nominate Everybody as the inaugural record in the genre. You can feel free to nominate your own selections, but this will be the record by which other Dinner Party records are measured. You think I’m being an asshole, but Everybody is on this list for a reason. And ask anybody, I fucking really love dinner parties.

SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS
100 Days, 100 Nights
(Daptone)

Why isn’t Sharon Jones’ mug wheat-pasted all over every major urban area in America? You go from being a Riker’s Island prison guard to being the First Lady of Daptone and you should be automatically placed in the presidential primary. You’d have my vote Sharon. You’re pitch-perfect voice and yesteryear modesty move you to the head of the class. And to think I was gonna listen to Monty Brewster and vote “none of the above.”

THE SIX PARTS SEVEN
Casually Smashed to Pieces
(Suicide Squeeze)

Please look past the cover art. The music of The Six Parts Seven has absolutely nothing in common with a viking outside of the peacefulness delivered to his cleanly beheaded victim. With some of their most refined compositions to date, this 2007 offering is yet another bundle of highly enjoyable pastoral instrumentals. A viking? I have no idea.

STATEHOOD
Lies and Rhetoric
(Self-Released)

I think everything that needs to be said about this record was written in a post a few months back: “At the end of the crazy, nostalgic head rush, we have the epitome of what DC music sounds like to all of us luckier to live somewhere where our vote actually counts. Statehood now!” I just quoted myself. Isn’t my heart supposed to explode? I don’t deserve this next heartbeat.

TICKLAH
Ticklah Vs. Axelrod
(Easy Star)

I talk a lot about Studio BPM because it’s the kind of place you know will shut down for good on the night you really need it to be open. It’s that much fun. And outside of our man DJ DRM, Ticklah is the king of that spot, playing in a handful of bands that regularly take the stage. His first solo record is a must-have for dub heads of all stripes.

If you thought I forgot some, don’t shoot the messenger just yet. First check out the…

SuperMegaUltraGlobal Record Store & Music Blog Fancy Fifteen

Fifteen records ostensibly on this list (and every other) and written up in so many places they don’t need any additional ink here. But they are all great; some are even classics (LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead). And have been played to death at work, at home, in the car and on the subway. I’m thinking it’s a good way to avoid hatemail…

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Battles – Mirrored
Feist – The Reminder
Jay-Z – American Gangster
Justice – â€
Kanye West – Graduation
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
M.I.A. – Kala
The National – Boxer
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
The White Stripes – Icky Thump
Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams