The Best Recordings of 2007

by Kevin O’Hare, Playback

1. The Shins, “Wincing The Night Away” (Sub Pop).
2. Kanye West, “Graduation” (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam).
3. Modest Mouse, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” (Epic).
4. Paul McCartney, “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music/Starbucks).
5. Southern Culture on the Skids, “Countrypolitan Favorites” (Yep Roc).
6. Alicia Keys, “As I Am” (J Records).
7. Radiohead, “In Rainbows” (
8. Ryan Adams, “Easy Tiger” (Lost Highway).
9. Bruce Springsteen, “Magic” (Columbia).
10. Winterpills, “The Light Divides,” (Signature Sounds/Soft Alarm).

Prince gave his albums away for free in England, tucked inside the Sunday newspaper. Radiohead put their latest, “In Rainbows” online and then invited fans to pay whatever they wanted for it, even if they didn’t want to pay at all.

Countless artists gave their albums away to people who bought their concert tickets, and at year’s end, songwriter Ari Hest announced a project in which, through a web-based subscription service, he’ll deliver a new song weekly throughout 2008 to all registrants. At the end of 2008, he’ll assemble the best of the 52 tracks, as voted on by the fans, to use for his new commercially released album in 2009.

It seems everyone’s trying to come up with some gimmick to offset the rapidly declining sale of CDs in traditional music outlets. The music world is changing rapidly, but that didn’t stop a barrage of new releases during the past 12 months, with some stellar offerings in every genre imaginable.

Here, in order, is my list of the best albums of 2007:

4. Paul McCartney, “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music/Starbucks).

When Paul McCartney starts singing about visions of the day he dies (“The End of The End”), and constructs other songs as lyrically and musically complex as “House of Wax,” you know that the former Beatle is once again locking into a period of creative wonder.

Sometimes it takes tough times for that to happen and Sir Paul has been going through a lot of them lately thanks to his tabloid-topping divorce proceedings.

Here, McCartney confronts growing older in a revealing fashion not often associated with much of his past solo work. But it’s enlightening to hear the way he approaches some of these topics, including his increasing inner awareness of the extraordinary life that he has lived.
That’s particularly apparent on songs like the uptempo gem “Ever Present Past,” where he sings a typically magnificent McCartney melody all about seeing how fast life has flashed by. He touches on some of the same themes on “That Was Me,” a thumping rocker filled with reflection, complete with distinctive bass playing, some roaring rock vocals and clever scat singing, all on full display.

Beatles’ fans will love the fact that this also includes a medley late in the disc, and though it’s very different than the one found on The Beatles’ farewell “Abbey Road,” it’s got some superb moments. Chief among them is the multi-layered “Feet in the Clouds,” which is filled with Brian Wilson-styled complex harmonies, as well as the album’s most compelling cut – the aforementioned “House of Wax.” Piano-based and initially mournful, it’s mysterious (What is “hidden in the yard?”), melodic and builds brilliantly thanks to a couple of searing guitar solos courtesy of McCartney himself and vocals that recalls the power of “Helter Skelter,” or “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”

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