5 Icky Thump – The White Stripes
The White Stripes are one of the most innovative bands of the past decade, and Icky Thump is a musical breakthrough. With their classic strong bass-drum, and punk-esque lyrical ability, Icky Thump is one hell of a hard rocking album. The opening title track is reminiscent of hard core 70’s rock n’ roll, but does not lose the unmistakable modernity that The White Stripes are so good at (evident in later track “Bone Broke” as well). “Conquest” opens with what sounds like a conquistador’s call, which is quite fitting. A slight deviation from their typical sound, the track shows The White Stripes’ warped sense of humor. Final track “Effect and Cause” has a more playful undertone to it, while still maintain The White Stripes classic twisted imagery and ironic lyricism. Icky Thump is still one of the most unique albums to come out, not only in 2008, but also in this past decade.
4 Cease to Begin – Band of Horses
Something about Band of Horses is, at its essence, kind of eerie. Perhaps it’s the album art on Cease to Begin, combined with the haunting opening riff of “Is There A Ghost”, the album’s opening track. For whatever reason, the haunting quality of Cease to Begin is one that lingers through the album, and once its done, is stuck in your soul. The dampened loveliness of “No One’s Gonna Love You” shows Band of Horses’ ability to evoke nostalgic sadness in its listener, without causing the listener to succumb to complete and total depression. “The General Specific,” a folksy anthem that’s fun to sing along to, highlights the bands versatility. The final track “Window Blues” has a slow guitar that drags out the notes with an oddly country-like sound, that somehow makes the song that much more touching. On the whole, Cease to Begin is a diverse collection of music that all fits under the umbrella of Band of Horses’ tone – that eerie, nostalgia, that we love to revel in.
3 Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Spoon
Whether or not you can’t remember how many ‘ga’s are in Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (that’s five, by the way), one thing everyone can agree on is that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is great. The opening track “Don’t Make Me A Target” is instantly catchy, and the kind of song you don’t want to end – so you listen to it over and over again. The other major hit off the album, “The Underdog” has an almost ska undertone to it, and a very unique sound. The simple story-telling like lyrics draw you into the song and make you actively listen to it, instead of just putting it on for background noise. The clapping mixed with the horns, as well as the perfectly straightforward lyrics make it an irrefutably remarkable track. “Black Like Me”, the final track on the album, seals Spoon’s distinct sound – not quite indie rock, not alt rock, not ska – maybe a combination of all of those. Their lyrics, slightly obscure and straightforward at the same time, are poetic in their own right. Spoon may have faded into obscurity some, but Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga remains an album worth listening to, over and over again.
2 Strawberry Jam – Animal Collective
Truly an experimental group, Animal Collective was groundbreaking in their psychedelic electronic infused music, and Strawberry Jam is exactly what you’d expect going into it – a superbly strange, psychedelic, musical experience. Not fitting quite into one genre, Strawberry Jam’s opening track “Peacebone” is filled with acid-trip seeming imagery. Even if there’s no discernible message behind the music, it is undeniably fun to listen to. “Unsolved Mysteries” incorporates more of a straight guitar-esque melody into underneath the improvised sounding electronic noise. “Chores” starts out sounding like the opening to the Lion King’s Circle of Life, but then quickly changes into a warped circus anthem that sounds like it’s being played underwater – I mean, come on! How could you get cooler than this kind of experimental musical encounter? You can’t. And that’s why Strawberry Jam is just so dope.
1 In Rainbows – Radiohead
One of the most innovative bands of our time, Radiohead proves time and time again that their music will stand out about the rest. In Rainbows is a bizarre, but unified, album that represented all the brilliant experimentation that Yorke & co. are known for. Not only was In Rainbows great musically, but the album was released on a “pay what you want” model – how cool is that?! So after you paid 15 cents for the album, the opening track was maybe not what you were expecting. “15 Step” starts out sounding like some sort of street anthem – and you can almost picture girls doing double-dutch jump rope to it, with the clap-like drumbeat, and the wavering sing-song vocals. The next track, “Bodysnatchers,” reverts to a more hard rock sound that Radiohead is also exceptional at providing. The slow epic “All I Need” is a soft, almost lullaby like, dirge – in the best way possible, of course. The strange esoteric lyrics that Radiohead is famous for are in no shortage in “Faust Arp,” and the album closes with “Videotape,” a song that truly represents Radiohead’s core musical abilities. In Rainbows was not only innovative from a marketing point of view, but also in its varying musical styles which at first seem too disconnected to be on one album – but in the end make In Rainbows a perfect harmony of all those different colours.
Barring all quips about James Bond, 2007 proved to be an exciting and experimental year for music. Bands began pushing the limits of their own sounds, experimenting with not only their music but also the method that music is delivered to the audience. Even if some of these artists have faded from the forefront of our minds (or weren’t there to begin with), these albums set the stage for the next few years that followed of exciting, new, and experimental changes in the music world.