Disc Reviews: Albums of the year

Unless you're going to spend 24/7 digging out new music, there's no way to even grasp what's out there.

bruce springsteen disk 8 (photo credit: )
bruce springsteen disk 8
(photo credit: )
Last year, I wrote that do-it-yourself avenues of music distribution like iTunes, myspace, Starbucks (McCartney, Joni Mitchell) and in the case of the Eagles, even Walmart, make it impossible to present a comprehensive list of the year's best CDs. And this year, the plot thickens further with a major band like Radiohead putting out new music by itself and asking fans to determine how much the album should cost. It signals that we're on the cusp of a revolution which will forever alter the musician-record company-fan relationship. But unless you're going to spend 24/7 digging out new music, there's no way to even get a grasp on what's out there. So your reviewer's long-standing methodology has been to listen to and review albums that are officially released in Israel by one of the conventional distributors. Therefore, albums which in all likelihood would appear below but don't, simply due to my not having heard them, include the aforementioned Radiohead's In Rainbows, Lucinda Williams's West, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's duet Raising Sand, and on and on. But there were still plenty of towering moments which managed to make it to my ears in 2007, and here are a few. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN Magic The Boss gives you faith that there's a little more magic in the night with one of his most accomplished, heartfelt albums. Joyous E Street music, cautionary state of the union lyrics, and a heart unencumbered by 58 years of passionate beating. FOO FIGHTERS Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace They don't make rock and roll bands much better than Foo Fighters, and here they mix it up with their patented blend of crunching riffs, searing melodies and acoustic underpinnings. What was that band Dave Grohl used to be in? ARCADE FIRE Neon Bible The second album by the Canadian gender-mixed gang of iconoclasts contains huge ambitions, deeply tapped emotional veins and expansive arrangements. In the hands of others, it would sound bombastic, but Arcade Fire makes it sound breathtaking. AGAINST ME! New Wave Political rock hasn't sounded this full of fury since the heyday of The Clash. Working class, Woody Guthrie sentiments set to furious rock and roll and fist-pumping anthems will have you taking the old combat boots out of the closet. WILCO Sky Blue Sky The fact that this is here but isn't even one of Wilco's greatest albums is testament to the strengths of Jeff Tweedy's songwriting and the band's arrangements and performance. Sweet country rock with lots of curveballs, just the way Wilco fans like it. THE ENEMY We'll Live and Die in These Towns The spirit of '77 is alive and well in The Enemy, sounding like a more nuanced version of The Jam. Full of indignation, but able to express it in bursts of melodic assaults, the trio takes punk pop to another level. BRIGHT EYES Cassadaga Bright Eyes, aka Conor Oberst, may be an acquired taste, but he's also an addictive one. A neo-folkie country rocker whose storytelling gets more complex and interesting with each release, Oberst continues to challenge, frustrate and satisfy, much in the same way that antecedents Dylan and Young once did. THE DECEMBRISTS The Crane Wife Exquisite indie folk rock full of REM-like idiosyncrasies and tuneful, dense chamber pop. Bordering on prog rock pretensions with 11-minute song suites, Colin Meloy and company manage to rein in their excesses when they need to, making The Crane Wife a willowy gem.