Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Photo by Austin Rich on Unsplash

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

50. Talib Kweli - "Hot Thing"

The supposed commercial/underground divide means nothing to any MC of significance. What matters is hip-hop: beats, rhymes and life. Each year the verbally dexterous Talib Kweli again demonstrates that he cares as much about what sounds hot as he does about ideas. "Hot Thing" is the especially body-oriented 2007 version. It synthesizes Kweli's sensuous wordiness with will.i.am's vision of taking over urban and suburban radios, making the world shake its collective groove thing. - Dave Heaton

49. Jarvis Cocker - "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time"

Reclaiming a song he gave to Nancy Sinatra a few years ago, Britpop's gawky bad boy may have found a third life in the form of a pop classicist. The thundering slide guitar hook (a distant cousin to Lennon's "Bring on the Lucie") introduces a taut verse/chorus/bridge structure, with Jarvis' narrator giving the catchiest unheeded advice to an unavailable woman since "Let Him Run Wild". - Robert Short

48. The National - "Fake Empire"

A few years ago, critics were complaining bitterly that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the National's support act, were drawing bigger crowds than the "better" band. I never understood why they were so upset until I heard "Fake Empire". Man, I love this song. If I ever get around to writing a novel, my characters will tiptoe through their shining city wearing diamond slippers; they'll get drunk off spiked lemonade and lose each other falling through the sky.

Forget the romance for a second, though, because the National have given us a bigger gift: "Fake Empire" is a perfectly constructed pop song. From the opening (turns out to be) syncopated piano riff through the pizzicato violin accents, the whole construction leads seamlessly from beginning to clattering climax. What better introduction to Matt Berninger's lugubrious, insightful melancholy? What better introduction to one of the indie rock albums of the year? - Dan Raper

47. A Place to Bury Strangers - "To Fix the Gash in Your Head"

The last few years have seen a powerful resurgence of shoegaze influences in new rock music. But where many recent releases have focused on shoegaze's prettier dream-pop side, A Place to Bury Strangers have the distinction of bringing back an abrasiveness that recalls My Bloody Valentine over Lush, injecting their tracks with chugging industrial textures and fearsome shrieks of their own customized distortion pedals.

Their self-titled debut is furious, seethingly noisy, and, thanks to thick basslines and pounding drums, consistently rigorous and imbued with momentum, never getting lost in pure feedback. Add to this a compelling stage show with chopped, synced video, and a vocal delivery something like a more aggressive Jesus and Mary Chain, and the so-called "loudest band in New York" have positioned themselves at the very forefront of new shoegaze. - Nate Dorr

46. 1990s - "See You at the Lights"

Young gang of Brit boys rip-off Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" by stealing its insistent rhythm guitar, throw some arena-shaking power chords behind it and some "bah-bah-bah" vocals, thinking that they can somehow blend them all together to create the best six-string party-starter of the new millennium. Scary thing: they do. Bonus points for telling a stay-at-home girl to "get out like a blonde gets out of a car"; if that line doesn't get her moving, then you're simply with the wrong girl. - Evan Sawdey

45. The Arctic Monkeys - "Fluorescent Adolescent"

With catchy guitar lines and rushed verses, the sophomore single off the Arctic Monkeys' sophomore album is an Armed Forces-style wordy reimagining of power pop. Alex Turner bemoans maturity with lines like "You used to get it in your fishnets/Now you only get it in your nightdress" even as the band plays their most mature performance to date. After the hype/backlash of 2006, this band may have a career ahead of them. - Robert Short

44. Patrick Wolf - "The Magic Position"

"I'm singing in the major key," Patrick Wolf repeats at the end of "The Magic Position", apparently as surprised by that fact as we are. Gone is the gloomy minor key angst he's known for, replaced by horns and handclaps, cheering children and verses about bluebirds and holding hands. Sure, we've heard plenty of songs about falling in love before, but this one's played with all the fervour of the recently converted. - Adam Bunch

43. Amerie - "Gotta Work"

After the Cee-Lo-blessed "Take Control" failed to pop up on the mainstream radar, Amerie hit back with the palpitating "Gotta Work". It showed that Amerie could still juggle brassy soul, crunch-funk, and guttural R&B without production from longtime collaborator Rich Harrison. Her voice may not be fine-tuned, but that's what makes the track so raw. Her ferocity and off-key shrieks effortlessly charge the burning instrumental, allowing this feel-good gem to maintain its breezy potency long into multiple plays. - Steven J. Horowitz

42. Dondolo - "A Question of Will"

There are few who would argue against France being a breeding ground for up-and-coming electronic artists. Dondolo is no exception, as their newest album, Dondolisme, is chock full of synthpop goodness. It is nearly ironic that the most guitar-centric track on the album is the most successful one, as "A Question of Will" reaps from swiftly executed guitar riffs and fast-paced vocal mumblings. Its embracement of new wave and synthpop makes "A Question of Will" one of the catchiest tracks of the year. - Mike Mineo

41. Common - "The People"

Did writing rhymes for clothing commercials alter the grass-rooted ego of Chicago emcee Common? Hardly. There's no sign of compromise on "The People", three intricately wrapped minutes guided by Common's trademark flow of soulful socio-intelligent rhymes, witty pop culture punch lines, and a timeless chorus laid over the J Dilla-inspired beats and melodies of rapper/producer Kanye West. The year heard many odes to the late J Dilla and "The People" ranks among the best. - Chris Catania

40. Manic Street Preachers - "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough"

The first single from Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers' Send Away the Tigers, "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" has all the power of a monsters ballad, but the song soars with the true grandeur of hopeless romantics. Belting it out with frontman James Dean Bradfield is honey-throated Cardigans singer Nina Persson. The two trade tales of disappointment, but the music's anthemic surge will take you high. - Michael Keefe

39. Gui Boratto - "Beautiful Life"

More than anything else on Chromophobia, "Beautiful Life" builds until it teeters on self-implosion. The crown jewel on the debut LP from Brazilian dance music producer Gui Boratto is driven into near-hysterical bliss with layered synth loops and even bits of guitar. "Beautiful Life" brims with romantic swirls of sound, and grows lovelier, perhaps fittingly, with muffled but necessary vocal contributions from his wife. It's a rock song that crashes a mostly techno party, and it's breathtaking. - Dominic Umile

38. Modest Mouse - "Dashboard"

Johnny Marr's presence is evident here more than anywhere on Modest Mouse's fifth long-player, and with the slick riffs that form the track's beating heart, in particular. Billed in some quarters as We Were Dead...'s "Float On", there is admittedly an analogy transcending both tracks' commercial prospects, extending to the way Isaac Brock's frantic yelps challenge their pop hooks. Indeed, "Dashboard" is an intriguing experiment in contrasting melodic precision with Brock's persistent mania. Thankfully, it's also a successful one. - Chris Baynes

37. My Chemical Romance - "Teenagers"

With their simple and joyously young turk-minded single "Teenagers", My Chemical Romance learned to crack a smile. This anthemic, fist-pump of a song cribbed crunchy T. Rex riffs as freely as Oasis' "Cigarettes and Alcohol" but, unlike most of The Black Parade, brooding wasn't on its agenda. Disregard the album's bleak concept. From the overkill cliché of its "dark clothes" reference to leadman Gerard Way's chorus-prefacing plea "All together now", "Teenagers" is smirking self-parody. Never has brat pack disaffection seemed so celebratory. - Barry Lenser

36. 50 Cent - "I Get Money"

Curtis Jackson doesn't run New York, SoundScan, or -- sorry, man -- much else beyond the increasingly beside-the-point G-Unit and apparently a line of condoms. But that's okay. He's charismatic and skilled enough to affect genuine dominance as convincingly as Dick Cheney, or at least Donald Trump. For close to 4-minutes anyway. Tremendous beats don't hurt either, natch. - Josh Timmermann

35. Lucky Soul - "Add Your Light to Mine, Baby"

Lucky Soul make no apologies for being all about sugary, retro '50s/'60s pop. Nor should they. Not when they can produce two and a quarter minutes of pop perfection like this. All trumpets and candy-coated vocals, "Add Your Light to Mine, Baby" might be little more than a ridiculously infectious chorus, but it's the kind of pure unadulterated fun that risks reminding you why you fell in love with music in the first place. - Adam Bunch

34. Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip - "Thou Shalt Always Kill"

This debut single from beatmeister Dan Le Sac and poet-rapper Scroobius Pip fuses thin-yet-propulsive synth-pop with a smart and funny rant on the dos and don'ts of flirtation and music appreciation. The song's highlight is Pip's cataloging of acts we've put on a pedestal. Scroobius declares everyone from the Beatles to Arctic Monkeys "just a band". Blasphemy? Nah, "Thou Shalt Always Kill" is just good, intelligent pop music. - Michael Keefe

33. Mika - "Grace Kelly"

A buoyant lament on the pressure to conform, Mika's "Grace Kelly" is tailor-made for anyone who has felt the need to put on an act. Using bombastic production, falsetto vocals and appealing lyrics, Mika takes on the music industry, Hollywood or any other proponent of poser-dom. At the same time, he proves that being yourself reaps some worthy rewards. - Rachel Kipp

Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado - "Give It to Me"

Timbaland's wizard production work for "Give It to Me" stands dominantly on its own. But pop's prolific king-maker and his ascendant co-stars, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, couldn't resist topical smacktalk to boot. Rhetoric on "Promiscuous", "Sexyback", and the Scott Storch tiff, "Give It to Me" is their self congratulatory pat-on-the-back. Its twilight-tinted, mesmerizingly brittle beats provide the checkmate, though. They typify Timbo's otherworldly prowess even as the song's charming bluster keeps him human. - Barry Lenser

31. Of Montreal - "Suffer for Fashion"

This album opener encapsulates the joyous first half of Of Montreal's operatic epic Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, and thus the joyous side of self-destruction. Singer Kevin Barnes adds this to the burn out vs. fade away dilemma: "If we gotta burn out / let's do it together". And the music follows suit. Its electro-trash-rock-pop is the sound of rushing towards the darkness, a fitting stand-in for the gleeful nihilism driving so much music today. - Dave Heaton

30. Kanye West - "Can't Tell Me Nothing"

Incongruities define Kanye West: middle-class upbringing vs. street swagger, insecurity vs. genius complex, bling-lust vs. social conscience. "Can't Tell Me Nothing", the curiously low-impact lead single off Graduation, upholds this truth in spellbinding fashion. Lyrically, Kanye still manages to make self-criticism sound like braggadocio (The Katrina flap? Just excessive candor). But when his assertiveness meets the song's atmospheric, almost ethereal backdrop, the contrast is rich and hypnotic. Isn't that typical 'Yeezy? Spinning soulful beauty out of bombast. - Barry Lenser

29. Avril Lavigne - "Girlfriend"

Upon first listen, this tribute to girls' inhumanity to girls might alienate music fans put off by its entitlement or borderline soullessness (not to mention that the supposedly boy-cruising singer married young). But in refashioning Toni Basil's "Hey Mickey!" as a mall anthem, Lavigne bounces her trademark brattiness away from rocker posing and over the top of bubblegum mountain. It turns out an empty, cynical Avril is a lot more infectious; maybe she should've ditched the sincerity years ago. - Jesse Hassenger

28. Los Campesinos! - "You! Me! Dancing!"

In a year when the Arcade Fire decided to go all sullen on us, thank goodness for these Welsh kids, who take the energy of said Montrealers, the busy mix of Broken Social Scene (even hijacking their producer), and the snarky wit of Art Brut, and mash it all into one big, joyous mess, Gareth Campesinos! perfectly capturing an indie geek's epiphany that even though he can't dance a single step, that's no reason for him not to uncross his arms, wipe that indifferent look off his face, and give it a shot. - Adrien Begrand

27. Panda Bear - "Bros"

Panda Bear, Animal Collective's Noah Lennox, is the new Brian Wilson. I take that back. Dennis Wilson. Cat Stevens. Ronnie Spector. Annie Lennox? Am I on the right track? What if "Bros" is really the new "Good Morning, Starshine", and a Judd Apatow bit player croons it in our next bro-medy? All I know is that "Bros" is beautiful, however or whatever we want it to be. Worth another listen or 12. - Maureen Miller

26. Peter Bjorn and John - "Young Folks"

"Young Folks" is the song of 2007 most likely to stick in your brain. After becoming an international hit, the Peter, Bjorn and John ditty was everywhere from radio to retail stores to the season premiere of Gossip Girl. All of that exposure should make "Young Folks" incredibly annoying. But Peter, Bjorn and John created such a perfect storm of a song that hearing "Young Folks" opening whistles is cause to crank the volume and whistle back –- over and over again. - Rachel Kipp

25. The White Stripes - "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)"

..

A little of the White Stripes goes a long, long way, but when Jack and Meg White get it precisely, absolutely right, then the results are always thrilling. And "You Don't Know What Love Is" is the duo's finest work since "You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)" kicked off De Stijl all those years ago. While Meg pounds away like John Bonham's lackadaisical zombie remains, Jack swaggers through this mid-paced country-blues-rock anthem like he swapped his soul at the crossroads for just a little Jimmy Page and a whole lotta Robert Plant.

Through every repetition of the double-wide, circular saw riff down to the finger-nails-on-the-chalkboard soloing that draws it to a close, every inch of this song is flavored with splendidly jagged contempt for the object of Jack's attention. Embraced by blues and rock legends like the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Lou Reed, and Jimmy Page himself, and imbued with the same sense of history and tradition that inspired them, Jack White is the closest thing this new millennium has to a rock 'n' roll hero. And Meg? Well, she's the primal glue that underpins the boy wonder. - Roger Holland

24. The Animal Collective - "Peacebone"

If the last few Animal Collective albums can be viewed as a gradual exploration of the band's latent pop tendencies, Strawberry Jam brings the trend to fruition, and opener "Peacebone" is the perfect flagship. While employing the band's most familiar verse/chorus/bridge structure to date, the song is nonetheless a marvel of eclectic arrangement, incorporating insistent guitar pulse, steel drums, sampled words, and animal snarls without batting an eye. The opening, where the purely catchy bass hook seems to reign a wash of atonal ambient blipping into chord structure is a fitting microcosm of the overall achievement. - Nate Dorr

23. Caribou - "Melody Day"

This year found a lot of experimental, sound-based groups spending more time working successfully in basic, melody-driven sound structures, and there isn't a better example of this than "Melody Day". Dan Snaith's penchant for exciting production isn't lost on the song at all, but rather it is enhanced by his ability to write a song as catchy as it is layered. The bass slides up and down the neck throughout, giving the Wilsonian vocal harmonies something solid to stick to, and the smorgasbord of sound that hits you as the song goes on seems almost too haphazard to stay together. But when the song fade out, only to bust back in on you full-force, it becomes apparent that this isn't nearly as unfocused as it sounds. It's a perfect combination of sounds, and one of the best songs of the year in any genre. - Matt Fiander

22. Justin Timberlake - "Lovestoned/I Think She Knows Interlude"

The Futuresex/LoveSingles keep on coming! In both its radio edit and seven-minute incarnation, this track is the sound of sweat against clothes against flesh against flesh. The first half of the track is one of Timbaland's funkiest beats, while the long outro begins as an Interpol inspired guitar drone before a shimmering string climax. The highlight, though, is JT's the most hypnotic performance of his Casanova phase yet. - Robert Short

21. Radiohead - "Jigsaw Falling into Place"

"Jigsaw Falling Into Place" is the most immediately visceral track amid an album focused on the opposite. Originally known as "Open Pick", much of the guitar noise is toned down; instead, a haunting, wordless refrain threatens to swallow the song whole, evoking The Bends in all its glory. Yorke laments over a shallow relationship, yet by the time he leaps an octave and quotes Tina Turner, you'll be moved faster than you can moan "160kbps!" Yes, they can still rock. - Zach Schonfeld

20. Jens Lekman - "The Opposite of Hallelujah"

Pairing happy music with sad lyrics will never grow old, when someone as inventive as Jens Lekman arrives to make it new. With swooning strings and a Motown/Burt Bacharach lilt, "The Opposite of Hallelujah" musically reaches towards luxurious bliss. Meanwhile, Lekman humorously and brutally describes the crushing feeling of absolute loneliness. In place of sulking, though, the song ponders a bigger question: the essential unknowability of humans. What lies beneath the surface of those you love? - Dave Heaton

19. Kanye West - "Stronger"

Maybe Kanye really is as good as he claims. Few musicians exhibit the level of adventurism on display in his best material, and the second single off Graduation doesn't disappoint. West combines a driving Daft Punk sample, a stirring Nietzschean refrain and, yes, considerable boasting about his sexual prowess to create one of the defining songs of the year. Is it really any wonder that 50 lost the Battle of 9/11? - Nav Purewal

18. R. Kelly - "I'm a Flirt (Remix)"

Bow Wow was probably pissed. For this, Kells took a bonus track on Bow Wow's album, kicked him off, added two of the biggest "T" name's in hip-hop, and then added a special, added "remix" verse himself. Further proof that R. Kelly can, and will, do anything he wants to make the perfect pop song. - Gentry Boeckel

17. Grinderman - "No Pussy Blues

A lot of people have suggested it, but it took Nick Cave, the seediest guy behind an imaginary pulpit, nearly 30 years after the Birthday Party, to come right out and say it. Guy can't get laid, so he nervously pounds at his typewriter, clams his hands, spouts bullshit. Then the release: a guitar that careens and shrieks so loudly that it doesn't tear down the highway so much as it rips it right out the earth. - Tal Rosenberg

16. M.I.A. - "Boyz"

One part infectious boy-crazy pop and another part Soca-influenced lyrical bomb lobbed directly at poverty and war, "Boyz" is a track that could empower an entire culture given the right circumstances. Fusing Third World tribalism, a dash of raw carnality, and, of course, some "riddim", M.I.A. once again shows us what dance music is capable of in the right hands. - Karl Birmelin

15. The Go! Team - "Grip Like a Vice"

Eclecticism and unpredictability have always been trademarks of the Go! Team. With their ambitious musical approach being located somewhere between colorful hip-hop and left-field pop, it seems appropriate that the debuting single for Proof of Youth, "Grip Like a Vice", capitalizes on vocalist Ninja's faultless hip-hop delivery. Aided by a ceaseless array of guitars and horns, the ode to obscurely influential female MCs is bolstered by Ninja's incessant enthusiasm; it makes "Grip Like a Vice" one of the most uniquely memorable singles of the year. - Mike Mineo

14 . Ha Ha Tonka - "St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor"

From its opening gospel refrains backed by a pounding drum to its Lynyrd Skynyrd-style boogie stomp, "St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor" is a perfect four-minute slice of heart-on-the-sleeve roots rock. This Ozark Mountains band came out of nowhere and released one of the finest pure rock albums this year. Every track on Buckle in the Bible Belt brims with passion and confidence, qualities too often given short shrift in today's indie rock. "St. Nick" is Buckle's pinnacle. It's one of those rare songs that has you enthralled within seconds. - Sarah Zupko

13. Spoon - "The Underdog"

Spoon's brass-tinged hit, "The Underdog", has already become a fan favorite for good reason. Frontman Britt Daniel sounds at his snarky best, transitioning flawlessly from the backing of a bare acoustic guitar to a chorus where a flurry of trombones, saxophones, and tambourines favorably bolsters the initial melody. After the song's final moments are epitomized in a shortly expansive jam session of sorts, it goes to prove that "The Underdog" is yet another success in Spoon's wildly consistent career. - Mike Mineo

12. Lyle Lovett - "South Texas Girl"

What would a Lyle Lovett album be without a paean to Texas, or a girl, or both? "South Texas Girl" is a mournful waltz about childhood and the power of an old song. Lovett's narrator remembers his parents, letting him sip a little beer while sitting on a Ford Fairlane's front bench seat, teaching him what "Corpus Christie" means and singing him an old folk song about "the undying love of a south Texas girl". "And I didn't know what the words meant or anything / I was just singing," Lovett warbles as he sadly notes the passing of a world where this kind of childhood was possible. Here, again, the power of the Large Band is lovely: Kunkel gives the whole thing a syncopated kick, the guitars start as atmosphere and build to strength, and the vocal harmony lifts the chorus without seeming oversweet. As an extra treat, Guy Clark sings the chorus as both intro and outro alone on acoustic guitar, sealing the nostalgia. - Will Layman

11. Justice - "D.A.N.C.E."

Thought they couldn't top "We Are Your Friends"? Well, Justice went and dropped "D.A.N.C.E." and -– basically, if you've been out at all this year you're probably more than familiar with the song. Cheesy and irreverent, it smashes together bits of disco and Justice's already familiar electro growl and emerges as the heir apparent to "Hey Ya" and "Crazy". A nodding tribute to Michael Jackson informs the vocals, though they don't really need to make any sense: just need to do what the song commands, and "do the dance".

The song was buoyed on YouTube by a memorable video featuring metamorphosing T-shirts and, later, by a video of the duo performing the song on Jimmy Kimmel's show, twiddling knobs while a series of impersonators "performed" the song as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Rod Stewart and Rick James. The video became a brief Internet phenomenon, for good reason: it's baffling and kind of brilliant. The song itself allows no doubt, though: "D.A.N.C.E." is the party song of 2007, hands down. - Dan Raper

10. Kanye West - "The Good Life"

On the surface, Kanye West's "The Good Life" is an overt attempt at feel-good-anthem-of-the-year. Its stadium-worthy production and literal title spell out his desire to succeed in neon flashing lights. However, Kanye can't resist using a pop platform to highlight fractures in The Dream. Though his world is filled with hot whips and hotter chicks, Kanye is more interested in the bitter ironies of excessive success ("We like the girls that ain't on TV / Cos they got more ass than the models"). "The Good Life" is superficially an anthem for all –- aptly set to the King of Pop's beat -– but in reality a 21st century "Chocolate City" that rallies the hungry with a familiar mantra: "Having money is not everything is / Not having it is." - Dan Nishimoto

9. UGK feat. OutKast - "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)"

With this hard-hitting single, Houston duo UGK proved that they are truly the kings of the underground. Instrumentally, "Anthem" is a mix between the signature styles of the East and the South, boasting a flourishing beat that pairs thin drums with a gushy Willie Hutch sample. With OutKast by their side, the duo barrels over the beat with ease, making the song one of the best pimp anthems of the year. - Steven J. Horowitz

8. Arcade Fire - "Intervention"

The first thing you notice is the church organ. As if the Arcade Fire's sound couldn't possibly get any more epic, here the band cranks up the melodrama and plays that one song that lets God know how they feel about their time on Earth, and the results are as beautiful as they are bleak. Few songs can remain so hauntingly catchy when lines like "Every spark of friendship and love / Will die without a home" are being sung with total conviction. When the climax hits, Win Butler's voice cracks and pleads amidst a full-on choir of yearning female voices, his catharsis suddenly becomes your catharsis. It's a song of sheer wonder and magic in a time when we have so little of either. Utterly essential. - Evan Sawdey

7. M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"

M.I.A's "Paper Planes" (off of Kala) is a Walt Disney-on–acid trip through a day in the life of a drug runner, complete with an "It's a Small World"-esque sing-song chorus of children chanting about murder and taking your money. Here, she disproves pop music conspiracy theorists' rhetoric that political consciousness and true pop sensibility can't coexist in harmony. "Planes" also proves that M.I.A has the vision to transcend her self-created genre. - Matt Mazur

6. Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"

"Rehab" would prove to be unusually literal, referring to UK singer Amy Winehouse's refusal -- pre- and post-fame -- to endure institutionalized periods of forced sobriety. That fact, happily, happens to be one of the least noteworthy aspects of this overtly appealing single, which unabashedly recalls mid-20th century doo-wop and girl groups; Winehouse's husky, deep-ditch vocals sound so right alongside a full-court-press horn section that it almost seems as though she were born to make us miss Ronnie Spector and Diana Ross. - Raymond Cummings

5. The Fratellis - "Flathead"

My introduction to the Fratellis in general and "Flathead" in specific didn't come from the "iPod Flavorful Song of the Year", since the only TV I watch is either sports or Food Network, neither of which show iPod commercials. Instead, I was in a "big box" store, and the song came over the PA. The odd mix of skiffle, punk, waltz, and samba packed in a 3:17 space with dazzling twists and turns, gorgeous harmonies, and quirky lyrics (I need to find a pink motel to talk dirty in) is melodic and catchy as all hell. I was captivated. I bought Costello Music right then and there, and it turned out to be one of my favorite albums of the year. And I finally got to see the iPod commercial, too -- very cool. Lou Friedman

4. Miranda Lambert - "Gunpowder and Lead"

Ever see the Dixie Chicks video where all the cute girls in the cowboy hats are singing along that "Earl's gotta DIE!"? Well, in Lambert's not so pretty, gritty, sweaty, deeper shade of blue collar-version of a woman whom the law ain't doing a good job of protecting, imagine those cute girls spittin' and sneering when they sing it. Damn mad, kinda mean, pretty scary, and cathartic as hell. Stand back, fellas, this song is for the ladies. Lambert's Texas twang and kick 'em in the dust country rock is devilishly irresistible, right down to that final, telling sound of the empty shotgun shell hittin' the concrete. - Karen Zarker

3 . LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"

Leave it to James Murphy to get over seven minutes out of one piano chord. The mind behind LCD Soundsystem has been making us dance while we smirk to his songs for a while now, but on "All My Friends" he lets a touch of the irony fall away. With that one chord coming hard and fast off the piano, the tension continues to mount in this song, which finds him struggling with where music ends and personal life begins. When he gets to the end and he's yelling about tanned kids and magazine articles, he sounds exposed and genuinely confused. This song, more than other on the Sound of Silver, shows us that Murphy isn't just a fantastic DJ, he's a great songwriter, as well. - Matt Fiander

2. Rihanna - "Umbrella"

How many songs are so good that you completely ignore a Jay-Z guest verse? Rihanna's "Umbrella" was the inescapable hit of the summer (or the whole damn year) that you hated to love. The song's pounding electro-thump combined with Rihanna's detached vocals -- she sounded like a sex robot with an electrical short -- gave the song an air that some call slinky, some call sleazy. Either way, "Umbrella" is a pop triumph-a song that was inescapable because it was THAT GOOD, and as such, it will probably be stuck in your head forever-ever-ever-eh-eh-eh. - Mike Heyliger

1. Battles - "Atlas"

The showcasing single from debut album Mirrored, "Atlas" perfectly encapsulated Battles' sound, with John Stanier's irresistible drumbeat leading into compellingly obscure (yes, those are real words he's singing) chipmunk vocals, wrapped up in irrepressibly playful guitar. All of which sounds disorientating, and it is. But give it hours, days, weeks, and it'll still be there, dancing 'round your head with as much -- nay, more -- energy as when you first heard it. A grower that's brilliant to begin with. Utterly fantastic. - Chris Baynes

* * *

This article originally published on 19 December 2007.

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The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

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