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The Best Albums & Singles of 2007

It’s Patrick Wolf who earns our pick for Album of the Year for following two impressive records with one that’s even more extraordinary.

The Best Albums & Singles of 2007

When it rains, it pours. Rihanna’s third album in just over two years spawned her biggest hit to date, the ubiquitous “Umbrella,” a track that eschews the typically materialistic tone of so many of today’s popular hits and which was our indisputable pick for Single of the Year in a very strong year—so strong, in fact, that we’ve included 50. The year may not have been quite the hip-hop wasteland that 2006 was, but the genre’s biggest commercial successes were still, by and large, artistic dead-ends; a handful of late-year releases, including albums from Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah, partly made up for the likes of “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” and “Ayo Technology,” but it’s Aesop Rock’s much lower profile None Shall Pass that stands as the year’s most compelling hip-hop record. Over in the country world, we think Miranda Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is simply the finest album that Music Row has produced so far this decade, both a triumph of genre form and an example of how awareness of self and craft can be used to earn the label of “artist.” It’s Patrick Wolf, however, who earns our pick for Album of the Year for following two impressive records with one that’s even more extraordinary. Of all this year’s revelations, though, the biggest was that Hilary Duff is capable of recording a halfway decent album—but no, it didn’t make our list. Nor did Taylor Swift, Lily Allen, or Colbie Caillat, three artists who owe their success almost entirely to that little pedophile playland Tom calls MySpace, which has officially joined iTunes in becoming a bona fide hit-maker. Sal Cinquemani


ALBUMS


The Best Albums & Singles of 2007

1. Patrick Wolf, The Magic Position

As David Bowie, Kate Bush, and Tori Amos taught us, genius often comes wrapped up in a little indulgent kook. Those and other artists also taught us that evolving is essential to personal, professional, and creative survival, and The Magic Position is a decisive move away from both the avant-garde indie-rock of Patrick Wolf’s debut and the slightly more accessible but still dour Wind in the Wires. The first words on the album, “It’s wonderful what a smile can hide,” might sound cynical, but Wolf goes on to ask “Don’t you think it’s time?” with all the wide-eyed optimism of someone ready to embark on life for the very first time. Right down to its cover art and title, The Magic Position is a blistering, unabashedly gay pop record. Sal Cinquemani


2. Miranda Lambert, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

From the economy of her language and her willingness to toy with rhyme and meter to emphasize a point to her use of first-person details in spinning fictions that blur the line between private life and public persona, Miranda Lambert just gets it. And it’s in that regard that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend positions her as an ascendant genre legend. The depth at which her carefully, purposefully constructed package are inseparable from the content of her songs draws legitimate parallels to the likes of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, even when the album suggests that Lambert has yet to hit her peak. Jonathan Keefe


3. The Pierces, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge

The mythology concocted for the Pierces—a tale of kidnappings, gypsy dance troupes, narrow escapes, business suit-clad villains, and a knight in shining armor—would make for a fancy Tim Burton movie. Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge is the sound of a pair of sisters who have been exposed to a wide spectrum of musical styles and cultures—gypsy music, if you will. From pulsing new wave/disco to subtle country twang, it’s a sound that fits perfectly within the booming indie template of 2007. Cinquemani


4. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black

She looks like Polly Jean Harvey and sounds like Shirley Bassey, and her repertoire is comprised of songs like “Fuck Me Pumps” and “Rehab.” So it’s only fitting that Amy Winehouse’s rowdy public behavior would cause about as much of a stir in the tabloids as her music has among tastemakers. Back to Black evokes Stax artists like Carla Thomas, but Wino isn’t just a crafty revisionist; her edgy language and double entendres give her retro shtick a modern twist. Cinquemani


5. St. Vincent, Marry Me

St. Vincent’s Marry Me includes songs influenced by an Extraordinary Machine-like array of traditional genres, but it’s Annie Clark’s timely lyrical ideas—about war and revolution, love, fear, and faith—that linger long after the disc has ended, and her understanding of philosophy is just as well-versed as her musical prowess. Clark takes the bibilical and literary parables that have been long engrained in our culture and regards them through her unique and distinctly modern perspective. Marry Me isn’t quite a religious experience, but it’s unequivocally divine. Cinquemani


6. John Vanderslice, Emerald City

It’s the way John Vanderslice subsumes narrative voice into a structural framework characterized by its neuroses and self-isolation that puts his work somewhat at odds with so many singer-songwriters who mine well-worn confessional tropes and gives his songwriting a kind of critical fecundity that’s exceedingly rare and fascinating. But it’s the fact that he’s scaled back his ever-meticulous production and transferred his narrators’ twitchy, nervous energy into arrangements that actually rock out a little that makes Emerald City perhaps his most accessible work, even as his songs demand and reward heavier lifting. Keefe


7. PJ Harvey, White Chalk

And I quote: “In the context of PJ Harvey’s older material, the new songs [don’t] seem monotonous or academic at all. Quite the opposite, in fact: They’re meditative and precise, like something from an antique music box, but also primal and instinctive.” I think we can all agree that context is crucial with Harvey, but it’s no real surprise that White Chalk’s stark minimalist arrangements make for divisive work, even if it fits comfortably within her aesthetic of blues formalism. Keefe


8. Kristin Hersh, Learn to Sing Like a Star

Kristin Hersh has always been public about her struggle with mental illness, and her music—her starkly personal solo work, in particular—captures the often mad angst of adolescence. As a full-fledged adult, Hersh continues to forage her “fundamentally off” brain for poetic content on her seventh album, Learn to Sing Like a Star, which falls somewhere in between her typically spare acoustic solo outings and her harder-edged work with Throwing Muses. It’s her most coherent, consistently listenable record since Hips and Makers. Cinquemani


9. Panda Bear, Person Pitch

There’s just something about Animal Collective that’s off-putting at album length even when they’re making their most ingratiating indie-pop. But Panda Bear (a.k.a. Noah Lennox), everyone’s favorite endangered species and Animal Collectivist, masters problems of scope on the sprawling Person Pitch, his second solo effort. The album’s de facto mission statement comes early, when Lennox sings, “Try to remember always/Always to have a good time” on standout single “Comfy in Nautica,” and the rest of Person Pitch goes out of its way to make sure everyone does just that. Keefe


10. Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold

For decades, male singer-songwriters have hidden behind ominous names and seemingly for-hire collectives. Now it seems the ladies, such as former nursery school teacher Natasha Khan (a.k.a. Bat for Lashes), are starting to follow suit. Fur and Gold brings to mind a litany of female artists who needn’t all be listed here because, despite the myriad similarities, there’s a sense of novelty to Khan’s voice and songs. In other words, the matter of who came first in our silly linear world seems trivial once you get swept away into the Pakistan-born singer’s fairy-tale milieu. Cinquemani


11. Aesop Rock, None Shall Pass

On None Shall Pass, Aesop Rock seems to regard the long-standing criticisms of his impenetrable lyrics as some kind of dare. He foregrounds his remarkable gifts for twisting language into lines that impress far more for their sophisticated composition than for their content, which includes an especially memorable plea to reinstate Pluto’s status as a planet. There’s actual substance to unpack in the album, but Aesop’s indomitable presence on record and his knotty co-production with Blockhead and El-P make what he says incidental to how he says it. Keefe


12. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

Following up what is considered in some circles to be the best album of the decade with an album that is considered in perhaps one or two fewer circles to be the best album of the decade is a rare accomplishment. Conventional wisdom dictates that the bottom has to fall out sometime, but conventional wisdom usually doesn’t have to contend with bands like Arcade Fire or albums like Neon Bible, for which, really, the most serious concern is that it lacks the grand thematic coherence and self-mythology of a debut that’s damn near structurally perfect. But the perfect is the enemy of the good. Keefe


13. Patty Griffin, Children Running Through

Though he only applied it to the gorgeous, soaring lead single, “Heavenly Day,” AllMusic critic Thom Jurek has provided the most apt description of Patty Griffin’s Children Running Through in the phrase “secular gospel,” which captures the soulfulness that has always come through in Griffin’s work even when she struggled against more conventional genre styles and reflects the fact that she has finally settled into a unique sound that’s perfectly attuned to what’s most striking about both her songwriting and her singing. Keefe


14. Alicia Keys, As I Am

Yes, Alicia Keys’s songwriting talent is a bit overstated and her piano playing is often used as a gratuitous crutch, but the goodwill and enthusiasm that has propped Keys up since the day Clive Davis unveiled her in front of an audience of tastemakers like a new monument has inspired and sustained a self-confidence that Simon Cowell might interpret as “the X Factor.” With As I Am, Keys has been able to harness all of those early endorsements (and the continued acclaim) and push herself to continued excellence rather than crumble under the weight of expectation. Cinquemani


15. Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

It hardly seems like an accident that Josh Ritter affects a slurred cadence reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s distinctive warble on two of the standout tracks on The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. In many ways, the album plays out as a far more effective and far less deliberately post-modern survey of the multiple phases of Dylan’s career than does Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There or its accompanying soundtrack. Moreover, the album’s use of to-the-minute trends in rock production and arrangements on what would otherwise be an album of exceptionally well-written folk songs brings Dylan’s trademark style and sound into a modern context. In doing so, Ritter has made what is arguably a better record than any that Dylan has released this decade. Keefe


16. Tracey Thorn, Out of the Woods

For a woman who released her first album a whole quarter of a century ago, Tracey Thorn sure sounds attuned to teen angst on Out of the Woods. Fans hoping for a reprisal of the popular house remix of Everything But the Girl’s “Missing” may be disappointed, but just as Thorn authentically portrays the voice of more than one generation, Out of the Woods likewise manages to seamlessly transition between understated chamber-pop and more hip, club-friendly fare. Cinquemani


17. Dale Watson, From the Cradle to the Grave

Prior to the release of From the Cradle to the Grave, Dale Watson sparked a minor controversy by saying that he no longer wanted to be classified as “country” because of the way the label has been bastardized by the pop singers in cowboy hats who currently make up the mainstream, and listening to the album, there’s no way that anyone could hear it and believe that it’s in any way, shape, or form removed from the sound and the content that truly define country music. Plenty of B-list hacks in Nashville invoke the name of Johnny Cash, but Watson’s record invokes the spirit of his music. Keefe


18. Madeline, The Blow Bang

It’s a testament to both the intimacy of The Slow Bang and Madeline’s dedication to her work and fans that when a good friend of Slant jokingly asked the Athens, Georgia native if she would grace him and his friends with a private performance on his back porch, she replied by requesting only that a tip jar be passed around. Cinquemani


19. Kate Havnevik, Melankton

If Kate Havnevik’s Melankton sounds like music by Imogen Heap, Björk, Múm, or any number of Euro electronic-pop acts like Rökysopp, Frou Frou, and Mandalay, there’s a reason. For one, the Norwegian singer-songwriter is credited with vocals and “creative input” on Rökysopp’s last album. And Melankton was co-produced by Guy Sigsworth, who has not only worked with Björk and Mandalay, but is, along with Imogen Heap, one-half of Frou Frou. If that isn’t enough sloppy seconds for ya, one song was co-written by Valgeir Sigurosson, who engineered Múm’s Finally We Are No More. Havnevik threw in everything but the kitchen sink, but the results are surprisingly singular and seamless. Cinquemani


20. Jay-Z, American Gangster

Infinitely better on both an escapist and a substantive level than the film that inspired it, Jay-Z’s American Gangster is, like so many of 2007’s best albums, one that trades in self-mythologizing and the way the most compelling artists manipulate their public persona to the benefit of their work. The album finds H.O.V.A. reverting to what made him famous in the first place: rapping about the glory and the destruction that accompany the drug trade. But the twist that makes the album so slippery and subversive is that it brings in a post-modern remove, never making it clear when Jay-Z is drawing from first-person experience, inventing an entirely new fiction, or playing the role of the film’s Frank Lucas. Keefe


21. Britney Spears, Blackout

Britney Spears’s Blackout is so expertly constructed, you might forget what Chris Crocker was publicly weeping about. It’s impossible to listen to the album and think anything could possibly be wrong in Britney’s starry world. “No wonder there’s panic in the industry. I mean, please,” she sneers on the single “Piece of Me.” Is that a sly comment on our misplaced gaze? Either way, here’s hoping Britney won’t completely outsource her social commentary next time…assuming there is a next time. Cinquemani


22. Sally Shapiro, Disco Romance

I admit that my initial reaction to Sally Shapiro’s Disco Romance was largely influenced by the early gushing reception it received from the indie elite; it was a virtual coming out party complete with streamers, balloons, and ice cream cake, and it all gave me one big stomachache. I also admit that the sheer volume of plays I’ve given Disco Romance runs completely counter to my criticism of it. There’s a simple innocence to the songs and a bona fide period quality to the production that supercedes Shapiro’s anonymous personality and flat delivery. The garish cover art of the import, which added to the album’s retro authenticity, has been replaced on the U.S. edition with a spectacularly evocative one in which the frost on Shapiro’s brow is made of tiny stars. The new version also adds three lackluster tracks, including the ABBA-esque “Jackie Jackie (Spend This Winter with Me),” but I remain repentant and fond nonetheless. Cinquemani


23. Bettye LaVette, The Scene of the Crime

It’s a testament to her otherworldly gifts that Bettye LaVette manages to wholly overshadow Drive-By Truckers, a group that has been hailed as America’s best current rock n’ roll band, on her album The Scene of the Crime. LaVette gives a master class in true interpretive singing, taking full ownership of songs by the likes of Willie Nelson and Elton John and making it clear that she richly deserves her late-career renaissance and that she’s waited a lifetime to make her remarkable voice heard. Keefe


24. Carina Round, Slow Motion Addict

The key word for Carina Round’s long-delayed Slow Motion Addict is BIG: big reverb-y guitars, big bellowing vocals, big production values, big everything. Big isn’t always better, but in the end, it works for Round. She achieves a kernel of accessibility that’s necessary to survive on a label like Interscope without surrendering the tics that make her tick. It’s unclear whether or not the album succeeds in spite of pop producer Glen Ballard’s presence, but it’s unlikely that even the late Arif Mardin could have dulled Round’s edges. Cinquemani


25. Junior Senior, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo

It would’ve made my Top 10 back when I first heard it in 2005, but this year’s competition is tougher, so Junior Senior’s Hey Hey My My Yo Yo doesn’t rank quite as high. The album has lost none of its punch in the two years since its initial release, and any album that tells a sasquatch to get down and has the beats to make him actually want to while deftly avoiding camp affectations is doing something right. Keefe


SINGLES


The Best Albums & Singles of 2007

1. Rihanna, “Umbrella”

Rihanna’s weirdly Alanis-esque four-syllabic take on the titular metaphor of “Umbrella” is the phonetic gift that keeps on giving. (Of course, the song isn’t bad either, considering how successfully it migrated over to the dippy acoustic rock-ballad idiom courtesy of Mandy Moore.) Someday, grammatical sea changes like this wet ear candy will render thesauri obsolete. Eric Henderson


2. Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”

Amy Winehouse’s brilliant, sassy ode to bad behavior, “Rehab,” is the best neo-soul track ever, with a Funk Brothers-esque arrangement that’s equal parts slither and bounce. That the lyrics are autobiographical is beside the point; Amy could sing out of the phonebook and make it sexy. Jimmy Newlin


3. Arcade Fire, “Keep the Car Running”

Arcade Fire’s “Keep the Car Running” is all about escape, but it allows the listener to fill in the “…from what?” Keefe


4. Au Revoir Simone, “Sad Song”

Three cute girls with synthesizers find the missing link between Bow Wow Wow and Stereolab. Au Revoir Simone’s “Sad Song” is an addictive, adorable piece of dream-pop that’s the perfect soundtrack for late-night Ben and Jerry’s binges. Newlin


5. Kerri Chandler & Monique Bingham, “In the Morning”

Kerri Chandler and Monique Bingham’s “In the Morning” is Chandler’s—and, hence, house music’s—most expansive, expressive epic since “Rain.” If the sensual bass moans and solid piano anchor don’t set your panties aquiver, Kerri’s immortal hook, “I’m soooo fucking into you,” will unlock the floodgates. Henderson


6. M.I.A., “Jimmy”

The swirling Bollywood strings and the insistent disco backbeat cast “Jimmy” as a fever dream of a love song, so delirious that M.I.A. makes “Take me on a genocide tour/Take me on a trip to Darfur” sound positively romantic. Keefe


7. Ciara, “Like a Boy”

With synthesized strings lifted from Vivaldi and a chorus that glides as slickly as a boy sneaking under his girlfriend’s bedcovers at dawn, Ciara’s role-reversing “Like a Boy” might be the sexiest revenge fantasy ever. Cinquemani


8. !!!, “Heart of Hearts”

While James Murphy hides his hips safely behind at least three layers of irony, !!! may as well be standing naked with their collective cock out. “Heart of Hearts,” to be quick about it, will have your own heart beating in your ass. Henderson


9. Bright Eyes, “Four Winds”

Bright Eyes’s “Four Winds” belongs to violinist Anton Patzner, whose fiddling literally beats the band. No small feat, considering this jam rocks out like an apocalyptic hoe down. Newlin


10. Justin Timberlake, “What Goes Around Comes Around”

“What Goes Around…Comes Around” is as polyphonically complex as anything that’s ever been played on pop radio. With both Tims reaching critical mass in terms of exposure (right around the time of Timbaland’s first gratuitous vocal interjection and Justin Timberlake’s “cheated/bleeded” couplet), it’s unlikely that they’ll ever have the license for this kind of excess again. Keefe


11. Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black”

“Kept his dick wet with his same old safe bet,” sings Amy Winehouse of her spoken-for lover, though a later verse hints that his commitment might be to cocaine, not another woman. “Back to Black” is not only the singer’s finest moment but producer Mark Ronson’s as well. Cinquemani


12. Randy Newman, “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country”

“A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” is Randy Newman’s first satirical song in years, and it’s as full of piss and vinegar as the Bush administration is full of shit. Newlin


13. Amp Fiddler, “Ridin’”

The bass-heavy groove of Amp Fiddler’s “Ridin’” is velvety smooth, but the refrain “I said your ex shouldn’t be your best friend. She said that he could, I was trippin’” seeps fermenting paranoia. Henderson


14. Robyn, “With Every Heartbeat”

When the beat of “With Every Heartbeat” drops out, the lush strings flourish and Robyn sings, “And it hurts with ev-ery heart-beat,” and you can feel your chest tighten as the thump is brought back to life. Cinquemani


15. Kelly Willis, “Teddy Boys”

It never made much sense to call Kelly Willis the queen of “alternative” country. That is, until she busted out the moog synth over some killer rockabilly electric guitar riffs on “Teddy Boys,” a cover of a song written by a man who once asked, “Who’s got the crack?” Keefe


16. Alicia Keys, “No One”

Alicia Keys embellishes “No One” with a Jupiter synth a la Stevie Wonder, an everything-is-gonna-be-all-right vibe lifted from “No Woman, No Cry,” and an intentionally strained vocal that possesses the timbre of a harder-edged Sade. Plagiarism never sounded so good. Cinquemani


17. Franz Ferdinand, “All My Friends”

Franz Ferdinand’s take on one of the best-written songs in recent memory exposes the ghost in the shell. There’s a sense of resignation running throughout LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends,” but the archdukes sound like they’re still in the fight until they’re left to face the same outcome: middle age claims the stylish and the hip too. Keefe


18. Restless, “Soul And I Know It”

Unforced and pleasantly anonymous, Restless Soul’s spangled “And I Know It” is built from a tried and true recipe with few but significant deviations that reveal themselves almost by accident. Henderson


19. Superchunk, “Misfits and Mistakes”

Superchunk’s “Misfits and Mistakes” was released in conjunction with the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie and the b-side even features Meatwad on vocals. Who knew the Adult Swim crowd could inject so much life into a once-great-but-presumed-kaput band? Newlin


20. Alanis Morissette, “My Humps”

First, Alanis Morissette’s “My Humps” asks whether or not someone with a shaky understanding of the word “ironic” should even consider attempting a novelty cover, and then it answers that question with a resounding yes. Keefe


21. Rilo Kiley, “The Moneymaker”

The outrage of the year, according to roughly 94 percent of Rilo Kiley’s fan base, and I loved every smart-stupid moment of it. “The Moneymaker” takes the cash, it cashes the check, it shows us what we want to see. Henderson


22. Britney Spears, “Gimme More”

Britney Spears’s “Gimme More” is the modern equivalent of this.


23. Beyoncé, “Get Me Bodied”

“Get Me Bodied” is a nice change of pace in that it drops the “romance as joint property litigation” theme that has characterized Beyoncé’s career. If only she’d instructed her legion of backup dancers to “throw a phone at the maid like Naomi Campbell.” Keefe


24. Modest Mouse, “Dashboard”

“Float On” was mighty catchy, but Modest Mouse’s weird, energetic, and harrowing “Dashboard” might be catchier—and it’s got lyrics about cutting off your eyelids. Can’t wait for the Kidz Bop version! Newlin


25. Patrick Wolf, “The Magic Position”

Patrick Wolf’s “The Magic Position” is a giddy, foot-stomping, hand-clapping pop nugget that falls in line with the ‘60s pop revisionism that seems to be all the rage over on the other side of the puddle these days. Cinquemani


26. Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Upgrade U”

The ostensibly unintentional piss take of six years of Destiny’s Child songs about bills, bills, bills, Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U” was nearly downgraded off this list after a ninth-hour HD commercial featuring the song that threatens to derail irony’s supposed comeback. Cinquemani


27. Ryan Adams, “Two”

A ballad that boasts Ryan Adams’s most beautiful vocals since Whiskeytown, “Two” is a slick weeper of the 1970s AM radio variety. The sad-sack, loner anthem of 2007. Newlin


28. Kathy Diamond, “Over”

The undulating midnight-hour opus “Over” confirms Kathy Diamond as the real deal. Sultry, old school moog fills dance around a “Love Hangover” chug until you have to assume Mr. Goodbar is looking for her. Henderson


29. Kelly Clarkson, “Sober”

Had Kelly Clarkson gone whole-hog and released the garage-pop “Hole” as the lead single from her much-maligned My December, she could have earned the continued respect of indie-rock critics. Instead, we got the lovely, tortured, and understated “Sober,” which, sans promotion from a label that—perhaps vindictively—opted to cut its losses, flopped like a drunk falling off the wagon. Cinquemani


30. Grinderman, “No Pussy Blues”

Grinderman’s “No Pussy Blues” is a truly unsettling song, with enough erratic percussion, shrieking feedback, and growled invective to make even the stronger willed of listeners want to hide under the covers. Newlin


31. Matthew Dear, “Don and Sherri”

The only thing that makes the atonal baritone of electronica sex symbol Matthew Dear even more menacing is when he swoops up for notes that sound like Falsetto of the Living Dead. Let’s call “Don and Sherri,” his fecund, albeit vaguely disquieting, take on glitch tech “haunted house.” EH


32. Jason Isbell, “Dress Blues”

Jason Isbell’s “Dress Blues” is a gut-check and a damning portrait of the human cost “somebody’s Hollywood war” has taken on the working class. Keefe


33. Kelly Rowland featuring Eve, “Like This”

“Ya’ll didn’t think that I could bump like this,” Kelly Rowland quips with a ghetto-Southern drawl on “Like This,” and until now, the former Destiny’s Child member gave us no reason to think she could deliver a track as hot and fresh as this. Cinquemani


34. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, “Thou Shalt Always Kill”

Judging by the DIY video for Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’s “Thou Shalt Always Kill” that is currently sitting at over one million hits on YouTube, apparently I’m not alone in celebrating the song’s expulsive if unfair rant against an endless litany of overrated rock groups. EH


35. Jennifer Lopez, “Hold It Don’t Drop It”

Jennifer Lopez’s “Hold It Don’t Drop It” soared to the top of the club charts thanks to a big, bottom-y bass sample from Tavares’s 1975 hit “It Only Takes a Minute” and a surprisingly agile vocal performance from La Lopez, making it the singer’s best single in years. Cinquemani


36. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Weapon of Choice”

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the band who once famously asked, “Whatever happened to rock n’ roll,” answer their own question with “Weapon of Choice.” Keefe


37. Dragonette, “I Get Around”

Dragonette’s “I Get Around” is the song that “Promiscuous” could’ve been if it were less preoccupied with foreplay and was actually about, y’know, fucking. Keefe


38. Against Me!, “Thrash Unreal”

Punk rock has become the new classic rock, but Against Me! ’s “Thrash Unreal,” a hybrid of Crass-style vitriol and Seger-esque boogie, proves you can’t keep a good rock n’ roll sub-genre down. Newlin


39. Klaxons, “Golden Skans”

The numlaut-rave label Klaxons came up with for themselves has led to quite a bit of nitpicking among critics and club kids alike, and anyone hearing “Golden Skans” as their first exposure to the duo would, quite rightly, bet against it looking good on the dance floor alongside Arctic Monkeys or Hard-Fi, let alone Daft Punk or Justice. Taking “Golden Skans” just as an example of soaring Super Furry Animals-style pop, though, works far better: Its wordless hook doesn’t need the pressure of leading a poorly thought-out movement. Keefe


40. LCD Soundsystem, “Someone Great”

All the raging against the maturing of the light conveyed in LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” is easily trumped by the ice-warm “Someone Great,” which acts surprised and relieved to feel fine. Henderson


41. Jay-Z, “Roc Boys”

Spiked with ‘70s soul, “Roc Boys (And the Winner is)…” is Jay-Z at his best, brashly saluting himself with a series of stunning rhymes that verify every single ridiculous, hyperbolic claim. Newlin


42. Gwen Stefani, “The Sweet Escape”

It took me a combination of 70-degree night air, two pitchers of sangria, and well-deserved sleep deprivation to discover just how relaxing it is to drone along with the “woo-hoo, wee-hoo” hook of Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape.” Henderson


43. Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”

Carrie Underwood displays more personality on “Before He Cheats” than she did in 12 weeks on American Idol, and with a name like Carrie, it’s fitting that the video would pay homage to Stephen King, turning the seemingly innocuous blonde into some kind of firestarter. If only that bright red pickup had pulled a Christine at the end. Cinquemani


44. The Go! Team, “Grip Like a Vice”

The Go! Team’s “Grip Like a Vice” calls to mind an unspeakably cool linking segment from Sesame Street’s golden age. Female empowerment was brought to you by the letter G. EH


45. Silverchair, “If You Keep Losing Sleep”

The falsetto vocals, militaristic drum line, multiple tempo shifts, and references to playing Twister render the “You’re gonna be bored” hook of Silverchair’s “If You Keep Losing Sleep,” which lacks any trace of the Nirvana-for-tweens Frogstomp, an empty threat. Keefe


46. The Fratellis, “Flathead”

“Flathead” is more infectious than a bed full of crabs at a pink hotel. And that’s a very good thing because it’s no use figuring out what the hell the (faux) brothers of Scottish trio The Fratellis are singing about. Steve Jobs oughta start a record label, because his iPod ads are doing it better than the majors these days. Cinquemani


47. The National, “Mistaken For Strangers”

Taken from The National’s excellent Boxer, the moody “Mistaken For Strangers” is driven by Bryan Devendorf’s relentless snare-work and vocalist Matt Berninger’s Nebraska-aping. If you like your Mellencamp spiked with a little Bauhaus, “Strangers” is your man. Newlin


48. Eve, “Tambourine”

Eve’s “Tambourine” is an inventive blend of retro and modern, mixing the Andrews Sisters vibe of Christina Aguilera’s not-quite-right “Candyman” with the hip beats of the ubiquitous Swizzy and a brainy (albeit de-politicized) sample of the Soul Searcher’s “Blow Your Whistle.” Cinquemani


49. Lil Mama, “Lip Gloss”

Teen social status defined by the cosmetics counter: “Lip Gloss” is no Heathers, but it’ll do for three-and-a-half minutes. If anything, the lack of subtext works in its favor, since Lil Mama sounds downright furious—she barks “What you know about me?” like she’s warming up for one of Maury Povich’s “My daughter is out of control” episodes—and it’s not like teenagers get so worked up over anything more substantive than this. Keefe


50. Kanye West, “Stronger”

Blond dykes aside, the most disappointing thing about Kanye West’s “Stronger,” which features a thumping dance beat and cribs heavily from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” is that it falsely forecasted an evolution in the rapper-producer’s sampling style from vintage soul to full-on robo-hip-hop electro. Cinquemani

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