1. Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist
I’ve said in the past that this is my favorite pumpkins album. What a year 2007 was, best Pumpkins, Porcupine Tree albums all the same year! I’m not sure if Zeitgeist still is my favorite SP album. It’s been a while since I listened to it. But anyway, what I liked about this album was its ferocity and darkness. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlain brought an intensity and complexion to his work here that hadn’t been seen before on previous albums. The highlights include the massive 10 minute centerpiece, United States, which is one of their very best songs. Also the album took a very haunting turn in the final two tracks that released some of the finest psychedelic ballads the band ever produced. Finally, Zeitgeist’s bonus songs Stellar and Death From Above were everything I wanted Pumpkins music to be. Such a shame, my high opinion of this album was not shared by the majority of the fanbase.
2. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
Only six tracks, but six of the best tracks they ever did. Most of them are on the longish side, around seven or eight minutes. To talk about Blank Planet without discussing PT in general, will probably do a disservice, but I’ll try to be concise anyway.
It’s a progressive rock album based in a contemporary setting still relevant to today. Singing about Xboxes and popping pills just to connect with society, it sounds like Radiohead performing Tool’s 10,000 Days, only better. There’s no dull moments, every bit of music here is mind expanding and elevating standards. Porcupine Tree experimented here, and what they came up with was a new kind of music that was better than most of what we’d heard before. One of the best albums ever made.
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Best Radiohead album. After abandoning their rock roots to explore weird electronical stuff, Kid A turned out to be not just a side experiment, with follow ups Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief failing to branch out much from their new sound. In Rainbows is consistent with this sound, but they have gone the way of making some really fine songs to go along with it. In Rainbows had an enormous soundscape to it that whilst dark was absolutely captivating and fresh. Songs like All I Need, Videotape, Weird Fishes and the bonus disc highlight Last Flowers, were up with the best the band ever made. And then they had to go and fuck all that up with King of Limbs…
4. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
First Arcade Fire album I’ve heard. Not every song is a classic, but it does have some pretty strong highlights, including the best version of their best song, No Cars Go. Otherwise it’s a very nice introduction to the band and sits about on par with Funeral.
5. John Butler Trio – Grand National
Grand National was a massive disappointment to follow up the classic Sunrise Over Sea. After the success of one of Sunrise’s worst songs, Zebra, Butler became interwined in making music that appealed to his fans of short simple boppy songs, rather than the progressive rock epics. There is still plenty on the album to like though as it hasn’t been completely compromised. Single type songs Used to Get High and Better Than have a great beat and interesting lyrics. Ballad Caroline is reminiscent of What You Want, but doesn’t come close to leaving the same impact. One of the closing songs, Fire in the Sky, is just under six minutes, but still contains Butler’s progressive magic.
Runner Up: Marilyn Manson (Eat Me, Drink Me)