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A Remarkable Year: Robin Hilton's Top Ten CDs for 2007

It was a particularly incredible year for music. Everyone I wanted an album from delivered one: the Shins, the White Stripes, the Shout Out Louds, Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse and many, many more. There were some wonderful new discoveries along the way (Ben Sollee, Le Loup), and some disappointments (Wilco). But overall it was one of the most rewarding years for music in recent memory.

In choosing the ten best CDs of 2007, I looked for three things: 1. CDs I know I'll go back to years from now; 2. CDs with a sound I felt compelled to share with someone immediately after hearing; and 3. artists/bands that broke from convention and tried something different.

More 2007 Top Tens From:

Bob Boilen, Tom Moon, Will Hermes, Meredith Ochs

Listener Picks for 2007

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Actually, this was originally released in 2006, but re-released in 2007, which is the year everyone discovered them. Who could get the whistled melodies on this album out of their head? It's one of the most addictive collections of songs I've heard in ages. Writer's Block wasn't a brilliant album -- just a ridiculously infectious album I know I'll go back to again and again for years.

Song: "Young Folks"


It's the best album they've ever done. They've got a distinct, tight sound that's never felt so mature and fully evolved. The New Pornographers are a particularly melodic band (something you don't hear a lot of today) and the songs that make up this album are among the more thoughtful and inspired I heard this year. Challengers has a permanent place in my most-popular CD list.

Song: "Myriad Harbor"


They make my list this year for breaking from convention and for executing that break so flawlessly. When I listen to Modest Mouse, particularly singer Isaac Brock, I really can't hear anything or anyone else in their music -- that is, I can't hear what they're cribbing from. It seems entirely their own. "Parting of the Sensory" left my head spinning in awe.

Song: "Parting of the Sensory"


I was indifferent toward her previous CD Let it Die and didn't expect to like this new one much. I can't think of when my expectations have ever been so off. On The Reminder Feist ambushed me with a truly wonderful and surprising world of sound. It feels good to listen to this album -- like she's taking me by the hand and leading me through a dream. And what a voice! Every time I get to the last note of the last song, I'm left wanting more.

Song: "I Feel it All"


Fronted by songwriter Thomas D'Arcy, Small Sins is yet another stand-out group from Canada. When I first heard the song "Morning Face," I knew immediately this would be one of the most memorable albums of the year. Mood Swings is a perfect marriage of electronica and pop, with tightly layered harmonies and moods that do, indeed, swing from the comicalto the dreary. It's just a very fresh sound and easy to hear again andagain.

Song: "Morning Face"


I didn't think this was as good as their previous release, Funeral.

Song: "Antichrist Television Blues"


Musicians have a hard time surprising listeners these days. It's not just a lack of original ideas. Advances in digital audio production, home recording studios, sampling and countless new audio effects tools have shown us anything is possible. So if a band tears up their sound in the studio, we simply shrug and say, "so?" Then along comes something like Panda Bear's Person Pitch. By far the most innovative album of 2007, Panda Bear's gracefully executed use of the studio shows there are original ideas left and some real surprises.

Song: "Comfy in Nautica"


This is a perfect example of a CD I had to tell everyone about after hearing. "Mesmerizing" is the best way to describe it. Each song held me in a trance. The album uses a recurring banjo line that's so simple and pure, it leaves me shaking my head in disbelief at how well it works. Soaring harmonies, flickering sequencers, bits of noise collages and ambient sounds all make this a perfect listen.

Song: "Planes Like Vultures"


Harp magazine picked this for album of the year. If it weren't for Radiohead, I'd agree with them. This is a literary band and frontman Will Sheff's songs got a lot of attention for their poignant examination of pop culture and the consequences of celebrity. Honestly, I didn't really pay that much attention. I just thought 'The Stage Names' rocked, swaggered and soared. It made my heart thump like no other this year.

Song: "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe"


Radiohead forced my hand on this one. I really wanted to come up with something more clever and original for a number one album. But the truth is, nothing came close to the genius behind this masterpiece. This is a band that does everything right and this is an album that is everything an album should be: it's artful, mysterious enough to warrant multiple listens, with impeccable songwriting. In Rainbows is brilliantly produced. I can't believe the care they took in putting this together. They could have stopped about halfway through the process and still had an album that's a richer sonic experience than anything else released this

Song: "Nude"

Robin Hilton
Robin Hilton is known as the host of NPR's New Music Friday podcast, the former co-host of All Songs Considered and for his name that appears in white bubble letters above every concert at the Tiny Desk, a series he helped start in 2008 with Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson. He produced several early acts, including the second-ever performer in the series, Vic Chesnutt, and suggested naming the series Tiny Desk after Tiny Desk Unit, a band Boilen was in in 1979. He's since produced performances at the Desk by everyone from Sharon Van Etten and Son Lux to Steve Martin, Harry Styles and Chance the Rapper.