Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Countdown to 30: My Favorite Album From 2007


Obviously, we are right in the "difficult-to-choose" territory, so I'm going to launch right into my runner-up albums.

Mika's debut album Life in Cartoon Motion came out in 2007. Mika's concept for his first few albums was that they would represent different stages in his life. Cartoon Motion represents childhood. It uses falsetto heavily and is loaded with the most sugary pop songs you can imagine, beginning with "Grace Kelly," a response to a label asking him to change his style to be more commercial. My sisters and I each went through a phase in order of age, in which we absolutely loved Mika. For me, it started after my Canadian friend played "Grace Kelly" for me. I didn't know what to think of it at first, and then ended up playing it basically on repeat for months.

If you've been reading the articles up until now, or at least 2006, you'll know that this was the era for getting big on Myspace. Kate Nash was one of those lucky souls. Her first album, Made of Bricks was #1 in the U.K., but also made it to #36 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #8 in the Top Alternative albums. I always compared Nash to Lily Allen at the time, but their music is quite different. The main thing they have in common is a refusal to hide their accents. At the time, Nash wrote songs about crushes, dysfunctional relationships, and identity, but also "Skeleton Song" which is a girl's letter to her own skeleton. At first glance, "Birds" is a folk ballad about love, but really it's about having difficulty putting romantic feeling into words. "Mariella" is an identity song at first, but then becomes a song about a character named Mariella who defies all social expectations. 

I discovered Nash thanks to my friend Zack and thought at the time that nothing Nash could do would top Made of Bricks.

Rooney's sophomore album, Calling the World came out in 2007. Producer John Fields gave the album a warm sound as the band began to explore more classic rock/pop sounds. The cover makes their classic rock roots obvious, acting as an homage to The Beatles Rubber Soul or The Doors debut album. Direct influences can be heard on several songs, such as an ELO-style backing vocal in the bridge of "Believe in Me." "What For" features a slide guitar part reminiscent of George Harrison (Harrison's son Dhani is actually on the album, but as backing vocals on "Calling the World") with rhythm guitar and a melody line similar to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The song "Are You Afraid?" seems to me to have elements of Toto as well as more backing vocals that sound like ELO. Between the solid production, fantastic guitar from Taylor Locke, and some peak songwriting from frontman Robert Schwartzman, Calling the World might be Rooney's strongest album.

Feist released her most commercially successful album, The Reminder. The Reminder reached #16 on the U.S. Billboard 200, #5 on the Alternative Albums charts. This album is less explorative than Let it Die, relying primarily on jazz with a sprinkling of pop. Leslie Feist's voice is truly showcased on tracks like the opener, "So Sorry." Feist's breakthrough hit was "1234," a song primarily written by Sally Seltmann. "1234" reached #8 in the U.S. and #4 in the digital sales charts. A big boost to listenership came from its inclusion in an iPod commercial. Admittedly, "1234" was my introduction to Feist, and is what inspired me to buy both Let it Die and The Reminder. "I Feel It All" received the most critical praise, but my favorite tracks on the album include the sparse "The Park," "My Moon, My Man," and "Brandy Alexander," the last of which was written with Ron Sexsmith. The tracks in-between all have merit also, Feist's voice elevating even the weakest songs.

Picking from the top two is really a chore, because they are two of my absolute favorite albums. I dearly love them both, and would make it a tie if I could. But, the arbitrary rules I've created for myself must remain strict.

During a period of emotional turmoil for both women, Tegan and Sara released their fifth studio album The Con in 2007. As a result of events in their personal lives, The Con is an incredibly emotional album. "Relief Next to Me" and "Back in Your Head" center around lovers growing emotionally distant from one another. Many of the tracks center on breakups in some way or another, with the final track, "Call It Off" describing a breakup the narrator isn't sure is for the best, but it seems inevitable.

The Con is produced by Chris Walla, who enlisted fellow Death Cab For Cutie member, Jason McGerr for drums. Matt Sharp (founding member of Weezer) plays bass on all of the songs written by Sara Quin, while Hunter Burgan of AFI plays bass on the songs written by Tegan Quinn. 

I first heard of Tegan and Sara when I accidentally ended up with a bunch of my friend Zack's music on my mp3 player. I ended up with "I Know I Know I Know" off of So Jealous, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Then I found out Tegan and Sara were going to be opening for Death Cab For Cutie at a concert I bought tickets for. It was basically my first concert, so I researched the opening act (City and Color was there too, but I didn't hear about him ahead of time). I purchased and listened to The Con front to back and knew it by heart by the time of the show. It was really great to hear them play the album live, and they have great rapport live. I was fortunate enough to catch their The Con X tour in 2017 as well. The Con will always have a piece of my heart.

However, 2007 was also the year Everybody Else released their debut album. Their name is drawn from The Kinks song "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." Frontman Carrick Moore Gerety was formerly in a power pop band called The Push Kings with his brother Finn in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Drummer Mikey McCormack had been in a Richmond, Virginia rock band called The Waking Hours. Both men moved to Los Angeles, hoping to find more success. Eventually, they teamed up with bassist and vocalist Austin James Williams III, creating the lineup on their self-titled debut, Everybody Else

Everybody Else is a fantastic power pop album in its own right. Lead single "Meat Market" kicks the album right, showing off the skills of each member. The album never really became a massive hit, so there aren't a lot of facts to pull from. I'm going to jump right into the personal element.

Way too cool for school in 2007.
I know I've mentioned the fanmix community a fair number of times, but this is from the other side of it. I got into Everybody Else from a Twilight fanmix, Fanmixes were a bit like the mixtapes of yore, but specifically centered around a certain piece of media or the relationships therein. I don't remember everything from the mix in question, but I remember that the two songs I discovered from it were "Must Have Done Something Right" by Relient K and "Meat Market." I am forever thankful to whoever created that fanmix, because that is probably the only way I would have discovered Everybody Else. I was totally hooked by "Meat Market." I wanted more. Online, you could find the cute black and white video for "Meat Market," an acoustic "Button For Punishment," and an animated video for "Rich Girls, Poor Girls." Their Myspace may have had more songs than that, but I just know that I went into my local F.Y.E. to special order Everybody Else. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest when it arrived. The cover art, designed by Moore Gerety is fabulous (even if it contains lots of nipples), and the packaging itself folds out to reveal the liner notes. Top to bottom, this is a solid album full of power pop. There are fast songs like the aforementioned "Meat Market" and "Rich Girls, Poor Girls" and slower songs like the aforementioned "Button For Punishment" and "Alone in the World" but they all have a place on the album.

Everybody Else opened for Rooney on one tour. One of my greatest regrets from high school is not finding a way to go see them. Most nights, the bands closed the show on stage together with a cover of "Helter Skelter." I think missing that show contributed largely to my research of opening acts in the years that came after. Hey, I mean, without missing that show, I may never have gotten into 2005 album-from-the-year act Tally Hall.

When I listen to this album again, I still enjoy every track. Carrick Moore Gerety's voice is an absolute treat and the melodies are fun to sing along with. I think everyone should hear this album. but at the very least you should check it out if you're a fan of power pop or even pop punk.

Let's see what it looks like on that leaderboard!

Join me tomorrow for my favorite album from 2008.

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