Great albums everywhere are making someone's year-end list. Why not let local musicians share the love? Here are my picks for the ten best Madison albums of 2007.
1. The Treats -- Reservoir Tales
Brothers Andy and Don Isham met bassist Tim Payne while they were all engineering students at UW-Madison. They must have studied song construction, too. This collection of bluesy garage rock and dreamy ballads is a stunning show of passion and originality.
2. Pale Young Gentlemen -- Pale Young Gentlemen
This set of indie rock combines piano and strings with melodic hooks for a poetic, orchestral pop sound akin to the Decemberists. Already on the Pitchfork radar, PYG already have the feel of a band on the verge -- and with this debut, they've only just begun.
3. Null Device -- Excursions
The third album by Eric Oehler and friends is intensely emotional synth pop punctuated by smooth vocals, breakbeats and Middle Eastern instrumentation. It's also the best Madison electronic album of 2007.
4. Screamin' Cyn Cyn & The Pons -- Screamin' Target Heart Rate
The second album from these local club favorites is heavy on two minute bursts of power-pop drenched in transgender theatrics and snide, punk humor.
5. Stephanie Rearick -- Democracy
The Mother Fool's Coffeehouse co-owner was back this year with an excellent set of experimental piano tracks that sound restless for social and emotional change.
6. The Selfish Gene -- The Grand Masquerade
This glossy prog-rock throwback sounds a little like a lot of album-oriented 70's bands (for me, it's Steely Dan), but originality makes those references illusive. Grand Masquerade is a grand accomplishment all its own.
7. Squarewave -- A Faint Glow
For the second year in a row, former Ivory Library members Jeff Jagielo and Pat Connaughty have made my top ten local album list. Faint Glow is brooding psychedelic power-pop, and it's dark in a most beautiful way.
8. Felicia Alima -- Know Me
This polished, radio-friendly set of urban R&B may not sound like a typical Madison record. Maybe that's because Alima is an Australian transplant weaned on hip-hop from down under. The sonic diversity she brought to the scene was a breath of fresh air.
9. Michael Brandmeier -- It's Only Rain
He's the local master of easy listening tracks, and he knows how to get snippets of his music on national TV. With audio spots on Dawson's Creek, Queer Eye and the NBC soap-opera, Passions, Brandmeier's resume is as impressive as his songs.
10. Trin Tran -- Grows A Rose
Steve Coombs' quirky music is mostly a frenetic fusion of Japanese synth-pop and Devo art-punk. But he changed tempo here long enough to compose the pensively dreamy single, "Far Reaches," one of the very best local tracks of the year.