Good grief, there was some good music this year. From the gut-wrenching rock of Kings of Leon to the bumping reggae-fied hip-hop of M.I.A. and the top-drawer tunes of Neil Young, there was no reason not to boogie and swoon, to scrutinize lyrics and concoct the perfect mix tape.

In this unofficial but oh-so-heartfelt list of the Best Albums of 2007, Gibson’s editorial staff identify and dissect their favorite albums of the year. Did we leave one of your favorites out? Email us at editor@gibson.com.

Ryan Adams Easy Tiger

Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger
(Lost Highway)

For all of Easy Tiger’s jarring disparity, this is the first album in a long while for which Ryan Adams was fully present during the recording. Easy Tiger was captured at New York’s Electric Lady Studios shortly after Adams kicked a drug habit that nearly killed him, he’s said. The studio wasn’t far from the Greenwich Village apartment he shares with his model/writer girlfriend, who he’s publicly credited with pulling him through a heroin addiction. Adams’ ode to her is written all over Easy Tiger, which explores the search for a place to call home and the power of two, quite literally in the sweet Sheryl Crow duet “Two.” The bravado of Adams’ delivery in jammy, Grateful Dead-influenced songs like “Goodnight Rose” does little to disguise the navel-gazing for which he’s become known. In “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.,” Adams sings, “If I could, I’d fold myself away like a card table, a concertina, or a Murphy bed.” The desperation that’s chased several years of full-on debauchery boils over in “The Sun Also Sets,” in which Adams screeches, “We are only one push from the nest/ We are only one argument from death.” Songs like “Pearls on a String” and “Tears of Gold” emerge from a swell of banjo and pedal steel guitar, revisiting Adams’ recent fling with classic country. With country tunes entwined with radio-ready rock, Easy Tiger plays like a best-of mix tape of the three very different albums Adams released in short succession in ’05. ?Ellen Mallernee

Against Me! New Wave

Against Me!
New Wave
(Sire)

In my book, comparing any band to the Clash borders on blasphemy. However, the latest album from Gainesville, Florida’s anarcho-punks Against Me! comes about as close as you can get. While producer Butch Vig smoothes out some of the band’s rough edges on New Wave, he never dulls their message—and songs like “White People for Peace” and “Thrash Unreal” show the band finally realizing their exponential potential. Plus, it’s a helluva lot more listenable than the Clash’s Sandinista! ?Jonah Bayer

Devendra Banhart Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

Devendra Banhart
Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
(XL Recordings)

The smell of incense can get a bit rich at times, but Devendra Banhart’s latest showed that he could do much more than simply strum the guitar while making mystical ramblings about blind unicorns. Recorded in Southern California’s famed Laurel Canyon, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon reasserts every single one of the songwriter’s individual quirks while paying tribute to the folky freaks who came before him: Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Caetano Veloso. At 72 minutes, there’s some throwaway material in the mix, but it’s hard to argue with the confidence on display, especially when underscored with something as plainly vulnerable as “My Dearest Friend,” in which the bearded marvel sings over and over, “I am going to die of loneliness I know/ I am going to die of loneliness for sure.” ?Aidin Vaziri
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Bottomless Pit Hammer of the Gods

Bottomless Pit
Hammer Of The Gods
(Comedy Minus One)

When Silkworm drummer Michael Dahlquist was killed in a freak car accident in 2005, it ended the legacy of one of indie rock’s most underrated bands. Comprised of two of Silkworm’s remaining musicians (including amazing guitarist Andy Cohen) as well as members of .22 and Seam, the band’s debut Hammer of the Gods is understandably darker than the members’ previous output, but it’s equally as inventive and transcendent. ?Jonah Bayer
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Bright Eyes Cassadaga

Bright Eyes
Cassadaga
(Saddle Creek)

Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst isn’t the next Bob Dylan, but that’s in no way a dig on this melancholic Midwesterner. Sure, Oberst’s quivering folk songs evoke classic songwriters like Steve Earle, Neil Young, and Dylan, but with Cassadaga Oberst has finally proved himself as his own musical force—and one of the, er, brightest in recent memory. “She said the best country singers die in the back of classic cars,” the 27-year-old croons during “Classic Cars.” Let’s hope Oberst sticks around for a while. ?Jonah Bayer

Carolina Chocolate Drops Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind

Carolina Chocolate Drops
Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind
(Music Maker Relief)

Hailing from the Piedmont region of North Carolina, this trio of young African Americans are the perfect torchbearers for carrying on Southern string-band traditions. Tackling 16 vintage songs?some well-known, some obscure?the trio transcends any whiff of novelty while conjuring up a bygone era. Hoedown stomps predominate, but peppered among the spirited fare are a few moments that warrant special mention. On the surface "Dixie" might seem an odd choice for the group, but in Carolina Chocolate Drops' hands the song exudes a yearning not so much for a time and place but for an authenticity that's been lost. Likewise, the muted sound and out-of-tune banjo unfurled on "Tom Dula" emphasize the song’s tragic core in a way virtuosity never could. Like most of the disc, both songs come off as the aural equivalent of an old sepia-toned photograph. ?Russell Hall

Feist - The Reminder

Feist
The Reminder
(Cherrytree/Interscope)
Canadian singer Feist’s The Reminder might be the most universally loved release of 2007. And though its propulsion was certainly aided by a busily played iPod commercial featuring her infectious “1234,” its mass acceptance was relatively inevitable, given the consistently hooky, thrillingly un-ordinary pop songs it holds. If you had to pen it in somewhere, much of the disc does sound born of sunny ’70s pop, in both the busy wash of bright vocal harmonies and the propulsive stomp of tracks like the exceptional “My Moon My Man.” But what Feist brings—and what the corner of commercially successful music saw far too rarely this year—is a wholly unique voice, bearing beautifully honed and reflected influences but a fearless artistic boldness. She lived within pop’s constructs, but wasn’t worried about being playful and creative with the details; it made for one of the decade’s finest collections of pop thus far.?Nicole Keiper

Kings of Leon Because of the Times

Kings of Leon
Because of the Times
(RCA)

The second half of the third Kings of Leon album could be filled with 45 minutes of farm animals farting into the wind and it wouldn’t make any difference. Few people are going to make it past the staggering opening sweep of tunes on offer here without immediately reaching for the rewind button. Named after the Southern preachers' conference that the Followill brothers used to attend with their Pentecostal minister father, Because of the Times is an album front-loaded with their most toxic, thoughtful songs to date. The fact that the whole thing kicks off with a slow-building seven-minute meditation on impending fatherhood called "Knocked Up" is a good indication of how far these guys have come in the past few years, perfecting their mash-up of the Strokes and Skynyrd with a set of Southern rock songs wound tight with punky tension and bold musical gestures. ?Aidin Vaziri

Klaxons Myths of the Near Future

Klaxons
Myths of the Near Future
(Geffen Records)

It's not the most consistently great album of 2007, but you have to admire the risks this British trio constantly takes on their neon-tinted debut. The Klaxons could have easily passed themselves off as the latest indie-rock upstarts but instead chose to dress up their simple chord progressions and Blur pastiches with strobe-lit dance beats and weird lyrical nods to wizards, Cyclops, and centaurs. Is it a terrible gimmick propagated by a couple of greasy haired pop pranksters who spent just a bit too much time reading Aleister Crowley and listening to the Happy Mondays? Well, yeah, probably. Put that all aside, though, and you would have to be half-dead to not feel the wide-eyed lift of “Golden Skans” or the breathless emotional pleas of “It’s Not Over Yet.” And with the glowstick abetted "Atlantis to Interzone," the group threw down the gauntlet, reviving something as terribly unfashionable as rave music in a context that made it sound totally fresh. ?Aidin Vaziri

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Living With The Living

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Living With The Living
(Touch And Go)

It’s understandable why Ted Leo’s latest album didn’t attract the same critical acclaim as 2004’s breakthrough Shake The Sheets. As a whole Living With The Living is much denser and far less palatable than Leo’s previous releases, which is what ultimately makes it so great. If Elvis Costello was writing anti-war anthems in his prime instead of singing about unrequited love, it’d probably sound something like this disc. ?Jonah Bayer

Paul McCartney Memory Almost Full

Paul McCartney
Memory Almost Full
(Hear Music)
Battered by the tabloids in the fallout from his relationship with Heather Mills, Paul McCartney must have felt creatively reinvigorated when he returned to the studio to make his 21st solo album and first for Starbucks' Hear Music label. It certainly represents his strongest collection of songs in ages, with deceptively simple tunes like "Dance Tonight" and "Ever Present Past" only revealing their multilayered depth with repeated listens. Like most of the 64-year-old former Beatles' recent work it's unapologetically sentimental, particularly on a track like "Vintage Clothes," but he's not always looking back. On "End of the End," the disc's showpiece, we find him anticipating his own demise... with a chirpy whistle solo. Hey, it's McCartney. Unlike similar coming of age sets by his graying peers like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, this doesn't sound so much grizzled as groovy. And coming from the man that laid down "Band on the Run," that's all right. —Aidin Vaziri

M.I.A. Kala

M.I.A.
Kala
(Interscope Records)

People often wonder if Maya Arulpragasam is actually sincere about her craft, what with the cheap beats and ridiculous tunes like "Bird Flu." What does it matter? The music on the Sri Lankan-English rapper’s second album is ridiculously adventurous, tying together wobbly reggae rhythms, sweeping Indian Bollywood scores, and snappy British pop influences in one genre-busting package that rarely sounds forced. Yes, Kala (named after her mother) presents a less immediately accessible collection of songs than her 2005 debut Arular (named after her father), but when the bulb flickers and catches light the results are thrilling: the frantic rush of "Boyz;" the inverted hip-hop of "Paper Planes," where samples of gunshots play against the sounds of cash registers ringing; and the widescreen chorus of “Jimmy.” It’s an audacious album that repackages third world sounds for western ears, via sly nods to Jonathan Richman and the Pixies. And for anyone to pull that off, well, that's serious business. ?Aidin Vaziri

Minus the Bear Planet Of Ice

Minus The Bear
Planet Of Ice
(Suicide Squeeze)

In a perfect world, Minus The Bear would be the biggest band in the world. Their guitarist Dave Knudson has pioneered an entirely new approach to the guitar which implements loops and tapping, their music is so infectious it deserves its own vaccine and it’s also palatable enough for listeners to get into regardless of age or gender (as noted by the audience at a typical Minus The Bear show). Planet Of Ice shows the band moving one step closer to world domination; hopefully, it won’t be long now. ?Jonah Bayer

Abra Moore On The Way

Abra Moore
On The Way
(Sarathan Records)

Back in 1997 Abra Moore stood at the cusp of mainstream success with her Grammy-nominated single “Four Leaf Clover” and the superb album (Strangest Places) from which that song sprang. Stardom eluded her, but the albums she's released since then have been gems of sophisticated pop. On The Way ranks among her best. Kicking off with the breezy, keyboard-and-horn driven “Into the Sunset,” the album establishes a soundscape-ish texture that runs throughout. Songs such as “After All These Years” and the title track sport the sort of languid, film-friendly quality Hollywood execs crave. (Moore’s songs have been featured in Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, and the like.) Elsewhere, as on “Sorry” and “You,” the pop emphasis is flavored with a cool jazz vibe. As always, Moore's voice evokes thoughts of what Billy Holliday might have sounded like had she been a '60s flower child, and that's an altogether good thing. ?Russell Hall

Nathan Key Principles

Nathan
Key Principles
(Nettwerk Records)

On the surface, Nathan could be viewed as just another of the many Canadian bands embracing roots music. But unlike most of their peers, the Winnipeg-based quartet also draws from radio-pop traditions not far removed from fellow hometown natives such as the Guess Who. The band’s third album finds Nathan tossing some new ingredients into this roots-pop blend. Languid, spaghetti-western guitar lines kick start the opening track, "John Paul's Deliveries," before giving way to a soaring chorus that could have come from Fountains of Wayne. Likewise, "The Boulevard Back Then" infuses a spooky, Kurt Weill-inspired cabaret song with theremin and horn. Other high points include “The Wind,” a banjo-and-accordion shuffle punctuated by some Cowboy Junkies-like guitar squall, and “Key Principles of Success,” a carnival waltz wrapped in a '30s showtune vibe. Best of all, however, is “Daffodils,” a trippy excursion into '60s-style psychedelic pop that's about as good a revisitation of that genre as you're likely to hear. ?Russell Hall

Brad Paisley 5th Gear

Brad Paisley
5th Gear
(Arista)

Between the deliciously indulgent pedal-steel and guitar duals of “Mr. Policeman,” the neo-country guitar workout of “Throttleneck,” and the slightly sappy tears-in-your-beer weepers like “Letter to Me” and “With You, Without You,” Brad Paisley carries the flag forward for contemporary commercial country. A guilty pleasure. —Dave Hunter

Grant Lee Phillips Strangelet

Grant-Lee Phillips
Strangelet
(Zoe/Rounder)

Grant-Lee Phillips has always imbued his songs with a cinematic sweep tied closely to the American heartland. Others have tried to do the same, but no contemporary songwriter has so successfully fused that spirit with a melodic sense gleaned from British pop icons. Strangelet finds Phillips fine-tuning that approach. Playing most of the instruments himself, Phillips crafts arrangements that sound like what might have happened had Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen collaborated with John Lennon. Songs such as “Soft Asylum (No Way Out)” and “Fountain of Youth” constitute pop balladry at its finest, while rockers such as “Hidden Hand” and “Raise the Spirit” add elements of T. Rex to the mix. Throughout it all Phillips' restrained tenor is a thing of beauty, helping to sharpen material that gains impact with each listen. ?Russell Hall

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Raising Sand
(Rounder)

Who would have thought that collaboration between one of hard rock’s living legends and the young queen of bluegrass could make such astonishingly beautiful music together? On the surface, the pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss seems like an oddity, but on the authentic, endearing Raising Sand, the two sound as if they’ve been building up to this moment their whole lives. Listeners should approach this record much like the singers did, as in it isn’t so much an album as it is a dance, a courtship, a private dialogue that we’re eavesdropping on. With Led Zeppelin, Plant belted out more than his fair share of country-tinged ballads and rockers, but it’s a rare treat to sit back a spell and harmonize with a versatile singer like Krauss, who proves to be as comfortable with straight-ahead rockabilly (the Everly Brothers’ “Gone Gone Gone”), as she is folk (Gene Clark's “Polly Come Home”) or the ever-unclassifiable Tom Waits (“Trampled Rose”). The two pair up nicely on Townes Van Zandt’s gritty but gorgeous “Nothin’,” but they save their finest performances on the ethereal “Please Read the Letter,” a track which Plant and a certain guitar player named Jimmy Page first tackled on Walking into Clarksdale. It was great then, and it’s great now. Some things are just built to last. —Sylvie Simmons

Radiohead In Rainbows

Radiohead
In Rainbows
(ATO)

Notable not only for the music?which shows Radiohead in fine form once again, combining infectious near-pop hooks and melodies with sonic experimentation and a myriad aural delights?but for the “event” it represented. By sidestepping the major labels, releasing the album themselves (and online-only, originally at least), and letting each fan choose their own price, Thom Yorke and co. have shown one way out of the mire that the recording industry has found itself stuck in. Stunning in a lights out, volume up, let it float you kind of way. —Dave Hunter


Fionn Regan The End of History

Fionn Regan
The End of History
(Bella Union)

It's hard to get heard above the sound of hype when you make an album as simple and understated as the debut by this Irish singer-songwriter. Belatedly released in the U.S. by Nashville's Lost Highway (home of Ryan Adams and Willie Nelson), this quiet work of wonder evokes a wide variety of sad tousle-haired folkies, from Bob Dylan to Damien Rice, yet sounds effortlessly of Fionn Regan’s own making. Whether strumming a gentle cadence with the bare “Be Good or Be Gone” or working up a little sweat with “Put A Penny In The Slot,” which features quite possibly the most romantic line ever in, “I apologize/I seem to have arrived/home with items in my bag from your house/There's cutlery/a tablecloth some henna seed/And a book on presidents deceased.”  That's not the sort of thing you generally get from, oh, say, Nickelback. ?Aidin Vaziri

Rush Snakes & Arrows

Rush
Snakes & Arrows
(Anthem Records)

When Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, and Geddy Lee—now all in their fifties—remerged this year with their ambitious eighteenth album, Snakes & Arrows, it had been five years since Rush’s last studio effort. Chock full of the same experimentation that made these arena fillers a household name in the ’70s, Snakes & Arrows is a rock and roll riot of swirling metal guitar and theatrical vocals. Asserting their maturity with some of the most literary lyrics of their career and their contemporary relevance by recruiting ace producer Nick Raskulinecz (behind Foo Fighters and Velvet Revolver), Rush released one of the most buzzed-about albums of the year. Entering the Billboard chart at No.3—their second highest debut ever—wasn’t even the band’s headiest achievement this year; instead, their first-ever dalliance with instrumental tracks took the cake. One of the three instrumentals included on the album has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. A must for all diehard Rush fans. ?Ellen Mallernee

Ron Sexsmith Time Being

Ron Sexsmith
Time Being
(Ironworks Music)

One of pop music's unsung traditionalists, Ron Sexsmith has spent the better part of two decades crafting elegantly sophisticated albums that lie stylistically somewhere between Paul McCartney and Gilbert O’Sullivan. Time Being falls squarely into that narrow but fertile niche. Helmed by ace producer Mitchell Froom, the album is suffused with crisp melodies, laid-back tempos, and lyrics weighted with melancholy. Songs such as “Ship of Fools” and “The Grim Trucker” unleash Sexsmith’s McCartney fixation in all its glory, but more interesting are those instances in which the Canadian-based songwriter’s influences are less obvious. “Cold Hearted Wind,” for instance, steers toward Harry Nilsson territory, while “I Think We’re Lost” sounds like Morrissey framing his anxieties in an upbeat arrangement. To top it all off, Sexsmith's boyish tenor?glycerin-smooth and tinged with vibrato?serves as the perfect instrument to deliver these pop gems. ?Russell Hall

Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Spoon
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
(Merge)

Centered on vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, Spoon give their songs an old-school melodic foundation, then burnishes that aesthetic with an indie-style sense of the perverse. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the band’s sixth full-length album, ranks among Spoon’s best. The opening track, “Don’t Make Me a Target,” sets the tone. Built on dry, crunchy guitar riffs, and sporting a fuzz-toned lead break that harks back to Dave Davies, the song comes off as an updated blend of the Kinks and the Lovin’ Spoonful. Indeed, like the latter band, Spoon often laces their material with a soulful vibe. Examples include “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” a hook-laden, horn-riddled blast of Motown-style pop; “Don’t You Evah,” a laid-back excursion into white Memphis soul that sports a hollowbody guitar groove of the sort favored by Alex Chilton; and “Finer Feelings,” a splash of sunshine-y guitar pop that could have come from the pen of ex-Clash guitarist Mick Jones, had Jones grown up in the American South. But the album’s best moment occurs at the end. Fitted with Ringo-like drumming, swirling orchestration, strummy acoustic guitars, and a piano figure that borrows from the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” “Black Like Me” sends the album off on an ambitious high note. John Lennon himself would have been proud. —Russell Hall
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Bruce Springsteen Magic

Bruce Springsteen
Magic
(Sony)

Back with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen sounds so big, so solid. “Radio Nowhere” is utterly contemporary as the embodiment of un-genre-fied rock—pure, straight-up, uncalculated, if perhaps a little over-produced (and he always was, though on those ’70s albums the overproduction now sounds retro to us). “Long Walk Home” verges on vintage Boss, and elsewhere the album touches on all points in between. As a whole, Magic reminds us that Springsteen is perhaps the most American of rock artists?part rock and roll, part country and Americana, a dash of classic R&B, and something entirely his own. —Dave Hunter

Cortney Tidwell - Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up

Cortney Tidwell
Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up
(Ever Records)
You’ll unavoidably draw a few parallels to the mournful pop tones in Nashvillian Cortney Tidwell’s voice—there’s some of the pixie sweetness of the Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler, a lot of Icelandic icon Bjork’s canyon arc. And there are a few gentle hints of atmospheric, shoegazey Britrock textures otherwise in her debut LP, Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up. But it’s the gothic country bedrock the native Nashvillian’s built her music on that makes Stars the thrill it is—aching reverb swells around gentle fingerpicking, the singer pulling dark and ominous moods around rustic, skeletal melodies. The mix is wholly unusual for Nashville, wholly unusual for Iceland or England or anywhere else—and it’s wholly breathtaking.?Nicole Keiper

Velvet Revolver - Libertad

Velvet Revolver
Libertad
(RCA)
Velvet Revolver just might single-handedly bring back the ascendance of arena rock. From lead singer Scott Weiland’s pained and anxious vocals to Slash’s epic guitar splatter, to Matt Sorum’s solid trash can drumming, this super group put together the high-profile remains of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots to forge an identity of their own. While 2004’s Contraband was a flashy, swaggering beginning, grafting Weiland’s elegant glam rock sneer to the GNR behemoth sound, one was always conscious of a great divide between the two aesthetics. On Libertad they have breached that gap and have gelled as a heaving, strutting rock dirigible with their own rather fascinating histories and missteps, instead of harkening back to their parent bands. Weiland thrills with his romantic fixations and fascination with Jim Morrison on “Let It Roll,” which references the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” and his inamorata’s pouty lips. Meanwhile “She Mine” is a dissonant rant with unbidden drum fills and leering big guitars that reminds one how dangerous and threatening rock can be with its metaphysical hazards and obsessions—something that has always characterized the best rock bands from the Rolling Stones to the Stooges. On Libertad that mania doesn’t seem forced—in fact nothing seems to be. There’s a lazy, unstudied cool about most of these songs, just like Slash himself.—Jaan Uhelszki

Kanye West - Graduation

Kanye West
Graduation
(Roc-A-Fella Records)
Megastar rapper Kanye West has said that time spent eyeing U2 and the Rolling Stones’ ability to rock arenas to the rafters influenced his simplified, big-hook-heavy approach to Graduation, his third massively successful LP. For all his self-high-fiving braggadocio, West certainly takes lessons to heart—tracks like "Can’t Tell Me Nothing" and "Good Life" are arena-explosive for sure, the chorus hooks impossibly sticky, his lyrics approachable and singalong-friendly. “Bow in the presence of greatness,” he rhymes in his trademark laid-back cool flow on “Stronger”; it’s infuriating to some, how he preens unapologetically, but it’s certainly hard to deny the guy’s greatness, or his increasingly broad appeal.?Nicole Keiper

Wilco Sky Blue Sky

Wilco
Sky Blue Sky
(None Such)

For Wilco’s eighth studio effort, the lovely Sky Blue Sky, frontman Jeff Tweedy boxed up the special effects that buzzed and jangled throughout the tremendous Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. Personal and spare, Sky Blue Sky ambles along with brushed drums, piano-led melodies, and near-whispered lyrics that show off Tweedy’s best instrumentation—a tender voice that sounds sweetest when breaking. Decidedly more folk than rock and roll, Sky Blue Sky is to its predecessors what the cold morning after is to a lonesome night on the town. Sober with reflection and remorse, Tweedy’s got a romance on the skids, and he and his guitar are probing it like an open wound. The gloomy, dirgeing piano of “On and On and On” is juxtaposed with the faux optimism of “Hate It Here,” which has Tweedy pacing a profoundly empty house, washing dishes, folding laundry, busied with denial, while “You Are My Face” offers a confession of guilt, and explodes mid-song into a weeping, live-wire guitar solo. Stripped of the cryptic lyrics and walls of fuzz that made them one of the most enduring and dynamic bands today, Wilco prove that underneath all their experimentation lives a delicate and powerful song. ?Ellen Mallernee
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Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Amy Winehouse
Back to Black
(Island)
If Lauryn Hill had kept busy, we might not have needed U.K. songstress Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, the alternately sexy and troubled R&B- and pop-infused LP that earned some of 2007’s most universal praise, from critics and fans alike. Like Hill, Winehouse manages to vocally dip and swerve with elastic grace and gutsy presence on Black. And the disc’s R&B-leaning songs, if not completely educated by The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, certainly sound like they come from a similarly inspired place, bearing both danceability and depth. But the energizing and deftly rendered jazzy, ’50s girl-pop sensibilities that run as thoroughly through Back to Black—particularly in the painfully appropriate “Rehab”—make Winehouse far more than a replacement for an R&B siren who ducked out of prominence too quickly.?Nicole Keiper

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II

Neil Young
Chrome Dreams II
(Reprise)

Neil Young confirms himself yet again to be rock’s most borderless artist. Completely unrestrained by preconception or expectation, he gives us top-drawer Young through and through?eviscerating themes and insightful lyrics, epic melodic constructions, and utterly compelling instrumental workouts on that battered, sprayed-black Les Paul Goldtop with well-oiled Bigsby vibrato. The Godfather of Grunge, and so much more.—Dave Hunter

Be sure to check out Gibson’s list of the Best Blues Albums in ’07 here.

Did we leave out one of your favorite albums of ’07? Email us at editor@gibson.com.