The Best Albums of 2012 (So Far)

52 Books and a “Best-of” List

As you may know, I spent 2007 reading constantly, my goal being to read 52 books (or more) over the course of the year. I’m glad to say that I successfully reached my goal – my final count was 53 books! I’ve been meaning to write a post about this all week, but I’m only just now getting around to it.

Here are some numbers for you: 11 of the books I read were audiobooks. 5 were graphic novels. 15 were library books. Terry Pratchett was by far the author I read most, with a total of 10 books by him on my list. Lemony Snicket comes in second with 4 books.

I rated every single book I read on a scale from 1 to 10, but I rarely rated anything lower than a 7, although two books did get a 6 rating (Humpty Dumpty: An Oval and The City of Ember). I definitely started a number of books that I never finished, however, and a lot of those would have gotten a 6 or below, which is part of the reason I stopped reading them.

I discovered a number of great authors that have become some of my favorites, including John Crowley, Tim Powers, John Scalzi, and Charles Stross. I also finally finished White Noise by Don Delillo, which I first tried reading back in 2002 on the plane to London – this was the third time I tried!

The full list of books I read is available on the “Books Read in 2007” page, but I’d also like to pick out a sort of loose top 10 of the books I read this year. Each book’s page has a short review that I wrote when I finished reading it.

Last Call by Tim Powers Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco Night Watch by Terry Pratchett Pattern Recognition by William Gibson On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers Old Man’s War by John Scalzi A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore Glasshouse by Charles Stross Little, Big by John Crowley Firethorn by Sarah Micklem

1. Last Call by Tim Powers
2. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
3. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
4. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
5. On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
7. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
8. Glasshouse by Charles Stross
9. Little, Big by John Crowley
10. Firethorn by Sarah Micklem

Honorable mentions go to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by you-know-who, It’s Superman! by Tom De Haven, and the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket.

Other Great Albums of 2007 (A Few Late Additions)

After reading through the various year-end lists, I tracked down a few of the interesting-sounding albums I hadn’t had a chance to listen to yet, and I discovered a few gems that I’d like to recommend as a sort of coda to my top 10 list:

Iron And Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

1) Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

The Iron and Wine cover of “Dark Eyes” from the I’m Not There soundtrack is one of the standout songs on that album, so I decided to give Iron and Wine another listen-to, despite the fact that their Postal Service cover from the Garden State soundtrack was a bit mopey. This album is uniformly great, and if I had started listening to it earlier in the year, it would easily have been in my top 10 list. Rootsy, organic, full of beautiful harmonies and melodies, and highly recommended.

Battles - Mirrored2) Battles – Mirrored

My first exposure to this album was the video for Atlas, which I saw on Subterranean, i.e. the one hour a week (including 20 minutes of commercials) when M2 plays interesting music videos. The video is fairly minimal – just a shot of the band playing in the odd glass cube pictured on their album cover – but it fits the music, which is (mostly) instrumental rock, most of which is also very minimal, and generally composed of repeated percussion and industrial sounds. I’ve been drawn to more and more instrumental music in the past year or so, just because I find it hard to listen to vocal music when I’m reading (even though this was not an issue in my younger years when I had more brain cells…) Anyways, this one has really grown on me, much like similar music by Liquid Liquid did a few years back. “Atlas” and “Race: In” are the standout tracks here, although the band’s sound is a bit abrasive and may not be to everyone’s tastes.

LCD Soundsystem - 45:333) LCD Soundsystem – 45:33

This is actually a re-issue of an iTunes exclusive in a CD form. The new version splits up the formerly 45 minute first track into six parts (essentially the “movements” of the song) and adds on three bonus tracks (two b-sides and a remix). As you might imagine from my top 10 list, I’ve become a huge fan of LCD Soundsystem thanks to their second album. Much like the Battles album, this is primarily instrumental music (kind of a departure for the band), and I actually prefer it for reading because it’s a bit more soothing whereas the Battles album is more up-beat and rock-and-roll. Maybe I’ll use it for walking music when it isn’t so cold outside…

My Favorite Albums of 2007

Alright, in order for an album to end up on this list, it had to be an album that I find myself listening to regularly, even though time may have passed since it was released. I have several pretty great albums on my iPod that will end up on other end-of-the-year lists that haven’t quite grabbed me like the ten below.

This list isn’t perfect, of course, especially because I also limited myself to albums released in 2007. I guess including The Beatles album is kind of fudging things a bit, but it was a pretty amazing compilation that totally redefines what you can do instead of a vanilla “greatest hits” album.

Radiohead - In RainbowsLCD Soundsystem - Sound of SilverI’m Not There (Soundtrack)The Beatles - LoveQueens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is IsField Music - Tones of TownIdlewild - Make Another WorldCaribou - AndorraRyan Adams - Easy Tiger

1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
2. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
3. Various Artists – I’m Not There (Soundtrack)
4. The Beatles – LOVE
5. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is
7. Field Music – Tones of Town
8. Idlewild – Make Another World
9. Caribou – Andorra
10. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger

To see what some of the professionals think, I recommend the AV Club Best Music of 2007 list. Much better than Pitchfork (even though I’ll read that one, too).