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The Best CDs of 2007, from World Cafe

The best albums of 2007 include a plethora of reliable favorites, whether they're treading new stylistic ground (Iron and Wine), returning to roots (Wilco) or merely holding steady (Spoon). And, of course, a few new favorites join the mix, too.


As the year progresses, it's remarkable when an album from earlier in the year has staying power. Sure, Sky Blue Sky doesn't push the envelope as much as other recent Wilco albums, but Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline and company accomplish what they set out to do. (Listen: "Impossible Germany")


I so loved Gimme Fiction that I resisted the charms of its follow-up. But as always happens with good albums, it continued to reveal itself all year; I'm still discovering gems. It's pop music with an edge, not to mention a horn section and undeniable melodies. (Listen: "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb")

Josh Ritter

More emphasis needs to be placed on the breadth of Josh Ritter’s work: Too many praise him as a Dylan disciple, but Ritter is a product of his own time. This album is filled with his own off-kilter metaphors, as well as songs that sit comfortably alongside everyone from Simon and Garfunkel to Spoon. (Listen: "To the Dogs or Whoever")

Iron & Wine

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam is better known for one-off projects (his Postal Service cover on the Garden State soundtrack, his collaborations with Calexico) than for his stellar albums. On his new album, he wisely expands his palette with perfectly realized arrangements. (Listen: "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car")

The National

Another slow revealer. Dark, haunting, redemptive: The National's Boxer actually lives up to those adjectives. It's a "difficult sophomore release" that doesn't make you yearn for the debut. (Listen: "Start a War")

Original Soundtrack

How could an album of Dylan covers captivate me after all these years? As I played this soundtrack to Todd Haynes' film over and over again, I kept asking, "Who is this?" as one terrific cover after another rolled by. From Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Richie Havens to Cat Power and Mason Jennings, it's remarkable how few missteps there are over the course of two discs. While seeing the film helps, the album stands on its own. (Listen: Stephen Malkmus, "Ballad of a Thin Man")


I claim no expertise in M.I.A.'s genre, but who can? This woman has invented her own. The second M.I.A. album broadens her personal/political viewpoint in terms of both subject matter and her selection of beats and samples. It's exhilarating and empowering, but that wouldn't mean anything if it weren't fun. (Listen: "Paper Planes")

Teddy Thompson

An album of mostly countrypolitan and honky-tonk covers from Richard Thompson's son isn't going to make Top 10 lists this year. But to my ears, he nails these potentially maudlin songs with understated performances and heartbreaking string arrangements. (Listen: "Walking the Floor Over You")

Amy Winehouse

Moving forward by leaning back. Another from early in the year that continues to captivate -- a perfect marriage of gripping performances and impeccable arrangements. (Listen: "Rehab")

Joe Henry

Joe Henry continues to write deep, thoughtful songs and record them with a band of friends who understand what they're about. The result is one of Henry's most personal and political albums. (Listen: "Time Is a Lion")

Copyright 2007 XPN

David Dye is a longtime Philadelphia radio personality whose music enthusiasm has captivated listeners of World Cafe® since 1991. World Cafe is produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania.