By Hannah Wisterman
Many of us were but wee babes in 2007, so the events of that year seem hazy and unreal. Did Britney Spears really go after the paparazzi with an umbrella? Did all those Hollywood writers just up and refuse to work? Was Spiderman 3 even a real movie? Among all the weirdness, there is at least one solid thing to hang onto: 2007 was a pretty good year for indie music. Ten years later, it seems fair enough to revisit the iconic albums that still hold up today.
The Shepherd’s Dog, Iron & Wine
Sam Beam, better known as Iron & Wine, released his third full-length album on September 25th, 2007 to critical acclaim. While keeping its signature folksy atmosphere, The Shepherd’s Dog introduced more diverse instruments and influences. Vocals are more layered, songs have both Americana blues and Middle Eastern lilt—heck, there’s even didgeridoo in “House By The Sea”. The first Iron & Wine song I heard, “Boy With A Coin”, was the single off this album, and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” hit it big with a feature in 2008’s Twilight film, handpicked by Kristen Stewart. The Shepherd’s Dog remains one of Iron & Wine’s most popular albums, if not the most popular.
Where are they now?
The past two albums Iron & Wine has released have been collaborations: 2015’s Sing Into My Mouth with Ben Bridwell and 2016’s Love Letter For Fire with Jesca Hoop. Having recently moved his family (a wife and five, count ’em, five daughters) to South Carolina, Beam seems to be taking it a little bit slower these days. He’ll be performing at the Fayetteville Roots Festival in Arkansas this summer, and on February 7th, he hinted at possible new music on his Twitter and Instagram. For now, Iron & Wine fans seem to be content with his rich discography—there’s plenty of music to enjoy.
For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver
July 8th, 2007: the day Justin Vernon stepped into the world as Bon Iver. Like Iron & Wine, Bon Iver’s music often evokes the timeless feeling of American folk, but For Emma in particular feels more ambient, a testament to its limited production, which essentially amounted to Vernon, some guitars, and some editing software in an isolated cabin in Wisconsin. It is an album rife with heartache and loneliness; after all, this is the album that brought us the vastly, vastly popular “Skinny Love”, and the less noticed “The Wolves”. As emotional as the journey through the album is, by the final track (“Re: Stacks”), there’s a sense of catharsis and healing, reflective of how Vernon viewed the album: a metaphor for the personal steps he took in the year surrounding its production.
Where are they now?
Last year, Bon Iver released 22, A Million, an album which caught many off guard. It takes a stylistic jump away from folk, veering towards the land of the experimental. That isn’t at all to say it’s less wonderful than For Emma; quite the opposite. The music holds up well with the electronic treatment and still delivers Vernon’s particular brand of emotional punches, only this time with a rich depth of bass and audio effects. It’s well worth a listen. Bon Iver will be hitting Coachella this year before spending a couple of weeks in Europe.
Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
Released March 3rd, 2007, Arcade Fire‘s second album seemed to have taken notes from its predecessor, Funeral. The sound went from boisterous and big to carefully measured, saving the blowout climaxes for, well, the climaxes. The focus shifted as well, turning from personal emotions to worldwide concerns like the government, the church, the military, and the capital-I Industry. With lurching rhythms and melodies wound tight as a clock, Neon Bible is a satisfying listen. In addition, the final track “My Body Is A Cage” later caught the attention of Peter Gabriel, who included it in his compilation album of covers, Scratch My Back (which also contains a cover from For Emma, Forever Ago, how weird), which I also recommend.
Where are they now?
Arcade Fire cannot be stopped. Each album they put out seems more intriguing than the last, achieving different goals and experimenting with slightly different sounds. Their last studio album, 2015’s Reflektor, utilized guerilla marketing and drew on everything from band member Régine Chassagne’s Haitian background to Greek mythology. The band also wrote and performed the score for the 2015 film Her. But they didn’t stop there: they also released the single “I Give You Power” as a response to Donald Trump’s inauguration and have said that there will be a new album out this year. Oh, and they just announced a European tour. You go, Arcade Fire.
In Rainbows, Radiohead
It seems only fitting that Radiohead, a longtime symbol of counterculture, would be the first major act to release a pay-what-you-want downloadable album, and on October 10, 2007, they did just that. Even with little promotion, a false start with production, and a risky payment format, the album fared well critically and commercially. While the message of the album itself is more personal and less “stick it to the man”, the album is still unmistakably Radiohead, even with more of a romantic slant. (Case in point: “All I Need” is a smoky ballad to make anyone swoon.) True to its production history, the album sounds like the band is genuinely enjoying what they’re doing. With interesting composition (“Weird Fishes and Arpeggi”) and charming melodies, the album may be one of Radiohead’s easiest to consume, which, for me, makes it all the better.
Where are they now?
After another hiatus, Radiohead returned in 2016 with A Moon Shaped Pool, and you’d best believe I squealed like a little girl and drank it up with wide-eyed wonder. Critics seemed to think the same; the album received universal acclaim and received two Grammy nominations. The band will be touring from March through July, hitting Coachella and Glastonbury on the way. Radiohead is as alive and well as it ever has been, and we are all better for it.
Did I forget your favorite 2007 album? Disagree with me? Let us know by commenting or on Twitter!