Looking Through Time: 2007
With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 2007.
The National - Boxer
Sadness and melancholy are at the heart of nearly every revered work of art, often providing insight into the human experience that helps bring humanity closer to understanding suffering. Like David Foster Wallace before them with his magnum opus Infinite Jest, The National ask on Boxer how despite all the modern advancements of the twenty-first century, white collared Americans are still as dysfunctional and lost as they were 100 years ago. Boxer digs deep into the human psychosis to find these answers and discovers the unsettlingly foundation that lies buried underneath.
Boxer offers a series of short moments every listener can relate to on human suffering. Frontman Matt Berninger’s narrations across the 12 tracks of Boxer are hyper-aware of their faults, with Berninger bringing their introspections and struggles to life through his warm baritone delivery. They have to desperately work against themselves to not screw up their lives, whether it be accepting the signs of a crumbling relationship or pushing themselves to escape the rut their lives are trapped in. Berninger's lyrics are given power through the album’s lush chamber pop instrumentation that accompanies nearly every track. Intricate piano work and soulful horns spice up the usual indie rock fare, with unparalleled rhythm section work grounding each song. It’s a watershed mark in capturing emotional moments that are as nuanced and precise as these through composition and lyrics working together in perfect unison.
Boxer has notoriously been called a “grower” album since its release, though whether or not it has to grow on the listener depends more on their openness to the themes of the album. Boxer doesn’t hit like most “sad” albums, avoiding the normal narrative or emotional beats one tends to find on albums labeled as “sad.” Instead, it offers a truer portrait of the world we live in: one where there’s no specific issue to point to as the origins of suffering and nothing to point to that acts as the solution to it. Boxer asks the listener to realize that suffering is inevitable and that it’s something that needs to be managed to get through our lives in one piece. While that’s a depressing thesis to come too, perhaps it takes a society’s art to make society do something about it rather than escaping from it in our art. - Chandler Copenheaver
Kanye West - Graduation
Graduation is third studio album released by Kanye West and is the first significant change in his musical style. On Graduation, Kanye moves away from the soulful samples that garnered the attention of the hip hop elite and leans on more electronic samples for this album. Also, Kanye delivered his lyrics in a much more anthem-like manner to complement his concerts which would now take place in bigger venues. The lead up to the release of this album is also a significant moment in hip hop history, as Kanye and 50 Cent had a public sales competition. This is significant because when Kanye outsold 50 Cent it marked a turning point for hip hop, as gangster rap’s reign over mainstream hip hop had ended.
Many of the tracks on this album are timeless such as “Stronger,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Good Life.” All three are known for their anthem-like style and are considered to be some of Kanye’s best songs ever. “Stronger” is specifically important on the album because it samples the electronic music group Daft Punk. Up to this moment, Kanye was known for his soul samples so this change was unexpected, but it was well-received because Kanye executed this track at such a high level. On this album, Kanye is much more introspective, a stark contrast to the social commentary he provided on his first two albums. In addition, Kanye does not lean as heavily on guest features and Kanye rids this album of skits that were a staple in hip hop at the time.
Graduation is one of the most significant albums in hip hop history because it disregards almost all the rules that hip hop albums abided by at the time. - Jerome Taylor
Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet
It’s no secret that classic rock has been on the decline in recent years, particularly in the progressive genre. Pink Floyd is gone, Rush is past its prime and King Crimson is a distant memory of the past. However, progressive rock is not dead. Bands like Porcupine Tree prove that it lives on. By blending progressive with metal influences, Porcupine Tree keeps rocking and no album better displays this than 2007’s Fear of a Blank Planet.
In traditional progressive rock fashion, Fear of a Blank Planet is comprised of only six songs, none of which are shorter than five minutes. These six songs make for a 50-minute album without a minute of filler.
The album begins with its title track. Right off the bat, Porcupine Tree wears the progressive image on its sleeve, but keeps it fresh by adding metal elements for a heavy rocker, perfect for the song’s lyrical description of behavioral disorder. Next is “My Ashes,” a softer tune with opening keyboards reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” Its inclusion of stringed instruments is sure to remind listeners of Electric Light Orchestra. The third track is “Anesthetize,” a three-part progressive adventure that clocks in at just under 18 minutes. The track also includes guitar work from Rush’s Alex Lifeson, adding to its excellence. It’s followed by “Sentimental,” a reserved progressive metal rocker, featuring a perfectly chilling vocal performance by lead singer Steve Wilson. “Way Out of Here” is decidedly more metal than progressive, but it’s presence only contributes to the album’s greatness. Finally, the record closes with its climactic piece “Sleep Together,” a thrilling finisher that, at times, bears an odd resemblance to The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.”
Not a single moment is wasted on Fear of a Blank Planet. Critics seem to agree, as sources such as Rolling Stone and Billboard cite the album as among Porcupine Tree’s best. As long as bands like Porcupine Tree remain able to produce music of such quality, rock and roll will never die. - DJ Bauer
The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
Unfortunately, the folk rock band of two brothers and friends known as The Avett Brothers make works of musical genius and art that are extremely underappreciated and practically overlooked. No album of theirs, whether it’s experimental or familiar, will disappoint listeners, as the lyrics instrumentals flow so effortlessly together from song to song, it almost feels like the song is made specially for you. Ten years ago, the band released an album so pure, true and beautiful it broke them through the musical atmosphere and made their name deservingly known. Emotionalism peaked 134 on the Billboard 200, won the band the “Emerging Artist of the Year” award and the “Duo/Group of the Year” at the Americana Music Honors & Awards and a nomination for “Album of the Year” as well. This may sound miniscule to the comparison of other artists, but it was an extreme success for the band and aimed them to develop more complex and emotionally gripping albums in the future.
Emotionalism is filled with a diverse amount of topics that every human is bound to face at some point in their lives. Feelings of paranoia, anxiety about life after death, shame, lying, alcoholism, the mistakes that we make in our lives, etc. all make an appearance or theme in each different song on the album. The album seems to be life and the songs are the way we can pave through it individually. These issues may sound pretty meaningless to some, but the songs take each issue into such a powerful, consequential viewpoint that listeners will find themselves connecting to the album in a way they haven’t before. The album’s inviting, but harsh. Like looking at the snow on a cold winter’s day. You know the cold is always there, no matter how beautiful the snow may look, and you can either recognize and embrace it or feel comfortable just looking at it. Emotionalism made sure that their name wouldn’t go unnoticed anymore and that listeners would never stop coming back for more music. - Lilly Adams
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jerome Taylor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Lilly Adams is a freshman majoring in film/video. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Freshman / Film/Video Studies
Freshman / Broadcast Journalism
Senior / Public Relations