Is Sydney on New Year's Eve working as a year-end visual theme for everyone?

Hope you enjoyed Monday's dose of year-end mania. Now, as promised, here are my 10 favorite records of 2007. I listened to more music during the past 12 months than ever before in my life -- a broader range of albums, more attentive listening and less retreat into older, more comfortable realms. (Movies and more tomorrow...)

Without further ado...

Is Sydney on New Year's Eve working as a year-end visual theme for everyone?

Hope you enjoyed Monday's dose of year-end mania. Now, as promised, here are my 10 favorite records of 2007. I listened to more music during the past 12 months than ever before in my life -- a broader range of albums, more attentive listening and less retreat into older, more comfortable realms. (Movies and more tomorrow...)

Without further ado...

10. Hugs & Kisses The Casualties of Happiness Listen The three members of local experimental outfit Hugs & Kisses describe theirs as X-rated children's music for adults. That means a combination of hip-hop, doo-wop, punk rock and the chutzpuh of Animal of The Muppets. Their debut record -- which singlehandedly made the much-hyped, short-lived Manup Music imprint worthwhile -- is an examination of life's highs and lows and how our desire for joy ultimately dooms us. For a full profile, click here.

9. Yeasayer All Hour Cymbals Listen Much like Paul Simon's Graceland, this record from Brooklyn's Yeasayer combines the best from both worlds -- literally. This is what happens when American rock musicians become fascinated by world rhythms but remain uninterested in trying to raise money for a third-world cause. The records moves quickly all over the map (from Ireland to Africa to the Middle East) and merges the joyous polyrhythms of tribal music with the studio sound of the West, unhinged from the Leftist intent of similar projects.

8. Wu-Tang Clan 8 Diagrams Listen Ghostface and other members of the expansive Wu-Tang Clan were miffed that producer RZA didn't enlist named producers to handle some of the tracks on their first studio effort since 2001. But RZA's dark, dense sampling and his obsession with psychedelic textures is what makes this record so amazing; pissing off his crew turned out to be a very smart business decision. GZA, Method Man, Ghost and Cappadonna don't always properly handle the bizarre soundscapes, but when they do, the result is some of the most intriguing hip-hop ever. (By the way, there's a really helpful guide to each member and his solo career on the website.)

7. Pharoahe Monch Desire Listen Even for indie emcees, Monch has remained a reclusive, secretive, wholly bizarre dude during the past decade or so. His return album, the first since Internal Affairs in 1999, is like a volcanic eruption -- an angry, pointed explosion from an underground force. With at least five great bangers and some audacious experiments (like a cover of Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome"), this bodes well for a future filled with Pharoahe Monch.

6. Dr. Dog We All Belong Listen The 10 or so people who caught Dr. Dog live at Little Brother's earlier this year know why I chose this album, why it's been playing periodically at my house throughout the year. The rest of you should check out this album mainly because it reminds you of the back side of Abbey Road. Even though it's fairly derivative, songs like "Alaska," "My Old Ways" and "Ain't It Strange" evince supremely likeable melodies and a band accomplishing a very difficult task -- making music that sounds like the back side of Abbey Road.

5. Various artists Oxford American Southern Music CD #9 Each year, the wonderful literary/cultural magazine compiles a mixtape of rare songs from the South, a region noted in the music world for incubating a number of different genres and fostering what arises from their frequent overlap. R&B, rockabilly, garage, country, bluegrass, swing, blues and jazz are represented on this album, which rolls gloriously from Daniel Johnston to David Banner. On first listen, you'll be surprised at all the great songs you've never heard and glad someone took the time to put them together.

4. The Thrills Teenager Listen My favorite Irish band since Thin Lizzy has already tackled two concept albums. The first was the most intriguing examination of the California myth since Pet Sounds, and the follow-up was a wholly likeable, though not as profound, look at the differences between an artist's life in theory and practice. This time around, the topic is being young, and the wistful nature of growing up is a perfect fit for the band's brand of sunny, joyous, explosive, orchestral pop. If I remember correctly, being a teenager is a confusing, ultimately unforgettable time, and the textures of "Midnight Choir" and "This Year" embody the melodrama of the invincible years.

3. Pissed Jeans Hope for Men Listen Mostly I hear that the Pissed Jeans first album is better from people whose reputations around Columbus are built on liking a band's first records first. Others who like music because of how it sounds seem to agree with this appraisal, though, and Shallow is a harsher, noisier record that works as an interesting document of post-hardcore. That their second effort does not work that way is why it's more important: Hope for Men is the sound of band realizing its own uselessness. There has always been an element of protest in hardcore music, and the genre has always worked to make itself obsolete. (You don't need protest music in a perfect world.) But around about song six, Pissed Jeans begins to realize that even the harshest, angriest bursts of noise matter little in a world of people more worried about Whole Foods than who's in the White House. They self-destruct into fits of distortion, and members can find consolation only in an ice cream cone. When you listen to "The Jogger" and "Caught Licking Leather," you're hearing a band collapse into itself like a dying star. A complete loss of ego and self-esteem is a fascinating thing to hear.

2. Panda Bear Person Pitch Listen At first, this soaring, grandiose project from Animal Collective's Noah Lennox sounds like Brian Wilson making a Christmas record. Then, as if from a dense fog, emerges one of most intriguing, difficult, ultimately unforgettable records of all-time. Lennox lists his music as dub on his MySpace.com page, and the sensability of that Jamaican art is certainly there, though it's warmed by a bedroom intimacy and enough layers to trek the Arctic. Fractured vocal bits and choir lines are scattered and repeated throughout an eclectic base of live instrumentation and loops chosen mostly for their ability to change shape over time. This album becomes a living, breathing thing that never sounds the same way twice.

1. Paper Airplane Middlemarch Listen I'm a professional music critic, which means I get paid to listen to music but also that listening to music -- one of my favorite hobbies -- has become work. Doing what I do means you have to come up with interesting things to say about music you hate, awful sounding releases other people claim are important and really challenging things that otherwise I'd turn off and toss aside. I wouldn't trade my gig for anything, but I miss being able to listen to music just to listen.

That's why Paper Airplane's debut record is my favorite of the year: It takes absolutely no effort to like. Singer Ryan Horns, who writes all the songs, is a discipline of The Beatles (he's probably say John, I'd argue Paul), and his songs have a bit of that intangible magic of Revolver and Abbey Road -- the alchemy fans are still trying to wrap their minds around and nail down. Songs like "Keeping Things Whole" and "Fire Escape" are immediately inviting and comfortable, as if they're from an old favorite album you'd put away and forgotten. The rest unfolds in similar fashion: Horns waxing poetically about the minutia of daily life, and his crack band following along with keys, drums, guitars and the occasional flourishes most are eager to overuse.

From start to finish, this is a stellar set of songs that you'll be humming in the shower for years.