Back to 2007 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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Ah, 2007, an album ranking year that I don’t think will get the worst of Reddit angry with me, but a year that feels transitional in our music scene. While 2005 felt like a pop-punk apex, and 2006 felt like bands exploring new sounds and taking big swings, I look back on 2007 and see the shifts that started the year before playing out in significant ways. A music scene that now has spread and is straddling pop, punk, alternative, hardcore, and everything in between at a rapid pace. Reading over the AbsolutePunk.net staff list from 2007 shows me a shift not just in the taste of the staff and community underway, but the beginning of a changing of the guard in just what kind of music was extremely popular within the music scene itself.

On the pop-punk side, you see the genre start to morph. We’re just about to begin the neon-phase, and bands like Four Year Strong and The Wonder Years are gaining in popularity. Bands from the previous era are trying to find out where they fit in. The Starting Line release Direction and have a surefire hit in “Island” that never finds its footing with the mainstream, and the band will go on hiatus not long after. Yellowcard returns with Paper Walls, which I called a redemption, and one of the better pop-punk albums released in years, but it also never quite catches on, and the band will also go on their hiatus within a year. The Academy Is… take a shot with Santi, and while loved by a few die-hards, it seemed to pause any momentum they had. Motion City Soundtrack leans into the melody with Even If It Kills You, and I will never understand the community backlash to that album. To this day, I’m still angry it wasn’t better received at the time, and while I love a lot of what came next, I could never shake that it felt like a regression. The kings of the old guard, Fall Out Boy, show they’re not ready to give up the crown when they put out Infinity on High. A band at the peak of their powers let me “leak” a track on our website, we get featured on MTV, and the group continues their tradition of being extremely polarizing within the scene while having a knack for keeping their sound updated and fresh enough to continue to see mainstream success. A trick they’ll deploy for years to come.

And it’s not just pop-punk in this metamorphosis. Looking at the staff list, we see Say Anything’s In Defense of a Genre at the top. A double album that is filled with a who’s who of guest vocalists from the scene. An album that even at the time, we weren’t certain what to do with such a collection. Was it genius? Was it trash? Everyone with a keyboard had an opinion. It was an album that felt so anticipated and big on the website, the kind of record that felt like an event to discuss. That release and Anberlin’s Cities are the two albums that scream “AbsolutePunk.net” to me on this list. Two bands that if you read our website, you knew about and probably loved, but they weren’t the kind of thing anyone else was talking about.

This year sees Thrice following up Vheissu by going the elemental four EP route, and a little band called The Gaslight Anthem sneaking into the top thirty with Sink or Swim, a small taste of a group that would virtually define the entire website’s aesthetic within a few years. I am not surprised at all to see Jimmy Eat World in the top three, with Chase This Light holding up about as well as an album can all these years later. However, I am shocked at the high placement of Saves the Day’s Under the Boards. I don’t remember that album being that well-received on the website, and I don’t remember having many conversations about it at the time, or in years to follow.

These changes within our music world I also see reflected in the industry itself. Not only with labels trying to figure out what to do with the genre, but an artist like Radiohead releasing In Rainbows and upending the model for releasing and selling music in general. It’s interesting how many conversations at the time were centered around if this would be what every artist would do one day, what role labels would have going forward, and how much debate was around the entire idea of piracy in general. These years felt like peak internet-music-piracy and the era of leaks. Where everyone online knew how to find them, and the high-profile leaks, like Fall Out Boy’s Infinity on High, were covered by major publications and became events unto themselves. The release date didn’t matter to the forum kids nearly as much as the leak date. And it wouldn’t be until streaming services became that norm that this genie would find its way, just a little, back into the bottle. This year, in hindsight, is also where it feels to me that the internet had officially transitioned from a thing for a group of computer nerds into the thing where everyone was. From 2005 to 2008, MySpace was the most visited website on the internet, and this was right where I went from feeling like our community was the perfect size to feeling like it was untenable, and I needed help. I’d sell AbsolutePunk.net to Buzznet the following year.

When I look back at my list from this year, two things jump out to me in particular. First, this is a year where the album I thought was going to be a “stands the test of time classic” for me, is not even close to the album I’ve come back to the most. And second, I was terrified to admit to the internet how much I liked pop-music and would pick albums that I thought would make me look cool, over things I was actually listening to and loving. I cannot believe how much time and energy I wasted think about what albums were ok and cool to talk about on AbsolutePunk to avoid being made fun of. More specifically, I was a coward unable to say I really liked female-fronted music, and a goddamn idiot for not having Paramore’s Riot on my list. I read back over my review of that album and see a pathetic little boy qualifying every statement and trying to hide behind miserable snark and being hilariously wrong in so many places. It’s embarrassing.1 Our music scene had a massive sexism problem during this period that I just didn’t see; I was blinded by my privilege and my bullshit. It was a massive failure and something I think about with regret on a regular basis. From the lyrics in the songs to the way the music scene treated women, there are no excuses. We failed. I failed. And I am sorry.

When I re-ranked the 2007 albums, I used the same arbitrary rules as before, trying to think about the albums I listened to the most over the following years, trying to keep it as true to what was in “our world” at the time and therefore not grabbing a bunch of albums that I discovered way latter that also happened to come out that year.

Best of 2007 (Re-Ranking)

  1. Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light
  2. Yellowcard – Paper Walls
  3. The Starting Line – Direction
  4. Steel Train – Trampoline
  5. Anberlin – Cities
  6. A Wilhelm Scream – Career Suicide
  7. Motion City Soundtrack – Even if It Kills Me
  8. Paramore – Riot
  9. Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High
  10. Stars – In Our Bedrooms After The War
  11. Cary Brothers – Who You Are
  12. Thrice – The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water
  13. The National – Boxer
  14. Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
  15. The Graduate – Anhedonia
  16. Radiohead – In Rainbows
  17. Against Me! – New Wave
  18. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
  19. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
  20. Four Year Strong – Rise or Die Trying
  21. Iron and Wine – The Shepard’s Dog
  22. Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago
  23. Eisley – Combinations
  24. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
  25. Straylight Run – The Needles, The Space
  26. New Found Glory – From The Screen To Your Stereo Part 2
  27. Say Anything – In Defense of the Genre
  28. The Gaslight Anthem – Sink Or Swim
  29. Dustin Kensrue – Please Come Home
  30. The Academy Is… – Santi

The album I come back to more than any other from 2007 is Jimmy Eat World’s Chase This Light, and the amount of time I’ve spent with it, hell, I put a song from it on our wedding playlist, makes it an easy pick for the number one spot. After that, it gets pop-punk heavy with Yellowcard and The Starting Line. I think both of these albums are fantastic, and for a long time, I would have said this is my favorite Yellowcard album.2 Steel Train sees a massive jump up the list and this is a great look into the songwriting powerhouse of Jack Antonoff in his early years. That Say Anything album takes a huge plunge and has never been something that stood with me over the years. Maybe the haters were right and it’s just too long? Maybe the content of the songs didn’t attach themselves to me. Conversely, Anberlin’s Cities holds up this day3 and my love for A Wilhelm Scream has only gotten more pronounced with time. The next run in the top ten of Motion City Soundtrack, Paramore, and Fall Out Boy showcase for me that 2007 was one of the last years I loved multiple pop-punk albums all at the same time. In the following years, I’d always find a few in the genre I liked, but I don’t think I’ll ever see a top ten quite like this again.

Relient K’s Five Score and Seven Years Ago gets brought back to the list, it must have been an honorable mention that year, but I have listened to it more than other releases I originally had on here. The Academy Is… deserve some love, and I don’t know when I discovered Stars and The National, but I know that those two albums ended up playing an outsized role in my musical journey. That Thrice release might be the collection I go back to the least from the band, that Water EP is incredible, but I think I like the combination of all these sounds in their full-lengths better and always reach for one of those instead. I haven’t liked anything from Four Year Strong as much as I liked their debut, but I hardly ever return to it. And the hints of what’s to come from The Gaslight Anthem still excite me. That album would probably be higher, but I know I didn’t discover in great detail until after The ’59 Sound.

I don’t think 2007 Jason would understand 2020 Jason’s list. I think he’d make fun of me for how high all these pop-punk albums were and be a dick about it. 2020 Jason thinks 2007 Jason sucks though, so I don’t give a shit. What I do know is that I still listen to every single album in this top ten multiple times a year. Those albums, to me, have stood the test of time in ways I could have never predicted. I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since the last Starting Line full-length, and it sometimes feels like it was only yesterday that we were arguing over if Patrick Stump was saying “also into cats.” I can’t figure out where all those days went.

When people tell me they miss AbsolutePunk.net, I feel like bands must feel when fans tell them they miss their old sound; I understand it, but it boils me at the same time. I have a lot of fond memories of that website and going back over all of these best of lists lets me relive many of them. But it also brings up for me so much of the toxicity and how much of that was around me, and within me, as well. It reminds me why I had to start fresh, new, and build something that encapsulated who I am today and not who I was as a teenager. 2007 was a turning point in my life, a year of internal turmoil and strife, of realizing that I’m in over my head while trying to run a website with a flood of kids spending more time online. And as this wave hit, with social networks dominating and everyone searching out music leaks or hunting for new bands on AP.net or Purevolume, I would soon make the decision that completely changes the entire course of my career. But we’ll save that for next week.

I’ve put together a playlist on Spotify and Apple Music featuring music from the re-ranked top thirty. If you’ve never listened to these bands before, now’s as great a time as any.

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  1. I am, however, still quite proud of the “catchy as balls” line.

  2. Now I’d say it’s Southern Air.

  3. Except “Adelaide.” ??

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