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Top 10 ... so far

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Everybody loves lists. They love to talk about them. They love to fight about them, and, more than anything, they love to make them.


They're controversial. They spark arguments. And occasionally, they start fights, and then somebody gets arrested, you've got to come up with bail money and the fun is over.

Hopefully, you'll all stay calm and give me constructive criticism after you read my Top 10 albums of 2007 ... so far. But, I know people generally aren't that kind. So, feel free to bash me and call me every name in the book after scanning what I feel is the greatest halfway-through-2007 list of this year.

1. The Shins - Wincing The Night Away (Sub Pop, - Another collection of winsome, quirky pop-rock from these Kinks-worshipping, desert songsmiths (pictured at right). They still wear their sunny, '60s British Invasion influences on their sleeves, but Wincing The Night Away is a darker affair, still lush but more world weary. Growing older ain't always a bad thing.

2. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond (Fat Possum, - In a year of unexpectedly great reunions, Dinosaur Jr.'s was special. Gathering the original lineup of J. Mascis, drummer Murph and bassist Lou Barlow — that in and of itself being an epic feat considering the circumstances of Barlow's departure — Dinosaur Jr. roared with a thunderous, melodic noise that laid to waste the indie-rock landscape. Mascis has a whole slew of tricks up his sleeve, unleashing ear-splitting, gymnastic guitar solos that swoop and dive like fighter jets in a vicious aerial dogfight. Amazing comeback.

3. Hopewell - Beautiful Targets (Tee Pee Records, - Released today, Hopewell's Beautiful Targets is a psych-rock masterpiece, symphonic like Sgt. Pepper but still grounded in melody and bristling with pop energy. You need to discover this band. Strings, horns, big, sweeping guitars and grand piano all collide in beautiful crashes and radiant explosions.


4. Young Galaxy - S/T (Arts and Crafts, - Incredible space-rock debut full of shoegazer wonder and melodic magic from a Canadian collective that connects the dots between Pink Floyd, Spaceman 3, The Church and Ride. Beautiful and life-affirming, it could be the soundtrack for your next prayer.


5. Buffalo Tom - Three Easy Pieces (New West Records/Ammal Records, - Another reunion that worked, Buffalo Tom's Three Easy Pieces is easy to fall in love with. Guileless melodies, lyrics that are mature, heartfelt and honest, sparkling musicianship — it's all here. From top to bottom, this is Buffalo Tom's best effort, hands down.

Stay tuned for the rest of my Top 10, due out tomorrow — same time, same place, same Bat station.