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Songs of the Year: 2007's Best Music

What 2007 lacked in groundbreakingly great CDs, it more than made up for with good CDs: Filling a Top 10 list was trickier this year than, say, filling the bottom half of a Top 40.

Each obsessive music fan views the obligatory year-end Top 10 list differently, but best-ofs tend to be most effective when the selections are purely a matter of personal taste — "favorites" rather than "best." That's one reason this batch omits a lot of excellent records that have been widely praised through critical consensus: Radiohead's In Rainbows (far more than the sum of the band's distribution methods), Amy Winehouse's Back to Black (a timeless, hooky, hedonistic throwback), and on and on. Those records had more of a cultural impact than these 10, but they don't spend as much time coursing through this particular obsessive music fan's iPod.

Even after eliminating those ringers, though, this list is loaded with old reliables — a virtual opposite of its 2006 counterpart, which featured left-field sleeper after left-field sleeper: Shearwater, The Thermals, Sera Cahoone, and so on. This year, even with the biggest of the best extracted from the equation, the known quantities couldn't be refused.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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