Here are our year-end lists from 2007. Audio is no longer available (guess you should’ve visited the site back when we posted this stuff, huh?)
Day One (Lists from Dan and Andrew):
Happy Holidays, my babys.
Here’s your gift from us, and it’ll keep on giving for three more days. It’s this year’s Post-Rockist 2007 lists!
Due to the various musical tastes of our various contributors, we daren’t dare give you a commutative list (another reason is that we can’t do the math required). But these lists aren’t about the math, they’re about the music. Sure, some of us fall in line with the Great Arbiters of music taste like Pitchfork and some of us fall in line with the masses and some of us straddle the two and some of us choose the road less traveled, but equally rocked.
Sample tracks will be available for about two weeks. If you’re a record label and want us to take down a song, just let us know. No need to start a fuss.
DAN’S FAVORITE ALBUM’S OF 2007
10. Junior Senior –Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (buy)
Can I Get Get Get
Technically Hey Hey My My Yo Yo was released in Japan and parts of Europe in 2005, but didn’t make it to the U.S. until this year, but the good news is that is was totally worth the wait! Jesper and Jeppe are back having just as much fun as they ever did, but this time out adding another dimension to their sound. Moving away from the raw garage-disco attack of their debut album, D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat, Junior Senior focus more on melody, pop hooks and glossy production, while still maintaining their positive and playful rhymes about boys and girls.
9. Bruce Springsteen –Magic (buy)
Girls in their Summer Clothes
Bruce Springsteen finally allowed himself to return to the classic E Street Band sound on Magic, but instead of simply repeating old tricks, he brings their sound into the 21st century with great relevance. In 2002, Bruce reunited the E Street Band for the underrated gospel album, The Rising, but that album didn’t sound much like what fans were hoping for after decades of waiting for a reunion record. With Magic they’ll have nothing to complain about since it is chock full of classic Bruce material including hook-filled riff rockers, summertime nostalgia, songs of darkness and despair, and hopeful truth-seeking anthems that define the state America is in.
8. Feist –The Reminder (buy)
I Feel It All
It’s a shame that so many indie kids are going to be all over Feist since The Reminder brought her an unexpected mainstream acceptance, but too bad for them. This is an album that is impossible not to like with its sense of adventure as she moves from folk to indie rock to pop to jazz, proving that there’s nothing Leslie Feist isn’t willing to try. With every track achieving a different tone while somehow keeping a consistent mood over the course of the entire album, The Reminder is an incredibly satisfying listening experience and proves that Feist is going to be around for a long time.
7. Radiohead –In Rainbows (buy)
In what turned out to be the biggest music news story of the year, Radiohead shocked the world by announcing they would be releasing their new album online in one week and that people could choose how much they wanted to pay for it. Throughout their whole career Radiohead has been taking risks and shaking up the music industry, but this move came at a time when a perspective this radical was needed to get people thinking about the value of music. The only thing that could get in the way of this bold of a statement was if the music wasn’t as good as their previous work, but with In Rainbows, Radiohead came through and made an album that shows the band pushing ahead and try[aiing new things, while maintaining their gifts for melody, emotion, and rich sonic textures. In Rainbows is a much subtler album than they've made in the past and it takes a bit longer to digest, but it makes for one of the most rewarding things they've ever done.
6. Jay-Z --American Ganster (buy)
Roc Boys (And the Winner is!)
After disappointing fans and critics with last year's comeback album, Kingdom Come, Jay-Z marks his return to form with a classic that plays like the third in a trilogy along with Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint. Even though Hov is revisiting material that he's been covering his whole career, this time around he sounds totally inspired, breathing fresh insight and creativity into the rise and fall story of a gangster. On American Gangster Jigga does what he does best, brilliantly rhyming in his unwritten stream of consciousness style, proving he's just as on top of his game as he ever was.
5. LCD Soundsystem --Sound of Silver (buy)
All My Friends
James Murphy has a reputation of crafting irresistible beats that are impossible not to dance to, but with Sound of Silver, he reaches surprisingly emotional depths while retaining his trademark charm and playfulness. Songs like the reflective "Someone Great" and the anthemic "All My Friends" prove that James Murphy has a lot more heart to him than anybody would have guessed. On Sound of Silver he reinvents himself as the indie rock generation's version of a David Byrne or David Bowie figure that can have the best time possible while crafting some of the most moving music around, music that will come to define his era.
4. M.I.A. --Kala (buy)
M.I.A. could have followed up her breakthrough debut album Arular by going for a more mainstream approach, but luckily she went in the opposite direction and expanded her sound by combining disparate influences from all over the world. On Kala she somehow manages to sample The Clash and Bollywood soundtracks, reference Jonathan Richman and Black Francis, tell childlike stories and predict the apocalypse all while remaining consistent in her vision. All of these combined elements make Kala one of the most interesting albums of the year, which is a testament to M.I.A.'s boldness and her ability to say exactly what's on her mind no matter how complicated it might be.
3. The National --Boxer (buy)
No other album this year cast a spell and created its own world quite as well as The National's Boxer. With a consistent, yet diverse melancholy-filled post-punk sound, accentuated by Matt Berninger's baritone croon, The National managed to create a uniquely subtle album that reveals more upon each listen. Fans of both Leonard Cohen and U2 can find something to love about Boxer and the way it will put you in a darkly romantic mood that somehow feels exactly right.
2. Kanye West --Graduation (buy)
Everything I Am
Graduation may not be as epic or classic sounding as Kanye's other two records, but it's a step in the right direction. By cutting the skits, limiting the guest spots, tightening up each track and focusing heavily on his rhyming and production work, Kanye has honed his craft in a way that puts him in a whole other league than everyone else. There is no one in music today working as hard to be the Michael Jackson of his generation, someone who can be both artistically and commercially viable, while mixing genres and creating a whole new type of music that all kinds of people can't help but love.
1. Arcade Fire --Neon Bible (buy)
(Antichrist Television Blues)
In 2007 Arcade Fire proved that their critically acclaimed and universally loved debut album, Funeral, was no fluke. This is a gigantic band, both is size and in sound, that has a singular vision and is unafraid of making bold statements with their music in a time when people aren't supposed to feel things this intensely. With Neon Bible, Arcade Fire made a classic record that is both heartbreaking and inspiring that stays focused on the theme of setting your spirit free in a world that seems to be falling apart.
ANDREW'S "A LIST OF SOME NEW RECORDS THAT REALLY IMPRESSED ME THIS YEAR"
Baby Teeth, The Simp (buy)
Before I heard this album, I read or heard something about how it's going to be more "serious" than their first album, and I got worried. Baby Teeth's 2005 debut was sort of throwbackish as it channeled Elton John, chock full of '70s pop sensibilities and undeniable fun. The retro feel was supplemented with jokey lyrics about big trucks and velvet sweet melons, and imagining the same sound with introspective lyrics really didn't work in my mind. But then this came out, and I realized how much I'd underestimated this band's true talents. I'd considered frontman and primary songwriter Abraham Levitan (f.k.a. "Pearly Sweets") an entertaining curiosity who could write some catchy melodies, but this album proves that he is actually a powerful songwriter and lyricist, and the rest of Baby Teeth provide a solid backbone throughout. The songs have more variety this time around, from the awkward stomp of the title track to the pretty blips of "God Girlfriend" and the soaring soulpower of closer "Wolves," and the more personal lyrics sound like a genuine talent shedding his sarcastic skin and coming clean with the audience for the first time.
Behold... The Arctopus - Skullgrid (buy)
Skullgrid is the first real full-length by this spastic instrumental prog-metal trio after a few impressive EPs and their mission has become quite clear - play as many notes as possible and arrange them into sometimes identifiable "riffs," take a break for some spacey guitar lines, then go back and repeat step one again. Sometimes, instead of repeating that part, have Mike Lerner do the spacey guitar stuff while Colin Marston pounds away on his weird tapped bass/guitar hybrid and Charlie Zeleny hits as many drums as possible in uncomfortable and odd patterns. Then the drums can take a break while the two other guys play parts that sound like R2D2 having a nervous breakdown, then the drums will come back in and they'll play another metal riff, then of course there will be a syncopated pattern in a time signature that no one without advanced musical training can actually pin down. All this stuff is pumped into a fairly concise album, and the result is a dizzying robot war of a record that you need to hear to believe.
Big Business - Here Come The Waterworks (buy)
Noise-rock duo Big Business have always sort of sounded like the Melvins' little brothers, with bottom-heavy grooves and gruff vocals based in solid melodies. The long-running Melvins are more experimental and weirder than Big Business, and even when their experiments worked, their best records were uneven and difficult. The Melvins' 2006 album (A) Senile Animal toned down the weirdness and focused on melodies and rockitude and was one of my favorite albums of last year. Why the change? Well, for the writing and recording of that album, they invited both members of Big Business to join their band. And now Big Business is making their own new record, and the heavy majesty they injected into that Melvins record is distilled to its essence here. The songs are undeniably heavy, but I think if they were played more cleanly and sung more traditionally, they'd be really pretty. Yeah. They'd lose their oomph, though, and the oomph is awesome. You forget about the prettiness when bassist and vocalist Jared Warren yells, "Stampede!" as the song "Hands Up" comes barreling out of the gate, but it's the balance between those two elements that makes this record memorable.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times (buy)
Helpless Corpses Enactment
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum has been trying to make a record as amazing as their live show since they formed. They are, without a doubt, one of the finest live acts I've ever seen, with the home-made instruments and make-up and humor and loudness and meticulous performances of complicated instrumental parts and horrifying haircuts. And even though their songs are faithfully recreated on their studio albums, the collections of songs can seem unfocused and don't burst at the seams with the energy and theatricality of the live performances. Even though I don't think In Glorious Times has quite reached the righteousness of the live show, and though it's not as thematically focused as their last album Of Natural History, the songs work better this time around and the band seems to be going in the right direction. I'm not sure if this is actually one of my favorite albums of the year, but if someone is intrigued by this brief write-up and goes to see them when they come through town, then my inclusion of their album will have served its purpose. Seriously.
Canned Hamm - Sincerely Christmas (buy)
Please review the following facts about this album:
* Canned Hamm is a Canadian duo named Big Hamm and Lil' Hamm, who play Casio-pop novelty music, and this is their new album of original Christmas songs.
* They can't sing very well and their jokes sometimes don't make much sense.
* They have songs about making snow angels, overeating, office Christmas parties, getting drunk on eggnog, and cleaning up wrapping paper.
* One song features a freestyle rap by Little Baby Jesus, coming "straight outta Bethlehem."
The whole thing is totally absurd and silly, but just like their previous two albums (the bubblegum pop and unfunky funk of Karazma! and the disco of Erotic Thriller) the songs are often uproariously funny and also, um, good. If anything in this brief paragraph has sounded remotely funny or appealing to you, then you will probably love this album.
The following albums are wonderful, too, but I decided to highlight some that won't be on many other lists:
The Fiery Furnaces, Widow City
PJ Harvey, White Chalk
Malignancy, Inhuman Grotesqueries
Maximo Park, Our Earthly Pleasures
Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Ween, La Cucaracha
STAY TUNED TOMORROW FOR MORE LISTS OF MUSIC AND WRITING ABOUT THOSE LISTS....
Day Two (Lists from Bryan and Scotter):
BRYAN'S ALBUMS OF 2007 (Bryan writes for the Post-Rockist courtesy of Better Chatter).
10. Liars --Liars (buy)
Sailing To Byzantium
Liars have a big bag of tricks. They follow their heavy krautrock opus with an album containing some actual radio-friendly songs. "Houseclouds" sounds like a long lost Beck tune, "Sailing To Byzantium" eerily sounds like Radiohead, and "Freak Out" is pure snarling Stooges. There's still a heaping spoonful of their classic murk, but Liars is as varied an album as I've heard all year while being raw, upbeat, and straightforward. It's fun listening to a band known for experimentation prove they can play by the rules. I consider this their Loaded.
9. The Twilight Sad --Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (buy)
That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy
As you can tell from the band name and album title, this Scottish quartet is a little bummed out. That doesn't mean their music isn't pretty. Layered My Bloody Valentine-inspired guitars and vivid lyrics make Fourteen Autumns' angst touching rather than whiney. Lead singer James Graham occasionally screams lines with an accent so thick and charming it's tough not to feel for him. In a year full of great danceable albums, it was refreshing to hear The Twilight Sad's big rock sound and tormented lyrics.
8. Jens Lekman --Night Falls Over Kortedala (buy)
The Opposite of Hallelujah
I feel like such a putz for getting into Jens so late, but I'm glad I finally did. All the comparisons to The Magnetic Fields and Jonathan Richman had me curious yet suspicious, but Night Falls presented me an artist who clearly had his own voice (and what a voice at that). At first listen, the sweeping strings and playful woodwinds might seem a bit schmaltzy, but he delivers each word with such sincerity I'm forced to believe this is how Jens truly feels. His lyrics paint such interesting metaphors and touching scenes that it makes me want to pour a glass of wine, get sentimental, and dig into his entire back catalog.
7. Arcade Fire --Neon Bible (buy)
(AntiChrist Television Blues)
Following up Funeral was no enviable task, but these Montrealians(?) gave it their all. There's a sense of foreboding from the start as Win Butler sings of bombs and nightmares after a wave of thunder washes in. The album is packed with stories of fear, loss, and a grim future. "Intervention" is easily the best anti-Iraq War song I've heard and serves as the ultimate hipster protest anthem. Despite all the darkness, it's far from depressing. It's a call to action for anyone frustrated with our current political climate, economic climate, or climate climate. "My Body Is A Cage" closes the album not with fear, but with hope, as Butler pleads, "Set my spirit free." (Must Listen --"Intervention")
6. Justice - â€ (buy)
Throw this album on and you will D.A.N.C.E. for the next 48 minutes, not including the residual dancing that will follow. Their electro is so intricately crafted and instantly catchy, it's going to be a daunting task for them to follow this up with something better. Some people claim they've lifted too much from Daft Punk, but Justice infuse harder house edges, some Motown sing-alongs, and considerably less cheesiness than their French idols. I've regretted every moment since I failed to score tickets to see them in concert. Not because I won't have another opportunity, but because I desperately need to dance their music out of my head and onto the floor.
5. Animal Collective --Strawberry Jam (buy)
For Reverend Green
As a lover of AC, I can't get enough of their fusion of tribal rhythms, innocent/creepy lyrics, and Brian Wilson-inspired melodies. Strawberry Jam is their most (relatively) accessible album to date. The tunes are more focused and simple, straying from their previous norm of using over 100 tracks per song. They've sacrificed sprawling tracks for uniform bounciness throughout. I've found it nearly impossible not to jump around like a twelve-year-old while listening to songs like "Peacebone" or "Winter Wonder Land."
4. Of Montreal --Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (buy)
Once upon a time, men like David Bowie and Marc Bolan pranced around looking like women and posturing with excessive machismo. Of course their music had heart, truth, and wit as well. You can now lump Kevin Barnes into that mix. Of Montreal dole out sugar-coated synth while Barnes confidently sings about being unconfident. Hissing Fauna is a breakup album full of anxiety, but it doesn't revel in sadness despite Barnes baring his soul about relying on antidepressants, unabashed anger towards his ex, and the inability to flee his frustrations. The melodies are so bouncy and catchy, it almost makes getting your heart broken sound fun. Almost. (Must Listen --"The Past Is A Grotesque Animal")
3. Radiohead --In Rainbows (buy)
I've always been a sucker for all things hauntingly beautiful, so obviously I'm a big Radiohead fan. Four years after their last album, they gave the world just over a week to guess what they're next move was. More isolated? More ominous? More electronic? Radiohead's answer to all of these was a resounding NO. It's there most melodic album since OK Computer and their most personal since The Bends. I can't help but get goose bumps when Jonny Greenwood's guitar takes center stage 40 seconds into "15 Step." Everything I love about Radiohead (Thom's moody lyrics and vocals, Phil's creative percussion, Jonny's delicate guitar, Ed's angelic backing vocals, Colin's efficient bass, and just the right amount of piano and strings) is summed up in the five-minute "Reckoner."
2. M.I.A. --Kala (buy)
When I was younger I couldn't stand samples, but I grew to realize the resulting songs could live separately without detracting from the originals. What's wrong with using a great riff to create an entirely different piece of art? Here, M.I.A. samples beats from New Order to cash registers while spitting lyrics from The Modern Lovers to Bollywood disco hits. All of it blends into vibrant scenes of a hungry and dangerous third-world setting where gunshots provide the rhythm. For me it doesn't make a bit of difference whether M.I.A. is truly being political or just cultivating an image. With lyrics this creative and beats this good, she could sing about gum drops and puppy dogs and still make it interesting.
1. LCD Soundsystem --Sound of Silver (buy)
All My Friends
With so many anticipated albums coming out this year, I was probably most nervous about Sound of Silver. I played James Murphy's first album repeatedly for about a month after I bought it, but with the dance-rock revolution seemingly in comfortable territory, I didn't quite know where he could go from there. Who knew all it took was making the music a little more personal. The snark is still there in "North American Scum" and "Get Innocuous," but my favorite one-two punch of the year comes in "Someone Great" and "All My Friends." These songs perfectly capture the struggles of young adulthood: maturely coping with loss, discovering your priorities, and becoming someone you might not want to be. Listening to "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" while riding the subway home from my temp job gave me a feeling Murphy's experienced some of the same lows I have. He makes fusing catchy dance beats with truthful, unpretentious lyrics seam effortless.
SCOTTER'S ALBUMS OF 2007
10. PJ Harvey - White Chalk (buy)
Grow, Grow, Grow
I've never really been a huge P.J. Harvey fan, which is probably why I liked this album so much while many of her most avid fans disliked it. Much ado has been made about the fact that Harvey chose the piano as the primary instrument for the album, an instrument she is not as adept at playing as the guitar. But really, with songs this intense and brooding, what more is needed than an incessant pounding of chords and subtle percussion creaking and cracking like the floorboards of a musty old Victorian mansion? Harvey's voice is angelic, although you're not sure which angel is showing up each track, the angel of hope or the angel of death. In a year when several well-known artists deviated from their established sound to try something new (and I'm thinking of Wilco and Radiohead, in particular), White Chalk was for me a far more unified and interesting affair than the others.
Favorite lyric: "Oh God, how I miss you" from "The Piano"
9. Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down the Thunder Canyon (buy)
In Ray Davies' "unauthorized autobiography," X-Ray, the character Julie opines, "Have you ever thought about what it would be like to write without fear?" I'm taking the quote out of context, but I've always wondered what that would be like. Well, I won't say that Devendra Banhart acheives this feat completely--we all have our doubts and doubters looking over our shoulders, making us a little less fearless in our creativity than we would like. But "without fear" is the best way to describe Banhart's songs and songwriting. Most of the songs are guileless and fun without feeling the need to apologize for being so, and the ballads are all very heartfelt and honest. Musically, Banhart and his band run the gamut, from classic rock guitar thumpings beneath sitar-like frills ("Tonada Yanomaninista"), mambo and samba stylings in the various Portuguese-sung tracks, to Noel Coward-esque ditties like "So Long, Old Bean" and Dave Brubek borrowings on "Little Sea Horse." When I close my eyes while listening to "Lover" I can almost see Devendra fronting the Jackson Five.
Favorite lyric: "You want to know: Who wrote the Book of Job? And you want to know: Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? Well, I did. I did." from "Shabop Shalom"
8. Jens Lekman --Night Falls Over Kortedala (buy)
The Opposite of Hallelujah
If not for the first two songs, "And I Remember Every Kiss" and "Sipping On The Sweet Nectar," this album very well may have been my Number 1 of the year. I was extremely excited about this album--I had listened to Oh You're So Silent Jens approximately 1,032 times--but after listening to the first two tracks, I completely lost interest in Kortedala. It wasn't until I saw a solo performance of "The Opposite of Hallelujah" on the old YouTube that I returned to the third track, which is probably my favorite song of the year. The remainder of the album is nearly as good--excellent pop with enough musical invention to keep the album interesting throughout, along with the gooeyist, loveliest sentiments for the lover and dreamer in us all. Once you fall completely in love with the album, you'll be able to overlook the flaws, which is kind of how long-lasting relationships work anyway.
Favorite lyric: "Your father's mailing me all the time. He says he just wants to say hi. I send him out-of-office autoreplies." from "A Postcard To Nina"
7. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (buy)
Pieces of What
I first listened to Oracular Spectacular just a few weeks ago--just in time to make my Top Ten. I can't really say that MGMT sounds like one artist or another since they've so thoroughly synthesized their influences and since nearly every song is different in style and tenor. But I'll try. The recipe consists of a cup of Marc Bolan. A half teaspoon of Air. A pinch of New Radicals. A few dabs of Flaming Lips and Muse, with David Bowie sprinkled in. Mix in falsetto harmonies, youthful optimism, and a heartbeat rhythm for dancing, and you have my Number 7 album of the year. They tour often and all over and have a very tight sound. A signatory of Columbia, it will be interesting to see what they can make of themselves in 2008.
Favorite lyric: "And in a couple of years, tides have turned to boos and cheers" from "The Youth"
6. Bishop Allen - The Broken String (buy)
Bishop Allen's The Broken String played far too often as background music for my daily tasks only because it's so damn catchy. But upon my very first listen, I knew something very interesting was going on with this album. The first song, "The Monitor," takes as its apparent subject the Union Civil War Ironside that battled the Confederate Merrimack. The song compares this 150-year old naval battle to the everyday struggles of being in a band in the 21st century, in the way that you might try to make yourself feel better about your crummy problems by thinking about how tough it must have been during World War II. The song is a brilliant work of anachrony, moving us through time from the battle to the band (perhaps engaged in a battle of the bands) and back.
Self-conscious and imaginative, quite hum-able and dancey, The Broken String is palpably pleasant to listen to, but close listenings reveal an unexpectedly mysterious album. The great variation of sounds and styles prevent it from getting old and will keep Bishop Allen cued on your iPod or choice mp3 player for months.
Favorite lyric: "I tell the taxi driver "to the park or [?]” and his gloves are pristine white, just like the girls I used to know would wear to dance their first cotillion, every single one of them named Jennifer.” from “The Chinatown Bus” (NOTE: If anyone can tell me what Justin Rice sings at the [?] above, please write to email@example.com ASAP. I’ve spent a lot time trying to figure out what he sings there and I’m sure all of the crappy lyrics sites out there are dead wrong.)
5. The Tragically Hip – World Container (buy)
Last Night I Dreamed You Loved Me
“The Lonely End of the Rink” sets a lovers’ quarrel at a hockey rink and is one of the worst ideas The Tragically Hip have ever had. But this album is still my Number Five for the year. After 24 years as a band, The Hip continue to be one of the most overlooked and underrated bands by the American music establishment.
While World Container is not dominated by a thematic glue, the songs carry subtle connections that make them gel together nicely. One of my favorite moves is the use of the same great line (which, as you can see, is my favorite lyric on the album) as the first lyric to two vastly different songs, “The Kids Don’t Get It” and “Pretend,” forming a narrative connection between the two. Singer and lyricist Gordon Downie has always been one of my favorites and his delivery and lyrical dramatics are as good as it gets for me, with the possibly exception of Dan Bejar.
Favorite lyric: “‘If I ask you a question are you gonna lie to me?’ ‘Is that your question? Cuz that one is easy!’” from “The Kids Don’t Get It” and “Pretend.”
4. Voxtrot – Voxtrot (buy)
Brother in Conflict
This Austin, Texas fivesome has been earning some hype with two EPs released in 2006 and finally released a long-awaited full length this year that should be on several Top 10, 15, 20, 25 lists, but isn’t. I’m really baffled by this. Perhaps it’s because the album contains melodies that are a bit too catchy (you know how critics can disdain bands who aren’t too difficult). But the album can challenge you without having to poke you in the rib with a large stick. Its intensity is not always of the fist-pumping kind, although you will find yourself pumping your fist to such introspective lyrics as “I got to lose my idols to find my voice,” which is kind of weird as far as fist pumping goes.
Lead singer/songwriter Ramesh Srivastava’s lyrics often read like a journal, detailing broken relationships, lover’s quarrels, family problems, and the need to break out of one’s old skin to realize a fuller potential. This may seem a bit adolescent, but it’s a really really good journal, written with great feeling, perception, and with the assistance of a dog-eared dictionary with a well-worn binding. “Ghost” sounds like the best song that Keane never wrote and never will. “Stephen” will become your favorite song to sing to your friend named Stephen.
A final reason why I like Voxtrot so much: When I saw them live, their bassist Jason Chronis gave me a warm, fuzzy Paul McCartney feeling on stage that just made my night.
Favorite Lyric: Every single word of “Stephen.”
3. Bowerbirds – Hymns to a Dark Horse (buy)
In Our Talons
“Back to when I was born on a full moon. I nearly split my momma in two” begins Bowerbirds’ Hymns For A Dark Horse. This opening is unnerving, no matter how mellifluously sung. What follows is a collection of songs that attempts to get to the bottom of something that is as mysterious as it is essential. Birds and insects, wood and leaf, starry skies and ominously cloudy nights, desperate humans and ghosts often make up the characters of this sublime album (and I use “sublime” in the Burkean sense of something both awe-inspiring and terrifying). Phil Moore’s vocals are sweet, but staid; he sings like one inspired by his muse to sing of a great foreign place, but with the sedate composure of a prophet. His nylon-stringed guitar is never picked with flair, but with a quiet, tribal intensity.
Beth Tacular, the accordionist and backup vocalist, nearly breaks down the delicate balance between Moore’s singing and his strumming. Her backup vocals are just a bit out of tune–they don’t add harmony as much as subtle dissonance, like a bird cawing ominously in the distance. Her contributions on the accordion are equally troubling. Her notes cut into the soundscape as much as they contribute to it, leaving that unnerving balance even more unnerving.
There’s something profoundly Biblical about Bowerbirds’ music. I think the biggest mistake someone can make is thinking that they are Walden-toting hippies. This is the darkest album I’ve heard this year, and the most moving, because they capture something mysterious about the human spirit and reveal it to us in a dark wood amidst all of the dangerous forces that civilization thought it could bury in cement and steel.
Favorite Lyrics: “The room calls to me, says we’re all strung out” from “Bur Oak.”
2. The High Strung – Get the Guests (buy)
Maybe You’re Coming Down With It
I’m pretty sure mine will be one of the only lists this year that includes The High Strung’s Get the Guests. I don’t think a lot of critics have even given the album a listen, but I can’t blame them too much because I certainly wouldn’t have bought this album had I not moved to Detroit this year and determined to discover as many great Michigan bands as possible (and there are manyindeed). Like my favorite Detroit bands, The High Strung doesn’t sound like everyone’s misconception of how Detroit sounds (ie, Garage Rock). Musically, The High Strung cover several modes of pop writing: hyperactive rock anthems (“He’s Got No Soul,” “Rimbaud/Rambo”), driving pop fanfares (“What A Meddler!”), funky romps (“Maybe You’re Coming Down With It,” “Missed Easily”), heartbreaking acoustic ballads (“Arrow,” “Childhood”). But what is most striking to me about the album–what makes it my Number Two album of the year–is the fact that every song is full musically but incomplete lyrically. Don’t get me wrong, these lyrics are polished. But there’s something about Josh Malerman’s narratives that require the listener to connect his or her own dots. Sung in his high-timbred voice, Malerman’s words leave me itchy to figure out what’s really going on. He’s not giving us all of the facts. He’s leaving something out of the stories. He’s not tying up loose ends. He’s leaving that work for us.
What is the relationship between the opening track, “What a Meddler!”, and the closing track, “The Meddler?” What is the “it” in “Maybe You’re Coming Down With It?” What is “this thing” in “He’s Got No Soul?” What is the meaning of the singer’s defiance in “Watch Me Sustain the Early Days” (one of my favorites on the album)? The album’s liner notes contain a nota bene warning that “Names, characters, places, and incidents [on the album] are products of the author’s imagination.” If so, Malerman is an omniscient narrator who’s leaving out details that keep his characters from becoming stable in our minds’ eyes, but the result (I believe) is that the characters become easier to inhabit, because the listener is forced to fit inside the shell of their characteristics and peculiar situations. Like Bishop Allen’s The Broken String, Get the Guests delivers both as an occasion for reflection and an occasion for rocking.
One more thing: Chad Stalker is a mind-blowing bass guitarist.
Favorite lyrics: “The wheel of fortune came to a stop. Looks like we lost” from “The Meddler,” “It’s built to make you believe the house came with no key.” from “Maybe You’re Coming Down With It,” and “I’ve been no good so good; it’s hard to describe” from “The Baddest Ship.”
Thanks to Detroit music blogger Jasper who gave me the notion that Hissing Fauna and the EP Icons, Abstract Thee really make a cohesive whole and, consequently, the best album of the year. I don’t like Hissing Icons (as I’ll call the two discs from now on) as much as some of their other work, in particular, Adhils Arboretum and Satanic Panic in the Attic. But it is a work of great imaginative and musical art, more so than any previous Of Montreal album. Perhaps it’s because I was a doubting philosophy major and can find solace in so danceable an existentialist manifesto. Perhaps it’s because I can be glad I’m not in the state of mind that Kevin Barnes must have been in to write songs of such isolation, desperation, yearning, and frenetic confusion. The album is a cry for help that is self-help; sado-masochism for the sake of survival. There are so many ideas, both lyrical and musical, within the compass of Barnes’ powers that they could barely fit within the scope of these songs, but somehow he makes them all fit without overdoing it, filling the songs with as much as they can take but not more, unlike earlier albums like Coquelicot where his musical cup runneth way the hell over. And on tracks as diverse as “Gronlandic Edit,” “Suffer for Fashion,” “She’s a Rejector,” and “Miss Blonde Your Papa is Failing,” Barnes shows that he’s the most talented and versatile vocalist in music. His voice is so dulcet in “Miss Blonde Your Papa is Failing” that it makes me shudder.
As far as I’m concerned, Hissing Icons is the closest any Elephant 6 band has come to In An Aeroplane Over the Sea, which is the best possible compliment I can give to any album or band.
Favorite lyrics: “I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god, but which one? Which one do I cho-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-se?” from “Gronlandic Edit” and “Eva, I’m sorry, but you will never have me. To me you’re just some faggy girl, and I need a lover with soul power. And you ain’t got no soul power.”
After a 2007 of listening to several 2006 releases I did not get to last year, I can confidently say that if I had the chance to revise my picks from last year, there would be a three-way tie for first between Bob Dylan’s Modern Times, Joanna Newsom’s Ys, and Destroyer’s Rubies.
Day Three (Lists from Amy and E. Kula):
2007: Return to Indie Rock Mountain: The Mix CD by Amy
Wracked, anguished and awestruck after my typically tumultuous freshman year of college, and blessed with my very first CD burner (built into my computer!!), I made a mix CD that I thought would express to my friends what a very special, significant and emotionally trying time I’d had over those eight months. As a mix CD it was problematic: strictly chronological (in September I saw Dar Williams; in November I went home for Thanksgiving and saw 8 Mile in theatres, hence the Eminem track in between Lila Downs and fucking Dispatch), too many songs by the same artist (like Modest Mouse, which I had just discovered) and my taste in music was, at the time, terrible (hence, once again, Eminem. And Dispatch).
But the first semester of my sophomore year was even MORE full of chaos and drama as I learned that everything I had thought about the world and my life during my freshman year of college was all wrong (and that my taste in music was, in fact, terrible). It was so full of chaos and drama, in fact, that I had to create a commemorative mix CD at the end of the first semester. It became a great tradition, a rite of passage into breaks and summers, a way to close things up, a reflective album to listen to in the car on my way home.
Several important things happened to me this year. I quit one job and started another far more wonderful job. I moved out of one apartment and into another. I broke up with an Edan-worshipping, beat-making boyfriend and started dating a 12-string-strumming, Phil-Collins-poster-posting kind of guy. In my writing I started using adjectives made out of several mish-mashed words. In literature I believe these syntactical tics are called kennings, and I hope they go away soon.
But most relevant to you, dear reader: despite my questionable ability to pay my monthly subscription fee, I joined eMusic! And for the first time in a long time, I found myself at least marginally hip to what the kids are calling “music” these days. And I like it! I also had an iPod for a while, but it was an old iPod that I bought from a friend and it was fully dysfunctional within two months.
So for the first time since college, I made a mix CD, even though I normally think “here are the tracks on my latest mix CD” articles are kind of tiresome, and even though, because of my excursions in the slick world of new music, it kind of reads like an top indie singles list, and even though, strictly speaking, not all of these tracks were released in 2007. No matter! They have a place here! And here they are! Totally unedited and authentic!
Party on 4th Street” – Black Nasty
from Funky, Funky Detroit. 2004. (buy)
This is from a compilation of rare Detroit funk and soul, released to give credit to Detroit’s sometimes-overlooked-in-favor-of-Motown Northern Soul scene. I spent some time getting cozy with record diggers and dancing at Milwaukee’s legendary Get Down, a monthly spin of unreleased and hard-to-find old soul jams. This was a funky, sweaty, dance party kind of year. And I really did go to some parties on Fourth Street this year. Well –at least a basketball game. Down on Fourth Street.
Mysterious Object” – Hulot
from The World, 2007.
This is my ex-boyfriend and even though he still makes me mad, he spent a good six months of the year working on this debut album and I will not be able to think of 2007 without thinking of his very good music and the incredible shows he threw in attics, basements and barrooms.
Swim Team” – Baby Teeth
from The Simp, 2007. (buy)
Andrew wrote eloquently and accurately about Baby Teeth’s remarkable sophomore album, and there is little I have to say to elaborate, besides to note that Baby Teeth was one of three bands that I didn’t get sick of listening to this year, and that their show in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day just might have been the best show I went to all year. If I were making a “top this and that” list, this release would easily make top five.
(Track not available)
I Feel It All” – Feist
from The Reminder. 2007. (buy)
This hit single is mix-CD ready; in fact, I was introduced to it on a mix CD that someone sent me from the West Coast. Feist’s last album was solid, but she really shines here. She makes you wonder how she found out so much about your life–in a way that makes you almost hate her. Except that you love her.
The Rooster” – Big Boi
from Speakerboxx, 2003.
It’s amazing how classic this double album is already –it’s only been a few years. I revisited Outkast this year after falling in love with them all over again late in 2006. For a solid month in late winter, not a day went by that I did not wake up to Outkast.
(Track not available)
Back Up Train” – Al Green
Back Up Train, 1967. (buy)
This was a break-up song. I will not lie. It made me cry the first time I heard it, so of course I wanted to listen to it all the time when I was sad and wanted to cry during the break-up.
Heretics” – Andrew Bird
from Armchair Apocrypha, 2007. (buy)
I have never not loved Andrew Bird with my whole music-loving heart. Andrew Bird’s music evokes all of the different kinds of love I have for all of the different kinds of music there are in the world. A bold statement, maybe, but no one has stirred my heart the way Andrew Bird has over the years. In some ways I’ve been ready for him to disappoint me, but this hushed, sleepy album, hushed and sleepy though it was, did not disappoint in the least. Au contraire! It amazed!
Now This is Love” – The Trusty Knife. Not yet released! (myspace)
It was that Candlier’s show I went to in June that really changed everything for me over the summer, and it was my good friends in the Candliers that introduced me to this truly fabulous Milwaukee band. I think they’re kind of destined for fame, love and diamonds.
“Lover” - Devendra Banhart
from Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, 2007. (buy)
Every time I think I don’t like Devendra Banhart that much –too weird, too warbly –he charms me.
For Once in My Life” – Stevie Wonder
from For Once in My Life. 1967. (buy)
I listened to this song ALL THE TIME when I found out about my new job in July. I think it’s one of the most joyful songs ever recorded.
Don’t Make Me a Target” – Spoon
from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, 2007. (buy)
When this album came out I kept hearing these singles all around town and thinking, “What is this band? Is this awesome? Do I love this song?” And the answer was: yes it is, yes I do, and it’s Spoon. All of the cool kids have loved Spoon forever, and like all of the not-as-cool kids, I never bothered to care much about them before this album came out.
(Track not available)
12. “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider” – Of Montreal
from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? 2007.(buy)
I gave this album so many chances and never warmed to it. Then Andrew said, “Hey, do you think that one Of Montreal song on that new album I think is so incredible is about their show at Beloit?” We listened to it for a while, considered it, decided it had to be. Girls kissing girls? A swing by a church? (Further fact checking on Andrew’s part proved us wrong). I had to stay up late that night to work on a story for the magazine and listened to the album over and over and over again. In the morning I was a convert to the fashionable idea that this band and this new album were both monumental. I saw them in concert and was moved and flushed and excitable for days. Then I regretted not seeing them in Beloit a number of years ago when they played in the basement of our campus bar where there were likely a number of girls kissing girls and DJs playing dead jams. It took me months to shake my obsession with Of Montreal and get back to the other good stuff going on in the world.
(Track not available)
Plus Ones” – Okkervil River
from The Stage Names, 2007. (buy)
I came upon a great deal of free tickets in the fall and saw a lot of bands that should’ve been good but weren’t (I have to say, I have no interest in giving The National a good, considered, intelligent listen having seen them in concert not once but twice now and having found them eye-stabbingly boring on both occasions). Okkervil River was a nice surprise. I heard a lot of this sort of angry, highly referenced little band in college, but they have become much better, and this album shows them at their very best: poppy, smart, smug sometimes, wrought other times, on the whole not unlike a margarita –salty on the outside, sweet at the heart, but astringent.
The Orchids” – Califone.
from Roots and Crowns, 2006. (buy)
I told you in 2006 that this album was great even before I listened to it. Well, I listened to it this year. And I was right.
Shirin” – Jens Lekman
from Night Falls Over Kortedala, 2007. (buy)
The first time I heard this song, I was driving back to work after a business errand, and it was raining, and I saw a young father holding his son’s hand and crossing the street in a very bad part of town, and this song was on the radio and I cried and cried. I got back to the office and my boss said, “Are you on your period?” And then our designer said, “Ewww, TMI!” Thanks, guys, for ruining everything that is beautiful.
Streets of Fire” – The New Pornographers
Twin Cinema, 2005. (buy)
On the drive from Minneapolis back home to Milwaukee, I heard “Letter From An Occupant” and was reminded that few other songs have meant so much to me in my life. And then I realized I’d never heard Mass Romantic all the way through. So I listened to it, and then revisted Electric Version, and then Twin Cinema, which I had never fussed with, and then I started listening to Destroyer, and I fell into a rabbit-hole and life was nothing but the smart, sexy, obtuse New Pornographers, and that was a good time for me. I saw them live with the full line-up: Neko Case was there, and Dan Bejar, who wandered on and off stage with a preoccupied look on his face and a precarious glass of red wine. Of course.
Heart it Races” – Architecture in Helsinki
from Places Like This, 2007. (buy)
Catchiest song of the year, maybe even in an annoying way that I will regret several years from now when I listen to this mix CD again. But how can you resist those steel drums? Or the many memories this song carries of standing around with a bunch of friends, maybe doing something dumb like eating tortilla chips or playing Bite The Bag, and looking at each other and saying, “Damn! This song is CATCHY!’
“Gone” - Kanye West
from Late Registration, 2005. (buy)
Oh, Kanye. You are the Louis XIV of popular music except that no one wants to overthrow your aristocracy yet. Your Highness, we so enjoyed Graduation, and would have selected one of the many fineries from that fine, fine release, were it not for the fact that somehow we were introduced to this little gem from your previous album and its biting and grandiose dreams carried yours truly through many trying and often beautiful and very funny and so sad weeks this year.
BONUS TRACK: “
Heather via J.C” – Baby Teeth.
from For the Heathers (EP), 2006. (buy)
How this song is genuinely edifying and revitalizing I will never know. It is derivative, it is silly, it is totally ridiculous and pure genius and I danced alone to this song about a booze-reeking stalker and his roller derby love in many an unguarded moment in 2007. This gives you a good sense of the Baby Teeth that once was –a Baby Teeth that is not gone, only incorporated into a body that is much more real and much easier to take seriously and not so embarrassing to say that you love so much.
E. KULA’s TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2007
10. Opsvik and Jennings – Commuter Anthems (Rune Grammofon) (myspace)
9. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (Sub Pop) (myspace)
8. Panda Bear – Person Pitch (Paw Tracks) (myspace)
7. King Khan and the Shrines – What Is?! (Hazlewood) (myspace)
6. Blonde Redhead – 23 (4AD) (myspace)
5. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl) (myspace)
4. Julianna Barwick – Sanguine (self-released) (Florid Recordings) (myspace)
3. Nina Nastasia and Jim White – You Follow Me (Fat Cat) (myspace)
2. Miracle Fortress – Five Roses (Secret City) (myspace)
1. Pop Levi – The Return to Form Black Magick Party (Counter) (myspace)
HONORABLE MENTION (in no particular order)
Besnard Lakes- “The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse” (Jagjaguwar) (myspace)
Busdriver- “RoadKillOvercoat” (Epitaph) (myspace)
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings- “100 Days, 100 Nights” (Daptone) (myspace)
Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble- “Plastic Bag in a Tree” (Hush) (myspace)
Phosphorescent- “Pride” (Dead Oceans) (myspace)
Georgie James- “Places” (Saddle Creek) (myspace)
Best Compilation and/or Soundtrack
“Labrador 100, A Complete History of Popular Music” (Labrador) (buy)
Best EP of 2007
E. KULA’S FAVORITE SONG OF 2007
Other Songs I enjoyed
“People” by Animal Collective (myspace)
“Comfy in Nautica” by Panda Bear (myspace)
“Where in the World are you Now” by Great Lakes Swimmers (myspace)
“Dear Employee” by Papercuts (myspace)
“Pick-Me-Up Uppercut” by Pop Levi (myspace)
“A Beautiful War” by Robert Wyatt (myspace)
“Night” by Bill Callahan (myspace)
Day Four (Lists from Todd and Kim):
TODD’s TOP 15 SONGS OF 2007
At the risk of sounding like a rock snob (which, after all, is the very antithesis of what being a post-rockist is all about), I can’t honestly say there were very many albums this year that grabbed my attention and drew me in obsessively from start to finish like in past years. Maybe it was because some of my favorite musicians released new records this year and my expectations were too impossibly high to meet, or maybe really good just isn’t good enough sometimes. But maybe it’s just been a result of my changing listening habits — weekly album downloads causing me to cycle through new releases at such a fast clip that if an album doesn’t catch my attention after one or two listens it’s automatically consigned to the digital dustbin. It’s a shame, really, but I’m not making any excuses for it.
In any case, there has been a slew of really fantastic songs, and the following is a list of some of my favorites in an only slightly meaningful order:
15. Wilco – “
Either Way“ (buy)
(from Sky Blue Sky)
A hope-filled lullaby for the depressively predisposed. “Maybe you still love me, maybe you don’t, either you will or you won’t,” Jeff Tweedy sings with perfect complacency. Rarely do you hear such patience, restraint, and beauty in a song, but the opening track on Sky Blue Sky strolls along like a cautious optimist for those too old and tired to beleaguer the weight of pessimism. This isn’t soft rock, this is Zoloft rock.
14. Paul McCartney – “
Ever Present Past“ (buy)
(from Memory Almost Full)
Upon first listen, you might think Macca’s “Ever Present Past” was released around the same time George had a hit with “I Got My Mind Set On You,” but despite the song’s sharp, youthful chorus it actually reveals to us a remarkably candid and far older Paul who is exposing his concerns of finding true happiness in the later years of his life and the fleeting permanence of his youthful exploits. It’s an honest, personal, and incredibly catchy song from one of pop music’s greatest songwriters.
13. Apples in Stereo – “
(from New Magnetic Wonder)
This is what rock ‘n’ roll sounds like to kids: electric riffs, banging pianos, ecstatic one-note solos, hand claps, and choruses where everybody chimes in with a “do-doo-doo-doo-do-doo!” All music should be this joyous.
12. The Pink Mountaintops – “
Single Life“ (buy)
(from Single Life)
Good God this song rocks. Every single second kicks my ass and bleaches my bones. Take the two-chord punk energy of early Spacemen 3, the blasts of blistering white noise from The Jesus & Mary Chain, and add surrealistic, druggy vocals reminiscent of Bobby Gillespie and you’ve got a close approximation of The Pink Mountaintops’ “Single Life.” It’s a gritty, fuzz-rock gem and the closest thing to an endorsement of down and dirty hedonism you’re going to find on this list.
11. The White Stipes – “
Icky Thump“ (buy)
(from Icky Thump)
As much as I love Jack’s anthemic Detroit kiss-off number “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told),” I love him most when he’s bordering on batshit crazy and punishing his amplifiers with a deafening eleven. This song is mean and nasty; it’s a wicked, snarling beast that coughs up churlish, non sequitur one-liners at every clomping step. Sure, Jack could have spent a little more time polishing up the rough edges on “Icky Thump,” but who wants their snarling beasts to be refined?
10. M.I.A. – “
Paper Planes“ (buy)
When I wrote about “Paper Planes” before I said, “The gunshots sound so musical and joyous that it occurs to me that this is the first time I’ve thought of the phrase ‘Happiness is a warm gun’ and it didn’t have to be a metaphor for heroin.” I still feel that way. This song is dangerous, and gleefully so. The thrill is like going from riding a bicycle with training wheels and reflective helmet one day, to cruising along with the Hell’s Angels on a stolen Harley a day later. I don’t know if any Hell’s Angels listen to M.I.A., but they should.
9. Amy Winehouse – “
Me & Mr. Jones“ (buy)
(from Back to Black)
Soul music enjoyed a healthy revival in 2007, but nobody adapted the bumping rhythms and sensual overtones of classic soul to the beating heart of the naughts as successfully as the incredible Ms. Amy Winehouse. In “Me & Mr. Jones” Amy is tauntingly sexual and fiercely loyal in this modern tale of infidelity. “I might let you make it up to me,” she sneers, brazenly flouting her womanly authority before coyly cooing, “Who’s playing Saturday?” Ms. Winehouse may have had her fair shake of tabloid troubles this year, but her voice on this recording is so powerful that it’s easy to look past the headlines and see her as one of the most talented singers out there today.
8. Wu-Tang Clan – “
Wolves” (feat. George Clinton) (buy)
(from The 8 Diagrams)
Little Red Riding Hood. Ennio Morricone. P-Funk. Method Man. What more could you want? The RZA takes all these elements and transforms them into a mysterious, delirious landscape so fully realized it makes me think that if Luis BuÃ±uel was alive today he’d be working with turntables instead of cameras.
7. Caribou – “
Melody Day“ (buy)
Every time I got the itch for some experimental pop music this year, I reached right past the deaf-in-both-ears Brian Wilson impersonators Animal Collective and Panda Bear and put on Caribou’s Andorra. From the opening notes of “Melody Day” it’s straight lift-off: soaring guitars, thunderous waves of percussion, and showers of reverberated vocals. It’s perfect for those cloudy moments where you’re not sure if you’re awake or lucid dreaming, floating weightlessly over a precariously beautiful world below. Plus, it’s a great reminder that pursuing experimental noise in pop music doesn’t have to forfeit musical structure and skill. The video is well worth checking out, too — it’s like Ingmar Bergman directing the scenes with Death from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
6. Feist – “
I Feel it All” (buy)
(from The Reminder)
I don’t know why I love this song as much as I do. Maybe it’s the sound of the scratchy, percussive guitar against the beautiful fingerpaintings of celeste and piano. Maybe it’s the way her thin voice conveys so much hopeful energy and simple honesty that makes me really, truly believe every single word she utters. This song just makes me happy to be alive.
5. Of Montreal – “
Gronlandic Edit“ (buy)
(from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?)
My favorite song off my favorite album of the year. Hissing Fauna is the 21st Century’s hyper-rational heir to paranoid funk-soul classics Station To Station and There’s A Riot Goin’ On; and “Gronlandic Edit” is a three-and-a-half minute proof that Kevin Barnes’ plastic soul vocals can sigh and soar on par with Bowie, and that Of Montreal’s rhythm section can out-funk Sly & The Family Stone.
4. Spoon – “
(from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga)
I don’t even consider myself a Spoon fan, even though common knowledge seems to dictate that anyone remotely in the position of “music critic” unequivocally adore anything Spoon releases as if they were from the same astral plane as Yo La Tengo. But “Underdog” really is an unequivocally great song. No misleading intros, no burdensome outros or unnecessary bridges, just straightforward, terse verses and triumphant, memorable choruses. Every ounce of songwriting here becomes a pound. Every instrument comes in at just the right time to make the biggest impact – syncopated handclaps and spoons and swelling Motown horns over standard fare driving acoustic rock. If The Clash was an American band, they would have sounded like this.
3. Radiohead – “
(from In Rainbows)
Radiohead was arguably the most important band in the world for my high school self, but after Kid A they slowly started to slip off my radar. They continued to release music that was, well, “interesting” but not interesting in any way that was meaningful to me anymore. Looking back, I think the years of deadened expectations really helped with my experience of In Rainbows, because this album has captivated me like no other. Unlike their past few albums, In Rainbows doesn’t sound like it’s out to prove anything; instead, it shows us a band that can confidently take very simple song elements and transform them into breathtaking arrangements. There’s not much to a song like “Reckoner” — clipped drumming in the right channel; tambourine and clean guitar in the left — and yet I’m stunned at how refreshingly original and unusual it sounds. The slow and dreamy build up of the strings and Thom Yorke’s free-floating vocals (he’s actually singing!) all come together to make “Reckoner” the most organic the band has ever sounded.
2. Jens Lekman – “
A Postcard to Nina“ (buy)
(from Night Falls Over Kortedala)
After the indie breakthrough success of Oh You’re So Silent Jens, it seemed logical to assume that Jens Lekman was positioning himself to be the Swedish Jonathan Richman. With the release of Night Falls Over Kortedala; however, we begin to see his celebrity in a different light: Mr. Lekman as the Swedish Neil Sedaka. Or maybe the Swedish Paul Anka. In any case, the easy Jonathan Richman references need to be overhauled because Jens Lekman has really come into his own on Kortedala. “A Postcard to Nina” finds him swooning and crooning and cracking wise with the best of the 1960′s male pop vocalists. Whether he’s dabbling in lounge, Motown, or romantic comedy movie pitches that could plausibly star Ben Stiller, this song encapsulates everything fun and charming about Sweden’s favorite son. The “out-of-office auto-reply” line is just the cherry on top.
1. LCD Soundsystem – “
All My Friends“ (buy)
(from Sound of Silver)
It starts out so basic. Repetitive piano, incessant dance beat, Bernard Sumner-inspired bass riff. That’s how it starts. But stretched out over 7 minutes and 37 seconds, “All My Friends” swells to a deafening glory of two-chord punk guitars and high-pitched squeals and James Murphy’s centered, melancholic vocals that cherish the “foolish decisions” of our head-on, lust-loving youth better than just about anything I’ve heard for our generation. “We set controls for the heart of the sun,” he sings, “One of the ways that we show our age.” There was no question “All My Friends” would be my song of the year. It’s possibly the greatest song of the decade.
KIM’s LUCKY 7: TOP INDIE POP ALBUMS OF 2007
So far this year I got married, spent five weeks at teacher boot camp, moved to Missouri, and became a first-year 3rd grade teacher. To say that I have not had as much time to enjoy music is an understatement. Honestly, the last few CD’s I physically bought were the Multiplication Rap and Putamayo’s New Orleans Playground. So, when I was approached to write a 2007 review I laughed and thought of how funny it would be to review my new Multiplication Rap CD. (In case you are wondering, it is completely lame. Not even my 3rd graders found it amusing. What a waste!) I didn’t plan to write a best of 2007 article at all, but I really wanted to share my love of a few bands!
7. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir –Scotland Yard Gospel Choir (buy)
“Then and Not a Moment Before”
At times this album can sound bipolar. Some of the songs are so energetic and high-powered, full of heavy guitar riffs and upbeat melodies, and then the very next song can slow things down to a whisper with the most painfully honest and tragically sad lyrics you’ll hear. “In Hospital” is the slowest and saddest song of all, with depressing verses like “It’s been four years now/I still choke up at TV families/Sometimes I still feel/Like jumping in front of a bus.” The album is so varied, jumping from folky or country to songs that sounds like modern indie pop. Other songs call to mind 1990s alternative rock. For instance, in “Then and Not a Moment Before,” the singer channels the spirit of Everclear’s Art Alexis when he complains about his parents’ divorce and his dad’s lack of paying for child support. Yet, unlike Everclear, the song does not come across as whiney but quite matter of fact and empowering. This is an impressively varied album
6. Au Revoir Simone –The Bird of Music (buy)
This is the most electronic of the pop albums on my list. The vocals are thin and minimalist with lyrics much more poetic than I usually enjoy. The main instrument sounds like an old Casio keyboard, but it is charming in its simplicity and retro feel.
5. Junior Senior –Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (buy)
“Can I Get Get Get”
Like Dan, I know that listing this is kind of cheating. I’ve known that it has been out for years and despite trying to track it down I have been unable to do so in the USA. When I finally got this album in November I listened to it on CD in my car for about a month straight. This is the perfect upbeat poppy dance album to give energy to a 3rd grade teacher about to spend nine hours with 25 eight-year-olds. Also the perfect album to listen to while rejoicing about being finished with a nine hour day stuck in a room with 25 eight-year-olds.
4. Feist – The Reminder (buy)
“I Feel It All”
I am a sucker for songs with hand claps in them. For that reason, my favorite song on this album is “Sea Lion Woman,” complete with an abundance of real hand claps. I honestly did not even know that the song was called “Sea Lion Woman” until just now. Let’s just say that enunciation is not Feist’s strong area. In general, the album is mellow and autumnal, with difficult to understand lyrics (gotta work on that enunciation) but beautiful variety and melodies. In general, the album is not good for a dance party, but a wonderful choice for background music.
3. The 1900s –Cold & Kind (buy)
“When I Say Go”
I find the whole album similar to the sound of The Essex Green, with one song, “City Water,” that bears an uncanny resemblance to 1970′s John Denver. It’s nothing groundbreaking, earth shattering, or new. It’s just good. It’s pleasant. It’s well done.
2. Jens Lekman –Night Falls Over Kortedala (buy)
“A Postcard to Nina”
What can I say about Jens that hasn’t already been said? As I compiled my list he began in the number 4 slot!then moved up to 3, and finally number 2. As I listened to the album over and over this past week I gained a better appreciation of it. Motown melodies with Magnetic Fields lyrics make this album yet another winner from Mr. Lekman. (And he’s much dreamier than crotchety old Stephin Merrit, which helps as well.)
1. Billie the Vision & The Dancers –Where the Ocean Meets My Hand (Download for free!)
“I Saw You on TV”
In my stupor to find anything Swedish I made some foolish mistakes in musical purchases this year. Let it be known that not ALL Swedish music is good, but every now and then you’ll find a Scandinavian band that’s good, really good. I found out about Billie the Vision & the Dancers from Last.fm, which included it on a list of recommended artists. Best of all, they offer all three of their albums for free download on Last.fm. No strings attached. Billie the Vision & The Dancers are a sextuplet from someplace is Sweden that sing about a guy name Pablo (seriously, who IS PABLO?) and playing horrible shows, being on the road, and getting drunk in Oslo. They perform in Swedish prisons and high schools and have toured with another one of my favorite bands –The Pipettes (alas, not Swedish). This album features “Overdosing With You,” a duet with another of my favorite Swedes, Hello Saferide, singing a song about watching American TV shows on DVD, one of my favorite pastimes. The songs are beyond infectiously catchy. The lyrics are humorous and have a stream of consciousness feel to them. Each song contains all the necessary elements to a phenomenal pop album; I think that you will agree that it is impossible to not like BTV&TD.