Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Finally, The Defining List.

Well, as my Best Albums of 2007 list finally concludes (good riddance, right?) I thought I'd share a quote from a music writer for Yahoo.com, "Robert of the Radish" (Check out his list, I thought it was a good one.)
I share it because I am a complete "list nerd" and I have many friends who are also. Everyone has their opinion. Some think their's is fact. Others spend their time debating the difference between "best" and "favorite." Some just like to see their favs mounted into an organized presentation. In the end, it all boils down to how much the music made you feel, right?
So, this basically puts my thoughts into writing on the subject, and it seems more legit coming from an official type person:
Yea, yea, I hear ya. End of year "best of" lists are like fruitcakes. There are way too many of them lying around unnoticed at the end of the year. They've become "I'm a credible critic" lists more than anything, with popular indie blogs shunning anything commercial and adding in some hip-hop, world music, or jazz to increase their hip-factor.
So when I went through the process of creating my top 100 of 2007 list why did 70% of it turn out like most every other hipster blog out there? Well, it all boils down to the fact that even in this new musical landscape, we fall in love to the stuff we listen to. And we only listen to the stuff we are aware of. And I can't resist listening to what is getting buzz. But from time to time I do find an under-the-radar gem.
So yes, some of the albums you will see in my list will be completely new to you, many more will appear on other year end lists, and the reason is simple. They're great albums.
The only measure I used when selecting my top 100 was whether I found myself coming back to listen for enjoyment. Not because I had to do a review, or because I was told it was a great record, but because I wanted to hear it again and again. A melody, a technique, a feeling, something about each of these records brought me back for more, and each has earned a permanent spot in my collection and in my life.

Well said, Mr. Of the Radish. And, I concur. That being said, I give you my final ten of 2007. Behold, the greatness. Budda-budda-budda-budda...

10.) Justice - Cross

Electronic/dance music had a surge of greatness this year. (Lucky for me, since I LOVE shaking my bionic-booty to the genre!)) The album opens with "Genesis," a massive robotic battle anthem (lasers and all) that reminds me of the Transformers having a disco dance off to da' def. And from there, it doesn't stop. In the grand tradition of the great Daft Punk, these two rocka'-turnt-beatsta Frenchies pop out metallic groves to head bang to, odd as that sounds. Its as gritty as it gets. The main single, "D.A.N.C.E.," is one of the catchiest songs all year, but it actually says very little about the album's flavor as a whole. Like any great dance album (or any album in general) it flows smoothly from one track to the next. Cross is basically one big song with 12 movements. So, its impossible to take any one song out of it. Tracks like "Let There Be Light" fuzz out some wicked electro-bass lines that smoothly melt into the poptastic "D.A.N.C.E.", which in turn explodes into "New Jack," another favorite. That song is the perfect example of beauty from chaos. It is millions of pieces spliced together to form one bodacious beatster. Simply an AMAZING dance album that should not be missed by anyone who likes to move.

9.) Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand

Who'da thought these two, both giants in their respective areas, would combine forces to produce one of the best albums of the year? One reviewer at Amazon.com said "only the fantasy duo of King Kong and Bambi could be a more bizarre pairing..." Tis true! I haven't listened to much of Robert Plant's more modern stuff, but I understand it isn't too far in comparison. In all honesty, I have been a bigger fan of Alison's work for quite some time. (But, of course, nobody can deny the legacy of the Zep.) The two make a flawless album of bluesy-folk covers here. Calling it simply a "duets" album doesn't work. They effortless perform each song with such a tight chemistry, its hard to not imagine the two as one group rather than a power combo. Songs like "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" perfectly showcase this point, while other songs like the beautifull sad "Through the Morning, Through the Night" and the Zeppy "Fortune Teller" focus the sound on one or the other, while they harmonize in and out. This one was quite a pleasant surprise.They both have simply amazing voices! Brilliant tag team, I hope they do it again.

8.) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! - Some Loud Thunder

I could do a whole segment on why I consider this one of the most sinfully underrated albums of the year. Granted, I do understand why people were turned off to this (Besides Alec Ounsworth's rediculously nasal vocals, of course) cuz it took me awhile to get it. First of all, the album opens with "Some Loud Thunder," which has you thinking said thunder may be TOO loud. I thought my speakers were blown when I turned it on, until I noticed every player sounded the same. It took me forever to realize that song is pure genius disguised as a bad fuzzy recording. Also, the album does not groove like their first self-titled (superb) album. Definately a more subdued sound. You find yourself missing that on first listen, but when given a chance, the layered harmonies and less obvious intensities come out on brilliant tracks like "Mama, Won't You Please Keep Those Castles in the Air and Burning?" The song "Satan Said Dance" is the only dancer, and though it is an interesting experiment in electronic noises for the band, it is the most obvious and boring track on the whole thing. (besides, do you really want to dance if its SATAN that said to??) What is the same, is amazing songs that showcase every member equally. Basically, what the band has done is drop kick "hype" right in the balls by giving everyone an album of opposites...on purpose. It is disorienting, strange, slow-paced...and completely brilliant. They've done what many have done, for better or worse, and completely split their fanbase. But where they succeed, (and Bloc Party fail miserably) is they kept their strengths by still writing amazing songs and expanding their creative horizons, as opposed to expanding their wallets and Mtv playability. And they didn't tour with Panic At the Disco, either. I see this album being a hindsite classic a la Weezer's Pinkerton. I can't wait to see what they do next.

Sorry so long...

7.) Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

Sorry that last one was a doozer (did you even read it? Maybe you are gone by now...) Iron & Wine's Sam Beam decided to go bring a full band along this time. I have enjoyed his earlier work, (me and Cass danced to his cover of "Such Great Heights" at our wedding) but its The Shepherd's Dog that officially hooked me. It is magnificient to hear the layers added to his already great songwriting. Even more amazing, to me, is the layered harmonies. Each song has the feel of a southern folk-tale, steeped in legend, mystery and beauty. Though many of the songs don't have an official verse/chorus/verse type structure, they bounce and bob along so hypnotically you never notice. I'm not even sure what song to single out specifically. "Lovesong of the Buzzard" is a brilliant example. As is "The Devil Never Sleeps." Album closer "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" continues in his tradition of sweet lullabye by smoothly winding this instant classic to a finish. When I suggested this album to a customer at work, they replied "I thought they were a death metal band!" I think it was the scary cover.

6.) Eluvium - Copia

Speaking of covers, isn't this an awesome one?? I love this cover. Its one of those that would make me wanna buy it without knowing anything about it. Infact, that's almost what happened. I knew this album was a quiet album full of ambience. But all I heard before buying it was a 30 second clip, and that doesn't exactly work with albums like this. Still, it was getting good reviews, and the album art sealed the deal. I can't fully describe why I came to love this album so much, other than it just relaxes me. Whenever I needed to ease some stress, I'd turn it on. Needless to say, it became one of the most played albums of the year on my iPod. There isn't much to the "music," it mostly meanders smoothly through epic landscapes of sound made by piano, strings and synthesizers. No words to interupt, just pure mood. Track 2 is called "Indoor Swimming at the Space Station," and that is a perfect summary of how the song makes you feel for 10 and a half minutes. You can easily fall asleep to this stuff. Infact, upon first listen, I did. Have you ever fallen asleep in an album, waken up in the middle of a song, and every single note and/or word is augmented inside your head? I dunno if its a result of being half awake, but you notice things you normally don't. I did that on the end track of this album, at about the 5:38. I woke to what sounds like fireworks or bombs blasting in the distance in rthymic repitition... and as simple as it is, it blew me away. (Excuse the pun.)

5.) Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

So, we move on to a completely different album. This is about as far from Copia as you can get, as it is a total shake ya azz, party till ya drop, take no prisoners, bounce off the walls album. And I of course mean all that in a good way. Much like Justice's album, this one feels like one big party song. The party shifts gears about midway through, as the nearly 12 minute "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" divides the album with "Lets tear this @#%ing house apart!" chants and the intensity of an animal bursting from its neon cage. I actually think I am beginning to like this album better than their last, which is a big deal. I dunno, maybe I don't. But it's just so durned great! It's so cohesive, yet very random and chaotic. Kevin Barnes' crazy croon spouts anti-love lyrics ("To me you're just some faggy girl/and I need a lover with soul power") and soul searching verses ("I guess it would be nice/to give my heart to a God/but which one do I choose?") hidden underneath brilliant pop. The harmonies on "Gronlandic Edit" slap me in the face everytime. It's so hilarious, but so intelligent. He uses lines like "We'll fall back to Earth like gravity's bitches/Physics makes us all it's bitches" and "All the party people dancing for the indie star /but he's the worst faker by far." There are tongue-in-cheek self parodies throughout. And I'm not sure what the C.C.A.A. Booty Patrol is, but I would love to join. Its an ironic paradox when it can appeal to those that like to grind to hip-hop with a dumb look on their grill, as well as those that sit in coffee shops analyzing every segment.

4.) LCD Soundsystem - Sounds of Silver

Similar to Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem is party music for the brain. A little less crazy, and a little more intelligent is Sounds of Silver. I was a little late on the LCD wagon the last album, but really enjoyed it. Somehow James Murphy has managed to up the anty as far as combining punk and dance. While many have done it, and done it well, Sounds of Silver merges the two so effortlessly it no longer sounds like a fusion of sounds. Instead, its a perfect statement all on its own. Its often very hard to tell what's electronic and what's band instrumentation. "Get Innocuous!" starts the album off right, with a fabulous club beat. "Time To Get Away" brings the funk. An' it don' stop. The most notable intrigue to the music is the honest lyrics. "All My Friends," "Someone Great," and the beatless piano ballad closer "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down" all have an overwhelming sense of melancholly to contrast the party goingon around them. It sure is rare to have a dance record with such depth, but that is exactly what has been done here. To perfection.

3.) The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

So, I'm trying to think of somethin funny to say right here. I'm having difficulty. Watch this again: Funny . Or Dax. The Shins produced the first great album of 2007 way back in January. And it held its own all year. The Shins groove through this one like they haven't before. Lotsa bass and spacey sounds too, which I love. Like other albums on this list, the songs flow smoothly into each other, giving the "one out of many" feel. Infact, when I saw them live this last year, they played the first 4 tracks in their order, which was great, cuz they really do feel like one. But, since the first half, up through the Motowner "Turn On Me," is so enormously brilliant, the last four tracks or so lag just a bit. Not because they are bad by any means, just comparitively less impressive. Despite that, all the music posseses a certain magic to it. The lyrics are witty and poetic, and the tunes often drift through a surreal dream world, much like the album title (and cover) may suggest. I felt that Wincing the Night Away was so much more approachable than Chutes Too Narrow. Chutes was great, but this one caught me from the beginning and kept me coming back for more like no other album (save two, of course.)

2.) Radiohead - In Rainbows

It's really too bad the Shins got put up against my two favorite groups of all time, neither of which cease in bringing the goods. Its also too bad for me in one respect... because I can't name them BOTH my number one. (A tie would be cheating I decided). Nobody even knew Radiohead would be a definate factor until October when we were all blessed with their pay-your-own price surprise release. Hype aside, the band still gave away one of their greatest achievements, at the same time making more off of it then any other of their albums. My opinion aside, this album was in more top tens, (and number one in more of those lists), then any album out in 2007. Rightfully so. They completely deserve every word of praise they get. And, of course, as a backlash to popularity, a lot of people refuse to put them so high, and denounce any that do. My reason for its position is not simply based on the fact I worship these guys. Its because it is truly a flawless album, and one of their best ever. The band's quote-unquote "return to form" was a draw for many, as it rocked and grooved like they haven't before. Still, you could split this album up and find many of these tracks on any of their "weird" albums. The eerily-synthy "All I Need" would fit on Kid A or Amnesiac. The epic "Reckoner" would go nicely on Hail to the Theif. Ironically, I have a hard time picturing any of these songs on anything pre- Ok Computer, so where is this "return to form?" The fact is, for the first time, in a long time, Radiohead have made an album for the SONG'S sake. It is a collection of amazing songs, every single one standing alone in its greatness. They have somehow made an album to cater to the impatient playlist-era digital consumer, while still maintaining the full album statement missing in a lot of modern music. Though its more straight forward, its still innovative and completely original. It is probably the most "beautiful" of all Radiohead's albums, with lots of layered harmonies and weeping strings courtesy of guitarist Johnny Greenwood. Which fits the strangely sugary title. In Rainbows hits all the right buttons. Kermit would be proud. By the way, the disc 2 is also brilliant.

1.) Silverchair - Young Modern

So we arrive at Young Modern Station. I wrote a huge ole babbling review of this when I first got it, so I'm gonna TRY not to pontificate too much here. This was the year Silverchair finally got some respect for their post-17-year-old work. This was also the year the Chair boys sound completely comfortable in their own sound. Every song is a venture into something new, and not one of them is a failed experiment. "Young Modern Station" rocks a dance beat with a heavy riff, and that morphs into "Straight Lines" (a radio hit in America) with a slight U2 twist. Throughout the album you hear a variety of influences ranging from Queen to Prince, Brian Eno to Roy Orbisson, and David Bowie to Andrew Loyd Webber (sometimes all in the same song). And still, it's hard to pinpoint a collective style here. It's all over the place, and all the better for it. Its the most upbeat (and the least 90's) they've ever sounded. In the 7 months or so I've had this album, nearly all of the songs are among the most listened to on my iPod now. There are at least 6 Young Modern songs before it gets to another band/album. And that's not including all the times I had it in my car on CD, or on the computer at home. Is that overkill? Well, I'm not sick of it yet. You give 'er a listen and decide yourself.

There ya have it. Finally, the list be done.

Fav Music Videos of 2007:

Fav Concerts of 2007:

1.) Nickel Creek
(tis true...sorry chairboys...I still love ya)

2.) Silverchair

3.) the Shins

4.) Shout Out Louds
1.) Grizzly Bear
2.) the Knife - Silent Shout
3.) Silversun Pickups - Carnavas


Bean said...

Holy Crap Broseph! That was a lot of work! I appreciate your list man it was delish! Getting into the head of the Kirkham is an amazing and "HUGE"(pun intended) thing to explore and always a nummer little treat. May the gods shine upon you

mckarlie said...


crystal said...

So what's next in way of "lists"? You've put a lot of great work into your lists and I want you to do it for anything and everything because I really have a good time reading them.