“Hail Mary, mother of God…got the whole host’a Angels shufflin in my iPod…”
Someone recently asked me about my picks for the best of 2007…and you know, I honestly hadn’t given it much thought this year, but once asked, suddenly it smacked me in the face just how much great music there was this year. I’m listening to the NPR version of the inevitable endless list-fetishists rambling on and on, and you know, what’s clear is that it was a fairly polarizing year in terms of “good” n “bad” …I think for the first time I can remember it was just as easy to call up the biggest dissappointments of the year as it was to think of the best. Though there was no shortage of goodness, there was a great number of highly anticipated albums that fell extremely flat. So, I have a rough list of what I feel is the best and worst of this year, and man there was just too much stuff for a plain old 10 list…so my list actually stretches a bit long, but here we go.
1. The National – Boxer
Actually, this was no contest. I kept trying to think of something that could challenge this one for the top spot…but though there was lots of great music, none of it proved able to displace this one’s special space in my heart of hearts. This time of year and this kind of entry, Tis’ the time when I tend to drop my cynic’s guard and expose that gooey-mooshy sentimental center, where this album hits hardest. As such, I’m proud to wear it on my sleeve of sleeves, in all its pseudo-creepy, vibey, sharp-edged rainy-night-driving-alone-in-the-suburbs glory.
2. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Was there any album that peppered my DJ and dance playlists more frequently this year? I doubt it. But ironically, it’s not at all very peppy-lighthearted dance material, when you boil it down. I may have thrown it down often at a party to impress my friends, but the truth is, the times this album shines is when I’m driving down dark highways banging the side door with my hand as I shout along to the anthemically depressing break-up psycho-ballads and schizophrenic chemical singalongs. This is the most uplifting depressing album ever, and it’s so masterfully, meticulously ‘n self-consciously clooged together from the billions of little pulverized pieces, that it manages to evade all the usual pitfalls this kind of music usually drops into.
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Duh. I mean, seriously, people out there who keep telling me “I just don’t…get…Radiohead,” It’s time for you to shut. up. I just don’t care if you think they’re pretentious n over-rated. I just don’t care if you think you’re being meta-cool by bucking the trend n still waiting for what you still must think is “inevitable backlash” at the coolest band in the world. I don’t care which older, underground bands they “ripped off” and how “like, SO, not experimental, really” they are…I don’t care how popular they get, how much hype they have, how many brilliant marketing schemes they come up with to distribute their product…I just DONT CARE. Fact is Fact, and the Music is Fact. This music is really good. Anybody with ears should be able to hear it. So enough with your whiny-bitching, K? Thx.
4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
How is this album not out yet?? I mean, wtf, I’m just here listening to NPR and they’re rating some EP, because the album isn’t “released” yet, except that everyone’s heard it. Well, at any rate, these guys are new, and hot off the bloggosphere, and everybody’s holding their breath to see if they’ll be worth praising, but I just can’t wait. This is such an infectious, fun, danceable, (dareisay) “hip” (albeit derivative) album of bouncy afro-pop-rock. Boo-yah…I mean, I just don’t remember the last time I heard good afro-pop-rock…I mean, we’ve come a long way since Graceland, haven’t we? But why don’t we have any more “So Lonely”s or “Mirror in the Bathroom”s? Regardless of influence, or so called “depth” in this band, I couldn’t stop listening to it, and whenever I listened to it, I couldn’t stop dancing. That’s good enough for me.
5. Battles – Mirrored
Fuk Yeeeeaaahhhhh! That’s what I think when I hear this….it’s delirious, fist pumping joy with warp-10 vocal jitters syncing perfectly with interlacing rhythm, guitar, synths all pounding into your skull like it was mapped to graph paper. So precise, so weird, so plain “likeable” somehow. I show this band to people and they make a weird face at first and then say “oh….oh yeah. Oh, sweet! Sweeeeeeeeet” …I mean, honestly, who else is making music like this? Ummmmmmmmm nobody, that’s who, and that’s just one more reason Battles is such a beautiful unique snoflake of special unique specialness.
6. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
People keep talking about how “innovative” this album is, but really, its a couple samples with lots of reverb, a couple guitars, and a guy going “OOooooooooOOOOOOOHhahahahhhhhhhhhheheheeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaahhhhhAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH OOOooooooOOOOOOOOO” into a bunch of tape-delay and heavy verb…so OK, it sounds cool. Yes. Innovative? Mmmm, mayyyybe…but more just very soothing and nice, very ambient and pleasing, and true, few people have to guts to make such anti-cerebral music for such a cerebral audience.
7. Iron & Wine – The Shepard’s Dog
Well, I’ve always loved Iron & Wine, but this albums a standout this year for NOT sounding like Iron & Wine…Lets face it, Sam Beam could have crooned away with his acoustic for 10 more albums and people would still buy them and listen to them on Sunday with a cup of coffee while they pet the dog absentmindedly in the living room…but instead he makes this jarring, engaging mash of pop-country/folk/bluegrass/ethnic music. I mean, that and the songs (especially lyrically) hold up as well as ever…wow.
8. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Spoon…pah. I shouldn’t love them so much. They just play 3 chords and bang a piano and sing with a cool, tough-guy accent. It should be trite and cheap, it should be throwaway classic-rock worship…but somehow these guys make the simplest, most stripped tune shine like a brand-new black eye. You feel cool just listening to it…it puffs you up and makes you want a cigarette, a whiskey with a beer back, and somebody to listen to your hard-luck story. Yet, it’s also thoughtful, thought out, well arranged, as tastefully restrained as ever, even when it shoots for bombast on tracks like “The Underdog” …putting the flourishes on only when necessary (like that spanish guitar in “My Japanese Cigarette Case”), and never distracting too much from what is just good songwriting, plain n simple.
9. Feist – The Reminder
Jesus. Am I really one of those Latte-drinking hordes of middle-agers looking for “something mellow I can drive to” ….christ. But that’s always been Feist…she’s 1 in a million precisely because she somehow makes mid-tempo contemporary lounge rock palatable…DEEP even, fer chrissakes. That and I need some females on the list. Part of me feels that St. Vincent’s Marry Me deserves this spot, for being more adventurous and more sonically sophisticated, (and also just plain kick-ass) but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t listened to Feist more.
9.5 Kevin Drew – Spirit If…
Man, I just couldn’t resist…I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that comes out of that crazy Canadian social scene ™, and just couldn’t help getting suckered by Drew’s croony, sweaty “fuck” covered romanticisims n hokey singalong ballads. He’s just so lovable…that and he looks like me.
10. Blonde Redhead – 23
Why did nobody notice this album? I mean, honestly. The one review I read was like “meh, it’s over produced.” Bullshit! It’s very well produced. It’s the first “polished” sounding record BR has made, but that shouldn’t necessarily be a mark against it. I found it catchy, but creepy, poppy and slick, but deep and well-written. It’s listen-able without being pandering. Definitely one of the best, if not THE best album from a great band.
Ok, so the list doesn’t actually end here:
there were so many others I couldn’t fit that deserve mention:
11. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
12. Múm – Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy
13. The Clientele – God Save the Clientele
14. Pinback – Autumn of the Seraphs
15. Kanye West – Graduation
16. Dungen – Tio Bitar
…also, honorable mention to Saul Williams for making very uncomfortable music that is nonetheless a very relevant and coherent artistic statement…and also for making a decent album from what has got to be one of the worst ideas for an album…ever.
…well, this will have to be a draft for now…I’ll put in links to artists and “most dissappointing records of 07” later, this just took too long and I have work to do. -E