Tops of 2007

89.3 The Current recently (today) started tallying votes for the top 89 records of 2007, I shot through and started compiling my picks. I like being asked for my opinion, even if it is aimed at a large mass of people and not, specifically, me. It got my mind running and I decided to expand the why, which I can’t supply the radio people with using their submission format. I needed to tell somebody, and that somebody is you. Observe:

The Good, The Bad, & The Queen: “The Good, The Bad, & The Queen”

Damon Albarn has magic pills. He decides to have a regular band, Blur, which turns out to be more than your everyday British pop band. Then he decides, with others to form a virtual band in Gorillaz, also quite magical. Finally he and three other similarly talented musicians collaborated to form The Good, The Bad & The Queen, which is a project and not at all a band. It is mournful and melancholy, but also gorgeous and worth bumming yourself out for.

Aesop Rock: None Shall Pass

I like how he uses his words and his voice as an instrument, and how his music has a range to it, and a complexity that equals and at times surpasses that of his lyrics. A lot of time you’ll hear deep thumbing bass and high, tinny instrumentals in hip-hop/rap/whatever and there will be this sonic carving out to make sure they lyricist receives any and all attention, in the front and in your face. Aesop Rock seems to be with the music instead of obviously on top of it. He can be a bit pretentious, but that comes with the territory of having a grasp on your own talent and intelligence. There’s an allowance.

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin

These guys are infectious. Like a virus they sneak under my skin, bits of lyric, guitar riffs and strangely enough even cymbal crashes jump out at me for hours after I listen to them. Some times days. They are melancholy without seeming pouty, they absolutely drip with reverb and can do both upbeat and sorrowful in a convincing way. This is a solid sophomore effort.

Brandi Carlile: The Story

Parts of Brandi’s music make me not want to like it. Sometimes the arrangements and the songs are generic, and there are weaknesses in her lyrics but Christ Almighty the girl can wail and when she does it melts all the rest away. I can ignore that she sounds eerily like Melissa Etheridge, and concentrate that she sounds like a bottle of aged, smooth whiskey serenading me at the end of a long night.

Jarvis Cocker: Jarvis

I, like most of the world outside England, did not appreciate Pulp when they were around, at least not as much as I should have. Jarvis samples some nuggets of pop culture history, like Tommy James’ Crimson and Clover for his song, ‘Don’t let him waste your time.’ A tasty gem.

Lily Allen: Alright, Still…

While this was apparently already well-overplayed in the UK, I enjoy the sound of her voice and the kitchyness of the instrumentation. Snappy

M.I.A.: Kala

I really like her use of guns in her music, and the cobbled-together bits of samples to form a kind of hybrid instrument out of random clicks, beeps and shotgun shell loading. Whatever they do to treat her vocals I love it. Sometimes it seems like she could have spent a little more time figuring out something better to say, but she doesn’t really seem to give a fuck. So I don’t either.

Manu Chao: La Radiolina

He’s carved a little genre of his own, one that I like very much. I don’t always (if ever, completely) understand what he’s saying, but I do like the way he says it. He gets you humming.

Mark Ronson: Version

This album troubles me, in various ways. Let’s start with the Britney Spears cover. Britney = Puke, plain and simple. Mark Ronson’s version of ‘toxic,’ however, is effing sweet. Its like he felt sorry for her songwriters and wanted them to get a little justice. Another thing is the drums. They are overproduced, they stay within certain parameters, front and center, throughout the record and they bear the rigidity that comes with drums that are programmed and not played. The rest of the album with its many collaborators including Amy Winehouse and the above-mentioned Lily Allen perform mostly covers, with Ronson’s instrumentals filling gaps and bridging songs together.

Matthew Dear: Asa Breed

I don’t know why this is on here, except that I really, really like the song ‘A)1 Deserter.’ He could spend the rest of the album covering Streisand/Kristofferson songs and almost get away with it. Almost.

Mocean Worker: Cinco de Mowo

Somehow Adam Dorn succeeds where Mark Ronson came up short, or at least over-produced. Taking snippets from actual live performances by an impressive list of musicians, he sliced, switched around and rearranged until he came up with a tightly knit and danceable group of songs. I approve with a high five. Don’t leave me hanging.

PJ Harvey: White Chalk

Dark: That’s how I describe PJ Harvey’s voice as well as Flood’s production style. Apparently when you put them together in a room together, it becomes an otherworldly, eerie composition in which you are taken through a morose, sometimes horrifying haunted house that is PJ Harvey’s brain.

Prince: Planet Earth*

He got me with one line:

U can act hard if U want 2
This groove will make U sweat
U be screamin' like a white lady*
When I count 1 2 3

Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I didn’t much care for Spoon when I heard a couple songs off of their previous album. With one exception, when I hear songs from this album I crap my pants a little. Because I’m so happy I just lose control. Love love love love love the horns on this album.

Steve Earle: Washington Square Serenade

Never cared for Steve Earle that much. Truth be told, I didn’t listen to any of his music, either, so it would have been a little silly to say either way. Solid and strong, he plows through current events and introspection without looking back.

Tegan & Sara: The Con

I feel like I could easily dislike Tegan and Sara as much as I like them, without really making changes to their music. By all rights they’re overemotional, whiny sappy girls that don’t seem like they ever shut up about their feelings. But I feel like they’re MY overemotional weepy girls.

Vicious Vicious: Parade

I have nothing to say about this album, except that I like it more than Tapes ‘n Tapes.

Ween: La Cucaracha

Ah, Ween: It took you long enough. Four long years I’ve have to wait for a new album, and after Quebec’s disjointed effort, I’ve been aching for more. More and more better. In the time of an Olympic cycle Ween has crafted an album I still can’t quite wrap my head around. From homosexually inflected club song ‘Friends’ to the, I shit you not, David Sanborn contributed ‘Your Party,’ La Cucaracha is almost too much to handle. Even for Ween. ‘Object’ is the best, most creepy love song I’ve heard. They are equally in familiar and new territory, dipping into a ten minute seventies introspective rock song as well as a foul-mouthed ‘Bare Hands,’ I’m liking what I hear. I liked how The Mollusk and White Pepper seemed to do the same thing while maintaining a kind of overall theme. Still, Ween is Ween is Ween. Love it almost no matter what.

Wilco: Sky Blue Sky

I had this album for three days. It turns out somebody else needed it more than I did, so I let it go. While I had it I started to understand the why of people’s obsession with this band. Crafty, simple when it needs to be and loud and crazy when the song determines.

*: Shit. I mean, SHIT. I get all picky and hoighty toighty (why, why did I have to use that term? And how the hell am I supposed to spell that?) with my list and my reasons, enough to share them anyway, and I don’t even do enough research to see that the lyrics I love so much are from the song Black Sweat off Prince’s 2006 release, 3121. Truthfully, I’ve only heard songs off Planet Earth on the radio. I don’t own the album. So I’ve decided to nix it from the list. Sorry, lil’ guy. Instead I have two additions:
Arcade Fire: Neon Bible
These guys are pretty pretentious. They came out with a fabulous, well-constructed album a couple years ago called Funeral, which won critical acclaim not from just regular schmoes like myself. Neon Bible is an extension of that record, not so much a creative departure. Perhaps that will come with their third record. Then again maybe they’ll just hammer the apocalyptic melodramatic slash melancholy out until one of them dies, quits or makes a solo career for themself. Its worth listening to, and if you’re some people its worth buying three copies.
The Fratellis: Costello Music
No, they aren’t named after the criminal family of The Goonies. That would be a lie they could afford if it wasn’t insulting to one of their grandmothers from whom they borrowed her maiden name. The music is poppy and incomplicated. And infectious. True, they got most of their notoriety from an i-Pod ad, but I think their worth looking at and the record is worth buying. In fact, Mary Lucia offered her blessing on the record stating on the air to thousands of listeners that if they bought the record and didn’t like it, that if they saw her on the street she would buy it back from them. The last record I can remember her doing that with is The 88, which is a similarly really decent rock record. They’re both a little glammy, which she loves and they have good hair. Particularly the Fratellis, who would tour well with Wolfmother, also of good hair.

Okay, so maybe its just one member of the Fratelli’s that has the good hair. Yes, actually it does help that they have hair like mine. Arcade Fire doesn’t feature great hair as one of their features:

Mopey, Melodramatic Actors. Look at us as we pout, look stern, or…wait….Ginger! What are you doing? Arcade Fire doesn’t smile! What is this, the Beach Boys? Jan and Dean? NO! Ginger is SO fired. Unless there’s like a dead puppy off screen that he finds amusing. Caption: Foul Ginger Laughs at Puppy Pain

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