Guest Best of 2007 list

This best of 2007 comes from one of my homies from back in high school who has inscrutable taste in music, as did his mom, and continues to be a collector and a taste maker to this day. Although I obviously don't share his love of indie rock and certainly would argue vehemently against some of his choices I posted this for two reasons:
1. He has a wide array of choices from "that side" of the record shoppe and good, clearly stated reasons as to why he liked said releases.

2. The lines between indie rock and electronic music continue to be blurred and in 2007 he and I unwittingly were listening to many of the same releases. I find that to be part of an ongoing trend which I will continue to cover in 2008.

I will also have to agree with his closing statement-Here's to another good year indeed!

Hi everyone, I figured I'd throw out a list of my favorite music from last year. Take from it what you will.

It is only the beginning of 2008, so there are going to be a number of albums that slipped through the cracks. I will probably be sad that I missed a few here.

This isn't going to be a top 10, just a list of albums that I really like (In no particular order):

Deerhunter - Cryptograms
This album kicks off with driving rhythms and a wall of fuzz then maneuvers through sparse soundscapes. Catchy abstract songs lilt in and present themselves then depart in the fuzz. After getting my fill of Kranky's Drone-Core sound I figured I had reached saturation, I was wrong. This album was on a severely heavy rotation the first half of the year.

LCD Soudsystem - Sound of Silver
Their first album sounded like an experiment: what if the Fall did a dance record (strangely predicting Mark E Smith and Mouse on Mars' tepid Von Sudenfed). But the new record is bliss. Super catchy, melody driven songs that tap into Krautrock beats, Bowie inspired vocals and New Order writing. This could not leave the CD player for months.

Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
The sign of a great band is one that changes their style every album but still retains all of the magical quality that makes you love that band in particular. This is easily their/his most produced record with a real emphasis on a backing band but in no way does it interfere with the songs he's bringing. Rather it molds them into heady soundscapes. Certainly this is less folky, but the sound manipulation really has brought him to a new level.

Grizzly Bear - Friend EP
Somehow between the first record (Horn of Plenty) and the second record (Yellow House), Grizzly Bear learned how to write songs. Clearly this was the inspiration to go back and redo a couple of their old tracks and to try their hand at one of the most unsettling "love songs", Carol King's song for The Crystals - He hit me (and it felt like a kiss). They have some other bands come on and do covers of their songs as well. Certainly this isn't as important as Yellow House, but it is a worthy collection of freak folk tunes.

The National - Boxer
Boxer came out of nowhere for me, as I had heard Alligator and it left no significant impression. Yet Boxer really steps up to the plate. It takes much of the old Slo-Core sound and ramps it up a bit. Don't get me wrong I live Slo-Core, but in The National's world gone are the days of mopey boys singing of sad times. They took Idaho's old sound and made it jangly and catchy (and on key). Yes, his voice isn't dissimilar to the monotonous Crash Test Dummies dude, but, in my mind, what he does with it is far superior in every way. This was a consistent play, and still is.

Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
Ok, first you have to get inoculated to the sound. There is an introductory period where you are going to have to learn to accept that this band sounds like it is fronted by a muppet. Once you get over that Deerhoof are brilliant. Abstract, catchy, angular, with a sense of humor that isn't cloying. Fans of old Sonic Youth and Blonde Redhead should give this a go. This album in particular is one of their most accessible, as it is chock full of little earworms.

Panda Bear - Person Pitch
It is clear who I love in Animal Collective as this record came out shortly before AC's new album. Panda Bear makes pretty music, whereas I was disappointed in the new AC record, I think, because he was focused on this and let the other guy take over. This is all done on the mac from samples. You wouldn't know it, as it sounds so warm and alive. It is a very subtle dance record comprised from old 60's soundbites. Really this is beautiful, and hypnotic and sweeping.

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
For some reason people like to listen to Aaron Neville. I've never had a clue why. I guess if he wrote songs like Andrew Bird I would understand it a little more. While this record may be totally Adult Contemporary it's just such a great sing along album that I can't help but love it. So many sweeping moments, and ... strings. I'm a sucker for strings. Scythian Empire is in contention for my favorite song of the year.

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
The tough thing about this record is that despite being brilliant, it is still a disappointment. I shouldn't feel this way. Funeral just casts a long shadow. The biggest problem is that this sounds more like a Bruce Springsteen record than an Arcade Fire record, albeit the greatest Springsteen record ever made, but The Boss none-the-less. Still, it is absurdly good.

Radiohead - In Rainbows
Don't get me wrong, I like Radiohead. But for me, in their career they'd never matched the quality of work that they accomplished with The Bends. Hail to the Thief was a prelude to this, as that was the first time they were willing to make rock music again in years. Finally, they've done it again. It's everything I've wanted from Radiohead, plus all the stuff they've learned along the way. All the songs are solid knock-em out of the park tracks. This will continue to be on heavy rotation for a long time to come.

Arthur & Yu - In Camera
They follow a bit of the song structure of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra ... only folkier...and filtered through later era Velvet Underground. It is a small solid debut record that has totally slipped under the radar, but shouldn't be missed. Very catchy lilting songwriting.

Jose Gonzales - In Our Nature
If you like whispery folky stuff then Jose is your man. Mellow and pretty. This is a very straightforward progression from his debut album. His Massive Attack cover (Feathers) is a big surprise; far surpassing what the original had accomplished.

Handsome Furs - Plague Park
Wolf Parade are great! Through them I discovered Sunset Rubdown and was notably excited for the new SR record. It wasn't bad, but really it wasn't up to the standard of either the previous SR album Shut Up I am Dreaming or the aforementioned Wolf Parade record. But Handsome Furs (Staring the other dude from Wolf Parade) did not disappoint. What is really surprising about this record is the song order. It is one of the few records that I've noticed where the album starts with the weakest songs and gets progressively better, and the "weak" songs are damn good. If you are even remotely into the new Canadian sound, this is another solid representation of what is strong in the scene.

Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
I wasn't sure what to think about this record when it first came out. No longer is the music seeped in Eastern European gypsy music, rather French Cabaret. The drama certainly is still infused in all the songwriting and the music remains catchy as hell. It's a very pretty record.

The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
I was ready to give up on the Shins after hearing the sugary sweet Chutes Too Narrow. The songs on Wincing are just as catchy, but have none of the cloying quality of the last record. It's bubbly and clean, with a great production quality. The songs are still poppy, but don't take any easy roads, deferring to builds and voice cracks, and left turns. It was played quite a bit this year.

The Field - From Here We Go Sublime
This is the album that got me back into techno. It has a real live sound to it (which is ironic as his live show is quite literally him just playing the record), he made mistakes and left them in...on an electronic record. Yet it works. Minimal and mesmerizing. This is a stellar release.

Caribou - Andorra
It is no surprise that Caribou has yet again put out another fine album. What is a surprise is that every release he puts out sounds so different. This time it is less the electro-collage and more a 60's psych sound. Melody Day is shooting for a top spot of song of the year.

Blonde Redhead - 23
When Blonde Redhead first arrived on the scene they were a great Sonic Youth knock off band. They tried getting harder and more angular until they reached what I think their farthest extreme and my only disappointment - In an Expression of the Inexpressable. Thereafter they started changing their sound got signed to 4AD (appropriately) and after one of the members getting stomped by a horse they decided to make pretty music. 23 is a no holds barred pretty-fest. Gone is the edge of yesteryear. This is the farthest in extreme from their harder sound, but despite losing a large element of where they were before this album is fantastic. This is all lush and gorgeous, and it works well. Who knows what the future holds?

!!! - Myth Takes
Before this record they were another kind-of-good indie dance bands. The kind of thing that was fine at a party but nothing to go nuts about. When this record came out I wasn't prepared to fall in love with the band. They decided to focus more on real instruments which created a much warmer, more live dance sound without sounding like a jam band. This is chock full of the kind of addictive beats that I'd always wished to find in obscure world music records. It's like if Fela Kuti threw a dance party in a warehouse in Williamsburg.

Thee More Shallows - Book of Bad Breaks
Grandaddy's "Just like the Fambly Cat" was good enough, nothing to complain about, but certainly a big dip from what I'd come to expect from the band. What was I to do. Fortunately I discovered Thee More Shallows. Despite the fact that they have quite possibly on of the least memorable names in music, contested closely by Broken Social Scene, their music certainly has made a big impression on me. They are not far in the spectrum from Grandaddy, certainly, but they are much less sweet, much fuzzier, with more extreme peaks and valleys in their sound. So far this goes down, in my mind, as the most underrated record of the year.

The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
For anyone that is nostalgic for the great early 90's shoegazey britpop invasion you need to check out this record. Perhaps not as poppy as Adorable, as sweet as the Pale Saints or as lush as Ride had this record come out 15 years ago it would have been ranked right along with the greats of the time. That doesn't mean it should be dismissed, for being dated, because while it leans on that era it certainly is a product of its time. It still has the quirkiness and sass that is prevalent in the Oughts, which may come directly from the thick Scottish accent. They are charming and this record is quality through and through.

Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse
What if Supertramp were really good? Lately I've. The Band of Horses' first record really brought this to mind last year. Besnard Lakes, though, are unmistakably Canadian, and as usual when describing multiple bands from the same kind of scene (The Montreal Sound) it is tough to both describe the music if you aren't familiar with it, and even more difficult to differentiate the band from its counterparts. Yes, they are bringing that trademark Canadian sound to the forefront, but now they carry in 60's tow 70's psych rock and falsetto wizardry, mixed with some poppy goodness. Strangely it isn't nearly as offensive as this description sounds.

Albums of Notable

Band of Bees - Octopus

A melange of separate sixties inspired songs all wrapped together in a well formed package. Like 40 year old Dim Sum.

Apparat - Walls
Yes, there is some Radiohead here, but at their heart they are a damn fine electronic act.

Feist - The Reminder
While her last record had charm it was a little spotty. Historically, all her work has had extreme peaks of greatness. With The Reminder this is the first record without the extreme valleys.

Harmonia - Live 1976
If you like knob twittling Krautrock, this recently found album is a must have addition to any obsessed psych fan.

Vashti Bunyan - Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind
Before she was experimenting in psych folk, she tried 60s pop. The plug was pulled on this phase in her career before she could get off the ground, but it doesn't mean that these songs weren't great. The first disc is a wonderful collection of never released songs, the second disc is great for completionist to not have to spend any more money.

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
There may not be an original note on this record, but it is damn catchy. For something so shamelessly derivative this it is hard for me to love it, but the songs are quality, and the record is solid. This album contains the greatest Billy Joel song never written.

MIA - Kala
Between the ode to the Modern Lovers at the album's opening to the fabu Pixies song right on through to the end, MIA took what she had done before and improved on it. Rather than just creating a sampledelic record as she did on the first record, she finally recorded real songs. The only bummer is the long boring track right in the center with the kids singing.

Clientelle - God Save the Clientelle
Just when I was about to question whether it is worth buying another album by The Clientelle (Strange Geometry seemed to kill any further desire), they put out a rock record. By rock, well, I mean rock by The Clientelle's standards, so upbeat rather than whispery sing-songy folk music. I still love the first two records the best, but this is a nice addition.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is Is EP
More Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Is that a bad thing? Why no. It sounds more like their earlier stuff, only of the same caliber as the last record (which is Mi-T-Fine.

Electrelane - No Shouts, No Calls
Imagine there was a band that really loved Stereolab, but wanted to sound more lo-fi without sounding like Monade. Ta-Da! It's a good one.

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Oh Amy, you have the dirtiest beehive. She wised up from the crap first album. Took the Dap Kings from Sharon Jones (her back up band), wrote a bunch of songs in a style that was sadly killed by awful QuietStorm music and put out a solid old R&B/Sould record for today's generation.

Eluvium - Copia
This year's most beautiful and accessible ambient record. Cluster and Eno would be proud.

Maps - We Can Create
This is a wonderfully catchy electro-pop record. It's sing-songy, it's boppy, its pretty, it has nice sweeping moments. It is a nice solid record.

Dungen - Tio Bitar
It's a hard rocking psychedelic freak out. If you like that kind of thing, it doesn't get much better than this.

Matthew Dear - Asa Breed
Matthew Dear made his entrance with the masterful techno record Leave Luck to Heaven. Asa Breed left much of the dance-floor behind and just focused on pop songs. It's got some catchy, catchy stuff on it.

Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings
Is this the year's most annoying record? Potentially. Do I love it? Yes. This is some great hurky-jerky electro sound collage. Brilliant even if you were only given the crazy Woody Woodpecker remix from the opening track.

Chromatics - Night Drive
Soft and sweet vocal dance tracks drop by amidst ambient mood music and room tones. I'd love this album more if there were a few more concrete songs, but even as is, it is still a solid background album. Plus, there is nice Kate Bush ditty on it.

Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals
Ok, I have to warn that there has a world-beat thing mixed with Nilson/ELO style AM Gold. This sound harkens back to some of the best late 70s pot smoking tunes and the album is chock full of catchy trippy numbers. For me 2080 might be one of the best tracks of the year.

Lavender Diamond - Imagine Our Love
I guess they are peaceniks? Is it a joke? Are they in on it? All I know is that she sings some great songs that hearken back to the kind of country sound that made it into the mainstream in the 60's.

Soulsavers - It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land
If you liked Screaming Trees, you'll be excited to hear that Mark Lanegan has teamed up with a couple DJs to put together a record not dissimilar to some of the better Spiritualized stuff with a Bristol sound in the background. I was quite pleased.

Say Hi (to Your Mom) - The Wishes and the Glitches
If Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes wasn't whiney or a cutter and listened to the Cure's Wish and dropped some beats in the background, well, you've got Say Hi. Sometimes he does sound like someone is squeezing him really hard, but it's part of the charm.

Common - Finding Forever
If you can get past the awful van art cover and the strange sharpie hair that's been drawn on top of it, there is a fine groovy soul heavy hip-hop album hiding inside.

Here's to another good year!


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