2007 Top Ten Year In Review
2007 was greatly anticipated, especially since it allowed me to put the tragedies of last year behind and focus my efforts on new academic pursuits. I returned to Athens, where a small bastion of indie music still resides. 2007 still proved to be somewhat tough, albeit much more productive and far happier year.
As with 2006, music shaped, in large part, my attitude, time, and personal endeavors. I saw some great concerts and discovered even greater music thanks to a cadre of characters from Last.fm. My lists reflect, more than anything, my personal feelings about the music. My reviews are more than mere objective critiques, most especially since I've developed a sort of subjective musical aesthetic short hand for interpreting and describing what I'm listening to; but I digress. Without further ado, I present to you my Top Ten Albums of 2007.10. LCD Soundsystem—Sounds of Silver
Sure, I first heard about LCD Soundsystem thanks to Pitchfork. Yes, I did buy the album on the recommendation of the snobbiest of indie music critics; but who cares. LCD Soundsystem brings the digital funk.
As a whole, the album works incredibly well, but for me, the albums attitude is summed up in the track "North American Scum." This album rocks, not just because musically it's spot on brilliant, thanks to lyrics that take all that arrogance, bravado, and ingenuity of the American psyche and wrap it up into one witty, damn good, rocking time. Sound of Silver was, the perfect summer album for 2007.9. The Innocence Mission—We Walked In Song
The Innocence Mission begins We Walked in Song with the hopeful and melodious Brotherhood of Man. "You half look like a painting/Even more than usual," is the kind of line that sticks with you through the day. You are reminded of the first time you first realized someone was beautiful and what being in their presence was like.
Love That Boy continues this theme. To me, it was a sort of prayer for love as Peris sings "Let him be safe there/Across the Way/I love that boy I say/I love him all the day." One of The Innocence Mission's enduring achievements is their ability to emote this type of emotion without coming across as sappy or cheesy in the least.
The album ends with My Sisters Return From Ireland, a song seemingly sung from the perspective of a child as she imagines the world that her beloved sister has just returned from. As a whole, the album is a celebration of quiet moments, small miracles and simple beauties. It melts away the cynicism of our age, the ever marching beat of the desire for cool at the core of the indie spirit, in favor of a celebration of life, brotherhood, and family.8. Camille Saint-Saens—SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Caprice andalous
Violin Concerto No. 3 was dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate, a virtuoso violinist in 1880. This release by classical music label BIS, was my first purchase of Saint-Saens compositions. Yes, Violin Concerto No. 3 is rousing, and beautiful and amazingly played. Saint-Saens showed, in his composition, the kind of connection to the violin that I hadn't been exposed to before, and it is this astonishment at the sheer intimacy with the instrument and overall concert that pushed this album right into my top 10 list, without wary an ounce of hesitation.7. Panda Bear—Person Pitch
To be honest, I didn't really know what I was in for when I purchased Person Pitch. What I found was a pop album, tinged with the spectre of the Beach Boys, but with a more subversive bend. The opening track, "Comfy In Nautica," gets you clapping your hands, but upon a closer listen, you discover that you're clapping to a song dealing with the swallowing up of innocence by the powers that be, imploring you to ask no questions, but trust implicitly. By the time you get to Bros, you're pretty much hooked. What Panda Bear does so well is to balance experimentalism and pop in a way that makes you cock your head like dogs do when they hear curious sounds all while tapping your hind leg in elation.
Beyond that, to use the cliche, Person Pitch is hypnotic. Upon my first listen, the album seemed to come and go. I remember thinking to myself, "dang, what did I just hear?" But even with that question swimming in my mind, patches of the album would pop-up in my mind throughout my week, and that, I believe is a characteristic of a great album.6. Nina Nastasia & Jim White—You Follow Me
Nina Nastasia made on my Top 10 list last year, but this year she's out done herself. With the help of Jim White of the band Dirty Three, creates a storied album with atmosphere, emotion and verve.
Nina is masterful at the craft of storytelling, and joins it with a medium that carries hear emotion through with quietness, and at other times barrels down on the listener with locomotive force. The Day I Would Bury You is an apt example of her giftedness in this area as she sings, Jim drumming with a controlled fervor, "I wanted to tell you again and again/How much I blame you/How hard this has been/I always dreamt of the day I would bury you/I never thought on the day I'd stop hating you." You feel her former passion, and the fact that she's relinquished these formerly fiery emotions as she sings "And I'm not your enemy/Though I lay the band you gave to me/Here as I vowed I would today."
This album is one for the books, and in my mind will ever remain a classic.5. Feist—The Reminder
When even my mother was mildly disappointed to miss Feist's concert at The Variety Playhouse, I knew Feist had hit on something. 1 2 3 4 would later go on to become a certifiable hit, and my mothers enjoyment of this song, long before the advent of the iPod commercial, testified to this fact.
The Reminder was far better than I could have expected. I was entirely unprepared for the title track, I'm Sorry; and it took me almost a week before I really went past track one. I'm Sorry set the tone for this album, quickly and emotionally pulling you in, and setting the foundation for what would become a heartfelt journey through angst ridden, confused, triumphant, powerful and befuddled relationships. The album did not let me down for one moment. When I was convinced one song was the Pièce de résistance, I was quickly reprimanded by the next song, which upon several listens would prove itself worthy of the title as well.
Feist did well in crafting an album that had great depth and feeling, worthy of the discerning listener and entirely accessible to the music listening public at large.4. Arcade Fire—Neon Bible
Arcade Fire is among the best of what our generation has to offer musically. They set themselves a part by developing albums containing gems that, when strung together, shine with sincere emotional brilliance.
It's quite clear what Arcade Fire intended to convey when they named their album Neon Bible. I suppose as a Bible thumping Jesus Freak some may think I'd be, at the very least, mildly offended. This is not the case. All great creative works, whether religious or musical, contain themes that Joseph Campbell referred to as 'the hero's journey.' In Neon Bible, mankind as a whole, is the hero, and life, with all its current brash and war like rhetoric, is the journey.
Just as any theologian would, Arcade Fire uses religious forms, language, and ideas to convey the dangers of our decisions, and to inform us of a world where blind devotion, as opposed to faith ordered by logic, is the rule of the day.
In the end, Arcade Fire is itself a religious work. Sure, it leans towards humanism, but it seeks to admonish the listener to have faith in man, to uphold our obligation to our fellow man, and be wary of those who would ask us to forsake that call.3. Radiohead—In Rainbows
15 Steps starts by asking the question "Why do I end where I started/Why do I end up where I went wrong?" as if they were fully aware of the questions and doubts that critics and fans alike have entertained since their last studio album. Would Radiohead end up where they began, returning to a familiar formula? Would that action be their undoing? Thankfully, they neither returned to the completely familiar nor deviated so far off the path as to make the sounds on In Rainbows entirely unrecognizable.
I have not been the biggest Radiohead listener, as I hold to the belief that Radiohead albums deserve careful and intentional listening time; apropos Kid A, an album that furtively undid what readily listenable goodness Radiohead possessed and surreptitiously moved them into the realm of the great rock bands for all time.
In Rainbows shakes you about through the first two tracks, loosening and easing any reservations you had about this album and then tosses you head first into the cool waters of Nude, arguably the strongest track on the album. Your head starts swimming as the Yorke sings "don't get any big ideas/they're not gonna happen," and you hold to every word as he emotes fear, damnation, but in the waning moments the music elicits a sense of wondering hope.
Throughout the rest of In Rainbows, Radiohead seems to ask more questions than they answer. It has the feeling of being a polemic in the form of a greek tragedy: grande, moving, and tragic as it begs the listener to heed the warning of the choir.2. Julia Kent—Delay
Classical music formed a large part of my musical diet this year. Julia Kent is both an exception and the rule, in this case. I discovered her when I was trying to determine whether or not I wanted to by Antony and the Johnsons last album. While reading about Antony on Wikipedia, I learned that there was a cellist named Julia Kent that was a part of his band. Since the cello is my favorite instrument, I had to know more about her. What I discovered blew me away. All the emotion and artistry that I had come to admire in Final Fantasy, but with an instrument whose sound I had fallen in love with as a child.
Julia Kent creates beautiful and rapturous musical pieces that crawl along like a Hitchcock storyline before blossoming forth in well constructed crescendos. Her songs are never overwhelming, as she is intimately aware of the unique tone and voice of the cello. Her songs are very much like tone poems, and so have a very narrative-like feel. The title track, Gardermoen, reveals, ever so quietly, a world of wonder that at its core works with clock like precision.
The album as a whole works incredibly well, and each song, given focused listens, will reward with moments of quiet bliss.1. Land of Talk—Applause Cheer Hiss Boo
I don't really have much to say about this album except, wow! I don't even remember how or when I discovered Land of Talk, but I sure am glad I did. The album has an intangible element that I have difficulty describing, but that has not failed to let go the entire year.
The album begins fast and furiously and carries the listener through a sincere and harsh introspective view of youth. It never lets up, and it never surrenders to sort of silly and trite angst that riddles some albums that seek to recall the disordered tragedy of youth.
The final song, Street Wheels, asks "Are we really in love at all/Is this something real," and you believe Elizabeth Powell when she sings it. Land of Talk album Applause Cheer Hiss Boo is frantic and emotive to be sure, but it is filled with, as I said before intangible elements that play themselves out in both Elizabeth Powell's voice and the band's cohesion and playing style. Sometimes it's best when you can't figure out what makes an album so great, and it's that faith in the beauty of Applause Cheer Hiss Boo that made it my #1 of 2007.