Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Andrew G's Top Ten of 2007

  1. 1. The National, Boxer

Not much is said about how much Matt Berninger’s darkly funny and slightly perverse lyrics on Boxer are about food and beverages. He sings about “baking a cake or something” (“Racing Like A Pro”), standing at the “punch bowl swallowing punch” (“Slow Show” which has the other awesome redundant lyric – “I better get my shit together, better gather my shit”), making “nice icy drinks” (“Gospel”), and putting “a little something in our lemonade” (“Fake Empire”). Mmmm, who’s ready for happy hour and hor d'oeuvres?! Nonetheless, these little culinary schemes are for me what make Boxer the best album of 2007. They are semi-sad attempts to add excitement and meaning to the banal “unmagnificent lives of adults” or are at least a way to keep unfulfilled longings at bay amidst a late night setting of corporate party decadence. Not enough can be said about Berninger’s lyrics: whether he is getting his rocks off by spying on his friends (“Green Gloves”) or trying not to think about his male anatomy (“Slow Show”), their understated absurdness makes this album even more honest. Also, the music with its delicate full sound, driving drums, and minimalist horn arrangements capture and heighten this existential anxiousness. Overall, Boxer is a dark, educated critique of finding truth and your bearings in the yuppiness of adulthood.

2. Radiohead, In Rainbows

I paid about the price of a Qdoba burrito for In Rainbows. It was a gamble because Radiohead, with their last few albums, have only released about 4 ½ decent songs in the last 7 years which puts them on the “Dollar Menu” in my book. But at about 3am on Oct 10th after 1½ songs into In Rainbows, I officially declared to who ever cared at that hour on IM that it was the best Radiohead album in ten years. Radiohead dropped the whole pompous bloated proggy blahness of their last couple records and then realized how great and still weird they can be by being straightforward. In Rainbows shows how vibrant and refreshing it is to hear the guitars plucking and bending out the songs’ melodies backing Thom Yorke’s falsetto whew wee! But, the real secret weapon here is Phil Selway’s percussion which gives this band back its pulse. All of these factors coalesce on the transcendent voodoo vibin’ “Reckoner,” the menacing bass heavy “All I Need,” and the freak out insanity of “Bodysnatchers.” Also great, is the way “House of Cards” sounds like Radiohead’s version of The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend” and how “Faust Arp” sounds like anything the Beatles did with acoustic guitars and a string section. In the end, In Rainbows is more satisfying than most $6 burritos.

3. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver

Big ups to James Murphy for sounding like Bowie and Roxy Music! LCD Soundsystem’s first album didn’t do much for me, but the mammoth monumental tracks on Sound of Silver held me hostage for 2007. Like The National’s Boxer, Sound of Silver navigates through and struggles with adulthood and how life even has lessons for the hippest of the hipsters. On Sound of Silver, James Murphy recounts escaping old friends only to try to reconnect with them when they have moved on or faded away (“All My Friends”), exorcizes the ghost town ruins left by old relationships (“Someone Great”), and then even seems to warn against the exact reminiscing of the past that he does on the album (“Sounds of Silver” with those real life emotional teenagers). Elsewhere, Murphy speaks to the most general issues in the broadest way but it comes off as so damn cool and infectious on tracks like “Us vs. Them” (when is not us vs. them?!), the International Relations 101 of “North American Scum,” and whatever the hell he is talking about on the sweet “Get Innocuous."

4. Peter Bjorn & John, Writer’s Block

This album is ranked here due to the sheer number of times I listened to it in the first 8 months of the year. Peter Bjorn & John are like a group of goofy euro tour guides or Travel Channel show hosts where they guide you all through Europe with their eager enthusiasm for making simple (but not dumb) pop. Writer’s Block plays like a “greatest hits” collection where each track has singular unique vibe whether it is an all out bass and drums rocker (“Up Against the Wall”), distorted shoe gaze (“Start to Melt”), a tender acoustic track (“Paris 2004”), or the perfect album closer (“Roll the Credits”).

5. Feist, The Reminder

Breakout star of the new Millennium, Feist, delivered some of the most infectious songs of the year on The Reminder. This album had confectionary rockers like “1234” and songs like “My Moon, My Man,” “Sea Lion Woman,” and the smoldering “The Limit of Your Love” where Feist hits her stride. However, songs like “Honey Honey,” “Brandy Alexander,” and “The Water” show how The Reminder has an ethereal side where the songs percolate like ether. Also, I was impressed by what a natural talent Feist is in her live shows.

6. Jens Lekman, Night Falls on Kortedala

Night Falls on Kortedala feels like this year’s The Life Pursuit where the album is bright orchestrated pop with lyrics about small everyday dramas and heartbreak. Jens Lekman delivers this album with dry wit and a literate sense of humor as if he is a screenwriter creating these funny scenarios and dilemmas for his juxtaposing characters. The music with its layered samples and Jens’s crooning has a feel of winning a trip to Hawaii on a game show("This is Your Life - Most Embarassing Moments Edition")and going to a luau hosted by Jens himself.

7. The Good, The Bad & The Queen, The Good, The Bad & The Queen

This is my sleeper hit album of the year. Boxer and The Good, The Bad & The Queen are the albums I have listen to most this year where tracks from both albums are over the 50 play count mark on my ipod. Basically, this album goes to the same sonic tailor as Boxer for its suits. Instead of actively grabbing, the songs on this album have an understated pull that continually seeps under your skin into you like carbon monoxide until it becomes as familiar as your favorite pub (where you’re probably drinking a pint o’ lager in a top hat). Musically, this album has the same gloomy glitchy feel as its cousin Gorillaz Demon Days but Damon Albarn and producer Danger Mouse drop that album’s hip hop samples in favor of retro British folk like Fairport Convention and Pentangle. Also, The Good, The Bad & The Queen puts on a great display of Paul siminom’s bass and Albarn’s vocals.

8. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

As the band of choice for guys that wear button down shirts and slacks, Spoon is one of indie’s most reliant standby groups. With GaGaGaGaGa ^nth, they released one of the most consistent and solid albums of the year which has some of the best pop songs of 2007 with “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” “Finer Feelings,” and “Black Like Me.” Am I wrong or is “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” about cocaine?

9. Handsome Furs, Plague Park

Plague Park by this Wolf Parade side band has the best reverb guitars and most meat and potatoes rock of the year. With just guitars and a sputtering drum machine, the Handsome Furs create songs that exist in the same late night/early dawn time of the day that Wilco’s “Poor Places” and much of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot inhabited.

10. Fiery Furnaces, Widow City

On this solid album, The Fiery Furnaces come off as one of the best funk bands around while also one of the weirdest groups of any genre. On “Automatic Husband” and “The Philadelphia Grand Jury,” they make beats tighter than anything Timbaland or Pharrell can charge top dollar for. Yet their eclectic, strange songs seem like Paul McCartney writing songs for the Fall or vice versa where they go from tense angular funk to playschool death metal to a Wings or Belle & Sebastian type of airy melodies and cover every kind classic rock convention in between. On top of that, Eleanor Friedberger is on of the most charismatic female lead singers today where she radiates a confident strut on the enigmatic “Cabaret of the Seven Devils,” a demure femininity on the beautiful “My Egyptian Grammar,” and a weary but determined narrative on “Restorative Beer.”

Honorable Mentions:
Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
The Field, From Here We Go Sublime
Deerhunter, Crytograms / Fluorescent Grey (EP)
New Pornographers, Challengers
Les Savy Fav, Let’s Stay Friends
Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
Panda Bear, Person Pitch
Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam
Justice, +
Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future

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