Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ryan Miller's Top 10 of 2007

Alright everybody -- here's some more Indie Soundcheck flava for ya.

10 "Back To Black" - Amy Winehouse
What a rollercoaster of a year it has been for her. Is she so overexposed right now that it makes me sick? Absolutely. But I loved listening to this CD for the first half of the year. A lot of it I attribute to her band, The Dap Kings, but it was fresh and exciting when it came across my desk in January. She played one of the smaller tents at Coachella this past year, and was one of the highlights of the entire festival for me. She was smiling, chatty, and put on a great set of music. While her Lollapalooza appearance was the complete opposite of that, I'm not going to let it take anything away from how much I enjoyed the CD. I don't anticipate her being able to recover from her own overexposure, which is too bad...and she may go down in history simply as this year's Gnarls Barkley; one HUGE hit that wore out it's welcome.

9. "Armchair Apocrypha" - Andrew Bird
I'm so glad he finally got to play in the Pabst. As far as this album goes, I can't say that I liked it better than "The Mysterious Production Of Eggs", and I didn't take a liking to this CD as quickly as previous records. But once it clicked for me, it was as big hit. We got Andrew to do an in-studio appearance at the radio station, and it was a HUGE thrill for me. Here's one of my favorite musicians, performing about 5 feet away from me, for an audience of me. Unreal. I have such respect for the people who master the art of looping like that. He's an original.

8. "Wincing The Night Away" - The Shins
What hasn't been said about the Shins yet? They were on half of the top ten lists from last year because it leaked out early so this is pretty well-worn territory. It's a good CD. I liked "Chutes Too Narrow" better. But this is a very good CD. "Sleeping Lessons" is one of the best songs of the year, even though the band phoned in their music video for it.

7. "Sounds Of Silver" - LCD Soundsystem
"North American Scum" -- Awful lead single. Good thing they wrote other songs for this record. "All My Friends" and "Someone Great" more than make up for the poor planning on the lead single. While I don't think James Murphy and company did anything to really surprise us, what they were able to do is not be known as that band with Daft Punk in that one song. "All My Friends" I think is one of the best songs of the year, and it's not exactly complex -- it's just two chords for the whole song. As a musician I typically hate those kinds of songs, but they throw in some decent lyrics, a cool video, and have the song build and build and build and build on itself, and all of a sudden we're cool.

6. "Let Me Introduce My Friends" - I'm From Barcelona
29 Swedes. Could they beat Polyphonic Spree in a street brawl? I doubt it. They'd probably think they were playing tag on the playground instead of trying to hurt anyone. And then they'd write a catchy happy pop song about the debacle. They tackle some sad things in their the chicken pox, oversleeping, and Britney Spears. But they also are super in touch with the 8 year olds in them, singing about collecting stamps, and having a treehouse. They're not trying to be a novelty with this happy happy stuff -- they genuinely feel it all. This CD should put you in a good mood. Caught them at Lollapalooza and will never forget the dance party that it turned in to. People should stage dive on swimming pool rafts more often.

5 "Hissingn Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?" - Of Montreal
Musically, they come out flying from the first song, and then they don't let you go for the entire CD. Kevin Barnes has established himself as quite the artist. But I've stopped being surprised at the nonsense song titles. "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethian Curse". "Gronlandic Edit". "A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger". I agree with what Matt said -- they could have easily taken the easy way out with this record, especially in light of what a hit "Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games" was and the steaks that it helped sell. But instead they released a very challenging and complex record, and it looks like it's paid off great. I mean they played two shows at the Pabst this year! That counts for a lot!

4. "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" - Spoon
It has been explained to me by the band that "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" is supposed pronounced quickly. More like gagagagaga. So make a note of that. This was a very good follow up to "Gimme Fiction", and Merge records has another hit on their hands. Two singles from this CD got regular airplay on the station, and not just on the indie show. They were great on our stage at Summerfest. They were great at Lollapalooza. And then they were FANTASTIC at the Pabst. We elected to see Spoon that night instead of Regina Spector, and we're 100% sure we made the right choice. As I'll mention again a little further down, I select "The Underdog" as the song of the year.

3 "Hey Hey My My Yo Yo" - Junior Senior
So I'm cheating a little bit here. This album was released in 2005 in Europe. But not until 2007 in America. So what happened to Junior Senior between their debut CD and this one? Junior is a couple years older. Senior lost some weight. And I think that they've earned the right to have the "Novelty Act" label removed from them. As a band they've grown up, and are taking themselves seriously as a band. Some songs are still kind of silly, but it's not just being goofy for the sake of being goofy. The production on this CD is miles ahead of their debut. It's not all about dancing on this album, but you'll probably want to dance for most of the songs. Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson from the B-52's guest on a song, and this is a match made in heaven. Simply put, this is an incredibly fun record, and one that was such a pleasant surprise for me this year.

2. "Challengers" - New Pornographers
I've been on the NP's bandwagon since the beginning. "Mass Romantic" came out right when I was starting to really get into college radio. And on every subsequent album, I have yet to be disappointed. I had the chance to interview AC Newman this year, and he told a story about how he totally knew that Pitchfork was going to turn on them. Sure enough, album review was a 6.0 -- reviewed by the same guy who gave Twin Cinema a 9.0. From the review: "But the problem isn't so much the pace of the record as the topography; Twin Cinema ballads like "Bleeding Heart Show" and "These Are the Fables" built to euphoric payoffs, while Challengers tracks end with uncharacteristic whimpers instead of bangs. Newman, as the undisputed leader at this point, has to take most of the blame, but it's possible to cite the other primaries as well, as Neko and Bejar show up just to go through the motions." Aw snap. Someone had a bone to pick. Maybe someone didn't get on the guestlist for a show at the Metro or something. I can't fault the band for writing slower songs. I would fault the band if they wrote shitty songs. But that's not at all what they did. Good for them for not taking previous formulas for success, and using those to calculate the new record. So this wasn't the #1 summer jam record this year. I still loved it. Bejar's songs were great, Neko continues to amaze, and that little part of AC Newman's brain that writes great melodies succeeds yet again.

1. "The Reminder" - Feist
iPod commercial aside, this still would have been my record of the year. Her concert in Madison aside, this would still have been my record of the year. Cool videos aside, eh, I don't know...they probably helped a little bit. I wasn't a huge fan of "Let It Die", so I didn't come in having particularly large expectations for "The Reminder". But this record is very good. I think her personality helps her cause too. Jimmy Kimmel did an entire show from a moving bus one night, and Feist was the music guest that night. And she went with it. On Letterman she was able to round up a lot of great musicians to be in the background choir for "1234" ...AC Newman, Mates Of State, The National, and of cource, Broken Social Scene. How can you not love the "1234" video? Or the less seen "My Moon My Man Video"? Musically, it all comes down to melodies and arragements, and those are places that this record shines. From the kickdrum in "Brandy Alexander" to the pacing piano of "My Moon My Man" to some really neat jazz chords, to whatever effect she has on her guitar to make it sound like she's playing on her back porch on a sunny day in "The Park", it's all great. She has set the bar very high for herself now with this CD and her new-found mainstream notoriety, but I'm confident that when the next record comes out, we'll all be ooo-ing and ahh-ing again.

Song of the Year: "The Underdog" - Spoon. Love it. From every note from the horns to every syncopated handclap to the grand finale at the end, Spoon wrote the best song of the year, says me.

Song of the year runner up: "Challengers" - The New Pornographers. Prettiest song of the year.

Music Videos of the Year:

5. Feist - My Moon My Man. Brings out that 7 year old that always wants to walk backwards on escalaters and moving walkways.

4. The Shins - Australia. You can see James Mercer smiling at the end. That's absolutely priceless.

3. Fujiya & Miyagi - Ankle Injuries. Fun with dice.

2. Feist - 1234. They don't even show the best parts in the iPod commercial.

1. Jarvis Cocker - Don't Let Him Waste Your Time. They couldn't stop showing this video on Subterranean and The Dive. And with good reason.

Band Most Guilty Of Ripping Off Interpol in 2007: Interpol - Our Love To Admire

Album I Don't Get But Respect That Everyone Else In Their Mom Loves It -- The National "Boxer". I will say this though...when they get it right, they REALLY get it right. And the ending of that show at the Pabst was very intense and very awesome.

Best Concerts of '07 -- TV On The Radio @ Orpheum Theater
I'm From Barcelona, !!!, LCD Soundsystem @ Lollapalooza
New Pornographers @ Pabst Theater

Most Anticipated Albums of '08 --
Nada Surf
The Helio Sequence

And that's all I have. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Top Ten Albums said...

nice list ryan!

i hadn't seen that jarvis cocker video.... completely amazing!

Also, i gotta say, your comments on New Pornographers are right on. PItchfork has this funny way of wielding the war-hammer of indie cred & it almost didn't matter what the album sounded like.... New P's were starting to get popularity beyond the readers of pitchfork & they just wouldn't stand for it. that's one of the unfortunate things about their attitude.... although on the other hand it is interesting to see them be forced into panning an artist that no matter how much they try to like... simply can't once the actual album comes out (see...the zillions of items on Devendra Banhart prior to release, subsequent album panning & eventual disappearance from their site altogether)

in any case very cool list & really great comments