Monday, December 31, 2007

Best of '07

Honestly, I shouldn't be doing a best of 2007 when, as of my last count, I've only gone through 12 2007 records fully enough to have any definite opinions. 11 of which are actually eligible.

The brief pseudo-reviews are primarily works in progress. And they will probably always be - even when it's 2050 and we've all died due to global warming.

I'm also working on a brief, pseudo-intelligent "analysis" of the intersection of music and culture in 2007. There are two specifically interesting points, the "mainstreamification" of indie through the media and the ever-so-timely resurgence of protest music. For a time in the early summer, everyone who wanted to look cool (and perhaps follow Green Day's lead?) was releasing a protest song; for God's sake; even nu-metal mainstays Linkin Park had one, with trite humanitarian imagery in the background of its music video, raising the question, "well, what do they do for the world besides sing about its problems?"

Best of '07

01. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Facing more mainstream attention than ever, Spoon show that they can still create under pressure from the mainstream. The record sounds like a combination of the tempos and rhythms (rhthms?) of their Wire-Meets-Pixies debut Telephono filtered through each of their later records in succession. What I thought to be a collection of relaxing pop tunes at first proved to be a multifaceted record of tightly-constructed pop tunes.
Rating: 90

02. Deerhunter - Fluorescent Grey EP
Coming out of seemingly nowhere, Deerhunter gained massive success due to two favorable Pitchforkmedia reviews. Which Deerhunter deserve. The band combines the repetitive nature of post-punk with washed out soundscapes straight out of Brian Eno's book.
Rating: 88

03. Do Make Say Think - You, You're a History in Rust
A very surprising post-rock record indeed. I had the opportunity to see these guys live and they are far better live than on record - and with a solid studio effort behind them, that's saying a lot. Live, the music has an intensity that the studio recordings lacks entirely - Executioner's Blues, when performed live, rides on a very thin rope between organization and pure anarchy.
Rating: 87

04. Radiohead - In Rainbows
Unfortunately, Radiohead have met most of the hype and expectation that has grown about them recently. In Rainbows is in no way innovative - for the first time in their career (wait... what about Pablo Honey?) the band fall into a sort of comfort zone, guided by the achievements of others. The beats are tight and repetitive, often reminiscent of a marching band with Mark E. Smith of The Fall as the bandleader and Deerhoof as the color guard.
Rating: 84

05. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
Like the Arcade Fire, Okkervil River create highly melodramatic symphonic folk music. However, Okkervil River do it much better. The trite Springsteen references are still there, but this record gets extra points for its postmodern take on the idea.
Rating: 81

06. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder
Though panned by the media (mostly), I think this highly underrated sophomore attempt holds up. Perhaps because of our expectations of bouncy West-coast style indie pop from this New York band we are disappointed by their foray into '70s-influenced art/progressive rock. Perhaps some day we will realize what value this record has.
Rating: 79

07. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation
Blitzen Trapper play with genre in the same way that a visual artist may play with color or line. Though they sound nothing like Pavement, they have the same postmodern irreleverence (perhaps that explains the comparisons), switching from psychedelia to noise to country and back within the course of 30 minutes.
Rating: 77

08. Rob Crow - Living Well
Though I prefer his work with Pinback, Rob Crow creates some decent stuff solo. Crow blends indie harmonies with metal influences, creating darker and tighter stuff than on the Pinback records.
Rating: 75

09. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
Honestly, it's hard for Deerhoof to top their 2005 masterpiece The Runners Four. Instead of trying to recreate the quirky blues/rock/noise/whatever charm of that record, Deerhoof try to become serious in Friend Opportunity. Which means lots of electronics and a few melodramatic teary ballads. Deerhoof released an EP of free stuff on their website in September (which I can't seem to find online anymore!), whose complete disregard to any sort of form shows that Deerhoof might come back to the irreverence we love.
Rating: 69

10. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Forget the hype. Though Win Butler and company try to get political and relevant with this record, the end result, though relevant to our world at many times, seems musically trite and overproduced. Simply stated, Neon Bible is what would result if Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan met some ‘80s post-punk musicians and an out-of-work string quartet in a Seattle coffee shop and decided to impulsively cut a record. Perhaps the Decemberists' Colin Melloy was at that coffee shop too - I don't know.
Rating: 66


d said...

my conclusion after reading your list is that not much good music was made in 07. just the mainstream indie stuff. can't wait until 2050- if i do not die of some cancer causing agent first.

Sandra Lynn Gray said...

Number 10, Neon Bible Arcade Fire is a fun review. You write really well about these groups. I can almost hear this number. I will have to check it out just to enjoy your description even more.