Thursday, January 24, 2008

SWSL Top 10 Albums Of 2007

Fashionably late is the expression, I think...

Perhaps belatedly entering the Real World, getting a Proper Job and suddenly having a regular income had something to do with it, but last year I acquired more albums than for some time. Not all were released in 2007 (Yo La Tengo’s Electr-O-Pura and I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, for a start – the first steps in my quest to buy up their entire back catalogue), and of those that were, some (inevitably) were unfairly neglected in preference for others.

But first the usual long list of records I would have liked to have heard (aka some of the things I’d like to pick up in 2008):

ART BRUT – It’s A Bit Complicated
BLONDE REDHEAD – 23
BILL CALLAGHAN – Woke On A Whaleheart
EUROS CHILDS – The Miracle Inn
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH – Some Loud Thunder
THE CONCRETES – Hey Trouble
DEERHOOF – Friend Opportunity
KEVIN DREW – Spirit If
HERMAN DUNE – Giant
FOO FIGHTERS – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
FUTURE OF THE LEFT – Curses!
GOOD SHOES – Think Before You Speak
THE GO! TEAM – Proof Of Youth
HOLY FUCK – Holy Fuck
iLiKETRAiNS – Elegies To Lessons Learnt
JESU – Conqueror
JETPLANE LANDING – Backlash Cop
MAPS – We Can Create
MALCOLM MIDDLETON – A Brighter Beat
THURSTON MOORE – Trees Outside
THE NATIONAL – Boxer
NEUROSIS – Given To The Rising
NO AGE – Weirdo Rippers
OKKERVIL RIVER – The Stage Names
QUI – Love’s Miracle
SIGUR ROS – Hvarf / Heim
SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE – Shelter From The Ash
STARS – In Our Bedroom After The War
MARNIE STERN – In Advance Of The Broken Arm
UNTITLED MUSICAL PROJECT – Untitled Music Project
VOICE OF THE SEVEN WOODS – Voice Of The Seven Woods
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – Release The Stars
THE WHITE STRIPES – Icky Thump

And now for the albums I did hear…

Outrageously Overrated:

KLAXONS – Myths Of The Near Future

A Few Decent Tracks But Could Definitely Do Better:

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB – Baby 81
BLOC PARTY – A Weekend In The City
THE CORAL – Roots And Echoes
EDITORS – An End Has A Beginning
THE GOSSIP – Standing In The Way Of Control
IDLEWILD – Make Another World
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – Era Vulgaris

Rated But Not To The Extent That Everyone Else Seems To:

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Strawberry Jam
BATTLES – Mirrored

Rated But Not Given The Stereo Time Deserved:

BAT FOR LASHES – Fur And Gold
BRIGHT EYES - Cassadaga
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY – All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
FRIDGE – The Sun
GRINDERMAN - Grinderman
PJ HARVEY – White Chalk
VARIOUS – Ballads Of The Book

Rated For The Most Part:

AIR FORMATION – Daylight Storms
!!! – Myth Takes
DARTZ! – This Is My Ship
MAXIMO PARK – Our Earthly Pleasures
MONKEY SWALLOWS THE UNIVERSE – The Casket Letters
GRUFF RHYS – Candylion
SHELLAC – Excellent Italian Greyhound
THE SHINS – Wincing The Night Away
YOU & THE ATOM BOMB – The Spirit Of Things

Very Close But No Cigar

ASOBI SEKSU - Citrus
THE ICARUS LINE - Black Lives At The Golden Coast
THE KISSAWAY TRAIL - The Kissaway Trail
LES SAVY FAV - Let's Stay Friends
EMMA POLLOCK - Watch The Fireworks

SWSL Top 10 Albums Of 2007:

10. INTERPOL - Our Love To Admire
It may have been their weakest album yet, and not content with just blighting the songs with excruciatingly bad lyrics – “You wear those shoes like a dove”, anyone? – Paul Banks may have christened one ‘No I In Threesome’, but Our Love To Admire still snuck into the Top 10 by virtue of the sheer fact that it affixed itself to my stereo and refused to leave. Like debut Turn On The Bright Lights and, to a lesser extent, follow-up Antics, it moved in mysterious ways, the steady drip-drip effect worked and by the autumn I’d been won over by the New Yorkers’ third suite of studied moodiness.
Key track: ‘Mammoth’

9. THE RAVEONETTES – Lust Lust Lust
After the clean girl-group-with-claws pop of Pretty In Black, the lashings of heavily reverbed Psychocandy feedback that characterised Chain Gang Of Love was back. But, as the jaded and listless repetition in the title suggested, in place of the exhilarating teenage breathlessness of the SWSL Album Of 2003 there was an oppressive twenty-something emotional malaise. Tellingly, the lead single was not 'That Great Love Sound' but 'Dead Sound'. Rarely can world-weariness have sounded so swoonsome.
Key track: ‘Aly, Walk With Me’

8. FIELD MUSIC – Tones Of Town
You - yes, YOU - stand accused of criminal and near-fatal neglect. The victims? North-Easterners Field Music, whose second album of intricate, melodious and sublime new wave pop should have seen them emerge out of the shadow cast by peers The Futureheads and Maximo Park, but which was instead largely ignored and no doubt at least in part led to the trio declaring that collectively they were going into indefinite hiatus. So, how do you plead? Guilty as charged!
Key track: 'She Can Do What She Wants'

7. DINOSAUR JR – Beyond
Ever seen ‘Goodbye Lenin’? I’ve seen got a theory which goes like this: in 1997 I slipped into a coma, only to wake up ten years later. My nearest and dearest, like my doctors fearful of the shock the modern present might be to my fragile health, contrived to ensure that as little seemed to have changed as possible. How else to explain Dinosaur Jr releasing a brilliant new album brimful with trademark Mascis solos (plus a pair of fine contributions from Lou Barlow) that's a match for their earlier efforts and now Kevin Keegan in the Newcastle hot seat?
Key track: ‘Almost Ready’

6. RADIOHEAD – In Rainbows
After slightly less time away than Dinosaur Jr, the favourite sons of the latest city I’ve learned to call home also returned with a new album, and asked how much it was worth. Well, the 'chorus' to '15 Steps', the moment the drums kicked in 'Bodysnatchers', the stately echo of OK Computer that is 'Nude', the spellbinding spectral reggae of 'House Of Cards', the weighty piano of 'Videotape' were all priceless. Shorter and more cohesive than its predecessor, In Rainbows may yet sink its claws deeper into me, but all the indications are that it'll go down as yet another classic.
Key track: ‘Bodysnatchers’

5. LOW – Drums And Guns
As the Duluth trio's first album since Alan Sparhawk temporarily took leave of his sanity and bassist Zak Sally walked away, it was apt that Drums And Guns should be such a departure from what had gone before. The opening lines - "All the soldiers / They're all gonna die / All the little babies / They're all gonna die" - signalled a turning away from the cautious warmth and lyrical optimism of The Great Destroyer, but the skittering beats and subtle electronics marked a more radical sonic departure. Drums And Guns was referred to as their Kid A, and with good reason. Brave and profoundly unsettling, it took both the band and their fans out of the comfort zone.
Key track: 'Breaker'

4. THE FIERY FURNACES – Widow City
From one band venturing into new territory to another whose next move, even within a single song, you can never quite second-guess. Widow City was another showcase of their maverick genius, but while 'Uncle Charlie' was a manic percussive hailstorm and scatty opener 'The Philadelphia Grand Jury' recalled 2004's Blueberry Boat in the way it welded together different sections like some bizarre cut-and-shut experiment, other songs suggested their attention span had increased enough to concentrate on just one idea for the duration and in 'My Egyptian Grammar' they had a genuine pop hit in the waiting. Plus Eleanor Friedberger sang about her belief in the value of a restorative beer and managed to make the lines "She's a nurse / She's open-minded / She's involved" sound filthily suggestive. What wasn't to like?
Key track: ‘Clear Signal From Cairo’

3. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – Sound Of Silver
Forget 'Get Innocuous', 'Us Vs Them' and even first single 'North American Scum', both trademark appeals to itchy feet - LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver was only really about two songs: hazy electro lament 'Someone Great' and its neighbour right at the heart of the album, 'All My Friends', essentially one piano motif taken to infinity and beyond. Both tracks saw James Murphy remove tongue from cheek, drop his hipster guard and let something of himself out for the first time, and together they cemented LCD Soundsystem's status as THE singles band of 2007 bar none. Whether two swallows - even two swallows as brilliant as these - do a good summer make is debatable (and has been hotly contested here), but my placing Sound Of Silver at #3 should give you my answer.
Key track: ‘All My Friends’

2. THE BESNARD LAKES – The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse
Dark horse indeed. Last year, second spot was taken by an album that came out of nowhere, My Latest Novel's Wolves, as recommended by a fellow blogger. History's repeated itself: this time around, the blogger in question was Kenny and the album the debut full-length offering from The Besnard Lakes. Barely twenty seconds into opener 'Disaster' and I knew the recommendation was spot on and that they'd edge up on the rails - but how could they not when they're associates of Stars, The Dears and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and expand upon the template of a certain other band who hail from Montreal to encompass Beach Boys harmonies, Soft Bulletin era Flaming Lips and a smidgen of Americana?
Key track: ‘Disaster’

1. THE ARCADE FIRE – Neon Bible
And so to that certain other band from Montreal. The Besnard Lakes would have been comfortably crowned 2007's Arcade Fire were it not for the fact that the year belonged to the real deal. Their second record may not have had quite the impact on me that Funeral did two years ago, but nevertheless it was a towering triumph from start to finish, the emphasis more firmly on the fiercely political than the intensely personal. Neon Bible catapulted them into the hearts and minds of people who - cripes! - don't even know who Godspeed! You Black Emperor are, and onto an tour of enormodomes around the world, the indie ghetto rapidly disappearing in the rear view mirror. "MTV, what have you done to me?", Win Butler mused on 'Windowstill', and it must have come as something of a bewildering whirlwind to the band themselves - but it must have also been some comfort to know that, even in a fallen world that can inspire the apocalyptic and millenarian tensions with which their music is infused, that same music can still find broad appeal.
Key track: 'Intervention'

Lest we forget - the SWSL Top 10 Albums Of 2006:

10. YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Show Your Bones
9. GIANT DRAG - Hearts And Unicorns
8. YO LA TENGO - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
7. MOGWAI - Mr Beast
6. SONIC YOUTH - Rather Ripped
5. ANATHALLO - Floating World
4. SEMIFINALISTS - Semifinalists
3. CAT POWER - The Greatest
2. MY LATEST NOVEL - Wolves
1. HOWLING BELLS - Howling Bells

4 comments:

Ian said...

I am predictably happy about #5 (and I really did try with #8, but I always liked the descriptions more than the music described), but what I'm really curious about is #9. That's a fantastic blurb. I've never heard a full Raveonettes album, but you've got me intrigued.

Will said...

Ah, I loved the Howling Bells album too, though I felt guilty about it because it was so... indie.

For me, Neon Bible was overrated, tho Intervention and Ocean of Noise were great.

The Art Brut album is a bit of a disappointment, not that I had great hopes for it anyway, actually, using those parameters it was probably better than expected.

Just a hotchpotch of confused thoughts for you there, just ignore me...

Ben said...

Ian: The Low album did slip a little in my estimation, but I still love it. Just not a very easy listen... Glad you at least gave Field Music a try.

Will: The Howling Bells album was a special one - straight out of nowhere and every song a gem. I did consider the possibility that Neon Bible might be overrated, but listening to it again - even having been blown away by the Besnard Lakes record - I still concluded it's deserved all the plaudits that've come its way.

Aeioux said...

Nice list - a few things for me to check out there that I've missed! I think suddenly having a small child has something to do with that one...