Friday, November 16, 2007

The Fringe Essentials

Let the games begin... still need some input on the top 12 (by some I mean someone post a comment for fucksake!)

Because of the Times – Kings of Leon
Overproduced, arena guitars and vocal distortion turned me off of this album immediately. It grew on me. At its core, its still a KOL album and says a lot for me. I am announced fan of KOL. The recipe is simple, punk rockers raised in the south singing about partying and babes. The get a little big for their britches at times on this one, but safe themselves from disaster on tracks such as My Party, Arizona and Fans. As I’ve allowed this album to mellow of the course of the year, I have decided to commend the Kings for being bold and trying some experimental sounds, although the screeching and controlled vocals I can do without.

Drums and Guns – Low
Very much a Built to Spill meets Wilco sound (note they opened for Wilco on most recent tour) they do separate themselves from the pack by turning up the volume and intensity. Distortion and altered sounds support the droning melodies and create interesting layers to peel back. My first go round with Low, I like what I hear. Start with Breaker.

Some Loud Thunder – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
I may be the only person in America that has this album on their list, I’m OK with that.
Written off because it wasn’t CYHSY II, there are some real gems on this follow up album that give a new depth to the bands material and lends itself to a fuller more complete focus. Emily Jean Stock is among my favorites for this yelpy bunch and Yankee Go Home and Satan Said Dance pull this album through. Way to make the list fellas!

Person Pitch – Panda Bear
I am without a doubt the most unhip pseudo legit blogger ever because I do not think that Panda Bear is a gift from the indie gods. It’s just not my cup of PBR. I get that its neat and different, but it sounds a lot like a soundtrack to a made for TV movie to me, just mixing classic pop songs with indie overtones. Maybe I’m missing something and then again maybe I just don’t like this stuff as much as the rest.

Easy Tiger – Ryan Adams
I’ll give it to him, this is the most direct and intent he’s been in years and that works, but its not as thrilling as the works of his past. The on again-off again drama of women and drugs as well as a confusing working relationship with the Cardinals all seem to be resolved. Where does that leave Ryan? Well apparently it keeps him from relasing 10 albums in a year, but it also keeps him from stumbling into his true ability. Some didn’t care for this album because it stressed his alt-country leanings too much…that’s why I like it.

Ongiara – Great Lake Swimmers
Speaking of Alt-Country, these guys have got that genre down to a folk perfection. Mellow, dramatic and ultimately incredibly listenable, this album soaks in and settles quite nicely. It’s a much-needed break from the guitar heavy, more rock than country, alt country norm. It lends itself more to a bluegrass/folk feel, but its songs build and evolve more than that company. Its frustrating that a sound so simple and pure is so difficult to describe, so give it a listen for yourself.

Raising Sand – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
I’ll start by saying this album is being cheated here, I haven’t given it a full listen and it deserves more, but I need it on the list and not sure how great it is yet. I gotta say hearing Robert Plant harmonizing and singing ballads with country queen Alison Krauss throws any Zeppelin fan for a loop. That’s part of the problem, I can’t get past the non-rocking Plant, which is too bad, because this album appears to have much to offer. I’ll re-approach this album in the new year.

You, You’re a History in the Rust – Do Make Say Think
It’s Besnard Lakes light. Brilliant composition and perfectly timed transactions maker this is an intriguing listen, but it lacks the punch of a standout track or an anchor sound. This is a creative band with high aspirations, so the album comes off a bit underdeveloped, sounding more like a random assortment of very talented folks that ran through some ideas, agreed enough on how they will sound and hit record. Still a quality work, just not what it could be.

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon – Devendra Banhart
This is letdown number two of the year. I had high hopes for this album and although its got some great tracks, including the powerful Seahorse, Devendra’s most rocking song to date, it sounds like the band spent too much time smoking the doobage and staring at crystals and not enough time writing real material. Its not a concept album in the classic seanse, but there is a concept that’s overly abundant here. Sings songs in different languages and maybe the listener won’t notice that it’s nothing more than a run of the mill song. Nice try, you crazy multi-linguist hippie, but I need more than this.

Cryoptograms – Deerhunter
I will admit I bought this simply because Pitchfork told me too. Shit, this is nothing, was my initial reaction, but it came out at a time of the year when little else was being released so I gave it more than its fair share of time. Perhaps it’s the number of listens that solidifies this album on the essential list more than the actual recorded material, but there are some solid tracks on this wild thing as well. Give Providence and Lake Somerset a creepy listen.

Tears of the Valedictorian – Frog Eyes
Yet another Spencer Krug supergroup (Mercer, Campbell etc.) this one hits the mark several times. The precursor to Swan Lake, hardly has an Idle Song (pun strongly intended, likely not gotten). Most of you won’t ever listen to this, and those that do probably will not like it. It’s not easy to listen to, and the stuff comes and goes and the rhythm and melodies are difficult to discern. For some reason I dig this stuff.

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone – Explosions in the Sky
I am one of those kids that discovered this band through Friday Night Lights, here again, I’m OK with that. Some of the best driving music ever created, it’s the big skies of Montana moments before the storm rolls in, put to music. Enveloping, monumental, colossus, and I don’t know what all…its stunning, and a great bridge between the jam-guitar fans and indie kids.

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
It’s the most mainstream this list gets, and you can argue why it doesn’t belong, but I dig the sultry sounds. Like a lounge singer in a strip club, Winehouse drunkenly stumbles through song after song, dropping some of the best lyrics of the year. Rehab, the non-sober single got me to pick it up, Me and Mr. Jones and Back to Black, kept me ordering drinks and dropping ones in the g-string.

Friend Opportunity – Deerhoof
At first I hated the crazy singing of Satomi Matsuzaki, felt she distracted from the tremendous music that was being made, then it hit me. That’s their whole gig. They want to be bizarre, way off the expected and on the brink of annoying. It works. Possibly the most creative album of the year…if it doesn’t drive you crazy first.

#36 - #25 to come soon…


Matthew Pickle said...


First, the blog continues to be awesome. I get excited everytime I see a new post.

Second, I've heard or own a few of the "Fringe Essentials," but of course I'm still waiting for someone (you) to hook me up with a sampler. There isn't really a big indie music scene here at Camp Striker.

Third, I disagree with your choice of Deerhood and Amy Winehouse. Neither of them are anywhere close to essential.

Fourth, stop being so hard on Wilco. Sky Blue Sky IS a good album.

And fifth, I got the Idle Songs pun. Nice.

m. jejune said...

All right, here's my list:
Top 15:
1. "In Rainbows", Radiohead
2. "Hissing Fauna..", of Montreal
3. "Friend or Foe", Menomena
4. "War Elephant", Deer Tick
5. "Friend Opportunity", Deerhoof
6. "Boxer", The National
7. "The Reminder", Feist
8. "The Flying Club Cup", Beirut
9. "Person Pitch", Panda Bear
10. "Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner", Shapes and Sizes
11. "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga", Spoon
12. "Spirit if...", Kevin Drew
13. "Five Roses", Miracle Fortress
14. "Wild Mtn. Nation", Blitzen Trapper
15. "Oh Me", The Pendeltons

After the top two, the next thirteen are pretty interchangeable. I'm probably losing all kinds of credibility by putting Kevin Drew's girlfriend's album ahead of Kevin Drew's album. Y'all should check out the Shapes and Sizes record if you haven't heard it.

bcp said...

Glad you enjoy the blog still and good to hear from ya. Believe it or not I finally got a package sent off to you (11-16) hope it gets there in the next 2wks., it has two USB cards filled with music.
Also, good to hear some negative feedback, part of me threw a mainstream album like Winehouse on there to see who's paying attention/reading. I do think Derhoof is worthy of the list, as does jejune. I will continue to be hard on the wilco album because I have fun with it and what's the point in only writing about things I like?
Jejune, thanks for the mentions, I can assure you that you'll see all of those amongst the 50, except shapes and sizes and miracle fortress, haven't heard them and unless they blow me away, likely to not have enough time to find a spot for them.
Thanks for posting the comments readers.

Jay said...

Here is a list of some of the toppers. Besides the top five, there is no particular order. "Boxer" is head and shoulders above the rest.

"Boxer"-The National
"Emotionalism"-the Avett Brothers
"Person Pitch"-Panda Bear
"War Elephant"-Deer Tick
"Neon Bible"-Arcade Fire"Andorra"-Caribou
"Strawberry Jam"--Animal Collective
"Friend and Foe"-Menomena
"The Stage Names"-Okkervil River
"In Rainbows"-Radiohead
"Wild Mountain Nation"-Blitzen Trapper
"Turn the Lights Out"-the Ponys
"Catch the Brass Ring"-Ferraby Lionheart
"Dead Confederate EP"-Dead Confederate
"Ga Ga Ga Ga"-Spoon
"Cease to Begin"-Band of Horses

Noah said...

I am thoroughly enjoying your year end review, however i feel that deerhoof blows. i consider myself pretty open minded sonicly, but i just dont get the buzz around these losers.