Friday, December 14, 2007

THE ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF 2007...'Bout, F-ing Time!*


When our generation reaches an age where we reflect on the artists that defined our era there will be names from the silver screen, the walls of museums, the inventors of software and programs, athletes who reached heights never imagined, business people that changed commerce and musicians such as Radiohead. Musicans at the caliber of Radiohead do not simply make songs that are played on the radio or that wind up in ad campaigns. They challenge their critics, fans and peers to gain a perspective and evaluate what is being conveyed. The great ones make music that change the way you hear everything else. Such is the craft of Radiohead. Now we have In Rainbows, which may be the most defining album of Radiohead’s catalogue. Why? Nearly a decade after releasing one of the most influential albums of all time in OK Computer, the band has returned with not just an awing album, but also one that alters the state of modern music. A second, and third masterful album garners the rite of legend or Hall of Famer. Ad nausea, the media has fallen over its collective heels to grasp what the release format of this album will dictate. In perspective, the launch of the album has distracted from the greatness of its contained material. At this juncture Radiohead have mastered a form, a sound. What is so encompassing with this release is the synergy of the variations of style that the band has explored over the years in those 2-3 classic albums. 15 Step and Bodysnatchers are simply the best one-two punch I’ve heard in a long time. As the album flows along the boldness of The Bends era guitars melt to the post OK Computer sounds when digitalized amplifications became more and more prevalent. Then we receive an acoustic song Faust Arp, followed by the strongest songs of the album in House of Cards and Jigsaw Falling Into Place; closing quietly with the Kid A sounds of Videotape. What makes this so interesting and successful is that although the style has been explored before, it has never sounded so well versed and robust it does now. I am once again a believer in Radiohead and strongly feel that they are among the finest bands our generation will ever see.


I take great pride in knowing that most every one of my readers disagrees with my infatuation of this band…they’ve also never seen this magic performed live. Poof! It appears as if from nowhere. No strings attached, flashy lights, no smoke screens, only Mirrors. Intricate and masterful in delivery, this is the black magic of sound and it leaves the stunned audience scrambling for answers in the terror of it all. Performers can preach their abilities throughout the night, but if the act falls short of what is expected then the presentation is nothing short of complete failure. In the same notion if the act is just what the audience anticipated and that which they paid for, then where is the suspense? Where is the intrigue? What will keep them coming back? You see my friends, if you truly aim to win them over you must take them by surprise; give them what they never dreamed possible and leave them with curious smile. With audience perched on the mere edge of their seats in air thickening with anticipation the stunning vibration of the opening stanza of Race-In dashes outward and casts its image in their eyes and ears. The trickery and mind bending exploration grows and as more and more is unveiled, certainty slips further from grasp. Dare we say such sound comes from man, or be it machine that make such ruckus? That noise, that din, be that the vocals? Oh what contortion hath these hackers wrought? The man speaks and plays in machine and machine relays the message, does that change the meaning? What lies in those shadows of sound? Such theatrics, such toying, such the performance! Chirping noise waves over the nearly dumbfounded crowd with every wave of the wand and snap of the handkerchief. Soon that chirp become a growl and the feat of it all is unveiled as the curtains come crashing down. Behold the mysterious Tonto and breakthrough show stopper of the year, Atlas! Hear yea, hear yea! Come gather round. There are new masters of the oddity, fear you their sound?
Remember kids; you will always fear what you are unwilling to understand!

Andrew Bird

It’s good to see you as well. Grab a seat anywhere; can I pour a drink? Sure, I’ve got a scotch; smooth, well blended, aged with a smoky texture that rolls down the tongue leaving no burning aftertaste. I imagine it has not been all that long since last we spoke, but I feel much has changed and for the better I might add. This time last year, if my memory serves right, and these days it’s difficult to trust, you had found yourself in a new way, far more expressive in your work. You seem to have discovered something that made everything else click, and if you’ll allow me to be so curt, you really needed an edge. I guess now you’ve got it down. What was the name of that chap that you’ve been working with? Dash? Of course, Dosh. Good man. You two make quite the explosive duo, lucky you were introduced. Well, despite how it came about, I’m glad it did, it’s been grand for us all to share in. That being said, I hate to even bring it up, things are going so well here, and like I said it seems longer than it’s been since we last conversed, but I must know; what is it that troubles you so? Is there some dark matter from your past that haunts you? Surely this trouble is not of your own doing, so out with it, dispel the ghost that haunts. Tell us what we did wrong and you can blame us for it. Well that is something you say there, some truth to it for sure. I say, I’ve justly never see you look and sound so sharp, but there lies a trouble in those words you speak. You can’t be blamed you know? How about some credit now where credit is due, after all, like you’ve said it’s only fatal. Stay put, allow me to fetch something for you, I keep it on the nightstand. That’s right, it’s a book, a book of hidden things as such. It’s challenging but without a doubt, rewarding. An Apocrypha. You’ll grow much from the read and soon thank me.
What was that you were going to say?


SWDnce Assmbl seks, SWPop-Rck cllbrtn fr nw albm. Mst hv wllngnss to cr8 and dstrt and thn mx all tht we mak bck up and chrn it all out agn, unlk u wld evr drm!
SWDance Assmbl, ntrstd, vry ntrstd. We hve fnk, rck, and rhtm, w/ sme 2 spr. U brng the hrtbrk stries, w’ll brng the hrns…hw shld we mt?
W’ll dvlp the sngs wth our cmptrs, thn w’ll wrk 2gthr 2 make snd amzng!
Lt’s do ths!!
The result, a musical match that would make Apollo and Cupid blush in the heavens. It’s rare that heart felt stories of despair and young adulthood can be situated within the framework of fast tempo and amped up funk music, but Menomena introduce just enough of the mellow along with the layering of piano and whistles and chimes to make this jumble of sounds singable. It’s the darkest album that’s ever lifted my spirits. As the marriage of acoustic guitar and heavy bass lines finds jittery piano melodies underscoring choir like vocals the love story alters the whole romance with some inventive production skills. It’s the musical equivalent of a honeymoon gone wrong, only to be saved by the spirit of the young. But the Friendly sounds find Foe in the folds and depth of the words. A lover’s strife set to music that makes the room turn to frenzy. The closer we get to one another the more we discover we should never have met…so why does this work? I know you love to hear yourself speak, words that you think I can’t follow. Maybe that’s the way you and I will always relate. Broken hearted, jaded, and prickly slicing…music that scorns in draped red cloak and full of unearned decaDance!
End the search, the sound that was sought has been found.
Frnd dscvrd foe, rslt, mssve 3umph!!!


Winter gets cold in all the ways you forget. You’re feeling alone, your stride picks up a step. What keeps this simple is what keeps you going. When others fall short bein’ so new, you and I, we’ll stick to what’s tried and true.
Just one hit, a kick and drum.
Swagger on guitar, you’ll feel what he’s sung.
There’s Power in what they do. Textbook remedies to a long forgotten perfection. It’s everything a rock n’ roll song set out to be. For years Spoon has been perfecting the Pop-Rock template, and in so doing they have outperformed and surpassed in creativity most all of their peers. Keep it simple stupid. Well this time around, they did tweak the norm and pressed hard, not bending, but applying a little pressure to their fast set rules. There’s strong subtlety to these tunes and as always Brit Daniel’s lyrics are vivid and succinct, saying the commonplace in extraordinary ways. This band is an inspiration. Excess is no word amongst the vocabulary of these pop stars. The songs are keen and crisp, short and energetic, bold and reassuring. There is so much that can be said about this album, the song titles alone are conversation pieces, the exploration of tracks such as The Ghost of You Lingers and the sadness to jubilance of the closer Black Like Me, but if Spoon has taught me anything, it’s stop while you still got them interested.
Don’t you never think it’s right. Bet you think you had to but it doesn’t feel right. Bet you never think it feels right. Famous-sounding words make your head feel light.

The National

No surprise here, only affirmation. I fought it, I really did. I dissected ever album I listened to this year and was prepared to change direction, make the stunning surprise and drop a newly crowned champion, but I couldn’t find the challenger worthy to claim the belt. I assure you it came not from lack of trying. Maybe I am stubborn, I just refuse to let this one go. My love of this album places it among the best I have heard in the last ten years. It’s not grandiose but it stands strong on it’s own. There lies an overwhelming sense of accomplishment to it. If you take the time to hear its predecessors it becomes all the more apparent. From alt-country origins, flings with punkesque, and a formidable first step in Alligator, this becomes the high golden banner of a band that fulfilled it’s potential. There’s not much I haven’t expressed about this album so I’ll clarify more what it is that I listen for and why this contains the those elements.
Ultimately I want to feel that I have somehow, someway become a more enlightened or creative individual upon hearing an album. Like you approach a book or a film, you want to be entertained, sure, but you desire more, much more. You want feel what it is the artist is conveying to you. There needs to be a correlation between art and life that builds a bridge into your innermost thoughts. The direction and focus of an album can arise from anywhere; I trust the diversity of this list alones serves as a testament to that. I hold no preconceived notions when I listen, I’ll worship any album that fulfills my needs. I love an album that sounds ambiguous. When influences are painted on their foreheads, but comes out through them sounding so new. They can reinvent, recreate, redirect, revisit, whatever, in the end it must sound their own. The sounds I lend my ears most readily to are those that have a rockabilly stamina. Meaning they aren’t classic country and they aren’t rock, they kinda sit right there in the middle and claim to be neither. Then it needs an attitude. I’m not a huge punk fan, but I am enthralled by it’s influence and the independent spirit of the artists I listen to most embody this nonchalance. It has to, let me repeat, IT HAS TO, sound like something that would amaze me to see in person. I don’t want to just hear or digest the music, I want to transpose it into my life. When I love a song it becomes a walking anthem to my life. I hum it constantly. I alter lyrics. I set tempo to jogging, paddling, walking to it. I play it in my car, as I sit outside on a nice day, I play it as I fall to sleep at night, I play it as I work…it plays as I live. To allow something to have that much of an influence on my being, then yeah it needs to move me, it needs to inspire. Once the hook has me then it needs to make me want more. This is when the lyrics come to play. I love to read, and I do my best to write, so combine that with sounds I love and the imagery of the band, especially in live performance and all the senses come alive. When the lyrics are nonexistent, such as the case with Battles, then I study even harder the song structure and arrangement. I make the transitions in melody, rhythm, tempo, the placements, work to serve as the lyrics; I feel this to is the intent of those artists that create this form of expression. In the end, it has to appeal to me in a transcendent manner. What I love most with good music is sometimes not knowing what it is that draws me. This quest, in realistic terms, has brought me here, to challenge myself to express what inspires. Often simple explanation of guitar here and drum there doesn’t capture, so I become vague, odd even. What I am conveying is what the music makes me feel. Boxer does this do me more than any of the other albums I heard this year. The soundtrack that I will correlate to the 365 days that serve as the year 2007 will be Boxer, and that’s all I need to say.

*Now in correct order, idiot!


Alex said...

Nice work. Battles live is awesome, no doubt about. But I get lost in the album about half-way through and usualy end up reaching for something else. Had the year ended on July 31st, that album would have been in my top ten hands down. Here is the list to end a lists:

With Love From...Your Pretend Boyfriend said...

Radiohead and Battles - Great Choices!!! Nice one!