Friday, July 25, 2008

Sometimes You Go La Di Da Di Da Di Da Da

I feel like listening to a bunch of music today, so here's another year-end list. 2007 broke the streak of ridiculously good odd-numbered years, but there were still a lot of quality releases. With special mentions of LCD Soundsystem (Sound Of Silver), Blitzen Trapper (Wild Mountain Nation), Iron & Wine (The Shepherd's Dog), Bat For Lashes (Fur And Gold), and St. Vincent, who was great in concert (Marry Me), lets go to the top 10.

10. Menomena - Friend And Foe

"Now that Menomena's technique feels less jarring and daring, though, the group has done a decent job of pouring its euphoric weirdness into bruised, beautiful songcraft." - The Onion
Menomena continues to be one of the most unique bands out there, crafting more interesting pop songs with their experimental style. I don't find myself in the mood to listen to it that often, but when I do I also enjoy it tremendously.
Bonus points to them for writing a song about Luis "The Pelican" Hernandez (not really, but it still made me laugh when I realized the connection there). I mean, come on:
"Don't you feel it when I start throwing stones?
I guess some birds never learn;
One day these tides will turn and leave you nothing!"
It even kind of fits for him. Good ol' Pelican; giving me amusement even while in Triple-A.
Notable Tracks: Muscle'n Flo; Wet And Rusting; Air Raid

Muscle'n Flo

9. Okkervil River - The Stage Names

"The Stage Names is much more of a balls-out rock album than most of Okkervil River's oeuvre, and also more orchestral and layered, with arrangements that include everything from non-sissy glockenspiel to metronome percussion. The complexity is the perfect counterpart to Sheff's dense writing." - NOW
The video is a live recording, but I think it conveys the energy they put into their music. I don't think I've been quite patient enough with the album, as some of the songs kind of bore me. Every time I listen to it I like it a little more, so a year from now it might be closer to the top of the list. It kind of hits me how good Okkervil River is, when they put out an OK album and it's still this good. The surprising ending is pleasant and very well done - the transition is natural and it feels like it should be there.
NT: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe; Unless It Kicks; Plus Ones

Unless It Kicks

8. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

"Andrew Bird has thrown down his gauntlet brimming with post-structural imagery, swirling entropy, a truly floral arrangement of genre pieces and genre mixing." - Coke Machine Glow
"Imitosis" - my top song of the year - stands up well with the best tracks from The Mysterious Production Of Eggs. Much of the rest of the album is missing a bit of energy to me. It's still very well done - the lyrics, vocals, and violin are all up to Bird standards - but after listening to the first half I just want to start at the beginning again. Or go back to Eggs.
NT: Fiery Crash; Imitosis; Heretics


7. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala

"Night Falls Over Kortadela is witty, pretty, silly, and wise; and filled with instantly memorable melodies, thrilling moments of surprise in the arrangements, and laugh-out-loud lyrics." - All Music Guide
I couldn't find a good non-live video of "A Postcard To Nina", so I put up one of him playing at the Pitchfork Music Fest from 2006. I was there, at it was awesome. The problem was, I had to wait over a year to get the recorded version of the song. The album is full of strings and horns and sappy (but well crafted) lyrics, and that song just blows the rest out of the water. I know it sounds kind of stupid to laugh-out-loud at a song, but I really do. That it's based on a true story makes it 10 times funnier.
"Nina I can be your boyfriend
So you can stay with your girlfriend
Your father is a sweet old man
But it is hard for him to understand
That you wanna love a woman"
And it just gets better from there.
NT: Sipping On The Sweet Nectar; The Opposite Of Hallelujah; A Postcard To Nina

A Postcard To Nina

6. Pale Young Gentlemen - Pale Young Gentlemen

"Pale Young Gentlemen are damn good, and I'm not certain why more people aren't talking about them. Here's the best band you don't know about." - 5 Acts
Thanks to Mr. Shivers for bringing this back with him on a visit home from school in Madison, Wisconsin. A cross between Koufax and Andrew Bird (both circa 2003 or so), these gentlemen (and ladies) have crafted some catchy tunes. The album is short, and some of the slower songs are a bit weak, but I still can't wait for them to come play a show in Maryland. Best self-released album of 2007.
NT: Fraulein; Me & Nikolai; Clap Your Hands

I couldn't find an even OK video, so here's their myspace.

5. Metric - Grow Up And Blow Away

I first heard this album almost five years ago (it was originally recorded in 1999) but there wasn't an official release of it until 2007. Emily Haines' voice and the electro-pop backing it still hold up. Now, it's not really fair that I rank it this high - the album as released isn't exactly the same as the version I have (there are a couple of differences in track choice and ordering) but I actually like the old one better and so that's the one I'm keeping. Nothing too complicated here; just a fun enjoyable listen.
NT: Grow Up And Blow Away; On The Sly; Soft Rock Star

Soft Rock Star

4. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

"Despite a somewhat stifled mix, and the fact that Butler’s romanticism has been replaced by moments of bitterness, and in some instances petulance, what makes the new CD a worthy successor is what made us fall for this band in the first place: the music’s unflagging passion." - Pop Matters
How do you follow an instant classic like Funeral? By recording the next album in a church, and giving it a Gothic feel. The band does go a little over the top, but there's no denying the quality of the work - even if it fails to compare to their best work. My favorite track from the album, "No Cars Go", was actually written a few years before and released initially on their EP. They added some instrumentation and made an already great song that much better.
NT: Keep The Car Running; Intervention; No Cars Go

No Cars Go

3. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

"Frustrated by the choices we’ve made, limited by our own personalities, we begin tweaking our own identity to regain the illusion of control. Not only have Of Montreal created the perfect allegory for this kind of crisis, they have done so against the backdrop of pop and funk songs so perfect that they ought to become classics." - Tiny Mix Tapes
This isn't your typical sugary pop record, but it's still really catchy, if sometimes a bit odd. As soon as I heard it I knew it would end up being amongst the year's best albums.
NT: Suffer For Fashion; Reject The Frequency; She's A Rejector

Suffer For Fashion

2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

"There's plenty for everyone to love here, actually, and despite the silly title, Spoon's latest is worth going ga-ga over." - Hartford Courant
It's more of Spoon doing that thing they do so well (with a couple of extra tricks thrown in). The horns on "The Underdog" make it one of the most up-beat songs of the year, and Britt Daniel's delivery and the bass playing make "Rhthm & Soul" one of its catchiest. The album is short, but that's OK - just listen to it twice.
NT: Rhthm & Soul; Eddie's Ragga; The Underdog

Rhthm & Soul

1. The National - Boxer

"To be succinct and frank, Boxer is superb. Not only did The National create a startling, astonishing work of genius but they also crafted an album that is one beautiful piece of art." - Delusions of Adequacy
It was no contest for the #1 spot. Like 2005's very good Alligator, this album is somewhat dark in mood and a bit of a grower. I almost never really notice the drum-work in music - it's there and I hear it, but rarely do I say "hey, that's some good drumming". Well, Bryan Devendorf got me to notice. The lyrics are very good and the extra touches of piano, strings, and horns are excellent. Add Matt Berninger's vocals on top of that, and you get a fantastic album, even if it takes a few listens to get into it.
NT: Green Gloves; Slow Show; Ada


No all-time greats this year, but some very good stuff. There's something for (almost) everyone here.

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