Another Cryptic Music Year: My Favorites of 2007 ::D&D W/O::Dec 20, 2007 (Updated Jan 2, 2008) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line all my favorite music stuff this year (with commentary of course).
INTRODUCTION JUNCTION WHAT'S YOUR FUNCTION(?)
Here is the novel of music n life as I did it. Sometimes I think my favorite musical artists this year was not, conventionally speaking, a musical artist at all; was Jack Kerouac, though, a writer(musician) so potent and life in my world. I suppose if I knew anything about bop or jazz I'd feel that beat but to me the man was just painting soul no matter the music rhythm of the words (which are there in word's own innovative beat like Madlib keeps searching for and finding but in Madlib's still own way). His words and journeys were just IT, so I have no idea what he was searching for but part of me is glad he's been reduced to B&N bookshelf titles, his Duluoz Legend has just caught me (yeah, "On the Road", but what about "Tristessa", what about "Big Sur", read them!).
With that, we'll hear from the recording artists now, my musical life in different facets, 2007.
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LIVE SHOWS WORTH MENTIONING
Wish I could see more, but you know, people are just starting to realize Phoenix is here to stay. They'll come more and move ever year, I have faith. But these were notable in 2007.
TV On the Radio in Hollywood, CA.
Tunde Adebimpe was completely soulful mad, Kyp Malone appropriately stoic, David Andrew Sitek rocking the bejeezus out of the place. The crowd was, on the other hand, scenester-laden and soulless so I hope but don't care if they minded my roomie and I bumping them all over the place. Good old Hollywood, big theatre, deft show full of passion with the guitars buzzing and straining over them speakers dense and amazing.
Okkervil River in Phoenix, AZ.
Intimate brewhouse downtown hosted this passionate show with lots of fans who knew the words and one appropriately spilled kid in the front with his arms opening accepting the everything in front of him. Okkervil River were appropriately impassioned, I'd have a hard time imagining how they recreated that over and over again through so many shows, but I'm glad they did it for us. Hightlight was Black Sheep Boy's epic scarred theme "So Come Back, I Am Waiting", absolutely explosive in its sincerity and fractured hope.
Regina Spektor in Phoenix, AZ.
The unexpected joys! I mean, first, I didn't get out much this year so to see so many tragically gorgeous women coming out it was like hipster Lilith Fair give me some more! My eyes were wide throughout and then I became a big Regina fan when she hit the stage and vocals bursted and the theatre roof came off not from boisterous noise but from vocal beauts. Again, how can one's vocal chords survive such strains night in and night out? Most was piano, but wan't she the cutest with her guitar talking about "Remember the time..."? I was on the edge of my seat throughout, especially during the finale, "Samson", where the stage lights turned to stars and we all sailed off...
The Hold Steady & Art Brut in Tempe, AZ.
The Hold Steady was a bit disappointing, in one show falling from my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE ARTISTS list, but Art Brut nearly got on with such silly antics and passionate want to be loved, and by God, they were.
I also saw: Peter Bjorn and John (in Tempe).
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BIGGEST INFLUENCES ON MY PROSE & POETRY
It'd be silly to write a list here (it's actually silly to make lists if you really think about it), so I'll just tell it. My writing tends to be stream-of-consciousness inward-looking, and considering I'm writing from the perspective of a 20-something "looking down the gun's barrel" who has frozen time between living and suicide, Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" fits the mood and would be considered an influence as it facilitates a state of mind that is congruent with the book. Upon discovery of, Elliott Smith's "New Moon" has been working in the same manner, and I find the two-track vocals ghostly, the lyrics identifiable to someone a bit reclusive such as my protagonist (and in extension, it fits with my personality, so a very evocative listen allowing deep emotions to flow onto the page). The sweeping guitars and wide-eye compositions of TV On the Radio's "Return to Cookie Mountain" also open up channels of wordplay, if anything, motivation to write outside useless conventions to get at something internal. Shocking Pink's self-titled was also special in connecting the backstory of its artist, Nick Harte, to the fractured fuzzy pop in front of you, with his affinity for one night stands becoming a bigger event, many females as muses, and I can't lie, if I make eye-contact with you at the grocery store and see something, you might end up in a vignette of mine. There is no limit to influences, though, just yesterday I had "Freeze the Saints" from Stephen Malkmus's "Face the Truth" on and it loosened me up and brought out beauty and truth feelings. And please keep in mind, it isn't exactly albums that influence me, but the people who make them, so Nick Drake, TV On the Radio, Nick Harte, and so on, are artists who continue to influence me.
Other identifiable influences: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Aesop Rock, Cat Stevens, anyone at any given time...
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A WORD ON "ONCE"
This movie is a musical drink of dreams, how could I not mention it? As a movie/soundtrack experience, it fits right up with the best albums, tracks, shows as just that, a musical experience. Shot in dusty realism, "Once" takes a supposedly simple premise of two people, right place wrong time, and turns it into an existential conundrum, priority of pursuits. That's probably what stirs the stomach by the final scenes, however, the loveangst of the immaculately arranged folk/pop by movie leads and musical minds Glen Hansard and Market Irglova keeps you floating, floating with them, them with a chance. Two souls occupying time and space, spending minutes in the streets of Dublin, recording music, talking about and living life. In the end, we put our bottles away because that's really no place for lightning to be anyhow.
Read my full movie review of "Once"...
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MOST ADDICTIVE SONGS OF 2007
Couldn't stop playin'em, sometimes the rest of the albums felt neglected, so sorry so sorry.
"Fake Empire", The National.
About 100 plays and the piano still penetrates like time one, seeing actual reflections in Mr. Berninger's deep brooding vocals, living "We're half awake in a fake empire" like a Boy Scout's merit badge.
Something about the cautionary guitar amongst the dead-on *clunks* and *pounds* of the percussion keep me deep thought, not to mention Yorke's falsetto adding the bitter icing all day long all night still in deep thought.
"Hit the Heartbreaks", Black Kids.
The most fun I've had in the shower (mayyyyyybe) it's so large on the poprocking out guitar in neon colors, unintelligibly anguished vocals, I'm dancing not slipping, happy and sullen in love with my little tub.
"Comfy In Nautica", Panda Bear.
Ambient chants in sunsets, Panda Bear's loops of voices n claps in a circle of love all day love.
"End of the World", Shocking Pinks.
"I've got to find a way to make it all make sense again" and "I want to take you out like it's the end of the world" work well enough in typical Shocking Pinks lyrical fragments so vulnerable and right over a blissful yet somehow somber dance-beat with warm ambience coming from other, boy this is pop like pop should be crumbled post-modern with crushing drum machines, and love ('s what it all comes back to anyway).
"Underground for Dummies", Sage Francis.
Another career run-down from another rapper, huh? But Sage's personality and of-interest story of rising underground notoriety over Odd Nosdam's immaculate boom-bap and holy aura in the samples keep it gritty for Sage to scream, "Irony is dead...and the last words that it said was "WHIIIIIIIIITE BOOOYYYYYYYS", gotta love it.
"North American Scum", LCD Soundsystem.
There is no track of the year for me (truly, no honestly), but it crossed my mind that this would be *it* if there were such honors coming from me (and there aren't). Mr. Murphy's vocals, ahh, the sarcastic bastard over his own tensed-up dance beats, it works better here than it ever has ever ever ever. The beat itself fashions a spare guitar which breaks out with the synths on the fantastic, heightened chorus with all the manic "aahhhhhhh"s behind it, it's just a perfect composition, something you can dance to while pretentious America naysayers get the boot on face.
"Cold Days From the Birdhouse", The Twilight Sad.
"Your red sky at night won't follow me, it won't follow me now", oh dear, the dense crashing guitars, bleak night dreary lyrics, I floated to this many times, floated away.
"When Your Mind's Made Up", Glen Hansard and Market Irglova.
Of all I could pick from "Once", this arrives on the list because of the raw vocal moans and strains toward the end of the song and run on in a fit of raw soul running naked across Earth. That, the elegant piano playing, the build of the song as the drums come in on the second verse (adds pep, intrigue, even emotion), this is passionate stuff.
"John Allyn Smith Sails", Okkervil River.
Ahhhhh, sometimes I think of the lyric, "This is the worst trip I've ever been on" as meaning something more than a simple tour, but the tour of LIFE, dig? As little guitars build into bigger ones, little voice starts to scream, "I want to go home!" you realize what a concept home is, where is it, is it in life? Ponder as it speeds, ponder as it intensifies, but don't be let down at the conclusion, such a terrific album closer.
"None Shall Pass", Aesop Rock.
Blockhead and Aesop Rock are the best producer/emcee combo right now. Doubt me, silly piggy? The tense disco beat, lonesome guitar sampled as Aesop precisely taps his voice all on beat with scathing battle raps (though he doesn't battle rappers -- more like battling scum of the mind and soul), oh my, it sounds like it came out of the best Jim Jarmusch 'hood intellectual movie not out yet, the true definition of urban. The best they've cooked up since "Daylight" graced us ('n maybe better).
"Nag Nag Nag Nag", Art Brut.
For headphone escapists all over, your anthem is here, "A record collection reduced to a mixtape / Headphones on I've mad my escape / I've made a film, a personal soundtrack / I'm leaving home and I'm never gonna come back." Sinister simple post-punk guitars and a damn engaging lead (if you haven't experienced Eddie Argos yet, I feel sorry for you, sorry sorry), Art Brut stay consistent 'n fun!
Also of much note: "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" (El-P), "Firecracker" (Voxtrot), "Emily" (Shocking Pinks), "Hoofprints in the Sand" (Sage Francis), "Windowsill" (Arcade Fire), "15 Step" (Radiohead), "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" (Okkervil River), "Slow Show" (The National), "Someone Great" (LCD Soundsystem), "Grip Like a Vice" (The Go! Team), "Southside" (Common & Kanye West), many tracks from Elliott Smith's "New Moon" compilation.
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MOST EXCELLENTEST LONGPLAYERS OF 2007
Had effect on my walks to school, my writing, my aimless walks to and from bus stops and little stores, traveling from Phoenix to Chicago and back living living living.
"Shocking Pinks", Shocking Pinks.
Nick Harte, the one and only Shocking Pink, brings a broken and put back together form of pop music with guitar, synthesizer, and live and programmed drum alive smashed-up and gritty. It's a new kind of DFA release, one I'm unfamiliar with, songs of lost loves, intense yearning, somber sun rises, all of these pictures floating through your head, but still danceable, danceable not being the main part but somehow the concept fits in. Despite being a combination of a couple EPs, this LP transitions with ease, a woefully wonderful collection of vignettes perfectly sewn together. The dreamy "This Aching Deal" is like a drunk walk on a trampoline toward the girl you always loved, flowing lovely into a manic and tortured "How Am I Not Myself" a lazy guitar journey roaming upon convoluted druglove lines like "I'd rather be your retard than to be your motherfckin' dad, telling you what to do", which comes off the drama just a bit with "Second Hand Girl" for a slacker-ish riff and inspired "if I arrive on your doorstep" lyrics, to of course spike up the emotional intensity for the austere wonderful "End of the World", and so on. Apparently, as I said earlier, Harte gets around and his women become muses for a good portion of his music, however, the love themes never get monotonous, in fact, it has the flavor of a lover per song. Lots of tastes, lots of talent, all spread around to an indomitable collection of alt-indie-somethin'.
Read my full review of "Shocking Pinks"...
"New Moon", Elliott Smith.
Discovering a man bigger than icon, some sort of folk and popular music deity, I was graced with Elliott Smith in my life via this collection, songs my fingers are too relectant to turn-off, and they are supposed table scraps? Man, oh man. These songs are primarily of Elliott's Kill Rock Stars (his former indie label, pre-major label) times, and are simply raw looks at other stuff he was recording at the time, and you must give props to the editor (mixer Larry Crane?) for the builds up, the pushes out, the way this all flows it is as if it's just another album for a gifted singer/songwriter, some unheard unspoken of solemn call Elliott Smith calls to us. "Angels in the Snow" opens soft, quiet, the two-tracked vocals calling sullen and sweet the yearnings to just sit beside. Eventually anti-social playful Elliott emerges from the downtrodden "Talking To Mary" or "High Times" to sing emotionally accurate chorus of "You come by with all of your friends and all their opinions I don't want to know / And I'm looking over my shoulder, booking away with nowhere to go", tell me, what intelligent tortured human hasn't felt like that? Amazingly, the flow of Disc Two is even stronger with arguably tighter songs, ending in the truly moon-gazing, white soft light sadness of "See You Later" with stripped vocals on a single-track, almost the real suicide note of Elliott Smith approximately sounding OK on the verses, then "Half Right" somber with spare repetetive guitar going in circles of plucking to depresseion in bed for weeks giving last advice, painting last pictures, at least that's how I imagine it. Hardly worth verbalizing, "New Moon" hits all sorts of spots, highly high on Elliott's signature two-tracked vocals and acoustic guitar, it's two 35-40 minute discs of subtle power with weakness tough to locate.
"Boxer", The National.
Matt Berninger and his band deliver disillusioned pieced together stories of people, society in our current haassed state. His evocative deadpan is tough and vulnerable, the band's music is expansive with piano (some even by Sufjan Stevens) n strings inserted in the perfect places, truly crafty well-written rock/pop/whatever else music. Key lyrics are placed perfectly while scenes are painted with meaningful, yet fairly minimal strokes. A piece too memorable.
Read my full review of "Boxer"...
"In Rainbows", Radiohead.
Forget the label release, this officially dropped when the band said "NOW", how can you not admire that? What had to be swirling and playing with one's mind had to be, Is this going to be any good or not? because the abrupt announcement and pay what you wish way of doing things, well, it leaves such questions out there. It did for me, then I heard the brilliance of "In Rainbows", and I dropped everything including my jaw. Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, and company keep the innovation, shake a bit of the pessimism, and create a cerebral, intense, emotionally fulfilling work, refreshing coming off the heels of heavy-handed (but still, so wonderful) "Hail to the Thief". "15 Steps" continues their streak of brilliant openers with lazy guitars, Kid A era drum beat, and even little kids screaming "Heyyyy" with Yorke's vocals clear enough at least not to need a lyric sheet. Elsewhere "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" drifts lusciously, earnestly with lyrics of poetic yearning toward a second part ridden with angst n sparking samples sure to leave you spinning in wide-eye nirvana, while "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" provides a well-timed andscream or two worthy guitar-heavy rock single you Bends nerds are always clamoring for. Then with a song uncharacteristic of today-Radiohead, "House of Cards", an unmistakable love song with ghostlywarm production and sweetly guitar, we know these guys have loosened their ties a bit but have handed over no artistic merit. In some ways a synthesis of past monuments, in others simply a unique expression of heart-want love, existential and deep, "In Rainbows" is simply Radiohead.
"The Stage Names", Okkervil River.
Human tragedy under dim lights, Okkervil River and lead-singer Will Sheff have crafted yet a different sort of same ode to our dramatics, this time passing by the black sheep boy for a sordid cast of characters, little short stories with life breathed into their being to act out our tough luck n such. To begin, the band lets loose a bit more with ohhh ohhhs, pepped-piano, and those woeful slow downs for the verses on "Our Life's Not a Movie or Maybe" for Mr. Sheff to lament the glorious portrayal of tragedy through pretty movie screen pictures, partially (hence the "or maybe"). "Unless It's Kicks" is high on an addictive rock riff and almost joyful percussion *boom* to the tune of "What gives this place some grace unless it's fiction?" That fiction continues a bit more downbeat through the heart-breaking and quiet "Savannah Smiles" where Daddy finds Daughter's diary years later only to realize his neglect, sullen. "Title Track" sets up closer, brilliant "John Allyn Smith Sails" (previously mentioned), anguishes in a series of small pictures crying out for connection, wasted and toughed souls told over hardly any music (slight guitar) on the verses while the chorus booms in somber piano loud and crushing. In a world where breaks may be tough to come by, Okkervil River can't stop the greatness from happening, I doubt they would.
"Sound of Silver", LCD Soundsystem.
Current music combined with computers and infatuation with the sounds of technology is taking us in the direction of the electronic sound collage, and it's not hard to see with the albums that've been getting Pitchfork (among other indie webzine) props, albums such as "Untrue" (Burial), That Cross Symbol Album (Justice), or "Silent Shout" (The Knife), but I'm having a hard time relating, a lot of it, to be glib, it sounds like mediocre house music to me. The DFA as a label and collective of artists has had a titanic impact on this progression in sound, and label MVP LCD Soundsystem bridged the gap this year for indie-alt-something-rock fans to the new electro jive, so score the second landslide victory for the label this year (I could make a stunning argument for this and "Shocking Pinks" as Co-AlbumsoftheYear). The bass, drum programming, and sick slick attitude of James Murphy keep you too moving and too cool, but the revamped (see: rock-like) song structure with the poppy-er guitar parts add depth and a quality that makes it more likely former naysayers will vibe to this much better than they did the '05 self-titled debut LP. A song like "North American Scum" is pure anthemic counter-culture party music, whereas "Someone Great" -- with its reverb, manic tapping, and computer blips -- is built for trippy techno-clubs yet also easy to dance in your carseat n sing-along to with addictive instrumental hooks and accessible verses. Those are more single-made yet still have a distinct James Murphy/LCD sound, while he's tightened up the longer pieces which extend from the pop structure into house anthems whilst not alienating the pop fans but trancing them to dance like the title track which sports a simple, serious, and catchy hook, then leaves you to the haunting atmospherics over yet another hip-grooving rumbling bassline with subtle analog drum effects. In all this, Mr. Murphy has created a masterpiece of indie, dance, and electro by moving easily between them and sewing'em together in an infectious, meaningful, and dense recording.
Still amazing, sound potent, second-tier: "Human the Death Dance" (Sage Francis), "None Shall Pass" (Aesop Rock), "Neon Bible" (Arcade Fire), "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" (El-P), "Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters" (The Twilight Sad), "It's a Bit Complicated" (Art Brut), "Friend Opportunity" (Deerhoof).
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You can leave now. I've said all I need to.
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