The Best Albums of 2007, pt. 4

Part I ~ Part II ~ Part III

We're getting down to the wire. The year is almost over, and I'm nowhere near finished telling you about the best recorded music of 2007, at least as far as my ears were concerned. And my, is this thing ever getting unwieldy. OK, let's try to get this thing over with. Here is the last part of the list, before I unveil my pick for the absolute best album of the year. Bear with me....

The Besnard Lakes - Are The Dark Horse

I want to call this the best debut album of 2007. Trouble is, The Besnard Lakes did in fact release an album titled Volume 1 back in 2003, but it only 1000 copies were released, and it was re-released in the U.S. after Are The Dark Horse came out, so...The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse is the best debut album of 2007. And lo, they're on my new favorite record label, who along with sister label Secretly Canadian, have fashioned themselves as the new Matador thanks to a hip roster comprised of acts such as Black Mountain, Jens Lekman, Magnolia Electric Co., Antony and the Johnsons, and many others. As for the Besnard Lakes, they're built around husband and wife duo Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, and their songs hinge on the eerie Beach Boys-like falsetto of Lasek, as well as a collision between the haunted psychedelia of Syd Barrett and the rocking emotional catharsis of Sigur Ros and Godspeed You Black Emperor! Listen to "Disaster", one of the best songs of the year, or "For Agent 13," and prepare to get chills.

David Vandervelde - The Moonstation House Band
Secretly Canadian

Didn't I just say that Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar are the hippest record label this side of Matador in the mid-nineties? Look here, it's another great release from Secretly Canadian. This one's from a wunderkind Chicago multi-instrumentalist whose sound might make you think that Marc Bolan never died.

"Jacket" - from The Moonstation House Band
Buy it Here

Richard Swift - Dressed Up for the Letdown
Secretly Canadian

OK, seriously, think back to when all the best bands in indie rock were all on one label, like Touch and Go, or Sub Pop, or Merge, or 4AD. Now look at this: ANOTHER GREAT RECORD FROM SECRETLY CANADIAN/JAGJAGUWAR. It's almost too good to be true. But it is true. I read someone else describe Richard Swift as some dude wearing a poncho and channeling Harry Nilsson, and since I'm a lazy, plagiarizing music reviewer, I'll just echo his words. Like Vandervelde, Swift is a multi-instrumentalist seemingly transported from a long-gone era. His music is as appealingly old-fashioned as it is touchingly beautiful.

PJ Harvey - White Chalk

When I mentioned Radiohead's In Rainbows earlier in this list, it sparked a little bit of a debate between me, Paul and Jeff about whether that group relied too much on a "formula", and whether that formula had become boring. Though fans of PJ Harvey's music might have some idea what to expect when faced with a new record of hers, she can't truly be said to fall on a formula, and she's certainly never boring. For White Chalk, she forced herself into a creative corner by composing all of the songs on piano, an instrument she had to learn from scratch to play. That challenge paid off in the form of one of her best records, totally different from anything else in her catalog.

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Boy am I repeating myself here, but here goes: you kind of know what to expect when you get a new Spoon record, right? Great big hooks, sparse instrumentation, Britt Daniel's haiku-like lyrics. But goddammit if Spoon doesn't take that formula and make it sound like you've never heard anything like it with each ensuing album. That must surely be a sign of genius in art: taking a limited set of variables, like squares of primary colors or a 12-tone scale of notes, and constructing something new and interesting with it on a consistent basis. I don't know how it's possible, but Britt Daniel has done it again and that's why Britt Daniel is a genius and I am not.

Dungen - Tio Bitar

Dungen makes heavy psychedelic music that sounds practically lifted from some foggy meadow circa-1967. Someone might read that and think, "who in the hell wants to listen to psychedelic music in 2007." Let me ask you this: who doesn't want to listen to psychedelic music in 2007? Aren't the times absolutely begging for music that transports someone away from the fucked-up mess that surrounds them? Wasn't that exactly what happened in 1967? The world might not think so (and according to the whispers I've heard on the internet, Dungen's home country of Sweden doesn't exactly think so either). But I look at the turmoil in the world--the quagmire in Iraq, the pending Armageddon in Iran, political assassinations in Pakistan, a tanking economy at home--and I think, why aren't there more bands like Dungen out there right now? The protest movement has gotten off the streets and gone online, but why doesn't it have a soundtrack like the movements of the sixties? Well, for those of you who wonder the same thing, let Dungen be your Jefferson Airplane.

Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Paw Tracks

For those psychedelia skeptics that I imagined into existence in the previous paragraphs, here's a psychedelic record that makes sense in the 21st century, soaked in reverb but built with sampling technology. Others have mentioned Brian Wilson when describing this record, so again, being lazy, I'll do it too: this sure as hell reminds me of Brian Wilson when I listen to it. Maybe if Brian Wilson were born in the seventies and decided to stay in his room and replace his brothers with his Mac, it would sound like Person Pitch. It works, in a way that Panda Bear's other gig, Animal Collective, hasn't worked for me as yet. Now I'll admit that I haven't listened to much of their stuff, but what I have listened too sounds jarring and contrived, whereas this sounds organic and fluid. When I heard about this record, and I heard that Panda Bear was living in Portugal with a wife and child, I thought, well, it looks like this Panda Bear is starting a solo career. I thought that even though I knew nothing about him or his other band, which he has not left, but when I thought it, and then listened to this record, I thought, man, what a great move. This guy is a genius, he doesn't need anyone else. Not being totally versed in Animal Collective, I won't come right out and say he should quit Animal Collective and be a cool solo artist based out of Lisbon (how cool is that?), but I will say this: of all his colleagues in Animal Collective, Panda Bear has the best nickname. I mean, they're Animal Collective: how come he's the only one who is named after an animal?

Man has this list gotten huge. It isn't even a list...I haven't counted, but I think I've named a lot more than 10 albums already, and aren't all lists supposed to come in tens? Perhaps that's just my western mind trying to hold me down. And get this: I'm not done yet. No, I still have to name the best album of 2007. I don't know if you're even still with me, but stay tuned: it'll get here soon (though possibly not in the actual year 2007).

Oh, and if you haven't let me know yet, tell me what you think were the best records of the year. I'm all ears.


jdw23 said...

Good seeing you the other night, bedheaded!!! Here's my list as of year-end, but note that there are many records I have yet to hear, including the Radiohead one.

1. Circle Katapult
2. Bruce Springsteen Magic
3. Dinosaur Jr Beyond
4. Jesu Conqueror
5. Lifetime s/t
6. Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
7. Justice Cross
8. Liars s/t
9. Animal Collective Strawberry Jam
10. Battles Mirrored
11. Nine Inch Nails Year Zero
12. Wilco Sky Blue Sky
13. Dungen Tio Bitar
14. Panda Bear Person Pitch
15. Ryan Adams Easy Tiger
16. M.I.A. Kala
17. Jesse Malin Glitter in the Gutter
18. Arcade Fire Neon Bible
19. The Ponys Turn the Lights Out
20. Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew Spirit If...

the cure for lycanthropy said...

JDW just listed that Circle album, which fucking rules...I have to agree with your assessment of the Spoon album; maybe THE best album of the year. David Vandervelde was originally in a hardcore band from these parts of the world...Joel Madigan recorded his very first attempt at music. Joel says he was light years ahead even then. Hope x-mas suited you. Make mine Marvel.