Talking Music: Reflections & Recommendations by Admohr

The Best Songs and Albums of 2007

Posted in The Year's Best, Top Ten, Year Retrospective by admohr on December 20, 2012

In 2006-2008 I posted my year-end music reviews on Facebook. I’m moving them over here for the sake of completion in their original, unaltered state (despite the overwhelming temptation to omit some of the selections, or at least edit the endless and often ill-advised rambling).

Albums of the Year
10. Art Brut – It’s a Bit Complicated
Don’t Miss: “Nag Nag Nag Nag”
9. Thurston Moore – Trees Outside the Academy
Don’t Miss: “The Shape is in a Trance”
8. Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
Don’t Miss: “Pick Me Up”
7. A Place to Bury Strangers – A Place to Bury Strangers
Don’t Miss: “Breathe”
6. Parts & Labor – Mapmaker
Don’t Miss: “Unexplosions”
5. Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Don’t Miss: “Long Walk Home” and “Radio Nowhere”
4. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Don’t Miss: “For Reverend Green” and “Fireworks”
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Don’t Miss: “All I Need” and “Bodysnatchers”
2. The National – Boxer
Don’t Miss: “Mistaken for Strangers” and “Slow Show”
1. Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover
Don’t Miss: “The Taming of the Hands that came back to life” and “Up on your Leopard, Upon the end of your Feral Days”

Just Missed
The Fiery Furnaces – Widow City
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
David Vandervelde – The Moonstation House Band
The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour
The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters
Spoon – Ga ga ga ga ga
Rogue Wave – Asleep at Heaven’s Gate
Okkerrvil River – The Stage Names
Boris w/ Michio Kurihara – Rainbow
I’m Not There – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
“Songs of the year”
Modest Mouse – “Spitting Venom,” “Fire it up,” “Missed the boat”
The Weakerthans – “Civil Twilight,” Tournament of Hearts” “Relative Surplus Value”
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “A Bottle of Buckie” “The Sons of Cain”
Spoon – “The Ghost of you Lingers,” “The Underdog”
The Shins – “Sea Legs” and “Australia”
Ryan Adams – “Goodnight Rose,” “The Sun Also Sets”
Rogue Wave – “Harmonium,” “Chicago X 12,” “Lake Michigan” “Fantasies”
Okkerrvil River – “Unless It’s Kicks” “John Allyn Smith Sails”
The New Pornographers – “Go Places”
Miranda Lambert – “Famous in a Small Town”
Mick Harvey – “No Doubt”
Les Savy Fav – “Pots and Pans” “The Year Before the Year 2000” “Patty Lee”
Iron & Wine – “Boy With a Coin” “Resurrection Fern”
Interpol – “Lighthouse”
Handsome Furs – “What we had”
Fiery Furnaces – “My Egyptian Grammar” “Duplexes of the Dead”
David Vandervelde – “Nothin No” “Murder in Michigan”
Blitzen Trapper – “Wild Mountain Nation”
Arcade Fire – “Intervention” “(Antichrist Television Blues)”
Apostle of Hustle – “My Sword Hand’s Anger” “Chances Are” “Justine, Beckoning”
!!! – “Must be the Moon”
Grinderman – “No Pussy Blues”
Boris w/ Michio Kurihara – “You Laughed Like a Water Mark” “Sweet No. 1”
LCD Soundsystem – “North American Scum” and “All My Friends”
Rilo Kiley – “The Moneymaker”
Amon Tobin – “Esther’s”
Beirut – “Guyamas Sonora” and “Cliquot”
Feist – “I Feel it All”
Jens Lekman – “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar”
The Twilight Sad – “Walking for Two Hours”
Life Without Buildings (Live at Annandale Hotel) – “Juno” and “PS Exclusive”

List season is always great because, as always, the best part is getting to read everyone else’s. There’s nothing greater than finding another reason to listen to your favorite albums yet again with the intentions of assigning undefined, arbitrary rankings that your friends can pour over and discover something new – or rediscover something that might have slipped by from an inattentive listening. List methodologies are infinite thanks to evolving influences and variable justifications, making the very idea of assigning a ranking – or starred or scored review, even – absurd. But for those who pour over every list and attempt to assemble their own, list season year in and year out always works. You get enough new or rediscovered albums from everyone else’s to render yours obsolete by March; and your list – as unsatisfied as you might be with it – represents your tastes and influences (for that day, in that time of year, on that late night). List making and sharing is fun and imperative to the constant discovery of great music. Just know that tomorrow, mine will look nothing like this.

My favorite two albums of the year share little in common other than my own impression that each of these albums will prove timelessly moving and impressive. Spencer Krug’s songwriting and expression of Sunset Rubdown’s Random Spirit Lover is bizarre, excessive, and incredibly self-important. The album didn’t come close to sniffing out any appearances in the year-end episodes of Pitchfork, Stylus, and Allmusic. But the album’s undeniably massive hooks and riffs to me constituted one of the most overwhelming performance of Glam that I’ve ever heard. It’s Ziggy Stardust in the post-Funeral world. Glam is ill-defined; it seems to constitute any performer dressed as an androgynous alien or any performance displaying obvious influences of “Rock & Roll, Pt. 2.” But Glam, to me, is about self-gratifying, massive hooks sent by throbbing amps and bleeding speakers. Glam is ultimately defined by taking oneself far too seriously – to the point you actually believe you’re a Bat out of Hell that’ll be gone when the morning comes. And though Krug’s writing and performance may be far from conventional (and at times, incredibly difficult to stomach) – I don’t feel there’s any question that the fundamentals of his expression and performance are the same as those that make rock music so effective. This music is powerful, offensive, and a complete aural assault. And Random Spirit Lover, at it’s absolute best, makes the world that exists outside the headphones feel like it’s just a complete waste of time.

The National’s Boxer meanwhile never approaches the sonic masterpiece that Alligator continually proves to be. As incredibly convincing as the band that performs “Abel” and “Mistaken for Strangers” is at delivering some of the most moving and assaulting Boss-derivative rock, the band has always and will always be about it’s depth in sound and emotion. And Boxer at its moments of desperation is the hipster’s Darkness on the Edge of Town; even at the pits of hopelessness and frustration their voice is always calculated and collected. Their sound can feel confident even when their words are those of surrender. Boxer delivers with some of the most memorable moments in the band’s brief history – moments where their voice is finally exposed and true.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows is one of the most personal performances ever delivered by the band that is defining this generation of music, and in doing so creates a sound and performance that is among the most meaningful that I’ve ever truly accessed in the band. The freak-pop of Strawberry Jam is awesome in just a nauseating complexity of sound that ultimately delivers a convincing (and even simple) collection of compositions. And perhaps most unbelievably, Magic displays a Bruce Springsteen at his most passionate and focused as at any other point of his incredible career.

After just a blitzing experience in last year’s Stay Afraid, Parts & Labor put together the year’s most anthemic rock album in Mapmaker (if not the most anthemic noise rock album of all time). The Stylus review of Mapmaker absolutely nails it with this band, citing their inevitable irrelevance despite a sound and performance that makes you think they’re going to rule the world. A Place to Bury Strangers dropped one of the best Jesus & Mary Chain albums through their debut self-titled, while Dinosaur Jr. dropped one of the best Dinosaur Jr. albums through their resurgent Beyond. The songwriting and sound of Barlow and J. Macis can never truly considered capable of a maturing in sound while still maintaining relevance, but this album is an aged Dinosaur Jr. that still absolutely rocks. Thurston Moore meanwhile completely reinvented himself in one of the year’s most moving pop-composition albums. And finally, the British Hold Steady’s sophomore performance finds Eddie Argos a little less convincing than on Bang Bang Rock & Roll, and the band’s sound became a little more filtered – but the B-side of this album just absolutely nails it. The B-side of It’s a Bit Complicated pulls a true Hold Steady and absolutely transcends their bar rock sound and performance.

Some final notes of the year: I discovered Life Without Buildings courtesy of Pitchfork’s year-end list, and their live LP Live at the Annandale Hotel is without a doubt one of my most favorite performances of the year. The band has the flawless mesh of Talking Heads and Sonic Youth, all the while flawlessly fronted by a female in the same stimulating way as the Pretenders, Blondie, etc. (which I clearly have a soft-spot for – see Asobi Seksu (2006))………… Les Savy Fav probably would’ve made the list were it not for the infuriating “Brace Yourself”………….. Mick Harvey’s solo performance and Nick Cave’s Grinderman performance, while both enjoyable display why Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are simply one of the most complete and perfect supergroups that I’ve ever fell in love with……………. Beautiful debut performance from David Vandervelde which seemed to disappear by year’s end from most discussion lists, “Murder in Michigan” is just an absolute can’t miss…………….. The Handsome Furs’ “What We Had” was absolutely one of my favorite songs of the year (which between Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug, I’m expecting the second-coming in 08’s Wolf Parade LP), but the rest of that album was just dogshit. I mean just completely worthless. I don’t care what the point of the album was or whatever, that opening song was flawless and the rest was unlistenable……………. I want to make it clear that I thought that Miranda Lambert’s sophomore album was truly great in a true-country form, and the fact that she wrote every note and word of that thing makes her an absolute beacon in Nashville. But I’m absolutely stupefied by the critical acclaim it gathered this year, because among the fuck-it-all country ass-kicking attitude that she portrays so well, there’s a whole lot of Gretchen Wilson in her writing and performance. Meaning, take away the liner notes and I’m curious if people hold that album in the regard that they do. Now that said – the fact that an artist can truly exist in pop country should absolutely be celebrated so don’t take this as a pot shot against the album or the sound, or even against Gretchen Wilson. Just, I found that an interesting inclusion on year end lists……………. The I’m Not There soundtrack is truly a great experience. It doesn’t really play like an album as some reviews have said, but it certainly doesn’t play as a tribute album or soundtrack either. I love the artist approach put forth in some of the performances (Among my obvious favs, I think I’m most shocked by the Jack Johnson performance)………… The Rogue Wave album (on Brushfire, wtf?) was probably my album #11, and that album clearly suffered critically from those five or so tracks in the middle where you can’t believe you’re not even half the way through the LP yet. The pop efforts from Rogue Wave, the Shins, and Modest Mouse were all honestly truly great this year. They of course, all in the process completely lost the complexities, subtleties, and relevance of each their original sounds – but the infectious quality of each of these LPs should not go unnoticed.………….. And finally, Boris is probably putting together the most relevant sound and rock to come out of our generation, and when I log into facebook twenty years from now I’m going to slip them in my top ten’s for this and last year…………………………. Thanks for reading should you have actually made it this far. I’d love to see your own list, and thanks so much to those of you that have already shared yours with me.

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