Fester’s Lucky 13: The Best Albums of 2007

2007 Year-End Summary

I always say there’s no such thing as a bad year in music, because every year there is more good music than anyone can possibly have time to digest. Some years it may be a little harder to find than others. As late as September I was a little worried. My list was looking a little anemic, and I wasn’t feeling hardly any of the critical favorites of the year so far — Panda Bear, The Field, The Arcade Fire, Kanye West, etc. I had to dig a little harder to find more albums that scratched my itch. My itches vary, from craving some good basic rock that isn’t totally cliched and boring (Witchcraft, White Stripes, QOTSA), cracking, well-written, passionate pop songs (young UK bands pretty much cornered this market again, including Maxïmo Park, Field Music, Good Shoes, Mothers and the Addicts, The Rakes, The Maccabees), electronica ranging from glitchy microhouse to experimental to tuneful (Apparat, Matthew Dear, Dan Deacon, Moon Wiring Club, Chloe, Studio, Laub), and bits of metal, post-metal and hip-hop.

Most of all, I like the music that delves in mystery and magic, that’s not easily categorized nor quickly digested. It’s not always the case that music that takes a little more work is longer lasting. However this year it was. Burial once again mystified and confounded people in the dubstep scene who don’t get what the big deal is, and people who never heard of dubstep. Looks like people still like music that’s difficult to pin down, at least when it’s as lush as Untrue. Brooklyn’s Yeasayer’s dreamy music takes more of a kitchen sink approach, incorporating a large array of instruments and folk musics from around the world. Yet somehow on All Hour Cymbols they manage to sound not like a filthy hippy jam-band, but rather a tightly focused art rock group. Black Moth Super Rainbow have honed their interaction of electronic sounds and acoustic psychedelia into a beautiful hybrid monster on their third album, Dandelion Gum. Metalhead Justin Broadrick dove full-on into dream pop (or metalgaze, maybe even post-metal) with Jesu’s second full length, Conquerer, along with a batch of EPs. It’s a glorious squall, like a mix of Swervedriver and Isis.

Comeback of the year

It’s not like he’s really been away, as his last album was merely four years ago. But consider how that’s an eon in the sixties, when people would expect a 63 year-old man to either fade away or make insignificant albums that no one listens to. Robert Wyatt, however, has enough intellectual curiosity, humor and vision to outshine artists a third his age. Runner-up goes to Grinderman. I know that Nick Cave releases music almost every year, but it’s been over a decade since he’s truly rocked.

Debuts of the year

Yeasayer, White Rabbits, Moon Wiring Club and Good Shoes all made the top 20.

 

Overrated of the Year

I hate to pick on M.I.A. again, because her second album does improve on Arular, and it did make my top 100. But that’s a far cry from the best, which is how the critics polls are shaping up. While the music and samples are more engaging this time around, she remains a weak vocalist and at best a mediocre rapper and a below average songwriter. I was excited about Kala when it came out, but disappointment swelled with every listen. M.I.A. receives attention more for an ideal she represents than what she actually accomplishes. She’s every critic’s wet dream of a pan-global hottie dipping into diverse world musics like a magpie, crossing over into western pop accessibility. Back in 1995 when Massive Attack, Tricky, Asian Dub Foundation, Transglobal Underground, Natcha Atlas and others were exploring new crossovers, it seemed there would have been many more artists by now, doing what M.I.A. is trying to do more successfully. Yet ten years later, M.I.A. is somehow a novelty. Let’s hope it’s not another decade before her albums are eclipsed by greater talent. Runner-up is the awkward Springsteen-isms of The Arcade Fire. “My body is a cage.” Deep, man.

Disappointment of the Year

Café Tacuba. Until Sino, they were getting better with every album. I never would have predicted Sino wouldn’t be a top ten contendor. It didn’t even make my top 100. Runner-up, Björk, Volta. For the first real misstep of her career, that’s not a bad record. I’m still hoping her metal-loving husband will influence her to take on a harder direction, or even revisit her 80s post-punk days. Ghost was also a letdown. Ah this is depressing, let’s move on to happier things.

Looking Ahead

I thought Karen O was supposed to have a solo album coming out, but perhaps it’s been reabsorbed into the YYY’s machine. New albums from Annie, Robyn, The Notwist, Opeth, Franz Ferdinand, The Shortwave Set, M83 and TV on the Radio would be lovely, please. Ooh, and My Bloody Valentine and Portishead! They’re supposed to finally have albums. Bring ‘em on!

Fester’s Lucky 13 — The Best Albums of 2007

  1. Burial – Untrue (Hyperdub)

    Burial - Untrue

    Burial is attached to the dubstep scene, an off shoot of UK garage, which has been percolating for over six years. People in that community have rejected Burial as representitive of their music. Not just because it’s different, but because the man behind Burial doesn’t perform in the clubs like most artists, but hides in his bedroom cooking up soundscapes, his identity only known by family and a couple mates. Like Panda Bear, the music can seem one dimensional. The sound and rhythms are very similar from song to song. Vocals fade in and out and are mostly unintelligible. They can serve as aural wallpaper and mood music. The difference for me is Burial piles mountains of emotion in those moods, reminding me of DJ Shadow’s 1996 masterpiece, Endtroducing. The vocals are brilliantly treated to sound like ghosts that have a secret to share. I’m compelled to listen repeatedly so that I might complete the puzzle. When an album haunts your dreams, it must be doing something right.

  2. Radiohead – In Rainbows (ATO)

    Radiohead - In Rainbows

    After a three year wait after OK Computer, Kid A messed with a lot of expectations, yet managed to surprise and thrill with arguably their best album. The four year wait in between Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows was less dramatic because it’s a given they’re probably past their creative peak. That doesn’t mean they’ve jumped the shark by any means. Radiohead our likely to reliably crank out challenging albums for the rest of their lifetimes. I could care less about their marketing strategies. I’m not paying twice for anything. I downloaded it for free and will buy the CD next week. In Rainbows summarizes Radiohead’s past strengths, while still sounding like no one else. It’s also quite pretty, and it’s a must to hear in full bandwidth (as opposed to 160 kbps MP3s).

  3. Apparat – Walls (Bpitch Control)

    Apparat - Wall
    Berlin-based DJ Sasca Ring has transcended the faceless miasma of minimal techno and progressive trance by daring to go pop. He started gaining momentum with his collaboration last year with Ellen Allien on Orchestra of Bubbles. His scintillating electronica were built up into more structured songs, but serrated with rough edges. On Walls, Apparat makes the rhythms more slippery and less danceable, but continues to hone real pop songcraft, even evoking Prince on “Hailin’ From the Edge” and “Holdon” with vocal assistance from Raz Ohara. Static and fuzz brush against dreamy Thom Yorke-like vocals on “Arcadia,” while “Over and Over” melts like caramel. Perhaps too sophisticated to cross over to actual pop charts, this album is something special.

  4. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals (We Are Free)

    Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbal

    Were I given the chance to make up a band I’d like to hear, I’d likely mix in the ancient (multi-part harmonies, chants, West African rhythms, instruments from around the globe) with the future (electronics, modern production and effects). It would mix sci-fi dystopian dread with ecstasy. The band would probably sound a lot like Yeasayer, though I probably wouldn’t dress them like filthy hippies.

  5. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position (Universal/Polydor)

    Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position

    Wolf’s second album, Wind in the Wires (2005) was a masterpiece of autumnal, melancholy piano ‘n’ string driven pop left scratched and bleeding from thorny electronic treatments, as if he was afraid to let any compositions get away that are too pretty. On The Magic Position he lets the songs shine with energy, confidence, and sometimes even joy. His live show is an event to behold, his 6’7″ frame dressed like an oversized woodlands elf, every gesture bursting with virtuoso talent. He’s clearly too big and bold to be contained in the underground. He needs to be let with the swans in order to shop with Bjork or Tori or Madonna, and have melodramatic romantic tussles after putting gorgeous celebrities into The Magic Position.

  6. Matthew Dear – Asa Breed (Ghostly International)Matthew Dear - Asa Breed

    Like Apparat, Matthew Dear’s roots are in the somewhat mundane micro-house and techno scene, and has broken through by developing real songwriting skills, lyrics and all. Electronic producers and DJs who have discovered their (vocal) pipes are no longer a novelty, and Dear distinguishes himself with the masterful, engaging Asa Breed. The styles are wildly varied, his layered baritone recalling Joy Division in “The Deserter” to the bubbly Tom Tom Club in the Caribbean dance party of “Elementary Lover,” the TV On The Radio harmonies of “Midnight Lovers,” and the shockingly folksy Americana of “Vine to Vine.” Like a good rollercoaster, it’s a blast no matter how many times you ride.

  7. Jesu – Conquerer (Hydra Head)

    Jesu - Conquerer

    What a long strange trip it’s been for Justin Broaderick’s 20+ year career. He started by creating grindcore with Napalm Death, perfected industrial dub metal with Godflesh and now Jesu, which basically takes the dreamy melodicism of shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver and grinds it under the heal of tectonic doom metal. Or perhaps it’s the collective sound of a thousand bands smacking themselves on the head and asking, “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” Because you’re not Justin motherefin’ Broaderick, that’s why.

  8. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Dandelion Gum (Graveface)Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum

    Just looking at the cover you can probably guess that the members of the band wear funny outfits, live in some filthy house in the boonies and are named Tobacco and Father Hummingbird. What you might not expect is the music is awesome. Black Moth Super Rainbow have been kicking around for a few albums, and rather than the usual hit and miss lo-fi experiments, this is a pretty cohesive pyschedelic space rock experience. The vocals are distorted with same wheezy vocoder technique throughout, and as you follow the drunken, wobbly gnome into the woods, you’re lead into both whimsey and menace just like a good trip should.

  9. Maxïmo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures (Warp) Maxïmo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures

    The only explanation as to why both The Klaxons and The Arctic Monkeys became celebrated stars while Maxïmo Park are ignored or even derided, is that people (NME I’m looking at you) are just too damn stupid. Klaxons had some great singles and while Arctic Monkeys did improve on their second album, so did Maxïmo Park, who were better to start with. Catchy melodies, passionate, literate lyrics, tight rockers, no duds, Our Earthly Pleasures is only short of perfect because not every track can be as killer as “Our Velocity” and “By The Monument.” I’ve played it probably more than any other album this year, saw them play a small club while seemingly everyone sang along with every song, and I’m still not sick of ‘em. They might not be reinventing the guitar, but there’s always room for great songwriting.

  10. Tinariwen – Aman Iman (World Village)

    Tinariwen - Aman Iman

    A Toureg band with a desert home base in Adrar des Iforas, Mali, Tinariwen’s backstory could fill a book. Surprisingly, Aman Iman is only their third official album, and they’re making the most of the opportunity, filling out the production and rocking out just a little harder, as they do in their awesome live shows. When a band loosens up their faithfulness to their roots and stretches out to make something different is when they sometimes hit that sweet spot with an album that will last for the ages. This is one of those albums.

  11. White Rabbits – Fort Nightly (Say Hey)White Rabbits - Fort Nightly

    Superficially White Rabbits sound like The Walkmen had they taken a path that stuck closer to their debut album.But there is so much more to their expansive sound.The lower register piano and percussion subtly invoke everything from big band jazz to Latin, Calypso and ska. But with the help of forceful vocals, and guitar, this is undoubtedly rock music, particularly on the killer rocker, “The Plot.” Elsewhere they slow things down to what sounds like Fun Boy Three in a death march on “March of the Camels” and “Dinner Party.” Every song is an original treat in this amazing debut.

  12. Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings (Carpark)Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings

    Dan Deacon must have grown up on cartoons, Ritalin, Atari/Nintendo, and gabba techno. It’s all helium-voices, noisy, trashy electronic tunes with breakneck tempos. When a lot of great music delves in heavy drama to react to the worldwide shitstorm we live in, it’s refreshing when talented musicians don’t take themselves too seriously and just want you to spazz out with them and play with their homemade electronic sound-toys.

  13. Moon Wiring Club – An Audience of Art Deco Eyes (Geophonic Audio Systems)Moon Wiring Club - An Audience of Art Deco Eyes

    Moon Wiring Club is a full blown concept band created by Mr. Paris Green and Dr Lettow-Vorbeck in the Autumn of 1908, bonding over their shared interests of unusual electronics and “nocturnal happenings within the occult sciences.” A century later, they finally have a proper album and a companion website with tons of amazing artwork. Like Wilhelmina Murray and Allan Quatermain, turn-of-the-century characters from Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the surviving members of Moon Wiring Club must have happened upon a mystical method of life extension in order to haunt us with their intruiging sounds, which echoes both of the past, and the future.

    All the above albums can be purchased online, even the imports. See the Fast ‘n’ Bulbous Guide to Online CD Shopping for tips.

    The rest of the Top 100

    This year I tried to practice restraint in the number of albums I listened to, as I had a lot going on in my life. I tried to listen only to albums I felt I had a good chance of liking a lot, rather than slogging through Bright Eyes just to say I’ve heard it. By October I had only rated just over 200 albums. But I was unsatisfied with what I heard, and now I’ve surpassed last year with over 450 albums, 270 rated 9 or higher. Yes, I did hear the Bright Eyes against my better judgement. It’s not horrible, but it didn’t make the top 400. Opinons will vary about what kind of year 2007 was for “great” music, but there was certainly a heck of a lot more very good albums than in recent years. Just look at the quality of artists who didn’t even make my top 100 — 65daysofstatic, White Williams, The Frames, Richard Hawley, Neurosis, Porn Sword Tobacco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Battles, Of Montreal, Brother Ali, Black Milk, Okkervil River, Shout Out Louds, Gui Boratto, Pantha du Prince, The Field, King Khan & his Shrines, Les Savy Fav, No Age, Sunset Rubdown, Deerhoof, Deerhunter, etc. Click here for the entire list.

  14. Good Shoes – Think Before You Speak (Brille/EMI UK)
  15. Mothers and the Addicts – Science Fiction Illustrated (Chemikal Underground)
  16. Islaja – Ulual Yyy (Fonal)
  17. Field Music – Tones Of Town (Memphis Industries)
  18. Parts & Labor – Mapmaker (Jagjaguwar/Brah)
  19. Tunng – Good Arrows (Thrill Jockey)
  20. Witchcraft – The Alchemist (Rise Above)
  21. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Anti)
  22. Dax Riggs – We Sing Of Only Blood Or Love (Fat Possum)
  23. Dälek – Abandoned Language (Ipecac)
  24. Studio – West Coast (Information)
  25. James Blackshaw – The Cloud of Unknowing (Tompkins Square)
  26. Laub – Deinetwegen (Agf Producktion)
  27. Sally Shapiro – Disco Romance (Paperbag)
  28. A Place To Bury Strangers (Killer Pimp)
  29. Kemialliset Ystävät (Fonal)
  30. The Rakes – Ten New Messages (V2)
  31. The National – Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
  32. Modeselektor – Happy Birthday! (Bpitch Control)
  33. El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Definitive Jux)
  34. Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass (Definitive Jux)
  35. The Tough Alliance – A New Chance (Sincerely Yours)
  36. The White Sripes – Icky Thump (V2)
  37. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris (Interscope)
  38. The Maccabees – Colour It In (Polydor)
  39. Strategy – Future Rock (Kranky)
  40. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver (DFA)
  41. Soulsavers – It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land (V2)
  42. Gudrun Gut – I Put A Record On (Monika)
  43. PJ Harvey – White Chalk (Island)
  44. Pinch – Underwater Dancehall (Tectonic)
  45. Maps – We Can Create (Mute)
  46. Editors – An End Has A Start (Kitchenware UK)
  47. Menomena! – Friend And Foe (Barsuk)
  48. Caribou – Andorra (Merge)
  49. Balkan Beat Box – Nu Med (JDub)
  50. The Focus Group – We Are All Pan’s People (Ghost Box)
  51. White Denim – Let’s Talk About It EP (White Denim)
  52. Robert Wyatt – Comicopera (Domino)
  53. Grinderman (Anti-)
  54. Wooden Shjips (Holy Mountain)
  55. Muscles – Guns Babes Lemonade (Modular)
  56. Pale Young Gentlemen (PYG)
  57. HUMANWINE – Fighting Naked (Nervous Relative)
  58. !!! – Myth Takes (Warp)
  59. Bloc Party – A Weekend In The City (Vice)
  60. Shape of Broad Minds – Craft of the Lost Art (Lex)
  61. Pharoahe Monch – Desire (SRC/Universal/Motown)
  62. The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (Fat Cat)
  63. Chloe – The Waiting Room (Kill the DJ)
  64. Holy Fuck – LP (Young Turks)
  65. Electrelane – No Shouts No Calls (Too Pure)
  66. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino)
  67. Dungen – Tio Bitar (Kemado)
  68. Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde (Profound Lore)
  69. Porcupine Tree – Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic)
  70. Big Business – Here Come The Waterworks (Hydra Head)
  71. Eluvium – Copia (Temporary Residence)
  72. Echospace – The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
  73. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)
  74. Pram – The Moving Frontier (Domino)
  75. The Fiery Furnaces – Widow City (Thrill Jockey)
  76. Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)
  77. Noisettes – What’s The Time Mr. Wolf? (Vertigo)
  78. New Young Pony Club – Fantastic Playroom (Universal/Island)
  79. Oh No – Dr. No’s Oxperiment (Stones Throw)
  80. Frog Eyes – Tears of the Valedictorian (Absolutely Kosher)
  81. Om – Pilgrimage (Southern Lord)
  82. Mammatus – The Coast Explodes (Holy Mountain)
  83. St. Vincent – Marry Me (Beggars Banquet)
  84. The Dirty Projectors – Rise Above (Dead Oceans)
  85. Celebration – The Modern Tribe (4AD)
  86. Dragons of Zynth – Coronation of Thieves (GTC)
  87. Tokyo Jihen – Variety (EMI)
  88. Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works (Wea/Relapse)
  89. Gallon Drunk – The Rotten Mile (Fred)
  90. Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today (CND)
  91. The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever (V2)
  92. Busdriver – RoadKillOvercoat (Epitaph)
  93. Cassius – 15 Again (Astralwerks)
  94. Deerhunter – Flourescent Grey EP (Kranky)
  95. The Good, The Bad And The Queen (Virgin)
  96. Shannon Wright – Let In The Light (Quarterstick)
  97. Eleni Mandell – Miracle of Five (Zedtone)
  98. Café Tacuba – Sino (Universal Latino)
  99. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – 100 Days 100 Nights (Daptone)
  100. M.I.A. – Kala (Interscope)

2007 Breakdown

Rock & Pop

Good Shoes - Think Before You Speak

The debut album by London’s Good Shoes is one of the most slept on albums this year, outside of Artrocker Magazine and a handful of lists I’ve seen from some astute individuals. Even half a listen would show they’re much more than followers of The Futureheads. The songs are bursting with spiky hooks and lyrical wit, and quickly got under my skin and stayed there. Mother and the Addicts nailed it on their second album, the only band in recent memory that taps the creative flow from Mount Magazine rather than the usual Joy Division/Gang of Four/Buzzcocks. Field Music and The Rakes both had stellar second albums, refining ther sound and polishing their songcraft into something apparently too subtle for the Arctic Monkeys fans. Spoon once again uncorked a great album, tweaking their minimal pop formula just enough to allow in some perfectly arranged horn charts for a couple killer singles. Dax Riggs came out of nowhere with his own hard rocking Astral Weeks. I wish he’d added some verses to the repetitive but awesomely titled “Demon Tied To A Chair In My Brain,” but otherwise the album is perfect, far better than the more critically lauded Grinderman. The National veered dangerously close to a sedate adult contemporary sound, but smoldered enough to hang in at the end. The White Stripes lost a little cohesiveness, but Icky Thump remains a really fun rock record worth keeping. Colour It In is yet another great debut album by a London band, The Maccabees. They must be breeding like rabbits over there.

 

 

  • Radiohead – In Rainbows (ATO)
  • Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position (Universal/Polydor)
  • Maxïmo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures (Warp)
  • White Rabbits – Fort Nightly (Say Hey)
  • Good Shoes – Think Before You Speak (Brille/EMI UK)
  • Mother and the Addicts – Science Fiction Illustrated (Chemikal Underground)
  • Field Music – Tones Of Town (Memphis Industries)
  • Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Anti)
  • Dax Riggs – We Sing Of Only Blood Or Love (Fat Possum)
  • The Rakes – Ten New Messages (V2)
  • The National – Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
  • The White Sripes – Icky Thump (V2)
  • The Maccabees – Colour It In (Polydor)
  •  

    Avant Rock & Out Pop

    Parts & Labor - Mapmaker

    Noise rock band Parts & Labor came up with a surprisingly beautiful squal on their fourth album. A Place To Bury Strangers pretty directly references the first Jesus & Mary Chain album, but adds enough of their own grit and skewed melodicism to reclaim a sound mostly abandoned since 1985. Future Rock is a good title for Strategy’s album, as it’s deep textures can’t be nailed down to any one style. You’ll hear dub, ambient, post-rock, funk, jazz fusion, pop, all pureed into a cohesive shimmering piece.
    Having played percussion for Einstürzende Neubauten in 1980 and founding experimental post-punk band Malaria! the next year, Gudrun Gut has been around the block. I Put A Record On is a whole new stage in her impressive career, well worth checking out beyond her popular “Move Me” single.HUMANWINE appeals to me partly because they remind me of the mighty Tragic Mulatto. I look forward to seeing this band live sometime.
    Toronto’s Holy Fuck’s double live drummers add some spice to the popular afro-kraut rhythms of their electronic and instrumental rock. Victoria’s Frog Eyes are on their fourth album with no signs of accessibility in their art damaged manic psych. On their second album, Om’s massive slabs of psych are even more oppressively heavy. Mammatus sounds like a prog/psych rock band that disappeared into the forests of Finland in 1971 and emerged bleary-eyed thirty six years later.Yeah! In one of my rare (heh) lapses of judgement, I placed Dragons of Zynth in my Pazz & Jop top ten after only hearing it for two days while spaced out on cold medicine. The later half sounded awesome on the train with headphones and the gauziness of a cold. Later I realized that TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek did a pretty crap job in producing them, but the second half of the album promises future greatness. I hope they don’t disappoint me.

     

  • Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals (We Are Free)
  • Black Moth Super Rainbow – Dandelion Gum (Graveface)
  • Parts & Labor – Mapmaker (Jagjaguwar/Brah)
  • A Place To Bury Strangers (Killer Pimp)
  • Strategy – Future Rock (Kranky)
  • Gudrun Gut – I Put A Record On (Monika)
  • Robert Wyatt – Comicopera (Domino)
  • HUMANWINE – Fighting Naked (Nervous Relative)
  • Holy Fuck – LP (Young Turks)
  • Frog Eyes – Tears of the Valedictorian (Absolutely Kosher)
  • Om – Pilgrimage (Southern Lord)
  • Mammatus – The Coast Explodes (Holy Mountain)
  • Dragons of Zynth – Coronation of Thieves (GTC)
  •  

    Experimental & Ambient

    Kemialliset YstävätJan Anderzén and his Finnish psych-folk group
    Kemialliset Ystävät have been at it for many years, serving as an inspiration for many of their fellow artists. This self-titled album is a massive effort of gnarly, sometimes difficult listening that’s weird yet compelling. Similar to Moon Wiring Club, Belbury Poly and The Books, The Focus Group assemble collages of archival recordings from another dimension, sounds from homemade electronics and scraps of melodies into an endlessly fascinating work. Eluvium is influenced by Eno, Fennesz, and on this album, classical music, resulting in some very stately compositions. Morgan Packard takes environmental recordings and digitally treats them into something otherworldly. Porn Sword Tobacco also assembles found sounds, such as wildlife documentaries and purees them. Avarus and Pumice are psych bands from Finland and New Zealand. Japan’s Melt-Banana have been churning out noise rock for nearly 15 years, and still sound as fresh and caffeinated as a toddler on expresso. Mouthus mixes metal riffs and free jazz into their own brand of free form noise rock. Charalambides specialize in floaty, ethereal vocals, while Pitch Black literally thunder from down under, churning out ambient dub in New Zealand.

  • Moon Wiring Club – An Audience of Art Deco Eyes (Geophonic Audio Systems)
  • Kemialliset Ystävät (Fonal)
  • The Focus Group – We Are All Pan’s People (Ghost Box)
  • Eluvium – Copia (Temporary Residence)
  • Echospace – The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
  • Morgan Packard – Airships Fill the Sky/Unsimulatable (Anticipate)
  • Porn Sword Tobacco – New Exclusive Olympic Heights (City Centre Offices)
  • Avarus – Rasvaaja (Secret Eye)
  • Pumice – Pebbles (Soft Abuse)
  • Melt-Banana – Bambi’s Dilemma (A-Zap)
  • Mouthus – Saw a Halo (Loa)
  • Charalambides – Likeness (Kranky)
  • Pitch Black – Rude Mechanicals (Remote/Rhythmethod)
  •  

    Heavy Rock

    Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

    Soon I’ll have to create a new category, probably post-metal, as bands like Jesu, Alcest, Rosetta and Nadja are more ethereal than heavy. Queens of the Stone Age may not be making the best albums of their career lately, but don’t be thrown off by the couple of dud tracks. There’s still some really involving, complex songwriting and amazing guitar playing on this album. White Denim’s Let’s Talk About It may only have four songs, very roughly recorded at that, but it’s bursting with so much energy and originality, this Austin band has muscled their way towards the top. Gustav Ejstes of Sweden has matched the success of 2004′s Ta Det Lugnt on the new Dungen album, with the help of some killer guitar playing from Reine Fiske. Like Justin Broaderick, Neige approaches shoegaze from an unlikely background (French black metal) and comes up with even sweeter melodies than Jesu.
    Steve Wilson’s catalog can get a little bogged down in overly creamy and bloated prog rock, but hits impressive peaks every few years. Fear Of A Blank Planetis probably his most successful marriage of cohesive lyrical themes and astounding dynamics. Electric Wizard have bounced back with their best album since 2000′s Dopethrone (“Satanic Rites of Drugula,” rawk!). 65daysofstatic and Battles start with instrumental post-rock and take off in many different directions. Rosetta is the best Isis album of the year. That’s unfair, as Wake/Lift makes a lot of progress of establishing their own sound. Toronto’s Nadja takes the hazy sound of black metal and fuzzes it out even more until it’s a lovely blur of greys. Oceansize create prog rock influenced by Radiohead and shoegaze as much as Pink Floyd.

  • Jesu – Conquerer (Hydra Head)
  • Witchcraft – The Alchemist (Rise Above)
  • Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris (Interscope)
  • White Denim – Let’s Talk About It EP (White Denim)
  • Gentleman’s Pistols (Rise Above)
  • Torche – In Return EP (Robotic Empire)
  • Truckfighters – Phi (Fuzzorama)
  • Rotor – 3 (Elektrohasch)
  • Dungen – Tio Bitar (Kemado)
  • Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde (Profound Lore)
  • Porcupine Tree – Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic)
  • Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today (CND)
  • Solace – The Black Black EP (Underdogma)
  • Weedeater – God Luck and Good Speed (Southern Lord)
  • 65daysofstatic – The Destruction of Small Ideas (Monotreme)
  • Down – Over The Under (Down)
  • Battles – Mirrored (Warp)
  • Rosetta – Wake/Lift (Translation Lost)
  • Nadja – Radiance of Shadows (Alien8)
  • Oceansize – Frames (SPV)
  • ASG – Win Us Over (Volcom)
  •  

    Metal

    It’s a healthy sign that metal bands are evolving to the point where it’s hard to say whether they’re exactly metal. Big Business contributed to last year’s Melvins album, and offer a mighty noise from a two man band. Their closing song, “Another Beautiful Day in the Pacific Northwest ” sounds more like Rush circa 1976. Dilliinger Escape Plan continue to push boundaries between noise and accessible riffs, as do Neurosis, who have been bludgeoning boundaries of metal for decades. High On Fire keep things relatively simple with thunderous themes on war, and Lemmy-style growls. Dethklok may be a cartoon band in Metalocalypse, but Brendon Small is a seriously real talent. They’re more of a mix of Japanese noise/psych and stoner rock, but Earthless are so massively heavy I put ‘em here. Middian and Pharoah Overlord offer something along the same lines, but even more spine-crushingly loud. More tight than sludgy, Baroness even veers towards Fugazi territory at times. Austria’s Wolfpack Unleashed is the most traditional sounding metal of the bunch, revisiting the mid-eighties thrash sound, and 3 Inches of Blood mix in some old Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Wolves in the Throne Room is this year’s most impressive example of symphonic black metal. Pig Destroyer is keeping alive the homely aesthetic of grindcore.

     

    • Finntroll – Ur Jordens Djup (Century Media)
    • Sigh – Hangman’s Hymn: Musikalische Exequien (The End)
    • Slough Feg – Hardworlder (Cruz Del Sur)
    • Korpiklaani – Tervaskanto (Napalm)
    • 3 Inches of Blood – Fire Up The Blades (Roadrunner)
    • Big Business – Here Come The Waterworks (Hydra Head)
    • Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works (Wea/Relapse)
    • Neurosis – Given to the Rising (Neurot)
    • High On Fire – Death Is This Communion (Relapse)

     

     

    • Dethklok – The Dethalbum (Williams Street)
    • Earthless – Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky (Tee Pee)
    • Middian – Age Eternal (Metal Blade)
    • Turisas – The Varangian Way (EMI)
    • Baroness – Red Album (3D)

     

     

    • Yakuza – Transmutations (Prosthetic/Red)
    • Wolves in the Throne Room – Two Hunters (Southern Lord)
    • Wolfpack Unleashed – Anthems of Resistance (Napalm)
    • Pharoah Overlord – The Battle of the Axehammer (Riot Season)
    • Pig Destroyer – Phantom Limb (Relapse)
    • Caïna – Mourner (Profound Lore)
    • Watain – Sworn to the Dark (Season of the Mist)
    • Bloody Panda – Pheromone (Level Plane)
    • Shadows Fall – Threads Of Life (Roadrunner)
    • Ulver – Shadows of the Sun (The End)

     

    Electro-Dreamwimp Pop

    Sally Shapiro - Disco Romance

    Well, it sounds a bit more stimulating than wimp pop. Go dreamwimps! Sally Shapiro is definitely on more of the elecro side, circa 80s New Order. The Tough Alliance are a Swedish duo who mine the forgotten realms of 80s pop such as Kajagoogoo and Belouis Some. Don’t call them wimps, though, they’ve been known to attack their audience with baseball bats, for real! On We Can Create, Maps showed they could create a stellar dreampop album matched by no one. Actually, Caribou (formerly Manitoba) came pretty close. Electrelane’s sound recalls Too Pure’s early 90′s salad days with Th’ Faith Healers, Moonshake and Stereolab. Sadly, after their best album they’ve decided to pack it in. An old Too Pure band Pram popped up with a new album, this time less reliant on chidlren’s toys and vocals than heavy soundtrack-ready atmospherics. After working with Sufjan Stevens and that freaking annoying Polyphonic Spree, Annie Clark released her solo debut as St. Vincent, a lovely, quirky album as good as anything Regina Spektor or Kate Bush has done lately. French electro-pop producers Cassius have come back with a party album. White Williams came from a noise rock background but was inspired more by Beck on his debut album, where the catchy electro cover of “I Want Candy” is probably the weakest cut. Glen Hansard has been making lovely music for a couple decades, and finally got a nice break by starring in and writing the music for one the the year’s best movies, Once. Two songs from the film are reworked for The Frames album. Did you know he was also the guitar player in the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s 1987 classic, The Committments? Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes lost his mind and put it on tape. Some people find that impressive. I find it annoying, but there’s still some good songs on it. Shout Out Louds have come closer to copping The Smiths than anyone’s dared lately, while Austin’s Future Clouds & Radar audaciously put out a double album as their debut, chock full of power pop.

     

    • Sally Shapiro – Disco Romance (Paperbag)
    • The Tough Alliance – A New Chance (Sincerely Yours)
    • Maps – We Can Create (Mute)
    • Caribou – Andorra (Merge)
    • Electrelane – No Shouts No Calls (Too Pure)
    • Pram – The Moving Frontier (Domino)

     

    • St. Vincent – Marry Me (Beggars Banquet)
    • Cassius – 15 Again (Astralwerks)
    • White Williams – Smoke (Tigerbeat6)
    • The Frames – The Cost (Anti)
    • Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer (Polyvinyl)
    • Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills (Merge)
    • Future Clouds & Radar (Star Apple Kingdom)
      Electronica, Techno & Dance

      Studio - West Coast
      Yet another Swedish duo, Studio, struck critical gold with their debut (The import Yearbook 1 was shortened and reissued domestically as West Coast). It’s kind of like Fujiya & Fiyagi, but a bit more diverse. German experimentalists Laub tackled the blues on Denetwegen with surprisingly warm results. Also based in Berlin, Modeselektor have been active since 1992. Happy Birthday! is, true to it’s title, a party album, including guests such as Maxïmo Park, Rhythm & Sound and Thom Yorke. I loved the first album by LCD Soundsystem, and it seems like I’m the only one who’s a bit disappointed by Sound of Silver. I don’t think all the tunes work, particularly “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Nevertheless they’re a great band, and it’s good to see James Murphy’s efforts to bring together the rockers and dancers succeed so grandly. Muscles and !!! are doing similar things, just with not as much attention. The dubstep scene is mostly driven by 12″ vinyl singles for DJs. Along with Burial, Tectonic label owner Martin Clark tackled a cohesive album. In fact, Pinch’s Underwater Dancehall comes with two discs, one with vocals, one without. On “One Blood, One Source” he pays homage to Bristol’s Wild Bunch/Massive Attack collectives. French DJ/Producer Chloe Thevenin released an unusually charming techno. Fennesz and Sakamoto play the roles of Eno and Budd in the ambient collaboration, Cendre.

    • Burial – Untrue (Hyperdub)
    • Apparat – Walls (Bpitch Control)
    • Matthew Dear – Asa Breed (Ghostly International)
    • Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings (Carpark)
    • Studio – West Coast (Information)
    • Laub – Deinetwegen (Agf Producktion)
    • Modeselektor – Happy Birthday! (Bpitch Control)
    • LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver (DFA)
    • Pinch – Underwater Dancehall (Tectonic)
    • Muscles – Guns Babes Lemonade (Modular)
    • !!! – Myth Takes (Warp)
    • Chloe – The Waiting Room (Kill the DJ)
    • Fennesz & Sakamoto – Cendre (Touch)
      Global

      Islaja - Ulual Yyy

      I know Tinariwen isn’t the only non-English album deserving of being a crossover hit, but it seems the West is only able to focus on one album at a time, even brushing off the new one by Mano Chao, which is admittedly disappointing. Finnish folk singer Islaja’s latest album evokes the frozen north in an homage to Nico’s dirgey solo albums. Lead by a pair of Israel expats, Balkan Beat Box are a fixture in New York City alongside fellow immigrant punks Gogol Bordello. They may not have as much crossover popularity as their colleagues, but their mix of klezmer, hip-hop, funk and dub is joyous party music. Japan’s Tokyo Jihen’s Variety is true to the title. Every track is a genre excersise. They don’t always work, but it makes for a bizarre, fascinating listen.
      Café Tacuba takes a stumble, as they struggle with Who homages and AOR sounds, I guess in a bid to be more commercially successful. Nevertheless one of the greatest live bands in the world always has something to offer. Finland’s Korpiklaani is actually a metal band, but they incorporate so much ancient folk music that it belongs here.

       

    • Tinariwen – Aman Iman (World Village) – Mali
    • Islaja – Ulual Yyy (Fonal) – Finland
    • Kemialliset Ystävät (Fonal) – Finland
    • Balkan Beat Box – Nu Med (JDub) – U.S./Isreal
    • Tokyo Jihen – Variety (EMI) – Japan
    • Café Tacuba – Sino (Universal Latino) – Mexico
    • Korpiklaani – Tervaskanto (Napalm) – Finland
    • Avarus – Rasvaaja (Secret Eye) – Finland
    • Extra Golden – Hera Ma Nono (Thrill Jockey) U.S./Kenya
    • Vieux Farka Toure (World Village) – Mali
    • Fanfare Ciocarlia – Queens and Kings (Asphalt & Tango) – Romania
    • Manu Chao – La Radiolina (Because) – Spain
    • Calle 13 – Residente O Visitante (Sony) – Puerto Rico 

      New Americana, Country & Folk

      James Blackshaw - The Cloud of Unknowing

      Already on their third album, Tunng were under my radar until now. With Good Arrows they’ve created a brilliant example of what “folktronica” can be – dark, pretty and powerful. Young 12-string prodigy James Blackshaw grew up on John Fahey and Robbie Basho, and has already developed his own style which is simply transcendent. PJ Harvey doesn’t really fit in any genre, but her spare, piano-driven album could be credited towards trying to redefine modern folk. The songs aren’t nearly as accessible as her earlier work, but close listening will be rewarded. Wooden Shjips are rooted in 60s and 70s acid psych rock. When they don’t sound like Can or The Doors, they sound a little rootsy to my ears. I’ll be looking forward to hearing what they do next. Fiery Furnaces are as weird as ever, and better than their previous couple albums. In the warped blues of “Duplexes of the Dead” and “Navy Nurse” they sound like they’re picking up where the great Royal Trux left off. Eleni Mandell has been cranking out one good-to-great album after another, ranging from L.A. noir to country. This one is more hushed and folky, with some of her strongest songwriting yet. I love how genre labels are mixing it up. German electronica label Morr picked up Radical Face from Jacksonville, FL. Ghost is folky concept album about the memories retained in houses. Light orchestral flourishes make it suitably eerie for the subject matter. Richard Youngs specializes in hypnotic, droning folk, On Autumn Response he doubles up voice and guitar to fascinating effect. Denmakr’s Efterklang’ post-rock has become quite earthy with the entrancing Parade. Extreme folk-metal is as good as description as any for Caïna. Nina Nastasia collaborates with Dirty Three drummer Jim White for some truly spectoral music. Animal Collective continue to evolve their brand of American psych or “freakfolk,” while Beirut follows up the surprise hit of Gulag Orkestar with The Flying Club Cup.

    • Tunng – Good Arrows (Thrill Jockey)
    • James Blackshaw – The Cloud of Unknowing (Tompkins Square)
    • PJ Harvey – White Chalk (Island)
    • Wooden Shjips (Holy Mountain)
    • The Fiery Furnaces – Widow City (Thrill Jockey)
    • Eleni Mandell – Miracle of Five (Zedtone)
    • Radical Face – Ghost (Morr)
    • Richard Youngs – Autumn Response (Jagjaguwar)
    • Efterklang – Parade (Leaf)
    • Caïna – Mourner (Profound Lore)
    • Nina Nastasia & Jim White – You Follow Me (Fat Cat)
    • Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam (Domino)
    • Beirut – The Flying Club Cup (Ba Da Bing!)
      Hip Hop & Rap

      Dälek - Abandoned Language

      The trend for normally sensible critics to give accolades to crappy mainstream rap albums continues, with Jay-Z, UGK, Ghostface Killah and Kanye West topping lists. You’d think from them that hip-hop has stopped evoloving and is curled up waiting to die. And please stop encouraging Lil’ Wayne. Hitting one clever lyrical turn for every ten raps does not equal brilliance. Soon the market will be flooded by amateur tapes of rappers throwing every rhyme that falls off the top of their heads with no self editing whatsoever, because they know those white critics will eat anything up. Kanye West isn’t totally horrible, as he always manages a couple decent singles. But if you actually listen to what else is out there, there’s really no excuse. Artists like Dälek, El-P, Aesop Rock, Shape of Broad Minds, Oh No and Busdriver are actually pushing the art of hip-hop to new horizons, chipping away at the untapped vast potential for sounds. Oh No dug into Lebanese, Italian and Greek psych rock, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Pharoahe Monch, Brother Ali, Black Milk and Little Brother showed it’s still possible to make accessible hip-hop that’s still powerful and relevant. Saul Williams, well, he’s like that crazy uncle who freestyles at the family picnics. He’s a little embarrassing, but still he speaks the truth.

    • Dälek – Abandoned Language (Ipecac)
    • El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Definitive Jux)
    • Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass (Definitive Jux)
    • Shape of Broad Minds – Craft of the Lost Art (Lex)
    • Pharoahe Monch – Desire (SRC/Universal/Motown)
    • Oh No – Dr. No’s Oxperiment (Stones Throw)
    • Busdriver – RoadKillOvercoat (Epitaph)
    • Brother Ali – The Undisputed Truth (Rhymesayers)
    • Black Milk – Popular Demand (Fat Beats)
    • Talib Kweli – Eardrum (WB)
    • Little Brother – Get Back (ABB)
    • Saul Williams – The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust (Musicane)
    • Public Enemy – How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? (Slam Jamz)
    •  

      R&B & Soul

      Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

      I was fortunate enough to get to see Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings live on New Year’s Eve last year. A great way to kick off the year with some awesome tributes to the funk of James Brown, the groove of Fela Kuti, and Sharon Jones’ own style of soul shouting. Amerie surprised me with her surprising consistnency, nearly matching her great Meters-sampling single, “1 Thing” more than once. Beyond the solid albums by Mary J. Blige, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Bettye LaVette and Mavis Staples, I wouldn’t recommend the rest, although R. Kelly and Britney Spears (“It’s Britney, bitch!”) are always good for some laughs.

    • Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – 100 Days 100 Nights (Daptone)
    • Amerie – Because I Love It (Sony BMG)
    • Mary J. Blige – Growing Pains (Geffen)
    • Me’Shell NdegéOcello – The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams (Emarcy/Umgd)
    • Bettye LaVette – The Scene Of The Crime (Anti)
    • Mavis Staples – We’ll Never Turn Back (Anti)
    • Rihanna – Good Girl Gone Bad (Def Jam)
    • Jill Scott – The Real Thing (Hidden Beach)
    • R. Kelly – Double Up (Jive/Zomba)
    • Britney Spears – Blackout (Jive)
    • Alicia Keys – As I Am (RCA)
      Nação Zumbí - Fome De TudoAlbums I heard too late to make the lists

      It’s frustrating that I don’t even know when one of my favorite bands, Nação Zumbí, releases an album. I also missed their previous album Futura. It’s odd, since other non-English singing Brazilians like Os Mutantes and Caetano Veloso have been much more celebrated in recent years. It would help if they would come tour the U.S. and show people they’re one of the world’s best live bands. For some reason joint efforts make my eyes glaze over, because side projects, with their loose experimentation, don’t usually have the impact as each individual artists’ best works. But on Rainbow, Boris allows Michio Kurihara to really let loose compared to his more restraiend work in bands like Ghost, and it’s thrilling. I’m shocked that I didn’t know
      Einstürzende Neubauten had a new album yet, and it didn’t show up on any lists until Brainwashed’s. It’s their best since 2000′s Silence Is Sexy.

    • Nação Zumbí – Fome De Tudo (Deck Disk Brazil) – Brazil
    • Boris & Michio Kurihara – Rainbow (Drag City) – Japan
    • Einstürzende Neubauten – Alles Wieder Offen (Potomak)
    • Amiina – Kurr (Ever)
    • Earth – Hibernaculum (Southern Lord)
    • Grails – Burning Off Impurities (Temporary Residence)
    • Tulsa Drone – Songs From a Mean Season (Perpetual Motion Machine)
    • Vladislav Delay – Whistleblower (Humme) – Finland
    • M83 – Digital Shades Vol. 1 (Mute)
    • Caspian – The Four Trees (Dopamine)
    • Giuseppe Ielasi – August (12k) – Italy
    • O’Death – Head Home (Ernest Jenning)
    • Kashiwa Daisuke – Program Music I (Noble) – Japan
    • Opitope – Hau (Spekk) – Japan
    • The World On Higher Downs – Land Patterns (Plop)
    • Signal Hill (Tidemark)
      Brazilian albums from 2006, half of which I missed, all of which were underrated

      1. Kassin +2 * Futurismo (Video Arts Japan)
      2. Momo – A Estetica Do Rebisco (Umvd)
      3. Lucas Santtana & Seleção Natural – 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse (Diginois)
      4. Caetano Veloso * Cê (Universal)
      5. Nação Zumbí – Futura (Trama)

      Reissues

       

      Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures With only two official albums and only a couple dozen performances outside of their hometown of Manchester, Joy Division’s legacy grew gradually over time, much like Ian Curtis’ beloved Velvet Underground. A relatively small number of hardcore fans took it for granted that one of the best bands of all time would never be heard by most people. Yet thanks to a continued influence on the sound of bands 25 years later, the best part of the movie 24 Hour Party People, and the new feature Control, Joy Division have finally broken into the mainstream. What’s remarkable is that they’re not at all accessible. Brittle guitars, martial drumbeats tweaked with studio and digital trickery, and Ian Curtis’ strangled baritone spewing words of soul crushing despair is not your average pop fan’s idea of a good time. Those who read Touched By A Distance by Curtis’ widow Debra will find that while Curtis was a budding lyrical genius and focused bandleader, he was also a lying, cheating, manipulative, egomaniacal, misogynist right-wing prick. But what else is new, many great artists were lousy human beings. The fact is that Joy Division’s two studio albums are two of the most consistently powerful pieces of rock music ever recorded. Unfortunately, WEA, revived the mistake that is Still, undoing the good work that the 1998 Heart and Soul box set accomplished in assembling all the singles in a logical, chronological order. Rather than add the singles, live shows are slapped on as extra discs instead. With so many good live recordings already available, this was a mistake. Classic songs like “Digital,” “Transmission,” “Atmosphere,” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” that appeared on the 1988 collection Substance, are missing. But if you don’t have the box set, these remastered reissues are a must.

    • Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (Factory/WEA) 79
    • Magazine – Real Life (Virgin/EMI) 78
    • Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth & Collected Works (Rough Trade/Domino) 80
    • Joy Division – Closer (Factory/WEA) 80
    • Pylon – Gyrate + (DB/DFA) 80
    • The Bongos – Drums Along The Hudson (PVC/Cooking Vinyl) 82
    • Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation: Deluxe Edition (Blast First/DGC) 88
    • Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On (Epic/Sony) 71
    • Magazine – The Correct Use Of Soap (Virgin/EMI) 80
    • Magazine – Secondhand Daylight (Virgin/EMI) 79 
    • Betty Davis (Just Sunshine/Light in the Attic) 73
    • Sly & The Family Stone – Stand! (Epic/Sony) 69 
    • The Woodentops – BBC Sessions 1985-89 (Renascent)
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      Click here to see the entire list of reissues.

      Singles

       

       

    • Klaxons – Gravitys Rainbow
    • White Rabbits – The Plot
    • Maxïmo Park – Our Velocity
    • The Editors – Escape the Nest
    • The Rakes – When Tom Cruise Cries
    • Patrick Wolf – Bluebells
    • New Pornographers – Myriad Harbor
    • Parts & Labor – Knives & Pencils
    • Pharoahe Monch – Push
    • Brother Ali – Uncle Sam Goddam
    • St. Vincent – Land Mines
    • The Twilight Sad – Cold Days From The Birdhouse
    • Yeasayer – 2080
    •  

       

      Shows

      1. The Stooges, Congress Theater
      2. The Stooges, Lollapalooza
      3. The Pogues, Congress Theater
      4. Patrick Wolf, Metro
      5. TV on the Radio, Lollapalooza
      6. The Police, Wrigley Field
      7. Maxïmo Park, Double Door
      8. Witchcraft, Double Door
      9. Big Business, Empty Bottle
      10. Field Music, Empty Bottle
      11. The Books, Old Town School Folk
      12. Mastodon, Pitchfork Festival
      13. Yo La Tengo, Lollapalooza

      Movies
      Between my Netflix and hometheater/plasma, I don’t get to the theaters much. It looks like 2007 might actually be a good year for movies for once, with a lot of strong releases coming out the last couple months. I look forward to ‘em.

      1. Once
      2. Surf’s Up
      3. I’m Not There
      4. Control
      5. Knocked Up
      6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
      7. The Man From Earth
      8. Meet the Robinsons
      9. Music and Lyrics
      10. Stardust
      11. Waitress
      12. The Last Mimzy
      13. Superbad

      Haven’t seen: Across the Universe, The Life of Reilly, Juno, Black Book, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton, No Country For Old Men, Darjeeling Unlimited, Southland Tales, Sweeney Todd, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Golden Compass, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Simpsons Movie, Eastern Promises, Sunshine, Grindhouse, Zodiac, Sicko, Enchanted. Other decent flicks: Ocean’s Thirteen, Spider-Man 3, Starter for Ten, Bridge to Terabithia, Black Snake Moan. Avoid: License to Wed.

       

      Books

      Warren Ellis - Crooked Little Vein

      Warren Ellis has long been one of the best comic writers in the world for over a decade, particularly with Planetery and Transmetropolitan and his new series Doktor Sleepless. His first novel, Crooked Little Vein is a hilariously sick detective noir, where a burned, out, haplessly unlucky private eye is commissioned to find a second backup to the original U.S. Constitution. Sounds like what should have been the sequel to National Treasure. The book is too short, perfect for a movie. Since I have an aversion to incest and holocausts, you won’t find many best sellers here. A few of the best books were dark, near-future dystopias by Ian McDonald, William Gibson and Richrd K. Morgan. Susan Hubbard’s The Society of S is an innovative story about human and eco-friendly vampires, seriously. Brendan Halpin cranked out two books this year, one a fairly traditional romance that picks up pieces after a tragedy, the other a young adult book that takes place in an interesting experimental school in Boston. Alan Goldsher’s The True Naomi Story is basically a rewrite of Jam, a decent story about the rise and fall of a band, in which the gender perspective is changed. I guess he’s trying to tap into the huge market of women’s romance. Unless you’re a big fan of Guided By Voices, John Sellers’ Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life is pretty useless. Had I read more than 13 books that were publisehd in 2007, it wouldn’t be on the list.

      1. Warren Ellis – Crooked Little Vein
      2. Ian McDonald – Brasyl
      3. Susan Hubbard – The Society of S
      4. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter And the Deathly Hollows
      5. William Gibson – Spook Country
      6. Brendan Halpin – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
      7. Douglas Coupland – The Gum Thief: A Novel
      8. Richard K. Morgan – Thirteen
      9. Michael Chabon – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
      10. Brendan Halpin – How Ya Like Me Now
      11. Alan Goldsher – The True Naomi Story
      12. Jamie S. Rich – Have You Seen The Horizon Lately?
      13. John Sellers – Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life
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