Well since I wasn’t around for the first 5/12ths of 2007 – I’m gonna post on some of the best releases this year. This will be a several piece post as I probably won’t do as much reviewing in the future as I do here, but I’d just like to give people a sense of what I’m in to. So here it is, the best of the first 41.67% of 2007.
Pela – Anytown Graffiti / The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns Fifteen Winters
Pela is something special. Lead Vocalist Billy McCarthy sings with passion and melancholy - as if he’s a prisoner being wrongly held captive in a towering spire high above some medieval village – his punishment to sing hymns to the townsfolk – though his release is never assured. In "Waiting on the Stairs," he begs his innocence then demands recognition. Come sit next to me cause I am not your enemy / Come admit it to me that I have become your enemy. The music is emotional though not “emo,” or the least bit treacly – there’s no doubt it’s rock – or indie rock at least.
Across the pond, The Twilight Sad operate through a similar vein - in rich post-rock verses that take you through tunnels of sound which at the end, open up to distinctive and again, prominent vocals. James Graham of TTS’s thick Scottish brogue transcends the band from being an extraordinary experimental/rock outfit in to a pure genre bridging powerful melodic indie pop rock sound.
Blonde Redhead – 23
For me Blonde Redhead has always existed somewhere on the fringe of my musical milieu – that is I was barely aware of them and heard them compared to Sonic Youth – a band I am not really in to – and basically dismissed them, something that was obviously a mistake. In fact I played soccer with Amadeo (Center) in Battery Park City for three years without even knowing he was in the band. On 23, BRH’s musical sound is lush, especially for a three person band. Although typically guitar driven in a My Bloody Valentine way – they infuse their sound with a liberal amount of synthesizer that is used constructively both as lead and to pulse midtempo behind Kazu’s ethereal vocals. BRH has encouraged users to remix “Signs Along the Path,” a bonus track from the album (and one of my favorites). The track has both the magical nebulous quality that I could imagine being picked up as the backing for Oakenfold and the persistence that could complement a thick driving bassline by a group such as RAC.
Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City / Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank/
Just like most critics this year, I’m not giving these bands the justice they deserve for the quality of their 2007 releases. With 2004's Funeral, the Arcade Fire ripped a gigantic dimensional hole through what indie music could be and fused so many musical elements (from Bowie and Baroque to U2, Folk and Springsteen) in to a zeitgeist producing sound. So much so that fans have soaked their sister’s jeans jonesing to see them in action again. The Arcade Fire never fully supported Funeral with a tour of the scale that they could have and that in hindsight it deserved. But they are doing it this Spring and Summer for Neon Bible and that, their Arcade Fireness, their Funeralness, is what has fueled the frenzy following them wherever they have gone the past few months. Musically, Neon Bible is a fine album – which is why I’m including it. It has the Arcade Fire sound, but it’s impossible to follow up a once in a generation album. If anything, the anthemic “Intervention,” will be best remembered from this album. It’s the most accessible and most concert friendly. Regine’s vocals are sorely missed from Neon Bible and though Win Butler's voice is more mature, it’s less winsome and somehow that’s less good.The Arcade Fire - Intervention.mp3
Bloc Party’s first full length album, Silent Alarm (2005) was one of the most danceable pop album’s in recent memory. It was my preparty soundtrack for the better part of a year. “Banquet” was just immeasurably catchy and jammable. Songs like “So Here We Are” and “Like Eating Glass” just got me going in a frolicky how-great-is-this-night-going-to-be sort of way. 2007’s A Weekend in the City is still fun and danceable, only this time, instead of cavorting recklessly through the city night – this time everything is less hazy, and you’re with your girlfriend. A totally different quality of partying in type ne measure. With the notable exception of “The Prayer,” which takes a driving stentorian bass line accompanied by an almost chanted verse into a chorus that is as brilliant and hooky as any of BP’s work - Kele sings “Tonight make me unstoppable/ and I will charm/ I will slice/ I will dazzle them with my wit,” – A Weekend in the City is a much cleaner album. Though that is not to say the remixers have not been busy working with the Bloc Party template, the impeccable production is a Bloc Party trademark. Sebastian takes one of the ordinary girlfriendy cuddly tracks “I Still Remember,” and drops the roof in on it and transforms it in to a fantastic ass-shaker.Bloc Party - The Prayer.mp3
Bloc Party -I still Remember(Sebastian Remix).mp3
The first recording I heard of Modest Mouse’s “Dashboard” – the immensely fun first single off We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank was a rip from a November performance at Avalon. I was totally stoked. It reminded me of a moment I had at Hiro Ballroom I’m guessing around 2004 when the DJ threw on “Take Me Out” from Franz Ferdinand and the whole place went as nuts as a place like Hiro can go. I thought Dashboard had that kind of a potential and if “Dashboard” was on Good News For People Who Like Bad News, it probably would have been even more of a critical success. Anyway – let me be the one to say that I’ll be happily jamming out to Dashboard all summer.The Shins are probably the least disagreeable indie rock band going. They are also the indie rock band you're most likely to hear in your dentist's office, Anderson Cooper's Ipod, and on your parent's satellite radio station of choice. None of this however changes the fact that their latest album Wincing the Night Away fucking rocks. It's their best album to date. Building on a pop sensibility only rivaled by Death Cab for Cutie, this time The Shins blend layers of electronic atmospherics to melodies that are even more interesting than the ones that Zach Braff said would change our lives.
"Sleeping Lessons" gets the album going and evolves into this foot stomping nascent anthem before suddenly fading away. The song could have jettisoned any other band from obscurity to pop stardom by simply adding a second verse, yet The Shins seem to be so full of quality song components, i.e. they seem satisfied having conjured enough elements into one track that although catchy, the musical elements aren't repeated in Warholesque pop. With "Sleeping Lessons," as soon as the jam gets going, they let it go at just under four minutes - right on time for radio but too sparse to be a hit. Nevertheless it's worth a listen just for the build.
The Shins - Sleeping Lessons.mp3