Sunday, December 16, 2007

Andy's Top 50 Albums Of 2007 (50-41)

50. Richmond Fontaine - "Thirteen Cities"
(Decor) (February 5)

I fell in love with America this year. All my life I wanted to travel, to go to someplace that is rich in history and beautiful in scenery. I wanted to get out and go explore the Balkans, to go to Southeast Asia, I wanted to get away. Then I suddenly fell in love with America and Americana. It started by watching Food Network Specials, then moving onto Westerns and shows like Deadwood. I have acquired a huge taste for country music, that I never really had before. And I rekindled my love for Portland band Richmond Fontaine. Willy Vlautin, the bandleader and songwriter writes songs about America. I would consider him one of the best songwriters on the planet today. He delves into his characters, he paints pictures, and his albums always combine Alternative Country gems with spoken-word narratives, with beautiful slide-guitar laden instrumentals. Thirteen Cities is one of the best Americana albums of the year, full of songs detailing characters in thirteen cities across the west. It might be #50 on my list this year, but from beginning to end, it battles it out with any album as the most complete and fully realized album of the year.
Recommended If You Like: "Being There"-era Wilco, Calexico, Jayhawks

49. Peter Case - "Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John"
(Yep Roc) (August 7)

In 1983, The Plimsouls recorded and released "A Million Miles Away", the song from the seminal classic 80's movie "Valle
y Girl." In my opinion, pop songs don't get much more perfect than that. Though the Plimsouls ended not long after that, the man behind that great band, Peter Case has been steadily releasing pretty decent blues and singer/songwriter albums for around 20 years. In 2007, his release "Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John" has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. And it is. This is classic folk music, emotional, gruff, spiritual. It mixes blues with acoustic guitar and folk sounds to create something not far from the sounds of Mississippi John Hurt. This album though, is a homage to Sleepy John Estes, another great, but lesser known country blues musician. It's nothing you haven't heard before. But it's everything that the releases you've heard before try to accomplish. With this gem, it's time for Peter Case to be placed alongside his better known contemporaries.
Recommended If You Like: John
Prine, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne


48. Black Milk - "Popular Demand"
(Fat Beats
) (March 13)

You can't read a review of this album without at least some mention of Dilla. In the wake of having now
Dilla, Black Milk has slowly taken up the reigns of his mentor and released and excellent Detroit-styled hip hop album. Black Milk has been around producing tracks for a little while, for Dilla favorites Slum Village (who appear on the album), as well as more local acts. He produces all his songs here, which are done in a less-varied Dilla style. Think combining Dilla with 9th Wonder and that's sort of what Black Milk sounds like to me. The place where Black Milk stands apart from other MC/Producers, is the fact that this dude can actually rap. He doesn't have the charisma of a Kanye, but this is solid hip hop all the way through. His flow is smooth, and he is able to adjust it to match his beats. Whether it's lightning fast ("Insane"), or slower ("Lookatusnow"), this is the style of hip hop on the cusp of mainstream that I can get behind. Gets a bit samey at times, but it has stuck with me the entire year as one of my favorite hip hop releases.
Recommended If You Like: Little Brother, Slum Village, Dilla/Madlib/Tribe/De La

47. Ultrasport - "False Start City"
(Gashopper) (January 5)

I don't really understand why this album has stuck with me so, or how I even heard of it, or anything. Ultrasport is some pop band from Finland. They aren't huge, though they did crack the crazy Finnish charts this year. But unlike all that psychedelic folk music that comes from Finland, or even Black Metal, what we have with "False Start City" is an album full of memorable choruses, childish lyrics, and piano keys played just right, all coming together to create 12 great pop songs. It's just fun. If you remember my list from 2006, it seemed like half of the albums that were included were these really excellent indie pop releases, and while I'm telling you right now that this list isn't necessarily the same, this album would fit nicely alongside some of those that I have talked about before. Some of the songs sound like The Futureheads, others sound like. The whole album is like some fey version of "Born To Run." It's just nod your head, sing-along in your car fun. Guitar pop wins out, every time.
Recommended If You Like: The Futureheads, The Go-Betweens, The Chesterfields

46. King Creosote - "Bombshell"
(679) (September 10)

I think it's in the way that Kenny Anderson sings, that makes me weep. Ok, I lied. I've never cried at a King Creosote song, but his voice, complete with that great Fife-twang, is something remarkable. It turns well written folk songs into folk-rock masterpieces. You could relate the emotion in his voice to people like Glen Hansard or Damien Rice, but Anderson doesn't need to scream to get his point across. He's the true, weepy, romantic, roaming the rainy streets of Europe, singing all the time for love lost. His blend of European folk and modern electronics are spot on too. A drum machine here, a synth there, it's never overbearing. The effects just add to the songs. I love his official releases, I've come to that conclusion at least. Now, I guess I just have to go back and find all those CDr's he released before he blew up.
Recommended If You Like: Early Badly Drawn Boy, other European troubadours

45. Baroness - "Red Album"
(Relapse) (September 10)

There was actually quite a few awesome metal albums that caught my ear this year. And while the ones that made this list are sort of products of the hype machine, I genuinely love these records. First off, we have Baroness and their debut full length after a few awesome EPs. I love this Savannah, GA metal scene. It's not over the top technical, but it's not necessarily sludge or doom. This is just rock n roll. This is like if Deep Purple was making music now, and were still badasses. Baroness seamlessly blend aspects of indie rock, southern rock, and powerful metallic blasts to create something that is wholly unique. Sure bands like Mastodon and Rwake (among others) have been doing a similar thing for years, no one else really sounds like Baroness. This could probably be played on the radio even. It's the ultimate crossover record for a metal band. Truly enjoyable and one of my favorite records as of late. For those who find Death Metal a bit much, but need something that the Alt. Rock scene can't offer them.
Recommended If You Like: Mastodon,

44. Mammatus - The Coast Explodes
(Holy Mountain) (April 24)

When all is said and done, Holy Mountain is my favorite label of the year. And while the second album from Santa Cruz stoners, Mammatus is the only album from the label that is on my list, there was a half-dozen just on the cusp. Holy Mountain is releasing album after album of intense (or beautiful) drugged-out, neo-psychedelic music, that I would probably enjoy more if I used any substance, but still enjoy a whole lot because I love the early 70s sound of their records. What Mammatus have created with their followup to last year's pretty excellent self-titled album, is something that starts with the third part of their epic "Dragon Of The Deep" trilogy that ended their first album. 12 minutes of trippy guitar solos, cymbal crashes, and incomprehensible chants. This is music for the cliffs of the West Coast, just like the cover suggests. They're not afraid of going prog, they're not afraid of making the solos last a little longer than they should, but on this album, unlike their first, they keep the music moving enough that it doesn't get outright boring. The third track "The Changing Wind" uses acoustic guitars and flutes to create some of the best psych-folk of the year. Of course following that track is the heaviest one of the set, "The Coast Explodes." Everytime I listen to this record, I'm engaged the whole way through. While bands like Battles are creating prog records that are crafted with precision and robotic playing, I'll take the sloppy, spiritual Mammatus types any day of the week.
Recommended If You Like: Acid Mothers Temple, 70s psych and prog and stoner metal

43. Private - "My Secret Lover"
(Universal Denmark) (October 23)

It's pretty embarrassing to share opinions with Perez Hilton, "My Secret Lover" by Danish band Private forces me to do just that. This trio, led by Thomas Troelson is huge in Denmark. I mean huge. The album is ruling the charters and certified platinum. One listen to this album, and I can see why. This isn't your typical europop garbage. I mean, it is. But it's not. This whole record basically sounds like an old Michael Jackson record. Troelson is the guy who produced or wrote most of Junior Senior's stuff, so you know he's got hit songs in his blood. But really, this is just shameless, over-the-top, brilliant pop music. Every song will make you dance or sing or something. There isn't music made like this anymore, and yet it doesn't sound retro, and it doesn't sound overly cheesy. I mean the beginning of "Crucify My Heart" sounds like the next Disney Channel hit, but then the chorus comes, and it's something totally new. This record isn't for people that hate fun.
Recommended If You Like: Junior Senior, Michael Jackson, The 80s.

42. Stars Of The Lid - "And Their Refinement Of The Decline"
(Kranky) (April 7)

I don't know how they do it. I mean really, I don't know how they actually make music like this. I've seen "ambient" acts, I understand some basic principals, effects pedals, blah blah whatever. But Stars Of The Lid are something. They create, live, real music that sounds like William Basinski's tape loops, without the crackling. Their songs are done with the utmost care, and result in the utmost beauty. There is ambient music and then there are the sounds of Stars Of The Lid. If ever you could take natural sounds, or what I perceive to be natural sounds, and make them romantic, make them define those moments that are most important to us, these two men can do it. It's two discs of "drone." Say what you will, but it's two discs of beauty. They've captured it. The only reason it's so low is because I didn't listen to it enough. Give me a month or a year, this could very well be #1.
Recommended If You Like: Eno's Ambient stuff, William Basinski, Eluvium

41. Elizabeth Cook - "Balls"
(Thirty Tigers) (May 1)

Warner Bros. dropped Elizabeth Cook after one album, because they are fucking stupid. She's probably too traditional in sound for country radio, but if there's one female that I've heard that could break through, Elizabeth Cook would be the one to do it. Her sound is pure Dolly Parton with some Loretta thrown in. She has that high voice you remember from 70s era Dolly, plenty of fiddle in her songs, and she isn't afraid to sing what she wants. What? A female country singer who writes her own songs?! Blasphemy! Whatever, she's a member of the Opry, she's under the wing of Rodney Crowell, and she's beautiful. If this isn't the making of the right kind of superstar, then forget country music. She even covers The Velvet Underground on this record, and does it justice. This is country music, and the music that I love.
Recommended If You Like: Dolly Parton, Shelby Lynne, Neo-Traditionalist Country

#40-31 tomorrow


Searcher said...

Hey, Stars of the Lid sounds really cool, I saw Eluivum last spring, and he was really cool. I wish there had been room to just lay down, and it was so loud, it was like a blanket of music.

But yea, I'll have to check them out.