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Almost Overpowererd

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Jon Dale, energized by a holiday in New Zealand, looks back on the records that salvaged 2007.

Almost Overpowererd

I’m just back from a trip to Brisbane and New Zealand where I stayed with, played with, ate with, travelled with some of the most incredible people I’ve met in a long time, so I’m uncommonly full of bonhomie right now, even despite a last-minute panic and subsequent hospitalization. You can tell I’ve had a good time when six hours at the NHS coalface can’t dampen my enthusiasm. And yet…2007 still feels like a strangely brutal year, one that laid its cards out on the table and wouldn’t let me off the hook at all. Maybe it’s all about turning 30 and that encroaching-to-all-encompassing sense of ‘life slipping between one’s hands’… But enough melodrama: here’s just a small portion of the music that survived me, and helped me survive.

1. Róisín Murphy - Overpowered (EMI)

For the sheer, giddy affect of the record, colorful, dramatic and joyous where a lot of music just grumbled at either end of the spectrum (beige or coal-black). “Let Me Know” was this year’s greatest single, full of loss and jouissance. In a year where relationships just got stranger (Lou Reed’s sole great words of advice: “things don’t get better, things go from bad to weird”), Murphy’s unstinting address of affairs of the heart made for simple succour.

2. The High Llamas - Can Cladders (Drag City)

What I wrote for Plan B magazine: “the autumnal logic of O’Hagan’s songs reminded me what music – and, by extension, life – should be: smart, stylish, genuine, and possessing a benevolent, generous, selfless core.” I listened to this record and its predecessor, Beet Maize & Corn, more than most any other album this year.

3. Pram - The Moving Frontier (Domino)

Now is just the right time for Pram to return, really, with hauntology the theoretical trope du jour. They haven’t sat so comfortably since post-rock’s first, superior British flourish in the early-to-mid 1990s.

4. Robert Wyatt - Comicopera (Domino)

Old Rottenhat on fine form – though is it churlish of me to want to hear a Robert Wyatt album that’s just Robert, like Old Rottenhat itself? Nevermind. I’ll take collective Wyatt over no Wyatt, any day.

5. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)

Noah Lennox’s solo songs are like sucking helium out of balloons and singing along to Song Cycle on 45.

6. Alastair Galbraith - Orb (Next Best Way)

The return of one of our generation’s greats. I only just got hold of Orb, while catching up with Alastair and family at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and though the bulk of the material is four years old, it’s profound as ever – alternating between bittersweet and blissed-out, rough shards and memory glimpses dropping from a 4-track canvas.

Other greats:

7. To Rococo Rot - ABC123 (Domino)

8. The Terminals - Last Days of the Sun (Last Visible Dog)

9. His Name Is Alive - Xmmer (Silver Mountain) & Sweet Earth Flower (High Two)

10. Strategy - Future Rock (Kranky)

Old records that felt new:

Television bootlegs & the third Television album
Bongwater & Kramer’s Guilt Trip & other ShimmyDisc
The Spinanes’ Manos, Strand and Arches & Aisles
Pete Townshend Scoop (thanks, Dean)
Shoes This High (thanks, Jon B)
Evil, Ghost Club and Leather Apron – the three sides of David Mitchell
Jay Clarkson Kindle
The Expendables “The Flower/The Man With No Desire”
Underground Resistance “Transition”
Weekend La Variete
Small World Experience Shelf Life
Julee Cruise The Vision of Love
Most anything by Jackie DeShannon
Digging through the ESP Disk back catalog (esp. Sea Ensemble)
Grateful Dead live archives – any tape traders out there feeling generous?

Record I missed in 2006 that I wish I hadn’t:

Rickie Lee Jones - Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (New West)

Holy shit! If I’d known, I wouldn’t have paid Scott Walker’s The Drift quite so much attention. Because this is the return-to-form to top all return-to-forms – Rickie on an absolute tear, shouting down politics and religion with customary fervour. Improvised, vibrant, alive – everything you’d expect.

Gigs of the year:

Autistic Daughters at the Exeter Hotel Dining Room
The Renderers & Brian Crook solo in Adelaide
Metamkine in Brisbane
RST, Tim Coster, Dean Roberts and Nigel Wright at the Wine Cellar
Milton/Monaghan and Campbell Kneale in Wellington
Armpit at the OtherFilm Festival
Storehouse in Auckland
The Aesthetics in Dunedin
Terminals rehearsal in Christchurch
The Deadnotes and IMO at IMA
The Lost Domain behind The Forest
Muura and Adam Sussmann at Delacatessen Gallery

By Jon Dale

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