A Banner Year
20 records you might dig:
Chad Ross used to play in The Deadly Snakes before they met their untimely demise last year. Former bandmate and vocalist Andre Ethier has received a lot of press in the band's wake, as frontmen and vocalists often do, but if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on his former drummer. Ross combines the svelteness of Sam Beam with the ear of Ben Chasny on a psych-folk record that outshines both of the aforementioneds' efforts this year.
Already out of print, Sublime Frequencies needs to reissue this pronto. The Inerane have been around for a few years, but the SF's Hisham Mayet is the first person to record them for a Western audience. The lo-fi recording quality gives the group a rough-hewn garage feel, but the showmanship is anything but rudimentary.
The less-celebrated sidekick of King Khan actually outdid the dude this year. The Sultanic Verses is a nonstop stream of antiquated fuzz that makes you wonder why anyone ever bothered with hi-fi. In the Red remains one of the few labels out there worthy of unquestioned devotion.
Take two parts Double Leopards and one part Mouthus, inject the eternal, and you got Religious Knives. Remains barely beat out Blues Control's self-titled LP for my No. 1 "no fun" record of the year, and that's saying something considering the genius on display by that duo. This record stops time, issues it a ticket and then follows it down the road a few more miles to make sure there's no more funny business. Perfect for those who like a little kick to the drone once in a while.
The diva behind "Missing" is actually a huge Arthur Russell fan (possibly the most definitive litmus test available in modern music). She renders the great one's "Get Around To It" here, and the rest might as well be covers. Those craving cheese along the lines of Everything But The Girl will undoubtedly be disappointed, thank god.
The kings of 21st century disco released this compilation of singles just in time to reinforce their supremacy before the polyester uprising. A full-fledged Quaalude revival is now in the works, and while there's been plenty of passable nu-disco hitting the blogs over the past six months, they all bow at the altar of these Scandinavian giants.
Shackleton and Appleblim have been making these dub-inspired tracks for the past couple years, but their zero kelvin breaks didn't make it to the states until October. We, being Americans, need CliffNotes comps like this, since we generally ignore bleak desperation until it smacks us in the face, or knocks down a couple towers. Speaking of which, you won’t find a more unsettling song than Ricardo Villalobos' marathon remix of Shackleton's "Blood On My Hands."
If you politely passed on 1980s FM in favor of post-punk, hardcore and Touch & Go, I can't blame you. But there was gold in them there hills, and Map of Africa mine it with the perfect balance of nostalgia and innovation. Harvey and Rub-n-Tug’s Thom Bullock set aside their storied histories in electronic music to write the nonexistent songs they always envisioned for their DJ sets. We get to listen to them without living through the Reagan years. Win-win.
Dusted HQ was bummed when Leah Quimby left Magik Markers last year, and there was honestly a little doubt as to whether Elisa Ambrogio and Pete Nolan could continue their unmatched syncretism of noise and desire. Well, they showed everyone who's boss (sorry, couldn't help it). This is the best trad-rock album of 2007, a shocking development given the duo's total disregard for trad-songwriting up until this point. If you didn't like Magik Markers before ... well, shame on you, but that’s all the more reason to check this one out.
Tuareg rebels from the Sahara who wield machine guns and guitars with equal dexterity release one of the gentlest, life-affirming records in recent memory. The group followed up fellow dark continent favs Konono No. 1 as this year's indie darlings, but, c'mon, after 25 years in the desert, they deserve all the praise they can get.
Brooklyn's newest finest band are huge Genesis fans, and it shows on their technicolor debut. Soaring harmonies soaked in reverb burst out of the speakers like exploding lava lamps. Animal Collective fans probably dig this, but All Hour Cymbals is everything Strawberry Jam isn't: ambitious yet restrained, unafraid to take itself too seriously (it's called discipline, folks), and chock full of anthems.
Rick Tomlinson takes a rest from his endless string of CD-Rs to finally release a proper LP, and the result is Robin Hood circa Istanbul 1974. There simply wasn't a more transfixing album in 2007, whether Rick was channeling Fahey, Faust or Led Zeppelin. While the so-called "freak-folk" movement may have met its maker, there's no stopping normal dudes like Rick from taking acid and playing the shit out of an acoustic guitar. Lick it if you got it.
He's a national icon in Syria, but thanks to the Western world's fine-tuned foreign policy, you'd never find out about Mr. Souleyman through traditional media channels. Which is a goddamn shame, because he trumps any pop star we churned out during the 1990s. This is a collection of Omar's work from 1996 through 2004 that never would have made it to these shores if not for Mark Gergis and Sublime Frequencies. Nu-rave has nothing on Omar when he gets the pitch-shifting up to 140 bpm.
On the Prinzhorn Dance School website, the duo of Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn describe their act by declaring what they aren't, rarely a good idea when writing, but, then again, good bands rarely play by the rules. The 'Horn write, "We are not a new rave band, we are not a punk funk band, we are not a new wave band." I fell in love with their debut album before I came across their site, but upon reading this, it pushed the infatuation to new levels ... perhaps for the narcissistic reasons. As someone who tends to ignore, sometimes even neglect, the next big thing, I felt a common bond with these two minimalists and the cynicism dripping from their bare-bone songs.
A genre unto himself, Burial operates on the cusp of many things: dubstep, downtempo, blues, celebrity, life, death. The one true equivalent to his otherworldly transmissions are the shortwave radio remains assembled on The Conet Project, a mind-blowing collection of espionage clues broadcast on number stations. Of course, a few things separate the two. Irdial's findings come from a past when spies chattered in the interest of national security, aiming to protect the homeland from its neighbors. Untrue's spectral sighs are just as averse to trust, only on a distinctly personal level. Another incredible full-length from South London that will never sound quite right with someone else in the room.
This Nashville collective long shunned the notion that music is something to be consumed, preferring the communal experience of the live show. John Allingham, Peggy Snow and/or Laura-Matter Fukushima, Allen Lowrey, Chris Davis, Chuck Hatcher, Taylor Martin, Aaron Russell, Beth Matter have been playing as The Cherry Blossoms for almost 15 years, making loose folk that sounds like a combination of Harry Smith and Sun Ra. Finally, seven years after laying songs to tape, they got around to releasing their debut album this summer (with the help of six different labels), and it's easily the most unapologetically joyous recording I've heard (and enjoyed) in some time.
We've sure come a long way from "Poème électronique." When I heard Person Pitch back in February, my first thought was how much Schaeffer and Varese would have loved to hear this. As Noah Lennox told us earlier this year, 96 percent of this masterpiece is sequenced collage, melody derived from chaos thanks to the hindsight of repetition (4/4 in this case). The wondrous accomplishment here, though, is that Lennox harnessed his melodies without sacrificing the serendipity at the core of chance music (or chance findings, in his case). Hell, Person Pitch even forced me to reconsider my distaste for sunny vocal harmonies.
Easily the most conflicting album of 2007, certainly more so than any standard hip hop record. Kanye West might disagree, since his whole schtick is contradiction, but while his inspiration lies in the 30 miles separating his suburban upbringing and Chicago's south side, Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam can see the forest for the trees - and she (presumably) has no problem burning the whole thing down to the ground. Kala exports (intermittently between bubbly pop songs) gangsta culture to developing nations and arguably affiliates rebel stratagem with America's disheveled inner cities. The whole thing feels incredibly disingenuous, which is perhaps why we can not only stomach the absurdity, but revel in it.
As I've said before, James Murphy is the heartbeat of popular music right now; the rest of us just breathe accordingly. It's exciting to bear witness to an artist who can rally so many different castes: the 24 hour party people, the indie-yuppies, the avant guards, the casual music fan, the starfuckers (OK, so I may be leaving out most of the Republican party). It reminds those of us who feel so out of touch with the rest of society that there are commonalities out there worth celebrating; that even in an increasingly niche culture that threatens to dilute our already tenuous grip on reality, there's someone who can still shoo away the tempting solipsism and bring us together.
Surprised? All I can say is, me too. But nothing else captivated me from beginning to end quite like the humility of The Amber Gatherers. Joanna Newsom once wrote, "This is an old song, these are old blues. / This is not my tune, but it's mine to use," and that's the feeling I get when I listen to Alasdair Roberts – I can not believe these songs haven't existed for hundreds of years. It makes sense; Roberts has long treasured traditional British music, but the extent to which he channels his ancestors is uncanny. I live in New York, the world's undisputed capital of unnecessary hurry, and these 11 anachronistic ditties provided welcome respite from the swarm. Lyrics like "We have no need, no need of your amber. likewise your gold and your jewels / There is no true beauty in things of no use," and ”There’s a raven on the gable, so brazenly crowing,” make for pleasant reminders that the world isn’t made out of sidewalks and highrises. Delivered in its maker's fragile yet hopeful voice, The Amber Gatherers presents a persuasive argument for living in the past … or at least the country.
50 songs worth risking an RIAA lawsuit:
50. Durrty Goodz – “Keep Up”
Thanks for reading Dusted.
By Otis Hart