My Year in Music: Part 1

December 25, 2007

The best thing about music is that it’s the internal narrator.

People talk about liking music for the “movie it makes in their head” while listening, or for the stories it conveys through sounds or memory recall. And this is all well and good when you’re as neurotic / narcissitic as I am sometimes. I love the fact that music is mine if I am listening to it, and can mean what I want it to mean; it can narrate my life or my memories or whatever. Granted — this is a selfish endeavor; the artist undoubtedly had something in mind when making music (and let’s hope it is more than boning or doing loads of coke), and who are you to attach another meaning to it?

But this has been a year for me. So allow me some leeway.

Thus my favorite albums this year are strongly linked to memories or times they got me through, etc. etc. I’m watching Annie Hall for the second time in 24 hours and the final shot is just perfect: Alvy recalls the memory of Annie singing “Just Like Old Times” and memories of their non-depleted relationship flash over the screen — throwing lobsters in a pot, meeting at the tennis club, etc. I find that the best music this year had the same effect on me this year.

Or, it was just made by Radiohead.

TOP ALBUMS 20-10

20. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Scribble Mural Comic Journal

It’s shoegazer-ish, so it’s going to be on here somewhere, you know? Unfortunately, this one got a bit too pyschedelic at points, a little too “black rimmed glasses” and deliberately improvised on occasion, but there’s enough here to like, especially the closing track.

19. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends

When I saw these guys in a park in Chicago a couple years ago, it was pandemonium. Tim Harrington stripped down to a red Speedo (which he proceeded to fill with beer), instructed the whole audience to sit down (followed by him walking through the crowd screaming at people), threw inflatable lobster rafts at people, etc. A Chicago PD cop stood closely by on stage, threatening to shut it down a few times. This album sounds like Les Savy Fav had the cop (albeit metaphorically) in the studio with them during sessions; it’s Les Savy Fav slightly declawed, which is just frustrating given how much of a gut-punch these guys usually are.

18. Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature

The only thing challenging about Jose Gonzalez is the fact that his name suggests he’s from Venezuela and he’s actually Swedish. He’s like the John Mayer of minimalist indie rock; just a guy and an acoustic guitar, tapping his foot and belting out saccharine-yet-understated melodies (with a refreshing lack of falsetto unlike other one-man-bands). It’s nice and entirely safe. And for you House fans — he does a great cover of “Teardrop.”

17. Burial – Untrue

Go home, throw on “Archangel,” which is supposedly ‘dubstep.’ What you’ll hear is music that, like Bjork’s Vespertine, makes me want to have sex on a glacier. But where as Bjork’s fjordbone soundtrack mentally lulled me through sleepy sex, the abrupt, unsettling beat here would make it all decidedly more athletic: by the time it ended, the beat would’ve guided a sex tempo that would’ve emitted such thermal energy, the ice would’ve melted, sending the lovers cascading — and thankfully, seeing as this would be timed perfectly in my mind and thus be nanoseconds after climax — into the frigid waters below.

16. The White Stripes – Icky Thump

I like how weird these guys have become (see “Conquest,” “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn”), considering the inherent limitations of a two-person — really one-person — band (sorry, Meg). Some of this works, some of it doesn’t, but as an album you’ve really got to hand it to them. Lesser talents would’ve exhausted the concept years ago; Jack White just proves, yet again, that’s he’s on a whole different level, whether you like what’s he created or not.

15. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

Oh, James Murphy. I find myself putting up with you more than I find myself enjoying you. You’re like the one friend’s dad who was into the Talking Heads in the late 1970’s or who can hold a convo about Talk Talk and constantly lets you know. “Yeah, I was just cutting grass, but do you guys want to talk about T. Rex?” You’re old. You’re not believable. But damn — you know your shit. You really do. It’s like watching a guy ape James Joyce and Pynchon and writing a book in that vein — obnoxious, yes, but ultimately the guy really got Joyce and Pynchon. And if he keeps putting out tracks like “All My Friends,” I might just forget about everything I hate about him.

14. Menomena – Friend or Foe

I’m not into “interesting” for interesting’s sake — I really honestly believe the best artists are interesting by default, and don’t need to intentionally fuck things up to prove it. Parts of this album play the musical equivalent of small penis syndrome — “uh, we don’t really know how to write a song so lets just throw a bunch of shit together.” But then the high points (see: the finale of “Evil Bee”) are just spine-tingly great, and the complexity, the density, the overproduction only add to the brilliance of it all.

13. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

This album got shafted by obnoxious hipsters who were expecting Funeral part II, and got something much less fantastic. Yet, it’s still a great album (at parts) and only serves to prove The Arcade Fire’s brilliance: their B-material is better than most bands’ A-material. Sometimes, removing the unfair standard of comparison does much to de-cloud one’s vision; another example is available below.

12. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

Pretty much the same review as Neon Bible. It generally all applies. What’s shocking here is how Wilco added guitar virtuoso Nels Cline and got simpler. This is your dad’s Wilco, which is fine, because they’re dads now. Nels is 50, Tweedy’s got to be at least 40. I’ll accept middle-aged Wilco.

11. The National – Boxer

Everyone’s feeling good for the National these days. Nice new band. Deep bass, piano, growling vocals. But this is a drummer’s album — the chops really make it work. But only about half of it really kills me; however, that half (notably opener “Fake Empire”) is just brutally awesome. This is music for moping or late night beers alone in your apartment. I would know.

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2 Responses to “My Year in Music: Part 1”

  1. Paul Says:

    You’ve got to give Menomena bonus points simply for that album art – it’s brilliant. Plus the drums that open “Muscle’n Flo” give me goosebumps every time I hear it.

  2. Jamie Says:

    So mike… albums 10-1 coming with your 2008 edition??? or what?


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