My 5 favorite records of the year... countdown style!
5. The Clientele God Save the Clientele (Merge)
Bottom line is the Clientele make perfect records that are always rooted in the lush pop that they do better than almost anyone else recording music these days. The addition of a full time violinist/pianist adds to the enjoyment of the music, as do the elements of Nashville (where they recorded this one,) that show up in all the right places. I'm a huge fan of records that are good to take long walks to, and this one will accompany me on those for years to come.
4. Okkervil River The Stage Names
This is the most lyrically compelling record I heard all year. Probably due to the fact that you feel every word that Will Sheff sings even (especially) the nasty ones. Because here's the kicker, even when our narrator is doing awful things, he's painfully aware that he is doing awful things. And the band is tight, and the music sounds big even on the more quiet songs. It's also been a long time since I've been affected by a semi-epic ballad that could have been lifted from the seventies, but "A Girl in Port" got to me in a way that no other song did this year. The stories contained in it are bittersweet, and the band picks up, and and then let's up in all the right places. Like Band of Horses' "The Funeral" last year, this song is so masterfully produced you kind of forget that it hasn't existed for years and years.
3. The Hepburns Something Worth Stealing (Radio Khartoum)
Okay, so the stage names was probably a technically better record than this one. God Save the Clientele too, but this is precisely the sort of British pop that I live for. Simple, deliciously clever, and it contains plenty of songs that one can bob one's head to. I will likely listen to this album more than any other on my list. I only have one of their previous albums on vinyl (The Magic of the Hepburns). I think 2008 will find me aiming to fix that.
2. Tullycraft Every Scene Needs a Center (Magic Marker)
And this is precisely the sort of American pop that I live for. Sure it's the most mature Tullycraft record to date, but it's still more fun to listen to than anything else I heard this year. And it's still a trademark Tullycraft record with nods to classic pop guitar, giddy ah-ah's/back up harmonies, and mile a minute obscure references many of which I won't get until next year, or the year after. When I do though, it's the most satisfying thing pretty much ever.
1. A Sunny Day in Glasgow Scribble Mural Comic Journal (Notenuf)
One of my friends played a song from this record on his radio show back in January. I didn't hear the show, but I saw the playlist. Naturally, I was intrigued by the band name, and asked my friend about them. He said they were good and sort of reminded him of the Cocteau Twins. To my knowledge he never played anything from this record again, but I finally heard it and here it is as my favorite record of the year. Go figure. The Cocteau Twins reference makes sense. It's all heavily layered instruments/vocals/vocals as instruments, distortion pedals, and the result is (in my opinion) the noisest, prettiest, most compelling overall record of the year.
Honorable mention in no particular order:
Betty Lavette with the Drive by Truckers The Scene of the Crime (Anti)
Sweet soul from a master with everyone's favorite Southern indie rockers as her capable backing band. The music speaks for itself.
Caribou Andorra (Merge)
Mmmmm, bells, lot's of bells.
Sister Vanilla Little Pop Rock (Chemikal Underground)
This record is just flat out cool. A nice offering from the Jesus & Mary Chain with the neat twist of Linda Reid as the lead vocalist.
Malcolm Middleton A Brighter Beat (Full Time Hobby)
More great, witty, and at times heartbreaking Scottish pop. It opens with the hilarious juxtaposition of upbeat music to downer lyrics on "We're all Going to Die," the rest of the album carries on from there.
American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella)
I think that there are very few people out there who need to be convinced that Jay-Z does what he does oh so well. I still need to see the film that inspired tis album.
BOAT Let's Drag Our Feet! (Magic Marker)
BOAT make accessible/weird pop music that sounds like no one else who makes accessible/weird pop music.
John Vanderslice Emerald City (Barsuk)
Twenty years from now (if you still attend rock shows twenty years from now) you will be standing at a venue, and hear a kid in front of you ask the kid next to him/her, "Have you heard (insert John Vanderslice album here?) he's got to be one of the most important artists of the 21st century."
Le Switch Hello Today (Self Released)
Super tight musicianship, killer melodies that you'll hum for days, and vocals that will stay with you even longer.
Math & Physics Club Baby I'm Yours (Matinee)
More of that lush elegant pop music that they are brilliant at. Gorgeous melodies, whistful vocals, the always pleasant sound of prominent violin, and even an electro-pop song this time around!
Los Campesinos! Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (Arts & Crafts/Wichita)
Endlessly charming, giddiness inducing, and just plain fun!
Black Kids Wizard of Ahhhs (Self Released)
They got pretty huge pretty fast never having toured and whatnot. I sure do wish that I had made it to Athens Popfest this year to see them in a small venue. Sigh, good for them though. This Ep was a lot of fun to listen to.
Horowitz Tracyanne (Cloudberry)
"Popkids of the World Unite," They sold me on that one. Though all of the songs are so sweet and fuzzy.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Painbow)
British indipop circa the mid to late eighties cleverly updated by American kids circa now.
Anything that was released on the YAY! label this year.
See the description above, although this label doesn't so much update their influences as they pay perfect homage to them. They release singles that come with posters, and handmade drawings directing you to the YAY! website, and they publish fanzines with stories of record stores, rock clubs, and of course, bands. It doesn't get much more DIY than this. And the music contained on the singles sounds like it could have been released by any one of the labels that inspired them (Sarah, K, Subway, 53rd & 3rd, etc.) By far my favorite musical discovery of the year made even better by the fact that a label like this exists so close to where I live.
There were so many releases that I either didn't hear, or spend enough time with. Some will surely grab me next year, and I will kick myself for not including them here. Others I will miss all together. This makes me sad, but it just proves that 2007 was a better year for music than most gave it credit for. And 2008 promises to be even better! Be on the lookout here for Squaregirl Kristen's favorites list which will appear soon. And I'm sure I'll come up with something to write about over the next week. Until then, merry everything!