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Best of 2007 Preview
26 January 08 from Ryan Allaer 12
Michael, and glenn, I've always thought that English capitalization patterns operate as a purely visual aesthetic, natural for a culture whose native writing system wields thousands of distinct pictographs, and whose bands might not fully comprehend why native English-speakers would read BUMP OF CHICKEN as if someone were shouting it. The title is likely thought of as an eye-catching insignia, in other words. There may be a more (or even less) specific explanation to it than that, or I could be entirely mistaken, though.
But as for documentation, personally I just try to accommodate the naming preferences of the artists as best I can (although I have grown somewhat fond of the casing), and I'm rather unaware of how thoroughly this reflects the demeanor of other J-pop fans.
26 January 08 from Aaron 11
I thought almost every song on the Ted Leo album was fantastic, but I thought that after my first listen, so I can't really claim that you just probably heard the wrong parts.
(The rest of my top ten, probably: Aesop Rock, Fall Out Boy, Get Him Eat Him, Girlyman, Graham Smith, Jens Lekman, Plastic Operator, Silkworm, They Might Be Giants. I think. I was a lot more into songs than albums, this year.)
25 January 08 from glenn mcdonald 10
Leo's new one I listened to bits of online and then didn't even buy. I appear to have strained my tolerance for the direction in which he's been drifting.
The new Weakerthans I liked parts of a lot ("Relative Surplus Value" missed my song list by 1) (and would have been paired with Tegan & Sara's "Hop a Plane"), but the whole thing didn't hold my attention the way Reconstruction Site did. I think "Elegy For Gump Worsley" was maybe a mistake, period, but for me it at least killed the album's pace dead right in the middle, and thus undermined my experience of the songs after it. I could just delete it, of course, but that seems like cheating. They're the Weakerthans, I don't want to have to edit them myself!
21 January 08 from jer 6
Great write up, glenn. As happy as I am to have this blog, where I don't have to completely miss your writing, I am still missing your thoughts on music. I bought two of the albums on your non-metal Top 10 (Chase This Light and Mapmaker) and heard three others (Send Away The Tigers, Riot and In Rainbows), which probably isn't that much lower a ratio than what I'd've heard if you were still reviewing music weekly. But even if I would have liked Parts & Labor, or not liked Paramore, I still miss having one more opportunity to understand why.
I said over in the 2007 mix forum that I now prefer year-end mixes over list making, indicative, I suppose, of my music listening no longer consisting of inserting CDs into drives for anything other than copying them to iTunes. But I still buy them. Only two of the 36 songs on my mixes were not purchased in concrete form, and one of those ("Flux") was only because the import single it is off of didn't cross the ocean in time for me to make the CDs. But I too wonder how long the perhaps already pointless busywork of buying a CD only to render it digitally will not only be unnecessary, but impossible.
I'm curious, though: Does the lack of Weakerthans or Ted Leo on your list imply disappointment with their latest albums, or just an overcrowded field? I also must speculate that I think you would like Georgie James and Future of the Left (weren't you a McLusky fan?), and possibly Pela and Laura Veirs, if you haven't already heard them.
23 January 08 from glenn mcdonald 9
Yeah, I don't understand it, either. You have to be precise in Japanese to get the kanji right, so I understand why they're meticulous about reproducing the exact case of bands' names, but I don't know why the names have those patterns to begin with.
22 January 08 from Michael 2
Can some J-Pop fan please explain the function of capitalization (or, the lack thereof) in Japanese band names and titles? Because there is clearly great significance placed on documenting capitals and cases in J-Pop, but for the life of my, I don't know what it could be.
14 January 08 from Ryan Allaer 8
I've never actually arranged a year-end list before, but I figure now that many of my thoughts are already collected here it's a convenient opportunity to start. I think I may need to bulk up on more non-Japanese music before I consider a top ten (glenn's archives and lists have been my only major source for the last few years, ever since I discovered the site), but here's my top five, at least:
Paramore - Riot!
OLIVIA - The Cloudy Dreamer
Jimmy Eat World - Chase This Light
Shocking Lemon - Solvent Echo
Salyu - TERMINAL
And my favorite individual slices of music, unregulated in terms of quantity:
little by little - "Kimi Monogatari" & BUMP OF CHICKEN - "Mayday"
The Weakerthans - "Night Windows"
L'Arc~en~Ciel - "SEVENTH HEAVEN" & "MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM"
FINE LINES - "Spin into Love"
Spitz - "Gunjou"
Jackson Vibe - "24 HOUR DREAMING PEOPLE" & THE LOCAL ART - "80s Children"
Maximo Park - "Girls Who Play Guitars"
sleepy.ab - "sonar"
Were it released this year instead of last, avengers in sci-fi's avenger strikes back would likely be my favorite album, and I'm pretty sure glenn's recommendation of Dark Passion Play would be on my extended top ten if I hadn't cut it off...
19 January 08 from glenn mcdonald 7
4 January 08 from Steve G 1
Jer, I have only found "Endless Entertainment" on thisisbrighteyes.com, and I don't necessarily know how to download it at this point. I was really hoping for more great b-sides from the post-"Four Winds" single, but they just went with a double-A-side instead. Perhaps the songs we've got now are all that we're going to get. I'm certainly not complaining about the quality, but I can't help but keep my eyes open for further quantity.
And if I didn't mention this before, I agree with you completely that the b-sides from the last (twin) albums were excellent.
1 January 08 from jer 6
Did "Endless Entertainment" ever materialize anywhere, Steve? It floated around the net quite a bit pre- the release of Cassadaga but I don't think it ever appeared on any singles or anything. Good track, though. Easily at the same level of the stellar I'm Wide Awake It's Morning-era b-side output.
2 January 08 from Bertson 5
Top Ten Albums:
1. The National- Boxer
2. Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
3. Weakerthans- Reunion Tour
4. Low- Drums & Guns
5. Shins- Wincing The Night Away
6. Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha
7. The Shining- Grindstone
8. The Field- From Here We Go Sublime
9. Electrelane- No Shouts, No Calls
10. Maximo Park- Our Earthly Pleasures
Ten Favourite Songs Not On Those Albums:
!!!- Heart of Hearts
Arcade Fire- Ocean Of Noise
Blonde Redhead- 23
Feist- My Moon My Man
Field Music- Closer At Hand
LCD Soundsystem- All My Friends
New Pornographers- Unguided
A Place To Bury Strangers- To Fix The Gash In Your Head
You Say Party! We Say Die!- Downtown Mayors Goodnight, Alley Kids Rule!
2 January 08 from Steve G 1
Michael, thanks for the info on Laura Pausini. Obviously I haven't done my Google homework on her...
Thinking over my roughly-top-ten list, I started to think about when I first encountered the artists on the list. Here's what I came up with, in chronological order:
1982-Colin Hay (via Men At Work)
1983-Cy Curnin (via The Fixx)
1986-Steven Lindsay (via The Big Dish)
2006-Bright Eyes (based on a review by glenn's wife)
2006-Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
2006-Manic Street Preachers (late to the party, I know)
The start date for this list makes sense, as it coincides with my entrance into junior high, the time when I first really began to get into music. What is striking is the roughly 15-year gap between finding Blue Rodeo and Juanes. It's not that I stopped listening to music in the '90s, but maybe I wasn't very open to new things during that time. That doesn't sound right, but perhaps the bands I found then didn't have staying power. As I think of the new-to-me musicians I really liked in the early-to-mid '90s (James, Blur, The Stone Roses...was it all Britpop?), they either went in directions I didn't want to follow, or they fell apart. I don't know if that's a hard-and-fast rule, but it's interesting to ponder. Perhaps I'll look back at last year's list and see if the same gap exists.
1 January 08 from whalemusic 4
2007 Top 30 Cancon:
1. The Acorn Glory Hope Mountain
2. Rush Snakes and Arrows
3. Apostle of Hustle National Anthem of Nowhere
4. Jim Bryson Where the Bungalows Roam
5. The Arcade Fire Neon Bible
6. Handsome Furs Plague Park
7. Tegan and Sara The Con
8. Orillia Opry Lighthouse for Stragglers' Eyes
9. We Are Wolves Total Magique
10. Nathan Lawr and the Minotaurs A Sea of Tiny Lights
11. Weakerthans Reunion Tour
12. C'mon Bottled Lightning (of An All Time High)
13. Do Make Say Think You, You're a History in Rust
14. Miracle Fortress Five Roses
15. Leslie Feist The Reminder
16. Diableros Aren't Ready for the Country
17. Immaculate Machine Fables
18. A Northern Chorus The Millions Too Many
19. Dog Day Night Group
20. Kill the Lights Buffalo of Love
21. Two Hours Traffic Little Jabs
22. Sandro Perri Tiny Mirrors
23. The Most Serene Republic Population
24. Amos the Transparent Everything I've Forgotten to Forget
25. New Pornographers Challengers
26. United Steelworkers of Montreal Kerosene and Coal
27. Montag Going Places
28. Abdominal Escape from the Pigeon Hole
29. Fond of Tigers Release the Saviors
30. Stars In Our Bedroom After the War
1 January 08 from Matt 3
Bump of chicken - Orbital period
Kent - Tillbaka till samtiden
New model army - High
Mark Seymour - Westgate
Maria McKee - Late december
Sofia Karlsson - Visor från vinden
Melissa Etheridge - The awakening
Mark Seymour - Titanic
John Fogerty - Revival
Sophie Zelmani - Memory loves you
31 December 07 from Michael 2
My wife has a few Laura Pausini albums (tapes, even!). She's an Italian pop singer who does a lot of Spanish-language material. She's been big for a long time; my wife lived in Spain around 1992 and 1995 and she was popular then.
31 December 07 from Steve G 1
I haven't given up yet on top ten lists, though I wouldn't pretend to listen to enough new music to be typical of anyone but myself. That said, here are my top ten-or-so albums-or-so of 2007, arranged in three groups. Despite intensive listening over the last couple of weeks, I couldn't differentiate the albums into ten separate positions, but I did find that they seemed to group into three levels. Here's the list, with commentary to follow:
Kite by Steven Lindsay (okay, the album of the year)
(tie) Four Winds EP + by Bright Eyes
(and) Sleepy Eepee by Great Northern
La Vida Es Un Ratico by Juanes
The Returning Sun by Cy Curnin
Small Miracles by Blue Rodeo
Cassadaga by Bright Eyes
Baby 81 by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Are You Lookin' At Me? by Colin Hay
Sino by Café Tacuba
Send Away The Tigers by Manic Street Preachers
Single of the Year:
Mi Libre Canción by Laura Pausini & Juanes
Steve McQueen acoustic tracks by Prefab Sprout
And for those who may wish it, here's the commentary:
Kite. Yes, another fairly quiet album makes the top of my list. This one is a bit louder than Steven's previous album, Exit Music, but only a bit. The cover of the Pixies' "Monkey Gone To Heaven" is a brilliant reconsideration of the song, the title track is probably the keystone of the album, and the penultimate track, "Light Sleep", will always bring to mind a desert in Eastern Oregon (or is it Northern Nevada?) where it was made to be sung out loud to no one at all.
Second place goes to a pair of EPs, sort of. The five b-sides on the Four Winds EP are brilliant, especially "Reinvent the Wheel" and "Tourist Trap". I also include in this collection the other extra Cassadaga tracks I have encountered, "Endless Entertainment" and "Susan Miller Rag". It's a little funny to say it, but I like this group of tracks (a little bit) better than the album itself. And the Sleepy Eepee, which only came out recently but is apparently of earlier vintage than Great Northern's debut album from 2007, is noticeably more consistent than the album, which didn't make my top ten at all. Perhaps it is easier to be consistent with 5 tracks than 10 or 11, but there you go. I'd rather listen to "Radio" and "This is a Problem" than their whole album (though "Home" deserves an enthusiastic mention).
In the next tier we have another great set by Juanes, who continues to top the charts nearly everywhere but the U.S. Standout tracks include "La Mejor Parte de Mi", "Difícil" and especially the title track. Minus points for including two versions of the same song right in a row, though.
The Returning Sun is perhaps the album which most surprises me by its appearance here. I have been a fan of the Fixx since Reach The Beach came out, but I have found their releases to be fairly hit-and-miss over the years, and Cy Curnin's first solo album was a real let-down. This second try, however, hits the ball out of the park. This sounds very much like a Fixx album to me, without seeming like a throwback. The most consistent Fixx-related effort since 1011 Woodland, which wasn't even a collection of new tracks. Bonus points for the fact that my daughter loves to dance along with me to this album.
Small Miracles is another solid effort by Blue Rodeo. If you know these guys, there are no surprises here. The strongest tracks are "So Far Away", the title track, "Beautiful", and interestingly, both "3 Hours Away" and its acoustic rendering "Where I Was Before".
Cassadaga was a slight disappointment to me. While no longer than some of the other albums on this list, it *feels* too long. This hits hardest when I approach the end of the album and have to sit through over six minutes of the repetitive "I Must Belong Somewhere". Cut that one in half and get rid of, perhaps, "Middleman", and you'd have an album which might rival the two great Bright Eyes albums of 2005.
And in the third tier I find another somewhat surprising entry, Baby 81. I'm not surprised to find BRMC in my top ten, but this album is so different from Howl, which I loved dearly, that after my first few listens I didn't think Baby 81 would be able to grow on me. Well, it's still no Howl, but it has turned out to be a fine rockin' album, and one which is noticeably stronger in the second half than the first. The top two tracks are back-to-back, "Need Some Air" and the probably-most-like-Howl "All You Do Is Talk".
I have been enjoying the work of Colin Hay (starting with Men at Work) even longer than the Fixx, and while Are You Lookin' At Me? isn't as strong as Cy Curnin's new album, it is an unusually consistent effort from Mr. Hay. The standout track is "Up In Smoke", while the somewhat-goofy "What Would Bob Do?" earns extra credit because both of my kids enjoy it so much.
My first Café Tacuba album won't be my last. This may give one the wrong impression of Sino (or maybe not), but my favorite aspect of the album is the scattered slices of 80s-style keyboard parts. None of the songs sounds like the Human League, but they do run from rather rock- or punk-sounding to beautiful keyboards, perhaps more akin to Yes or someone like that than A Flock Of Seagulls. My favorites are the almost eight-minute first single, "Volver A Comenzar", "Esta Vez" and the closer, "Gracias".
Send Away The Tigers is another album whose strength is in consistency. I don't think this set of tracks ever hits a low point, though it is only a third tier album because I also don't think it reaches the highest heights either, with the luminescent exception of "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough", which is easily one of the best songs of the year.
Speaking of songs of the year, I find the need to list only one which isn't on one of the above-mentioned albums. "Mi Libre Canción" is a beautiful duet, led by Laura Pausini, who I hadn't heard of before, but with enough Juanes to make me buy it, and I've grown to love the whole thing. It's strange to hear her accent though, with all the "th" sounds, after coming into Spanish-language music through all Latin American musicians.
And finally, Prefab Sprout re-released their seminal "Steve McQueen" album (known in the U.S. as "Two Wheels Good") with eight bonus tracks. These acoustic renderings of most of the album tracks (why not just redo all eleven, Paddy?) are wonderful, but they were made from a pretty darn strong foundation, after all.