I was never a fast runner, so I guess it makes sense I would find myself always sauntering a fair distance behind the curve. If I had listened to these albums when they were released in 2007, they would’ve found homes in my best of ’07 list. But here you go; the best releases from 07 I didn’t love for one reason or another ’till ’08.
Bottomless Pit: Self Titled.
Dear Brandon. Last december you texted me asking if you should buy the Bottomless Pit album. I recommended you get fan album by silkworm instead. I’m going to be honest, I made that recommendation because I was stoned and trying to cover up for the fact that I knew nothing about Bottomless Pit except that it was the band that featured all the members of silkworm except their drummer who had been killed in a car accident. The silkworm recommendation was stupid, they’re a great band, but they’re not one you would like. I think you might really like the bottomless pit album, though. In many ways, this album sounds decimated. It’s first lines, delivered like a rain gutter that’s spent six months choking clogged leaves from last fall, are “when you know they won’t show up. When you think it might rain. When you get it in your mind to live again.” It’s not Berrymen, sure, but it’s not trying to be. The whole thing feels like correspondence, it’s extremely well stated and simple and cutting. Anyway, if you haven’t bought it yet, definitely give it a shot.
Menomena: Friend and Foe.
there’s a place up by the arctic circle where in the summer there is no friday, saturday, or sunday to speak of and so people can go whole months without praying. They have to shield their eyes almost daily so it’s in their thoughts but there’s never that reverence. Everyone is paid fairly, even the garbageman, who brought up his saxophone. On the days when something goes wrong, he walks as far as he can away from town and plays loud. It echoes back of course, and a scientist who is convinced our true sight can only be found by looking through our eyelids, thinks to himself “somehow this sounds like home.”
(these next 3 are courtesy of the Polaris Prize, which will probably give me at least 3 more great albums next year)
Basia Bulat- Oh My Darling.
there’s one thing i’m avoiding for now and i’m not going to drop it in until the last words of this testimonial. But there are a whole lot of other things i’m not avoiding about oh my darling, that Basia Bulat voice is like a high thread count, and the songs she sings on this albums are just as often fairy tales as they are love songs, and if anything they’re both at once. She strums a ukulele, and pounds an autoharp and occasionally picks up a guitar. But here’s the thing you’ll have to overcome to listen to this album, that even though this is an exceptional album, warm, full of heart, it is still part of that much maligned genre but I hope you have room for something exceptional in an overcrowded genre. Please, don’t hate her because she happenes to be a singer/songwriter.
Two Hours Traffic- Little Jabs.
When you say music is catchy, for most people that’s not good enough. They expect an “and also” clause, where you hear about the crazy vocalist, the time the band members have logged in more serious acts, the tuba the band has in place of a bass player, the fact that the songwriter is named Robert Pollard or other such things. Well i’ve got nothing to add to Little Jabs. It is absolutely, through and through the smartest, most catchy power pop albums i’ve heard this year. These are mixtape songs for a boy or a girl, if you’re not too ashamed to still make one of those. Or it’s the soundtrack to the next time you’re doing anything you’d even vaguely consider an adventure.
Said the gramophone recently said about a track from the new Ratatat album that they weren’t sure what it was music for. I feel the same way about andorra; this is not an album for weddings, funerals, long walks with grandpa, car rides, waking up, going to sleep, cooking, reading, dancing, sitting still. Here’s an idea, one that might find as ludicrous as you would this album which, basically, takes the last 50 or 60 years of pop music and cooks each one up with electronica, classical flourishes and Daniel Snaith ever quiet voice: This is an album for listening. Things reveal themselves, layers that you might have not noticed before pass by and you say “huh,” the slight stutter of the blipping drum part, dueling clarinet lines, bells, birds, and backing vocals. Somehow, despite every song on this album having lyrics, I don’t think I could sing a single line of it; the vocals just act as another sound in the mix. This is a beautiful, meticulous clusterfuck.
Mice Parade- Self Titled.
The old kids book warns us not to give a mouse a cookie. Likewise, general wisdom goes that you don’t give a drummer an album (See: Ringo, Phil Collins, Ginger Baker). They will either solo for hours on end (ginger baker), or try to play guitar (Ringo) or suck (Phil Collins). Here’s one for bucking that trend; Mice Parade singer/songwriter principle Adam Peirce is a drummer at heart, and this an album, for once, that benefits from having a sticksman at the helm. These song are made powerful by Pierces well sculpted, augmented. intricate rhythms. Sometimes they’re pounded out on a drumset like a suicide watch beating on a shark tank (see opener “Sneaky Red” the absolutely perfect “The Last Ten Homes,” the regret draped “Satchelaise,” or the distant closer “The Night After Fiction”), sometimes they’re tapped out on old plastic right next to the vocals (“Double Dolphins on the Nickel”) and sometimes they’re just implied, the blank space where the guitar leaves off (the lovely late- album duo of “Swing” and “Circle None”). This is an album nourished by its beats.
Field Music- Tones of Town.
I thought this one was a weed at first, and with weeds, you’ve got to do some uncovering, get down to the roots, pull them out from there. And, wouldn’t you know it, the more I uncovered of this brilliantly mundane, architecturally sound, heir to both early XTC and late period Jam, the more I realize exactly how great it was. This is an album so interesting because, it, like the Mice Parade album, knows the power of a good rhythm. The word for this album is restless (which makes sense; the band dissolved shortly after its release). “Working to Work” sits, tries to laugh, and fails through a morning commute, “Sit Tight” is that bitter little song no one in my age bracket want to think about; being young, intelligent, and absolutely stuck. “Tones of Town” speaks of the suffocation of small town england as its chords just build and build tension which brilliantly, doesn’t actually get released. First Single “A House is Not a Home,” with its jumpy piano and foot stamping drum part, is even restless to set down roots and start getting old and familiar, but it can’t even do that yet! Excited but bored, caustic but well dressed, think of this album as a period piece, a cross section, and one the most creative and underlistened to albums of last year.
(and also: Shout Out Louds- Out Ill Will, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings- 100 Days, 100 Nights)