Ok, so we're 3 and a half months into 2008 and here I am still compiling a list of favorites from last year. I always found it quite hard to, by the end of November, compile a list of the best records of that year. Usually there are dozens of albums that I still need to hear, or have had a hard time tracking down, or just discovered in December or early that next year, which inevitably left my list incomplete. So, without further ado, I present to you, my hopefully soon-to-be-loyal readers, a list of the albums that really did it for me in 2007, early 2008, and will likely be a part of my, and hopefully your listening habits in the years to come.
THE 2007 YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
Pink Reason-"Cleaning The Mirror" (Siltbreeze)
The triumphant return of the Siltbreeze label had a small handful of great titles on offer for 2007 (more on some of those later) but this debut trumps 'em all. Recorded in Green Bay, Wisconsin by Kevin DeBroux, "Cleaning The Mirror" was recorded after Kevin kicked a bad drug habit and was written and recorded over the last few years while battling his addictions and demons. He thought he was writing a pop record. The chances are you will never hear this on anything but the most adventurous college radio show. The album is filled with Kevin's soulscraping lyrics about loss and depression, accompanied with his unique, lo-fi take on the blues. As is the Siltbreeze way, this is not easy listening but rewarding for those with the time to commit to one of the darkest records recorded in recent history.
Factums-"Alien Native" (Siltbreeze)
Another side project from the ever prolific Seattle-ites that comprise the A Frames and The Intelligence. Released as limited CD in 2004, "Alien Native" has now been re-issued by Siltbreeze on LP, where it deservedly belongs. Anyone familiar with Factums' other bands will find themselves at home here. Same sense of distorted garage rock with just a small dose of pop sensibility to keep the listener coming back for more. Not as aggro as the A Frames, not quite as catchy The Intelligence, but more than worthy to stand next to either band's catalogue.
Pocahaunted-"Rough Magic" (Blackest Rainbow)
Picked this up in Berkley when I caught Pocahaunted and Robedoor open up for Sonic Youth on their Daydream Nation tour date there. Had only an inkling of who either band were when I caught them but was blown away by their joint set of dreamy dronescapes. Immediately after the set, I ran down to the merch table and bought damn near everything they had for sale (a handful of CD-r's and tapes that they were selling for $5 each, which i'm sure helped pay for some gas and Taco Bell on their long drive back to their hometown of LA). The tape in question is only 10 minutes a side but instantly captivating. Reminiscent of Charlambides at their prettiest, in fact, they even have a split LP with Christina Carter on Not Not Fun that is currently enjoying it's second repressing. I found this tape to be highly addictive and was in heavy rotation on the tape deck during the last half of '08. They now have split double CD with their brother band Robedoor that we have for sale at the shop (it currently resides in the experimental/electronic listening booth, and even made my "coveted" top 10).
Lamps-"LampsLamps" (In The Red)
In case you haven't figured it out, I love me some over the top garage rock, and 2007 was a great year for it (Times New Viking, Intelligence, Psychedelic Horseshit). This album, perhaps, is thee most singular over the top garage rocker that has ever been able to truly live up to their label's namesake, In The Red. Another great band from the exploding LA DIY scene, Lamps take on all-comers with their fierce brand of slashed-speaker, ear-splitting, eyeball-slicing, thuggish rockinfuckinroll. A serious beast and recommended only for those with a serious need to fully understand tinnitus.
Raccoo-oo-oon-"Behold Secret Kingdom" (Night People)
Raccoo-oo-oon (either one of the most original band names or most annoying. Personally, I can never figure out if I want to try and say it or sing it...PS-i'm on the original side of that argument) reside in Iowa City, Iowa, but you would never know it hearing this thumping slab of backwoods tribal psychedelia. In fact, they sound like they are straight outta Brooklyn circa 2001, which was the epicenter of that back-to-nature rock scene of the last few years (ie. Liars, Animal Collective). Comparisons with those 2 bands have popped up before in reviews that I've read and are mostly warranted, but Raccoo-oo-oon have their own unique take on it. Employing horns, saxophones and a plethora of homemade electronics, "Behold Secret Kingdom" plays out like the darkheart of Liars' "They Were Wrong, So We Drowned" and has the playful qualities of AC's "Here Comes The Indian" but without all the self-seriousness that both bands tends to exude. In fact they come off sounding as if they are havin' a party way down there in Iowa City. Death march drums, squawking electronics reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Echoes, trance-induced vocals, skronking saxophones and that great Sun City Girls guitar slant all combine to create one exhaustive, demanding listen. Expect big things from these youngsters (and their fledgling tape label)in the near future.
XNoBBQX-"Sunshine Of your Love" (Siltbreeze)
Classic rock this ain't. In fact, XNoBBQX, a duo (guitar/drums) who hail from Sydney, Australia, do everything in their power to destroy rock (good luck!) once and for all. Well, apparently, rock is still standing, but anyone who dares put this vinyl-only slab of madness near their turntable won't be for long. Out of all the Siltbreeze releases in 2007, XNoBBQX sound most like their labelmates of yore. Dead C and Harry Pussy references are bound to pop up, and they are both relevant and warranted. Definitely a must for fans of of the new wave of abrasive anti-rock (ie. Mouthus, Magik Markers etc).
Psychedelic Horseshit-"Magic Flowers Droned" (Siltbreeze)
Hailing from the same town that has brought us Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, who are, in fact, the "little brother" band of TNV, has unleashed a hellish mess of cross-eyed garage rock. They apparently named themselves after a comment that a show-goer had made to them after one of their earliest gigs, and, I must admit, fits the band quite well. Taking the early Pavement singles, Stooges demos, and the harsher side of Swell Maps to heart, Psychedelic Horseshit offer up one of 2007's most deafening and epilepsy inducing releases. Do not ingest after midnight.
Mammal-"Lonesome Drifter" (Animal Disguise)
Fourth full length release from the man born Gary Beauvais, and this is easily his masterwork. His first 3 albums are mechanical, minimal beat-work recorded in thee lo-fi fashion. This time around Mammal has taken his previous work and combined it with his own droning-psychedelic-bedroom-dwelling take on the blues, all in an effort to vent his isolationist Detroit-livin' misery. A stark and drunken drum machine usually accompanies Mammal's wailing, buzzing guitar and his gutteral musings on modern man and his own listless existence (lyrics are scrawled on the back in pencil). Heavy in all senses. Stands side-by-side with the dark matter that is Pink Reason. The CD currently resides in my staff picks, and the beautiful gatefold 2LP vinyl by Animal Disguise is also available at the shop.
Cadaver In Drag-"Raw Child" (Animal Disguise)
Another great Animal Disguise release that should please all fans of "Lysol"-era Melvins and the early, more grinding side of Harvey Milk. Though, to be fair, Cadaver In Drag display the more pummeling, repititious side of both bands and completely eschew the more tactful and patient side of them. The most obvious example is the 20-minute, side-long opener "Walking Through the Gates Of Hell," that has the bass, drums, and guitar holding down a punishing riff that is repeated incessantly while the second guitarist runs circles around them with his manic guitar-fuckery. Second side of the record has two 10 minute tracks that up the tempo considerably and showcase the singer's abrasive howl. Third and final track is a continuation of these themes but ends in a syrupy 4 minute synth death march, which allows the listener some serious headspace to come down from the serious thrashing that was just inflicted.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow-"Scribble Mural Comic Journal" (Notenuf)
2007's most overlooked record (errr CD, this has not been released on LP yet). A real shame, too, because the band could have had a real breakout year if the proper support was given. Anyways, A Sunny Day In Glasgow hail from Philadelphia and are fronted by twin sisters Lauren and Robin Daniels and are led by brother Ben. The music within would have fit quite well in the early 90's shoegaze scene, but they have added enough interesting synth and pedal-work to still sound refreshing, and they feel as if they are actually adding something to the beaten-to-death genre. While My Bloody Valentine and Ride were more concerned with taking their instruments farther out, A Sunny Day are more about conveying the feelings that their instruments can pull out of their audience. I literally sold this CD to a girl who had tears well up in her eyes when she heard it playing in the shop. The title of the band evokes their sound perfectly. I can just picture a week of solid rain in dismal Glasgow followed by a day of brilliant sunshine. I live in Vancouver, I, and everyone else in this city, know the sheer joyousness one day of sun can bring after many days of rain. This is the precise vibe of the band.
The Go-"Howl On The Haunted Beat You Ride" (Cass)
This record, the band's third (technically it's their fourth--"Free Electricity" was supposed to be their second but was passed up by Sub Pop for being "too noisy" and remains unreleased to this day--soulseek it) and grandest achievement, is easily the most overlooked record on this entire list. Part of the reason seems to stem from the fact that one can only purchase this album in Canada from the Cass Records website or the band's own site (buy the gatefold LP version for maximum packaging pleasure). That means no real distribution to actual flesh 'n' blood record stores, which is too bad for them, 'cause playing this in the store woulda' really turned some heads and made the difference between this being an unheralded gem and a potential hit record (in indie terms). Anyone familiar with The Go probably knows their 1998 debut, "Whatcha' Doin'" which later gained attention thanks to a then unknown Jack White shredding away on lead guitar. While the debut and follow-up, "The Go," reveled in the garage rock sensibilities of their hometown of Detroit, "Howl On The Haunted Beat You Ride" aims to take the listener much, much higher. And, while better known contemporaries of the garage-psych-pop-rock vein can come off sounded a tad contrived or just plain old forced, The Go seem to toss this record off effortlessly. There are no radio-hungry choruses pushed into the red for maximum saturation effect, instead the album gels well together as a whole. That being said, I have become addicted to each and every one of these songs over the last nine months and, in a perfect world, they would be smash radio hits. An absolutely perfect psych-pop masterwork.
Clockcleaner-"Babylon Rules" (Load)
It definitely seems as if the early 90's is finally far enough away in the past for the music to be re-hashed and given a new breath of fresh, lung-clearing air. Shoegaze (A Place to Bury Strangers, A Sunny Day In Glasgow), lo-fi indie rock (Times New Viking, No Age) and The Jesus Lizard??? Both Pissed Jeans and Clockcleaner owe a huge debt to that monster of the early 90's known as The Jesus Lizard. Pissed Jeans received the acclaim, while Clockcleaner were all but ignored. Their debut album is more in the vein of early SST bands, but "Babylon Rules" finds the band mining the wealth of the early Jesus Lizard catalogue, while adding their own gothic hints to the mix. Singer John Sharkey has the David Yow-style of clench teethed style of singing down pat, and the band as a whole do blues-in-a-blender just as well as their forefathers. Pick this fucker up on LP. Load always do incredibly cheap vinyl and this one is gatefold.
Pre-"Epic Fits" (Skin Graft)
These snotty Londoners have captured my heart with their intense, stop-go brand of fun-punk. Funny thing is , depsite their distance from Vancouver, these guys remind me a whole lot of the local two-axe assault of Shearing Pinx (I think they are on a comp together somewhere out there. Anyone know anything about that?), and the ear shredding vocals of Mutators. The band also have ties to Bardo Pond (!?!?) and have released a split 10" together.
Pissed Jeans-"Hope For Men"
More of that Jesus Lizard influence, with a healthy dash of early Black Flag, creeping into today's youth.
White Rainbow-"Prism of Eternal Now"
A one man ambient master. Proper debut full length after a 5xCD/1 DVD boxset and countless tapes and CDr's. Recommended for fans of Stars Of The Lid.
Great CDr of cinematic and fuzzy drone from the dark throne holders of groan, errr drone. Picked this one up at the aforementioned Berkley show.
Cloudland Canyon-"Silver Tongued Sisyphus"
A mini kraut-rock suite in the vein of Ash Ra Tempel's "New Age Of Earth." Full length due soon.
Much better than the release on Holy Mountain, Puff is a sprawling, cozy tomb of lo-fi electronics, bluesy keyboards and some good ol' fashion guitar drones. Expect big things from this duo in the near future.
Vegas Martyrs "The Female Mind"
Somewhere deep in this filthy racket is Dominick Fernow (better known as noisemonger Prurient) playing guitar in this truly over the top garage "band." Early 80s punk rock/no wave blended through Dominick's violent guitar attacks, Joe Potts' assault on the drums, and Richard Dunn's assaultive vocals and electronics.
Ok, so most of these made several other lists and garnered serious media attention. I loved 'em too! Drone, garage, experimental etc. music takes up most of my music intake these days, but the following albums caused some serious singing in the shower.
PJ Harvey-"White Chalk"
Possibly her greatest and most dramatic record to date. I lost a little faith after the mediocre "Uh-Huh Her" but "White Chalk" has me back under her ghostly spell.
Short and concise. Destined to become infamous for the choice of distribution rather than for the gorgeous music within. By the way, it was worth it to pay the extra for the boxset. People have flipped this on ebay for four times the price since. I found it kinda funny that people were willing to pay almost the same price for a concert ticket to a show that may get rained out or *gasp* suck.
Pure pop heaven. Melody Day may be one of the greatest pop songs this century to NOT be played on the radio.
Another triumph from one of the most consistent groups in the last 5 years. Four records under their belt and not one of them a dud. "Liars" being their most accessible to date.
Deerhunter-"Cryptograms/Flourescent Grey EP"
Amazing debut by a group that seem like they can only get better from here. The perfect experimental dream-pop that is Atlas Sound can attest to that. Keep it coming Bradford!
Hip-Hop Record of 2007...
Already wrote about this for Color so I won't waste my time revisiting. Here are the published words...
"For the uninitiated, Dalek is a hip hop group. Sure they are signed to Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, have toured with Isis and made an album with legendary krautrockers, Faust, but the heart of this group bleeds pure hip hop. Now, with that being said, this is their least hip hop orientated record. The tone is much more restrained than their first two full lengths, which were all out sonic assaults on unsuspecting listeners. Instead of abrasive industrial-esque soundscapes backed by jarring beats, it has now been replaced by an ominous and foreboding drone ‘n buzz. Dalek’s vocals, once again, take a back seat and nestle just under the mix, which is in exact opposition to the modern MC who’s vocals tend to be pushed well past the accompanying music. Dalek has never been one to follow trends in hip hop and for this, the attentive listener is rewarded with an album that, while still rooted in tradition, offers something skewed and challenging."
Here are 2 links to some mixes I made of the music discussed above. Enjoy!