Sunday, 30 December 2007

Albums of 2007: The Notable Mentions

OK, so I said before posting my top 10 that I'd list the notable mentions for 2007 .. and here they are. I've listed these in alphabetical order so no real relativity involved ... just a list of great albums that didn’t make the top 10 for one reason or another.

  • Albert Hammond Jr: "Yours to Keep"
  • Band of Horses: "Cease to Begin"
  • Beastie Boys: "The Mix Up"
  • Biffy Clyro: "Puzzle"
  • Bright Eyes: "Cassadaga"
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: "Baby 81"
  • Calla: "Strength in Numbers"
  • The Cult: "Born In To This"
  • Editors: "An End Has a Start"
  • The Fall: "Reformation Post TLC"
  • Foo Fighters: "Echoes , Silence, Patience and Grace"
  • The Good, the Bad & the Queen: "The Good, the Bad & the Queen"
  • The Go Team: "Proof of Youth"
  • Ian Brown: "The World is Yours"
  • Idlewild: "Make a New World"
  • Jimmy Eat World: "Chase the Light"
  • Kings of Leon "Because of the Times"
    LCD Soundsystem: "Sound of Silver"
  • Malcolm Middleton: "A Brighter Beat"
  • New Young Pony Club: "Fantastic Playroom"
  • The Primary 5: "Go!"
  • Public Enemy: "How to Sell Soul …."
  • Reverend & the Makers: "The State of Things"
  • Shocking Pinks: "Shocking Pinks"
  • Thurston Moore: "Trees Outside the Academy"
  • The Twilight Sad, "Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters"
  • The View: "Hats Off to the Buskers"

    Two of the standouts from here that coulda, shoulda, nearly made the top ten are both Scots bands, namely The Twilight Sad and The Primary 5.

    And finally ...

    Many, most, both of you will disagree with some or all of my top 10 or notable mention choices ... all I can say is go and write your own blog !!!!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Albums of 2007: #1

Radiohead – “In Rainbows”

There can’t be anyone alive today that hasn’t heard that Radiohead have released an album in 2007 … “In Rainbows” hit the headlines big time thanks to the unique way that the band initially released it via download only and asked those downloading to decide how much they were willing to pay. For the record, I paid £3.50 for my download !!! When you analyse what the band did, it was genius … traditionally a band will release early copies of their recordings to journalists etc to review in order to generate publicity.

In recent years however this has provided the opportunity for people to “leak” the recordings on the internet therefore negatively affecting sales on release. Radiohead appear to have cut out the middle man by generating the publicity in other ways and, by all accounts, generate significant revenue by officially leaking the recording … brilliant! Add to that the fact that “In Rainbows” has also been released in a collectors edition and will hit the shops as a traditional CD around the 1st of January 2008.

It appears though that the publicity of the release mechanism has overshadowed the content of “In Rainbows” … which is a great pity as this is a phenomenal album. Not since “OK Computer” have Radiohead released such an accomplished piece of work. This isn’t to say that the intervening years have been crap, nothing could be further from the truth , however “Kid A”, “Amnesiac” and “Hail to the Thief” have not been quite up to the standard that “OK Computer” set … nothing much since has mind you!

“In Rainbows” kicks off with “15 Steps” which is leads you to believe this may be another freaked out electronica show … but once the guitars kick in its 100% old school. “Bodysnatchers” is just brilliant and has that classic change of direction half way through that even hits you after dozens of listens.

“Nude” is the first of the beautiful tracks here … if your not chilled after listening to this then you need to cut down on the coffee (or equivalent!!). I’m sure the band have been listening to Mogwai’s “Black Spider”, the subtle guitar backing here has the same undertones.

“Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” is classic head Thom Yorke head shaking material, follwed by the down beat but haunting “All I Need”.

For me, “Faust Arp” is a tad weak but works well to set up the stunning classic that is “Reckoner”. Thom’s voice reaches Anthony & the Johnsons levels here and to great effect.

“House of Cards” slows things down a bit and then “Jigsaw Falling into Place” hits you as the stand out track on first listen … its has legs too, it won’t always be your stand out track but you’ll never tire of listening to it.

“Videotape” is a sedate closer but in context works just fine … and then you listen to it all over again!

Those with the second disc from the box set will also know just how good tracks like “Down is the New Up”, “Go Slowly”, “Up on the Ladder” and “4 Minute Warning” are and admittedly all in the same vein as the first and main disc. The problem child in this bonus set is “Bangers & Mash” which stands out in all the right ways.

“In Rainbows” deserves to be listened to time and again, each time you do your view of it changes … never in a bad way … this is classic stuff, I just hope the release hype dies down and the world wakes up to the fact be have a seminal album here.

Hail to the ‘head !!!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Albums of 2007: #2

The Raveonettes - "Lust, Lust, Lust"

The Raveonettes have two main sounds:

· a dark minor chord based sound that wouldn’t be out of place in spaghetti westerns or grind house b-movies … with Jesus & Mary Chain styleee heavy distortion, feedback and general noise

· a mix of 50s / 60s bubble gum pop and Glaswegian indie pop … with Jesus & Mary Chain styleee heavy distortion, feedback and general noise !!!

On previous albums (”Lust, Lust, Lust” being their fourth) they have tended to stick with one of these styles for the entire set, here they move between them and sometimes combine them to great effect.

Its clear that Surin and Sharin have found a couple of effects for their Fenders that they like and their damn well gonna use them as much as they can here. Opener “Aly, Walk With Me” is as dark as they come and appears to set the scene for a downbeat album. “Hallucinations” introduces the pop sound and the Mary Chain noise feedback and its clear this is going to be a style clash rollercoaster.

“Lust” is a classic example of how a simple drumbeat, simple chords and an effective lead guitar break can sound stunning, especially when accompanied by subtle harmonies and a haunting melody. This style is used on several of the tracks here and most notably on the beautiful “Black Satin” that follows the more upbeat “Dead Sound”.

The musical rollercoaster is most evident in the trio of tracks led by the noise pop fest that is "Blush" followed by the eternally dark but stunningly simple “Expelled From Love”. The trio is complete by the pop cheesefest that is “You Want The Candy”.

The upbeat “Blitzed” and “Sad Transmission” lead you to believe that Danes are going to keep the popfest going to the end and just when your head starts to bop along like an extra from “Grease”, the haunting “With My Eyes Closed” brings things back to earth.

Despite the upbeat pop tunes here, The Raveonettes are essentially a dark, minor chord outfit and fittingly, close the album with the sad and reflective “The Best Dies”, anything else would have missed the point.

Although the band, and this album, is a fusion of so many different influences, this is simple but beautifully structured stuff … its also an indie noise fest when the mood suits. Its not a mass appeal record, but those who are fans of the various influences will get it and understand why its so high in this list.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Albums of 2007: #3

The Shins - "Wincing the Night Away"
From the moment in the film "Garden State" when Natalie Portman handed her huge headphones to Zach Braff and told him that The Shins would change his life, to be followed by the soundtrack blasting "New Slang" ... The Shins had me hooked.

"Wincing The Night Away" is, by far, the most accomplished output from the band to date with every single track being of the highest quality and having the potential to change someone's life as "New Slang" had done for Portman's character.

The subtle openings of "Sleeping Lessons" disguise the pace and tone to come but once it springs to life, the album just keeps on going churning out cracker after cracker !

After "Australia" you get the feeling that the album may have peaked a tad early but then the teasing snippet "Pam Berry" tees up the track of 2007 in "Phantom Limb". This is song writing at its best and was probably the soundtrack for many people's summer of 2007.

The album keeps going with one quality track after another, never repetitive and none with skip potential for the iPod brigade.

For those who haven't yet embraced The Shins, close your eyes, imagine Natalie Portman handing you some huge headphones and telling you this will change your life … Enjoy.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Albums of 2007: #4

Smashing Pumpkins - "Zeitgeist"
Billy's back ...
There may have been Zwan and the solo album but Billy Corgan is Smashing Pumpkins and "Zeitgeist" is a welcome return for the angry wee man who appears to be falling out of love with his homeland ...

"Zeitgeist" is Billy Corgan's call to arms for the American people to wake up and realise what's going on in the world in the name of the war on terror and the deflection from the domestic problems of the good ole US of A. For the average European who is used to the "f**k the system attitude" of most alternative & punk bands for the past 30 years, this all sounds a bit tame ... but lets not forget that American's publicly questioning their position in the world is about as popular as a bag on your hip !!!

Musically, this is a classic rock album and retains the classic Pumpkins washed out guitars and precise drumming sound ... only Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums) remain from the original line up but its the voice and the drums that define the Smashing Pumkins so, business as usual then.

"That's the Way (My Love Is)" sounds like the output of Corgan's first post Pumpkins project Zwan and shows he's still a softy at heart ... don't tell him I said that mind !!!

"Tarantula" delivers the definitive track on the album, no surprise it was the first single released ... Its only trumped by the 10 minute classic "United States" that appears to sum up Corgan's view of his motherland both lyrically and musically ... this is a monster of a track that conveys the political anger that only Rage Against the Machine can top.

Many will say that Corgan only reformed the Pumpkins because the solo work was bombing but Corgan has admitted that he feels musically devoid when he's not working in a Smashing Pumpkins project, regardless of who's working with him.

But who cares what Corgan calls his projects, if they keep sounding like this then its win-win all over.

Albums of 2007: #5

Manic Street Preachers - "Send Away the Tigers"

I was recently asked where I though the Manics ranked in the great scheme of things ... difficult one as these guys are pretty much taken for granted, or ignored, by the masses ... but this once important band haven't gone away, on the contrary it appears the Manics are back.

The question of where the Manics ranked came seconds before their gig at the Music Hall in Aberdeen in December 2007, this was a gig that was one of the years best (and its one hell of a year gig wise !!!) and portrayed the band in the genius light they belong. Spookily, weeks later, the NME have announced that the band will be awarded the God Like Genius award in early 2008 ... nice to hear they agree with me !!!

Now, the album ...

Tha Manics have been making great music for years but, in my opinion, haven't made a great album since "Everything Must Go" ... "Send Away the Tigers", wait for it, possibly trumps even that and stands as one of the finest bodies of work produced by the band post Ritchie.

The album is full of anthemic rock tracks without a dodgy one in sight ... "Underdog" is a song for the fans " ... this one's for the freaks ... " starts James as he sets out to make the points that being different ain't a bad thing ... ist hasn't done Nikki any harm after all !!

The duet with Nina Persson on "Your Love is Not Enough" evokes memories of the classic "Little Baby Nothing" with Tracey Lords' vocals.

This an album full of potential classics while retaining James' obtuse lyrical edge. This will be number one on many people's list for 2007, and so it should be ... there are days when its mine, I may regret it yet ...

Albums of 2007: #6

Babyshambles - "Shotter's Nation"

The old adage states that Pete Doherty is a Marmite man, you either love him or hate him ... and the majority of people who hate him appear to do so based on the newspaper headlines and his public lifestyle ... two points to make here:

- its not the man that should count, its the music !!!

- what are people basing their opinion on? The drugs? Thank Christ the Beatles and the Stones ain't trying to cut it these days then eh?

In my opinion, the Libertines were never given the recognition and respect they deserved ... Arctic Monkeys et al have a lot to thank them for I suspect.

Lets face it though, Babyshambles' first offering "Down in Albion" was patchy at best ... things didn't look good for post-Libertines Pete.

"Shotters Nation" is a different story all together, this is as good as any off The Libertines' output and appears to have been largely under recognised.

The opening "Carry on up the Morning" is classic, self deprecating Pete ... "its wasn't easy, getting out of my bed ... its too easy, getting out of my head ... " is the "look, I know I'm f**ked up" marker in the sand.

The single, "Delivery" follows and turns out to be one of the weaker tracks here and is followed by the superb Libertinesque "You Talk".

"Unbilotitled" is as deep and personal as things can get for someone who's life is as public as Pete's "... you said that you loved me, why don't you f**k off, anyone would think you were only ripping me off ... " Many of his so called friends are dismantled here, some named, others obvious.

More Libertine stylee tunes follow in the guise of "French Dog Blues" and the storming "Baddie's Boogie" ... in between these is the beautiful "There She Goes".

Things are closed off with the introspective "Lost Art of Murder".

Marmite aside, there can be no argument that this is a brilliant album, not just good, brilliant ... you might not like it (even those who have actually listed to it) but its quality cannot be denied.
I bet if any of these is going to get a comment ... its this one !!!

Albums of 2007: #7

Dinosaur Jr. - "Beyond"

J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph back together again ... so is this in my top 10 for nostalgic reasons? No chance! It may be almost 20 years since the original line recorded "Bug" but "Beyond" probably eclipses all previous work by the band.

Kicking off with "Almost Ready" and keeping the pace up through "Crumble" and "Pick Me Up", its clear that this is going to be good ... the play out on "Pick Me Up" will make you want to pick up any guitar shaped object and stand in front of a mirror pulling those grunge faces ..... just me then ????!!!!!!

Things don't lighten up til "Were Not Alone" and then chill out totally on "I Got Lost".

"Lightening Bulb" picks things back up again and the closer "What If I Knew" just makes you want to listen to the whole thing again.

"Beyond" revisits grunge in an intelligent and contemporary way ... the world needs another J. Mascis ... any signs ????

Albums of 2007: #8

Interpol - "Our Love to Admire"

Recommending Interpol to someone is hard ... their dark, monotonic, down beat sound is a difficult sell (like trying to cheer someone up with a Joy division album) ... but this, their third, release is just an incredible body of work that deserves to be heard by everyone who appreciates "serious" music.

Opening "Pioneer to the Falls" is about as bleak as it gets but, in its own way, is as rousing and anthemic a track as they come ....

"No I in Threesome" presents a listening dichotomy, is this a tongue in cheek send up structured to sound dark, or is Paul Banks opening his heart on a struggling relationship? Whatever it is, it works as one of the stand out tracks here.

Things get as upbeat as it comes on "The Heinrich Manoeuvre", the first single release from the album ... and when followed by "Mammoth" suggests that things are looking more cheery ... but "Pace if the Trick" brings things back to the dark side where Interpol are most at home.

Things continue on the dark side for the remainder of the album and conclude with the stunningly bleak "The Lighthouse" which has the same overtones as Radiohead's "Motion Picture Soundtrack" from Kid A.

"Our Love to Admire" is another example of an album that isn't instant, even for Interpol fans, it needs several listens while in the correct frame of mind but, for me, is probably Interpol's finest work to date.

Albums of 2007: #9

Explosions in the Sky - "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone"

No top 10 is complete without a slice of post-rock genius. Although Mogwai did release a soundtrack album in 2007 for the Zidane film, I didn't class it as a true Mogwai release and its therefore not in this years list ...

So the post-rock release of the year for me is this incredible piece of work by Explosions in the Sky. I still have vivid memories of lying by the pool in Florida this year with this constantly repeating on the iPod. Fans of the post-rock genre will love this from first listen, others may have to work a bit harder to appreciate the genius of the track structures and the lack of vocals.

Track names tend to be largely superfluous with this type of album but stand outs include the opening "The Birth and Death of the Day" (a perfect title for the quiet, quiet, loud, loud, quiet structure) and the eminently chilled "What Do You Go Home To?"

For the Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor and 65daysofstatic fans out there ... this is a must listen to .... just make sure your chilled out with your eyes closed when you do !!!

Albums of 2007: #10

Arctic Monkeys - "Favourite Worst Nightmare"

Coming quick on the heels of the debut "Whatever You Say I Am ... " it was feared that the Arctic Monkeys' had jumped the gun a bit by releasing another album so soon and on the first few listens, this sounded a tad weak.

After letting this grow on you for a while though and its clear that Alex Turners song writing genius continues, supported by a tight band on a mission.

The beauty of "Favourite Worst Nightmare" is that your favourite track never seems to be the same on consecutive listens. Kicking off with the first single "Brianstorm", followed by "Teddy Picker" sets a hell of a pace that doesn't let up until the half-time whistle signalled by "Only One Who Knows".

The second half kicks off with one of the slow burners, and my favourite track on the album "Do Me a Favour" and the whole thing wrapped up with the sublime "505".

I heard many people say that this was a disappointment after the first album but this needs some work and patience like all great albums.

Stick with it, its a blinder !!!

Albums of 2007

Instead of just emailing a dull list of my favourite albums of the year (or trying to remember them while pished like I normally do !!!) I'm going to list my top 10 in reverse order in the next few posts.

I'm aware that the reverse order bit is a bit naff but, hey, if you can't be naff on your own blogsite at crimbo time, just when can you be naff?

I'll list my numerous notable mentions after the number one ... just to add to the general levels of naffness !!!!

Intelligent debate on the relative merits of my choices would be welcomed .... but I won't hold my breath !!!!

Cue the Top of the Pops theme tune ....