Friday, 18 January 2008

Ste's 2007 Review - Top 10

Following on from the mammoth 50 to 11, this was my top 10 of last year. More detail for these albums, as they touched me especially somewhere in my small intestine maybe......and prompted more verbose blathering.

One thing I felt last year, more than the previous couple at least, was that I listened to albums in full a lot more. If I liked a couple of songs by an artist or band, I found it difficult not to go after all the material from that specific release, case in point being Cadence Weapon, Battles, and The National. This struck me because we're supposed to be in the shuffling playlist age now, over which the individual track reigns supreme. I've certainly downloaded more, but mainly thanks to emusic (25 free downloads - recommended!) and blogs, and if I like it I'm almost certainly going to pick up the full release. The music industry's changing right in front of our eyes, but I personally hope the artists that matter retain a desire to create full bodies of work with depth and songs that fit together. Those that can't manage that can just release their single for the masses and split off the real music lovers from the 15 min famers......job's a good 'un.

Anyway, that's the thought for the day outtathaway and perhaps I'll take it on as a proper full post one at some point. For now, though, let's mosey on back to the matter at hand:

"10 Asobi Seksu - Citrus

- Only band I listen to that sound like this, with a confusing but brilliant mix of cheery, poppy melodies in the vocals and other areas but dark, swirling underbelly to the wall of noise guitars. Powerful, especially live. Cheers John!

'Goodbye' video

9 Cadence Weapon - Breaking Kayfabe

- Narrowly sneaks in ahead of Aesop by virtue of the bizarre electronic undertones to the beats and the more gritty nature of the lyrics. '30 Seconds' yells at me personally and the other highlights keep cropping up, like 'Sharks' and 'Black Hand'. Between the two artists I've been dragged happily into the engaging world of left field hip hop gradually through the year.....exactly what I signed up to Emusic for!

8 Baroness - Red Album

- Another new find thanks to rocksound and a sensational mix of Mastodon and more instrumental artists like Isis. Expansive in places but well rooted in stnadard rock with groove laden riffs and the odd catchy lyric. The 5 years it took them to get around to releasing a debut was obviously well spent.

7 Grails - Burning Off Impurities

- Yet another new find....rocksound again....who blew me away with this multi-faceted instrumental post rock. 'Silk Rd' is an absolute gem that builds into a gorgeous climax and I could deconstruct each song on the album happily. Tedious as that would be for everyone but me, though, I'll just recommend you have a listen.

6 The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

- This sounds like basic indie rock with pop sensibilities at first but rapidly grows into a lush, varied album chock full of memorable tunes. Backed up live, this is one band I've finally had a proper listen to and gone out to buy the back catalogue. 'Wincing...' is still sounding the best for me, though. No filler.

5 The National - Boxer

- This album struck me straight away, as it throws you right into a dimly lit, smoky club somewhere in the US, relaxing but unsettling somewhat in the same song. There's always a hint of reserved melancholy to the vocals in a Leonard Cohen style, whilst the guitars and drumming all fit the mood perfectly. Probably the album with the most consistent feel in the top 10 here, it keeps drawing me back in to better understand it.

'Mistaken For Strangers' video -
This song is unbelievably rich, with the silkiest vocals delivering the most melancholy of lyrics......perfect for a cold, dark night in.

4 The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works

- Only a few listens as November release but this will certainly stick with me well into next year. Schizophrenic metal with little or no respect for genres and styles, I have no real words to describe it. Where Miss Machine hinted at their potential for crafting melodic maths, this fuses all the influences together and becomes much more than the sum of its parts. Brutal, melodic, poppy, harsh, usually all within a song, this is a jaw dropping listen.

'Milk Lizard' stream - Dig those trumpets!

3 The Hold Steady - Boys & Girls in America

- A January 07 UK release, happily, as I discovered them too late in 2006 to wax lyrical about them then. At first I thought they were just a fun sounding band with a couple of decent songs, but slowly realised ALL the tunes on here have a story to tell. Everything in the songs is a little life tale that takes the telling of Adam Duritz but funnels it through the good-time attitude of AC/DC and other bands that loved to have fun and entertain their crowd. Saw them live a few times and will keep going back due to the unbridled energy they put out and the guarantee that you'll leave with a big, cheesy grin on yer mush. Superb.

2 Clutch - From Beale Street To Oblivion

- Clutch just keep on making excellent Clutch records, with varying degrees of their groove/biker rock/blues influences poured into the album depending on their mood. Their longevity and cult appeal is down to two simple factors: 1) a reliable, skilled live performance and 2) the consistency with which they rock on almost every song. This one's more laden with groove and blues than 'Robot Hive', as the New Orleans inspired title hints, and probably all the more accessible for it. Can't really pick a main song to love because they all carry their own special little quirks, but when Fallon bellows "I get satisfaction, everywhere I go", it quite nicely summarises my listening experiences with Clutch over the last 10 years.

'Electric Worry' video - Dig that harmonica work!

1 Aereogramme - My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go

- This pips out Clutch and THS by a hairs breadth due to the amount and depth of emotion poured into the songs by a band that sadly split just a few months later. There's no filler on the album, just lush, layered songs arranged with aching attention to detail and instrumentation. Strings sweep in where they can add emotion, but are stripped away to the barest guitars when appropriate, adding up to the most affecting album of 2007 for me. Many of the songs seem to have a prophetic theme of the limiting and ultimately soul-destroying factors that the band faced in gaining any kind of recognition, after creating their perfect post-rock for just shy of a decade, including the frank admission:

"I thought that I could show you
All that I've found
But these barriers dictate all sight and all sound"

Full album stream here (buy!):

Despite the sadness of them calling it a day without being able to see them, it's at least a classic and defining album to sign off with and the one that I'd put at top of my pile after a great year.

Now playing: The Rascals - Out of Dreams
via FoxyTunes

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