Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top 10 of 2007

Because I realized that I never posted this at the end of 2007, here's my belated list. mp3s might come later.

10. Spoon – GaGaGaGaGa
A great example of rolling and rocking, of not looking back, and of putting the basics into rock music. There’s some filler on this album, but the best songs are so good that it makes up for it. The brass section in The Underdog, far and away the best song on the album, almost makes the song, and You Got Yr Cherry Bomb, and Don’t You Evah are both amazing as well.

9. The Besnard Lakes - …Are the Dark Horse
The CD flows, wanes and holds your attention. It’s not a ‘busy’ album, and is one you could easily throw on in the background, but when you give it your attention it gives everything back. Besnard Lakes didn’t exactly make a splash this year, despite a stellar effort, making the title quite apt for them. Check out And You Lied to Me, and For Agent 13.

8. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
This is still a new find for me, but the entire album is a wonderful mix of Alt-Country and traditional rock values. The opening song, Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe builds and builds into an explosive chorus, while Savannah Smiles, and A Girl in Port are both nice pretty songs, with an alt-country twist. For fans of country and rock, this is an album that you can't afford to miss.

7. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
The first of two Animal Collective-related albums on the list, and one of three released. This is a very solid solo release from Noah Lennox, also known as ‘Panda Bear’. Person Pitch is a sprawling example of sampled sounds, tribal drumming, reverb-laden chants, and the freedom to do whatever he wants without the rest of his band. Comfy in Nautica opens the album with machine related sounds, and melds into chorusy vocals and a driving drum beat, which describes this album perfectly: Obviously machine-made, but obviously organic.

6. Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover
Coming off making the best album of 2006, Random Spirit Lover is a let down from frontman Spencer Krug. However, even a letdown from Spencer Krug is top-10 worthy, and he’s crammed some of the best, and quirkiest, sideshow chants and poppy masterpieces, punctuated by his trademark yelp, into an album also crammed with filler. Not as good as Shut Up I Am Dreaming, better than a lot of what else was released.

5. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Possibly the best live show I’ve ever seen, and one of the best albums of their career. Strawberry Jam is chock full of the some of the best pop songs, the best melodies, the best sheer experimentation of the year. The whole thing is very upbeat, from the opening Peacebone, the randomness of For Reverend Green, and the melodiousness of Fireworks. You may have to dig deep to find it in Strawberry Jam, but it contains some of the best pop music of the year, easy.

4. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Who hasn’t been moved by Keep the Car Running yet this year? If that song hasn’t made you realize good music is still being made, you’re either a robot or you don’t have a soul. Arcade Fire have made some bloody amazing music this year, and even played with Bruce Springsteen when he came to Ottawa, performing Keep the Car Running. The remake of No Cars Go, the swells of Intervention, Neon Bible deserves the number 4 spot.

3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
It’s Radiohead. It’s not as good as OK Computer or Kid A, but it’s a close third. That should be all you need to know. Listen to Faust Arp, 15 Step, or Bodysnatchers.

2. The National – Boxer
The National have followed up the stellar Alligator, with the equally stellar, if not more so Boxer. While the songs here are more restrained than on Alligator, they carry a sense of polish and urgency not yet seen. Matt Berninger’s distinctive Baritone pushes the music along, spouting stream-of-consciousness lyrics without pausing to think about them. The frantic drumming of Bryan Devendorf drives the music with his calm, yet intense drumming. Apartment Story and Start a War are standout tracks, with each showing the two extremes of the album.

1. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Up until a few weeks ago, Boxer was the frontrunner for album of the year. Once I heard Skinny Love, however, off the new album from Bon Iver, my mind was completely changed. Skinny Love was by far the song of the year for me, with the perfect amount of emotion, songcraft and lyrical abilities. It simply blew me away. After a frantic search, I finally found the rest of the album, praying that the rest would be as good as Skinny Love. While I expected to be let down, the rest was pretty close. While nothing was quite as good, the whole thing was a rewarding listen, with closer Re:Stacks being another standout. For Emma, Forever Ago would be on this list based on Skinny Love alone. The fact that the entire thing is wonderful makes this no contest. Boxer, you’re a great album, Radiohead, you’re a great band, but you’ve been usurped. Expect good things from Bon Iver.

My Mind has a Mind of its Own

Have you ever heard a song that made you so happy and so sad at the same time? A song that was a complete cacophony of mixed sounds from alternate sources, yet was so original at the same time? A song that was so sure of itself that it allowed itself to fade in and out of the background, confident that you would be awaiting its calm return.

You have?

Well then here's another to add to your list. Another song that you can pore over, put on repeat, ignore other songs with, and grow to love.

You haven't?

Well then I truly feel sorry for you. You have what we in the medical field like to call "no soul". There is a prescription, though it is quite experimental. It's a little something we like to call music.

In this case, I recommend "The Future, Wouldn't That be Nice?" by seminal acoustic/cut-up artists The Books. The track opens with a sparse handclap, and builds to emotional vocals, strings that linger just long enough to loop back upon themselves, and a chattering crowd that occasionally overtakes the music, until it subsides, as if it too is awaiting what comes next.

You find yourself wanting the music to continue, to never end, to carry itself with you wherever you go. If only this were your background music, you think, you could do anything. You'd never be apprehensive or scared.

But it doesn't. It ends.

And you play it again.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Maybe If I Lay Low

Opening Credits

Some fireworks explode. More shoot into the air. From afar we see a couple sitting on a large rock. They hold each other as their silhouettes are deepened with every burst. The music kicks in. The title flashes onto the screen.

The Rising Action

The couple are fighting, there is love in their eyes, but also a growing resentment. They've come to the end of their ropes as they both realize that they may be stuck in a situation neither wants to confront. "your cold eyes, baby, tell me I should be looking for love with some other girl", he shouts, before the slamming the door behind him.

The Climax

He sees the girl with another man, before confronting her. He tells her he loves her, but as the camera pans out and the music builds, we see her letting him down. In anger and sadness, he shouts "maybe if I lay low, love will fall around my door".

The Resolution

In a fit of drunken agony, our hero leaves his house for a walk. He sees a pair of headlights, and considers leaping in front of them. A woman sees this, and grabs him. As they look into each others eyes, we see that spark of love missing since the beginning. The picture fades as the closing credits rise.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers

You sit a a table, hands folded. The woman across from you looks down, averting her gaze. She is shy, this much is obvious, but what confidence she actually holds is a secret. It is entirely possible that she knows exactly what she is doing to you, what she stirs up inside with that quick smile, the casual glance, another aversion of eye contact. You know each other, but no words are uttered.

This is not an awkward silence.

You admire the freckles on her face, but only in secret, for you are as shy as she is. She looks at you and you look away, afraid to let her know you were staring. She knows, and you know she knows, but neither says anything about it. You both look away.

This is an awkward silence.

You search for something to break the spell upon you both, but nothing comes to mind. The music is bare and dense all at once. Layers are added, but still nothing is said. There is an electricity between you two, as her slender frame changes position. You are the only two in the room, even while there is hubbub and commotion all around. More music is added. Sounds and beats intertwine between you both.

This is no longer an awkward silence.

Her mouth opens, and the words that erupt break the silence.

Kaki King - Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers