2007 Top Ten!
Technically, the year isn't over yet. But this is the point where the record industry pretty much stops putting out records, excepting things that are easy sells as Christmas gifts. Someone- John Darnielle?- Postulated that every record released after the last week in November is made by Queen. There's also the new Wu-Tang, Ghostface, and maybe the new Nas record with the controversial title. Feel free to post it in the comments thread. With an exclamation point. Just make it seem like it's directed at me. I didn't hear enough rap records this year.
This is really just an excuse to talk about music, the way we relate to music, etc. Oh, and to give you points of comparison when actual influential music magazines and websites start posting stuff. There are certainly things that came out this year that I haven't heard yet that I might really like. But it's either a top ten post or just a random post about that new Magik Markers record.
Without further hullaballoo:
1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
2. Dan Deacon - Spiderman Of The Rings
I'm not sure I like that order, actually. I feel like Person Pitch is the more obvious choice, which is why it's at number one. It's the more "mature" album, even though the lyrics are super-simplistic and positive. Dan Deacon tells people at shows to imagine they're in their childhood den having a pizza party: His music is actually consciously childlike. Because of that, there's still more teenage energy. In some ways, they're the same record. The Dan Deacon record is overstuffed, bursting at the seams with so much energy. Woooody Woodpecker beats Comfy In Nautica as an opener, but Bros beats out Wham City as a third track epic.
I kind of want to give it to Dan Deacon, actually. This is due in one part to my contrarian streak- I think in 2004 my stance for awhile was that Girl Talk's Unstoppable was the album of the year, rather than Animal Collective's Sung Tongs- and kind of a tribute to the kind of year I had. Not the entirety of the year, but the fun part, the first half, was pretty Dan Deacon-ish. The fact that it's a record people might be writing off as a novelty record makes me even more behind it. Also, I used "Big Milk" in a movie I made. I don't know, last year I said the best album of the year was Paper Rad's Trash Talking DVD. These are my biases: Nerds rummaging through the cultural garbage, making jokes all the while, and somehow ending up with something moving.
The best thing I read about Person Pitch this year was on Stylus's top fifty list blurb.
But yes, switch those, actually, to note my contrarianism.
3. Marnie Stern - In Advance Of The Broken Arm
When Marnie Stern came to town, she ended up opening for BARR, which threw me for a loop I didn't expect. I told people to come and ended up in the restaurant talking while she played at the back of the bar. I'd only heard a chunk of her album then, a few mp3s, and wasn't even sold enough to buy a copy off her- I figured the show would kick my ass and convince me if the record was worth a purchase or not, but then I didn't hear the songs. Hey everybody, I'm an idiot.
But let's move past that, because these songs are amazing. The most recent time, I was actually listening for rhythms, moments where the drums and the riffs actually synch up to achieve what is normally associated with rock music. It didn't happen so much. Everything is falling down the stairs, or flying around your head. It's all over the place. It's got tornado powers, summoning the wind. It's all achieved through labor. Marnie Stern plays the shit out of the guitar, all cooped up in her room. Totally committed to the music. All of the songs are about art making, specifically, the putting a lot of work into such things. "My fingers burn, the skin is peeling off. This is my Thunder Road, this is my Marquee Moon, this is my Orthrelm In Tune, this is my love for you." That is a lyric that will die on the fucking screen, but ohhhhh dude. "Thunder Road" sounds like "Thought For Food," The Books record. Anthems for art-making: "I've been off the radar way too long!" "I'm almost an island, but not quite yet." The whole album is named after a DuChamp piece. Oh, and after a shitload of pop songs played from a whirlwind, the last track utilizes these spoken-word/performance elements that just nail me right where I stand: "I will paint you a picture that's inside my head, but first I must carve out a place." Sweet jesus. I think that Marnie Stern could make another record, not about art-making, and it might be able to actually communicate its depth to a larger group of people. I made some movies this year, and listened to a lot of Marnie Stern. I'm not really making anything anymore, but songs like "Put All Your Eggs In One Basket and Then Watch That Basket!!" are still totally awesome even when the title isn't the slogan you're living your life by.
4. Electrelane - No Shouts, No Calls
Most of the songs kind of blur in my head. Krautrock rhythms, with girls singing. It's just a great aesthetic. I remember writing, in an e-mail to someone, that I wanted to make a movie with the tone of this record. Looking back on it now, it's kind of vague what I meant. To take a guess, I imagine I'll mean the rhythm of it, the kind of cool yet danceable beat, vaguely detached, but in a dreamy way, but with this undercurrent overtone of actual human emotion and longing. This was in the springtime that I wrote this, this is a springtime record. Flowers blooming, skin showing, wind blowing. I guess this band is now broken up a little. This is them nailing an aesthetic, after some instrumental records that weren't so good, really kicking ass on pop songs.
(I think they had a record with vocals, all sung in French, which is lame in as much as I don't think French is their native language, so it's vaguely an affectation. The straightforwardness is what I'm responding to here.) It's not a perfect album, it's just a really great aesthetic- Which, by the way, is what I think is going to define the music of the decade: The most exciting bands to me aren't the ones doing the best songs, but they're the ones putting on the best live shows. This would be bands like Lightning Bolt and Deerhoof, "favorite bands" whose albums aren't going to be the favorite of the year, due to something about them that makes their work all blur together. Maybe I just think of those as favorite bands because I am seeing bands live now, as opposed to the bands that existed during the nineties, when I was younger. Wow, that's a hell of digression. Especially since that record with vocals, The Power Out, I only heard once, at a party, and I mostly just remember liking it.)
5. Boris With Michio Kurihara- Rainbow
Wow, Boris were really great when I saw them live. I don't know. This record's really good. I listened to it a lot, especially towards the beginning of the year, when I first became aware of its existence. I like the way the guitar solos just kind of split through the songs like lightning. I like that it's metal largely in the ridiculousness of the vocal performance. I think it's a lot better than last year's Pink, because it's not so monolithic/monochromatic.
6. Magik Markers - Boss
I saw Magik Markers wrap up their set opening for Sonic Youth in 2005. I think they sucked at the time. I remember Elisa yelling at the crowd "fucking do something!" shortly after I'd walked in. This is their first "actual" record, after a bunch of CD-Rs and assorted Bull-Tongue-submitted detritus, with "actual" songs, and being recorded in a studio, and... I like it a lot. The thing thrown at noise musicians- that anyone can do it- isn't necessarily untrue. This album has actual songs, but still is kind of "anyone can do it." But the only other people I can think of who actually did it is Sonic Youth on Confusion Is Sex. Songs are moods, fast or slow, different effects pedals, different vocal melodies or approaches, and they switch up, and they're well-recorded and then well-chosen for their order: Alternate rockers with ballads, determined by how fast the instrumentalists are moving their hands. The justification I read for them making this record was their realization that they could do better songs than other people. They were right. Anyone could make this record with the right point of view, the same point of view that leads to confrontational noise shows and the realization that you're smarter than other people. This is better than that Thurston Moore solo record, which was in turn better than any Sonic Youth record since Murray Street. Killing your idols is fun, and made easy when they decide to record your album and then release it.
7. Liars - Liars
This could probably beat out the last two records. Not unlike Magik Markers, this is a band tightening up to make pop songs, only they were already further along than the provocation of noise shows. I like the fact that Plaster Casts Of Everything starts out kind of bad and then transcends itself. I like that Houseclouds sounds like early nineties Britpop, specifically Blur. I like that the third song then sounds like They Were Wrong So We Drowned b-sides, only not shitty. I like that when it comes into focus again it sounds like Jesus And Mary Chain. I like that my friend Alex tried to get my friend Evan to listen to it by saying it sounded like sixties garage rock, and then when I asked him about it later he admitted he was basically lying. It sounds like sixties garage rock only in relation to the rest of the Liars catalog, and that if you had synaesthesia its colors would be red with purple flashes like The Creation once claimed to be. But maybe I only think that because those are the colors of the cover to Strawberry Jam, which this is better than.
8. Wooden Wand - James And The Quiet
The cover of this album is a photo taken at a friend's house in Olympia, at a show I was at. This wouldn't be worth mentioning if this weren't a folk record. Because it's a folk record, it seems strangely appropriate. It's the best "straightforward" Wooden Wand album so far, whereas The Flood was their best jammy record. I listened to this a lot. I don't know what to say about it, besides what I wrote about it a few months ago. The runner-up folk record would be the Nina Nastasia/Jim White collaboration.
9. Eric Copeland - Hermaphrodite
Some might like the Black Dice singles compilation more. This is another record I wrote about, if I recall. I've been talking about it to people, I know. Insisting that it was the noise record of the year, and then telling someone that even though the album art might be creepy, the actual vibe of the record is sunshiney. It brings to mind world music, and walking the streets of unfamiliar foreign lands. The live show, with its ridiculous live volume, still had rhythms, although I don't think anyone in the audience was interested in hearing them: The high volume and the setting sort of stripped the sunshine away. Still, it recast this music in a different context, and it was amazing. The runner-up noise record would be Black Dice's Load Blown, yes.
10. Menomena- Friend And Foe.
This could be switched out for Strawberry Jam, certainly. I liked it a lot when I first heard it, and then I found out that what I had downloaded was not the actual tracklist, and that the actual tracklist doesn't flow as well. I also found out that the tracklist I was listening to had a track missing that I didn't add into iTunes. That song's not bad. None of these songs are bad. Another record I already talked about when I first heard it.
No runners-up! I've been writing about music all year, and don't need to list the things I liked again.