Friday, January 4, 2008

2007: Here and Gone

of Alex Teplitzky

10. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible

With every album, Arcade Fire grows stronger. Although with Neon Bible, they’re only picking up where they left off from Funeral, but they move steadily forward in production, melodies and, most notably, lyrical strength. The album takes an Oberstian twist; a sense of doom and armageddon run amok on nearly every song. Lyrics like "Same old city with a different name," or "Who here still believes in choice?/ Not I" or with titles such as "Keep the Car Running," "Neon Bible," "Black Wave," or "Antichrist Television Blues" make it seem like some catastrophe looms in the distance. Looking back at 2007, it is clear that this was the year that our concern for our own well-being and certain potential disasters: making Neon Bible not only a great album, but an apt soundtrack 2007.

9. Electrelane- No Shouts, No Calls

Electrelane has disbanded, but they left us this solid piece of work for us this past year. If you listen to enough of Electrelane’s older albums (Rock it to the Moon or The Power Out), you begin to notice a recurring pattern in their songs. Some kind of intro followed by a slow build-up that explodes into a fit of synth-organs or guitars. With No Shouts, Electrelane have retained this formula, but they have tightened it up: no 9 minute songs here. Just clean, solid fun; short and to the point.

Unlike Neon Bible, No Shouts, No Calls concerns itself more with happier, more optimistic moments. Still, there is a sense of sadness that pervades the lyrics. "To the East" is a kind of letter asking a lover to join her in Hungary. Aside from the astounding dance- and popishness of the songs, the album had a particular resonance with me as I spent my time in France this past year.

8. Animal Collective- Strawberry Jam

Thank god Animal Collective aren’t falling by the wayside. I often imagine what my children (if I ever have any) will think of my music tastes. It’s part of the reason I actually buy CDs, so that they stumble upon them when they’re old enough to formulate their own opinions. One day they will find this CD, listen to a song like “For Reverend Green” or “Peacebone” and wonder what kind of guy their dad was. They’ll wonder, Was he into tribal music? Was he hardcore? Or was he just plain crazy?

The best thing about Animal Collective is that they combine perfectly all the elements of, often, the most marginal music: tribal, screamo, or postmodern mashup; yet, the tie it all together with folkish, popish guitars. Strawberry Jam--an ode to Lisbon, Portugal--received perhaps the most ink out of any of their previous albums, and rightly so.

7. Caribou- Andorra
The video for "Melody Day" captures the mood of this album best: faceless figures trouncing around an alien world that seems at the same time recognizable… well, maybe not. But you have to admit, while the songs on this album seem like nothing you’ve ever heard, they also seem like they could have been plucked from the sixties.

6. Chromeo- Fancy Footwork

Some of the best bands today are duos, but none are as motley as Chromeo. P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) looks like he would be the background vocals for some Top 40 hip hop song, while Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) looks like he was pulled from a Calvin Klein ad. One’s Arab, one’s Jewish. One sings and one plays the talk box. Yet together: solid gold.

As I've stated before, Fancy Footwork has received tons of recognition from DJs and remixers: it's hardly any coincidence. The songs combine a 70s pop flair, the best things about 80s dance music, and sound as fresh as anything else this year. Though Chromeo are most known for their first single, "Needy Girl," I suspect Fancy Footwork will be remembered as their true ground-breaking work. Meanwhile, one day we'll hear these tracks on an oldies station and think fondly back on 2007.

5. Midnight Juggernauts- Dystopia
Maybe it's because Midnight Juggernauts toured with Justice that everyone seems inclined to compare Dystopia with Justice's , but I’m not so sure that we’re comparing apples to apples. Although this album hasn’t yet seen a US release, the Juggs are gaining more and more notoriety. With songs like “Dystopia” and “So Many Frequencies,” it’s sometimes hard to tell if they’re a band or just a bunch of DJs. I suspect that the line between the two genres of musician will become more blurred with the coming of 2008. Midnight Juggernauts will not go gently into the night.

4. Matthew Dear- Asa Breed
It’s hard to really know what to say about this album. Is it techno? Is it pop? Is it country? I bought this album during one of the first few weeks I moved to San Francisco, mostly influenced by a friend who promotes for Matthew Dear. And while I hadn’t heard any of the songs on it, I don’t think I’ve ever made a better blind-purchase. This one has it all, techno, pop and country, not to mention great vocals from Dear and some intriguing lyrics.

3. Justice- †

While flipping through the AM band in my car one day, I came across one Christian station in the middle of airing something about how Jesus’ birth forever changed the course of human history. As anti-Christian as I am, I realized this was true: love him or hate him, whoever this person was and whatever he stood for severely affected the course of history. With all the Justice backlash coming to the forefront now, it is conversely becoming more difficult to say they haven’t had an effect on electronic music.

According to XLR8R, Justice’s † was just a “collection of previously released singles and mostly uninspiring new tracks.” If it’s nothing new, then why all the hype to begin with? Gaspard Augé, when asked on “Le Grand Journal” why they use the Cross as their principle motif, broke his typically silent character in saying, “Dieu seul le sait” (God only knows). This quote betrays the secret behind the dynamic duo: Justice are more than just two DJs; they surround themselves in mystique, taking a cue from helmet-sporting Daft Punk. Justice has done what other DJs haven't: create personas for themselves. Most DJs remain the faceless man behind the turntables, only recognizable by their names.

Although de Rosnay and Augé’s music, personalities, and gait are strictly French, their use of Biblical imagery as well as their name in particular is universal. Western parole has no need to translate a word lifted directly from biblical tradition. Thus, you have hundreds of remixes of Justice tracks by DJs from all over the globe, and probably even more mixes that start out with "Genesis." You have everyone from the most avid electro fan to French 12-year old girls going crazy for them. You have them all over French news and radio. If anything, 2007 was the year Justice brought the underground club-music to the masses.

Justice - Valentine

2. Panda Bear- Person Pitch

It was on a road trip from Barcelona to Paris that I fell in love with Person Pitch, and it only took a few bars of "Comfy in Nautica" to do it. Panda Bear knows how to develop a melody and he does it so well, I might go so far as to say there isn’t a wrong note on the album. Granted, the album is full of loops and sound effects, but that attests to its impressiveness: it is difficult to make something so electronic as gooey and sweet as Panda Bear has.

1. LCD Soundsystem- Sound of Silver

I sometimes wonder why James Murphy doesn’t get as much recognition as, say, David Bowie or the Rolling Stones did in their day. Maybe he has a few more albums to go before that happens, but listen to the first track on Sound of Silver, “Get Innocuous,” and it’s difficult not to get into it. Maybe he isn’t the first to do it, but Murphy almost seamlessly combines rock ‘n roll rhythms with the electronica twists and turns you might hear in the most underground remixes.

Sound of Silver continues full force until the end, making it, in my opinion, the number one dance CD of 2007. Beginning with the building momentum of "Get Innocuous" to the 2007-anthem "All My Friends" and closing sharply with "Sound of Silver" the album syntax is perfectly grammatical, complete with its period "New York I Love You."
2007 was a great year for music. It was difficult to make this list; and hell, it took me long enough! I'm expecting great things from 2008. Because eight sideways is infinity, and, as my friend Lee said in the wee morning hours of January 1st, "you can't top that shit!"

1 comment:

reid said...

sweet list tep. i wanted to let you guys all know that i saw debbie deb perform this weekend and what can i say except oh my, the ravages of time. she was on for like 20 minutes, 4 songs and some banter. her daughter was in the crowd and was our age. i kept screaming for her to do "funky little beat" but she just winked at me.