Saturday, December 15, 2007

The 2007 Generic Awards Part One: Songs of the Year

All apologies for nearly three weeks of hiatus. I listened to the new Ghostface Killah album ("The Big Doe Rehab") and had begun a review, but due to a hectic schedule it will be pushed back (along with Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool" and poll-winner Kid Rock's "Rock and Roll Jesus") to January.

2007 was a strong year for music, particularly in the indie community. Indie standouts Feist, The Shins, The Arcade Fire, and Okkervil River saw chart success for the first time. Hyped artists either came through on their promise (Menomena, Battles) or else faced a sophomore slump (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bloc Party). UGK miraculously returned this year to top the album charts, only to have one of their two rappers (Pimp C.) die tragically later in the year. All and all, it was the typical year of surprises, both pleasant and disappointing. Here are the songs that made highlighted the year, with videos where feasible.


10) Blonde Redhead / "SW" - "23" demonstrated a band in full control of their sound. It saw the band more polished and executing better than ever before. Nowhere was that demonstrated better than on "SW". It explodes out of the gate with full force as guitarist Amadeo Pace takes his first turn on vocals, declaring "it's not what you give, but what you kept." The band kept nothing back, and the move pays off as the highlight of one of the year's stronger albums.
*From the album "23"

9) Jape / "Floating" - It's so simple that it's genius. Take a simple acoustic guitar line, insert brief and clever couplets, and hint it with an electronic background pulsing throughout the entire song. "I said 'fuck dancing all night', but that's just what we did" sings lead singer Richie Eagan. Not only is it one of the best, most straight-forward lines of the year, it's also a pretty good idea of what will happen if you throw this track on repeat.
*From the album "The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun than Me"

8) Pale Young Gentlemen / "Saturday Night" - The rollicking piano, the strings, the enthusiastic vocals, and the relentless energy. It hits all the right pleasure centers. When Mike Reisenauer cries out "Oh Saturday night, take me in your arms!" it brings back memories of weekends spent with friends, having fun. "I'm happy where I am" he later remarks, before the song hits its final crescendo and you can't help but smile even bigger.
*From the album "Pale Young Gentlemen"

7) Menomena / "Rotten Hell" - It starts out simple enough, just a single guy singing over a piano backing. Then it adds another singer, another instrument, another instrument, and another and another until it becomes a many-layered thing of beauty. They know when to restrain though, as they do during the bridge when they "beat through this mess together" before building up to arugably the most rewarding pay-off on a track all year. When they declare "it's high time we step outside, drop the gloves, and settle this thing like a man!" it rings through like a battle cry.
*From the album "Friend and Foe"

6) Battles / "Atlas" - Flawless execution. Innovation so frequent it becomes routine. A sound unlike any other. These phrases only begin to describe math-rock outfit Battles. Their music sounds as though it has been broadcast to Earth from another planet, from a future time. It is a thing of strange beauty. Never is it demonstrated better than on "Atlas", the second track of their masterpiece "Mirrored." I'm still surprised, and even suspicious, that man could compose sounds like these. (Note: the song in the music video is over two minutes shorter than the album version.)
*From the album "Mirrored"

5) Josh Ritter / "The Temptation of Adam" - Love finds us in many different places and situations, even in missile silos during the Cold War. That's (obviously) the setting for "The Temptation of Adam", the most romantic song of the year. Ritter writes of the speaker wondering if the world will end, and if he'd even mind, since he isn't sure if he could be with the one he loves outside of their unusual love nest. When he sings of wishing he could "pretend this giant missile is an old oak tree instead, and carve our name in hearts into the warhead" it comes across as poignant, rather than comical. As the song concludes, he sees the button that would launch the missle and destroy the lovers (and more importantly, his choice whether to live with his love in the silo or move on and try and find someone with easier circumstances) and he states he is "tempted", leaving us to wonder what ever did become of the two.
*From the album "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter"

4) Explosions in the Sky / "The Birth and Death of the Day" - With a title like that, it has to either be mind-blowing or else it's over-selling itself. As this ranking suggests, it's certainly the former. As the guitars build and swell, it is awe-inspiring. No use in trying to describe this song, just watch the video.
*From the album "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone"

3) UGK / "International Players Anthem" - Reasons to be genuinely excited about this song: 1) Andre 3000 actually raps again! I can't overstate how big this is! 2) The beat is the best by far in hip-hop this year. 3) It's, sadly, the last time we'll here Pimp C. and Bun B. together unless they happen to have a Tupac Shakur size catalogue of unrecorded tracks and verses. The best hip-hop song of the year, and it's not even close.
*From the album "Underground Kingz"

2) Spoon / "Don't You Evah" - Spoon makes pop music look way too easy. Britt Daniel's effortless voice, a simple guitar riff and drum line, and some handclaps and they've got a song that sounds like a hit. Throw in the over-dubbing harmony and guitar solo, and you've got something even a tiny yellow robot can dance to.
*From the album "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"

1) Feist / "My Moon My Man" - It's perfect, honestly. The beat is seemingly (deceitfully) simple, but full of flourishes of genius experimenting. The guitar comes in at the perfect times, and makes the song that much stronger. Then there's Leslie Feist's voice. My God, not since early Madonna has anyone sounded this sexy on a record. "The Reminder" may have had its set-backs, but this song has none. It's better than anything released this year or last year, and my money is that it will be better than anything released in the upcoming year. It's that good, folks.
*From the album "The Reminder"

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's one other award to give out...


1) Soulja Boy Tell Em / "Crank That" - This was the most inescapable song of the year, while simultaneously being the one I most wanted to escape. It was basically a really shitty dance move expanded into a full-length "hip-hop" song by adding a shitty faux-island beat, a bunch of shitty lyrics, and a bunch of "ohhhhhs!" I give up. I thought "The Macarena" was the last time I'd see a one-hit wonder (because if there really is a God, there's no way Mr. Tell Em has another hit) based off a shitty dance and little else become a nationwide smash. I can only pray that this time really is the last time.
*From some shitty album

Albums of the Year coming on Wednesday (12/19)

1 comment:

Pelk said...

That video for "Floating" is pretty sweet.