Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Picking Up Where 2006 Left Off

So here we are, not even a third of the way into a youthful 2007, and we already have a hefty handful of candidates for Best Album of the Year. Last year was a good one for music fans, with brilliant albums by TV on the Radio, The Roots, and Silversun Pickups topping the list.

Here's what's been spinning in middleCoast offices since January (in some undisclosed, particular order):

The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
The sophomoric effort from the Canadian septet (although, they tour with 10 members and an omnipresent hurdy-gurdy) is a beautiful, bittersweet testament to this modern life. All the frustration and angst sitting contently side-by-side with all the fascination and joy of a conscious human being living on this continent. The track "No Cars Go" leaves us with the repetitive line, "Between the click of the light/And the start of the dream", reminding us of that space before sleep, when the thoughts of the day become clear, and then are almost immediately lost into our subconscious. Neon Bible helps us hang on to them a bit longer.

Peter Bjorn And John, Writer's Block
(Although mC had an import copy of this album way back in December (thanks, Jess), it technically wasn't released stateside until February, so we're counting it on this list.) Writer's Block may very well be the most inherently enjoyable album we've ever heard. And "Young Folks" has to be the best single of the year, even given the bevy of talented artists providing us with solid tunes detailed in this list and elsewhere. We can't wait to see this Swedish trio live at Lollapalooza - if their live performance is half as smile-inducing as their album, we're in for a treat.

Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City
Another quality sophomoric album from a gifted band that gave us a promising debut, AWITC deftly glorifies all the apprehension and trauma of being a teenager, telling us to never forget what it's like. Bloc party dance-rocks with the best of them, and musically the album soars. Lyrically, they stumble through Sudoku references, and claim on "Waiting for the 7.18" that "If I could do it again, I would climb more trees/I'd pick and I'd eat more wild blackberries". Take it or leave it, perhaps, but we'll take the lush arrangements and leave the Rebel-Without-a-cause-angst in high school.

The Good, The Bad, and The Queen
A supergroup in the truest sense of the compound word, TGTBandTQ (sorry, that's unnecessary) reunites super-producer, DangerMouse, with Blur/Gorillaz frontman, Damon Albarn, who now join forces with Clash bassist, Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist, Simon Tong, and Africa 70 drummer, Tony Allen. The result is at once a throwback and a futuristic landscape - pop music from the year 3000 circa 16th century - replete with all of DangerMouse's signature blips and bleeps, and Albarn's unceasingly British view of post-modernity.

The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
Back with more of the best shoe-gazer pop ever made, The Shins continue to make girls look twice at the nerd sitting alone in the in the back of class reading The Dharma Bums instead of paying attention, and for that we at mC are eternally grateful. The Shins may not be breaking any new ground with Wincing, but they build upon the foundation they've established with Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, and advance their own indie rock standard.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder
The third sophomore album on the list, blogosphere darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah do everything in their power (with help from producer David Fridmann, of Flaming Lips cred) to move their sound somewhere new. Where they go stays inherently CYHSY thanks to Alec Ounsworth's distinct vocals: earnest, resolute, and, of course, barely in tune while heartbreakingly endearing. Recalling shades of The Velvet Undergound through a number of the jangly, intentionally distorted tracks, CYHSY has an apparent desire to make listeners feel uncomfortable in some way. On "Love Song No. 7", Ounsworth wails, "We're safe and sound/So safe for now", but we feel anything but. Even on the most radio-friendly "Underwater (You and Me)" the yearning for escape permeates: "Upon an endless trail of moonlight/They'll never realize that we have gone/We have dropped right out of/Out of sight." Bittersweet hope, perhaps, that somewhere, some place there exists something better...

With new albums out already now by Kings of Leon, Amy Winehouse, and LCD Soundsystem, and albums still to come in the next couple months from Wilco and Bjork, 2007 is shaping up to be a stellar one once again. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Chimpy said...

Did you write this shit? You should get a side job writing music reviews. This is some good material.