Saturday, December 22, 2007

My 2007 (So far as I remember)

This year was a fairly revolutionary year for me musically. Amongst other things, I got into Classical and Jazz. I also lost more than 2/3 of my music collection a month ago. What a year!

I should note that this list won't be limited to what was released this year, but will include anything that caught my ear for the first time this year. So without further a-d-o, here's what I found this year that has the best chance of coming with me into the future. [Note: I had to finish putting this together really quickly so excuse any typos, errors, or generally crappy writing].

1. Jazz
I remember flipping through my girlfriend's CD book a few years ago and seeing Charles Mingus in several sleeves. I finally got curious this year, and after getting heavy into Mingus I decided to see what else was out there (with help on the vocal jazz front from the Woody Allen Netflix marathon I had for several months). Now I'm the first to admit I'm not an expert by any means and there are huge gaps in my comprehension. That said, here's what I'm digging the most thus far (in no particular order):

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - Moanin'

John Coltrane - Cousin Mary

Billie Holiday - Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles

Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth

Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus

2. Bob Dylan
Finally. I'm solid up to John Wesley Harding, plus Blood on the Tracks. Since I think I'm the last one to catch up I'll just throw you a couple of songs that really grabbed me that I didn't hear a million times before I ever chose to listen to him.

3. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Yes. I'm ranking the new LCD Soundsystem over my interest in Classical music. What can I say, I haven't grown up THAT much. But truthfully, I'm more likely to skip part of Rhapsody in Blue before I skip a single track on this little zeitgeist. My only complaint is that David Bowie didn't buy the masters and rerecord the vocals, not because James Murphy's bad, but because it's all I can think of that could have made this sweeter. Beware the 1-2 punch of Someone Great, and All My Friends, that manages to put two songs in a row that could arguably rank #1 and #2 on a track of the year chart.

4. Classical
So many plunges into unfamiliar waters. This one went pretty well, but I have to admit I haven't kept it up as well as I thought I would when I was in the thick of it. But it doesn't mean I don't have some killer pieces I come back to. I'm still on the basics, and I lost a lot in the hard drive crash of 2007, but here's what I got for ya.

Otto Klemperer conducting Beethoven's 3rd Symphony

George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue featuring George Gershwin on piano

Horowitz playing P.I. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra

5. Neil Young
In the same way that Bob Dylan seems able to perfectly communicate a mental state, Neil knows the heart. Granted, I've loved After the Gold Rush since junior high, but this year I did the dive. My general feeling is that the collected great songs are more important then the albums they're on, and seeing him live this week only solidified that opinion. So one of the best pieces of advice I can pass along is to check out his Massey Hall 1971 live album that just got released this year.

6. Pantha du Prince - This Bliss
This one slipped under a lot of people's radar; probably because the name "Pantha du Prince" sounds more like a Haitian dancehall singer than anything else (I remember almost not listening to it for that very reason). But when you check it out you'll find some of the best electronic music of the decade. Walking in the footsteps of Aphex Twin's seminal Selected Ambient Works 85-92, This Bliss's success is built on beautifully calming tracks that never bore or annoy despite the varied sounds that they employ. They have as much depth as you care to see. Perfect for background listening, but rewarding for anyone who wants to give it their attention. My guess is that of all the new releases of the year, this will be the one that stays with me the longest. Check Pantha's previous album Diamond Daze for more quality cuts.

7. Lil' Wayne
I probably listened to Lil' Wayne more than any other artist this year. And while it seems crazy that I'll still be listening to the Drought 3 mixtape in five years, there's still a chance. He basically held me down with all the rap I needed to listen to this year, which says something both for him and how boring the rest of the genre's been in comparison. He commands the language better than any other lyricist I've heard. It does exactly what he wants when he wants it to regardless of whether it was meant to or not. I'm dying to know his SAT verbal score.

8. David Bowie - Station to Station
In my opinion, Bowie's best album. It's epic and consistent, which is a hell of a thing to accomplish. The first four tracks dare you to find a flaw and the fifth one doesn't have one. I can't say much about the sixth because I rarely make it there without going back to the beginning. If you don't have the patience to make it all the way through the first song (it's ten minutes) skip to 5:55, listen to what kind of rewards are in store for you and then go back and do it the right way.

9. Prince
I'm only knee ankle deep so far, but that's enough to tell that the water's great. Between Purple Rain and Sign 'o the Times, I've had plenty of purple to take in. I don't know what to say; I'm humbled. He's as good as he says, which I think means he ranks above both existence and non-existence. One question, is he ghostwriting for Andre 3000?

His funky stuff's amazing too, but this is the stuff that caught me by surprise.

10. Hank Williams
I got the 40 Greatest Hits and just put it on straight through two or three times a day for a while. Simple songs from a great singer. It's the kind of material that reminds you that you can boil things down a good tune and a strong emotion, and you'll be pretty good. Can't recommend this enough for cold days by yourself.

11. Battles - "Atlas"
This song gave me unrealistic hopes for the rest of the year and definitely for the rest of the album, but even so it deserves a full credit as it definitely helped make this year what it was musically. A quite unexpected uniter. It's a shame it didn't go to "Crazy" status.

12. Studio & Tough Alliance
Two different groups but they hit in such a similar spot of high-color pop/dub bliss, I figured I'd lump them. Too be fair though, I listened to Studio's Yearbook 1 album (basically the same as their album West Coast) and then looked up band that sounded like them, because I needed more. For the kids who enjoy electronic groove builders, you want to go with Studio. For those who enjoy their pop/rock groups like The Legends, you'll probably favor Tough Alliance (bad name, I know).
Either way there's a fair amount of bleed as is evident by the tracks I'm posting.

13. Timbaland (ft. Keri Hilson and a horrible rapper who stopped the song from being good enough to warrant release as a single) - Miscommunication
I can't listen to this song enough. Still. It breaks my heart that Timbaland didn't put a better rapper on this amazing song, as it deserved to catapult Keri Hilson to a place where people could forget about Britney and focus on talent again. Please release a remix. I guess 2:43 of perfection's still pretty good.

14. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Some people play music others play with it. Here's one of the best examples of playing with I've ever seen. Exuberant unsustainable electronic lo-fi gone hi-fi. Has Animal Collective guested on Yo Gabba Gabba yet? Because they need to. Though I can imagine they might never leave. But then, I guess that would be perfect. If you don't know what I'm talking about... you know (that song should've gotten it's own entry).

15. T.Rex
Oh, glam.

16. Talking Heads
I think every year I get a bit deeper into Talking Heads. It's never a ton at once, just a song here a song there. This year found me listening to "Cities" from Fear of Music quite a bit. I actually enjoyed several songs from this album, but "Cities" typically commanded the most attention. I look forward to what other treasures I'll find in the box set of all their albums that I downloaded a couple years ago.

17. Phosphorescent - Pride
Hard to say how much this album will stick with me since it's a newbie, but "Be Dark Night" gives me a genuine peace at the very least. Other tracks keep me interested and I'm sure to find more favs, but thus far, this track's the main reason I'm mentioning it. A lot of attention's being paid to Panda Bear's album "Person Pitch", which takes a similar route of echoey choir vocals. In the end though, I found "Person Pitch" to be lacking a heartfelt center, and after hearing Phosphorescent it seemed only more empty. But they're both Brooklyn-ers so hooray for my burro.

18. George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
Another album that everyone else probably digested a long time ago. But if you haven't, George Harrison in his prime + Phil Spector past his prime but before his mush = fantastic.

19. James Blackshaw - Clouds of Unknowing
I've always gotten a kick out of strummy guitar noodlers like John Fahey, and well...I guess Fahey was the only one I'd ever heard. But now there's this guy and he's pretty darned good too. Nothing relevatory, but I'm happy to have someone else like old Johnny.

20. Eddie Kendricks - People...Hold On
J. Dilla R.I.P. I found this track through a mix of tracks that Dilla sampled on Donuts. It's always nice when a great album has a great track that leads to a great track that's from a great album. Kendricks is one of the former frontmen of the Temptations through most of the material you've heard of theirs, so you already know you love him. But this 1972 album, his second solo effort, is solid from one end to the other, and really makes him a name to know in his own right. Where soulful R&B numbers like "If You Let Me" and "Date With The Rain", cover similar territory as Kendricks had with the Temptations, the Dilla-sampled "My People Hold On", stands out as something wholly original; psychedelic in sound but genuine in sentiment.

J.Dilla's version:

21. Gary Numan - Pleasure Principle
I lost this album in the great hard drive crash of 2007, so I don't have as fully formed of an opinion as I would like. One of the first acts to achieve pop success with synthesizer music, and still arguably the best (see attached song), Gary Numan nails the same electronic sound that everyone's become re-obsessed with recently. Good to hear back when it was new for the first time. I sound like a jerk, right?

22. Blondie - Parallel Lines
A lot of my most focused and frantic listening of the year came as a result of needing to put together music for the pre-show for Very Fresh, the monthly show that I did with Olde English this year. In the heat of coming up with music for the first show, I stumbled upon this gem, and was pretty set after that. So many high-power songs that have the perfect mix of shine and rawness. Zehr cool.

23. Kanye West - Graduation
Everyone I talked to about this album was so annoyed with it. I was too. But the weird thing is I liked a number of the songs. I blame it on "Stronger" and feeling like it came out too soon after Late Registration. But Kanye still does the everyman rapper better than anyone else. It's clear as could be on Everything I Am, which is just Kanye doing his Kanye-thing better than he ever has. People forget that that's all you really have to do; also that's what the whole song's about.

24. Liars - Clear Island
While their recent self-titled album had lots of good moments, this one really knocked me out. A dance-punk throwback to their first album that's not particularly complicated, but charms nonetheless. One of those songs that benefits with each increase in volume.

25. Skream
There's something so enjoyably adolescent about dubstep. It has the sort of darkness that you can only feel as a teenager. I mean let's face it, hardcore instrumental hip-hop is kind of cartoony regardless, or rather because of how serious it tries to be. That said, it's still fun in spurts.

26. blank
This spot is reserved for either the new Fiery Furnaces album or the new Radiohead. Or both. It always takes me a while to get into either groups' albums. At least so far as I feel confident to pass a judgement.

Alright thanks for reading. Post your favorites stuff that you found this year in the comments! Also check out my sister's blog, which is a lot better then mine and is updated on the regular. Very funny.

Off to Mexico for me! Happy everything.


Brendan said...

nice, dave! I'm gonna check out the classical stuff you put up. This year for me it was Opera. I think Carmina Burana invented the Sex Pistols.

FilmFan said...

You have such varied taste in music! I find your selections fascinating and your perceptions intriguing. Last night I went to a Manhattan Transfer concert. Their harmonies are so tight,too bad it was a Christmas show, their other songs interest me more than the holiday songs. Brendan, Carmin Burana will definitely get your heart pumping! Don't forget your sunscreen in Mexico,it's raining here!

Caleb said...

The Timbaland track features both Keri Hilson and Sebastian (AKA TIMBALAND'S LITTLE BROTHER)

tavit said...

Great to see you're getting into Jazz! Very good to see that you included "moanin'"

If you ever need more recommends in the Jazz dept just let me know

asif said...

fantastic writeup daveeddaveed. damn. i got so lost in chip music (not a bad thing*) i missed out on a lot of other things. glad to have this reference. i'm at my parents house for the next few days (whatup, free time?!?) so I'm listening to every single one of these tracks you posted today.

things on my end from 07 that i'd pass along if you haven't already heard em:

Album: Untrue
Track: Archangel
solid dubstep!

Artist: Odd Nosdam
makes my little electronic heart melt. Just listen to "Up In Flames"and you'll find it difficult to navigate away from the page without listening to the other three tracks ("Kill Tone" is genius -- If I wrote music, I'd want to be responsible for that gem. Kind of like watching time lapse footage of the world's greatest tree growing. note that i made this analogy prior to seeing the video)

I also couldn't get enough of Broadcast's "Tender Buttons" but I'm a few years late to that party. "America's Boy" in particular. I don't throw the word 'haunting' around carelessly.

* also fell deeply in like with Unicorn Dream Attack (chiptune+5)

Anonymous said...

Much like the person who posted before me, I too was sucked into the Chiptunes vortex. I listened to quite a bit of - Battles, Norma Jean, Team Sleep, AFX, Daft Punk alive 2007, kavinsky (thanks!), band of horses (thanks!), and i'm planning on buying sound of silver (thanks in advance!), also - norma jean is getting a new drummer, coming out with a new album this spring/summer, and is releasing a vinyl boxed set of all their material, for those of you who read the migrating taste official hardcore music update section in the comments.