Well, all in all, I have felt that 2007 was certainly not a great year for music. There – I’ve said it! Very little to get excited about and lots of disappointments (my beloved Patty Griffin winning my prize for that). There were a lot of pretty good albums but very very few outstanding albums in my opinion. Uncut magazine awarded their best album title to LCD Soundsystem. That says it all – a couple of good tunes sure but it’s an album that will surely be forgotten by March next year. The Arcade Fire won the title from the gone to the dogs Q magazine. That indeed has some great moments but too many weak ones for me to call it a great album. Again, I can’t see it standing the test of time. Maybe Mojo will yet come up with something worthwhile. Still and all, there were a lot of great tracks and many decent albums. So for the little that it’s worth I have compiled my yearly favourites. I refuse to worry about petty things such as official release dates and not belonging to a 2007 list. There is also the horror of inevitably discovering lots of greats two months too late but let’s not think too long about such things (and sorry again Thom Yorke for taking so long to discover The Eraser).
10. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Great funky rock ‘n’ Roll pop! I’m surprised I don’t hear this belting out of more shops and students’ homes. Fabulously tight tracks with the potential for a string of hit singles, if only that kind of thing were still possible. I often find that great music that’s also fun is few and far between – thank God for Spoon I say! Check out Rhthm and Soul and The Underdog to turn your home into the best student nightclub.
9. Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight
Another album full of hits. This reminds me a lot of Fleetwood Mac (but) in a very good way. Strangely for me, this is again a very uplifting album. Very few songs about splitting up can bee as gleeful as Breaking Up. In many ways the sound here could be deemed old fashioned but unlike many other bands making older-sounding music (half of Britain’s indie bands) if you heard this on the radio your ears would prick up and the hooks would sound refreshingly delightful. It’s kind of like a good G ‘n’T – reliable, refreshing and hard to beat! Let Breakin’ Up and Silver Lining be your slices of lemon.
8. Over The Rhine – The Trumpet Child
Subtle brilliance for the noughties. This is a band who have dabbled in more styles of music than Britney Spear’s has been photographed without knickers. When I first heard them, they reminded me somewhat of Tori. On this year’s release they’ve developed their more jazzy slinky side. And it’s gorgeous. I almost have to pinch myself that this album really exists as nobody has seemed to have heard of it or reviewed it. What’s going on? Anyway, who cares – they’ve quietly crafted one of this year’s best. Worth the money alone for the best Tom Wait’s track you’ll hear all year – Don’t Wait for Tom. Don’t let the fact that he had nothing to do with it put you off. It’s fabulously pure Tom
‘Workin’ for the circus X railroad bum
Carnival barker for kingdom dot come
Dusty ol’ Gibson, opposable thumb
Bangs out the rhythm on a 50-gallon drum’
That, I’m on a Roll and The Trumpet Child will be the best silent snow flakes you’ll hear all year
7. The Innocence Mission – We Walked in Song
Not so different from their last album Befriended. They’re continuing their mission with their characteristic sound of innocence. Just as exquisite as ever, these are gentle songs punctuated with musical tones that sound like slivers of light in a dark wooden mansion. They have perfected their craft – there isn’t a note out of place and it sounds as if each sound has been written and produced for a wonderful reason. This music isn’t as bubbly as Rilo Kiley or rocking as Spoon but it never fails to make me smile. Even if I may sometimes have watery eyes at the same time and for the same reason. And sure isn’t that what life is all about? The Innocence Mission remains one of my very favourite groups. Check out Love that Boy and Happy Birthday to see if you could ever feel the same.
6. Tori Amos – American Doll Posse
I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better Tori album this year. She’s been one of my favourite artists since I first bought Little Earthquakes all those years ago. She’s dibbled and dabbled and plinked and plonked (I know what I mean) in the intervening years and managed to amass a back catalogue of music that would put any artist to shame. What else is there for her to do – she’s set aside the piano, picked up and put down guitars, been plugged and unplugged, had choirs and sang on her own – what’s left to do? Make an absolutely brilliant album that’s what. One that’s chock-a-block with classic Tori songs. It’s an album more for the fans than the casual listener I feel. It has elements of everything I have always loved about Tori and the songs are so diverse – there are some you will adore, some you like less, some you’ll grow to like more a year down the line when someone points out something and no two people will agree on what’s what. I’ve already written way too much about it here. Listen to why Conortje loves Tori by playing Bouncing off Clouds, Father’s Son and Mr Bad Man. She’s an MILF don’t you forget!
5. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
This man is so talented I want him to just touch me to see if some will rub off. Thankfully I restrained myself from actually requesting this when I saw him in concert in Rotterdam in May. But it was hard task let me tell you. His songs are enormous. He juggles words in a way that would have Tom Waits squirming with envy. He also likes science and words that are impossible to spell. All those quirky sounds and funky notes you hear on his records – he’s made them all. It’s incredible to watch him recreate it all live. But it’s his songs that captivate me. Sometimes I get all worked up and excited listening to them – even for the hundred time – as my brain and heart try to keep up. It’s purely delicious. And not just that, it’s nourishing too. Have a slice of Heretics and a spoon of Scythian Empire to keep all sorts of hunger at bay.
4. The Sounds – Dying to Say this to You
This album only made it to these shores this year but it was worth the wait. Impossibly infectious bubble gum punk. If you like CSS at all you’ll love this. The songs bounce along after each other and before you know it you’ll be swinging your bits to their hits. They even manage to fit in a gorgeous ballad all the while maintaining their gritty loud and brash style. And boy do they know a good melody. I challenge you not to bounce along merrily to Tony the Beat and Queen of Apology.
Every tiny last detail about this covers album is perfect. It’s been a very very long time since I’ve heard such a perfect sound. The two voices weave melodies over what has to be the best production of the year, possibly of years. Each note, from each instrument, brings a shade of colour on which the songs float. The sound is reminiscent somewhat of Bob Dylan’s Desire. I guess that is mainly down to the gypsy violin sound (something I am quite partial to). The songs they have chosen here fit snuggly with each other. Wait’s Trampled Rose never sounded better and Sam Phillip’s Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us is breathtakingly impressive and I mean it literally in my case. Killing the Blues is similarly magnificent. This whole album is a treat and most artists who made albums this year could only dream of coming up with something so memorable.
2. DeVotchKa – How it Ends
Speaking of perfect – here it comes again. It might seem like it but I honestly do not use this word lightly. This album is actually years old but it only came out in europe this summer and I first heard it then. I fell in love, as you can read about here and here. This really is a magical album. I get the feeling that it is something that could never ever be repeated. The songs are too good – their aching melodies guided by these talented group of musicians who must have let their souls bleed into the music. It is all astounding evocative. Some make me think of a dusty old circus tent (Charlotte Mittnach (the fabulous destiny of), some of Mexican weddings (We’re Leaving) and others of the frailty of life (How it ends).
“And in your soul they poked a million holes. But you never let them show. Come on, its time to go…” How it Ends
1. Cathy Davey – Tales of Silversleeve
When I first heard this album I was happily impressed by what a wonderful bunch of songs it was. And I listened a few times very enthusiastically. Then I moved on and spent about two weeks listening to other music and forgot about Tales of Silversleeve a little. When I put it on again, this time with knowledge of the songs, I heard it in a completely new way and quickly realised just how good this actually is. And it is consistently great! All my top three albums in this list share a similar element in that they hit all buttons. Production, song quality, voice – overall sound. Song and after song Cathy packs a punch. My favourite keeps on changing. Just when I have decided, another one comes on and I think ‘oh yeah, there’s this one too….’. This album really works as a whole – definitely better than the sum of its parts. I can happily isolate a track and dance about my living room to it but together they have a force – a happy, colourful, musical brilliant force that has propelled it to being my favourite album of the year. I fully expect this album to be ridiculously successful when it gets its worldwide release next year. No Heart Today and Moving will have you wondering why Cathy isn’t a megastar. Reuben and Mr Kill will have you realising that she already is, it’s just that most people don’t know that yet.
Finally before I put this to bed for another year I would like to finally add that Coco Rosie’s The Adventure, Spinvis’ Goochelaars en Geesten, Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars, Bjork’s Volta and Rosin Murphy’s Overpowered also helped keep me warm and happy in 2007.
2006 – Kila & Oki – Kila & Oki
2005 – Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
2004 – The Innocence Mission – Befriended
2003 – Autamata – My Sanctuary