Music of 2007: #40–#21

Updated to include the full 20 — I messed up the original post. Thanks to Ali for pointing it out.

Hmm, a bit late here. That always seems to happen nowadays. Sorry about that. But I like to wait until the very end of the year to do my end-of-year list, unlike others who sometimes compile their list in December or even November.

In my view, 2007 was a very good year for music indeed. But competition for the top spot in my list wasn’t close. But before we get there, here are some of the albums that appear lower down on my list, going up to #21.

40. Mira Calix — Eyes Set Against the Sun

The biggest disappointment of the year for me. This album has had all year to grow on me, yet it is still to grab me.

39. Bonde do Rolê — With Lasers

I guess baile funk is an acquired taste. I didn’t get CSS, and this album grates on me a bit. Perhaps I was blinded by the association with the rather good Diplo when I bought this album. Not my finest purchase of the year.

38. iLiKETRAiNS — Elegies To Lessons Learnt

My brother goes on and on about this band. So I’ve given them a go. I like some of their older songs — particularly ‘The Bible’ and ‘Go To Sleep’. So it’s beyond me why these tracks will remain as obscure demos or b-sides, while the album is full of samey dross.

The worst thing about iLiKETRAiNS for me is that this is one of the most obvious examples of post-rock by numbers I have heard. It really sounds like a poor man’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It’s not just the derivative nature of the music that gets me. It’s the fact that the original post-rock music was about pushing the boundaries.

In the past the ‘post-rock’ tag was applied to bands who were wary of being labelled in that way. But now there are bands out there who are actively trying to sound like ‘post-rock’. It spectacularly misses the point of the entire approach of the original post-rock bands.

37. Maxïmo Park — Our Earthly Pleasures

A disappointingly by-the-numbers follow-up to the exciting A Certain Trigger. You’d normally hope for a band to broaden its sound for the second album, but Maxïmo Park have done the opposite.

The greatest deviation from the norm comes in ‘Russian Literature’, which starts off sounding like something that their old pals Field Music would have come up with before descending into the bland Maxïmo template.

36. Bogdan Raczynski — Alright!

Not sure about this one. I’ve been meaning to buy a Bogdan Raczynski record for ages, so when he brought out Alright! I thought I would give it a go. I guess I must have bought the wrong one to start with because it has not impressed me as much as I was hoping.

35. Savath & Savalas — Golden Pollen

Yet another bland album from Scott Herren. Aside from a few aurally pleasant moments, this album is totally devoid of landmarks, and sounds just like old Savath & Savalas stuff.

After the major disappointment of Security Screenings under his other monicker (Prefuse 73), as well as a string of other increasingly disappointing releases, this was the final straw for me. I have stopped buying Scott Herren records until I hear definitive evidence that he has upped his game. The great days of One Word Extinguisher seem so long ago now…

34. High Priest — Born Identity

I’m quite glad that Antipop Consortium are getting back together because it really was a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Whatever I heard of Beans’s solo material sounded (quite aptly) as offensive as audio farts.

High Priest similarly is not so great on his own. Born Identity isn’t offensively bad though. In truth it has some really good moments — a nice mixture of experimental electronic hip-hop and commercial sensibilities, such as in ‘Banger Up Top’.

My biggest problem with this album as a whole is that it is quite a claustrophobic listen. Songs start and end abruptly, as though there wasn’t the time given to allow ideas to gestate. This gives the album a dizzyingly fast-paced feel. There is just no time taken to pause and take a breath.

Video: ‘Pitfalls’

33. Amiina — Kurr

I found this album quite boring. It has some pleasant moments, but overall I find it flat and lifeless. A bit of a shame as I liked their EP, Animamina.

32. Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid — Tongues

Another disappointing album. When a modern pioneer of electronic music teams up a well-respected jazz drummer you expect magic to happen. What we got was little more than a selection of ramblings.

For Kieran Hebden’s part, the electronics mostly sound suspiciously similar to older Four Tet material, with a particular similarity to Everything Ecstatic. Meanwhile, Steve Reid’s drumming is disappointingly unadventurous and takes far too long to develop.

There is a video on YouTube of them performing ‘Brain’ live, and it is much better than the version on the album. Even though the albums are said to be recorded as live improvisations with no overdubs, I can imagine that it is pretty spectacular to see this live in action. But the album misfires a lot.

31. Trans Am — Sex Change

Hmm. I’m new to this band, and this is a recent purchase. So I’ll have to give the album a bit more time to digest before giving a definitive verdict on it.

But album opener ‘First Words’ is a neat and enjoyable nod to Krautrock. I find nothing particularly offensive about the rest of the album. Indeed, it is impressively eclectic, which is probably one of the reasons why I’m struggling to sum it up. Another impressive thing is that apparently the album only took three weeks from conception to completion. Efficient!

30. Clark — Ted E.P.

A so-so EP from a musician who promises so much more. Many of the sounds are recycled from the already disappointing Body Riddle. To add insult to injury, the final track, ‘Cremation Drones’ is a blatant rip-off of Boards of Canada’s sound.

Video: ‘Ted’

My original review of Ted E.P.

29. The Tuss — Confederation Trough EP

Some good tracks here. A decent taster for the follow-up album, Roughup Edge. (I write more about The Tuss in my review for Roughup Edge, higher up in the list.)

28. Proswell — Bruxist Frog

A landmark album, as it was the last ever to be released on the excellent Merck label. Another nail in the coffin of the ailing IDM genre. Just as well Bruxist Frog wasn’t a honker then!

Mind you, it’s not a completely excellent album either, and in a lot of ways it is a demonstration of what is wrong with IDM just now. The innovation just isn’t there any more, and it has begun to sound as safe as any other genre. Bruxist Frog mostly consists of pleasant and safe melodies, and styles that can be traced back to the 1980s.

There are some good moments in this album though. I particularly give my thumbs-up to ‘Run Loop God’.

Sad to see such a great label go.

27. Ceephax — Volume One

Hmm, I experimented a lot with buying my first album by a lot of artists last year. This one is Ceephax’s Volume One. It’s an album of reasonably good 8-bit style retro goodness, with a good sense of humour mixed in.

There is some banging stuff here, but my favourites are the more melodic and pleasant tunes. The highlight for me is ‘TX Jammer’.

I’m not sure if it’s convinced me to buy more Ceephax / Acid Crew stuff, but this is a fairly good album.

26. Battles — Atlas

The only reason this is so far down is because it is really a single. Apart from ‘Atlas’, this only contains a DJ Koze remix of Atlas. But it has to be mentioned because it pointed the way to the phenomenon of the year and definitive proof that there is still room for innovation in the world of music.

The song came as a shock to fans of Battles. It marked a fairly radical departure from their previous material. The in-your-face vocals (which some have likened to the Chipmunks) took some getting used to.

But that is the point. It is challenging, but also wonderfully fun. All music should be like this.

The album version is great enough, but Atlas really comes into its own in live form. That’s what Battles are all about. As a studio album, Mirrored is great, but it is most astonishing to see these sounds being made live. Here they are performing it on Later with Jools Holland.

25. Clark — Throttle Promoter

At last, Clark moves into new territory. Throttle Promoter is a teaser EP for Clark’s ‘surprise’ upcoming album, Turning Dragon, which is due out later this month.

It certainly makes a change for Warp, whose hype machine usually can’t resist announcing new albums several months ahead of their release, making for an agonising wait for the sometimes obsessive fans of Boards of Canada and the like. Another treat for fans is that you get 25% off the new album by entering the serial number from the runout groove on Throttle Promoter.

As for the music, it is a pleasing change of direction. Gone are the overly-intricate backdrops. There is clearly an emphasis here on just producing good, fun tunes. ‘Kin Griff’ reminds me a bit of Aphex Twin’s ‘Naks Acid’, in a good way. It bodes well for Turning Dragon.

24. Bumps — Bumps

The percussion section of Tortoise decided to make their own album of “raw, drums, breaks, beats”. I guess it will do while we wait for a new Tortoise album.

As you would expect, it is masterful. Being essentially an album of drumming and little else, there is obviously little in the way of melody. But that doesn’t keep this from being a captivating — if brief — album.

Most of the tracks are quite short, and there is little breathing space between them. Yet the album covers a surprisingly large variety of moods and styles. If you’re a fan of Tortoise, you should definitely pick this up, although I fear lots of people will have missed it on the radar.

23. !!! — Myth Takes

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed by this album. !!! always felt to me like a band who could achieve more than they did, and Myth Takes is a bit of a missed opportunity.

There are some top songs here. ‘Must Be the Moon’, ‘Heart of Hearts’ and ‘Sweet Life’ all deserve a special mention. But they don’t reach the heights of previous !!! songs ‘Me And Giuliani Down By the School Yard (A True Story)’ or ‘Intensify’.

Video: Must Be the Moon

22. Boom Bip — Sacchrilege

A welcome change in direction for Boom Bip. I did not take to his last album. It sounded like he was becoming an old man. The punchy Sacchrilege is a great comeback. A bouncy, dancey joy. I hope this EP is a taste of things to come from Boom Bip.

Also, Sacchrilege has the best packaging of the year for my money. Even by Lex’s high artwork standards, this is a cracker. Styled like some fantasy confectionery box, with the winning combination of hot pink and baby blue. Best of all, you pull out the record to find that it is pink coloured vinyl!

21. Luke Vibert — Chicago, Detroit, Redruth

A fine album, further improving on the style developed in previous Luke Vibert albums YosepH and Lovers Acid. For me, the track ‘Comfycozy’ is a highlight of the year. It sounds like a genius mashup of two long-lost Muzak classics.

There are some other top-notch tracks to be found here — ‘Brain Rave’ and ‘Swet’ spring to mind. Having said that, the quality isn’t consistently high throughout the entire album. But it’s definitely worth a look.

5 comments

  1. Likewise, a lot of stuff I haven’t heard here 🙂 I missed the iLIKETRAINS album, but from the sounds of it I didn’t miss all that much. I was expecting a lot more from the Hebden/Reid album, one of the years disappointments for me. ‘Bumps’ sounds interesting though.
    I was on holiday for most of December hence the early review – although I kind of wished I’d waited for the new Jonny Greenwood album, bah!

    p.s. no 24 or 23? 😉

  2. I quite liked the Maximo Park album – it was on fairly heavy rotation just after I brought it and I’m still enjoying it now.

    Mind you, given that they completely passed me by when the released A Certain Trigger, which I’ve yet to properly hear, maybe means I’m discovering them the right way round.

  3. I’ve now updated the post to correct for my boob. Bumps and !!! were actually #24 and #23 respectively, and Boom Bip and Luke Vibert are #22 and #21.