Monday, December 3, 2007

top five, by chris keane of surrogate

note: all this week our staff writers are posting their top five cds from 2007. as a bonus, we've asked some of our friends to add their top five to ours. chris keane from surrogate took it above and beyond though and wrote an article that's just too good to pass up. below is his top five along with his remarks. and with all of our top fives this week, leave us your top five in the comments section. what albums did we miss? what is your top five and why? our only rule is that it had to have been released in 2007.

**In the ensuing paragraphs I will be referring to age not in numbers, like so many boring "normal" (or whatever) people do, but in terms of bands. For instance, there are many bands to which you can attach an age, consider for a moment Say Anything or The Decemberists or Refused (God forbid anyone misunderstand and think that I'm talking shit about these bands ((especially Refused)))? What age do you associate with these manufactured smells of teen (and twentysomething) spirit? This is a very intuitive situation and thusly there really isn't to be an actual number attached to these bands, more of a state of mind. I will henceforth refer to this concept at "bandage".**

Radiohead: In Rainbows (independent)

Radiohead is one of those rare bands that crosses almost every musical generation of bandageness. The appeal that this band boasts is almost completely across the board, for instance; I became a Radiohead fan when my CD collection consisted of mostly NOFX and Pennywise albums, a toddler in bandage. But I also know people who rock free jazz and world music (so old, should be dead in bandage) who absolutely lost their cool when they heard Radiohead was putting out a new record; a testament to the bandagelessness of Radiohead.

Ok Computer has, since it's inception, been a staple in the alternative music lover's diet, a well known fact. Radiohead's following efforts, I believe, have been skewed by the fact that Ok Computer was such a revolutionary record given not only the preceding Radiohead records, but the musical environment it was born into. Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief were judged as Radiohead's attempts at a respectable return from Ok Computer, negating the fact that all three were very respectable albums in their own right.

In Rainbows is an extremely important record, not only to fans, but also to the industry itself. 1) Yet another testament to Radiohead's bandagelessness is the fact that they had outlived their 20 year contract with Capitol Records, a feat that very few major label bands ever accomplish. In addition, while they are labelless and have no external funding, are still producing innovative, brilliant and relevant music.
2) In the age of iTunes and file sharing, Radiohead has chosen to be the first band to offer product not in stores, but exclusively on their website for whatever you think is right. A wave of the future if you ask me.

15 Step serves well as the opening track featuring the familiar beeps and boops associated with the more recent Radiohead records while incorporating very organic guitar and drum accompaniments, all the while jocking Tom York's melodic pop sensibility setting the mood for another exceptional Radiohead release.

The album then leads down a raw path of full band showcase displaying Radiohead's unique understanding of pop and beyond. Standing out in this journey down Intelligent Britpop lane is tracks such as Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, boasting a very precise, almost Dismemberment Plan esque pop gem, as well as Reckoner, a soulfully mournful track with a strong percussion section, as if telling the listener that you don't have to be happy to dance.

In Rainbows is not Radiohead's best record. It may not even be in Radiohead's top two, but anything that they have put out in the past has made my top 5 every time, and In Rainbows is definitely no exception.

Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

Brit Daniels and company have been making their unique brand of indy-pop for a while now. Their sugary melodies tempered by eclectic guitar and piano lines and analogue purity has earned them a spot at the very top the genre, while simultaneously holding them as it's best kept secret.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is finally changing all that. Finally getting a little commercial attention, Spoon has been seen on multiple night shows including SNL, a spot usually reserved for pop superstars and the underground's next big thing. And it's easy to hear why Ga has been such an attention grabber; the band really stepped up their game with this record. They've incorporated more electronics and horns than previous records, but they jump out at you, which is a sign that it was done well. But then again, doing music well is nothing new to Spoon.

Kanye West: Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)

Kanye West is an ass. He is a conceded media whore. He has an atrocious habit of exploding on national television in the form of an ill-informed conspiracy theorist, or a temper tantrum throwing child who doesn't feel appreciated enough. And he just happens to be my favorite rap producer. His third solo attempt is every bit as good as I was hoping. Stellar production, including a sample of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (as if you didn't know about that), and quick witted rhymes contribute to the cohesive core of what will no doubt become a staple in the genre. My one complaint is in the visual department. While the novelty of a hip-hop album cover this different is not lost on me, I think cartoon bears being shot out of cartoon cannons into a Disney esque cartoon outer space tends to be a little too childish for an album as good as this one.

Busdriver: RoadKillOvercoat (Anti/Epitaph)

I'd heard Busdriver a few times before RoadKillOvercoat was released, and I never thought too much of him. His earlier releases initially struck me as a bit pretentious and a little annoying but definitely impressive. His flow is extremely rapid and choppy lending itself to it own unlistenability, but boasting a vast vocabulary and some really interesting lyrical content. And that's where I left him. That is until my roommate got a copy of Busdriver's debute on Epitaph records RoadKillOvercoat. Put plainly, this record kills. It still features his hyper fast word-jumble rapping, but something is different. The production complements his stylings and the growth of melody suits him; altogether a valiant abstract rap effort. Stand out track "Sunshower"

Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum)

Andrew Bird has an interesting history. Hailing originally from the band Squirrel Nut Zippers (made famous during the late nineties pseudo-swing revival), he has since made an impressive foray into the indie-folk scene. His records are thickly laden with violin and whistles giving his records some of the most interesting and well orchestrated production values in a scene lousy with boring sounding records.

Armchair Apocrypha picks up where his previous record, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, left off. With choruses that unashamedly harness pop appeal without bumming you out with predictability. His lyrics are a mix of whimsical nonsense and very humorous satire, such as the song title "Sick of Elephants" (think about it, it'll come).

Although, not quite the quality of his past offerings, Armchair Apocrypha will still blow you away, especially if you've never rocked Mr. Bird before.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Dog?

Lauralee said...

Kayne West has only put out a few good songs. Those songs are the only ones I have of his.