2007, You Had A Lot To Live Up To...
Starting at 1967, rock music has had an amazing year when the year ends with ‘7.’
Look at the track record:
1967: The Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Velvet Underground’s Velvet Underground and Nico, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?, Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
1977: The year punk broke -- The Clash’s self-titled, Talking Heads’ Talking Heads: 77, Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True, Telveision’s Marquee Moon, The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.
1987: U2’s The Joshua Tree, Prince’s Sign ‘O’ The Times, Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, R.E.M.’s Document, The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me, The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction (even though that album didn’t break it big until 1988).
1997: Radiohead’s OK Computer, Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, The Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole, Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out, Bjork’s Homogenic, Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, The Verve’s Urban Hymns and Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly.
Sure, music critics may balk that these albums needed the element of time before we judged them as classics, but Dylan’s Time Out of Mind was instantly regarded as the artist’s best work since Blood on the Tracks, OK Computer was hailed as an instant masterpiece and when The Joshua Tree came out, well, it was treated as nothing less than THE album to restore the transcending power of rock music.
So, what about the class of 2007?
If critics say there’s no way we can ever get those types of uniform classic albums again because of the Internet and fractured music tastes, I merely point to 1997. The Internet was as significant part of people’s lives as it is today (minus the social networking sites). Despite both people’s fractured tastes in music and the Internet, that year produced a crop of music every bit as equal and significant as 1977 and 1987.
If critics say there’s nowhere else an artist can go musically that hasn’t been done before, I can only point to the releases of M.I.A.’s Kala, Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam and Of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? for fiercely original material. Hell, even Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black had to be given points for going back to the ‘20s instead of reverting back to ’60s and ‘70s nostalgia.
Still, at the end of 2007, I can’t help but feel like a too-spoiled kid at Christmas. I open at least 15 great gifts: “Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga!,” Kanye West’s Graduation!,” “Of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer!” But once all the gifts are opened and listened to, I can’t help but have a slight hollow feeling inside. Great albums, but not much when it comes to albums that knock you on your ass and make you a naïve believer in the power of rock music – with the possible exception of two albums (see my top two choices).
Even if you were disappointed about the absence of an industry-altering album a la The Joshua Tree or Never Mind The Bullocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, there were plenty of albums to grab your attention in 2007. With that, let’s get on with the honor roll for 2007:
Bruce Springsteen’s Magic, Modest Mouse’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Iron And Wine’s The Shepard’s Dog, Band Of Horses’ Cease To Exist (docked a notch because the lead singer really, really sounds like the lead singer for Supertramp) and Kanye West’s Graduation.
Songs of the Year
10. “1, 2, 3, 4” -- Feist: Thanks to a six-month blitz of iPod commercials, I doubt I will ever be able to finally get this song out of my head.
9. “North American Scum” -- LCD Soundsystem: As nihilistic as anything off of Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero, but a helluva lot more fun.
8. “Boyz” -- M.I.A.: The equivalent of a gender studies essay set to some of the sickest beats this side of the Bomb Squad.
7. “Stronger” -- Kanye West: The fact that Kanye West can still make songs about himself sound as fresh as “Stronger” speaks volumes for his talent. Bonus points for turning future generations onto Daft Punk.
6. “Keep The Car Running” -- The Arcade Fire: Bruce Springsteen joining the Arcade Fire on stage to perform the best Bruce Springsteen song of the year was a YouTube highlight this year. The song itself is destined to become the soundtrack to many-a-road trips, especially road trips taken for the sole purpose of getting the hell out of the place you currently are stuck in.
5. “Rehab” -- Amy Winehouse: Amy Winehouse may have lured in the Josh Groban crowd with the tasteful, soulful sounds of ‘20s-era jazz, but little did those fans know the freak show that to await them after the purchase of Back to Black.
4. “House Of Cards” -- Radiohead: Yorke’s most confessional song on an album full of them, “House Of Cards” is likely to become one of the most oft-quoted Radiohead songs in their catalog.
3. “Apartment Song” -- The National: “We’ll stay inside ‘til somebody finds us / do whatever the TV tells us” is either the most romantic line of the year, or the creepiest, depending on your interpretation. Even if it is a stalker’s tale, it’s probably the catchiest stalker song since The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”
2. “Paper Planes” -- M.I.A.: If critics say hip-hop is too obsessed with materialism, “Paper Planes” is the most logical extension of this mentality: a chorus made up of shotgun blasts and cash registers. The children’s chorus and the sample of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” are thrown in at no extra charge.
1. “All My Friends” -- LCD Soundsystem: You can add “That’s how it starts, we go back to your house” to such notable opening lines like “She came from
Hype of the Year: Feist
No doubt Leslie Feist has one of the greatest sets of vocal pipes in music today. Let it Die is one of the better bummer albums of this decade. And there have been other artists who have moved from their punk roots to the more comfortable territory of NPR-friendly alt-country or cabaret rock (see Ryan Adams, Neko Case). But there’s just something…overtly shallow about Feist’s The Reminder. True, when it started out, Feist’s ascendance on the charts was a great example of how word of mouth can still triumph in the age of hyper-marketing. But suddenly, Feist’s album was as common of a site in Starbucks as overpriced coffee cake. Then it was the iPod commercial. Now, whenever I see the precious album cover of that silhouette preening against that minimal backdrop of colors, my left eye can’t help but twitch in annoyance.
Shows of the Year
5. Wilco and Andrew Bird – The Orpheum Theatre – Omaha, NE – if only for making me fully appreciate Sky Blue Sky, once I heard the songs in a live setting.
2. TV On The Radio – VooDoo Lounge,
1. The Hold Steady and The Heartless Bastards – Sokol Underground