Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Merry Christmas everyone, if indeed that's what you celebrate. I'm happy to report that Rich's house is in full-on X-mas mode, but before 2007 finishes circling the bowl, there's still time for a post or two from me. I had originally intended to develop some sort of a response to Frank's predictably stellar year-end list. We typically have only about 50% overlap, which I thought would give me entry to discuss those records that, in my opinion, he'd inexplicably left off. But I have to say that he pretty much nailed the three-point landing this year, so rather than simply stand by nodding, I thought I'd pull together a list of my favorite "under the radar" records of the year. So, without further adieu, here's Rich's Top Ten Favorite Off-The-Beaten-Track Records of 2007 (in no particular order):

Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten
Sadly, 2007 was yet another year that Britney Spears was allowed to walk the earth, while Joe Strummer continues not to. One small consolation against that unexplainable set of circumstances was the release of Julian Temple's brilliant documentary Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten (the trailer of which is here). Even if you already own everything Joe and The Clash ever released, this soundtrack is still a must-have. It's filled not only with Clash and Mescolaros music, but with music that influenced Joe, like Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Bob Dylan, MC5, and Nina Simone. As a bonus, many of the songs are introduced and described by Strummer himself. MP3: The Clash - "White Riot" (Alternate Demo Mix)

M.I.A. - Kala
I wrote about M.I.A.'s 2007 release Kala here. This is a record with worldly beats, political aspirations, feminine power, and punk rock attitude. M.I.A. is a reporter from a Third World CNN street beat bringing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes from the world over right into your living room. You hear it straight from the people; from the aboriginie kids in "Mango Pickle Down River" to the Indian villagers in "Bird Flu." M.I.A. is the real deal. MP3: M.I.A. - "Bamboo Banger" from Kala

Burial - Untrue
My initial take on this record is here, which has held up: "With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting." MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from Untrue

Blonde Redhead - 23
My earlier post on this record was entitled "The Sound of Dreaming," I think because the sound of this record feels like racing through some fever dream landscape where everything is familiar yet somehow disorienting. I can never quite grasp exactly what the lyrics are about, but that hardly seems to be the point. This is impressionistic territory, and it is a beautifully curious amalgam of guitars and whispered vocals. MP3: Blonde Redhead - "23" from 23

Mark Olson - The Salvation Blues
As described here, The Salvation Blues represented something of a return to form for former Jayhawk Mark Olson. Divorced from Victoria Williams and returned from the ensuing wilderness, Olson rediscovered his muse, and his old friend Gary Louris. The music on this record is both sad and hopeful Americana, hearkening to Hollywood Town Hall-era Jayhawks. And with Louris' contributions, these songs are more than enough to whet the appetite for the promised Olson and Louris collaboration scheduled for 2008. Hopefully, TTT will be around to blog about it when it comes out. MP3: Mark Olson - "Clifton Bridge" - from The Salvation Blues

Daft Punk - Alive 2007
One of my favorite records of 2005 was Kraftwerk's live album, Minimum-Maximum. One would not think that something as robotic and sterile as Kraftwerk would translate so well to a live recording. Daft Punk is also robot music, albeit music by robots apparently programmed for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Daft Punk's live shows ain't nothin' but a party y'all, and this record is instant party, just add alcohol. Daft Punk is playing at my house. MP3: Daft Punk - "Around The World/Harder Better Faster Stronger" from Alive 2007.

Beirut - The Flying Cup Club
Surprisingly young Santa Fe native Zach Condon's band, Beirut, sound nothing like its name. Beirut's music has nothing to do with Lebanon. Rather, it evokes the Balkans and Gypsy troubadours, Eastern European folk music, and Old World themes. Think ukuleles, accordions, trumpets, and melodies from another century. The prolific band's high point so far may just be this crisp release, which plays like a soundtrack from an old foreign film. Gorgeous. MP3: Beirut - "Nantes" from The Flying Cup Club

The Perishers - Victorious

Earlier, I called this "a lush pop record that is a little reminiscent of Dire Straits to my ear, with a fair amount of Blue Nile mixed in (which is always a good thing). It's a fairly romantic mainstream sound that would appeal to fans of Coldplay and Travis; a sound you might not be surprised to hear in the soundtrack of some teenage television drama, which I understand has occurred. Don't let that turn you off. It's still a mature sounding record that deserves a broad audience. Very good stuff." MP3: The Perishers - "Midnight Skies" from Victorious

The Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil
I have to give to some love to my Dunwoody homeboys The Black Lips. They have shocked New York and rocked everywhere else, and, in 2007, released the great psycho-psychedelic garage rock of Good Bad Not Evil and earned the title "Hardest Working Band at SWSX." With a live show heavy on such audience participation staples as urine, vomitus, and the odd flung beer bottle, this loud and rowdy band of brothers remind us what the spirit of rock and roll is supposed to be. Pure chaos. And since I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I love that they ask the question, "Oh Katrina, why you gotta be mean?" MP3: The Black Lips - "O Katrina!" from Good Bad Not Evil

Lloyd Cole - Antidepressant
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to end this post with a reference to what was the subject of not only my first post this year, but my first blog post ever, Lloyd Cole's beautiful middle-aged manifesto, Antidepressant. This is unquestionably the perfect record for those of us rockers who came of age in the '80s and refuse to admit that we're middle aged, in spite of the fact that our years, when doubled, stretch beyond the average human life span. At this point, to paraphrase Lloyd's apt lyrics, "Declining issues lead advances two to one, in slow trading." Nevertheless, we can take comfort in the perfect folk-pop of Antidepressant. "With my medication, I will be fine." MP3: Lloyd Cole - "Woman In A Bar" from Antidepressant.

So that does it, I suppose. I certainly could go on, but that's what we've been doing all year. For now, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and healthy and prosperous New Year. And thanks for stopping by TTT in 2007. I hope that it was worth your while. Thanks -- Rich