Brief Reviews: Some Top Albums of the Year So Far

July 2, 2007

So, it works like this: We’re starting a blog in July of 2007. Given that we’re going to probably make comments like ‘ooooh, this is the best thing I’ve heard all year’, it makes sense to start by reviewing some of the things we’ve already heard this year. However, I’m not sure if I’m going to have the time to go back and review everything I’ve already heard. Thus, I’m going to put in some brief reviews for some albums I think are absolutely top-notch. If I do have time, I’ll make more beautiful and detailed reviews later.

Blonde Redhead - 23

Blonde Redhead — 23

This is my favorite album of the year so far. One of those really rare albums that works on two levels: You can enjoy it by letting all the beautiful textures wash over you, as the album creates its own ambient mood. Or, you can enjoy it by listening to it attentively. The songs work in this way too, and are filled with an enormous attention to detail. “23” is the standout track, with its strangely unpredictable melody and intense forward motion. “The Dress”, and “SW” are also excellent because of their beautifully dark moodiness. “The Dress” also is the home of one of my favorite downbeat lyrics of the year: “I love you less/ Now that I know you”: Wait, you mean no one has used that lyric before? Brilliant! “Publisher” is a fantastic piece as well, one that doesn’t sound that impressive on a first listen, but which gets under your skin. Frankly, the first 7 tracks of the album are just about perfect: the four above are the darker tracks, but “Dr. Strangeluv” and “Silently” are beautiful pieces of almost-happy pop, and “Spring and by Summer Fall” is huge, dramatic and moving. The album borrows from My Bloody Valentine and the shoegaze movement generally, both the use of vocals as a texture, rather than to communicate meaning, and the enormous swirling guitars. Yet it hardly feels like an homage to shoegaze: Instead, the methods of shoegaze are used to do something different. Despite the wall of sound, the songs have an astonishing clarity, used to create a sense of space and emphasize the freely meandering melodies. Gorgeous. 9.5/10

MP3: Blonde Redhead – 23

!!! -- Myth Takes

!!! — Myth Takes

This was my favorite release of 2007 before I heard Blonde Redhead, although it’s completly different. It’s an irrepressibly loud and happy album that longs to make you move — and to make you put it on repeat. “Heart of Hearts” is completely brilliant: I’ve listened to it over and over, much as I listened to “Pardon My Freedom” and “Guiliani” on previous !!! releases. The bass line fucking moves, and there’s this one bit at the end where ‘heart of/heart of’ is repeated until it sounds like ‘harder/harder’. That still cracks me up. Yeah, tracks 1 and 9 are just short transition pieces. But every other track is shockingly good. “Must Be the Moon” and “Bend Over Beethoven” also need to be individually mentioned as being totally addictive, the former because it’s the happiest, poppiest thing here, the latter because it’s the funkiest: eight minutes of pure dance-able gold. Basically, every track is fascinating, unlike previous releases, and a few are completely perfect in a way that !!! has rarely if ever achieved before. 9.3/10

MP3: !!! – Heart of Hearts

El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead
El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

What an amazing album: The first 8 tracks are all excellent, as is the last one. And several in between. Albums with a mood of political anxiety and bad-assitude do appeal to me much more than to some. I’m that kind of guy: I worry about politics and poor people and think it’s great when musicians actually get it right. And the overly masculine nature of the modern music industry, while not necessarily a good thing, often appeals to me more than it should: Fuck yeah, I wanna rip the fuckin’ system to bits, because violence is cool, y’know? So for me, anyway, this is one of the most interesting albums of the year because it so perfectly sums up that sense of dystopia that makes ‘1984’ and other political works so fascinating, and sounds so MAD about it. I put on the album, heard the beginning of “Tasmanian Pain Coaster”, and I was sold on the album: “This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you/This is the sound of what you don’t believe, still true”. It’s more pop than El-P’s other stuff in the underground hip-hop world, but that’s not a bad thing, and the production is too edgy for it to be completely accessible. This is both innovative music and a call to action, which is damn cool. 9.2/10

MP3: El-P – Tasmanian Pain Coaster

posted by nerdbound


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