Ears We Trust: The Best of 2007
Every year I give my top albums of the year. This time I wanted to change it up a bit. Along with my top picks, I’ll be giving you some of my friends top picks as well. 4 music guru’s whose taste and standards in music are as far fetched as mine.
Our first guest is a 23 year old college grad student who goes by the name Jesse Jeffers. He has written guest spots on ALFDTR before. Being the busy grad student he is, he couldn’t find the time to do a write up, so he just sent us his list this time.
Jesse Jeffers Top 10 of 2007
10. White Stripes – Icky Thump
9. Elliott Smith – New Moon
8. Modest Mouse – We were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
7. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
6. Peter Bjorn and John – Writers Block
5. Apples in Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder
4. Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
3. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
2. The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour
1. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
5) Blonde Redhead – 23
This album was my first introduction to the band and I really like the sound. A really beautiful record that’s artful and intelligent. Gorgeous chords and melodies on a consistent album. Simply incredible ‘dream pop’ that will never hit the mainstream.
Favorite Track: Spring and by Summer Fall
4) Radiohead – In Rainbows
What’s better than free Radiohead?! I jizzed my pants as I read the news that Radioheads new album would be out in less than a week, and for a price you can decide. As a broke college student I paid something like 36 cents. I think Thom and the crew will get by without my charity. But although the music can be free, it does not lack in any way. The music is enjoyable, original and proficient. The album is more pop than anything they have recorded and almost seems optimistic, a word rarely associated with Radiohead.
Favorite Track: Bodysnatchers
3) Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
Their most accessible album for sure and damn catchy. They invited James Mercer (The Shins) to balance lead Isaac Brocks tempestuous vocals and it worked great. Of course making Johnny Marr (The Smiths) an official member didn’t hurt. This is a great album and proves MM is one of the most innovative and unique bands around.
Favorite Track: Parting of the Sensory
2) LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Holy shit! Are you ready to dance? Good tight beats and oh so catchy. A dance rock masterpiece. My only criticism: why Mr. Murphy, would you end such an up beat album on “New York I Love You, But Your Bringing Me Down”? It’s a good song but by far the slowest on the album and SoS should go out with a bang!
Favorite Track: All My Friends
1) Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
This sophomore effort had lots of expectations after the masterpiece Funerals, but fell far from short. The biggest name in indie has got the recognition it deserves. Lead Win Butler even scored a Spin cover with The Boss himself.
Peffers Top 10 of 2007
10. Maximo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures
9. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals (side note: Peffer never sent me this album even though he knew I was dying to hear it. So it didn’t make my list)
8. Ha Ha Tonka – Buckle in the Bible Belt
7. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
6. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
5. Cloud Cult – The Meaning of 8
4. The National – Boxer
3. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
2. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
The answer would be yes, I did. The Seattle based 5 some really do rock it in their debut LP. Lastly, we have a 17 year old high school kid living the dream. Sick of the world, this kid finds every little band worth a listen thats under the radar.
Dylan’s Top 3 of 2007
3. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Arcade Fire’s second album is markedly different from its more secluded predecessor: On Neon Bible, the band looks within their concerns more worldly than familial, and their sound more malevolent than pure. Angry, embittered, and paranoid, but often generously empathetic in their points of view, with multiple targets of cry-out such as the government, the church, the military, the entertainment industry, and even the basest instincts of the common man.
While the group’s us-against-the-world stance occasionally comes off as slightly self-righteous or reactionary, their critical perspective gives weight and direction to their nervy earnestness: If Funeral captured the evils of personal pain, Neon Bible sounds large enough to take on the whole world.
2. Ours to Alibi – Beacons
They’re a five-man mostly-instrumental indie rock group from Atlanta. Their atmospheric sounds and tri-force of guitar experimentalism is at times reminiscent to Texas favorite Explosions in the Sky, only with a little Sigur Rós-style guitar bowing. With no label support yet, they just released their second full-length, Beacons. Sometimes on the record, the group needs more than a few minutes to get across what they’re trying to say, or play. Occasionally, they need 15 minutes or more. Guitars layer and intertwine like a thick rope made of smaller cords wrapping around each other and extending up, straight up.
“These Roots are Anchors” off the latest recording is one of those rare tracks on the record that features vocals. The words are wispy and smoky and are completely overshadowed by the rising wail of guitar bowing and picks. The somber sound turns triumphant, and at this point the distant yells are barely audible over the resonating guitars. “The Dirt is a Womb” brings an ethereal feeling via guitar hums and twinkles, drum taps, and xylophone. Ours to Alibi’s skillful sculpting of layered instrumental ambience is perfect for daily life soundtracks or losing yourself in the absence of syntax.
Little known fact, my friend Travis Shockely designed the album cover.
1. Circa Survive – On Letting Go
Not an entirely new sound for veteran musicians Circa survive, but definitely another great release. Still writing tracks that sound like they could well be Juturna b-sides. Cuts like “Living Together,” “On Letting Go,” “Close Your Eyes to See,” and “Your Friends Are Gone” all center around the blaring siren-like guitar wails, crackling percussion, and hypnotic vocals we have been exposed to thus far. Which any fan of the band would say to be amazing and is indeed no shame at all but nevertheless, a trait that will frustrate casual listeners looking for further experimentations into their sound rather than following previously blazed trails.
While similarity is indeed present, it does not overwhelm On Letting Go, as Circa still manages to break out of the mold they otherwise cast for themselves. This is most notable on tracks like “In the Morning and Amazing,” a prog-anthem that rockets out of the gate on a furious riff and pulsing drum lines, or the shimmering “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is in the Dose” – the closest thing to a pop song the band has written, which still manages to juggle random, irreverent lyrics, thoughtful instrumentation, and believe it or not, the type of massive hook notably absent from Juturna. The same type of pop-flirtation peeks out on “Travel Hymn” – a bouncy, mid-tempo song and “Carry Us Away” – a more spacey tune whose lonely verses converge and swell into epic chorus arrangements. These tracks do not, however, signify the band pandering to the mainstream throughout, as they test even their own boundaries on other tracks yet. From the funky verse breakdowns of “Mandala” to the concussive guitar blitz of “Semi-Constructive Criticism,” new territory is explored, and opens the door for the magnificent “Kicking Your Crosses Down.” Arguably the most ambitious track the band has penned to date, the song combines lonely, melodic guitar notes over a pressing drum pulse to underscore Green’s otherworldly, sensual delivery – ingredients which are all shaken and stirred into an urgent, theatrical, and almost sunny chorus.
While we (society) become more and more like a child afflicted with ADD, it is refreshing to see bands like Circa Survive return to give us music that hooks us early, but still rewards us each time we come back. On Letting Go might not be the game-changer that Juturna was, but it is still an inviting exhibition by one of the scene’s most talented bands honing its skill sets. Pick this album up, and listen to it ten times before you make your judgment on it – if you do not find something new to love on each spin, you are not listening hard enough. All in all, when the record is finished, it sounds like Circa Survive picked just the right time to let go.
That sums up the Ears We Trust segment. I think this was a great way to get some diversity on the site. Thanks to everyone for getting your picks in and writing a little. In a few hours I’ll be posting my top 25 of 2007…so stay tuned.