Friday, 21 December 2007

The End of Year Awards!

Ok, so it’s been another barren month in terms of blogging. Sorry! But it’s not like I’ve not been super busy preparing my end of year charts of your consideration.

2007 hasn’t been a particularly vintage year for releases, in fact, it’s been rather tiresome at points. However, in spite of this, it’s still been a right old challenge settling on a top 10 albums for the year. You man disagree, you may fist-pump the air in total joy at the inclusion of a personal favourite or you might just be swelling in apathy towards the tedium of another lazy list. If you’re the latter, please look away now:

Albums of the Year

10. Yeasayer – “All Our Cymbals”

Not so much a concept record as a concept band, Brooklyn’s Yeasayer have produced a delicate record labeled in the “Middle Eastern-psych-pop-snap-gospel" genre (popular one, that) that throbs with a gentle passion, a intriguing instrumentation. However, it’s the glossed lo-fi production of the record that makes it so alluring, giving it a charm not dissimilar to a latter David Gedge experiment.

9. Patrick Wolf – “The Magic Position”

The 3rd effort from the flame-haired troubadour is by far and away his best effort. The follow up the not entirely convincing “Wind in the Wires” sees Patrick experiment further than before with his amazing vocal range and manipulates all the key check-points for a good song. “Bluebells” is a perfect slight of melancholic pop whilst “Accident and Emergency” sees a darker, yet more playful side of Wolf. With contributions from as far a field as Marianne Faithful and Larrikin Love, it was always going to be an eclectic aural journey and Wolf acts as a most capable Sherpa.

8. Low – “Drums and Guns”

If you’d have come to me and said “What’s your take on Low?” I’d have said that they’re pretty damn perfect, they just lack that immediate tug of accessibility. Then along comes “Drums and Guns” and there it was. Without a doubt, this is the easiest body Low’s work to just pick up and play. Whilst always maintaining a somber grace, “Drums and Guns” finds an almost child-like quality, best illustrated by “Hatchet”. A fine record.

7. Stars of the Lid – “Stars of the Lid and their Refinement of the Decline”

Multifaceted space rock from the most talented duo on the Kranky label’s roster, “…Decline” is a more focused driven affair when compared to 2001 “Tired Sounds”. Well worked tracks, with a detailed structure using a complex array for strings, synths and guitars to produce an undeniably unique sound. Six years in the making, “…Decline” is the mass total of great understanding of ambient music, which overwhelms the senses and numbs both space and time, it is in my opinion their most consistent and accomplished record since 1999’s “Avec Laudenum”, possibly even more so.

6. Iron and Wine – “The Shepherd’s Dog”

Sam Beam’s third album under the Iron and Wine moniker is much like the first, very very good. Whilst lacking the catchiness of “Our Endless Numbered Days”, this record still pounds the old route using a plethora of folk-wrangled melodies and powerful lyrics. Beam’s imagery is flawless as he paints scenic vistas with his gentle, yet determined voice. It’s only downfall which is all that costs him a spot in the top-5 is a missing big track like a “Radio War” or a “Sodom, South Georgia”.

5. Arcade Fire – “Neon Bible”

A semi-concept album with a focus on the injustice of war and use of religion as a weapon to be wielded against our enemies, Neon Bible might lack the instant grab of “Funeral” but is no less poetic, in many ways it shows a great lyrical growth. “Antichrist Television Blues” is a breathless monologue about desperate parental expectation whilst “Windowsill” acts as the obvious protest song. The heavy instrumentation takes a bit of a listen but remains short of overwhelming and “No Cars Go” sees this demonstrated perfectly together with a rousing chorus of voices. It’s a top record and whilst I’m attempting to treat all albums on their individual merits, I can’t help but think that should “Neon Bible not have been the follow-up to what I truly consider to be the finest record of the Millennium to date, it would probably have been higher up the list.

4. Battles – “Mirrored”

“People won’t be people when they hear this sound” wails the effects-ridden voice of Tyondai Braxton on the album’s standout track “Atlas”. Too fucking right! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone’s got an opinion. I took my time making my mind up and have finally joined those in favour of the New York outfit.

The record is a highly accomplished series of dots and loops mixed with mighty fine production. As individual track, the albums loses coherency (apart, of course, for “Atlas”) but as a single body of work, it’s a truly outstanding, a massive headfuck of a record.

3. Radiohead – “In Rainbows”

A fine, fine record. Number 7 from a band who have failed to deliver a decent album since 2000’s “Kid A”. Many felt their day was over, but “In Rainbows” show a definite growth and real innovation but there is also a ream of good, old fashioned tunes. Lyrically, Yorke’s normally dark style has embarked on a much more open less metaphoric journey which makes for a refreshing change. The album shows a touch of class missing from a number of 2007’s releases and seems almost effortlessly eclectic: the hauntingly beautiful and deeply soulful “All I Need” and “Videotape” counterbalances an almost adolescent “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and “Bodysnatchers” and it is this almost irreverent manner of writing, recording and performing an album which gives Radiohead this freshness and a Top 3 Album in the EGNTS countdown.

2. The Maccabees – “Colour It In”

Arguably the finest of the new scenesters, The Maccabees arrived with a debut record which, whilst being hotly anticipated wasn’t massively hyped. Every thought to yourself “I wonder what the Futureheads would sound like if they ever wrote a song as significant as “The Hounds of Love” themselves”? Well, this is that record. Early critical doubts soon wavered as 12 delightfully pop songs hit ears with gushing force. The slow start to the record in the form of the opening verses of “X-Ray” sharpen one’s senses and when the killer cord structure kicks in, your hooked! The singles jump off this record like a thousand fleas, of which “Latchmere” is still a personal favorite. Futureheads comparisons are lazy, if not a tad obvious, this record is so much more; a self-proclaimed love of the Libertines shines throughout the record, however, “Colour it in” dominates anything Barat et al have ever committed to record. This album is great fun, but the sharpness of the lyrics is clear for all to see. It’s a playful record but there’s a somber, professional clarity to it, this album hasn’t been thrown together at the drop of a hat and it is this which makes it likely to be one of the few records out of this scene which might have the most unusual (and unfashionable!) of qualities: longevity.

1. The Twilight Sad – “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters”

Being Scottish, The use of broad regional accents is highly encouraged providing it’s not put on and exaggerated in an Arctic Monkeys style. Glasgow’s Twilight Sad use vocals as an extra instrument more so than anything I’ve heard in a long time. This Hotly angst ridden, emotive deftly skilled music enflames the sense and produces a harmonic, yet distorted slice of Scotland. From the opening bars of “Cold Days in the Birdhouse”, the record’s majestic ephemeral nature fleets throughout the prolonged reverberating guitars and hard hitting drums resonate for the best part of 45 minutes. Whilst many tracks shimmer with discontent over extended periods, it is the albums shortest track which steals the show and is a perfect example of why this is the 2007 EGNTS album of the year.

Well, congrats if you’ve lasted through all that. I feel a special mention has to go to those who were ruthlessly denied a berth in the top ten. They include: Frightened Rabbit, Bloc Party, Maps, Jens Lekman and Stars.

The speedy part of the awards are next…

Track of the year:

1. Cold War Kids – “Hang Me Up to Dry”
2. Battles – “Atlas”
3. Lonely, Dear – “I am John”
4. Bloc Party – “Hunting for Witches”
5. The Whitest Boy Alive – “Burning”

EGNTS Gigs of the Year:

1. Arcade Fire (Brixton Academy)
2. Joanna Newsom (Royal Albert Hall)
3. White Stripes (Rivoli Ballroom)
4. Idlewild (Dundee Fat Sam’s)
5. Bruce Springsteen (The o2)

Well, that’s your lot! Hope you all have an amazing Christmas and I’ll be on here soon with some hot tips for 2008…almost certainly the kiss of death!


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Michael said...


Michael said...

James, you better at least be coming out of retirement for a year-end review.

Iam said...

Great blog! Keep it up!!

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