Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best of the Year Lists (Part One)

Seeing as the end of 2007 is fast approaching I had a crazy and utterly unique concept. Why not compile a series of "best of" lists regarding various stuff that was released and happened over the course of 2007? I know, it's a radical idea but I think it might just catch on!

Over the course of the next few days I'll put together a number of lists and then compile them (along with any changes that have to do with things I forgot) on Jan 1 or 2 depending on how tired I am after the 108 sun salutations I'm doing on the 1st.

First up I thought I'd unveil my top 10 albums of 2007. I'm not going to include re-issues as that's a cheat in my mind. This is a bit harder than it used to be as I tend not to buy albums anymore opting for single and piecemeal tracks (yep, say hello to the iTunes age). Also there's a few albums I suspect I'll like but haven't listened to yet (new Radiohead, new Underworld, etc.) Well, without further ado, here goes.

10. Download "FiXer"
9. Britney Spears "Blackout"
8. Saul Williams "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust"
7. Nine Inch Nails "Year Zero"
6. LCD Soundsystem "Sound of Silver"
5. Sa Dingding "Alive"
4. Mala Rodriguez "Malamarismo"
3. Burial "Mix Up"
2. South Rakkas Crew "Mix Up"
1. M.I.A. "Kala"

And here's the commentary:

Download "FiXer" Good post ambient techno grooves by cEvin (Skinny Puppy) Key and Phil Western. Don't like it quite as well as their last album 2000's "Effector" as the tracks jump around a little too much for my taste.

Britney Spears "Blackout" Great production by Danja (Timbaland lite) makes the album sound like a mutant R&B Faint fronted by a 2020 female robot. People complain that Britney doesn't sound human on this album but that's what makes it so good. A complete analysis of the sexual gender bending politics of the pitch shifted voice in "Freakshow" could fill a small book.

Saul Williams "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust" Produced by Trent "Nine Inch Nails" Reznor this album is a great hip hop/industrial crossover album that is available free on Williams' site. Sometimes sounds a little too NINny for its own good but there are amazing moments including the cover of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and the creep out zone of "Ritual"

Nine Inch Nails "Year Zero" A real return to form. Tracks like "Capital G" are great pop cuts with others like "Vessel" being as interestingly strange as anything TrentMan has done in ages. It got a lot of play around my place right when it came out though I'll confess it gets put in more sparingly as the year goes on. Pretty sure it'll warrent plenty of future re-visits though.

LCD Soundsystem "Sound of Silver" Like "Year Zero" this got more listens early in the year than late but the humanized electronics are great though sometimes the vocals are a little too post-ironic for their own good. Would probably be lower on the list if it weren't for the amazing and heartfelt track "Someone Great" which genuinely spoke to me after Matt Zaun passed away. One of the most honest songs about the death of a friend that I've heard.

Sa Dingding "Alive" Roger from Magus turned me onto this one. Imperial Chinese vocals with a world techno beat. Lyrics in Chinese, Hindi, Tibetan and self-created languages. The first four cuts are perfection, the rest of the album varies a bit but the first four more than make up for any of the weaker cuts. I'm excited to hear more crossover Chinese music as there's a certain sound in Chinese vocal music that I don't hear anywhere else.

Mala Rodriguez "Malamarismo" Hispanic female hip hop artist. "Por La Noche" got constant play and the album has been revisited numerous times. Mala's voice has a forceful sexy desperation that drives me fucking crazy and the beats are solid and sticky. Probably the sexiest album of the year for me. "Volvere" just came on shuffle play as I write this and it sums up well what makes me love this album so much. Mala's voice layered multiple times (the way she plays off different vocal tracks is great stuff) , mid-tempo stoned groove, lazy horns and an amazing overall vibe.

Burial "Untrue" I'd never heard of dubstep before I heard about this album on Pitchfork and I haven't tracked anything else down in the genre yet, I'm taking my time drinking the album in. It sounds like Rapoon remixing Massive Attack. Great dubby pop voices over the top of spacious beats and melting electronic music and drones. Yummy. Sounds really good listened to all the way through and is great music for night driving, reading and staring out bus windows. "In McDonalds" has been making regular appearances in my yoga mixes these days. Great vibe for savasana.

South Rakkas Crew "Mix Up" This is a blast of pure joy thrown in a blender with a banana. Squelchy, gameboy rocking, maximalistic dancehall reggae freakout music that makes me smile even when I'm in a bad mood. A short album but every track is a keeper. "Test Me Nuh" is so goddamn good that there ought to be a law. Superfast vocals with a heavy beat that sounds like it came out of "Beers Steers Queers" era Revolting Cocks and then a saxaphone riff that is a revelation to me. Not a lot of press on this one but after enjoying the Crew's remixes of Beck and MIA I bought it on a whim and was floored.

MIA "Kala" OK, so the album is as consistant as "Arular" but damn, when it's good it is so fucking good that I want to scream out. "Paper Planes" is my song of the year (that list to come), the very african approach taken towards drums in tracks like "Hussel" "Birdflu" and "Boys" is unlike anything I've heard before, Maya's vocals are excellent fun and MIA continues to have a lot of fun playing with outside perception towards her both in the album and in the press. Afrikan Boy's rap in "Hussel" is fantastic and the remix of "Paper Planes" with him and Rye Rye kicks ass too. Oh yeah "The Turn" featuring production by DJ Blaqstarr is a stoned out of its gouard masterpiece (though "World Town" which samples Blaqstarr doesn't fare so well and is a constant skipper in my book). I realize this review is pure fanboy gushing but the album deserves it.

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