Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Know It's Not Friday, But...

...Stavesacre is playing in the room next to me, and it made me want to write. When I say "Stavesacre," I don't mean a CD... I mean the actual band. It's a long story, but there they are. They just jumped into "Sundown Motel" (for the second time).

I love music. I love hearing it, I love playing it, I love thinking about it. I love it more than I love practically anything else. I love driving with the windows down and blasting it (but I don't like doing this on the highway because (a) then I can't hear the music as well, and (b) I actually performed a rather detailed study and series of experiments in an Environmental Science class about the potential hearing loss that can occur when driving with the windows down).

I love writing about music, too, and arguing about it as well. Which is how this whole blog started. I hate the discussion threads on sites like absolutepunk.net where it's just talk about anything EXCEPT the actual music. Whatever.

That being said, what I say here is rarely a complete opinion. So yes, though I think "pizza of my eye" is one of the dumpest lyrics ever written, - ever - I still like Motion City Soundtrack and listen to that CD rather frequently. And while I diss DLD a disproportionate amount, I still have 3 or 4 of their songs in my iTunes. And while I LOVE the Foo Fighters, anyone that knows me knows I can discuss my likes and dislikes with equal veracity. I love music, but I have a hard time loving it subjectively. So the hunt for the objective truth continues, if not about what is really "good" or "best," than at least about what I personally like most. So while I disagree with Noah's opinion about Coheed & Cambria, I'm glad he said it, because I didn't know he listened to ANY Coheed. Next time I see him we can argue - I mean, discuss - our different opinions. Or maybe we'll just skip it. That's beside the point. The point is that I love music and I love how it has bonded me to people in my life in so many different ways. Even if Luke is a bastard and doesn't allow comments on his blog.

Monday, January 7, 2008

2007 Top Ten (and then some)

Top 10 Albums of 2007, in reverse order:

10. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
I’ve listened to Wilco often enough in the past, but none of their albums ever struck me like this one. From the subdued opener which leads into the stuttered strut of “You Are My Face” and the Allman Brothers-flavored “Impossible Germany,” Wilco sound like a band from another era, but still fresh and lively. The perfect road trip album, whether driving across the country or just hopping over to Vegas (both of which I did this year, and listened to SBS while doing so).
9. Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
Plenty of bands last year tried “becoming punk” with little or no success. Arctic Monkeys accomplished this easily by sticking to the basics: write short, fast songs, release so many EPs and singles that everyone loses count, and don’t be afraid to employ every cliché and stereotype available. From false endings to questionable puns to nonsensical rhymes, all wrapped up in swagger and spit, Favourite Worst Nightmare has enough bombast for three albums, but not in the American style of “blinger is better” – Arctic Monkeys are from the anti-Fall Out Boy/Panic! at the Disco camp, and joyfully so.
8. Yellowcard, Paper Walls
This album reminds me of high school, in all the best ways. It contains all the major-key bite of classics like Slick Shoes’ Rusty and MxPx’s Life in General, but with the more advanced sense of melody and harmony that Yellowcard has always maintained.
7. Saves the Day, Under the Boards
This album would probably score much higher if it weren’t following up the excellent Sound the Alarm. As a stand-alone album it is head and shoulders above the competition, but it can’t compete against its predecessor. The title track opener is eerie until the whole band kicks in, and then it sounds so much like BOC’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” that it’s distracting. “Woe” and “Because You Are No Other” sound like unfinished pieces of potentially good songs, while “Stay” is the least memorable ballad StD has recorded and “Getaway” is ferocious until the laughable chanting over the bridge. That’s not to say there are no bright spots on the album: “Radio,” “Can’t Stay the Same,” and “Get Fucked Up” comprise one of the best trilogies of songs Chris Conley has ever written, and “Bye Bye Baby” is among their best singles. Closer “Turning Over In My Tomb” turns in a strong finish, as well, leaving me excited for the closing chapter in this audio trilogy. Sadly, Under the Boards is this band’s Temple of Doom.
6. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
I didn’t even realize this album would make it into my top ten until well into December, when I kept thinking about “that album that is always playing on my work computer.” Lo and behold, it’s Cease to Begin, a combination of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Explosions in the Sky. The perfect album for staying in all weekend. Put it on repeat.
5. Tegan and Sara, The Con
Tegan and Sara are identical twins and lesbians, which totally killed my celebrity crush on Tegan (the cute one). Not that crushing on a lesbian is wrong, per se, but I felt like it was just completely futile and unfair (not that any celebrity crushes aren’t futile, but…) This is all beside the point, though, which is that The Con is the best female-fronted rock album in my lifetime. (Anyone caught mentioning Exile in Guyville will be ignored.) Not only are the songs catchy and the lyrics witty and memorable, they’re also sonically rich and often transcend the traditional verse-chorus-verse formula with ease. Lines like “I was nineteen” seem simple enough on paper, but when infused with T&S’s passion and melody, they come to life and hit you as if you wrote them yourself.
4. Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light
For a few days after I got this album, I decided that it was at best a distant third in the JEW oeuvre, behind Clarity (duh) and Futures (an increasingly underrated album). However, the more I listened to Chase This Light, the more it sucked me in with its subtle genius. Jim Adkins’ lyrics don’t appear any different, yet I find myself relating to them more closely than ever before. Lines like “Could going through the motions lead to real emotion?” and “Slap my face just to feel you somehow again” jump out at me. The album is not perfect, however; “Feelin’ Lucky” is this album’s “The Middle” (or “Jen,” from the Futures b-sides), and “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” while not a bad track, oddly sounds much more like earlier Stavesacre (“Wither” from Absolutes) than Jimmy Eat World. Those are the only two songs that I routinely skip, though; the rest of the album is exceptional, and “Here It Goes” may be the single most catchy song JEW has ever recorded, which is a bold claim. But it can at least contend for that title.
3. The Most Serene Republic, Population
As this band doesn’t write songs so much as “soundscapes,” an accurate description is difficult. Imagine Anathallo with more rock, The Arcade Fire with more punk and less Canadianism (though TMSR are fellow Canucks), Sigur Ros on speed, or even Sufjan with less eccentricity, and you’re getting warm. Just check it out already.
2. Lovedrug, Everything Starts Where It Ends
This is a bit of a surprise to me, as I’ve been ambivalent about Lovedrug since I first heard them (opening for 238 on their farewell tour). But this album makes all the right moves, and I’ve been listening to it consistently since I first picked it up. More focused than earlier releases, ESWIE rocks and rolls its way through 11 tracks of post-grunge indie perfection before the beautiful closing track, foregoing pessimism for the uplifting “Wake up, you’re alive. We’re on your side.” Worth hearing repeatedly, every year.
1. Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
Is this a surprise to anyone? The Foo have released a number of disappointments recently (worst offender: In Your Honor, which was, mathematically, not even half good), but make up for all of them in one fell swoop. ESPG saw the band returning to producer Gil Norton (responsible for Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape and Dashboard Confessional’s A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, among others) and dropping contrived rock ‘n roll, instead favoring inspired songwriting. The result is the band’s best album, on all fronts, since TCATS. Opening track “The Pretender,” while the band’s best balls-to-the-wall track since “All My Life,” is only the gateway to an album as rich with barnburners (“Let It Die,” “Erase/Replace,” “Come Alive”) as it is with ballads (“Stranger Things Have Happened,” “Statues,” “Home”). An impressive performance from a band many were beginning to suspect had long passed its prime.

Top 7 EPs:
7. The Rocket Summer, The Rocket Summer EP
6. The Spill Canvas, Denial Feels So Good
5. Flight of the Conchords, The Distant Future
4. Arctic Monkeys, Brianstorm
3. Bright Eyes, Four Winds
2. This Town Needs Guns, Cats and Cats and Cats Split EP
1. Days Away, Ear Candy for the Headphone Trippers

Best Debut: Pierce the Veil, A Flair for the Dramatic
Best Album I Wish I'd Been Listening To Since Its Release: The CafFiends, Fission, Fusion, and Things Made of Concrete (2004)
Best Improvement Over Same Band's Last Release: August Burns Red, Messengers
Best Re-Release: Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape (this would have made it into the Top 10 had I not decided to disqualify it).

16 Standout Tracks:
RULES: None of these songs appear on The Top 10 Albums or Top 7 EPs, but are fantastic tracks. Organized in alphabetical order, but if sequenced properly, make a BITCHIN' mix disc.
"After the Devil Beats His Wife," Emery
"Clean Breaks," Dashboard Confessional (Best Song of 2007)
"Currents Convulsive," Pierce the Veil
"Don't You Know Who I Think I Am?," Fall Out Boy
"(Fork and Knife)," Brand New
"Hands On Me," Vanessa Carlton
"Love Like This," Natasha Bedingfield (the version without Sean Kingston)
"Night Moves," Down to Earth Approach
"Pearl," Maritime
"Say," John Mayer
"Soon We'll Be Living In the Future," Straylight Run
"The Truth," The Spill Canvas
"Up Against the Ropes," August Burns Red
"Videotape," Radiohead
"Waiting for the 7:18," Bloc Party
"Wax Simulacra," The Mars Volta