John Donnelly's Review of 2007!
2007 will be remembered as a pretty good year for music, I think - and not only because we (quite out of the blue) got a new Radiohead album. For this year at least, they were overtaken by LCD Soundsystem as my favourite band. Could anyone have predicted the universal acclaim heaped upon Sound of Silver? That album would have been miracle enough, but 2007 also saw a CD release for 45:33 and a James Murphy/Pat Mahoney Fabric mix, both worth picking up. Murphy - as The Loving Hand - even managed to make Maps sound exciting. Check his remix of To The Sky…
It's been another good year for electronic music, with particularly fine albums from Justice and Burial. If I had to choose a favourite track, it would be Trentemøller's Moan (Trentemøller mix), featuring a gorgeous vocal from one Ane Trolle and some truly cavernous bass. Dan Le Sac VS Scroobius Pip were, for my money, the best new act of 2007, book ending the year with the highly quotable Thou Shalt Always Kill and a free download of Letter From God To Man (a just-perfect Christmas message). I believe the album is now finished, and it's sure to be a major highlight of 2008.
A quick word on my favourite live acts. I was lucky enough to catch Bat For Lashes in a small venue (Oran Mor, Glasgow) in March, just before the hype really got going. An imaginative, theatrical approach to performance (fancy dress, various interesting instruments passed around) and Natasha Khan's amazing voice made for a gig that won't be forgotten. Just below them I have The Go! Team (with Ninja unleashed, very different from how they sound on record) and The Streets (no new album to promote, so we were treated to what amounted to a thrilling greatest hits show instead).
In contrast to their variable, sprawling debut album, LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver is a tight nine songs, even if at least half of them are epic in length. Get Innocuous! and the title track recall Underworld at their very best, All My Friends could be the result of putting Bowie's Heroes, Supergrass' Alright and some New Order in a blender, and New York, I Love You But You're Bringing My Down is obviously Lou Reed inspired. Yet, despite wearing its influences on its sleeve, nothing here feels second-hand. In fact, most of these tracks sound like born classics. James Murphy & co know how to make repetition hypnotic rather than boring, subtly introducing new hooks and layering noise. The lyrics haven't been neglected either, having resonance whether poking fun at the way the world views the U.S. (see North American Scum) or capturing the joy of youth ("I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life" - All My Friends). Sound Of Silver will satisfy your rock and dance needs. It's quite possibly the best album of the past few years.
2. Radiohead - In Rainbows
What is it with people griping about Radiohead albums? In Rainbows' exact placing in their body of work shouldn't really matter. All you need know is that they've made another excellent record, as usual delivering something similar but different. It's rock, but ambient and intimate enough to get people moaning, "It's not The Bends..." Bollocks to them! Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, with that rippling guitar effect, and the subtle beauty of Reckoner show craft way out of reach of most mainstream bands.
3. Husky Rescue - Ghost Is Not Real
And 2007 marks another year in which Finland's Husky Rescue have escaped their due acclaim and commercial success (if their decision to only play a couple of festival dates is anything to go by) in the UK. Ghost Is Not Real is a gorgeous and imaginative folk-electronica-indie-pop journey. Album highlight Hurricane (Don't Come Knocking) has this year's best "what the fuck is that?" noise. (Answer: steel drums.)
4. Justice - Cross
Okay, hands up if you put on a poncey French accent to pronounce the band name... Cross delivers with a near literal kick (check those drums). Highlights include the radio-friendly disco tribute D.A.N.C.E., the ultra harsh, bleepy electro of Waters of Nazareth and the Tenebrae-sampling Phantom. When was the last time Freemasons tipped their hats to a Dario Argento video nasty, eh?
5. Burial - Untrue
Although it might be a slight exaggeration to call dubstep producer Burial a household name, Untrue was surely the crossover album of 2007 (and is a good bet for the Mercury Prize winner in 2008), quickly reaching new ears through word of mouth and its inclusion on many an end of year list. Shimmering with an urban darkness, it set often pitched-up vocals against a backdrop of raw garage beats, ultimately sounding like the memories of last night's rave filtered through a bad comedown. Massive Attack for the ringtone generation?
6. UNKLE - War Stories
James Lavelle assembles another round of special guests (among them The Duke Spirit, Ian Astbury and Josh Homme) and takes UNKLE in a rockier direction. A certain publication may have proclaimed them no longer cool or relevant, but these dark anthems deserve your attention over any cover band of the week.
7. The Chemical Brothers - We Are The Night
If far from Tom and Ed's best record, this was a generally solid affair with a couple of heavy hitters (Saturate and Do It Again) that should ensure it's a while before they're laughed off the dancefloor.
8. Groove Armada - Soundboy Rock
Resembling a better greatest hits album than their actual Greatest Hits, Soundboy Rock (rather surprisingly) brimmed with infectious pop/dance tracks.
9. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
There was much debate as to whether Arcade Fire's second album was as good as their debut, but the OTT likes of Intervention and No Cars Go could be the work of no other band.
10. The Go! Team - Proof Of Youth
Proof of Youth continued The Go! Team's gleeful mashing of indie pop, hip-hop and car chase music but this time with more vocals (buried in the mix, of course). How could you listen to it without a smile on your face?
Tracks of the Year
Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running
Bat For Lashes - What's A Girl To Do
The Chemical Brothers - Saturate
Daedelus - Fair Weather Friends
Dan Le Sac VS Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill
Digitalism - Zdarlight
DJ Medhi - Signatune (Thomas Bangalter edit)
The Go! Team - Grip Like A Vice
The Heavy - That Kind Of Man
Husky Rescue - Hurricane (Don’t Come Knocking)
Justice - D.A.N.C.E.
LCD Soundsystem - Get Innocuous!
Maps - To The Sky (The Loving Hand Remix)
Mr Hudson & The Library - Too Late, Too Late
Radiohead - Reckoner
Robyn - With Every Heartbeat
Simian Mobile Disco - Hustler
Trentemøller - Moan (Trentemøller mix)
Ulrich Schnauss - Look At the Sky
UNKLE (ft Duke Spirit) - Mayday
And, finally, best YouTube footage of the year...
Bat For Lashes, Fionn Regan and Maps covering Primal Scream's Higher Than The Sun