Friday, December 21, 2007

Our Top 25 Albums of 2007 (5-1)

At last, it's here. These are the five albums that wowed us this year. They made us happy. Made us dance. Maybe even made us cry (don't look at me!) These are Range Life's Top Five Albums of 2007.

See 10-6 See 15-11
See 20-16 See 25-21

(Above: The Big Board of Judgment)


The National - Boxer............................

This is the right album at the right time in my life. Matt Berninger might have a decade or more on me, but he flawlessly captures the early-life, suburban-life, any-life crisis.

Boxer is all about longing: for romantic love, for a sense of belonging, for a purpose. “We’re half awake in a fake empire,” Berninger sings in the opening track, his flat monotone a perfect complement to the apathy he describes. In “Mistaken for Strangers,” one of the album’s dark rockers, he neatly summarizes the album’s major theme, stating even the angels wouldn’t want to watch “another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults.” The theme is advanced throughout the album, particularly on “Racin Like a Pro,” where the protagonist seemingly has it all, yet can hardly make it out of bed, even to “make a cake or something.” This ennui of success is epitomized in the lackadaisical lines, “Sometimes you go ‘La di da di da di da da’ / Til your eyes roll back into your head.” Berninger knows that one day we will grow old, take on more responsibility, and lose our edge. One day we will “miss being deviants.”

Another major fear revealed on Boxer is insecurity, whether it’s intellectual inferiority in the track “Brainy,” where the character spends all night “boning up” on the dictionary, or envy in “Green Gloves,” when all he can do is “get inside [his friends] clothes” and live their experiences vicariously. Despite Berninger’s misgivings, he cautions others against underestimating him, asserting, “You might need me more than you think you will,” and “I think everything counts a little more than we think.” Indeed, it’s the attention to the mundane and everyday that makes the sum of Berninger’s lyrics count for more than what they appear.

Boxer is about fearing assimiliation, growing old, and in some ways, accepting it. It’s about that point in our lives when, as Berninger puts it, everything we believe is “diving diving diving diving off the balcony.” Whether we land in one piece is up to us.

-Nicole Pope

Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog.................

Sam Beam has made an album that is as accessible as it is complex. The music draws on many forms. He has his folk rock songs, his signature acoustic throwback in "Resurrection Fern" and "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," his experimental, reverberating "Carousel," and his calypso "Lovesong of the Buzzard" and "Innocent Bones" - the latter two powered by an upright bass.

The Shepherd’s Dog
is special in that the arrangements are given equal weight as the lyrics. This time around the production is crisp and there are many elements and instruments woven together – see "House by the Sea". What Beam still does best is tell a story that creates a feeling through his soft subtle voice. "Resurrection Fern" captures this best. Beam explains what will remain after growing old. The memories of how our ghosts live, “our bravey wasted and our shame.”

-Chad Pope

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?.....

To say that Kevin Barnes’ split with his wife and concurrent slide into a severe depression is what sets the tone for Hissing Fauna would be incredibly inaccurate. Granted, Barnes holds nothing back from the listener, and that is part of what makes this album great, but the uncensored glimpses into Kevin Barnes’ personal life hardly bog the album down. That’s because Barnes soundtracks his ugly personal life to songs that are an amalgamation of Bowie’s glam-rock and Prince’s sexed up synthy funk. If anything, when Barnes proclaims, “Let’s just have some fun,” midway through Hissing Fauna’s most striking and personal song, it’s like he’s revealing the album’s hidden mantra. This is a breakup album that you can dance to.

Hissing Fauna also allowed Of Montreal fans to witness the complete transformation from the band’s early days. This album bears little resemblance to Of Montreal’s other recent releases, and sounds absolutely nothing like they did ten years ago, yet the album is all the better as a result. Hissing Fauna is quite possibly Of Montreal’s OK Computer, Soft Bulletin, or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, all of which are albums that saw other great bands take their creative powers one step even further, much like Of Montreal has. Only time will tell just how many classic albums Of Montreal will release before its all said and done, but it’s safe to say that they’ll have at least one.

-Ryan Bonacker

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jams..............

Bonefish! "Peacebone" is nuts. Unreal sounds leak the most interesting colors and happy monsters that don’t understand intentions. I have never heard anything like it before. I can’t even describe it, maybe a carnival on crack? Bonefish!

I fucking love "For Reverend Green." Try screaming along with Avey Tare on this track, a common occurrence in my car on my way to work, and you’ll appreciate the strain he puts on his voice. Tare must be unhuman.

Panda Bear gets chanting duties in "Chores." Synthetic beats disintegrate into a trippy, dancy trance-like drum beat. It’s great to get a Panda Bear album before hearing this one. I love picking out the pure Panda Bearian influences and seeing what he brings to the Animal Collective table.

Tare shows his range in "Cuckoo Cuckoo." I love how the verses are strung together in a nonsensical manner with emphasis put on random words. “Little/kids can’t play with things that have died sometimes/all I want is one favorite song…” It creates a sense of madness, “I’m going cuckoo cuckoo.”

Animal Collective fail to disappoint. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. I can’t wait to see what crazy shit they’ll come up with next.

-Chad Pope

Radiohead - In Rainbows.........................

June 20, 2001
. Red Rocks Amphitheatre. My friends and I waited outside Radiohead’s tour bus after the show. A security guard became increasingly agitated with our presence. “Who here wants to be arrested?” he said. My friend and future husband raised his hand. I just smiled. We were convinced that if we were arrested, Radiohead would bail us out of jail. We were convinced the band would save us, just like their music had so many times before.

Decades from now some impressionable young music fan will ask what it was like to see Radiohead live. To await each new album. “Where were you,” they’ll ask, “when In Rainbows was released?” I’ll tell them the truth. 2007, in every way, was the year of Radiohead. With whispers from friends that the album may have trumped the decades-old, near flawless OK Computer, I could call it a second coming.

At that same 2001 show, I saw a friend of mine from the dorms. Five hundred miles from home, and we ran into each other without even knowing the other was attending. That’s one thing any Radiohead lover knows. The band brings people together. Just take myself, the style-less wonder, and Daisy, the hippie. She had long blonde hair that never seemed combed, let alone washed. She wore tie dyed shirts. She was smoking pot after the show when I saw her. “What was your favorite song?” I asked. “Idioteque,” she said. At the time I was miffed. Unquestionably, “Fake Plastic Trees” had been the epitome of my concert-going experience. It was 2001, the year Radiohead released their most experimental album to date, and I was indefatigably in love with The Bends.

This is another thing any Radiohead lover knows. The band has range. So much so that Daisy could have her electro-dance and I could have my acoustic heart-wrencher, and we could both be sated. This mix of styles is precisely what makes In Rainbows so impressive. On their seventh studio album, Radiohead dredged elements from their past incarnations. The jigsaw fell into place, making an album at once familiar, yet unexpected. On In Rainbows we encounter tinges of The Bends (“Bodysnatchers”), OK Computer (“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”), Hail to the Thief (“Jigsaw”). We see a new spin on old sounds, but also the emergence of styles and timbres never before seen from the band, such as the tender accompaniment in “Faust Arp” or the chilling beauty of “Reckoner.”

With each new Radiohead album, I become increasingly afraid it will be the band’s last. It’s as if by being so much larger than life, they’ll break the tethers and float away. Yet with In Rainbows the band has proven they still have the passion and talent to make music that wows devout fans and newcomers alike. If future albums prove as astonishing as In Rainbows, then Radiohead has many stories left to tell, so many of us left to save.

-Nicole Pope

As an avid “head head” the anticipation for the new Radiohead album was almost crippling. Once the album was procured I listened to it on a daily basis for a month. Without the backdrop of Radiohead it seemed as if I were unable to complete normal daily activities. Radiohead was the soundtrack of my life for that splendid month. “I’d be crazy not to follow, follow where you lead,” sings Thom Yorke in “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.” You and I both would be crazy not to follow Radiohead as they continue their extraordinary career.

-Jenna Marchant

Thanks for reading, everyone! We'll see you again next year.


panopticon said...

When In Rainbows came out, I was in a waiting room at the hospital, waiting for Abram to be born, reading Stephen Colbert's book and watching Nicole update this very blog.

It's weird how life and art interact with one another sometimes.

Femme Fatale said...

I agree. It's also weird how we attach certain songs to certain moments in our lives. Wait a minute, I feel a blog-rant coming on!

The Moon said...

Sorry, this has nothing to do with Readhead but I wasn't sure were to leave this comment?!?! So since it was an 07 album I'm leaving it here.

You guys NEED to check out The Gowns - Red State!!!

Think: sitting by yourself on the shore of a frozen lake surrounded by trees and nothing under the clearest December night sky. Still winds. Not a sound.

And the subsequent drive home through stark city lamp lights, if home where the place where the glowing moon collided with the earth quietly.

James A. Foley said...

i've listened to three of your top five albums of 2007: in rainbows, hissing fauna, and shepherd's dog. i haven't really pondered a personal top five, but as i think about it now, i'd certainly but those three in there.

have not heard the other two. will check them out soon.

also a fan of the sounds of silver and the new fiest. glad those made the top 25.

but what about Wilco's Sky Blue Sky? That would certainly be in my top 25, perhaps my top 5.
also icky thump by the white stripes. liked that one a bit. oh and Explosions in the Sky, all of the sudden i miss everyone. that was a winner too.

i think.

hope y'all had a good new year.
cheers & love.

oh, btw, i'm going to see the roots in tokyo in a couple weeks. maybe that's something you want covered?