Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It's Christmas, But That Doesn't Mean You Have to Listen to Bad Music

Hey all! Happy Holidays, no matter what you celebrate (or if you don't at all). I figured I would continue the tradition SonicRyan started on Halloween and offer some holiday-inspired tunes. (Also, check out the Robbbers on High Street song Ryan recently recommended, or one of the fine collections featured here.)

Here are some songs about holidays, cold weather, and, you know, thinking of others and stuff. You could call it a tasteful holiday mix -- if you consider handjobs tasteful, that is.

1. "It's a Wonderful Life" - Sparklehorse
2. "Fox in the Snow" - Belle & Sebastian
3. "Winter's Love" - Animal Collective
4. "Handjobs for the Holidays" - Broken Social Scene
5. "In the Cold I'm Standing" - M83
6. "Winter on Victoria Street" - The Clientele
7. "God Takes Care of the Little Things" - The Boy Least Likely To
8. "The Opposite of Hallelujah" - Jens Lekman
9. "New Years" - Asobi Seksu
10. "Winter Wonderland" - Animal Collective
11. "In This Home on Ice" - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
12. "The Spirit of Giving" - The New Pornographers

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Greetings from Range Life and Robbers on High Street

Hello dear readers. On behalf of everyone at Range Life, I would like to thank you for your continued readership throughout this exciting and wonderful year.

Because of the holidays, there is a slight chance that this could very well be our last post of 2007. I doubt it, but it's possible. But if it is, I see no better way to go out than with this magical holiday themed cover brought to us by Robbers on High Street.

When we interviewed these guys back in November, they mentioned doing some holiday songs taken from the American Song-Poem Christmas album. They didn't divulge too much information beyond that, but one of the tracks surfaced on their MySpace profile as a free download. Go get it or stream it, and bask in the songs heartfelt glow while sipping hot cocoa by a fire.

If this is indeed our last 2007 post, I want to thank all of you again for reading, commenting, and listening. If this isn't our last 2007 post, well, thanks just the same. Here's hoping 2008 will be even better.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007


There were NO SURPRISES that Radiohead's In Rainbows was number one in 2007.

Enjoy 3 minutes and 46 seconds of Thom Yorkes beautifully messed up face.

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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.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Our Top 25 Albums of 2007 (10-6)

Today Range Life unleashes another five of its favorite albums of the year. Tomorrow we put all our cards on the table.

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


Panda Bear - Person Pitch........................

I first fell for Animal Collective over a little song called “Grass,” a track that still puts me in a frenzy each time I hear it. Avey Tare is a force, a powerhouse, a nuclear reactor, as anyone who’s heard “For Reverend Green” can attest. Perhaps that’s partly why I became so enamored by Panda Bear’s sophomore release Person Pitch. Here was a fully fledged album released the same year as Animal Collective’s impeccable Strawberry Jams. A lesser musician might have released a solo album that sounded like a watered-down version of their full-time band. Not Panda Bear.

Much of Person Pitch’s charm is its singularity: the singularity of its sound, of the experience I have listening to it. This is the latest of what I might call event albums. To truly appreciate its intricacies, one must turn off the conversation, turn the volume up, and revel in the trancelike vocals and drumbeats. It’s interesting that the term "singular" would come to mind, as so much of the album is indebted to its plurality. Panda Bear uses an amalgamation of samples such as whirring trains and flickering fire to create a whirlwind of sound. The sounds themselves are not his own, but he makes them his own.

Now when I return to Animal Collective albums I see not only the brilliance of Avey Tare, but also the smudges of Panda Bear’s ethereal sound. It’s a testament to a band in its prime, and to the genius of Noah Lennox.

-Nicole Pope

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible.......................

Neon Bible
may not have lived up to the (unreasonable?) expectations brought upon by their excellent debut and frantic live shows, but it’s certainly not the disappointing follow-up album many “fans” and critics wrote if off as either. Consider for a moment just how boring a Funeral Part 2 would have sounded after repeated listens. Just ask the Strokes what happens when you follow up a fantastic debut with an album that’s more of the same. Sure, some bands like AC/DC and Nickelback can earn a fine living making the same album each and every time they hit the studio, but real artists prefer to challenge themselves, and perhaps their audience a bit in the process. So instead of focusing on what makes Neon Bible “worse” than Funeral (if you can even say that truthfully), lets instead focus on what makes Neon Bible great.

Neon Bible is an album in the truest sense of the word. There is no standout song – a hit single if you will – and no real immediate moment of satisfaction. The biggest rewards come with complete listens with full attention. Songs seamlessly flow in and out of each other, but this is no ordinary ocean. It’s an ocean of noise, filled with crushing waves that are the color of night. Win Butler, who has more or less become the voice of the Arcade Fire, spends most of the album creating a dark landscape, telling tales of people that suffer and sin, stand alone in holy wars, and of average Joe’s and Jane’s who worship the television rather than their God. He’s singing about Earth, America, you, me, and everyone we know. Neon Bible is the Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” call, albeit one that’s not as catchy as the titular song. But it’s brutal, honest, and, for patient listeners, rewarding and hopeful. A sophomore transition to be sure, but slump? Hardly.

-Ryan Bonacker

Feist - The Reminder..............................

Feist tiptoed onto the music scene with Let It Die, an album that is half originals and half covers. Now with the release of The Reminder she dances and frolicks her way to the center of the stage as she accomplishes the feat of completing an album all her own (minus “Sea Lion Woman”). The album displays the evolution of Feist’s love, career, and music. Throughout the album there are hints to to the past, most notably in the explicitly titled “Past in Present.” Although some may believe she’s a goddess, she reminds us that she is only human. The Reminder gives a glimpse into her secret world of loneliness and doubt. “The Water” emphasizes that “some don’t get much company,” while “The Park” beautifully captures her pain “with sadness so real that it populates the city and leaves you homeless again.” The Reminder may have its somber moments, but this is only a memorial of what has been and change may be just around the corner. We often learn from our mistakes and move on with our lives. During “Intuition” when Feist asks the question, “Did I miss out on you?” your answer should be no. Don’t miss Feist’s best album to date. For more on The Reminder check out our album review.

-Jenna Marchant

LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver..............

Sound of Silver
is an upbeat, get drunk, and lose all inhibitions and dance type of album. That is, until midway into the album where the tone shifts into a sobering, self reflecting examination of life. The first three tracks are your prototypical dance songs – heavy beats with lighthearted lyrics.

"Someone Great" takes James Murphy's normally animated vocals and turns them monotone as a synthesized beat with organic chimes accounts the failing of a relationship. The serious tone continues with the next track. "All My Friends" speaks to me. It seems to have me figured out – or maybe my whole generation. Parties, getting with the plan, looking back and analyzing what I would have done differently. It accounts moving from being a child and not knowing who I am to chiseling out myself in 45 turns just as fast as I can. Life passes quickly, and Murphy manages to capture this in 7:37.

Sound of Silver is full of the highs and lows of life.

-Chad Pope

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga........................

Imagine a sun filled, crisp spring day with a bottle of whiskey/coke and Spoon center stage. Are you jealous yet? It was the Spring 2006 Day on the Hill in Lawrence, Kansas. I had listened to their music prior to this occassion but it wasn’t until I heard them live that my interest was piqued.

The news of another album made me extremely happy. I had only the highest expectations for Spoon, and they surpassed them with ease. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is no child’s play. This album holds true to their signature style and expands to include some unexpected delights like “The Ghost of You Lingers” and “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case.” This album also exhibits Brit Daniel's advanced ability to write eloquent lyrics. There is no better example of Spoon’s lyrical progression than the “Rhythm & Soul” line, “tract houses, square couches, short legs and square shoulders, pot holders.” Only a genius would think to use “pot holders” in his music. Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is just that, genius.

-Jenna Marchant

See our Top Five Albums of 2007.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Our Top 25 Albums of 2007 (15-11)

Day Three heats up with some ambient rockers, some straightforward rockers, and some rockers who sound a little like Gish-era Pumpkins.

Need a recap first?
See Albums 20-16
See Albums 25-21


Menomena - Friend and Foe.......................

I have to admit, I was completely averse to this album earlier in the year, but if you’re a devoted reader, you’ll recall I was averse to lots of good songs/albums back in January -- three of which, including this one, I’m now praising for the Year End List. Oh, the irony! But I digress; I was reluctant to spend too much time with Friend and Foe because the two songs I heard on Hype Machine, “The Pelican” and “Wet and Rusting,” had no immediate impact on me. I wound up dismissing the songs and the band as generic Sub Pop slop reminiscent of Wolf Parade and Rogue Wave, two bands I like but not enough to warrant a copycat act. It wasn’t until I listened to the entire album, thanks to Nicole’s constant urging and “You’re really missing out on something special” tone, that I started to come around.

The real kicker was seeing the band live at the Bottleneck this past summer. Witnessing Menomena perform Friend and Foe in concert was impressive. This was clearly a talented trio, one that I mistakenly slept on for half the year. Taking that experience back home, I listened to Friend and Foe with fresh ears. The complex arrangements stood out more, like the vocal harmony during the bridge of Friend and Foe’s best track, “Rotten Hell,” while little nuances like sleigh bells and handclaps emerged to delight my ears. Danny Seim’s manic, Steven Drozd-esque drumming style, however, steals the show. Here I am nearly a year after its release, and the album still has yet to fully reveal itself, a good thing considering it’s the main reason I keep listening. I suppose that makes Friend and Foe a grower, and a delightful one at that, but really it’s a great album disguised as something simpler than it actually is.

-Ryan Bonacker

The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters....
The members of Range Life Music were frantically running through the streets of Chicago with sky scrapers overhead and thousands of people all around. Our train had been delayed. The Twilight Sad opened the second day of the Pitchfork Music Festival and we weren’t there. We listened to half of the set in line to the park. If you’ve ever heard Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, you know why this was such a disappointment.

The debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters is consistent and cohesive, musically and lyrically. Noisy wailing guitars, heavy drum beats, and accordions form the foundation. Through a thick Scottish accent James Graham screams, “They’re sitting around the table/and they’re talking behind your back.” Moments like this burst with emotion until they cannot be contained. “And head up dear/the rabbit may die,” Graham wails in “And She Would Darken the Memory” as expansive guitars distort the melody until everything comes back to earth. We might have been late, but we arrived in time to hear this song. We were there – we had made it.

-Chad Pope

Blonde Redhead - 23..............................

Not unlike The Shins, Blonde Redhead opted for the upgrade. Their modification veered away from their earlier rustic, vinyl sound and ran straight into the pop production era.

Synths, electric keyboard, My Bloody Valentine and pristine pop combined with an earlier Blonde Redhead sound made for two happy ears.

One word from each song + A little tid bit = Why I love/recommend this album

1. Love – Love songs are key in this album. The love described in 23 is multi-faceted as it not only invigorates and provides solace but also oppresses those who have lost sight of it.

2. Calling – Blonde Redhead’s 23 is calling us to look past the glossy exterior and into the depths of the lyrics.

3. Strikes – This album was striking to me during the initial listen.

4. Running – Is Blonde Redhead using this album to run away from stock style and toward something fresh?

5. Clashing – New sounds that at times clash but for the most part succeed in their captivation.

6. Anchor – Blonde Redhead has now anchored their career and their place in my heart.

7. “Walk in the afternoon” – okay so not exactly one word but this album is an essential for afternoon ambulation.

8. Without – The reviews are testament that no change is without its praise and criticism.

9. Persuasion – My initial impression of the album as a whole was good. Good is a boring word but with the persuasion of time good transformed into grand.

10. Decadence – The rich lyrics mixed with tiers of textured sound make for a decadent treat.

-Jenna Marchant

The Besnard Lakes - Are the Dark Horse..............

The Besnard Lakes’ sophomore album is set up much in the same way as good sex. The foreplay is sensuous and not rushed, necks warm of breath and hands that cradle gently yet forcefully. When the magic happens, it truly is magic; something bigger takes place when the bodies form one unified entity, in motion, and reaching new heights of passion and pleasure. Little waves become bigger, then bigger, and bigger still, culminating in an orgasm that Gods dream of. And it’s not done. Next is cuddling, kissing, and eventually another slow ascent into arousal just before the album ends, leaving the rest to our imagination. This album is love, making love, an expression of the inexpressible, two bodies as one.

-Ryan Bonacker

Deerhunter - Cryptograms........................

Years ago I simply wouldn’t have been able to wrap my mind around an album like this. Even now it took a series of intense listens to 1.) tolerate the ambient-noise tracks, 2.) appreciate their role in terms of the overall album, and finally 3.) adore every moment of them. I’m reminded of another album that required this level of patience, perhaps even more so – Olivia Tremor Control’s Black Foliage. It took time to recognize that the instrumental tracks offered the mainstays vital breathing room, and often helped establish the album’s themes (consider the playful melody echoed throughout). In much the same way, Cryptograms’ instrumental tracks serve to both define and blur the divisions between their surrounding tracks. The titles of two such tracks, “White Ink” and “Red Ink,” suggest ink spilt on a blank canvas, coursing and meandering like the music itself until wham, you’re blindsided with a thriller like “Lake Somerset.”

Perhaps even more astonishing than the ambient/rock blend is the album’s split structure. After “Red Ink” we encounter not the ferocity of “Cryptograms” or “Lake Somerset,” but a series of pop songs that build in intensity and impressiveness. While the aforementioned tracks are incredible, the latter half of the album was what stunned me with its subtlety, its otherworldliness.

The tougher the challenge, the bigger the reward when I finally break through the fog of noise and hear music. In some ways I’ve solved a cryptogram or two myself over the past few months, and I've come away with a stellar album because of it.

-Nicole Pope

Continue with Albums 10-5.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Our Top 25 Albums of 2007 (21-16)

Today we continue our Top 25 Albums of 2007 with 21-16. Stay tuned throughout the week as we reveal five albums each day. Friday, the big guns come out.

Need a recap? Check out 25-20.


Battles - Mirrored...............................

Battles aren’t fucking human; it’s the only way to explain just how incredible Mirrored is. I’m convinced that the dudes in Battles are actually futuristic time traveling aliens that, during a routine abduction here on Earth, picked up someone with musical taste that leaned heavy on post-rock and jazz fusion. In exchange for keeping certain body parts off limits during probing, the abductee gave the aliens LSD and a few of his or her favorite record. The aliens would take the drugs and the records back to their home planet in the future, ingest the drugs, listen to the records, and study them meticulously for centuries. They would then learn how to play multiple instruments, record a few EPs and, eventually, Mirrored. But because they were so underappreciated on their home planet, they decided to not only to jump back to our current century, but found a home in New York City, where blending in with the rest of the populace would be less difficult. This theory also explains Tyondai’s hair and why critics are hailing Mirrored as a glimpse into the future of rock music.

Yes, time traveling aliens. Or was it robots…?

-Ryan Bonacker

Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala................

Fun: 1. what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically : playful often boisterous action or speech (Thanks webster.com.)

If, when listening to this record, you feel as if you’ve heard some of the songs before, then you just might have. Jens Lekman is notorious for sampling fellow artists and reinterpreting their work. Keen to what is hip in this day and age, Lekman samples soul and baroque pop from those whom, in their days, were just as sharp. Night Falls Over Kortedala is a storybook of common life and extraordinary experiences. Lekman’s lyrics speak about the war in Iraq, a woman who loves another woman, and the triumphs and perils of Swedish life. The hopeless romantic and the cynic alike will appreciate this album’s peculiar phraseology and style.

-Jenna Marchant

The Shins - Wincing the Night Away................

In the past The Shins have often been predictable, but they challenged listeners with the release of Wincing the Night Away. My first time hearing the album had me pausing as I tried to convince myself that I was listening to The Shins. They had strayed away from their previous gritty, semi-polished sound and dabbled with experimental additives. After the release of Wincing The Shins suffered major blows from their critics, often related to the production quality of the album. Such critics are missing the point.

James Mercer, an admirable songwriter, used his fanciful lyrics to grab his listeners and hold them tightly. I once heard his lyrics described as "grotesque." I asked myself, is this referring to the corpse on the floor and the dog getting hit by a train, or due to the band trying something different? The Shins sought thrills and took risks with this album, which is more than can be said for many other successful mainstream bands. The band deserves respect for expanding and experimenting with their sound. Trial and error is life and, with results this promising, I only hope they will try and try again.

-Jenna Marchant

Caribou - Andorra.................................

Talk about shit luck. Poor Dan Snaith has been on the verge of a breakthrough for what seems like ages. Way back in 2003, before a lawsuit forced Dan to switch from Manitoba to the current Caribou moniker, he released an album titled Up in Flames. This album not only scored 8.6 out of 10 from the highly regarded Pitchfork Media, they named it their fifth favorite album of 2003. To put that in perspective, Up In Flames was only one spot behind Radiohead, and ahead of Pitchfork favorites like Broken Social Scene, the Unicorns, Jay-Z, Deerhoof, TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, Cat Power, Menomena, My Morning Jacket, and not one, but two Decemberists albums; as well as critical darlings The Wrens, and Califone; not to mention popular favorites like the Strokes and Outkast. Yet, here we are four years later and hardly anyone remembers that album, while many of the bands Manitoba/Caribou were ranked above have seen their profiles skyrocket. Unfortunately for Dan Snaith, it appears that critics are quick to praise his work, and even quicker to forget it ever existed.

Five seconds into Andorra’s first track, “Melody Day,” a song that is probably a hit single in an alternate universe, I was convinced that this would be the album to finally change Caribou’s bad fortune. “Melody Day,” like the majority of Andorra, is an excellent psychedelic-pop album with tinges of modern electronics and plenty of loud, awesome drumming. If not for another animal- named performer’s own excellent psychedelic masterpiece, Caribou would no doubt have had a stranglehold on listeners with a craving for loopy, trippy pop music. Regardless of its competition, Andorra is an accomplishment in its own right. It did, after all, make our prestigious top 25 list. If its ranking seems a little low, just remember what can happen to bands that get ranked in the lower end of a year-end list. They might be your favorite band next year.

-Ryan Bonacker

The New Pornographers - Challengers................

Power pop is definitely not my bag, but The New Pornographers have me reconsidering this notion. Challengers opens with AC Newman, though it could have been any number of the band’s talented vocalists. “My Rights Versus Yours” chugs away with its hooks within verses as it builds toward the climax, a return to verse and Newman’s crisp clear vocals. The unique call and answer “Myriad Harbor” lets Dan Bejar steal the show. Neko Case lends her talent in the heart breaking titular track that, without the normal pop payout, drags its feet to give a feeling of caution as the characters plan to start a new life in secrecy. The strength of this band comes from the culmination of many talents working together to create one amazing album.

As the band members’ solo careers bloom, questions of the band remaining together should be quieted. Challengers, the newest addition to the Porno’s consistent catalogue, is a testament to the power they have when they are together.

-Chad Pope

Continue with Albums 15-11.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Staff List:
Our Top 25 Albums of 2007

On Dec. 7 the Range Life staff huddled in a make-shift fort in my living room, drawing strips of paper from a Halloween candy basket. “Arcade Fire, 17 points,” someone would announce, and we’d write it on the board. We tallied the points, and after a few nips and tucks, this is what we had.

We’ll reveal five albums a day each day this week (It's like unwrapping five early Christmas presents!) Without further ado, we present Range Life's Top 25 Albums of 2007.


Okkervil River - The Stage Names................

With catchy melodies and intricate lyrics, Okkervil River’s The Stage Names delivers a feeling of importance that so many albums lack. The prose is woven through the songs with few choruses, leaving every moment unique and rewarding to listen to again and again.

The Stage Names opens up with a one-two punch. “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” starts simplistic and gains momentum to make way for “Unless It’s Kicks,” which keeps the energy high. Will Sheff is a force and it’s hard not to sing along. “A Girl in Port,” the album’s epic centerpiece, is backed by delicate piano and ends triumphantly, trumpets blaring. This album hasn’t left my brain since I let it in and I’m sure it will withstand the test of time. A great album in a grand year of music.

-Chad Pope

The Sea and Cake - Everybody...................
In the ever-so-quotable film High Fidelity, John Cusack's character turns off his friend's obnoxious mixtape, maintaining, "I just need something I can ignore." While such a description sounds glum, any music lover knows the importance of the mood setting album. The Sea and Cake's Everybody is one such album.

Take our trip to the Pitchfork Music Fest this summer. After three days of fervent concert going including elbowing my way to the fronts of crowds, wrestling with my camera, and shying from less-than-showered concertgoers, I'll never forget sitting on a blanket under a tree during The Sea and Cake, passing a whiskey flask. The Sea and Cake are incredible because, while their music never jumps out and grabs you by the throat, it provides the perfect soundscape for lounging, for life.

-Nicole Pope

Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity...................

Deerhoof constantly reinvents themselves. Over the years their music has become increasingly listener friendly, yet they never "talk down" to their listeners. On Friend Opportunity you'll see more challenging tracks like "Kidz Are So Small" or "Whither the Invisible" mixed with more immediate favorites like "Believe ESP," "Cast Off Crown," or "Matchbook Seeks Maniac." Top it off with a 12-minute excercise in mind expansion, and you've got classic Deerhoof. Listeners who fell in love with The Runners Four might be disappointed by the less rockin' fare, yet the band proves they can command multiple genres. Deerhoof takes risks, but so far they have been all reward.

-Nicole Pope

The Clientele - God Save the Clientele................

This album was one of my biggest surprises of the year: not because I didn't expect it to be good, but because I didn't expect it to be so upbeat. Ordinarily I reserve The Violet Hour or Strange Geometry for dreary afternoons and somber moods. Suddenly, with God Save the Clientele, a new Clientele has emerged.

The first time I heard "Bookshop Cassanova" I was blown away. And "Winter on Victoria Street." And "The Dance of the Hours." And "The Garden at Night." Sure, your old Clientele staples are all here: Alasdair MacLeans's reverbed vocals, ringing guitars, a wistful violin. The band's just discovered what a little pep could do for their already remarkable sound.

-Nicole Pope

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha................

Most people know that birds can whistle and sing. This bird is a notch above the rest with the added ability to play instruments. The March 20th release date made Armchair Apocrypha the perfect addition to the springtime weather.

This album may possibly be the defining release of Bird’s career, as he uses each song to further the definition of his sound. What his earlier albums hinted at Bird brings forward with Armchair Apocrypha. No longer holding back, his diverse style becomes solidified as the “Bird sound,” a distinct flair recognizable even to the amateur Bird connoisseur. Armchair Apocrypha is up-tempo (for the most part) and cleaner than his previous albums, displaying his wide vocal range and versatile instrumentation. His sound is a layered concoction of vocals and string instruments with a dash of drums and a twist of the occasional back-up singer. Andrew Bird is Mmmm Mmmmm finger-picking good!

-Jenna Marchant

Continue with Albums 20-16.

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