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.


The Moon said...

The problem with this idea is that I want to say "Why the hell is The Twilight Sad so low?!?!" but I don't know what is at the top so I can't yet...

Also, I am saddened that 23 some how made it onto this list considering the level of mediocrity it exudes...

Girlfriend said...

You should try writing a positive comment sometime. It might make you feel better.

On the other hand, I can understand the "frustration" of not seeing the entire list at one time. The idea of delayed gratification, I suppose, is something that some don't understand. Sorry to bother you with the list. Perhaps it would suit you to wait until Friday to read the blog when the entire list is published.