Friday, December 21, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2000 - #3: Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Now we get to a band who's sound has really evolved over time. Their very early work was much more Pixies influenced, much rougher. It's a sound so foreign to their newer fans that they don't even play stuff from Telephono in concert anymore, or at least they haven't at any of the shows I've been to in the last few years.

The result of that evolution is Gax5, and it's arguably their best to date. I say arguably because I think it's a question of peak value vs. consistency. "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb", "the Underdog", and "Finer Feelings" are as good as anything they've ever done, and maybe the best three songs to appear on the same album. That said, I don't think it's consistently good as Gimme Fiction. Start to finish, I'll take their last album. I'm not a huge fan of "the Ghost of You Lingers", "Eddie's Raga", or "Japanese Cigarette Case", and they tend to stick out surrounded by such excellent tracks. But the quality of those top three, along with "Don't You Evah" and "Black Like Me" push this into the upper echelon of 2007 releases.

Here's Don't You Evah, Black Like Me, and Cherry Bomb.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #4: Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus!

It's kind of strange to think about a favorite band as being "under the radar", then realizing that they've got eight full length albums, a rarities collection, and a singles compilation. Generally bands that stay under the radar don't stick around long enough to be that prolific. But Hey Venus! marks the bands eight album, and fourth in the last five years or so.

Much like their last album, Love Kraft, Gruff Rhys shares the vocal duties with Huw Bunford ("Battersea Oddessy") and Cian Ciaran ("Carbon Dating", which sounds a lot like his Acid Casuals song "Bowl Me Over"). This might be their most pop-friendly album since, well, maybe ever. After the brief introduction of "Gateway Song", the album launches into the two most consumer friendly tracks on the album, "Run Away" and "Show Your Hand", before settling down with the mellowed out "Gift that Keeps Giving".

Like a lot of SFA albums, except for maybe Rings Around the World and Phantom Power, it tails off a little bit at the end, and you'll probably find yourself listening to the first seven tracks a lot, and the last four tracks not so much. That's not to say they aren't great tracks, but they tend to require the right mood, whereas a song like "Run Away" sounds good no matter what you're in the mood for. There are no real epic, defining tracks here, like Love Kraft's "Lazer Beam", Phantom Power's "Slow Life", or Rings' "Receptacle for the Respectable" or "Run, Christian, Run". But start to finish, it's on par with all of those albums.

Here's Run-Away; Show Your Hand (you have to sit through a minute or so of chat, but you'll get a cool glimpse of "God, Show Me Magic"); and the Gift that Keeps on Giving.

More fun with Sitemeter

Alright, who keeps coming here after googling Warren Busick? It was a throw away line in a post from quite a ways back, but it gets me like three or four hits per week. Sheesh, I don't think I've even seen him since I was about 12.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #4a: Earlimart - Mentor Tormentor

Alright, mea culpa, I forgot this one when I put my original list together, and I'm shoehorning them into roughly the spot they would have had if I hadn't been an idiot. Now that that's out of the way...

Earlimart returns with the third full-length of the Aaron Espinoza fronted era, and start to finish, it's their strongest outing to date. They've retained the knack for finding just the right ambient noise to back their stronger tracks, and even amplified by touring (briefly) with a string quartet. This is most notable on "Answers & Questions". They've moved away somewhat from the feedback heavy tracks like "Unintentional Tape Manipulations" and "Lost at Sea" from previous albums, and moved toward more piano and softer vocals, which suits not only Espinoza's ability, but Ariana Murray's, who contributes lead vocals on "Happy Alone", and shares them on "the World".

There's nothing here as sumblime as "Heaven Adores You" from the last album (though "Answers & Questions" is close), but the album is their most consistent to date. Every track is solid, and the pacing is excellent. No videos this time, but you can stream the whole album at their site.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #5: The Broken West - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

The first full length from The Broken West, once known as the Brokedown until they found out they shared the name with a Chicago band. They hold the record as the band I've seen the most in a single year. I saw them initially when they opened for the Walkmen early in the year, then a month or so later when they headlined. They came back in the summer to play the Taste of Randolph Street festival, and hit the town once again with the Whigs in late October. The nice thing about listening to indie stuff is that one can actually afford to see the same band a bunch of times in the same year.

This is simply good, straightforward indie pop/rock, and it's very impressive for a debut. And it's very West Coast. While bands like Beulah captured the San Francisco Sound, the Broken West are much more L.A. Laid back groovy pop-songs like You Can Build an Island and Slow are set among the driving pop beats of So It Goes and On the Bubble, and the almost country sounding Abigail.

There's really not much more I can say. It's not complicated. It's not groundbreaking. This album just does what it sets out to do very, very well. Here's the studio version of Down in the Valley, a live version of So it Goes, and a live version of You Can Build an Island:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #6: The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

After a five year hiatus, which saw side projects from both Hilarie Sidney and Robert Schneider, as well as the end of their marriage, the Apples In Stereo returned with arguably their best album yet, and while Sidney is no longer a full fledged member of the band, she lends vocals to a couple of the many excellent tracks on this album.

Every AiS record has sounded a little bit different than the one before. From the jangly pop of Tone Soul Evolution and Fun Trick Noisemaker, to the lilting pop of Her Wallpaper Reverie, to the feedback drenched Beach Boys melodies of Velocity of Sound, they've managed to alter their sound just enough to let you know that they had evolved since the last time you heard them. New Magnetic Wonder showcases Schneider's experiments with vocoders and other bits of technology, while still calling back to their past, maintaining the framework of melodic psych-pop that has shaped every album to a varying degree.

There's a little bit of everything here. The opener "Can You Feel It" would have sounded at home on Fun Trick Noisemaker. The more raw "Skyway" follows, a track that could have had a home on Velocity. "Same Old Drag" and "Play Tough" bust out the harmonies that were so prevelant on Tone Soul, while "Sun is Out" opens as a lo-fi low tempo track right out of Wallpaper, before becoming a campfire style sing-along. Sidney pitches in with Sundaal Song and Sunday Sounds. It's like a greatest hits album of all new material, if that makes any sense.

The album is replete with short little song breaks (Don't download this album unless you can get it for one price, and don't get it from Emusic). There's 24 tracks, but it plays as something closer to a tradition 12-14 track album. And typical of AiS, it's all stuff that really transfers well live. They put on a great show, and they're someone you should check out if you get the chance.

Here's Same Old Drag; Can You Feel It?; and a live acoustic version of Skyway: