By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Jake Rossen
By Lindsay Toler
By Kelsey McClure
By Lindsay Toler
I also happened upon tons of great local releases this year. The Humanoids' Are Born is my favorite; the songs are pure punk and the band straight-up shames most other locals with its energy and authenticity. Rats and People's The City of Passersby is dense and enchanting, and quite a few songs on the Bureau's We Make Plans In Secret deserve repeated spins. Finally, Riddle of Steel's 1985 wasn't released until the end of this year, but I can safely predict that it will rock me through 2008.
— Jaime Lees
Someday soon, robots will dominate the world, enslave all humans and breed us for the sole purpose of working in factories to make more robots. (This is inevitable, so let's move on.) The members of Battles are not robots, but they're close — and therefore we probably should not trust them. But when the band's debut album Mirrored dropped in May, it was like the scene in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where the protagonists are surrounded by people in robes air-guitaring to Wyld Stallyns; it felt like somebody had been to the future in a magic telephone booth and brought back an artifact.
Mirrored predicts a world where Gibson Les Pauls, the Apple iBook, real drums, sampled drums, ten-foot-high cymbals, keyboards, guitars, keyboards that sound like guitars and guitars that sound like keyboards live symbiotically. In a time when music is being enslaved by technology, Battles is making technology its bitch. The band is more than mere ear candy, though. On the album's defining single, "Atlas," the beat from Gary Glitter's "The Hey Song" lies under a bed of off-kilter guitar lines and elephantine bass loops. Soundmaker Tyondai Braxton's vocals, which are pitch-shifted to sound like a human morphing into a chipmunk and back, accent all of this music. It's incredible that a band like Battles can be this innovative — and equally incredible that, in the time we live in, music this strange can be so universal.
— Ryan Wasoba
The Heart of the Matter
The first release of 2007 that really caught my attention was Blonde Redhead's 23, an album on which the New York trio finally transcended the constant Sonic Youth comparisons that have haunted its career. Of course, I only came to this realization after I emerged from the trance-like state induced by the album's dark, wistful and woozy soundscapes. 23 hits its stride about halfway through with the slo-core but bombastically percussive "SW," on which ethereal vocals and a lovely George Martin-esque horn arrangement help build its many layers of hypnotic texture. The momentum continues with the driving rhythm and shoegaze swells found on "Spring and By Summer Fall," before the last few songs gradually wind down; "My Impure Hair" brings a calming sense of closure via church organ percussion, melancholy accordion and blissed-out space-echo effects.
Jimmy Eat World, another band with roots in the '90s, also made a record that proved its 21st-century relevance. On Chase this Light, Jim Adkins and crew created an album every bit as catchy as their seminal effort Bleed American. Super-glossy production drives the album — Light was produced by Butch Vig, after all — but that's not to say that these songs don't stand on their own. "Big Casino" was one of the most infectious singles of the year (and made a definitive statement about recognizing mortality and the dangers of romanticizing the past), while "Gotta Be Somebody's Blues" showed the band exploring its more melancholy side with the help of a truly haunting string arrangement (think Beck's Sea Change).
My favorite album of the year almost completely escaped my attention. Bat for Lashes' inventively choreographed and thoroughly creepy video for "What's a Girl to Do?" (yes, Donnie Darko continues to influence) was interesting, if not one of the best office distractions of the year. But for some reason I filed it under "gimmicky" and didn't check out the rest of Fur and Gold right away — even though when I finally did, I realized that it was a beautiful, moody and haunting effort. Natasha Khan's lyrics paint abstract pictures that are open to interpretation, although they can also be deeply personal; Gold's unconventional approaches to percussion, subtle acoustic guitar flourishes and cinematic string arrangements perfectly accentuate these emotions. The result is an album that's comparable to the likes of Björk, Kate Bush and Tori Amos — but one that also places Khan firmly in their company.
Every year brings a few artists who fly a little under the radar, but whose contributions still deserve recognition. Brooklyn's The Forms made an outstanding album with Steve Albini, one that proves post-rock can be not only powerful and anthemic, but also delicate and beautiful. Airiel's delightful noise-fest The Battle of Sealand was the year's best "new-gaze" record and was highlighted by a collaboration with Ulrich Schnauss on the shimmery and saccharine-sweet synthpop number "Sugar Crystals." Finally, MGMT's album Oracular Spectacular came loaded with pop-hooks and somehow manages to conjure Ziggy Stardust, disco fever and Mayan prophecy all at the same time.
— Shae Moseley