Friday, December 21, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up: Covers in 2007

2007 brought a plethora of karaoke wanna bes to the mainstream. It seemed like everyone from Tegan and Sara (Rihanna's "Umbrella") to Lily Allen (50 Cent's "Window Shopper") felt the need to get their "American Idol" on and borrow a fellow artists song. I normally don't condone this kind of recycling, but the following covers are a few of the best.

#3 Tom Thumb "Atlantic City" (Bruce Springsteen)

Anyone who decides to cover the Boss is either a brave soul or a crazy fool. Luckily, newcomer Tom Thumb's chilling voice more than adequately translates to the dark tale of a couple who might be involved with the mafia.

#2 Mark Ronson "Valerie" ft Amy Winehouse (The Zutons)

As a producer, Mark Ronson blew up in 2007 by pushing Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash as the next "it" girls in music. He also had success on his album of covers, Version, with new twists on old favorites (ODB's appearance on "Toxic" is priceless). Winehouse returns the favor on "Valerie". Ronson's jazzy production soars and is puncuated by Winehouse on every note.

#1 Jenny Owens Young "Hot In Herre" (Nelly)

I promoted this jam earlier in the spring, but it was consistently part of my playlist throughout the year. Young's slowed down and stripped version of Nelly's "Hot In Herre" is hilarious and as catchy as the original. Its even better to hear the ridiculous lyrics (Stop placin, time wastin/I gotta a friend with a pole in the basement (What?)/I'm just Kiddin like Jason (Oh)/Unless you gon' do it) over the plucks of an acoustic guitar.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up: 10 Tracks in 2007

I feel like I might be shooting myself in the foot by neglecting some songs, but as far as I can remember, these were my favorites. Feel free to let me know of any suggestions.

#10 Emmy the Great "Two Steps Forward"

While 2008 will likely bring Emmy the Great to the masses, she started to build a name for herself with a few underground singles. "Two Steps Forward" is a sophisticated rant without a chorus, but you wouldn't know it with her soothing voice. This "anti-folk" single about past loves sounds amazing among a fiddle, light guitar riffs and Emmy's angelic voice.

#9 Arctic Monkeys "Do Me A Favor"

My Favourite band from Sheffield returned after a short hiatus with more stories of mischief in the U.K. This gripping narrative details a relationship headed for the guillotine with the soundtrack to match. The nerve wracking bass line leads to a guitar smashing result that works superbly.

#8 Kate Nash "Foundations"

Kate Nash acquired many comparisons to Lily Allen from her poetic storytelling to her alliance with Mark Ronson, but Nash made a name for herself on her 1st hit single . "Foundations" is solid as a sarcastic break-up monologue filled with clever wordplay over a piano and guitar landscape.

#7 Iron and Wine "Boy With A Coin"

Sam Beam shines on the first single from The Shepherd's Dog. In a departure from his past low key (but still great) work, the track's backing has more than the usual acoustic guitar. Hand claps, electric guitar, light drum and some vocal distortion help craft this song filled with religious imagery.

#6 Bright Eyes "Four Winds"

While it took me awhile to realize the genius that is Conor Oberst, the first single from Cassadaga made me a believer. "Four Winds" features political and religious musings over a refined bluegrass sound. Its easily the best toe-tapping apocalyptic tune of 2007.

#5 Patrick Wolf "The Magic Position"

Patrick Wolf made a name for himself in 2007 as an eccentric character on the upbeat single, "The Magic Position". As if it was plucked from the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack, the track features hand clap percussion, a childish chant and a hypnotic hook. The not-so-subtle come on might not work for Wolf in reality, but it works perfectly in song.

#4 Jose Gonzalez "Down the Line"

Gonzalez's latest effort easy caught my ear this summer. His way with a guitar and a cool melody ease the tension on the simple, yet mesmerizing song about regret and temptation. This could also win the award for creepiest video of the year.

#3 The Black Kids "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance With You"

With a little help from Rolling Stone, Florida's The Black Kids have some of the best buzz leading into 2008. On this single, the band's garage rock sounds sweet intertwined with the bitter storyline surrounding it.

#2 Rogue Wave "Lake Michigan"

Rogue Wave burst back on the scene after recording their latest album, Asleep At Heaven's Gate in the Midwest. This melancholy and socially conscious track features some of their best work complete with crashing guitars and always welcome hand claps. Pay attention and you'll find its about pollution. Imagine that.

#1 Bon Iver "Skinny Love"

You might notice a theme here with minimalist yet dramatic songs featuring an emotional singer on this list, but Bon Iver deserves to be here as well. This folk classic about loneliness after love is as earnest as they come. Certainly my favorite of many favorites in 2007.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up: 10 Albums In 2007

3 years ago, if you would have told me that I would be writing a 2007 Best of List that didn't include a rap/hip-hop album, I would have probably spit beer in your face. I could go into a whole rant on why the current state of Hip-Hop didn't allow me to praise the genre, but I've already done that. Instead here is a short list of the great, new music I've discovered this year. Some of my opinions have changed from previous reviews, but that is bound to happen after repeated listening sessions.

#10 Georgie James Places

After a late 2007 release, Georgie James crept into heavy rotation with their fetching album Places. The album has enough addictive indie rock to arm Impact89FM playlists for months with james like "Need Your Needs", "More Lights", and "Look Me Up".

#9 The Rosebuds Night of the Furies

Raleigh, North Carolina's The Rosebuds added a risky electronic touch to their 3rd disc, Night of the Furies and it paid off. I was hooked by the dark, yet danceable "Get Up And Get Out", while "I Better Run" and "Hold Onto This Coat" made for a solid album.

#8 Tegan and Sara The Con

Though the Quinn sisters caught some flack from fans for a more commercial sound, The Con featured some of my favorite songs to date by the twins. The title track and "Back In Your Head" are particularly cathy, but "Knife Going In" and "Dark Come Soon" showcase the duo's unique story-telling abilties.

#7 Band of Horses Cease to Begin

Although I was late to jump on the Band of Horses hype machine, I soon found Cease to Begin was a near perfect fall album. Spectral sounds and loud riffs on "Is There A Ghost?", "Detlef Schrempf", "Marry Song", and "No One's Gonna Love You" made for a bright album in the dark months ahead.

#6 Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Terribly titled, but Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is Spoon's six album and could easily be the band's best. "You've Got Your Cherry Bomb" and "The Underdog" were infectious enough to grace my i-pod countless times this year. "Don't You Evah" and "Don't Make Me A Target" were breezy, indie rock gems that rounded out the album's upbeat sound.

#5 Amy Winehouse Back to Black

As if teleporting from the past, Amy Winehouse burst onto playlists everywhere with the retro-infused album, Back to Black. While her troublesome offstage antics caught the attention of many, her soul & jazz influenced album won over critics and bloggers most. "Rehab" burned up the pop charts, while "You No I'm No Good", the title track, and "Love Is A Losing Game" gave a feel of '60s Motown nostalgia.

#4 The Bees (Band of Bees) Octopus

One of my earliest reviews was of The Bee's (or Band of Bees in the US) stand out album, Octopus. 8 months later, my opinion hasn't changed. The Bees' eclectic musical offerings from the '60s rock stylings of "Love In The Harbor" to jazzier fare on "Got To Let Go" made for an amazing album. The musings on "Who Cares What The Question Is?" could easily make for the best bluegrass impressions of the year.

#3 The New Pornographers Challengers

Canada's "super group", The New Pornographers jumped the front of the list with Challengers. With that many great musicians contributing, how could the results not be amazing? "Mutiny I Promise You" and "My Right Versus Yours" dropped light political messages, while the title track, "All The Old Showstoppers", and "Go Places" were simply great indie rock.

#2 Feist The Reminder

Leslie Feist crafted an impressive indie pop breakthrough with The Reminder. While Apple and Verizon capitaled on the sounds of "1,2,3,4" and "My Moon My Man" for marketing campaigns, "I Feel It All" and "The Water" were equally ear pleasing. I was lucky enough to see her genius in Ann Arbor this fall and The Reminder was just as perfect live.

#1 Arcade Fire Neon Bible

In 2007, Win Butler and company crafted a hauntingly good follow-up to The Funeral. Chilling vocals and an eerie pipe organ made songs like "Intervention" and "My Body Is A Cage" creepy in a good way, allowing "Keep The Car Running" and "No Cars Go" to light up the album with '80s-esque energy. Neon Bible blessed more ear drums than any other album this year. Let's hope the band's recent success and sightings with Bruce Springsteen fuel more inspiration for another smash album.

Honorable Mention: Bright Eyes Cassadega, K-OS Atlantis: Hymns For Disco (US Release in 2007), Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare, Jay-Z American Gangster, Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Was Sinking, Kanye West Graduation, Bloc Party A Weekend In The City, Editors An End Has A Start, Maximo Park Our Earthly Pleasures, Winterpills The Light Divides