Thursday, December 27, 2007

Musica: Choice cuts from 2007

I certainly didn't intend to go on hiatus but that seems to have been what's happened to the blog in the past few weeks. Not sure it will be up and running soon after the beginning of the new year but I'll leave you with a very subjective end of the year list of some of the best music that came my way this year.

This is the year that I saw the last of the local store outlets for actual CD-singles (with Virgin records folding it's in-store singles aisles and keeping just a fraction of the releases), another casualty to the rush to digital downloads, legal or not. Which means online stores like Hollywood's Perfect Beat can prove to be indispensable.

No top ten list here, just a sampling of stuff. Check details at the bottom on how you can win a CD-selection of some of these songs as compiled by yours truly!

Notable music of 2007:

Women Power: Three women that dominated the soundtrack of my youth released new albums this year which speaks to their longevity despite the volatility in the pop universe.

Siouxsie Sioux released "Mantaray," Annie Lennox released "Songs of Mass Destruction," and Alison Moyet released "The Turn" (not yet in the US but you can pick it up from this Canadian store).

I have yet to give a proper listen to Mantaray but the standout track is "Sea of Tranquility" - a gorgeous track with a nice burbling underpining rhythm and Siouxsie's immediately recognizable voice soaring over it. Alas, no video to show you.

In the meantime, I've seen a few online pans of Annie Lennox's latest which surprises me quite a bit because the album has some of her strongest material in ages and a couple of tracks that really stand out: "Smitheereens" and "Fingernail Moon."

The gist of the pans, from what I've gathered, is that this is the umpteenth album from Lennox with a confessional bent and that some of the tracks here, such as the anti-AIDS song "Sing," are more didactic than entertaining.

Here's a YouTuber lip-synching to "Smitheereens" a-la Chris Cocker.

Most noteworthy, to me at least, was Alison Moyet's return. The new album doesn't quite match the brilliance that was 2002's "Hometime" but sees Moyet as self-assured as ever and in better control of the songs she has chosen to sing (at least according to the liner notes). If you have time, you could check her cheeky - if infrequently updated - blog which includes this entry on her memories of a gay friend who died of AIDS in observance of World AIDS Day earlier this month.

Here she performs the first single from "The Turn" - "One More Time" - live.

Up-and-comers: Yes, I spent the year listening to the one-two British punch of Amy "Back to Rehab" Winehouse and Lilly "Knock'em Out"Allen, finding Allen's "Alright, Still" to be the better of the two. Part of it is just how funny her lyrics can actually be which is refreshing in an industry that seems to thrive on drug-abuse scandals and sexed-up tarts.

Here's Lilly Allen's "LDN" (love the record shop intro bit):

Thing is, both these albums are actually material released well over a year in the UK so I'm not that sure that they could be considered newcomers anymore.

Jump in New Young Pony Club with "Fantastic Playroom." You probably know them if you've watched some television as "Icecream" was the soundtrack to some I-pod or cell phone commercial, I believe:

The album is full of punky electro ditties such as this, my fave being "F.A.N."

Favorite song of last year: I also picked up Just Jack's "Overtones" this year with material also released in the UK in previous years and was captivated by the pop perfection that is "I Talk Too Much" featuring Kylie Minogue. Best Kylie duet since "Kids" with Robbie Williams and maybe even better. No video but the full song's stream is available at YouTube. Have a listen:

Favorite song of this year: No big surprise for those of you who know I adore this woman: From Róisín Murphy's great new album, "Overpowered," it's "Let Me Know":

The full album is probably in my top five of the year with an amazing title track as well and an array of songs that could easily be chosen as singles including "You Know Me Better," "Primitive," "Dear Miami," and "Scarlett Ribbons."

Top albums of the year: If you'd asked me at the beginning of the year which albums would probably make my year's end top list I'd probably have said 4hero, Underworld, Gus Gus and Róisín Murphy. That Róisín's made it but not the others doesn't mean that the work that the other bands released this year wasn't noteworthy or good but personally I thought that 4hero and Underworld turned in spotty albums with some brilliant tracks (4hero's "Give In" and "Morning Child" and Underworld's "Crocodile/Beautiful Burnout") while, if it wasn't for the remixes, the Gus Gus CD did actually disappoint despite "Need in Me".

I'd be shocked, actually, if you had told me that come year's end I'd still be loving Calvin Harris' "I Created Disco" which I previewed back in July. The tale of a MySpace music geek getting a record contract and then becoming one of the UK's biggest selling albums of the year certainly seems a bit last year considering that this year the new thing is offering a pay what you want download of your album.

Here's the "official" video for his new single, "Colors."

Speaking of pay what you want though, I paid $0 for Radiohead's "In Rainbows" and still loved it! You can buy the CD pressing of the album here.

So yes! Sue me! I have a thing for British pop and dance songs! But I am still loving Philadelphia's very own Jill Scott and her under-appreciated "The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3." This woman's work is just amazing and she's just getting started. Here, for you, "My Love" (even if my fave track on the album is "Only You"):

Best album of 2007:
So, what gives? Which is the album of the year? Actually, the year that saw all the major studios seek out producer (and former Missy Elliot and current Justin Timberlake co-hort ) Timbaland to put a gloss on albums ranging from Nelly Furtado to Duran Duran to - gulp! - Ashlee Simpson, the fate of my album of the year almost fell in the same trap.

Following up on the success of Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam's first album, "Arular" (2005), rumor was that her new album "Kala" was supposed to prominently feature Timbaland as a producer and, while Timbaland might have produced some of the best and most innovative tracks of the last ten years (Missy Elliot's "Get Your Freak On" and "Work It" come to mind), I'm not sure the last thing we needed was another Nelly Furtado/Justinn Timberlake sound hybrid on "Kala."

And yet, due to restrictive US immigration policies, Arulpragasam found herself with visa problems (according to WikiPedia) and spent the last couple of years taping tracks for "Kala" during segments of her world tour in countries such as India, Trinidad, Liberia, Jamaica, Australia and Japan.

Amazingly it's all reflected in the album's sound and so much the better for it. One wonders what Timbaland would have done with this masterpiece and while it's not always an easy listen, it certainly sounds like the music of the future. The newest single, "Paper Airplanes" by the woman better known as M.I.A.:

Bits and pieces: What follows are the rest of the best songs of the year in no particular order.

"Can't Do Without" - Peven Everett
"Jus' Dance" - Mr. V
"Beautiful (Fred Everything Mix)" - Tim Fuller
"Let's Be Young (Paulo Mojo Remix)" - Quentin Harris
"It's All True (Martin Buttrich Remix)" - Tracey Thorn
"Dust (Induceve Remix)" - Recloose feat. Joe Dukie
"Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)" - Groove Armada feat. Mutya
"Soñando Contigo" - Kiko Navarro
"The Sun Can't Compare" - Larry Heard feat. Mr. White
"Us vs. Them" - LCD Soundsystem
"Neighborhoods" - Matthew Dear
"All Woman (Sandy Rivera's Blackwz Remix)" - Skwerl
"Make Me Want You" - Mondee Oliver
"Love Song" - Sarah Bareilles

You can also do no wrong by supporting a worthwhile cause end getting a copy of "Stomp Out Cancer: Indie Artists Fight Ewing's Sarcoma" which was released in honor of my friend Steven Mackin earlier in the year.

And the best for last: If you've made it past aaaaalllll that and you want a nifty compilation of some of the music mentioned here (plus and minus a few tracks), be the among the first five people within the United States to send me an e-mail at blabbeando @ gmail . com requesting one and you will get one sometime after the new year. Happy holidays!

1 comment:

Lake said...

Wow that was a long list. Why isn't there any Mika on your list? Or, if you prefer, Patrick Wolf.

It kind of amazes me to see so many common tastes. Loved the new Annie Lennox's album and the one by New Young Pony Club, and the Calvin Harris one. And "Overpowered" rocks!

But I think you should have listened to some Kate Nash stuff. I think she is the Lily Allen of 2007.

Y tengo que averiguar qué hace esta M.I.A. de la que tanto escuché hablar.