Friday, November 30, 2007

2007: My Favorite Songs

Using the same format as last year -- honorable mentions on top, and then a small number of explicated very-favorites below -- here's a list of songs I enjoyed from 2007. I'll say again: The alternating boldface in the honorable mention is only for visual separation, not some secret code (though I won't convince Don DeLillo).

“Two” -- Ryan Adams; “The Sun Also Sets” -- Ryan Adams; “The Ballad of Love and Hate” -- The Avett Brothers; “Salina” -- The Avett Brothers; “No One’s Gonna Love You” -- Band of Horses; “Heretics” -- Andrew Bird; “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” -- Cat Power; “When Am I Gonna Realize” -- Christopher Denny; “Gypsy Into a Carpenter” -- Christopher Denny; “Nothing/Nowhere” -- Clare & the Reasons; “Pink Batman” -- Dan Deacon; “Been There All the Time” -- Dinosaur Jr.; “So Long, Lonesome” -- Explosions in the Sky; “Brandy Alexander” -- Feist; “This is How My Heart Behaves” -- Feist; “Standing in the Way of Control” -- Gossip; “Your Mangled Heart” -- Gossip; “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” -- The Hold Steady; “My Life” -- Klashnekoff; “Modern Love” -- Last Town Chorus; “Wintering in Brooklyn” -- Last Town Chorus; “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” -- LCD Soundsystem; “Add Your Light to Mine, Baby” -- Lucky Soul; “Plus Ones” -- Okkervil River; “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” -- Okkervil River; “Objects of My Affection” -- Peter Bjorn & John; “Everything” -- Radio Citizen featuring Bajka; “Nude” -- Radiohead; “Videotape” -- Radiohead; “Be Good or Be Gone” -- Fionn Regan; “All Cleaned Out” -- Elliott Smith; “Take Me to the Riot” -- Stars; “Midnight Coward” -- Stars; “It’s All True” -- Tracey Thorn; “Jimmy Dean & Steve McQueen” -- Julian Velard; “Grey in L.A.” -- Loudon Wainwright; “Lullaby” -- Loudon Wainwright; “Tournament of Hearts” -- The Weakerthans; “Sorry” -- Youth Group

“All I Need” -- Radiohead

As one reviewer, Hugo Lindgren, put it, "The diffident bastards of Radiohead have spared us another brooding lesson in postmodern musicology and given us songs that have shape and definition and punctuation and melodies that, while not catchy in a pop sense, make you want to hear them again and again." I agree. And it's not because all postmodern noisemaking turns me off, but because, also like the reviewer, "I am one of those philistines who believed, until now anyway, that The Bends, their second album, from 1995, marked their creative peak."

That "until now" must mean Lindgren thinks this year's album is the band's new peak. The Bends and OK Computer beat it for me, but I still file it under Vast Improvement.

“The Birth and Death of the Day” -- Explosions in the Sky

I am not an instrumental rock kind of person. I listen to classical and jazz when I don't want to hear people singing. But this band from Texas partially converted me this year. Their mostly long songs (this one is 7:50; several are longer) gracefully move from churning to chiming guitar, and gentle to thunderous drums, and back. It's also wonderful music to write to, because it's dynamic and keeps me attentive without distracting me. It also keeps my foot bouncing up and down, which is my writing metronome.

“See You Later” -- Elliott Smith

Like my feelings about instrumental rock, I'm usually tentative when approaching posthumous releases. But this year's New Moon is two discs full of stripped-down songs from the mid-'90s that would have been comfortable on Smith's best disc, either/or.

“Destroyer” -- David Gray

I don't love the fact that Gray released a hits collection this month, because I tend to think of that as a lazy move by anyone relatively young, but then again, The Killers just released a collection of B-sides and rarities, and it seems like they formed in August. At least Gray's been releasing music since 1993, when I learned to love him -- a love I still won't apologize for, though it's always easier to love a musician when they're young and hungry, and when only you and your girlfriend seem to know they exist. Fair enough. This song is one of two new ones on the hits CD, produced by "legendary Pink Floyd/Sex Pistols producer Chris Thomas." That's Amazon saying that; I've never heard of Thomas, so I'm not sure how legendary he could be. Anyway, you can see Gray perform it here, if you're so inclined.

Little Red Riding Hood -- now there's a legend.

“It’s Not Over” -- Last Town Chorus

A lovely, haunting song featuring slide guitar and an echo-y chorus. It starts with the lyric, "Saw you yesterday out with your new friend / in the neighborhood we used to stroll all over," and ends with rapid bursts of electric guitar abruptly interrupting the otherwise hazy sound. The group's sleepy remake of David Bowie's "Modern Love" (listed in honorable mention) is a neat trick.

“Is There a Ghost” and “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” -- Band of Horses

More on these guys when I list all my favorite things from the year next week or the week after, but these are my favorite two songs off their excellent sophomore album, Cease to Begin. "Ghost" makes use of a repetitive lyric and guitar squall to become one of the better opening tracks on an album in recent memory. "Cigarettes" manages to craft a child-like sing-along chorus out of the words, "While they lied."

“String of Racehorses” -- Hotel Lights

This was officially released in 2006 (as were a couple of the honorable mentions), but I first heard it this year, and it's too perfect to leave off. It's off an e.p.; I'm anticipating their follow-up full-length about as much as anything right now.

“The Underdog” -- Spoon

I'm not a Spoon Kool-Aid guy. I think they're good, but I tend to just listen to my favorite handful of songs, and that satisfies my craving. I thought this was one of the catchiest songs of the year, and I like catchy.

“No One” -- Alicia Keys

iTunes doesn't lie, so this has to be my favorite song of the year. I just bought it a couple of weeks ago, and I've already listened to it more than 50 times. Like another song I enjoyed this year (Rihanna's "Umbrella"), it's a song about loyalty and love, not humps and such. It's not lyrically groundbreaking or even particularly moving (though the delivery is), but it has dignity, which is a hell of a lot more than you can say for most songs that are this popular. Take it away, Alicia:


Anonymous Kevin Longrie said...

Isn't the Last Town Chorus fantastic? I saw them in L.A. in october, and subsequently met Megan. Fantastic.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Mrs. White said...

Nice list. I'm still working on mine, but "Cigarettes and Wedding Bands" is definitely making it.

And I'm totally with you on Explosions in the Sky as being perfect writing music. Most days, I'm not one for instrumental rock either, but that album is fantastic.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Dezmond said...

Ah, after so many years of discussing music with you, some things on this list are oh so predictable. Not a bad thing, I am sure you could say the same about picks I would make.

Unlike you and some of your readers, I am a fan of instrumental rock. And I also really like Explosions in the Sky. I've got several of their albums, but for my money, the best and most succinct demonstration of their greatness is the 'Friday Night Lights' movie soundtrack. They do about 80% of the soundtrack. For newcomers (or even people who already like them), I would highly recommend that.

Other very good instrumental rock bands that are more about mood vs. wanking and worth exploring: Pell Mell, The Mermen, The Aqua Velvets. And lots of stuff from Jeff Beck.


9:19 AM  

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