Friday, December 28, 2007

Ryan's Top 10: Let's Finish This Shiz Up

#4 Okkervil River - The Stage Names


To be perfectly honest, when I first put this list together I was surprised at the fact that this album wasn’t ranked higher. In my head I seriously considered it a top 3 album of the year. But then, when I put it up against all the other albums of the year, there were in fact three albums I enjoyed more. So, once again I find myself mathematically limited by the number of albums I could include…thus Okkervil River’s The Stage Names finds itself at Number 4. I know Bryan mentioned that he finds this album too “happy” in tone, and honestly I don’t really get that. The standout tracks on this albums are the ones that tend to be or sound a bit depressing. The opening track, “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe”, begins by saying exactly what the title states, that our life never works out as great or as bad as things tend to in movies. There’s not ultimate climax, no new boundaries being broken. It’s just life. Seems very ho-hum to me. In fact, I find quite a pessimistic tone throughout the rest of the album. Whether its lamenting a number of women or settling themselves on their own mid-level band status, there’s an overall pessimistic feel. This is none-to-evident on the highlight of the album (and quite possibly the entire year) on the albums closing “John Allyn Smith Sails”. If I was to list my favorite songs of 2007 (which I will certainly not bore you with, this list was long enough) there’s an exceptional chance this would find itself at the very top of that list. Regardless, “John Allyn Smith Sails” finds itself a suicide attempt story of based on former poet John Berryman. The song breaks into a rewritten form of the Beach Boys “Sloop John B” at the 2:30 point that just blows me away. Its great. To add to the fantasticness that is this album is the inclusion of an extra song when purchasing the album from eMusic. The trumpet-laced breakup lament “Love to a Monster” is a slow moving “tribute” to a former lover that includes lines like “I hope you get angry and hurt and have the hardest of landings” and “I hope your new man thinks of me when he sees what a number I did on you.” For some reason, I have a feeling that most of us have probably thought this way about a person at one point or another.


Okkervil River - John Allyn Smith Sails

Okkervil River - A Girl in Port

#3 The National - Boxer

I first discovered The National for myself this year after rummaging through a used CD box at Grimey’s Record Store in Nashville this past summer. There I stumbled upon a used copy of The National’s Alligator which I had remembered reading somewhere might be a decent album. So, unlike many other, more hip, music listeners I was not anxiously awaiting the appearance of the Boxer this year. In fact, because I had just purchased Alligator, I held off on purchasing Boxer until much later in the year than I probably should. That being said, the amount of The National I have listened to this year has been tremendous. So, this review may come off as more of a review of The National’s style than about Boxer itself. Someone, somewhere (maybe it was Bryan, I can’t remember) described The National’s music as being melancholy rock…and I think that’s an excellent description. The National is everything I want in a band from their rolling drums that are often brought to the forefront of the song (see “Squalor Victoria”) to the melancholy reverberating guitars. I typically find myself paying far more attention to the music of a band as opposed to the lyrics, and not to take anything away from the lyrics found on Boxer, The National is a band where one can be completely immersed in the music and sound of the album while not caring at all about the lyrics, and still enjoy the album. So, I very glad I finally worked my way around to getting this album. I’ve listened to both Alligator and Boxer an awful lot this year and either one is a great place to get started if you haven’t experienced The National before.

The National - Squalor Victoria

The National - Fake Empire

#2 Ola Podrida - Ola Podrida


I’ve always thought that if I were a movie director, there wouldn’t be a more enjoyable job than selecting songs for the soundtrack to my movie. Deciding what songs could create a particular feeling in someone when watching something happen to complete strangers is an art, but it’s an art that I like to think I’d be good at. Now, this is most likely completely false. I would probably suck at it, but seeing as how I doubt I’ll ever get the opportunity to prove my chops, I’m going to continue thinking that I’d do a decent job. Regardless, some people are particularly good at it, and supposedly (from what I’ve read at least) one of those individuals is David Wingo. Wingo has written music for movie soundtracks for a while, and Ola Podrida is his first attempt at band-dom. Let me be the 1000th to say it, I think the transition would quite well. Ola Podrida’s self-titled debut was critically-acclaimed in a few circles, but finds itself absent from many of the Top 10 lists I’ve been reading over the past month. I really find that hard to believe. In fact, Paste even omitted it from their Top 100 list!! Bullshit, I say!! I have dug on this album since my first listen of the song “Cindy”, which came courtesy of everyone’s favorite ubiquitous review site Pitchfork. “Cindy” is the arpeggio-ed story of a girl that decides to burn up everything she owns in a magnificent house fire. Everything proceeds perfectly as planned only until she comes to the realization that she’s got some overdue library books she left in the house that she needs to return. So, I suppose, her thinking that since she was already going to have at least one charge of arson heading her way in the near future, she needed to attempt to make piece with the public servants down at the Biblioteca. That being the case, she entered the partially destroyed, burning house to retrieve the books, never to be heard from again. It’s quite a lovely story, and I was hypnotized the first time I heard it (and subsequently the next 20-30 times). Stories are a common theme throughout the album. There’s the country-twinged ode to a bar singer in “Jordanna” and the lackadaisical vacation-turned-breakup story of “Day at the Beach” that find themselves both at top of my favorite songs of 2007. In fact, I would argue there’s not a better collection of three songs on any of the other albums in my top 10. Maybe the storytelling is an extension of his previous soundtrack writing, but Wingo does an excellent job of eliciting a number of emotions over the course of the album. And from the way I understand it, emotions are a good thing. So, Cheers to Dave Wingo and his band Ola Podrida for creating my second favorite album of 2007.

Ola Podrida - Cindy

Ola Podrida - A Day at the Beach

#1 Radiohead - In Rainbows


Ten years from now will be 2017. That seems ridiculous. Honestly. Two thousand and seventeen. I mean, we should have like flying cars, and everyone should be eating space ice cream all the time by then. We’ll most likely have populated Mars, transitioned to a completely cashless society, and we’ll be approaching 109 years of Chicago Cubs-free World Series. It sounds as if it truly will be the future. But we all know that won’t be the case. 2017 sounds like forever away, but is it really all that far? Another interesting question is what will I be listening to in ten years? Of all the albums that came out in 2007, do any have the a chance of remaining in my rotation in 2017. Well, before I answer that, let’s look back ten years ago…all the way back to 1997. In 1997 my favorite album of ALL-TIME came out. Radiohead’s OK Computer. My first listens to this album were like entering a new universe. Nothing before or it, or since in my humble opinion, had achieved close to the musical perfection that I thought OK Computer was (minus one ridiculous Macintosh-voice ridden “Fitter Happier”). Now, an entire decade later, I still feel basically the same way. My musical tastes haven’t changed much, and the album I thought was the best of all time, I still believe is the best album of all time. So, best I can gather, in another ten years, my musical tastes will most likely remain fairly constant. I mean, they’ve survived the past ten high school/college/grad school/getting married years, I cannot fathom what could happen over the next ten years (aside from getting a job, finally getting paid a real salary, buying a house, having kids, and going to PTA meetings) to cause my fully implanted musical tastes to change. So, being that is it may, I’m announcing Radiohead’s In Rainbows as my Best Album of 2007. No other album came close in creating an excitement in me than In Rainbows. And the amazing thing is….it only had like 6 days to do that. I honestly enjoy everything about the album. There’s something to love about each and every song. I enjoy the “try to learn how to clap to this song, Americans” of “15 Step”. The crunch that “Bodysnatchers” employs, and the fact that once it ends that crunch is over for the rest of the album. The airy lustfulness of “Nude”. The repetitive, crispness of “Weird Fish/Arpeggi”. The brutal, bass-ridden honesty of “All I Need”. The perfect mesh of acoustic guitar and strings in “Faust Arp”. The cymbal tapping, subtleness of “The Reckoner”. The bouncy, carefulness of “House of Cards”. The mind-erasing bridge at the 2:54 point in “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” that practically sums up the entire album for me. The going nowhere, eeriness of “Videotape”. I love each song and believe that regardless of my situation ten years from now, In Rainbows will be up there with OK Computer as one of my favorites of all time. So, the pressure’s on Radiohead…..if I’m interpreting the pattern correctly, then in 2017 we should be in for quite a new album. I’m already counting down the days.

Radiohead - All I Need

Radiohead - Reckoner

RR

4 comments:

Conrad said...

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