Checking Wikipedia, I discovered some celebrity birthdays of note: I was born a week after Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) and 11 days before Lark Voorhees (Lisa from Saved by the Bell.) I’m also within a month or two of Kate Moss, Tiffani Thiessen (another Saved by the Bell alumna), Christian Bale, Seth Green, James Blunt, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (more Saved by the Bell), Jenna Jameson, Da Brat, Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, Penélope Cruz, Jewel, Alanis Morissette and Derek Jeter. And that’s just in the first half of the year.
Wow, I can’t believe this is already the fourth year I’ve been doing this. I am truly an old fart because the years really are flying by now. That’s what happens when you’ve made 34 trips around the sun. I’m just scared to think what it’ll feel like when I’m 60.
Well enough angst. Let’s talk music. And there’s a lot to talk about: 2007 has, for my tastes at least, been an unparalleled year for new music. I would have a hard time identifying a year that’s produced more great music without going all the way back to 1971. (And I wasn’t around to experience that firsthand.) So, without further ado, here we go.
I’ve been a Rush-head for over half my life now. A sad fact of a band this long-lived and prolific is watching the quality of their output deteriorate over time. The band’s last full-length album, 2002’s Vapor Trails, was surprisingly good musically, but suffered from some of the worst production in the last several decades. The band had been enthusiastically touting Snakes and Arrows for several months before its release, and with good reason. The album is phenomenal. Easily their best work since 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. Great, rocking music, with more dynamics and variety than we’ve heard from the boys in years; lyrics with surprisingly deep insight into the woes of early 21st century American society; first-rate production; and… well what can I say? Three instrumentals. It just doesn’t get much better in the Rush canon.
Michael Brecker was at the pinnacle of the post-Coltrane jazz world for upwards of 30 years. Late last year he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, and with less than 5 months to live, he put together a final farewell to those of us who’ve followed his brilliant music over the years. This album is full of moments of profound beauty and intense burning jazz as full of life as anything he’d ever done. Sadly he did not survive to see the album released, but it remains a fitting good-bye to this jazz legend.
I’ve enjoyed Wilco’s music since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and have been fascinated to hear the evolution of the band’s sound on each album. This is very much back-to-basics, and it works extraordinarily well. It’s simply not possible to listen to this music and not feel good. In a good way.
This is the album it seems everyone was talking about in October. It may still see a traditional release in stores in 2008, but so far it’s only available as a pay-what-you-want download from the band’s website. But that in no way means it’s inferior work. The band has covered some challenging musical ground in the past decade since the release of their masterpiece, OK Computer, and this album bookends that one nicely. (There’s plenty of speculation out there that the albums really were intended to integrate in Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon style, but I’ll leave that to the stoners to prove.) If you haven’t already, download it now. What are you waiting for? (I assume you are wondering what, if anything, I paid for it. Well, I sucked it up and bought the £40 deluxe package, which should be arriving next month.
I loved In Your Honor so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this album and it did not disappoint! From the lead single “The Pretender” straight on through, the band displays brilliant songwriting, impeccable chops (these guys can really play, and if you doubt that, be sure also to check out drummer Taylor Hawkins’ guest work on Coheed and Cambria’s No World for Tomorrow), and a wide stylistic and dynamic range. Dave Grohl’s voice matches the music perfectly, from a delicate whisper to a larynx-shredding scream. The best album of a great year of music.
As I said, it’s been a great year for music. It was hard to narrow the list down to 5. Here, in no particular order (OK, they’re alphabetical by artist), are some of the other great albums I enjoyed this year:
And there are a few others that just missed the cut, like The Dear Hunter and Portugal. The Man. (“Portugal. The Man.” is one band. You have to give them credit just for the audacity of that band name.)
Often I have pondered, when watching bands like Styx, Boston or Queen, just when rock musicians were at their ugliest. Certainly there was a moment when hair (both atop the head and facial) and clothes hit their simultaneous nadir, and rock stars looked as bad as they ever possibly could.
Chances were always good, I felt, that that point had occurred in the 1970s. MTV hadn’t launched yet, and use of hair products was limited to, at best, an occasional shampoo.
Well I’ve always felt that the 1980s really didn’t start until about 1982, or at least not until that fateful moment on August 1, 1981, when MTV launched with the Buggles’ (who were none too telegenic themselves) “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Therefore, according to my logic (plus the logic of math, if you happen to be one of those who celebrated the millennium a year later than everyone else), 1980 was, technically, still a part of the era known as “the ’70s.”
And now, with the recent release of some 1980 concert footage in a special CD/DVD repackaging of the Genesis classic, Duke, I have photographic proof that the fateful year that signified the dawn of a new and perhaps even more frightening decade (what with the election of one Ronald Wilson Reagan) was also the year at which rock star fashion truly reached its lowest imaginable point. Continue if you dare…
Exhibit A is one Phil Collins. As you can tell by his demeanor, he realizes how bad he looks. He’s not actually singing here; he’s desperately pleading with the audience for someone to, for the love of God, call a barber.
Here we have Exhibit B, the band’s touring guitarist, Daryl Stuermer. Judging by his ‘stache-n-‘fro combo, blinding yellow shirt, pleated white pants and the obligatory suspenders, he would fit in equally well as a sub with Kansas, Boston, Chicago, Asia, or any other band named after a place.
Exhibit C actually has nothing to do with my case for 1980 as the worst year in rock fashion, although I guess now that I stop to look at it, Phil’s Hawaiian shirt is rather loud. Mainly I just wanted to post this photo because I was in utter disbelief when I saw the mutilated head of his tambourine. How do you do that?!
After a coworker and I spent some time today discussing the viral marketing campaign surrounding tomorrow’s release of the new Nine Inch Nails album, Year Zero, he mentioned number spirals to me, which led me to discover this fascinating site. Fascinating, at least, if you’re the variety of geek such as myself, constantly manipulating numbers in your head.
Another year is almost over (and considering where we’ve come, I can only hope the next four go as quickly… but I digress; besides, I’m still on political vacation). Time to review the sounds that made their way into my ears (or at least onto my iPod) this year…
This brilliant soundtrack lifts from such diverse influences as Django Reinhardt and Curtis Mayfield, and works as perfectly as the animated feature itself. Everyone owes it to themselves to experience both the film and its music.
Dripping with ’80s pop culture references, the only question that remains is best spoken in the words of George McFly: “Do you really think I ought to swear?” The occasional expletives don’t detract, however, from such delights as “Think twice before you start flossin’ / I’ve been in your bathroom often,” or “Ad-Rock, a.k.a. sharp cheddar / my rhymes are better / What the Helen of Troy is that? / Did I hear you say my rhymes is whack?” (More on that here…)
I was groovin’ on “Vertigo” for a couple of months (yes, cranked up to 14), and when the full album “dropped” (pardon the pun) I wasn’t the only one grabbing it from the rack at Target 10 minutes after they opened. This would easily win my best album of the year, were it not for…
Wow. Friggin’ holy crap, WOW. Perhaps not only the best album of the year, but of the past 37, since that’s when the former Beach Boy started working on it. No one (least of all Wilson himself) ever expected to see (and hear!) it finished, but here it is. And worth the wait.
Addendum: February 26, 2005
When I wrote this, I hadn’t yet checked out Green Day’s American Idiot. Having pretty much loathed the band before, I didn’t expect much, but this album really is quite amazing! If I were to revise the list above, I would probably put it at #2.