2007: Kinda Surprisingly Good

Open your ears to 2k7’s best music, jackass.

I must admit 2007 has been surprisingly good for music, at least for me. Not only did I first hear a number of albums that made my “best of the year” list, but also some might even be among my all-time favorites. Without further ado…

andrewbird.jpgWithout question, the highlight of 2007 was Andrew Bird. His newest album, Armchair Apocrypha on Fat Possum, easily claimed my top spot for the year, brimming over with undeniable hooks, incredible compositions, and instrumentations that feel both refreshing and familiar all at same time. As if his studio work weren’t enough, seeing Bird perform earlier this year at Toad’s Place blew me away. On a night doomed from the start (I lost my ATM card just before the show), I found myself in a jollier mood than one might expect under the circumstances, more than likely due to the realization of what I was witnessing: one of the best live performances I have ever seen. I would put money on it that no other three-piece band can create such a well-rounded and powerful sound on stage.

Behind Andrew Bird, compiling a list of four other albums proved hard this year, not because of a lack of quality releases, but instead because of so many awesome ones. Number two would have to be Kevin Drew (of Broken Social Scene)’s Spirit If…, which showcased a single songwriter from that band leading them all through his musical vision and kicking off what should end up being a very interesting series from that outfit. Also, having caught the tour in support of this album while in Seattle, helped affirm the impressiveness of Drew’s spacious and warm songwriting.

Changing gears a bit, my third pick for 2007 is 108‘s triumphant return after a decade, the aptly named A New Beat From A Dead Heart. This hardcore masterpiece features a few songs written just before the band’s demise in the late ‘90s, as well as a good quantity of new tracks that fit seamlessly alongside those penned so long ago. Few bands have put out such ferocious, intense albums in recent memory… something especially awe-inspiring when recognizing this is a reunion of guys who’ve been at it a good while. Despite the backlash against the recent wave of reuniting bands, A New Beat From A Dead Heart stands as one good argument in support of the idea.

On a more local front, fourth and fifth positions go to Ghastly City Sleep, with their self-titled debut, and Permanent, who released Sink|Swim, respectively. While Ghastly City Sleep don’t call Richmond home, they surely are familiar with our beloved city. Not only did locally based Robotic Empire release their remarkable album, but the band also features a number of Virginia-to-Brooklyn transplants. With a sound that recalls the best of shoegazer outfit Slowdive while avoiding unoriginality, the four-song album is well worth checking out. Although on an entirely different end of the musical spectrum, Richmond’s own inventive hardcore act Permanent also released a noteworthy debut album that reminds of great music of the past. Sink|Swim brings together an obvious Long Island influence (think Silent Majority) with a distinct sound that demonstrates a willingness to experiment. This is hardcore for people who might otherwise want a more intelligent, thought-provoking approach to their music.

Honorable Mentions (my 6-10 on the “year end top ten”) are: Kate Nash‘s infectiously poppy Made Of Bricks, I Rise‘s recollection of ‘90s hardcore Down, Manchester Orchestra‘s passionate emo-rock effort I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child, Soul Control‘s equally ‘90s hardcore-esque Involution, and Ryan Adam‘s shockingly good Easy Tiger.

Three albums from 2006 that merit mention, if for no other reason than they didn’t gain my full attention until 2007 had begun, are:

Ingrid Michaelson Girls And Boys
You’ve heard her on soundtracks and in commercials, but low and behold see has an album. She’s by far one of the best unsigned singer/songwriters out right now.

mewithoutYou Brother, Sister + Brand New The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
These two albums easily make my top 25 of all time, yet both were released in November 2006 so technically aren’t new this year. Nevertheless, both lyrically deal with reconciling faith to one’s own life and set such weighty content against astounding music that begs repeated listening.

If 2008 proves to be as big a year for music as 2007, I’m not sure anyone will be able to convince me music is dying. Much to the opposite, musicians both of the independent and major ilks, seem all-too-ready to confront the issues facing the music industry head on with their best weapon: talent.

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Sean Patrick Rhorer

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