Sunday, December 9, 2007

end of year list #1

I declare that 2007 will forever be known as “the year of the Swede.” Is it the weather? The diet? The government subsidizing? Whatever it is, they're kicking our collective American butts. Come on countrymen, get it together. Your assignment for the upcoming year? Let’s show ‘em we, too, know pretty.

This year can also be considered the year I forgot how to rock. Electric guitars? Who needs ‘em when you’ve got accordions, ukuleles, sultry piano, and…er…the Pipettes? With such beautiful, orchestral offerings from Beirut, Loney Dear, and Rufus Wainwright to smooth the way, the guitar’s sad demise doesn’t seem like such a painful departure.

The rankings surprised me. Chalk it up my perennial favorites letting me down, or failing to release an album all together. Dear Sufjan, where is my new states album? I suggest thinking outside the box - make 2008 the year of Puerto Rico. And where is the new incarnation of Beck? Someone better invite him to next year’s party. Some albums that had me salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs didn’t deliver the treat I’d been hoping. Bright Eyes forsake his angst-driven past in favor of a more “adult” sound. Ben Lee took the opposite route, embracing his cheerfulness, creating auditory saccharin.

Finally: To The New Amsterdams, Coconut Records, and Thurston Moore, I apologize. If this list were the top eleven (and believe me, I rallied long and hard for it) one of you would be joining the party.

ten favorite albums

10 · Open Field by Taken By Trees
Victoria Bergsman's solo debut is understated, to the point of childlike simplicity. It's easy to miss its emotional punch. However, give it time and a few late nights. You’ll find that writing this straightforward and affecting doesn’t need orchestration.
9 · Neon Bible by Arcade Fire
After Funeral's few hits padded by a lot of filler, I almost wrote off this gem. Stupid me.
8 · Armchair Apocrypha by Andrew Bird
A late night, cold medication-induced discovery - who I was utterly convinced was actually Mew. Which is of course to say, the night was very late and the cold meds were very effective. Layered, introspective suave pop. And yes, the whistling's real.
7 · Bird and the Bee by Bird & The Bee
Pure electro-pop bliss. I harbor fantasies that I sing like Inara George. I’m also convinced I'm witty. I guess we all have our personal stumbling blocks. (For a +3 hipster points, pick up their newest EP Please Clap Your Hands.)
6 · Release the Stars by Rufus Wainwright
Thankfully Rufus didn’t go through with his threat to create his “introspective, striped down” album. Instead, after the somewhat disappointing Want Two, the Ru is back, bigger and shmazzier than ever. Pin on your broach collection and listen closely: you can almost hear the Busby Berkeley dance routines.
5 · Loney Noir by Loney, Dear
A Sufjan Stevens, Postal Service love child. If I’m at eating lunch at home, then it's mandated listening. I’m really not sure what would happen if I didn’t…but with pure Swedish orchestral pop this lush, who'd want to tempt fate?
4 · The Flying Cup Club by Beirut
A deep voiced, scruffily dressed indie boy takes us on a tour of 1920s Paris along with his band of merry troublemakers and orchestral chaperone Owen Pallet. It’s the budget-travel soundtrack for those of us who can’t quite yet afford the hitchhikers version of Europe.
3 · Our Ill Wills by Shout Out Louds
“Hey Bart! Alf’s back…in pog form!” When I was young and impressionable (okay, younger and more impressionable) I used to sneak out after bedtime to watch Cure music videos with my older brother. This album finds me back in my parents' living room, this time with visions of the Scandinavian midnight sun and all night dance parties dancing in my head.
2 · Dumb Luck by Dntel
One can only be distracted for so long by side projects. Yes Jimmy Tamborello’s worked with everyone in the music industry (heck, he’s probably remixed one of your band’s tracks) and released music under a half a dozen different monikers. But it’s about time he went back to his first love, or at least first identity. Turns out it was well worth the wait. Dumb Luck is a love letter to the by-products of the artistic process: lost love, squandered talent, and self-doubt. With some of Jimmy’s previous musical partners lending their vocal talents, the simple stories of heartbreak take on a painful, yet universal tone.
1 · Night Falls Over Kortedala by Jens Lekman
Once again, marry me Jens. Either that or stop reading my diary. Seriously, it's getting spooky. It's been two months now since the album's release, and this pop gem has yet to find its way out of my car. Yes, I am that girl next to you in 405 gridlock, singing at the top of her lungs. Deal with it.

ten favorite songs

10 · "The Moat" by Palmer AK from AK Final EP
Eric Howk’s got everyone at CWBH drawing hearts in the margins of our math homework.
9 · "The Art of The Quick Draw" by The Minor Canon from No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
Proving that even the most painful of recognitions can sound pretty when delivered over a swelling horn section.
8 · "While You Were Sleeping" by Elvis Perkins from Ash Wednesday
Honestly? I have no clue what this song is about. But the world he creates is so soothing I want to live on repeat in this hypnotic lullaby.
7 · "I Defy" by Joan As Police Woman from Real Life
The ex-girlfriend of Jeff Buckley and Anthony ratchet up the emotional intensity as they peel back their lovers’ skins to “kiss the real you.” The result is one of uneasy beauty.
6 · "Cycling Trivialities" by Jose Gonzalez from In Our Nature
Haunting. Is there another word for what he does? This time, Jose outdoes himself with his longest track to date, echoing uneasily into an unknown future.
5 · "Colleen" by Joanna Newsom from Joanna Newsom And The Y's Street Band
Searing, yet playful, Joanna spins another unforgettable yarn of love, loss and beauty.
4 · "Everything I Cannot See" by Charlotte Gainsbourg from 5:55
Untrained emotive wailing, lyrics written by Jarvis Cocker, all performed over a long lost Air track. Why wasn’t I born French?
3 · "Paris Is Burning" by St. Vincent from Marry Me
Story as old as time itself: Girl joins Sufjan Steven’s band of merry pranksters, girl learns ropes of storytelling and songwriting, girl graduates from group to become a dazzling artist in her own right.
2 · "Amsterdam" by Peter Bjorn and John from Writers Block
The younger, introverted but gifted sibling of "Young Folks."
1 · "Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig" by Jens Lekman from
Night Falls Over Kortedala
The best way to touch your heart/is to make an ass of myself. The anthem for the year…and quite possibly my entire adult life.

five favorite shows

5 · Peter, Bjorn and John @ The Roxy
4 · Jens Lekman @ The Troubador
3 · Joanna Newsom @ Walt Disney Concert Hall
2 · Rufus Wainwright @ The Hollywood Bowl
1 · Interpol, Taken By Trees and Modest Mouse @ The Accelerator Music Festival

three favorite books

3 · The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
2 · Looking For Alaska by John Green
1 · King Dork by Frank Portman

three favorite movies

3 · Lars And The Real Girl
2 · Darjeeling Limited
1 · Paris J'taime

my secret superpower is:
The ability to speak any language at moment's notice. They call me Linguistic Girl! It does nothing in my quest to fight crime...but I always have a great time at dinner parties.

my advice to other would-be hipsters:
Advice redacted due to on-going quarter life crisis. Please check back for 2008 “best of” list.

in 2008 I might:
find some sort of meaningful, full-time employment. Then again I might strap my guitar to my back and flee like a feral rat into the night.

mp3: "Plasticities (live)" by Andrew Bird
mp3: "I Am John (live)" by Loney,Dear
mp3: "Everything I Cannot See (live)" by Charlotte Gainsbourg
mp3: "Paris Is Burning (live)" by St. Vincent
mp3: "Friday Night At The Drive In Bingo (solo)" by Jens Lekman

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