The Year in Rock N Roll
By Evan Greenwald
Band of the Year:
THE ARCADE FIRE
Letís look back and see why Arcade Fire Kick ass. Fist of all, theyíre probably one of the biggest bands to reach the Top 40, having a seven-person studio band and an eleven person live band. This doesnít sound very exciting until you hear it, but then you get it. Itís awesome, trust me. Second, their latest album, ìNeon Bibleî is one of the best of at least the last five years, featuring the some of the best songs that Bruce Springsteen couldnít even write, and heís put out an album this year too. Speaking of the Boss, not only has singer Win Butler been featured on the December cover of Spin Magazine along side the Boss, theyíve also jammed together in an encore after an E-Street Band show in Canada.
Another feat of Butlerís: Heís completely wrecked two fairly vital objects on both American and British television. On Saturday Night Live, after breaking a string on the beautiful neo-folk song ìIntervention,î he smashed his guitar in front of millions and millions of people, and on Later with Jools Holland (Whoís actually Jonathan Ross), he smashed one of the cameras used to film the very performance of ìKeep the Car Runningî that had just ended, with his mandolin.
He sounds destructive, but beneath the madness is a beautiful mind. Throughout Arcade Fireís two-album, one EP life, theyíve managed to write about one mediocre song (ìIím Sleeping In a Submarine,î a psychadellic kidís song thatís even fun after you get past that) and nothing bad at all.
ìFuneral,î their first album, and my personal favorite album of all time, is probably the most joyous sound that will ever enter your ears in your life. Donít let its title fool you. And donít let the fact that nine members of the bandís family died during the making of it get to you either. The first song, ìNeighborhood # 1 (Tunnels)î will make you smile, have that warm good feeling inside, and the feeling will only get greater as the album progresses, so that when ìRebellion (Lies)î reaches its beautiful and heartwrenching climax youíll be jumping in your seat, grinning uncontrollably, having been taken over by the holy ghost. Butlerís ability to make the dark sound so bright is astounding. He can find the happiness in everything.
And if you still donít get the picture, go on YouTube, or better, my Myspace Page and search of a video of them live. If that doesnít convert you, then chances are you donít have a soul, and you should talk to your doctor about assisted suicide.
Just remember, all dark things have a light in them.
Now, their achievements of this year may not exactly outshine ìYankee Hotel Foxtrotî or ìA Ghost Is Bornî, their two classics, but what ìSky Blue Skyî really represents is the return of the Jam Band. They made it in a little room, sitting in a circle with their instruments, jamming out tunes like ìImpossible Germanyî and ìWalken.î In years past theyíve been declared the new Sonic Youth, but after this year it seems they could become the next Grateful Dead, or maybe even the next Jimi Hendrix Experience.
But whatever course they take, it will be fun. There will be jamming. Let there be sound.
3. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
You are not going to find the next ìStairway to Heavenî on any of QOTSAís albums. You arenít going to discover the meaning of the universe. In fact, you probably arenít going to gain anything from Queens of the Stone Ageís songs unless youíre a musician, for the pure reason that they are rockís new revolutionaries. Everything about them right down to their guitar tone leaks creative thinking. Listen to ìSick Sick Sick.î It takes real talent to make one Seventh chord so exciting. Play ìIím Designerî on your iPod. Itís the best song about self-in-loveness in a long long time (ìIím one of a kind!/ Iím designerî Singer/Lead guitarist Josh Homme muses).
Thereís nothing to learn from them, but Queens of the Stone Age are the creators of some of the most original metal since Rage Against the Machine.
4. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE
And speaking of something youíll gain absolutely nothing from, hereís the Animal Collective, the most original thinkers in the last twenty years. This is an example of a band whoíre completely self indulgentótheir only downfall, and who are also ridiculously innovational. ìPeaceboneî is about as normal as they know how to get, and listening to it is like having a caffeine rush without having to drink anything.
Sometimes they lose their way, but more times than not, theyíre in it for the funóyour fun that is.
Their acceptance onto this list was inevitable, face it. Not only have their past works been marked into the minds of anyone who truly cares about the future of Rock n Roll, but their latest album, In Rainbows is unique right down to the way you could have bought, it up until the Tenth of December, 2007. Their signature electronic/alt-rock style persistently sounds like no one else, and it continues to this day to be a driving source of inspiration or new artists and old alike. Itís almost a miracle.
AND THIS YEARíS DREAM BAND ISÖ
Singer of the Year:
From AGAINST ME!
I donít know about you, but Iím sick of the some old voice in every song around. So when I heard the full-throttle grit that comes from Tom Gabelís steel-pole vocal chords, I did a dance move in my seatóit may not fit the taste of all people around, but personally, I think itís refreshing. Yes, heís screaming in every song on the album. And even on the duet with Tegan Quinn from Tegan and Sarah, heís got his vocal sound, and it fits.
Key Track: Thrash Unreal/Borne On The FM Waves of the Heart
Runner-Ups: James MurphyóLCD Soundsystem, James Merceróthe Shins, Feist, Ryan Adams, Jeff TweedyóWilco
Guitarist of the Year:
Speed isnít an issue hereóweíve got ìSide With the Seedsî, we all know he can play fast. Itís how he plays thatís amazing. Especially on Wilcoís last release, their live album ìKicking Televisionî. During the guitar solo in ìAshes of American Flagsî you actually start to believe that maybe heís God. And on ìImpossible Germanyî and ìYou Are My Faceî thereís a similar feeling. Personally, I wouldnít put it past him.
Key Track: Ashes of American Flags
Runner-Ups: J MascisóDinosaur Jr., Jack Whiteóthe White Stripes, Josh HommeóQueens of the Stone Age, Richard Reed ParryóThe Arcade Fire
Bassist of the Year:
From LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Actually, there werenít really any good bassists slapping their funk into place this year. Last year I couldíve written a page about Flea, but, alas, the Chili Peppers didnít made an album last year, and neither did Les Claypool.
But if anyone deserves to be named funkiest man alive in music today, itís James Murphy, the man behind the CD called Sound of Silver, the thirteenth best album of this year. His bass playing is very good (Check out ìUs V Themî for the best bassline of the year, even if itís very simpleótwo main notes, and an added slap note every other time around), but
itís the sounds he comes up with for that four string of his.
Key Track: Us V Them
Drummer of the Year:
From THE NATIONAL
Honestly, I didnít think you could be artistic with a drumkit until Bryan Devendorf came along. He really is an artist. On even the more dull of songs on ìBoxerî, he delivers fascinating indie-rock beats. Check out ìSqualor Victoriaî for the most creative pulsations in a mid-tempo rock song I think Iíve ever heard. Listen to all the Nationalís songs for a small dictionary of brilliant ideas. Devendorf may have been the most delightful surprise of this year.
Key Track: Squalor Victoria
Runner-Ups: Nathan FollowilóKings of Leon, Jimmy ChamberlinóSmashing Pumpkins, Glenn KotcheóWilco, Panda BearóAnimal Collective
Lyricists of the Year:
Win Butler (the Arcade Fire)
There may be moments where one could say that he becomes immersed in his heroes (In ì(Antichrist Television Blues)î his lyrics have the American values of Springsteen, and ìNo Cars Goî has the telegraph simplicity that Kurt Cobain used to write in), but he is a true visionary. The entire ìNeon Bibleî has lyrical themes far too complicated to express: Thereís a reason why ìBlack Mirrorî starts it, and it may be related to the line ìMirror mirror, on the wall/Show me where them bombs will fallî. And throughout the LP his narrative voice is of a paranoid American worried people are going to take him away from his home in the middle of the night and that 9-11 is going to happen again. But, all in all, heís simply a man worried about what the world has come to, and he just happens to be incredibly inept at expressing this.
Key Lyric: ìThey know my name/Because I told it to them/ but they donít know where/and they donít know whenî, from ìKeep The Car Runningî
2. Connor Oberst (Bright Eyes)
Often hailed as the new Bob Dylan, Connor Oberst has people behind him, praying heís going to make a ìLike A Rolling Stoneî before he fades away. And he may not be close enough to that yet, but his words are certainly growing in maturity, as is he: like Dylan, there was a time when Oberst was a self-indulgent kid with an acoustic guitar. But now, with his full-thrown explosive band heís had time to think more about the words heís saying, and to think about how they sound as well. The result is great, and also anarchistic: songs like ìHot Knivesî and ìFour Windsî are strays from the religious gobble heís used to gargle, and now heís gone Satan on us(ìAnd when great Satanís gone!/The Whore of Babylon!î is the hook in ìFour Windsî), just like a real Rock n Roll.
Key Lyrics: ìThe bibleís blind/the torahís deaf/the Koran is mute/if you burned them all together youíd get close to the truth.î From ìFour Windsî.
3. Sam Beam (Iron and Wine)
Someone who gets considerably less Bob Dylan comparisons than Connor Oberst is Sam Beam, but this is only because their styles sonically. His words are simply poetry. Honestly, I have no idea about anything heís talking about, but what heís saying is not only deep, but it just feels good to read. Read the words to ìBoy With a Coinî(the sound effects on his voice make it difficult to understand what heís saying) and tell me they donít make you wonder what they mean and smile at the mystery too.
Key Lyrics: ìLove was a promise made of smoke /In a frozen copse of trees/A bone cold and older than our bodies /Slowly floating in the seaî from ìThe Pagan and the Borrowed Carî.
4. Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
His lyrical achievements this year were no achievements at all: they were horrible (ìMaybe you still love me/maybe you donítî if Either Way werenít so catchy, those words would make me completely sick). But what we do here is commemorate the words heís used in the past, like in the song ìHell is Chromeî, a brilliantly simplistic moody piano piece where he sings, ìWhen the devil came/ he wasn’t red/he was chrome, and he said/ come with meî or in ìAshes of American Flagsî, where he says some of the most purely truthful words Iíve ever heard: ìLies are only wishesî. And itís not just his poetic devices, his hidden meanings, but itís the stories he tells, the characters, and sometimes even the rhymes. ìHummingbirdî is not only movingly hopeful, but it has possibly the greatest rhyme ever made, along with a brilliant character: ìHis goal in life was to be an echo/the type of sound/that floats around/and then back down/like a feather.î
Key Lyric: ìHis goal in life was to be an echo/the type of sound/that floats around/and then back down/like a feather.î from ìHummingbirdî.
5. Bruce Springsteen
The boss has always been a fan of plain speaking, even of the metaphorical kind, and in ìMagicî, he shows exactly why they call him the Boss. On ìMagicî heís talking about a magician, who may or may not actually be the U.S. Government (having one of his shows, and having him explain it to the audience that this, in fact, is the case, would know), and in ìThe Long Walk Homeî a soldier comes back from war and finds he canít recognize his country of birth anymore. In ìRadio Nowhereî he yells ìI just want to hear some rhythm!î with Biblical force, and heís talking about modern times like theyíre bad songs on the radio. They probably are.
Key lyric (from this year, we all know Bruce as billions of key lyrics): ìI just want to head some rhythm!!!î from ìRadio Nowhereî.
Song of the Year:
ALL MY FRIENDS
By LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and Covered by FRANZ FERDINAND
Quit being a lightweight and get past the minute and a half long piano intro. Believe me, itís for the best. I only realized the best song of the year was the best song f the year after I heard the radio edit (which, if you want to hear, can be found live on my Myspace page on the Jonathan Ross show). Songs this long should be able to hold you like this one does with the same piano loop thoughout. And this same loop is about two chords long played choppily.
In LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy plays all the parts, and I amagine some studio engineering helps him out with the little parts, but itís a miracle that in the live shows that his pianist and his drummerís arms donít fall off halfway though this song.
But, even with the redundantly catchy loops and the rapid pendulum speeds, the towering synths, the killer bass line, and the serial killer guitar line, itís the lyrics that really bring you into the song. And as Murphy describes a party that just might be the best night of his life, if only I knew anyone there.
But as it goes on, as you listen to it more, a question arises: does he even have any friends at all? (after writing this song, yes he does).
3. 15 StepsóRadiohead. Beats and synths arenít usually a good way to introduce a song to me, but Radiohead, the gods they are, nailed it, rocking like on ìHail to the Theifî with a dash of ìOk Computerî and a spoonful of ìKid Aî.
4. Sleeping LessonsóThe Shins. Youíve now been exposed to a horribly edited version of this song on several mobile music players commercials, but the real version rocks, starting as a simple, spacey keyboard loop and ending as
5. InterventionóThe Arcade Fire. If ever there was a better live performance than of the Arcade Fire playing Intervention on SNL. If ever there was a more beautiful song this year, or maybe in the past ten, Iíve never heard it.
6. Summerís EndóFoo Fighters. Dave Grohl has never quite been the poet, or the junior Neil Young, but in this heís both, describing a world where the sun was dead, trying to find a safe, warm Haven in the Virginia Countryside over classic Grunge-folk riffs and a gargantuan guitar solo.
7. Thrash UnrealóAgainst Me!. If that 1985 song by Bowling for Soup didnít suck, was written by a poet, had a much much better singer, had a brilliant chorus hook, and was preformed by a band who, you know, had talent, it still probably wouldnít sound much like this song, but the message is, this is the song that should be top of the airwaves. Itís a universal hit. Rock on for screaming.
8. Black Like MeóSpoon. It starts big anyway, but by the end of the song there isnít a better, more explosive, more climactic song out there. Itís pure hook. Honestly, itís a nearly perfect song. Everything youíll ever need in a hit, minus a couple things, equals this song.
9. DogninabagóThe Fratellis. The Clash? Zeppelin? BOTH? Yes, my friend, The Fratellis come bearing the best Clash/Zeppelin collaboration that never happened, with blues riffs, ska chords, rock n roll screams and whammy-bar driven guitar solos all in one three minute-twenty-second package.
10. Fake EmpireóThe National. The piano lineís left and right hand donít quite match up, and there couldnít be a better start for the second most beautiful song of the year. Bryan Devendorfís drumming manages to work both hands the piano, the singing, (Matt Berningerís lyrics are deep and mischievous: stay out super late tonight/picking apples/making pie/put a little something in our lemonade/and take it with us/we’re half-awake in a fake empireî), and it all ends with an orchestral flourish worthy of at least seven kings.
11. Knocked UpóKings of Leon. Give it another listen, give the Kings seven minutes of your gave and give it another listen. And another. Watch the guitar hook grow on you. watch as some of the worst lyrics Caleb Followil has ever written become the easiest to sing along to. And by maybe the tenth listen youíll know why the Kings are the Kings.
12. (Antichrist Television Blues)óThe Arcade Fire. Bruce Springsteenís jaw dropped when he heard, half in horror, half in joy that the song he was in the middle of writing turned on on the eighth track of the Arcade Fireís Neon Bible. And he realized that they were doing it so much better than he would have done itóthe sweeping strings and distorted slide guitar, the bluesy mandolin, and the choir solo (yes, they got a bunch of choir singers, wrote them a solo to sing). A tear fell from the eye of the Boss. Then he wrote the Long Walk Home.
13. PeaceboneóAnimal Colective. If someone took the joy and jump of circus music, mixed it with the weird sounds of Wilcoís Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, then added all the caffeine the world has to offer, youíd get this song. The sugar rush keyboard line and the dance on crack bass line are instantly weird and, soon after that, theyíre catchy. And the lyrics are awesomely poetic (ìI was a jugular Vein in a Jugglerís girl/ I was supposedly leaking the most interesting colors/Well half of my fingers/Are dipped in the sand/You excel in your letters/but youíre used to cooking broccoliî), which, though they donít make much sense, have moments that describe middle/under class American life. Itís a freaknoise classic.
14. Side With the SeedsóWilco. Maybe Sky Blue Sky isnít Wilcoís best album, but if you want proof that Nels Cline is the best guitarist out there, look no further. His fingers move at lightning speeds as Jeff sings the most cryptic of the songs on the album, describing grass growing from under concrete. All of it kicks ass. All of it in completely unexpected, right from the snare drum intro. And all of it works.
15. Death MachineóFiction Plane. Stingís sonís band is the only opening act I know that was better than the headliner. Ironically, Fiction Plane were opening for the Police. Their hit was this song, which rocks in about nine languages of cool, with its sharp, antiwar lyrics (ìFuck you and your death machines!î) and its Hendrixesque guitar bits, and all of it sounds like a heavier version of the Police.
16. AustraliaóThe Shins. The happiest sounding song of the year is actually a song about someone who ìHasnít loved since you were twenty one/havenít laughed since Januaryî over up beat ukulele, jingly guitars and the most tragically singalongable vocals all year. Youíll have to stop yourself before James Mercer sings ìSo gimme your hand and letís jump out the window!î
17. ReleaseóWe Stole Cairo. Theyíve never heard of you either, but the best unsigned band in England canít stay unsigned too long with a hit like this. Itís a simple three chord alt rock song, but it hits you like a rock and roll classic. Maybe it will be.
18. North American ScumóLCD Soundsystem. James Murphy too his hit ìDaft Punk Is Playing At My Houseî and made it less funky and more funny and came up with the best antiwar song of the year. The message: ìthrow a party till the cops come in and bust it up!î The topic of war isnít mentioned throughout, but it doesnít have to be. It still rocks anyway.
19. My PartyóKings of Leon. If the Rolling Stones ever wrote a funk metal song, it could be this song exactly, right down to the ìhoooî backup vocals and the rapid fire beats and chords.
20. BodysnathersóRadiohead. Itís the crazier of the two upbeat tracks on ìIn Rainbowsî, and Thom Yorkeís fuzzy drop-D riffs and Johnny Greenwoodís slanted solos make it a winner. ìYour mouth only opens when someoneís hands are crawling out!î Yorke screams in all his nineties fury.
21. HalloweenheadóRyan Adams. His album is sort of hit and miss, but this is a home run of a track, complete with random lyrics (ìIíve got a bad idea again/ Iíve got a halloweenheadî) and rock n roll riffs up the wazoo. Plus: the most purposefully terrible guitar solo of the year!
22. The EquestrianóLes Savy Fav. Fury doesnít even begin to describe Tim Harringtonís mood in this punk rock instant classic. Odd tempos and one of those rare moments in music that will make you pump your fist in the air and scream ìFuck yeah!î
23. VesselóNine Inch Nails. Itís actually Princeís second best song ever, and itís actually Trent Reznorís third best song ever, so, by default, itís a death-funk masterpiece.
24. BelieveóThe Bravery. The best bassline of the year along with the second best guitar solo helps the already catchy second single from the Braveryís second album.
25. Our Life Is Not A Movie Or MaybeóOkkervil River. The king of Indie Rockís Nerd Herd does what he does best on this opening trackóhooks you and never lets you go, even in the easy-to-be-badly-perceived random noises break.
26. Ballad of a Thin ManóStephen Malkus and the M
illion Dollar Bashers. Bob Dylan wrote it. The singer from Pavement played it. The Gods have smiled upon us.
27. Dance TonightóPaul McCartney. Bass drum, mandolin, bass, voice, all played by Sir Paul, the most narcissistic Beatle of all, and what results is the most mainstream indie rock song ever. Oxymoron? Too bad.
28. Spitting VenomóModest Mouse. Eight and a half minutes of pure, loud Isaac Brock is exactly what the doctor ordered. Itís 100% of your daily climax requirement. Garunteed.
29. UltimateóGogol Bordello. So what if they sound like if Borat had a band. Borat can write some pretty badass gypsy punk songs, fuled by accordion, violin, and a rapid fire acoustic guitar solo.
30. Falling Slowlyó Glen Hansard & MarkÈta Irglov·. Once doesnít count as a musical because the songs arenít used top accentuate, and lameatize the storytelling aesthetic. The best song the two main characters sing is almost heartbreaking. Itís a must for a song on your next playlist to your lover.
31. Iím Slowly Turning Into YouóThe White Stripes. The only point in which the White Stripes sound like the White Stripes in Icky Thump is, obviously, the highlight. Driving organs and monster guitar fuzz are what Jack White was made into the world for. And for playing Elvis in Walk Hard.
32. The Long Walk HomeóBruce Springsteen. Springsteen plays a soldier whoís just gotten back from war to realize that he doesnít recognize his hometown anymore. Only the hometown is actually all of America. ìItís gonna be a long walk homeî he says, and we all know itís true.
33. Classic CarsóBright Eyes. If you want to hear an infectious chorus go to Bright Eyes and Bright Eyes alone. The explosive piano and Connor Oberstís juvenile vocals make this song the best song by the Band that the Band never wrote.
34. Everythingís MagicóAngels and Airwaves. Tom Delongueís obviously on something that makes him happy, and this is the best result of it yet: a faster version of their hit from 06 with a waaaay better chorus.
35. VenusóWe Are the Fury. Four minutes of the most action-packed Queen song ever made, and not a second of it misses a note.
36. Keep the Car RunningóThe Arcade Fire. ìThey know my name/cuz I told it to them/but they donít know where/and they donít know whenî is the best, most perfectly simple rhyme of year, and itís sung over dancing mandolin, swooping hurdy gurdy, and pure inspiration.
37. Radio NowhereóBruce Springsteen. Bruce Springsteenís alt rock song asks us how we can hear the truth through the muck with fussy fingerpicking and a saxophone solo. In the end you canít quite give him an answer, but you listen again to see if he does.
38. Down In A HoleóRyan Adams and the Cardinals. Can an alt-country posterboy take a classic nineties metal classic even better. Yes, yes he can.
39. Sheís a RejecteróOf Montreal. Itís a rolling eighties disco jump underneath the funniest lyrics of the year (ìThat girl made me bitter/Want to pay some other girl/to just go up to her and hit herî).
40. All Along the WatchtoweróEddie Vedder and the Million Dollar Bashers. Is it really that unfair to put Eddie Vedderís cover of the classic Bob Dylan/Jimi Hendrix jam, with guitarist of the year Nels Cline, on this list? Yes it is.
41. Do Me A FavouróArctic Monkeys. It starts with spread out spy-chords then ends with climax. With sweet sweet sweet climax.
42. Funky TonightóJohn Butler Trio. It may not be THAT funky, but this fingerpickey electric folk tune is the owner of the most unexpected guitar solo of the year. John Butler pulls out his eleven string and taps his ass to rock guitardom.
43. Wolves at NightóManchester Orchestra. Rapid tempo changes make this song come from dramatic alt rock blaster to a classic rock chorus monster, then to a pop dance beast. It breathes.
44. No CeilingóEddie Vedder. A minute and a half of banjo, bass, drums, and Eddie fucking Vedder. What more can you possibly ask for in any shorter amount of time?
45. New York, I Love You, But Youíre Bringing Me DownóLCD Soundsystem. Because James Murphy really is about ten bands in one, the last, and certainly most epic, of the songs on Sound of Silver sounds like Bowie with a wonderful heap of Lennon and Queen. Itís envy inducingóI wish I wrote this song.
46. TranquilizeóThe Killers Featuring Lou Reed. This songís a shape-shifter, starting as a moody synth rocker, and going from driving arena rock to jolly alt rock to creepy kids singing Brandon Flowerís deep-sounding lyrics. Nothing short of a miracle.
47. Impossible GermanyóWilco. Anything involving a Wilco jam-session on Sky Blue Sky is nearly flawless, and this is the best of those, especially when the band gets to shred it up live. Itís just another sign of proof that Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy could be Gods.
48. Make It Wit ChuóQueens of the Stone Age. With the grooviest guitar line of the year, and an even groovier solo, it isnít hard to believe that this song is all about boning. But it does it in the most polite way since Tenacious Dís ìFuck Her Gentlyî. Just kidding. Everyone does it in a more polite way than that.
49. Stranger Things Have HappenedóFoo Fighters. Though it sounds minimalistic, the somehow loud acoustic track on Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace hits everything in the right way, right down to the acoustic guitar solo.
50. The UnderdogóSpoon. Acoustic guitars. Marichi horns And the best sing-along chorus not to have words of the last twenty years. By the end of the last chourus you will be able to poudly say that you sang along to the trumpet. Rock on, my fellow American(s).
51. RubyóThe Kaiser Chiefs. The rest of the album is slightly less than mediocre. This song, however, is less of a riff house and more of a riff hotel, taking Kinks-style punk guitar, mariachi paino and bar karaoke vocals, all under one radio-friendly roof.
52. Let It RollóVelvet Revolver. Letís put it simply: even the guitar solo is hard to air guitar. There we go.
53. The DeathóFields. An instant Halloween anthem has chills running down itís own spine with rapid impending-doom guitars and church bells that donít make things any cheerfuller. Just add a ghost costume.
54. Tick Tick BoomóThe Hives. Nothing but punk riffs and Sweedish people yelling. Just what the doctor ordered.
55. CorpseóKingsbury. Like if the singer from the Violent Femmes sung the Smashing Pumpkinís ìDisarmî with less enthusiasm and more evil in his moan.
56. HerculeanóThe Good, The Bad, and the Queen. Another song that will grow on you as time goes by, the singer from Gorillaz and Blur, the bassist from the Clash, and the guitarist from the Verve all are on the top of their game here with this atmospheric trance.
57. Boy With a CoinóIron and Wine. Over one smooth acoustic guitar line, Sam Beam spews out poetry like blood from the victim of an axe to the neck, and adds a pedal steel guitar plugged into a wah-pedal. Just press play.
58. Simple Twist of FateóJeff Tweedy. At this point, Iím putting my money on the fa
ct that Jeff Tweedy is the Bob Dylan of our generation (if Connor Oberst turns out not to be, that is), and this version of the best song on ìBlood On the Tracksî is nothing but proof.
59. The Church ChannelóSay Anything. Emoís best sense of humor sings about being insane for the fifth time in a year (we all know what thatís like) and about going religious to get women. Sly, catchy bastard.
60. 1234óFeist. I want to be perfectly clear. THIS. SONG. FUCKING. RULES. From the simple downward guitar line, the jangly banjo, the miracle strings. Everything. Even Leslie Feistís smoothe soft voice hits the spot. Advertising with this is iTuneís best idea ever. Even better than the Fratellis.
61. Canít Believe A Single WordóVHS or BETA. Itís the best Cure song ever. And the best part is that Robert Smith, or anyone else from the Cure for that matter, was not involved. Win-win!
Ten Worst Songs of the Year
1. The Superman Song (Or whatever the fuck itís called)óSouja Boy. The first time I heard this song I thought my baby stepcousin Max had recorded a mix tape for the Saint Markís School class of 07 and had given it to them for the simireunion party. As it turns out it was written by someone with some serious mental affliction called Soulja Boy, who, as you can see, spells ìSoldierî ìSoljaî.
This song is an insult to all things in the English language, all things American, all things black, all things white, and all things sane. We should all be ashamed of ourselves.
2. Young FolksóPeter Bjorn and John. The worst kind of song is one that makes you think itís going to be good, but ends up sucking beyond humanly possible. One of the best drum intros in years leads to an out-of-key whistle solo, then out-of-key singing, and a total of one chord strummed on the guitar, strummed once for each chorus. The worst part about it is that it actually could be a good song, if the people who played it were fucking retarded, not vegetables, which they are now.
3. BoyzóM.I.A. the hook to this song is ìBoyz-ay namine namine/Boyz-ay namine namineî sing in a nasally voice over an annoyingly repetitive beat that sounds like if your baby brother had a very very very slow tantrum.
4. Gimmie MoreóBritney Spears. I donít have to say anything.
5. UmbrellaóRihanna. When I was in Washington D.C. every morning when the other kids in my room and I woke up we would turn on the TV to help our brains start working. Unfortunately, this mind-numbingly awful tune was always on, always at the same point as it started at the day before, which was, sadly, about three seconds in. The lyrics actually mention being ìbest friends foreverî and the hook (ìella ella ella eh ehî) not only will be stuck in your head for hours, but it will probably make you want to shoot yourself as well.
6. Hey There DelilahóPlain White Tís. Dear lord, why, oh why oh why? Itís sensitive and itís boring and itís *pukes*Ö I donít feel so good.
7. Le DiskoóShiny Toy Guns. The worst song from the worst album of the year is like hitting your ears with an annoyingly discoesque hammer until all youíve got left is your lobe.
8. Iím Like A Lawyer the Way Iím Always Trying To Get You Off (You and Me)óFall Out Boy. You thought Iíd make it to the end of the list without putting Fall Out Boy in here? Oh you funny funny person. Let me get you a drink, youíre so funny. Sort of like the title of this song, which makes you think that maybe, maybe just this once, that theyíll write a decent song. Instead, read what Iíve got to say about Hey There Delilah.
9. The Way I AreóTimbaland. The beats, the boxes, the rhymes, the title, all of it is dismal. I guess itís just the way he is, but he should probably retire.
10. RockstaróNickelback. Well, thank you Captain Obvious, we all do want to be big rock stars driving fifteen cars, but the real message of this song is, ìHey, you want all the riches, and Iíve got it all, motherfuckers! Suck it you middle class rape-babies!î and worst of all it sounds bad doing it.
Album of the Year:
By THE ARCADE FIRE
I donít know why Iíve been denying it all yearómaybe because I didnít want to give all the awards to the same bandóbut the truth is: I love this album. Especially after giving it a year to grow on me. Even songs that feel boring at first (ìNeon Bibleî, ìOcean of Noiseî, ìWindowsilî) have eventually grown on me, and on some occasions have even become my favorites on the album, of only for a day or two. The real power in Neon Bible is the way that Arcade Fire have mastered their sonic oxymoron. For example, on their first and classic album, Funeral, inspired by nine deaths in the families of the seven members of the group, youíll feel joyous. Listen to the Springsteen-meets-Bjork anthem ìHaiti,î about escaping from the country of the same name, complete with angry soldiers and dieing cousins, and keep yourself from dancing. At that point in the career, they might as well have capitalized the FUN in FUNeral. Now, listen to ìInterventionî, the moody church organ centerpiece of the album about salvation of the religious variety, and keep the Kleenex nearby.
The sonic changes in Neon Bible from Funeral are significant, but the power each song has not lessened in any way. And where some songs are sad and beautiful, the best songs youíll hear are the dancier ones like the American Spirit of ì(Antichrist Television Blues)î or the contagiously catchy ìKeep the Car Runningî (which even the Foo Fighters have been known to cover recently).
First came the Funeral, then came the Bible. Now weíve got to believe. Itís easier than you might think.
Key Tracks: (Antichrist Television Blues), Intervention, Keep the Car Running
2. BECAUSE OF THE TIMES
By the Kings of Leon
He has a weird voice. SO THE FUCK WHAT? Caleb Followil, along with his two brothers and their cousin all together are a single miracle of songwriting. In years past theyíve come out with their signature southern garage rock sound, hatching out classics like the Dylan-plus-Lou-Reed ìTraniî, which even Bob Dylan himself has enjoyed (they opened for him for a while as well), to the jingle-pop of ìTaper Jean Girl,î a song featured in one of the best movies of the year, ìDisturbiaî. But now theyíre finally onto some sophisticated prog-rock. Give it a try. The modern classics are hidden there. Mabye itís the seven minute, three-riff beauty of ìKnocked Upî, it could be the off punk scream of ìCharmerî, or maybe the funk-metal gunshots in ìMy Partyî, hell, it could even be the radio-ready three-chord romp of ìFansî.
Whatever it is, youíll have a hell of a good time looking for it. In what could be the Kingís best album yet, youíd better believe songwriting is the more important part. Even if everyone in the bandís ridiculously talented (check out ìMcFearlessî for the best drum line of the year).
Key Tracks: Knocked Up, My Party, Charmer
3. IN RAINBOWS
The truth: I didnít pay for In Rainbows. Neither did the friend who owned the computer I burned the album off. He LimeWired it.
Another version of the truth: I wish I had p
aid for In Rainbows. Itís worth it. Every cent of the twenty bucks I would have given for it. Really. No joke.
On In Rainbows is pretty much every kind of Radiohead you want: the glitch beats on ì15 Stepsî, the heavy alt rock riffs in ìBodysnatchersî, the melancholy acoustic swirls in ìFaust Arpî and ìJigsaw Falling Into Placeî, even the weird semipsychopathic whirlpool as heard in ìWeird Fishes/Arpeggiî. All of it is moody in the best way imaginable. All of it is fascinating to listen to. All of is precious material.
But above all that, In Rainbows is Radioheadís soul album. Thatís no compassionate indie-rock geek-ness in ìNudeî, itís classic soulful strings and falsetto. Itís not their usual melancholy complaints in ìHouse of Cardsî, thatís love. Thatís emotion. Thatís as far away from paranoia that it gets.
My only hope is Thom Yorke never completely goes insane, just stays just as nuts as he is now.
Oh! The diskbox edition of the album is coming out soon, with the second disk intact! Iíll redeem myself with that!
Key Tracks: 15 Steps, Bodysnatchers, Jigsaw Falling Into Place
4. SKY BLUE SKY
Ahh, thatís refreshing, isnít it? All if it, I mean. Itís a break from all that complex muck in the air these days. Just some very simple rock n roll, mellowed out to the perfect pace, with some of the coolest guitarwork in years, (Check out ìSide With the Seedsî, ìShake It Offî and ìImpossible Germanyî) and overall, itís just something you can jam with yourself to. The weird sound prog rock from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot couldnít be furter away from what Sky Blue Sky is. The Lennonesque piano tunes are completely gone. Now itís something of a soulful affair, in a mellowed rock n roll sort of way. Youíve got your acoustic fun (ìSky Blue Skyî), your catchy jam (ìWalkenî), and all that other good fun stuff too.
Sing along to some of the simplest lyrics Jeff Tweedyís ever written (ìMaybe you still love me/Maybe you donítî), and air guitar to pretty much every song on the album. Go nuts while they calm down. Thatís what Iíve got to say.
Key Tracks: Side With the Seeds, Walken, Impossible Germany
5. GA GA GA GA GA
Itís difficult to sum up Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in so few words, but basically, youíll be entertained in a new and groovy way. Songs like ìDonít you Evahî, ìRhythm and Soulî and ìBlack Like Meî rock in original and catchy ways, all the while, they massage your happy muscle. And while some songs are less innovational, (ìThe Underdogî, ìDonít Make Me a Targetî) rock anyway. The most Brittish band ever to come out of Texas have proved that they are, in fact, more than just utensils.
Key Tracks: Black Like Me, Donít You Evah, The Underdog
6. NEW WAVE
By Against Me!
Hereís something you wonít hear on the first couple of listens to New Wave: Itís a folk album. Actually, itís a really really pissed off Bob Dylan album, with olí Bob having lost some of his lyrical talent, yes, but also with all that emotion heís got in ìLike a Rolling Stoneî being completely expressed in singer Tom Gabelís voiceóitís a miracle he doesnít start couging up blood from the grit heís putting on his vocal chords, especially on songs like ìPiss and Vinegarî and ìStop!î, where the aggression knows little or no bounds.
But once again, New Wave is a folk album with distortion and screaming. If you listen to ìThrash Unrealî, the best song on there, enough times, you start being able to hear the riff on acoustic guitar, with the hook played on pipe organ.
So, simply, itís the heaviest folk album of all time, and I like it that way.
Key Tracks: Trash Unreal, Piss and Vinegar, Stop
By Bright Eyes
You might think, if you only get to listen to the first song on Cassadaga, ìClairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)î, that Connor Oberst has gone Pink Floyd. He hasnít. Heís just a fuck of a lot weirder. Heís still a poetópossibly the bravest in music today (ìThe Bibleís blind/The Torahís Deaf/The Koran is mute/If you burned them all together youíd get close to the truthî in ìFour Windsî), and in everything, heís still that postadolescent folkie whose been writing music since he was thirteen, but whatís the big change in Cassadage is that Bright Eyes is now indie rockís wildest jam band.
If Oberst is the new Bob Dylan, then the people playing behind him are the new The Band, and they do well to sound like them tooóìClassic Carsî, as Iíve said several times before, is the indie rock version of ìThe Weightî. What I havenít said before is that ìWhen the Brakeman Turns My Wayî is the much much happier indie rock version of ìBallad of a Thin Man.î ìHot Knivesî, however, is harder to place into an influence. Fun as hell though.
8. SOUND OF SILVER
By LCD Soundsystem
This album has gone a long way over the year. It used to be one of my least favorite LPs of the year. Now, though, itís reached number eight on my list. Because the thing is Iíve stopped caring that the songs take a while to start up. When they get started they rock and donít stop. Like ìAll My Friendsî the piano-fueled Best Song of the Year, it takes a minute of keyboard intro before Jameís Murphyís modernist poetry to kick in, and it takes another six minutes for it to reach itís classic epic climax, and I DONíT CARE! It blows my mind.
And thereís other songs like that too: ìUs V Themî starts pretentious and ends explosively. So does ìGet Innocuousî.
There are songs that take the quick route, two of the better tracks, ìNorth American Scumî, which is unfailingly funny (ìWell I donít know/I donít know/Oh Where to begin/We are North Americans/And for those of you who still think weíre from England/Weíre notÖ noî), and ìNew York, I Love You, But Youíre Bringing Me Downî, which is also funny, but more like a blockbuster musical condensed into six minutes and without the shitty music score and with much much better lyrics.
So basically, be patient with it, then love it as time goes by.
Key Tracks: All My Friends, New York, I Love You, But Youíre Bringing Me Down, North American Scum
9. YEAR ZERO
By Nine Inch Nails
Well guess what the new Nine Inch Nails album has some slight-hardly-visible-only-in-a-few-very-interesting-spots similarities with? The Black Album, by Prince. My mother, Prince extrordinare (she has everything that Prince has and hasnít released, every magazine cover, everything), heard the freak-metal-funk track ìVesselî and said after it was done, ìThat kind of sounds like something Prince would have written for the Black Album.î
This might not be very convincing. But as for the rest of the record, youíre in for a sci-fi metal ride. Trent Reznorís distorted synths (ìCapital Gî) and odd time signatures (ìSurvivalismî) are only the tip of the iceberg (Iím so proud of myself right nowÖ I used a clichÈ!) with Year Zero. Thereís the mellow punk songs (ìThe Good Sol
dierî, ìThe Beginning of the Endî) and the rockers-turned-weird-noises tracks (ìThe Great Destroyerî), and, with the exception of the atmospheric glockenspiel track (ìAnother Version of the Truthî), all of it rocks. And also apparently sounds like PrinceÖ
Key Tracks: Another Version of the Truth, Vessel, The Great Destroyer
10. WINCING THE NIGHT AWAY
By The Shins
What isnít there to love about the Shins anyway? James Mercer is the closest thing weíve got to a new Morrisey, theyíve got this great pop aesthetic, and they write good songs too (sometimes the ingredients can be put in wrong). Plus, theyíve got a style: play the happiest sounding songs of the year (ìSleeping Lessonsî, ìAustraliaî) and match them up with some of the most depressing lyrics of the year (ìEnlist every ounce/of your bright blood/And off with their headsî, ìSo just gimme your hand and letís jump out the windowî in ìSleeping Lessonsî and ìAustraliaî respectively). And when theyíre not being so joyous theyíre cool (ìSea Legsî). Isnít that everyoneís goal in life? To be happy and cool?
Key Tracks: Sleeping Lessons, Australia, Sea Legs
11. ECHOES, SILENCE, PATIENCE, AND GRACE
By the Foo Fighters
New fans of the Foo Fighters should look to Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace for their induction into the Foo Fan Club. Youíve got every sort of Foo you want: loud and beautiful (ìSummerís Endî), epic and acoustic (ìStranger Things Have Happenedî), catchy powerpop (ìCheep Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running)î), t driving screaming alt rock (ìLet It Dieî), and thereís more too. Itís really the definitive Foo album. Have fun kiddies.
Key Tracks: Summerís End, Stranger Things Have Happened, Let It Die
12. THE STAGE NAMES
By Okkervil River
Will Shef, the nerd at the front of this herd, sings like a wounded animal, writes songs like the new Neil Young, and rocks out just for kicks. The Stage Names is easy to like. Youíve got your alt-folk swing (ìOur Life Is Not A Movie, Or Maybeî), your blues songs (ìYou Canít Hold The Hand of a Rock And Roll Manî, ìUnless Itís Kicksî), and your beautiful acoustic ballads (ìSavannah Smilesî, ìPlus Onesî) and all of it works. Remarkably well.
Key Tracks: Our Life Is Not A Movie, Or Maybe, Savannah Smiles, Unless Itís Kicks
By Bruce Springsteen
Some people think the Boss has forgotten how to rock, but, if you have ears you know that Magic is a brilliant American charm. You could complain that Bruce has gotten too old (Most of the lyrics on the album are basically, if you dumb them down a billion times, ìBack in my dayÖ things were betterî), but if understand the English language, you know heís just saying things youíre too afraid to. Like ìRadio Nowhereî, which appears to be a complaint at popular music and how lots of itís shit [here, here], but itís really a metaphor about how the modern world is shit, and we need to make some changes [here, here, here]. Or ìLong Walk Homeî, a song where a soldier comes back from war to see he canít even recognize his home town, and he doesnít like the changes, only his hometown is actually all of America (ìMy father said “Son, we’re lucky in this town,/ It’s a beautiful place to be born./ It just wraps its arms around you, /Nobody crowds you and nobody goes it aloneî).
Am I being overanalytical? Fuck yeah. But the songs rock too. ìLiviní In the Futureî (which is really about now, says the singer), is the best song from ìBorn to Runî that never made it (probably because it sounds like ìTenth Avenue Freezeoutî), and ìRadio Nowhereî is actually an alt-rock song. Oh, good times.
Key Tracks: Livin In the Future, Radio Nowhere, Long Walk Home
14. LETíS STAY FRIENDS
By Les Savy Fav
They may have the most absolutely revolting frontman, maybe in history, but that doesnít mean he canít make the most bizarre punk rock record in years explode like this. From the ferocious pummeling scream of ìThe Equestrianî, the psychadellic grace of ìBrace Yourselfî, the rolling soul of ìPatty Leeî, the sensitive ìComes and Goesî, and the dynamic indie rock of ìPots and Pansî an ìThe Year Before the Year 2000î, thereís at least one song for everyone in the family on this album. Now all out have to do is decide which.
Key Tracks: The Equestrian, Pots and Pans, the Year Before the Year 2000
15. PLAGUE PARK
By the Handsome Furs
I knew four songs into this album that it would rock. One of the guys from Wolf Parade is doing one hell of a job with his wife on this monster side project. He sings like either Beck or Bowie (frankly, I donít really care the difference, both had amazing voices) and writes songs with just enough inspiration to be original. He mixes killer synth beats with Arcade Firey organs (ìCannot Get, Startedî), fuzzed out fingerpicking and southern rock graduer (ìWhat We Hadî), hooky keyboards (ìSing! Captainî) and climax (ìHandsome Furs Hate This Cityî), and all of it makes you want more. The one downside? There are only nine songs. I demand more!
Key Tracks: What We Had, Sing! Captain, the Radioís Hot Sun
BEST OF THE REST:
Into the Wild Soundtrack, by Eddie Vedder
We All Belong, by Dr. Dog
Once, Music From the Motion Picture, by Glenn Hansard and MarkÈta Irglov·
Tron EP, by We Stole Cairo
Iím Like A Virgin Losing a Child, by Manchester Orchestra
Songs I Forgot to Put on the 60 Best of 07 List:
1. Letís Not Get Carried Away–Wilco
2. Old NewsóDr. Dog
3. What We HadóHandsome Furs
4. The World We Love So MuchóRivers Cuomo
5. Pick Me UpóDinosaur Jr.
6. Working Class HeroóGreen Day
7. Grand DivideróWe Are the Fury
8. Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)óRobert Plant and Alison Krauss
9. ImitosisóAndrew Bird
10. Stop!óAgainst Me!
Worst Album of the Year:
SONGS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
By Annie Lennox
Remember how much the Eurythmics sucked? Well for some reason their singer hasnít realized that yet. Or, maybe she hasóthe album title is pretty much exactly what it consists ofósongs that are 90% lethal and are a threat to all things good about anything. I seriously was feeling sick by the time this disk started its second run through in my dadís car, and it was then, and only then, that I found out it was a woman singing.
Worst Band Of the Year:
(Please donít kill me)
FALL OUT BOY
So the problem I have with these guys: theyíre a metaphor for what the world has come to, or maybe a symbol or something. Theyíre too popular, writing mediocre at best songs, and even their live performances are sloppy (they murdered their own song at Live Earth).
But theyíre a metaphor in this sense: in a time with MySpace, YouTube, American Idol, anyone can get famous. And the proof is Fall Out Boy.
Actually, in that sense, theyíre not only the worst band of the year, but theyíre also the most inspiring band out there as well&oacut
e;if these four douchebags (oh yeah, I said it and Iím proud) can make it big, ANYONE CAN make it big.
So for you Fall Out Boy fans who ARE going to comment me saying something similar to ìYou need to listen to their older stuffî or something, first of all, Iím judging them for their accomplishments from this year, and second:
Most Inspiring Band of the Year:
FALL OUT BOY
P.S. If these guys can make it, so can you.
Weirdest Album of the Year:
By the Animal Collective
Some of it sounds great (ìPeaceboneî), but the real question to this album is: How crazy do you really have t be to get ideas like this? Synthesizers that literally sound like caffeine rushes, screaming Bloody John over pop chords and dance loops, these are just a few of the freakish sounds your speakers will make when you turn this disk on. And the best part is itís not that bad either.
Most Absolutely Plain Album of the Year:
YOURS TRULY, ANGRY MOB
By the Kaiser Chiefs
With the exception of the hit single ìRubyî, none of ìYours Truly, Angry Mobî will make you jump up in the air and have yourself a Rebel Yell. This is mediocrity at its purest form.
Most Disappointing Album of the Year:
By the White Stripes
Well, in comparison to their last album ìGet Behind Me Satanî, this might as well be Sergeant Pepperís, but then again, Yours Truly, ìAngry Mobî is also Sergeant Pepperís in comparison to that album. Itís their most generic, least raw album ever, and if theyíre ever going to rock like they used to theyíre going to get back into a studio with the oldest sound equipment, the dustiest speakers, and theyíre going to write garage rock again, not this mainstream garbage.
Most Dissapointing Song of the Year:
NO I IN THREESOME
With a title like that there canít be anything wrong with the song. Right? God was I hurt when I heard it was a deathmarch just like all the other songs on the album.
Revolutionaries of the Year:
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
Read my bit about these guys in the ìTop 5 Best Bands of the Yearî list. Call it laziness, but itís not exactly easy to write a short magazineís amount of artist descriptions.
One-Man Band of the Year (Tie)
NINE INCH NAILS and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
This year weíve had LCD Soundsystem, Bright Eyes, Nine Inch Nails, Serj Tankian, Iron and Wine and Paul McCartney, and this year Bright Eyes and Iron and Wine became jam bands, leaving us with a couple solo projects, and our winners, Trent Reznor and James Murphy. Both of them are geniuses in equal portionsóTrent is a metal revolutionary, taking the Industrial rock genre and pushing it a step further, adding hints of dance and hip hop into an already steely aesthetic. And James Murphy takes the electronic genre and, with a skip of pure genius, plays it all with real instruments. Actually, if one put the two together, I can hardly refrain myself from daydreaming what they come up with.
Influences of the Year (Just a Few):
QUEEN, DAVID BOWIE, LED ZEPPELIN, and TALKING HEADS
Iím not sure about you, but Iíve seen more and more bands who donít try to be original starting to veer into the sections of Queen, Bowie or Zeppelin. For example, this year weíve got We Are the Fury, a band who, right down to the part on the back of their CD case (where, like all of Bowieís albums, it says ìTo Be Played At Maximum Volumeî), want to be like glam rock gods Queen and David Bowie.
And even bands that havenít exactly tried to veer into other bandís sounds have started to become their influences. The song ìIcky Thumpî of White Stripes fame it, essentially, a series of Zeppelin riffs swapped around, with Jack White doing the solos. And the Zepís influence on the Stripes is visible in their past albums too: ìDead Leaves and the Dirty Groundî feels shockingly similar to ìBabe, Iím Gonna Leave Youî, riffwise.
Now, if any indie bands ever sound like anyone, itís usually Talking Heads. Modest Mouse and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are the two bands where David Byrne and his bandís sound comes through, and even on Arcade Fireís first album, the song ìNeighborhood # 2 (Laika)î has some Byrne in it.
Last year the influences were more prominent in popular music: The Black Parade was fundamentally a gothic Queen album, and as for WolfmotherÖ
Iím very proud to say that bands are striving more now to be more original, but when they stray from the sidewalk, they hit some pretty great sounds.
Best Retro Band of the Year:
ìWe All Belongî, the sophomore release of this indie rock band could be the lost Beatles album. Their pop songs dance and move like Lennon and McCartney used to do, and even right down to the recording material, the sound quality, if it didnít say ìCopyright 2007î on the case I would have actually believed this was the lost Summer of Love hit.
Best New Artist:
THE HANDSOME FURS or, due to a technicality people may make, MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA
People who know of and dislike Wolf Parade will tell me that the Handsome Furs donít count as a new band because their singerís been around for a while, having been in said Parade of Wolves. But I, being a man of the people, gave the award to another new artist, just to show how I care: Manchester Orchestra.
Both artists have had significant impact on last yearís music scene. The first band mentioned created the most instantly killer album of the year, while the second managed to rock just as hard, if not harder, than the Kings of Leon during their residency at the Warfield.
The Handsome Furs may be multilayered and complex, thereís only two people in the band, singer/guitarist Dan Boeckner and his wife, synthesizer/drum machine player Alexei Parry. They could be indie rockís new White Stripes (seeing as the Stripes are now mainstream), or they could be indie rockís Canadian answer to Daft Punk.
Manchester Orchestra may not be as structurally innovational, but they sure as hell write great songs. ìWolves at Nightî, ìNow That Youíre Homeî and ìThe Neighborhood is Bleedingî are this Orchestra at the top of their game, sounding like if members of Death Cab For Cutie made punk songs with Connor Oberst. And who knew such a combination would work?
So, the Handsome Furs truly deserve the title, but if there are any ìhatersî out there (Iím so gangster), then fine: Manchester Orchestra get an award too.
ìHoly Shit, THATíS Who That Is?î Moment of the Year:
When I found out that masculine husky deep murdernoise coming from that guy on the radio was Amy Winehouse.
Worst Album Name of the Year:
YOURS TRULY, ANGRY MOB
By the Kaiser Chiefs
Theyíre trying WAY too hard to turn heads, maybe because they know the album itself wonít.
Best Album Name of the Year:
WE WERE DEAD BEFORE THE SHIP EVEN SANK
By Modest Mouse
Yeah. Isaac Brock knows what heís doing. I mean, his last album was called ìGood News for People Who Love Bad Newsî. Heís got experience.
Best Band Name of the Year:
Well, Iím never forgetting about these guys. I havenít even heard their music and I love them already.
Worst Band Name of the Year:
FALL OUT BOY
They stole the name off a Simpsons character. Way to be original.
Best Album Cover of the Year:
By Bright Eyes
At first it appears to be a dotty gray surface,
but after purchase, the inside flap reveals Connor Oberst has given you a decoder card to scan above the surface of the package, revealing biblical artwork and cryptic poetry. It yells awesome.
Worst Album Cover of the Year:
MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
By Linkin Park
Can they possibly try any harder to be U2???
Best Music Video of the Year:
By the John Butler Trio
Only this kind of funky can happen at all hours of the day. The band jams on this inside of the head of a business employee suddenly with a powerful need to dance, dance, dance, and itís hilarious. Awesome song too.
Runner-Ups: Sick Sick Sick, by Queens of the Stone Age, Neon Bible, by Arcade Fire
Worst Music Video of the Year:
By Britney Spears
Ö yeahÖ itís disturbingÖ
Funniest Lyric of the Year (As a Complete Song):
By Flight of the Conchords
Funniest Lyric of the Year (As a Few Lines):
ìThereís a girl that left me bitter/I want to pay some other girl/to just walk up to her and hit her/ BUT I CANíT I CANíT I CANíT I CANíT I CANíT!!!î
From ìSheís a Rejecterî by Of Montreal
Best Lyrics of the Year (As a Complete Song):
ì(Antichrist Television Blues)î
By the Arcade Fire
Best Lyric of the Year (As a Few Lines): (Itís a Tie)
ìI was a jugular vein in a Jugglerís girl/ I was supposedly leaking the most interesting colorsî
In ìPeaceboneî by the Animal Collective
ìItís so easy to dream/But so hard to say goodnightî
In ìOld Newsî by Dr. Dog
Worst Lyric of the Year:
ìBack before Babylon/Shit was coolî
From ìPatty Leeî by Les Savy Fav
Worst Lyricist of the Year
From Fall Out Boy
Yes, I get itóyouíre in a band that just magically got popular, you date a lot of women, you write songs, but thereís the thing, kid: people who write good songs donít write songs about writing songs. People who arenít secretly Captain Obvious donít write about how popular their own band is. And everyone in a pop band as popular as Fall Out Boy as written about their one-night-long significant others. So try something new.
On another note, whoever had the idea to take their name from a Simpsonís character should be shot. That wasnít really another note.
(ATTENTION FALL OUT BOY FANS: Please donít chastise me.)
Live Acts of the Year (Including Some Shows From Last Year Too):
THE ARCADE FIRE (At the Greek)
It begins with the six circular screens showing the video of a woman of larger size wearing all black and white giving a bizarre speech, then transforms into ìBlack Mirrorî. Such a transition isnít supposed to work, but fortunately it does.
The energy that Arcade Fire have onstage is Godly. Iíve always said that if the whole band isnít sweating just a little bit by the third song thereís something going wrong. So the props go to Arcade Fire not only for the fact that they fulfill that goal, but also for the fact that they didnít die of dehydration onstage.
And with all this, the songs sound even better than they do in studio. The acoustic guitarís volume turned just a notch up in ìInterventionî, and it makes it the perfect song it really is. ìNeighborhood # 3 (Power Out)î has just as much, if not more, electric energy as it does in studio, and, as for ìHaitiî, their live performance of it anywhere will make you a fan of them, unless, of course, youíre dead inside.
Their shows are less rock and roll demonstrations and more religious experience. Win Butler keeps the audience interested by telling stories (I was lucky enough to catch him on the day that started the semihalf not really controversial dispute concerning how he allegedly stole a Berkelygoerís basketball, and his description of the account was hilarious). And at the end of the night the one thing anyone wants collectively throughout the venue is to learn how to do what they do and mean it like any one of the eleven members of the best live band of 2007, Arcade Fire.
2. Roger Waters Plays The Dark Side of the Moon (At the Oracle)
I am never going to be able to see Pink Floyd play, so bassist Roger Watersí show was something of a miracle. There was no opening band. No break between songs. Just pure Pink Floyd. Their other greatest hits, including a monstrous version of ìSheepî, and an awe-inspiring version of ìAnother Brick in the Wallî that included an appearance of the fabled flying pig. But, even with all those hits, the highlight of the night was the explosive finale of one of the greatest albums of all time, ìDark Side of the Moonî, in which, while an amazing band (which featured not one, but three guitarists just as good as David Gilmour) shredded up ìBrain Damageî and ìEclipseî, a pyriamid-shaped prism of light revealed itself, and, as time rolled on, a rainbow sprouted from one side, and a white beam of light from the other: a three dimensional Dar Side of the Moon album cover. It must have been symbolic of something, but it was eternally memorable.
3. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (At the Oracle)
The boss throws one hell of a party. Through the power of his songs, his dynamic live renditions of them, and his occasional descriptions of their meanings: After his quick summary of ìMagicî, it soon become one my favorite songs on his latest album, and his intro to ìLiviní in the Futureî is his political rage solidifiedófrom just that you can tell how upset he is at the state of the world. And there was never a point where anyone on stage looked like they wanted to be somewhere else. Especially Bruce.
4. Trent Reznor (At the Bridge School Benefit at the Shoreline Amphitheatre)
Trent Reznor, a.k.a. Nine Inch Nails did an acoustic set, and honestly, itís the best thing heís ever done. Even with his revolutionary electrometal magic, his acoustic set, which had a string quartet, a piano, Reznor, and nothing else (not even a guitar), is by far the most brilliant thing ever to come from that genius little head of his. His performances of ìEvery Day Is Exactly The Sameî and ìHurtî turned something on inside of me, and I am honored that I was one of the few privileged to witness such a classic moment.
5. Wilco (At the Greek)
ìWe decided to play this next songî said Jeff Tweedy, while introducing ìSide With the Seedsî, ìWhen we realized how high you all are.î I merely nodded at this, with my thumb and index finger clamped on my nose in hopes of not getting a secondhand high. ìBecause in the recordingî Tweedy went on, ìyouíll notice an effect in the percussion that goesî he put his thumb and index finger to his lips and made a sucking noise.
There was a pause, the Jeff turned to drummer Glenn Kotche and said into the microphone, ìNo, itís not true, Glenn!î and the song began.
Jeff Tweedy really is one of the best frontmen in music today, and any of their shows proves it. And the band behind him, guitarist of the year Nels Cline, runner up drummer Glenn Kotche, the two piano players, and the bassist (Christ, their names are never mentioned) all manage to take songs from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and A Ghost Is Born, and turn them into Grateful Dead/Sonic Youth jams with remembering.