Greetings and end of year cheer from the blog that has been taking it easy in 2007. Prior commitments and chronic laziness have limited Chewy’s Matters Of Music significantly in 2007, but between you and me, it’s perfect for indulging in endless, yearly round-up lists that no editor in their right mind would dare to commission to one writer! So without further ado, I bring to you…
The 50 Must-Hear Tracks Of 2007 (in no particular order)
1. Laura Marling - Night Terror
Broody and haunting folk from this remarkably gifted seventeen-year-old. Shepherds Bush Green is referenced in the song and it surely won’t be long before Marling is looking out upon the site from the nearby Empire after a headline gig.
2. The Heavy - That Kind Of Man
Pure ‘Superfly‘-era Curtis Mayfield from the enormous ‘Freddie’s Dead’-style funk riff to the singer’s measured falsetto. Who says stealing is a bad thing?
3. The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations
Shading the excellent ‘Chips Ahoy!’, this is the best example of The Hold Steady’s inspired collision of big, dumb, crashing guitars and literate sensibilities. Blue collar bar-rock rarely sounded so good.
4. Common Ft. D’Angelo - So Far To Go
Of the raft of J-Dilla tracks to surface in the aftermath of the producer’s tragic death last year this was one of the finest. D’Angelo’s unmatchable vocals sound as good as ever and promise much for the nu-soul originator’s long-awaited comeback.
5. Mr Hudson & The Library - Too Late, Too Late
Outsider pop from the man who claims to be equally au-fait with Dr Dre and Dean Martin. Here he takes a roots reggae stance on the finest track from his debut album.
6. Leon Jean-Marie - Scratch
Hugely promising Londoner who wowed The Roots’ crowd at their Somerset House gig in the summer. ‘Scratch’ adds futuro-dancefloor noise to his classy, funk-heavy R&B.
7. The National - Pretty In Pink
Newest album ‘Boxer’ had its fair share of great moments but The National’s most affecting achievement in 2007 was this subtle cover, available through the Daytrotter radio sessions website.
8. Panacea - The Scenic Route
Glorious daisy age hip-hop from the resurgent Rawkus label. An MC/DJ team in the mould of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Panacea’s smooth style also has echoes of Souls Of Mischief’s classic ‘93 Til Infinity’. High praise indeed.
9. Flying Lotus - Tea Leaf Dancers
From the Warp beatsmith’s excellent ‘Reset’ EP, ‘Tea Leaf Dancers’ suggested the gothic melancholy of Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ filtered through the moody dubstep of Burial.
10. Architecture In Helsinki - Heart It Races
“Kids on skittles” pop from the hyperactive, multi-instrumentalist Aussies. The carnival vibe of ‘Heart It Races’ is compounded by its judicious use of steel drums.
11. M.I.A. - Paper Planes
Taken from the most adventurous and thrilling pop album of the year, ‘Kala’. Its biggest achievement is this potentially sacrilegious overhaul of The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’, the chorus consisting of rhythmic bursts of gunfire and the sound of till drawers popping open.
12. El-P - Up All Night
Picking highlights from the Def Jux supremo’s tour-de-force ‘I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead’ would be as simple as writing out the track list. That said, ‘Up All Night’ is possibly the best example to date of his vicious intellect and thunderous, dystopian soundscapes.
13. Bright Eyes - Four Winds
One reviewer noted ‘Four Wind’s similarity to “a honky-tonk version of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’”. Conor Oberst clearly wasn’t in the Christmas spirit however, decreeing “The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf and the Qu’ran is mute. If you burn them all together you’ll get close to the truth”.
14. Los Mozambiques - Viva Tirado
Taken from Soundway’s masterful Panama retrospective, ‘Viva Tirado’ is a searing 1970 Latin soul version of El Chicano’s hit.
15. Amon Tobin - Esthers
‘The Foley Room’ was Ninja Tune mainstay Tobin’s most ambitious work to date, a collage of ’found’ sounds knitted together with unerring vision. ’Esthers’ features a brutal beat which bludgeons its way into the listener’s consciousness.
16. Broken Family Band - Leaps
New territory for these loyal UK Americana stalwarts. As jaunty as The Magic Numbers, ’Leaps’ is as fine a pop song as any released in 2007.
17. Modest Mouse - Dashboard
Johnny Marr’s defection to US indie stars Modest Mouse yielded this lithe and funky first single from their excellent full-length. Old dogs can learn new tricks, evidently.
18. Dizzee Rascal - Sirens
Dizzee’s finest single since ’Fix Up, Look Sharp’ was a staggering evocation of 21st century urban Britain, complete with squealing metal loop and his trademark scattershot vocals.
19. Lightspeed Champion - Galaxy Of the Lost
Former Test Icicle Dev Hynes moved away from his previous band’s template with this emo-informed slice of acoustic pop with a conscience, book-ended with a dreamy vocal harmony most bands would base a song around, suggesting the man has ideas to burn.
20. Devon Sproule - Keep Your Silver Shined
Whimsical folk with a delicate jazzy air from this young hopeful, blessed with an excellent turn of phrase and ear for melody.
21. Arcade Fire - Antichrist Television Blues
The stand-out track from the Canadians’ stellar second album ‘Neon Bible’. Davids Byrne and Bowie were previously their most identifiable influences but this track is pure Springsteen from the building pace of the narrative to the religious reverence of Win Butler’s voice.
22. Bruce Springsteen - Radio Nowhere
Speaking of The Boss, he returned strongly this year with ‘Magic’, arguably the strongest of his post 2000 albums. Many of the tracks flirted with pop but ‘Radio Nowhere’ saw Springsteen in glorious anthem mode. It’s no ‘Born to Run’ or ‘Promised Land’ but then, what is?
23. Willy Mason - We Can Be Strong
The best thing KT Tunstall has been involved with since her early days with King Creosote. Anyone who’s been unsure of life’s road will identify with the (still) young prodigy Mason’s lyric of hope and assurance that you are not alone.
24. LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
James Murphy’s Nike-commissioned ‘45:33’ can’t really be described as a ‘track’ but this remarkable highlight from ‘Sound Of Silver’ will do nicely. The mesmerising keyboard riff evokes comparison with Steve Reich while the vocals recall ‘70s soft-rock. An unlikely yet winning combination that confounded any one-trick pony accusations that still existed.
25. Battles - Leyendecker
Just edging out glam-stomper ‘Atlas’ by virtue of a wonderfully tampered-with vocal. Precision and repetition are the qualities which saw Battles tagged as ‘math-rock’, but there’s nothing dreary about their lessons.
26. Bamboos - My Baby’s Cheating
With label-mate Quantic pursuing a more Latin-orientated sound, it was left to Bamboos to supply the raw funk that Tru Thoughts do best. The Dap Kings may get the plaudits but these guys are the real deal.
27. Culture - Two Sevens Clash
This Marcus Garvey-inspired, harmony-riddled reggae classic’s apocalyptic prophecy (from the reissued album of the same name) was enough to shut down Kingston, Jamaica for a whole day and inspire arguably Britain’s greatest ever punk band.
28. Two Gallants - Linger On
Taken from the ’Scenery Of Farewell’ EP which preceded the San Franciscan duo’s self-titled third album this year, ’Linger On’ grabs hold of the heart strings and positively yanks at them. Country-blues never sounded as poetic or stirring.
29. Future Of The Left - Small Bones, Small Bodies
Ex-McLusky and Jarcrew members conspired to release this snarling, playground bully of a tune. Frontman Andy Malkous describes it as “our ’Eye Of The Tiger’” quite feasibly with tongue-in-cheek.
30. Shape Of Broad Minds - Let’s Go
Jneiro Jarel’s spacey groove was aided by a typically lyrically-nimble guest turn from hip-hop’s man in the iron mask, MF Doom.
31. Murder By Death - Sometimes The Line Walks You
Gripping outlaw narratives perpetuated MBD’s sensational ’In Bocca Al Lupo’ album, but ’Sometimes The Line Walks You’ was the best. The story of a murderous man’s prison break played out with gusto and unswerving realism.
32. Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill
A prime example of the power of Youtube, this track’s video propelled the duo to a Top 40 hit. Le Sac’s elecro-heavy beats and Scroobius’ witty stream-of-consciousness flows would have found success one way or another, regardless.
33. Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass
Another hyper-intelligent Def Jux rhyme-merchant, benefiting from the production input of long-time collaborator Blockhead. The title track from Aesop’s most recent album has a hypnotic loop and vocoder-led chorus which lend this otherwise resolutely underground specimen notable crossover potential.
34. Justice - Phantom Pt. 1
Descendants of Daft Punk’s school of mutant disco, this young duo led the resurgence of house hybrids in 2007, this hook-led dance floor monster easily among their best.
35. Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid - The Sun Never Sets
Jazz drummer Reid hooked up with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) for the second instalment of their collaboration on Domino in 2007. Skewed electronica with an organic, beating heart.
36. Pete & The Pirates - Knots
A definite band to look out for in 2008, and possibly the only pirates in Reading. ’Knots’ was their earliest statement of intent, layered vocals meshing with insistent guitar lines to instantly memorable effect.
37. Annuals - Brother
Pitched somewhere between Arcade Fire and TV On The Radio’s boundary-pushing sound, Annuals used a simple, looped string part to add a quasi-classical edge to this quiet-loud epic of a single which sparks into life very noticeably half way through.
38. Young Knives - Terra Firma
Irresistible pre-second album single from Ashby-De-La-Zouche’s finest. The idiosyncratic chorus and dancefloor-baiting grooves of ’Terra Firma’ made it almost as essential as ’She’s Attracted To’.
39. Lethal Bizzle - Babylon’s Burning The Ghetto (Burn The Gallows Mix)
Grime chancer Lethal Bizzle’s smartest move to date has been hooking up with like-minded punks Gallows. Here Bizzle’s simplistic anti-politician rant gets significantly beefed-up by Frank Carter barking out the chorus from The Ruts’ classic, a formula the pair repeated for ’Staring At The Rude Bois’.
40. Bjorn - Innocence
Bjork’s feted hook-up with Timbaland behind the production boards bore impressive fruit with this sparse, left-field dancefloor triumph. Still setting the standards for innovation in pop.
41. Susheela Raman - Yoo Do Right
This Anglo-Indian vocalist recorded an album of covers from the obvious (’Like A Rolling Stone’) to the unusual, such as this Can classic and tracks by Joy Division and Throbbing Gristle. Inventive and affecting.
42. Bonde Do Role - Office Boy
Like CSS’s even naughtier cousins, this Brazilian troupe combine cyclical guitar riffs and electro beats to winning effect. Throw in some Birkin-esque panting at the end and you’ve got a winner.
43. Iron & Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Sam Beam’s stripped-down acoustic folk got a slight makeover this year with his ’The Shepherd’s Dog’ album bulking out his arrangements substantially. This beautiful lullaby rounded out the album in epic, moving fashion.
44. Radiohead - Bodysnatchers
A return to rock-band mode for Radiohead, as all five members play their part here. Amongst ’In Rainbow’s now-familiar electronic diversions the discordant guitar here stood out a mile.
45. DJ Kentaro Ft. Spank Rock - Free
Their Fabric Live set aside it was quite a quiet year for Baltimore filthsters Spank Rock, save for this scene-stealing guest role on the album by Ninja Tunes’ DJ Kentaro.
46. Pendulum - Granite
Chuck the first Pendulum album into a blender and serve. ’Granite’ encapsulated all the elements that made these drum ’n bass super-producers such an appealing prospect in the first place - enormous drops, vocal manipulation and crunching beats.
47. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife 3
Wistful, melancholy Americana with a pop sensibility from these rightly revered new traditionalists.
48. Bloc Party - A Song For Clay (Disappear Here)
Muscular return from Kele Okereke and co, with a weighty lyrical concept to boot, deriding their shallow, wealthy, thrill-obsessed cotemporaries living “like the ’80s never happened”.
49. Goblin - Profundo Rosso
Best known for their soundtrack work for the Italian master of stylised horror, Dario Argento, this is the title track from his film, a highlight of Cherry Red’s recent retrospective on the band.
50. The Bees - Got To Let Go
Hammond and trumpet-bolstered retro pop from these Isle Of Wight ’60s aficionados, who borrow liberally from all sources and gleefully inhabit the good time vibes they create.