Monday, December 17, 2007

The Obligatory End of Year List: Hardcore for Nerds Gets Zeitgeisty

1-10, from top to bottom. I thought I would present it graphically first, since I'm a sucker for artwork anyway. Pretty much in order, although with a small break between #'s 7 and 8 which I'll explain below. Album-by-album descriptions, with a few others warranting a mention added in at the end, follow.

1. Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond

Grungey, well-produced goodness. Shamefully, this was my first introduction to Dinosaur Jr., even though they were on SST and all. Been listening to Bug a lot now lately, and I have to say they don't seem to have changed much. Awesome music then, awesome music now. Here's what I said about the album back in October, when I posted their Peel Session from '88:

"I never really knew this band until I heard their latest single, 'Crumble', on heavy rotation on my local radio. Soon I went out and bought the album, Beyond, and boy, is it good. So good that it's still on heavy rotation on my stereo; so good that the first 3 seconds of 'Almost Ready' contains the sum of all human emotion ever expressed through the electric guitar. Yes, it's that good."

(Peels Sessions II - Dinosaur Jr., Timber)

One might ask what that leaves for the remaining 2,969 seconds of the album, and the answer would be, honestly, more of the same. And what's wrong with that? First on the list because it's the most enjoyable thing I've bought all year.

2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Yeah, I’m a hipster.

Well, not really. But I did like this album so much I went out and bought it, along with gods knows how many other people fooled into shovelling yet more money into this band's coffers. The thing is, there's a reason why this band is so hyped up, live show regardless: they make some really great music. At the same time, I don't have much love for Funeral, so I'm not totally sold.

Also one of the best records of the year because, as the A.V. Club says, Arcade Fire are "the only modern indie band that can namecheck Bruce Springsteen and get away with it." I actually thought 'Antichrist Television Blues' was a Boss song when I heard it first. If you look on YouTube, you can see a live video of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne performing Nebraska's State Trooper' with Bruce; and as you may know, I've got a lot of love for that album.

3. Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings

What did I just say about being a hipster?

I don't know about you (I don't read Pitchfork everyday) but this must be the indie success story of the year: not necessarily the man himself, as he may well still be riding Greyhound buses with tied-up pants filled with corn when he gets back to the States, but the 'brand'. What I mean is, an electro-acoustic performer from a Baltimore experimental arts collective is not exactly a likely list-topper. It’s a valid point that a lot of people just extrapolate from 'Crystal Cat', pop song of the year (and not entirely representative of his work), to what the full album sounds like, but songs like ‘Okie Doke’ and ‘Jimmy Joe Roche’ are amazing in their own right. And yes, ‘Wham City’ as well. All the songs are good; it's a great album.

Video here; live review here; and, just found this today, an excellent mini-site on how Dan Deacon works - from Associated Press, of all people. So fuck Pitchfork.

4. The For Carnation – Promised Works

Okay, so this breaks all the rules of year-end lists. It’s merely the repressing of two old releases from 1995 and 1996 onto CD, but for me – not having heard the EPs, nor likely to ever – this came out in 2007. The s/t still rules, but this has its own twisted charm. My money’s on the first three songs, from the Fight Songs EP.

Of course, this year was a big Slint year for me, having discovered Spiderland through Zen and the Art of Face Punching back in March, and then seeing the reunion tour in August. This isn't Slint, but it's something close - kind of a 'logical extension' sort of thing - and it's definitely helped make my year.

5. Fight Like Apes – David Carradine is a Bounty Hunter Whose Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch

It's good to have something Irish on this list, because there aren't a whole lot of home-grown bands that I identify with or really like. We're a small island nation, and as such have a small but vibrant indie scene, without pretensions to much else (except for U2, that is, but fuck Bono too). Fight Like Apes have kind of changed all that for me, even if they only have eight recorded tracks out. Great pop songs, but keeping noise-punk alive too, particularly with their nods to McLusky - another parochial interest, I guess. I’m putting this EP first on account of the song ‘Do You Karate’, and also because overall I think it’s the stronger of the two...

6. Fight Like Apes – How Am I Supposed to Kill You When You Have All the Guns?

...again, I'm breaking all the year-end rules. Not only are they both only EPs (but who cares) but I'm also putting both of them in, as separate entries, directly one after the other. However, I can't really choose between the two, and I reckon they deserve a good 20% of the list space. This disc is also known as the Jake Summers EP after its first track; but more importantly, it has the wonderful ‘Lend Me Your Face’. Better than the recordings, is of course the live show, which I talked about a little here (the Fuck This Band Mclusky post).

7. Envy – Abyssal

Maybe it’s because I actually paid attention to it, in order to write a track-by-track review, but I’ve really gotten into Abyssal. It may not be their best work, but it’s good enough to make my list. If I had done a list for 2006, it's likely that Insomniac Doze would have made it (not as no. 1, however - that would have gone to the Bouncing Soul's Gold Record). I can understand, though, that a lot of people haven't really fully warmed to Envy's new sound - even if has been part of progression that's been going on for the best part of a decade. However, no-one has taken me up on my debating point (very end of the review, in brackets): has Envy fallen between the cracks of hardcore and post rock?


(That’s pretty much my 'top 7' – I haven’t bought enough new stuff this year to make a fully fledged top 10. However, there are a few more albums which caught my ear, so here’s the last part… this isn’t a top 10 as much as it is a Top 7 + 3)


8. Christian Scott – Anthem

Discovered this guy via the eMusic 21st Century Bebop Dozen (Dozens are basically where a staff editor picks the top 12 releases in some genre or context). A New Orleans trumpeter who garnered comparisons to Miles Davis with his 2006 debut, Rewind That, this is an artistic response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy of that year. I’m still a jazz neophyte, despite my own best efforts and the help of the eMusic catalogue, but the rock/jazz sounds of this record impress me pretty effortlessly. 'Litany against Fear' really sticks in your head.

9. Battles – Mirrored

Not to sound too self-conscious, but another hipster pick. Another show – like Dan Deacon – that I only got to see the second time around. But another excellent, outstanding album, and truly one of the most interesting of the year. (On which - polyphonically stretched - note, I found this via my new favourite blog Geek Down, a song-by-song discussion of the album by the band themselves - Paper Thin Walls - listening party. Incidentally, Mirrored is the only commonality on our lists - myself and josephlovesit, that is - although he puts it a couple of places higher). Anyway, Videos: 'Atlas' 'Tonto'; Hardcore for Nerds live review

10. Japancakes – Loveless

Just picked this up from eMusic this week, on the strength of the A.V. Club review. It’s a fully instrumental cover version of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless album. Funnily enough, I guess this takes it out of the shoegaze range, since the defining feature of that genre is distorted guitars. Pedal steel is used heavily. So countrified, yet so beautiful. Strangely, at some times its eerily identical, while at others you would forget that you are listening to My Bloody Valentine songs at all. Perhaps it sounds like it shouldn't work, but trust me, it does.

Albums with Damoclean Question Marks/Honourable Mentions/The Following Also Ran:

American Steel, Destroy Your Future. The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour. Jesu - Conqueror ("16 years to top My Bloody Valentine"? See #10, above). The Future of the Left (ex-Mclusky), Curses. Saul Williams, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust (all the boring kids are downloading In Rainbows... but this Trent Reznor-produced album is where the free music scene is at). And last but not least, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Is Is ... I'm literally listening to it for the first time right now. It's good!

Favourite Christmas Song for 2007:

Asobi Seksu - 'Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)'. Available for free at Gotta love the unveiled Ramones reference...

Exorcising the Zeitgeist: Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums

So their list was just published today, a big bloated mass of indie rock. But seriously though, some of it's quite interesting, more so than the amalgamated A.V. Club list. Strangely enough, Dinosaur Jr.'s Beyond, Arcade Fire's Neon Bible and Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings (1, 2, and 3 on my list) all appear on the same page as 28, 27 and 24 - in that order. I guess that means that, as a hipster, I'm of middling but backwards taste.

Their piece on Beyond is actually pretty good, and nearly more praising than my own. Battles's Mirrored is no. 8, not unexpectedly. Finally, their Top 100 Tracks include 'Almost Ready' at 33, 'Wham City' (I'm still partisan for 'Crystal Cat', but since 'Wham City' comes with a 5-min radio edit too, apparently, it's not surprising) at 30 and 'Keep The Car Running' at 29. Almost spooky, that cluster. Battles, 'Atlas', comes in at 2. Verdict: fuck them anyway.


josephlovesit said...

Had I not been stubborn and listened to that Dan Deacon so late, I think our lists would've shared that too.

Really great list. There's so much on here that I haven't heard too, which is refreshing. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on most of these within the next month.

blend77 said...

The new Dino Jr. was actually pretty good. Lou's song was the best on it though.. haha. im a diehard Sebadoh fan.

Had you heard the Kevin Drew album (from Broken Social Scene) that has Mascis on a song? Its a great track and a great album...

I'm going to put mine up soon...
thanks for sharing Gabba!

gabbagabbahey said...

Yeah, I know the song. It's pretty great... I might pick the album up next year.

mr x, indeed said...

nice list man;
its good to see music's survived the year my personal top 10 if you care is (in random order):

Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings
Grinderman - s/t
The Fall - Reformation Post TLC
Von Sudenfed - Tromatic Reflexxions
Battles - Mirrored
Black Francis - Bluefinger
PJ Harvey - White Chalk
The Residents - Voice of Midnight
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
The Locust - New Erections

giz a shout if you (or anyone else) want any of these; i know theres a few things offa your list i need to rob

gabbagabbahey said...

thanks; and if anyone else wants to post their lists, feel free. I know this blog is mostly old stuff, but I'd been interested to know what people's current tastes are.

mr. x; 2 things I have (obviously), 2 things I've never heard of. Btw, is Grinderman that good? I've only heard 'No Pussy Blues' and I wasn't that excited. It does make J. Mascis's Top 10, though, according to the guest lists on Pitchfork.

gabbagabbahey said...

oh, and to take you up on your offer, the polly jean is probably what I most want.

And I have something you should want - a remix by Dan Deacon of a track by a band called Death Set - "Suicide with slightly better equipment and a more sure sense of pitch" - thanks to eMusic.

See ya!

mr x, indeed said...

white chalk:

and: yes, grinderman is top dollar or at least worth giving another shot
ooh and that remix sounds delish;
ps: strangly our views on arcade fire seem to be at odds: i love funeral but neon bible's yet to move me in any way at all.

blend77 said...

agreed, i was left seriously cold by the new Arcade Fire... No Cars Go was the best song and its an old song... just a better version of it...

Grinderman was awesome. Definitely making my year end list.

and if anyone has a link for that Dan Deacon album, I would love to check it out... thanks!

gabbagabbahey said...

the number of different times I've posted this link, or a link to it...

Dan Deacon - Spiderland of the Rings
(thanks, as always to

So it's official, then? Battles and Dan Deacon are the two simply must-haves for this season...

blend77 said...

hey Gabba, here you go. June of 44. Anatomy is an EP from the same year as Tropics..

June of 44 - Anatomy of Sharks

June of 44 - Tropics & Meridians

blend77 said...

this ones awesome too.

June of 44 - Four Great Points

Jeff Mueller played in Rodan... so if you like this, you'll like Shipping News with Jason Noble

gabbagabbahey said...