Zeitgeist: The Best of '07 Mix
(Zeitgeist Your Ears/Time-ghost Sie Ihre Öhren)
Here in the dying days of 2007, it's time to revisit some of the artists which made this year. Part of the idea for this mixtape, and the format in which it is presented, comes from josephlovesit's Playlist: Synthetic 2007. Musically, this mixtape takes one song from each of my Top 10 releases, plus a couple of others to round off the hour and bring it up to a proper dozen. Some attention has been paid to the construction, particularly in the separation of the two sides, so you should be able to listen to this enjoyably, straight through. (In addition, the gabba tape and the anti-mix Melt Yr Ears are still available)
Before we begin, though, an important plug for a new (music) blog in town:
Rgratzer from (mostly) blue skies above us has started digitizing old 90s hardcore/emo records, and has already posted Nuzzle, Reach Out, Breathing Walker (post-Moss Icon) and Rye Coalition. As he says:
"The music shared here comes from records I've collected. The purpose is to get people, who might otherwise not have access, into the music."
Check out his site for some cool photography, too...
1. Fight Like Apes - 'Jake Summers'
2. Arcade Fire - 'Keep the Car Running'
3. Dinosaur Jr. - 'Crumble'
4. The For Carnation - 'get and stay get March'
5. Envy - 'Thousand Scars'
6. Dan Deacon - 'Jimmy Joe Roche'
7. Christian Scott - 'Litany against Fear'
8. Battles - 'Tonto'
9. Burial - 'Ghost Hardware'
10. Japancakes - 'Sometimes'
11. Fight Like Apes - 'Accidental Wrong Hole'
12. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - '10X10'
1. Fight Like Apes – ‘Jake Summers’ from the Jake Summers/How Am I Supposed to Kill You When You Have All the Guns? EP.
Everybody likes a good bassline to start off a song - and by extension, a mixtape - especially Bouncing Souls fans. In this case, the fan would have to be a Mclusky one, because that’s what this song sounds exactly like for the first few seconds. It’s great to be able to connect a undeniably unique band that are playing around now, with a defunct band from your musical past - especially when they write cracking tunes like this. I would apply josephlovesit’s appraisal of Mclusky to this band – “One of the few instances where humor can completely work in the context of actual good tunes”. Even at its silliest, it’s still sung in earnest – and that’s what makes it so good.
2. Arcade Fire – ‘Keep the Car Running’ from Neon Bible.
I won’t say there’s been a lot of hating on this album here – because there hasn’t – but it still seems this album has something to prove for a lot of people. Hence I wanted to choose this song carefully. Unfortunately, ‘Black Mirror’ wouldn’t fit (maybe the ‘un, deux, trois, miroir noir’ part is a bit pretentious, even if they are genuine Francophones, but it’s still a great, stirring song) so you’ve got this, probably overplayed, track instead. However, this was the song that encouraged me into buying the album, hearing it as the single with the long, slow-burning B-side ‘Broken Window’ (you can hear the four Neon Bible singles here). A tense, propulsive song which sounds, at least to me, as much like the songs from Funeral as anything else on this album.
3. Dinosaur Jr. - 'Crumble' from Beyond
And this was the song which got me into Beyond. One of those songs which has you turning up the volume whenever it comes on the radio. I don't know if the term 'mumblecore' properly applies to Dinosaur Jr., but it sounds like it should. Alternatively, 'gorgeous' could also be used to describe this song's sound. I quite like the Lou Barlow songs on the album, but it's the J. Mascis stuff that clinched it for me and made Beyond my no. 1. Probably the closest thing to rock, or punk for that matter, that I listened to this year.
4. The For Carnation - 'get and stay get March' from Promised Works (originally from the Fight Songs EP, released 1995)
From one guitar song to another, completely opposite (in style and volume) one, I kind of arbitrarily chose this as the most beautiful track from Promised Works. The 'Slint performing Spiderland' gig from back in August (review here) was probably the show of the year for me, but I had been getting into both Slint and the For Carnation since late spring. If you see the For Carnation s/t, buy it, but there is much to recommend this collection of earlier pieces. The full length is an eerily quiet, super-intensive atmospheric wonder but these simpler, almost folkier songs have their own haunting charm. And carry a good tune.
5. Envy - 'Thousand Scars' from the Abyssal EP
Continuing the slow part of the mix, the crescendoeing quietness of this song is one of the really fine parts of this EP, even if it isn't for every Envy fan. As I wrote before:
"...very much for the Insomniac Doze fan. Trilling, vibratory emo-peggio sustained over some six minutes, with a few loud steps into hyper-Spectorian, wall-of-sound screamo which really just amps up the arpeggio behind it. All very post-rock, and with the long, drawn-out chord progressions pinned to the quiet vocals and building crescendos, at some point you've got to stop trying to describe or categorize it, and just lie back and let it wash over you."
6. Dan Deacon - 'Jimmy Joe Roche' from Spiderman of the Rings
Perhaps not the quiet part of the mix, now, but the epic, pensive section. It also seems to me an appropriate counterpart to the Envy song, a kind of twisted take on post-rock build-up and catharsis. Once again I'll refer to mr. x indeed's masterly summation, "Gorgously complex composition that keeps slipping under itself, and all that", as well as pointing you in the direction of my live review. One of my favourite Dan Deacon songs (also named after, I think, the guy who produced the insanely good Crystal Cat video) and also the album closer, so a natural choice for finishing off the first side of the mixtape.
7. Christian Scott - 'Litany Against Fear' from Anthem
Apologies for the slight mindfuck it might be to switch between the manic-electronic heights of Dan Deacon and the cool grooves of jazz, but this is now side B! This year, I've been picking up the Miles Davis albums ending in -in' (Cookin', Steamin', etc.). My jazz collection now jumps between 1957 and 2007 (not entirely true - I have a couple of Ornette Coleman albums plus Christian Scott's 2006 debut, but that's about it). Apparently something happened in between, but I'm not too keen on listening to it. 21st-century bebop album Anthem incorporates a lot of 'rock' elements to it - guitar, non-jazz drumming - but far from sounding tacky or (god forbid!) 1970s-ish, it comes across as very original. As befits an opener to an album about the horrific natural disasters in Louisiana, there is a lot of captivating, moving tension in the song. All I said before was "'Litany Against Fear' really sticks in your head": partly because that's all you really need to know, and partly because I'm very much out of my depth in jazz criticism. I now notice someone on eMusic has written:
"This is not just an album, but this is a visionistic journey. You can feel the emotion in ever note that is being uttered. It is also an album that people of all musical tastes can enjoy. If I had to call it something, I would call it Jazz Emo."
Perhaps. After all, look at the song title!
8. Battles - 'Tonto' from Mirrored
This band not only gets the joint award (with Dan Deacon) for Pitchfork Indie Band of the Year That Is Honestly Fantastic, but also the similarly joint (with Dan Deacon, on account of 'Crystal Cat') award for Best Video of the Year. 'Atlas' might be a bit old hat by now, but it did show a band that had fantastic visual artistic sense in addition to mathy chops. 'Tonto', which by the way I chose to fit not-too-disconcertingly with the jazz track, continued and in some ways excelled that tradition. The song, so named because the beat is reminiscent of "old cowboy-type movies" (according to Dave Konopka) and probably because of that, the video is set in a rocky desert - although at night, and with vertical blue strobe lights. Like I said then, "while 'Atlas' was about mirrors (naturally enough), bright lights, and performing in a glass box, 'Tonto' is about strobe lighting, darkness, sharp rocks and performing in the desert".
9. Burial - 'Ghost Hardware' from Untrue
This is an artist I've been getting into just recently, based on multiple 'best of' lists on other blogs. Burial plays 'dubstep' which is simultaneously a return to two-step garage electronic music and an embrace of some of the spacey sounds of dub music - or something like that. To be honest, with ethereal male/female/androgyne vocals, it's not a world away from Massive Attack. The best description is from floodwatch:
"Crackly, neck-snapping rhythms collide with disembodied voices, icy string pads are buoyed by murky throbs of bass, and mangled synth tones scrape their way to the surface, all enveloped in a mysterious aural environment that’s neither welcoming nor alienating"
'Ghost Hardware' is only one of the most melodious and accessible tracks; the album doesn't quite hold my attention for its full length. However, as someone who likes the dub aesthetic in a variety of settings, rather than particularly in the original form, this is definitely an interesting find for 2007.
10. Japancakes - 'Sometimes' from Loveless
Another late purchase of 2007, this fully instrumental cover version of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless has received more than a few spins. I chose 'Sometimes' because I think it best exhibits the two main traits of this album: that "at some times it is eerily identical, while at others you would forget that you are listening to My Bloody Valentine songs at all". Assuming you know Loveless - the "Pitchfork-approved exemplar shoegaze album", in their own words - you'll surely recognize the opening melody to this track, especially the pedal steel which comes in at the 1:11 mark. However, elsewhere the sparseness of the instrumentation stands in such contrast to the original, distorted sound - easy to be reminded of if you put on the MBV disc at the same time - that the Japancakes version seems quite alien. In terms of criticism that isn't meant as a disparagement, but rather that Japancakes have created something simultaneously authentic (to their source), original, and wonderful.
11. Fight Like Apes - 'Accidental Wrong Hole' from the David Carradine is a Bounty Hunter Who's Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch EP
I guess it makes sense to put the Irish with the Irish stuff, except that My Bloody Valentine were never technically Irish (they recorded in London) and become even less so when covered by a band from Georgia, USA. The bouncy synth lines at the start of this track might make for a slightly jarring transition, but they're only one part of the song. Only a short track, due to constraints of space, and doesn't quite pack the punch of 'Do You Karate?' which is probably the best song they've released so far. But fun nevertheless; it has the title 'Accidental Wrong Hole' and the hook/chorus line is "you're such a clumsy lover". Should I say more?
12. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - '10X10' from the Is Is EP.
I wanted to get this EP for quite a while, but never saw it in the shops (admittedly, I didn't try very hard). 'Gold Lion' was one of the songs of the year for me in 2006, but I didn't think Show Your Bones was without its flaws. As an album, it goes on for a bit too long and tends to repeat itself. So the brevity of Is Is (when I went on Google Blog Search to track it down) was refreshing. I could have chosen any of the five songs for this mixtape - 'Rockers to Shallow', in particular, is a real firecracker, and 'Down Boy' brightened up a lot of radio playlists - but decided to match closer with closer. There's a slight agit-punk affinity, I think, between the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Fight Like Apes, which is also why I paired these two. '10X10's quiet opening, electricifying guitar riff and heavy beat make for a good rockin' showdown.
Happy New Year!