Now that I'm a member of a music community site, I think it'd be fun to post my yearly run-down of the year in music (as I heard it) so all the other opinionated music-nerds like myself can alternately pat me on the back and take me to task. So here it is, kids. Have at it.
The Badger List is undergoing an overhaul in 2008 in an attempt to subvert the hierarchical structure so often imposed on the music we so voraciously consume. Is it fair to compare Battles with Beirut? Or Thrice with Iron & Wine? I don’t think so. Accordingly this year, I’ll have the (what are becoming) traditional categories for ’07 music, in addition to a Top 10, in no ranking order, of releases I heard this year.
(For previous years' lists, check out www.myspace.com/reconsiderthebadger ; go back through the blogs, '05 and '06 are in there somewhere...)
I’d like to stress – these are 2007 releases that I, Robert Gonyo, listened to, which is by no means a comprehensive list of all the rock and/or roll released this year.
So, categories I’ve got in mind so far:
Get Over It, It’s Not THAT Great
Most Pleasant Surprise(s)
Complete Disconnect Between Recordings and Live Show
Honorable Mentions (High Replay Value)
Beautiful Playing/Production that Still Somehow Doesn’t Make a Top Album for Me
Any additional category suggestions, send them my way. If anyone actually reads this.
As I post them, feel free to comment by testifying to the brilliance of my observations, or how big of an ass I am for thinking Neon Bible wasn’t really all that great, etc.
Now, without further ado, the first of those few categories...
Saddest Song – The Weakerthans – “Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure”
New category; really, I just wanted to write about this song.
The caring, endearing, hyper-observant feline of Reconstruction Site’s “Plea From a Cat Named Virtue” returns – to explain why she’s gone. Why is this so sad, to hear about a fictional cat leaving home, eventually forgetting “the sound that you found for me”? This is why I love Samson’s lyrics; this is enough to make a grown man weep.
A plea from a guy named Robby - please let Virtue find her way home. Or you’ll kill my childhood fondness for Homeward Bound.
Get Over It, It’s Not THAT Great – Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
So every year, I like to talk a little smack about a good record that everyone else seems to go ga ga over (like I went over Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga). Neon Bible is the object of my tepid ire this time around.
Really – what’s so amazingly wonderful about this record? The lyrics are very good, yes. There’s some smart instrumentation, and one of the best songs of the year, “Keep the Car Running.” I love other tracks, too – “Intervention” and “Windowsill” stand out in my head right now. But there’s an overall lack of cohesion here; and a couple sort of boring tracks (see “Black Mirror” and the title track – while they’re the kind of songs that get stuck in your head, I don’t feel like they work toward anything, not even the slow burn that made some of Funeral’s tracks so amazing). And why the re-do of the wishy-washy “No Cars Go”, from the band’s self-titled EP?
For all the effort I’ve read went into this record, it falls short of the expectations the band and the surrounding media blitz built up. Maybe if it weren’t so highly revered, I wouldn’t feel the need to mildly attack it as such. It could just be my anti-pop inclinations coming out. A very nice record; but not one of the year’s best.
Most Disappointing – Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light
Some might give me a lot of shit for this one. I don’t care. I’m mad as hell, and I’m gonna rant.
If you’ve seen my record collection, you will know that I have a copy of (almost) every album, single, collection, and promo for this band. My CD copy of Clarity is signed because I waited 6 hours before a show to see the band (got in on vinyl, too). I own 4 copies of Futures (regular, European, deluxe w/demos, and vinyl – signed), even though that used to be my least favorite Jimmy record (until now). I have methodically tracked down everything from the misprinted copy of the singles collection that was released on Big Wheel Rec, to 2 copies of the Sense Field/Mineral 3-way split (on different colored vinyl), to a copy of the split with Christie Front Drive, and have scoured the contents of the now-defunct “Simple Discourse” website as well as more recent live-show archives. I even bought an MTV Road Rules compilation just because “Bleed American” was on it – it wasn’t even a new recording, I’m just that obsessed. My band has covered “Table for Glasses”, “The Authority Song”, “Clarity”, “A Sunday”, “No Sensitivity”, and Jimmy’s version of Guided by Voices’ “Game of Pricks”. Yes, I am bragging. But it is to show that I LOVE THIS BAND.
So it pains me to write that this record does nothing for me. Other than make me sad.
There’s nothing new here. Nothing interesting. The lyrics sound like they were written for middle-schoolers. Songs even sound the same (for example, “Always Be” and “Open Bar Reception” are almost the exact same song). And face it, the cover art sucks.
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe they’re getting old. Maybe it’s the industry, and the desire for airplay. Maybe it’s the loss of Mark Trombino. But this is not a Jimmy Eat World record. This is a collection of boring formulaic pop songs by the band that was supposed to save rock radio. In my opinion, the best thing that could happen to the Jimmys would be to be dropped from their label, to do another record the way they did Bleed American – on their own dime, with a friend producing, no pressure other than to make a killer record. If the relationship with Trombino’s not salvageable, then Jim can produce.
These are my fantasy suggestions. Are they worth anything? Of course not. But my love for this band makes me want to see them do something incredible again, so I’m dreaming. And I’ll keep dreaming. And I’m sure I’ll be tracking down that this band puts out until they stop recording. Hopefully there won’t be any more bad ones like this.
Complete Disconnect Between Recordings and Live Show – Stars
Last year The Raconteurs won this love/hate recognition from me; this year, it’s not a complete disconnect, because I hear some replay value in In Our Bedroom After the War, but given the only “OK”-ness of that record, I want to write just how amazing their live show was.
I was constantly amazed at the swirl of sound, the intricate and delicate beauty of these songs that somehow would build into a rousing force that you couldn’t help but feel wrapped into. Sure, it was kind of weird when Michael came out with that jacket-o-touchlights doing a strange Mr. Roboto sort of dance. And if you watched Amy closely, she often wasn’t actually playing guitar. But shit, man. What a freakin’ SHOW.
So why am I only half-heartedly into their new record? Can’t put my finger on it.