Thursday, December 20, 2007

Favorite Records 2007

10. Red Krayola, Sighs Trapped By Liars: Red Krayola reunites with the conceptual art collective/activist group Art And Language, for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century to produce one of the year's surprise releases and the closest thing to a "new" release from a reunited band I had on my list. The music found on their old releases, "Kangaroo," "Black Snakes" and especially "Corrected Slogans," I used to put on to push the buttons of Blood Brothers fans who thought they had pretty "out there" tastes. This record was expectedly a little smoother than some of the spiky structures and absurdist radical lyricism on their old recordings, but some of the vocals are still strange enough to wrinkle the brow of the average indie rocker, and their political and social conscience is obviously still bothering them. You'll miss the lopsided bitchiness of Mayo Thompson's insane singing voice, but marvel at how well the Art And Language collective has aged and matured.

9. Various Artists, After Dark Compilation: Upon first aural examination this seems like a dance music compilation, largely indebted to disco, paying direct tribute to Kraftwerk and early electro, nothing too complicated there. I've probably listened to this while working my straight job more than just about any other release this year, and there is something intriguingly somber and longing about most of these songs. This isn't just another coke abuse soundtrack but instead, the music that accompanies the void that encompasses you as you drive home from the club, city skyline in your rearview mirror. Perfect for Dallas. This is the celebratory release of a new Mike Simonetti venture, a man who has stayed a step or two ahead of the music industry for a long time now. If someone knows whether or not he ever released that Breadwinner bootleg he was threatening to subversively let loose on the market, please email me.

8. ESG, A South Bronx Story Vol. 2: The first South Bronx Story compilation by ESG was one of the most mind-blowing comps I had ever heard, all the way back in 2000. As entirely accessible as it was historically significant, it was great to find that this second volume was almost every bit as good as the first. Combining rarities and b-sides, this is incredibly immediate music, by a group that shares the very rare position of being pioneers of post-punk, hip-hop, and dance music, all without sounding like idiots. As the album progresses, the ability to still come up with beautifully simplistic basslines, obnoxiously danceable funk drumming and often hilarious upbeat vocals with the same enthusiasm for over two decades is astounding. Some of the cheap sounding guitar fuzz solos from the later years bothered me at first, but only added to the fun upon repeated listening.

7. Violent Squid, FYG Trio Split LP: One of the things I noticed about this album was the way it made people say things like, "It's too bad this isn't on a nationally distributed label. People should really hear it." Or similar sentiments expressed by people who usually don't care about such things. It is actually a shame considering this album was one of the most noteworthy releases this year period. It left me dumb-founded after each listen, scratching my head at how out of time and place it ultimately sounds. More specifically, the ghosts of 20th Century Avant America haunt the creaks, scratches and bleats of the record, ironically inoculating it from ever having to suffer the trend-scarred effects of age. Sans reissues, I don't even know if I could say that for the other entries on this list.

6. Shellac, Excellent Italian Greyhound: Thought at first I was sometimes confused and disappointed by Shellac's newest record, I realized that their last album "1000 Hurts" also had some unexpected turns that threw me when I first heard it, and it has since achieved a classic status with many of its fans. Comparing a band's newest record to live shows you've caught or bootleg performances you've heard is often a futile exercise, and it helps to try to separate a record from those expectations, if possible. There are definitely some weird moments here but there are also some strange moments in their live show, therefore making the record more of an accurate representation than previously thought. I've gotten used to the long-winded monologues but I still don't know if I can deal with a Strongbad cameo. When the speeches end and this record really kicks in, there's nothing else like it.

5. Neurosis, Given To The Rising: Over the course of several diverse projects including Tribes Of Neurot, a collaboration with Jarboe and their last full-length, "The Eye Of Every Storm," longtime Neurosis fans might have had the understandable concern that these Metal and Hardcore pioneers had softened for good. Though Neurosis had taken a respectable stab at so many different styles and concepts, you often found yourself wondering if they would return to their notoriously punishing selves. This record should lay to rest such fears, as it certainly did my own. This two disc set was a welcome beating, and its strength lies in its direct attack. There is very little time change gimmickry and other hallmarks of the prog metal they've inspired, instead there is the constant barrage of a basic Sabbath-sized seventies groove beat that keeps pummeling for over an hour. Expect to embarrassingly be unable to stop yourself from making demonic faces while air-drumming in slow motion.

LINK "Water Is Not Enough"

4. HEALTH, HEALTH: For a group that has so meticulously plotted each concept, visual representation, feedback loop, vocal effect and analog drum pad sound , it's a wonder that HEALTH still made a record that sounds so ready to fly off the hinges and singe your eyebrows as it blasts through each of the carefully crafted tracks. Ambient room sound compliments the huge drumming, in direct contrast to the chilling lilt of singer Jake Duzsik's voice, thusly creating a deftly honed hysteria that claws its way through the sizzle and spark shower of hot-wired electronics. One of the uniting forces between those who dance and those who slam dance.

LINK "Tabloid Sores"

3. Death Sentence: Panda, Festival Of Ghosts: One of the more overlooked bands from the extremely active West Coast music scene, Death Sentence Panda utilize horns in their No Wave inspired music, reminiscent of "Don Gavanti," which is hailed as being the lone operetta that the genre yielded. Almost completely forgotten (but not quite thanks to Ze and Atavistic reissues) is the way that No Wave progressed, surprisingly similar to more boring strains of 70's rock, and eventually incorporated elements of World Music into its sonic vocabulary. This is mirrored in "Festival Of Ghosts," which brings to mind gamelan orchestras, The Sun City Girls Eastern influenced experimentation, and the unraveling rhythms of Albert Ayler's spiritually inspired work. This risky and unexpected move from such a young group is actually excellent, and its ominous clang will stick with you. The second side of this vinyl release is very different live material from an earlier stage in DS:P's development and will quickly convince you what drew people to this band in the first place.

LINK "Slumber Party"

2. Koji Kondo/Eat Avery's Bones, Split 7 Inch: Koji Kondo rose from the ashes of Blonde Girls, who made my top ten records list last year and I'm not surprised to see them here again, with another excellent seven inch. They were one of the most ferocious live bands this year, a status they absolutely catapulted to by destroying living rooms and spaces all around town. This record captures a band that isn't just chugging out crossed-arm dudecore, but a handful of some of the most inventive and dynamic charged bits of music that the area has ever produced. The tug, push, and pull of this sophisticated punk is only heightened by the thoughtful and often poetic bite of the lyrics, that take the long way around "Fuck You." The other side is almost the opposite in many ways, since Eat Avery's Bones is probably more interested in being as grotesque as possible with the Eff Word as opposed to telling anyone off. They're too busy having fun for that. Their keyboard infused gross-out music with the busy rhythm section has been a favorite of the blog since its early days, and it was a true joy to throw that vision on the turntable for the first time.

LINK "Magic Candied Davecat"

1. Pylon, Gyrate Plus: As I mentioned in a "Heavy Rotation" piece earlier this year, I don't know if the "Gyrate" reissue fully demonstrates the point that Pylon are early dance-punk pioneers as well as their second record does, but it hardly matters. The fact that this is in print is definitely something we should all think DFA for. The scratchy guitars chicken pecking at the melodic basslines over the shifting drum beats and of course, the occasional disco rhythm is a sound that has aged so well that eighteen year olds are still churning this kind of thing out, and that's remarkable. But this band should also be remembered for the uniquely vulnerable and angry vocal performances of lead singer, Vanessa Briscoe Hoy. Their work might have been even more marginalized if it weren't for her. This is truly a band that should be held in the same esteem as Gang Of Four or Mission Of Burma and it's nice to see someone as popular and busy as James Murphy took the time and energy to acknowledge that.

LINK "Cool"


Blogger Chad said...

mmmmmmmmmm Mayo........

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

does strawberry fields have that violent squid lp?

2:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. a lot of dad rock on there.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see violent squid on the list. From what i hear most of that stuff is one take and recorded on whatever was around.

More oak cliff/Denton bands are needed! shawn

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:37 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I have/love the KK/EAB split. Other than that, I haven't heard the rest of this.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

Well, check it all out, Alex Atchley! Are you waiting for Howard and Nester's top ten lists?!

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there is a reason why Pylon was forgotten about.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

weeeellll maybe I will, DL!

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ESG owns it!

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Captain Progeria said...

neurosis put out their last decent album years ago. now they're just a sad faded copy of what they used to be.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but Glass Candy/Chromatics/Farah makes me yawn to no end. Do yourself a favor and buy the E.S.G. album instead. They did it first and far better, i.m.o.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous t512t said...


3:40 AM  

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