Favorite albums of 2007, and other notes (edited)

A very late post, but what the hell. By the title of the post itself, let it be known that the list is by no means a critical representation of the “best of the best albums” of 2007. Just albums that I really enjoyed. So biases abound in this list. I am no music critic, only a fan.
10. A Fine Frenzy-One Cell in the Sea

A fine offering of graceful romantic yearnings. I first saw the video “Almost Lover” and it immediately undid me. (I think the song is now in heavy rotation among the local radio channels.) A very apt soundtrack for those moments of isolation beside the window pane on a rainy monday morning with a coffee at hand, and bittersweet memories in mind. ‘Almost Lover’ clogged my neural traffic for almost months on end, and ironic that I really have no specific person in mind, which is testament I think to the powerful vicarious pull of the song, it’s a feeling akin to seeing seeing fresh rays of sunlight sheepishly creep upon withering autumn leaves .

I also liked “Come On, Come Out,” “The Minnow and Trout,” “Liar, Liar,” and “Ashes and Wine.”

A great plus is that the singer is also hot!

9. The Postmarks-The Postmarks
A very lovely twee album. It’s melancolia in slow-motion cartoon animation.”good-bye/i’m not gonna cry/as i’m hopping that train/knowing that i won’t see you again.”

8. José González-In Our Nature

A strong follow-up to “Veneer.” No big departure from the style he employed in his debut. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing mediocre either. He still works his magic through. The lyrics however possess more depth and vitality than songs in”Veneer.” Nuanced and straight to the bone. “You’ve got a heart filled with passion/Will you let it burn for hate or compassion (Killing for Love)” The pièce de résistance comes at the end of the album with “Cycling Trivialities,”- a lovely 8:09 track which is a deft bitter put-down of a downward spiral lifestyle-”Too blind to know your best/Hurrying through the forks without regrets/Different now, every step feels like a mile/All the lights seem to flash and pass you by…So how’s it gonna be/When it all comes down you’re cycling trivialities.”

7. The Mars Volta-The Bedlam in Goliath.

Not my favorite Mars Volta Album, but it still is genuine Mars Volta. (Franes the Mute still has my highest regard as the finest Mars Volta effort. I find it extremely solid in terms of concept and arrangement. The musical fireworks are disciplined, restrained, yet crazy and genius as hell.) The opening track seems “Aberinkula” is an immediate sonic battering ram, and the album proceeds in equal measures of instrumental aggression from thereon, with the characteristic Mars Volta signatures of ridiculously broken time signatures and intense sonic fireworks . The album, suffice to say, is one hell of a music bedlam.

6 Eisley-Combinations/The National-Boxer

The National-Apartment Story

Yes, I know, that for the longest time, my last.fm charts had a massive Eisley erection, and it still has up to now, although other artists are slowly climbing. Ok, yes, I became strongly endeared to them the first time I listened to them. I have many posts about them gushing in highschool-fanboy fashion how cute and adorable their music, and the band per se excluding of course the male members, is. My fascination however rubbed off at the latter part of the year, but still their music kept me alive for the better part of 2007. Very very cute.

How can you get wrong with Matt Berninger’s vocals in National, plus the lyrics are so pointedly unique. Apartment Story has been criminally on repeat in my player for the past week here in the office I nearly had withdrawal symptoms over the weekend. I really loved it. Boxer is now my favorite National album.

5. White Shoes and The Couples Company

Time describes them as having “one of the sweetest sounds in underground music today.” Nothing could not be much closer to the truth. White Shoes, who hails from Indonesia, released their self-titled album in 2005, but Minty Records (The Cardigans, Liz Phair, Tahiti 80) re-released it September last year. It’s perky lovely bouncy jumpy mod dreampop happy sunny music. You can’t understand it (though there are some tracks in English), but it’s hard not to love it.

White Shoes and The Couples Company-Sabda Alam

White Shoes and The Couples Company-Sendung Maaf

4. PJ Harvey-White Chalk

Sobrang lapot ng lungkot sa album na to. Parang may helpless na babaeng sumisigaw sa kalsada kasi di na bumalik yung minamahal niya sa giyera at kahit malayo ka at natatanaw mo lang siya sa bintana, parang ramdam mo ang hapdi kasi umaabot yung luhang gumigilid sa pisngi ng babae sa daliri mo.

PJ Harvey has been panned for her penchant of constantly reconfiguring her self in her albums, but I actually find no fuss in that. I find White Chalk as strong as her past albums, and nothing can’t be a more fitting metaphor for a white chalk- the fragility and tragedy of the inevitable fading memory- than PJ Harvey’s White Chalk. Of all the tracks, I find The Piano the most maddeningly depressive. PJ Harvey’s repetitive wail “Oh God I Miss You… Oh God I Miss You…” just outrightly burned in my memory. No chance you can forget such a soberly pathetic, helpless, miserable, cry for help.

PJ Harvery-The Piano

3. Chilitees-Extra Rice

You just can’t not bust your groove while listening to this album. This album is made for the dancefloor, for bed, for whatever there is a vibrant dash of life and of love. LSS infection in full swing. “Sayaw” and “Ikaw” are key tracks, plus the carrier single “Sama Na.”. I’m already eagerly waiting for their next release.

2. Battles-Mirrored

It’ just one of those curious episodes in life when at the time that I stumbled upon Mirrored, a technically sophisticated output that one reviewer in the net dubbed a geek soundtrack, I was reading a book titled “Nerds 2.1.0.”

You can’t really go wrong with the line-up of the band, as almost everyone came from very well-respected bands, prime of which is Ian Williams of Don Caballero.

Mirrored is one solid sonic eargasm. My words could fail me in describing as I’m not well versed in the sophisticated technical tools and techniques they employ so I will leave just by saying that this is one album where after listening, it made me regret not pursuing music lessons. If this is literature, this is somehow similar to Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake in overdrive.

Atlas

Tonto

1. Radioactive Sago Project-Tangina Mo Andaming Nagugutom Sa Mundo Fashionista Ka Pa Rin

There is no doubt, no hesitation, no second thoughts, about who tops my 2007 list. In terms of power and statement this is number one.

I’ve always wondered by what criteria music should be judged, and I find myself harking back to one literature class in college where we were asked the same thing as regards to literature-How do we judge literature?

I recall my answer as saying that literature should be weighed in terms of its social relevance, of how much it approximates the social reality and empower readers. But the professor says that language and language only is the yardstick by which literature should be assessed. Of course, how could you explain works which deal with such mundane things as frogs, nails, termites, yet the product comes out as epic almost as Milton’s work. Right as my professor is, I still find myself with great bias in considering social relevance as a prime criterion in judging art.

But yet, there seems to be works where appreciation could operate on a multi-layered dimension between language and social relevance, just like Sago’s recent album. They are undoubtedly the most advanced rock bands in the Philippines, and Fashionista is as intense a musical experience it could get. It is as politically charged and as entertaining as drunken nonsensical non-sequitur conversations. Passion and frustration is most palpable in Nasusunog ang Maynila (like Paris in Flames?) where the immemorial demons of social degradation are laid bare as the base for a satiric tackle on a corroded city-”Ito ang iyong siyudad/ito ang iyong sementeryo… ang puso ko’y nagagalak pag ika’y lumiliyab… Sa maitim na pangarap kulay dugo na ang ulap”

One of the most memorable lines also comes from the most irreverent track Mambo Rat-”Super tulis ng tite!”

The entire album is an epic dissertation on the ins and outs of Manila, where truth and meaning is just as good as the latest showbiz chika. The album presents a thematic mapping of our metro’s social terrain-crazy as it is hopeless, agitating as it is pathetic, and bizarre as it is mundane.

I did say that this post is biased, so I would just like to say that Lourd is one hell of a writer-both as a fictionist and a journalist-the ideal marriage that Nick Joaquin advocates. And as a musician, I have nothing but respect for him.

Their recent album is a bold reminder of what rock and roll should be. There was a time when rock and roll is edgy, dangerous, and considered evil even. Now the faces of today’s “rock and roll musicians” are plastered over EDSA billboards advertising the latest brandy, whose day to day affairs, having trysts with different showbiz celbrities in the hippest club circuit, are usual tabloid fodders.

I am not a purist as I do not expend energy railing against mainstream hitmaking musicians, but I can’t give but the purest admiration for bands like Sago, who shows what rock and roll should really be all about.

I would go so far as to say that “Tanginamo” is the best OPM album of this decade. (I don’t have much appreciation for emo bands). And you can quote me on that.

For a more sensible review, please go here.

Guilty pleasure record of the year is Paramore’s Riot. Sad to say that I outgrew my fascination for them, owing perhaps to the emo tag which carries immense cringe-factor for me. I also love the Dreamgirls soundtrack, very catchy. I’m not one to admire vocals that register peristaltic convulsions on the Richter scale, but I really liked Jennifer Hudson on the album, especially her song “Love You I Do.” I also love “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem. A really magnificent song. I almost lost my breath over the intense piano keys that never end. Much as I love Alicia Keys, I have to say that I found her video “No One” extremely awkward. Sure the song is catchy, but as sure as nothing could really get in the way of what she is feeling, I suggest she first must have determined what the hell she truly is feeling-does she feel like shimmying? doing she feel like doing the piano? singing? having sex? humping the mic stand? She seems like a earthworm gone awry with what she is doing in the video. The recent Radiohead album also did not move me, maybe because I’m not one for electronica. Blonde Redhead’s “23” is also perfect for days where my mind seems to drift helplessly through flutters of sepia-tainted memories. I also liked the albums of Corrine Bailey Rae and John Legend. I got a chance to listen to it on board Emirates flight from Dubai to Brazil last year on the Uruguay trip and found the songs capable of inducing massive spells of LSS. And both albums are a fitting mental bookmark for a very memorable trip.

PS

Woops. Forgot to include “In Our Bedroom After the War,” by Stars as one of my favorite. There are definite gems in In Our Bedroom (The Nights Starts Here, Midnight Coward, Personal) though I think “Set Yourself on Fire” is a more superior album.

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