Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2007 : AROUSED

There is nothing like an end-of-year review to make you feel culturally inadequate. The way I gather music is pretty ad-hoc – internet downloads generated by chance, loans from public libraries, an occasional spontaneous purchase. This means I am able to surprise myself with tracks found in odd nooks of the internet, but it also means I miss out on plenty. I also spent half the year in Andean America, where I carried a very limited number of CDs and listened to nothing but Fleetwood Mac and iffy Beatles solo albums. In fact, before December I had heard no more than two or three albums released in 2007, though I had heard plenty of singles.

But since the first of the 2007 rewind articles came out earlier in the month, I have been desperately downloading whatever I could get my hands on to make myself feel a little more, well, relevant, an exercise which I think has met with some success (i.e. I feel prrrit-ty damn cool right now...).

A lot of indie fans have claimed that 2007 was not a vintage year for music. Of course, they said the same thing in 2006 (and 1996), which makes one wonder if indie might be the best thing for them. The outstanding music of 2007 was written and recorded largely by women, and the year’s best album was made by an artist who has shunned publicity so much, we don’t even know what he looks like.

First, some old highlights. During the summer I made a couple of compilations which sum up what I have been listening to this year rather well. Soft Cell, Bryan Ferry, Japan, Simple Minds, Scritti Politti – it was artists of the glam/new-romo ilk who sustained me during 2007. The recipient of the compilations said that the music they contained was among the coldest she’d ever heard, which suits me just fine.

I’ve gone every which way with Kaya, MIA’s second album, and I still can’t work out whether I admire its giddiness, or find an aversion to its global fetishism. MIA’s style reminds you of those people who claim to like world music – what, all of it? – but while I don’t listen to Kaya as much as I thought I would, I don’t hesitate to say that “Boyz” is the best single of the year, and probably the best video of the year too.

A word or two must be written to mark the triptych of number 1s in the summer : Timbaland, Rihanna and Robyn. It’s a mark of how Simons Fuller and Cowell and their ilk have erased pop's style and substance (and doesn’t the talent-contest world work by the exact same methods that Marx observed in the factory 150 years ago?) that we should remark upon a situation of three consecutive excellent number 1s. While I haven’t heard their albums, I’ve enjoyed tracks by Art Brut, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Sunn O)))), Sally Shapiro, Ricardo Villalobos, Panda Bear and Black Moth Super Rainbow too. I have resisted Marnie Stern and Robert Wyatt, but their albums are both subjects for further research ; as is the output of the Ghostbox label.

I don’t mind Radiohead at all, but they come with an oppressive fanbase whose single-minded and blinkered worship puts me off. In a way, In rainbows is the worst of Radiohead – noodly, fusiony, jazzy, unwilling to stick its neck into outright dissonance – but Thom Yorke’s voice remains ethereally slack, and while most of his lyrics suck, “House of cards” is a dreamy, drifting romance. It is 5 and a half minutes long, but “Atom heart mother” by their big daddies Pink Floyd is more than treble that, so think yourself lucky.

As usual, the critics are wrong. In rainbows is not the album of the year. Nor is Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem, the aural equivalent of one of those corporate posters of a waterfall which says “dream” underneath. LCDS are the sort of group that people who don’t like electronica like, but it has been celebrated by danceheads too. As with Arcade Fire, I wonder if I am missing something. The best album released in 2007 is Untrue by Burial, an album more luminous and textured than his rumbling debut. The second best is probably The good, the bad and the queen. Burial and TGTBTQ are interested in the nostalgic modernism of London, where the threat of apocalypse is met by a recognition that it has already happened. If the end of the world is nigh, how about spending a bit time reminiscing about what we might have been while we roast our chestnuts and guzzle White Lightning?

Merry Christmas; see you on the other side.


Blogger Snowball said...

Merry Xmas me old hearty - sounds like you are having a good one.

I personally like 'In Rainbows', even if you say it is them at their worst they still sound much better than the average thing I listen too (as you well know).

You coming to the Black Jacobins conference (2 Feb in London)?

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

boyz is really addictive

8:44 PM  

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