best of 2007.5

Midnight on Thursday night and I’m finishing up this entry in my boxer shorts.

Worked hard at the sawmill today: planned stuff and did stuff and worked on all sorts of things. I’ve decided that these last few weeks of work before my sabbatical are kind of like the last few weeks before summer vacation when you’re in junior high. Y’know, the slackening pace of student and teacher, the heightening anticipation, and the stashing of shaving cream and eggs just off-campus for easy retrieval after that very last bell. OK, the same sans the shaving cream part, at least. Let’s do this.

Earlier in the week, I promised two entries: one with new pictures of Keaton (done), and the other one being my “best of” list for the music of the first half of 2007. I’m glad to say that I was able to come through on both.

5. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Somewhere in my head, I’ve long known that Spoon was “kinda good.” Years ago, I got pretty hung up on the bouncy “Everything Hits At Once” from their 2001 Girls Can Tell album, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was guilty of undervaluing their last effort. With that in mind, I grabbed this new Spoon album determined to give it it’s fair chance. Turns out, I didn’t need a ton of convincing, as I could tell the record would be solid from the moment the needle locked into that 1st groove (or… the laser interprets that first “pit” as a 1 or 0… whatever). Britt Daniel’s raspy voice has always mated perfectly with the punchy guitars that punctuate the archetypal Spoon number, but on this record the guys mix it up with irresistible tracks like “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” and haunting little bits like “The Ghost of You Lingers,” this album has an eclecticism that’s hard to beat. If you’re into good music, you won’t want to miss it.

Listen to Spoon at the Hype Machine.

4. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

I first got into Andrew Bird a couple years back when someone listed his previous album, Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs, as one of the best overlooked albums of that past year. Indeed, I was intrigued by that album, and ended up falling quite in love with Bird’s softer tunes and thoughtful lyrics. So, when I saw Armchair Apocrypha hit my favorite legal source for purchasing music with real currency (hahaha), I snapped it up in anticipation. Simply put: this album is gorgeous. I can recall the first time I put it on the headphones. I was flying to Oregon and had only loaded it on the iPod that morning. As we rocketed into the skies, the lead track, “Fiery Crash,” a song about envisioning a plane crash, seemed to know right where I was and what I was doing. Throughout the flight the album kept delivering, track after track – and, although on a plane may not be an appropriate location for everyone to have their first “Fiery Crash” experience – I recommend you track this down and pay attention.

Listen to Andrew Bird at the Hype Machine.

3. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

I’ll admit it: I psyched myself out with this album. I was (and still am) so incredibly enamored with the Arcade Fire’s debut record, that I expected the Earth. And, I got caught up so tight in the online hype and anticipation, that when the thing began to leak, track-by-track, I listened to each one and judged it as a standalone. This is a horrible way to experience an album as a whole. And, by the time the whole thing leaked proper, the few songs I hadn’t heard didn’t do much to weave the whole thing together for me. I had ruined it. It was only after I revisited the album months after I’d decided that Neon Bible and I needed “a break” that I truly began to appreciate the effort. I wish it would’ve happened differently, that I could’ve heard the thing in one feel swoop ala my initiation to Funeral – where I sat rapt listening to one brilliant track after another. But, I was greedy and wanted to hear hear hear. Anyway, after our time apart, my heart of course grew fonder. And, now, I love every bouncing bassline, brassy horn break, and swirling organ trill. Back when it came out, I mused that the magic of a debut album like Funeral could likely not be matched no matter how solid a sophomore effort – and I was right. This isn’t Funeral – it’s Neon Bible; and it ain’t swill… it just sure ain’t Funeral.

Listen to The Arcade Fire at the Hype Machine.

2. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away

So, the 2007 Shins album leaked waaay back in October of 2006, with a street-date of January 23, 2007. I first wrote about it here. In fact, this album gave me issues when I was working hard to compile last year’s top ten, as I had to constantly remind myself it was a 2007 album and shouldn’t rank with the other contenders, despite the fact that it was illicitly one of my favorite albums of calendar-year 2006. It’s hard for me now, actually, to get my head back where it was all those months ago and really understand the awesomeness I felt while first getting into this record. But, one reminiscent spin on the iPod and the joy comes flooding back. The Shins are one of the most consistently brilliant bands I’ve heard in a long time, and this album is no exception. Their music is fresh and wonderfully structured: just complex enough to delight music-o-philes with its interesting twists, turns, and hooks; yet “everyday good” enough to hook even the casual Top 40 minded listener. Give this a listen, and try not to swoon just a little bit at amazing moments like singular instance of a harmonized rise of “seaa legs” in “Sea Legs” – that’s a personal challenge.

Listen to The Shins at the Hype Machine.

1. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Oh, people… people, people people… In this particular race, the competition is just lengths and lengths behind… And, as feverishly as they may try to hasten their pace, the yen for victory so clear in the bulging of their eyes and the flexing of their muscles, they are simply incapable of outstripping the Hissing Fauna. This album is a powerhouse of modern-day psych-pop, reveling in bouncy pop beats and awash in swishing, swirling, bubbling musical accouterments. With head-bobbing synth-drenched tunes like, “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger,” this album goes down like a heaping spoonful of sugar – penetrating deep into your pleasure centers leaving the corners of your mouth no option but to upturn in a grin. Seriously tho… what can beat this for top album of the year, I ask?

Listen to Of Montreal at the Hype Machine.

And, before I get a lot of complaints (yeah, that’s gonna happen), as a technicality I’m not including albums that I really got into post-June 2007 (cough, Animal Collective, ahem Los Campesinos). And, I also purposely didn’t include the Panda Bear album that I once panned, and have since come to truly enjoy – I’ll save inclusion of that, and the embarrassment of flip-flopping, for the end-of-year list if it still holds up.

That’s it for tonight. Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll do the same.

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