Monday, 24 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 1: Overview]

I can't believe how quick this year has come to a close. It seemed like only yesterday when I was writing my analysis of the music of 2006, and here we are again.

In usual Wireless Cranium tradition, my summary of all that was music in 2007 will be broken up into 6 posts for your reading pleasure:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Top 10 songs of the year
Part 3: Cutting room floor
Part 4:
Top 5 albums of the year
Part 5: Musical discoveries of the year
Part 6: Re-evaluation of 2006 list

I have taken a hybrid approach this year, combining aspects of my 2005 and 2006 lists. In 2005, I did a top 10 albums list as well as a top 10 songs list. Last year, because I hadn't purchased as many CDs from 2006 at the time of writing, I only did top 5 albums and top 5 songs lists. This year, the number of CDs purchased from 2007 still doesn't justify doing a top 10 albums list. But I'll still be doing a top 10 songs list.

Without further ado, it is time to start this 6-part extravaganza. I hope you enjoy reading this, and I encourage you to comment with your opinions about what made this year great/not so great for you in the realm of musical appreciation. You don't even need to talk about music that was released this year; just chime in if you have something to contribute.

Part 1: Overview

2007 was a year which started out with a lot of promise. After the disappointment that was 2006 (at least at the time of writing up my overview of the year), 2007 seemed like it had the potential to be a great year in music, at least judging by the list of artists who had albums scheduled for a 2007 release.

Did the year live up to the high expectations that I had set for it in late April? Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes in that many of the artists who did release albums in 2007 failed to disappoint, and many exceeded my already high expectations. No in that many of the artists who were supposed to release albums in 2007 slipped their release date into 2008. It's good to see that the software development industry is not the only one prone to release date slippages.

Oasis, Noel Gallager (solo), Blur, Doves, Massive Attack, The Notwist, The Streets, The Wrens, Wolf Parade, The Cure, The Pixies, Portishead. All great artists and bands who disappointed not with a poor album, but no album at all. Maybe 2008 will be the year for them to happily shine or sadly disappoint. At least we are going into the new year with a large backlog of upcoming albums in the pipeline.

The subsequent posts in this 2007 extravaganza will go into more details about which artists/songs pushed my musical buttons this year, so I won't go into specifics here. What I'd like to ramble a little bit about is how my own personal music tastes have evolved this year.

While I had already started heading this way musically last year, 2007 was the year in which my tastes become both older and more mainstream. Allow me to clarify this - I don't mean mainstream in a modern sense; while I admitted that I went to a Robbie Williams concert in late 2006, I am not about to invest in his back catalogue. Nor am I about to proclaim my love for the misunderstood genius that is Fergie. Quite frankly, she can keep her lovely lady lumps all to herself, and she should probably get those lumps checked out to ensure that they aren't malignant.

I say my musical tastes became older in that I really started getting into a lot of music roughly covering the era from the late 60's to the early 80's. Not that I hadn't been into music from these bygone eras in a big way before, but my appreciation for the music from these years skyrocketed this year.

I say my musical tastes became more mainstream in that I started getting into some fairly popular (by my tastes anyway) artists/bands through the purchase of some excellent compilation CDs and movie soundtracks. I have talked in the past at great lengths about my dislike of best-of compilations, but my opinion on this topic really changed this year. One reason for this is that, with the iPod changing the way I listen to music, I have a much greater appreciation for the power of the song. While I still appreciate a good album (and would still call myself primarily an album fan), I can now appreciate that a well-made compilation CD by a great artist/band is not only a great way to get into that artist, but a great way to quickly get a heap of their best songs on to the iPod and into some playlists. Also, I have discovered that there are good and bad compilation CDs; making a bad one is all too easy, but making a good one is almost an artform of its own. (I will dedicate a future blog post to some of my favourite compilation CDs of all time.)

Some great compilation CDs that I have purchased this year are by Tom Petty, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Pet Shop Boys. This is what I mean when I say more mainstream (and for the record, I'm not ashamed to say I have a Pet Shop Boys compilation in my collection -- it honestly contains some of the finest pop songs I have ever heard and I will not let musical snobbery change my opinion of this).

Some great soundtracks that I have purchased this year are the disco-rific Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (almost a Bee Gees compilation) and more recently the superb Jackie Brown soundtrack. How Quentin Tarantino is able to uncover so many hidden gems from the 60's and 70's is beyond me, but his ability to compile a great soundtrack is up there with his stupendous writing and directing skills.

No discussion of 2007 would be complete without a mention of the fantastic marketing event that was the digital release of Radiohead's 7th album In rainbows. Firstly, a message on their blog on October 1st saying that their album was being self-released in digital format on October 10th. That was exciting enough, but then there was the news that people could choose what they wanted to pay for it. From all reports, it sounded like this worked fantastically in their favour, raking in an average price of £3 - £4 per download. With very little in terms of overheads, they raked the money in while simultaneously sticking up their middle fingers to dirty money-grabbing record companies like their former EMI. But what was the album like? You'll have to read the following posts in this series to find out.

There was sad news this year when my favourite music website Stylus Magazine ceased publishing. In the days since its closure, I have come to the sad realisisation that no other music website will be able to take its place. Ahh well, one day maybe.

It was a fairly quiet year on the gig front, with only 3 live concerts - Rodriguez in April, Something For Kate in September and Crowded House in November. The highlight? Well, seeing Rodriguez probably took the cake here, because he's just a cult hero who I never thought I'd get to see live, let alone meet and speak to. A very exciting night all round.

I've also recently been reading up on the depressing music industry practice of dynamic range compression after this fantastic article on Stylus Magazine triggered my interest. Take a look; it truly is a fascinating read and it will change the way you think about and listen to modern music. Let's hope that something positive is done to steer away from this nasty practice soon!

I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts in this series!


  1. Bring it on, looking forward to reading your posts!

  2. The Cure in October were also fantastic, what an exceptional and diverse back catalogue. Played for 3 hours plus, all electric guitars/bass/drums-only in the revised 4-piece -- got to hear some very obscure tracks from the 70s (e.g., Fire in Cairo) that I would never have imagined hearing live.-Pete

  3. ah, good to see that you are changing your views the greatest hits albums Jeremy...

    bring on the rest of the posts!!!


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