Tuesday, 27 January 2009

2008: A Year in Music [Part 6: Re-evaluation of 2007 list]

And now it's time to re-evaluate my top 5 albums of 2007, posted at the end of that year. The intent of this post is to close the loop on the whole musical evaluation process, which allows me to:
  • Include albums from 2007 that I purchased after the year was over, and hence didn't include in the original list;
  • Factor in grower albums which didn't hit me initially, but over time have revealed their hidden charms;
  • Factor in [shrinker?] albums which I thought were pretty impressive albums originally, but over time have become boring or shown to lack considerable depth to keep them interesting to listen to.
Here were my top 5 albums from 2007 in my original post:
  1. Radiohead - In rainbows
  2. The Arcade Fire - Neon bible
  3. The Good, the Bad & the Queen - self titled
  4. Spoon - Ga ga ga ga ga
  5. Crowded House - Time on earth
And here's the 2007 albums which I have purchased since I published that original list (in order of purchase):

Robert Wyatt - Comicopera
Joe Henry - Civilians
Sunset Rubdown - Random spirit lover
Ben Harper - Lifeline
Patrick Wolf - The magic position
Von Südenfed - Tromatic reflexxions
Josh Pyke - Memories & dust
Levon Helm - Dirt farmer
PJ Harvey - White chalk

(I also purchased the excellent Death proof soundtrack which was released in 2007, but is ineligible for inclusion in the new list because it's a compilation made up entirely of previously-released material.)

So, do any of these more recently purchased albums (or indeed the albums which I included in my cutting room floor post of 2007) cause the line-up to change?

Robert Wyatt's Comicopera is a very difficult avant-garde listen which lives up to its name, as it is structured like an opera in 3 parts. Opening with its two most accessible tracks (The beautiful cover Stay tuned, and gorgeous duet Just as you are) is an interesting technique to reel the listener in, but there are very few islands of accessibility on the rest of the album (A beautiful peace is a notable exception). The last 5 songs aren't even in English, which is supposed to be symbolic of Wyatt's disillusion with Western culture. To sum it up: an intensely challenging avant-folk opera summing up the performer's thoughts on the Bush years. Some more melody may have helped here; it may grow on me one day, but hasn't yet.

Joe Henry is quite a renowned record producer who has also released a few solo albums of his own, with Civilians being his most recent release. I first heard about this album when I read a raving 5-star review of it in The Age. I picked it up shortly after, and it's a very solid album overall. The music is tight, the lyrics are meaningful, and it strikes a nice balance between depth and accessibility. My only gripe with this album is that it could have done with a little more diversity in its sound to keep it interesting; after almost an hour some of the songs tend to blend into each other. Highlights are the introspective Parker's mood and lovely closer God only knows (not related to the classic Beach Boys song with the same name).

Sunset Rubdown are the spin-off band of Spencer Krug, better known as one of the founding members of Wolf Parade. Where Wolf Parade are more grounded in the mainstream part of alternative indie-pop, Sunset Rubdown is the much more progressive and challenging outfit. Many listeners have raved about their 2nd album Random spirit lover; I have tried to get into it, but with the exception of a few tracks (the gorgeous Stallion), this album is a bit too over-the-top for me.

I have already talked about Ben Harper's excellent album Lifeline in my 2008 musical discoveries post, so no need to repeat myself here. Needless to say I was very impressed with this one.

The jury is still out on the remaining 5 albums, as I haven't had them for long enough. Here's a quick summary of my impressions at the moment:

The magic position - Upbeat chamber-pop with some soft moments thrown in for good measure. This reviewer compared it to David Bowie's Hunky dory which is kind of appropriate in its feel, but he has big shoes to fill to live up to that classic.

Tromatic reflexxions - Mark E. Smith (The Fall) ranting over techno beats. Not quite my taste in music, and if Mark E. Smith wasn't involved I wouldn't have purchased it. The rhinohead is a fine song, though.

Memories & dust - Critically acclaimed effort from Josh Pyke, a popular Australian singer-songwriter. There's more melodies here than you can throw a shoe at, but needs a few more listens before I can comment more on it. Enjoyable nevertheless.

Dirt farmer - the latest solo album by Levon Helm, the sole American in the legendary Canadian group The Band, this is an album made entirely of folk covers and standards. His voice is a long way away from his glory days with The Band, but there's some really beautiful moments on this one.

White chalk - I have only given this one listen so far. Very different from her last 2 albums, this is brooding, minor-key, piano-based gothic music. Not your upbeat party album, but I'm hoping the melodies will shine through on subsequent listens.

So...where does this leave my top 5 albums of 2007 list? Well I'm happy to say that in this particular case, my original list top 5 list has stood the test of time and I will not be updating it.

If I were to extend it to a top 10, it would look a little bit like this:
  1. Radiohead - In rainbows
  2. The Arcade Fire - Neon bible
  3. The Good, the Bad & the Queen - self titled
  4. Spoon - Ga ga ga ga ga
  5. Crowded House - Time on earth
  6. Ben Harper - Lifeline
  7. Gruff Rhys - Candylion
  8. Joe Henry - Civilians
  9. Manic Street Preachers - Send away the tigers
  10. The Shins - Wincing the night away
Thanks for reading my musical summary of 2008. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

It's a few weeks late now, but happy new year! Hope you have a great 2009.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jiggy

    So...no changes to your top five from last year.. thats gotta be a first for you!!!

    As always, excellent series of posts. I haven't been posting many replies, but I might go back in time and do it.

    Although, not sure that I have a lot to contribute. I purchased a lot of cds in 08, but I think very few if any were actually 2008 releases.


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