2007 EPs, reissues and other good things
A slight change in programming: I'm pushing back writing and posting my favorite albums list til the quiet period between Christmas and New Year's when I'll have time and energy to give these records their due. (And when I'm out of the office for almost two weeks, woo!). Basically, the list will go up exactly one hour after you've stopped caring about such things. So be it.
Instead: a mop-up post of good EPs and reissues and music I loved (sometimes obsessively) in 2007 that wasn't released in 2007. Plus other bits n' bobs. (And if you missed my 50 favorite songs of 2007, they're here.)
I will refer to:
Lola Who? - Plants and Animals
Thunder & Lightning - Christy & Emily
A Child Lost in Tesco - Eugene McGuinness
The End of the War - Winter Flowers
Gesi Baglari - Selda
Memphis Flu - Elder Curry and His Congregation
I wrote up Plants & Animals' track "Jacques" in 2006, but when a year had passed and nothing seemed to be stirring, I figured I'd never hear from the Montreal band again. Then P&A dropped With/Avec this autumn, a dense and detailed meanderer with songs that thump, rattle, sing-along and build and build and build, like beavers and birds and fine carpenters with teak wood, nails and a hammer. The lead track, "Lola Who?" -- the most precise and perhaps best of the four -- croons vaguely Thom York-ish to a sweet molasses melody. It's awfully durn pretty. Buy from eMusic. Myspace
She's a little bit classical, and she's a little bit rock n' roll, and together, Christy & Emily sound sometimes like the former and often like the latter, but mostly like an avant-folk warmup, a dreamy preview of good things to come. Not that there isn't plenty to appreciate in Gueen's Head. I love how the opener, "Ocean" drifts and swirls before locking into a chorus-like meme at the three-minute mark. And in "Thunder & Lightning," the pair is as raw, convicted and girl-powerish as any early-90s International Pop Underground act. I talked about the mysterious nostalgia of "Island Song" earlier this year. Buy (Amazon, eMusic). Myspace
Joanna Newsom, remember her? The girl with the harp? Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band is a totally rad live-recorded EP that probably slipped your mind because it was released all the way back in April. Even if you aren't a Newsom completist (and even if that title makes your teeth ache), these three banjo and accordioned tracks -- new song "Colleen," Milk Eyed Mender's "Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie," and Ys' "Cosmia" -- are worth making space on your hard drive for. "Cosmia" delighted me the least of Ys' original five-song cycle, but here it's lighter, lovelier and dancing in its bare feet. Buy from Amazon.
Eugene McGuinness crams so many influences and ideas and words into Early Learnings of that it sounds like he just wedged the cap off a pressurized bottle of lifelong music-listening-and-loving, and chugged it. In other words, it sounds like the first record it is. Even if McGuinness is still ID-hunting, the EP's enormous pop fun -- even the slow songs about girls. In August I called the kid "an ironist, a jester of clever asides, a greeter of misfortune with devil's horns and funny glasses." Buy from Amazon. Myspace
I don't know if David Thomas Broughton is ever going to make a proper studio album, and I don't care so long as live recordings like David Thomas Broughton vs. 7 Hertz continue so passionate and fragile and taut like wires buzzing with life and love and lust and death. Even his nod toward levity, "Jolly," is pregnant with dark matter. Buy from Amazon. Myspace
(Relatively recent) reissues:
Reverend Charlie Jackson's God's Got It: The Legendary Booker and Jackson Singles.
Holy moley! What a superb record of timeless, indeterminate-vintaged blues-gospel root and rudiment (from the early to mid-70s, but would you ever guess?). I effused about title track "God's Got It" in October. Buy (Amazon, eMusic).
Judee Sill's Live in London. As much as the songs, live albums are about the relationship of performer to audience, the thick air thinned by a joke or cool space warmed with a passionately played crowd favorite. What I love on this record is Sill's diffident, hard-lived voice as she explains her songs -- like they need explaining. In August I talked about her intro to "The Kiss": "A song I wrote seven days, eight days ago, Judee Sill confides to this 1972 BBC studio audience. Her voice has a shiver of stagefright jitter. Or maybe she's just so thrilled to offer this shy gift (like a first kiss) because she knows it's something special, but also fears it's not."
Buy (Amazon, eMusic).
Selda's Selda. The superlative Bearded Ladies compilation turned me on to Turkish folkie, Selda. And if you think "Turkish" and "folkie" tell you everything you need to know, think again. I recently posted "Gesi Baglari" (not on this album, but the comp) as part of a song & image essay and have kept the file up for your great downloading pleasure. Buy from Amazon.
Loved in 2007 / released sometime other than 2007:
The Wave Pictures. Like, all of it -- everything they've ever done. Several tracks are available for download on the band's website. Buy 2006's Sophie from Amazon. Myspace
Winter Flowers' 2006 self-titled album. It might have made last year's list; alas, I didn't hear this record until this April. I originally described the song "End of the War" as "delirious, off its head, dancing so abandoned it abandons keyboard and plays thick gold air," and listened to it as much as any 2007 song. The wistful and dewy, "Too Young to Marry," which sounds like a traditional ballad but is actually an original composition (though probably related to older ballads of that name) is also stunning. Buy from Amazon. Myspace
Boduf Songs' Lion Swallows the Sun. Ditto for this criminally underrated apocalyptic folk album. In February I said that Mr. Boduf Songs, Mat Sweet, "plays and sings thresholds, the certain heres before the indefinite theres, the doorframes against which we slump in suspension against action." Buy (Amazon, eMusic). Myspace
Laura Barrett's "Robot Ponies." This song came to me sometime after I made my 2006 songs list and before the end of last calendar year. But I think it took time for me to appreciate how brilliant Barrett is to pluck peals from the strings of her ancient-sounding kalimba while singing chrome-and-vinyl retrofuturistic about Christmas 2053 -- where every little girl wishes for a nylon-furred, plastic-bag feeding robot pony. Stream the song on Laura Barrett's Myspace.
Elder Curry and His Congregation's "Memphis Flu." One of the first (and best) things I posted all year is a 1930 gospel track sang vengeful and lusty, whooped and hollered. Buy How Can I Keep From Singing, Vol 2: Early American Religious Music and Song (Amazon, eMusic).
I wasn't even going to mention videos, but Saturday night over a lovely Malbec and the largest mussels I've ever seen (so big they should have been named in the Mitchell report), a friend remarked how he never gets tired of watching the Will Oldham and Zach Galifianakis video for Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothin'." I'd totally forgotten about it, but yes -- the funniest, silliest, most ridiculous (in a wonderful way) clip of tractors, bearded guys and dancing 4-H'ers to grace YouTube this year.
Then of course there's La Blogothèque's Les Concert à Emporter (Take-Away shows). I probably don't need to tell you that the French site has carved its own niche of taste and innovation with these whimsical mini-concerts. But just in case you haven't journeyed there in a while, the latest greatness: Caribou grandmasters a parade of Paris schoolchildren in its first ever acoustic performance, then plays "Sundialling" as wandering (and sprinting) minstrels.
Speaking of videos:
Soon, the holidays ("list season" for you bloggers) will be over and it will be January. Said the Gramophone has a wonderful way for music lovers and creative types (all of us, right?) to fight cabin fever and productively muddle through this otherwise dreary time of the year: Enter StG's video contest! Make a short film of your favorite song (any song, from whenever, by whomever) for the chance to win an amazing prize package of CDs, records, t-shirts, Sennheiser earphones and more -- including a birthday phone call from Basia Bulat. You'll have fun even if you don't win, so enter already.
Art by Anne Siems.