2007 in Music – Part 4: final
Ok, so here’s (finally!) the last entry in my 2007 in Music series.
Radiohead – In Rainbows
It seems redundant to say that this album was much anticipated, so I won’t say it. The first thing we hear on the opening track “15 Step” is an obvious sampled/prerecorded/whatever drum loop. While this might be OK for a lot of rock music fans, it really doesn’t work for me. I’ve heard this drum loop way too many times in mediocre early ’90s techno, which puts this track at a disadvantage from the start. “Bodysnatchers” has a brutally distorted riff which is put together with various wailing Radiohead-sounds. “Nude”, “Reckoner”, and “House of Cards” are all nice songs that don’t really do much for me. “Nude” does have some lovely Thom Yorke-y vocals, but the accompanying music isn’t entirely remarkable. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, as one would expect from the title is indeed arpeggio-centric. The plucky, floaty guitar alludes to an underwater landscape and creates drama with suspended chords.
I’m not entirely sure why, but “All I Need” seems to be the most important song of the album. The disgruntled, moaning bass cries along with tinkly bells. The piano and crash cymbals are absolutely huge, bringing the track to a pinnacle before the intermission song of “Faust Arp”. The stark and bare piano chords of the final song, “Videotape”, recall a quickly-paced version Brian Eno’s and Harold Budd’s “Not Yet Remembered” from Ambient 2. In Rainbows collapses in on itself with arrhythmic and disintegrating sampled percussion trying to keep pace.
Battles – Mirrored
My first exposure to this album was via the first single from Mirrored: “Atlas”. Battles is an “experimental rock” (or “math rock” or “progressive rock”, depending on which day of the week it is) band, but this is one of the catchiest songs of last year. The lyrics are indecipherable and even after you look them up, they are still bordering on nonsense. This is not a bad thing. Because of this, the disfigured and moderately terrifying vocals act mostly as another instrument. The stomping drums and squelched staccato guitar plucks somehow create the poppiest piece of experimental rock piece. Though the middle three minutes of the piece seem to be there to say “This is not a pop song!”, it still has a lot of interesting rhythmic experimentation and buildup/breakdown dynamics. I always want to sing along with this song, but this is difficult for obvious reasons.
The track “Tonto” has many similar quirky guitar bits, but these elements are much more emphasized than in “Atlas”. There are a lot of catchy riffs that permeate this track and they seem to turn on a dime, schizophrenically jumping from melody to melody. The conclusion goes through a deconstructing ritardando for the final three minutes that is absolutely fascinating. Most of the other tracks on the album focus strongly on aggressive and daring drumming with the rest of the band attempting to figure out what sounds they can make their instruments create. Though “Rainbow” does get a bit goofy with the almost comic keyboards and guitar, I don’t think this is not a bad thing.
Liars – Houseclouds
“Houseclouds” is like a mutated Beck song with the brass and quirky guitars replaced with raw synthesizer noises. I don’t know what that means, but its really unexpected how these noises combine with the falsetto vocals and the reverb-d/chorus-d vocals. I don’t know what else to say about this track, so here is the music video which features a kitten.
The Shins – Sleeping Lessons
As I’ve said before, I’m not extremely well versed in “indie” music (are you afraid of the scare quotes? Yeah, you are). I admit it. I heard this song on the Zune commercial. Its a heck of a song though. Starting off with some gentle arpeggios and gradually adding percussion and guitar, The Shins build up some great tension over the course of the first half of the song. The vocal filter and reverb puts singer James Mercer in a metallic tank from which he wails “And spill it out on the ragged floor.” The build-up is fantastic and the payoff equally so when the steady, powerful electric guitar complemented with unrelenting drums finally reveals itself.
Arbitrary song of the day: Kid Koala – More Dance Music