Goodbye 2007

When the new history books are written, 2007 will go down as the year that the stuffier quarters of the music industry finally started to catch up with the idea that the world was changing and that those old business models just weren’t going to work the way they used to. Some major labels have even started releasing music without DRM, so that consumers can listen to the songs they buy whenever and wherever they want. Maybe now we can begin to move forward into the brave new world we’ve been promised for the last ten years. Maybe I’m just being melodramatic.

However, big names did start to experiment with new ways to sell music and when well-known acts start taking the ideas that smaller bands have been employing for years and passing them off as new, you know something’s up. The catalyst, of course, was Radiohead with In Rainbows. Announced in a flippant blog post ten days before it’s release and then offered as a download on a pay-what-you-like basis, before the release of pricey physical formats.

Saul Williams then released his latest album The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of Niggy Tardust, a collaboration with Trent Reznor, for free or a five dollar donation. However, my favourite (and this is not a sentence I will write often, if ever again) was Cliff Richard, who asked fans to pre-order Love: The Album en masse in order to drive down the cost price. Cliff also deserves special mention this year for declaring all his fans “stupid” on The Paul O’Grady Show and branding himself “the most radical rock star there has ever been” in a BBC Radio 2 documentary.

This wasn’t just a year for new marketing practices, though. There was a seemingly endless stream of brilliant music from new and well-established artists. Here, in no particular order, are my favourites…

ALBUMS

Are the days of albums numbered? Ash say so. This year they announced that Twilight Of The Innocents (released in July) will be their last album because in future they’ll only release single tracks on the internet. However, they did say that they’ll release compilations of these singles. So, maybe it was all bollocks.

Marnie Stern – In Advance Of The Broken Arm (Kill Rock Stars)
MySpace | Buy
One of the first new artists to really grab me this year (and continue to grab me for the rest of the year) was Marnie Stern, with her debut album In Advance Of The Broken Arm, which was released on Kill Rock Stars in February. With Hella’s Zach Hill handling drums and production, this mix of technical brilliance and quirky pop, is actually a hell of a lot better than Hella’s own contribution this year. My album of the year without a doubt.

Adjágas – Adjágas (Ever Records)
MySpace | Buy
Another early entry into the album of the year stakes was Adjágas’ debut, released at the end of January. A contemporary take on the joik singing style of Scandinavian Sámi tribes, the duo mix a blend of folk and electronica to accompany their vocals, which are all the more emotive for being completely incomprehensible.

Efterklang – Parades (The Leaf Label)
Website | MySpace | Buy
Sticking with Scandinavia, Efterklang gave me endless amounts of pleasure over the last few months. Parades is a staggering album, moving away from the glitchy electronica of their debut Tripper and into an altogether more warm and welcoming world where classical and modern instruments all play together like the best of friends.

Murcof – Cosmos (The Leaf Label)
Website | MySpace | Buy
Also released by The Leaf Label was Murcof’s third album, Cosmos. Completely turning his back on the claustrophobic, minimalist sound of his earlier work, Murcof took space as his theme and allowed his classical sample-based compositions to flow free. Given an infinite space to move in, the music conveys a range of feelings from loneliness and fear to euphoria and freedom. To get the full effect it has to be played loud, in order for the sound to completely envelop you.

Gay For Johnny Depp – The Politics Of Cruelty (Captains Of Industry)
Website | MySpace | Buy
If you like your volume cranked in a more traditional manner, there was a huge amount of great metal and hardcore on offer this year. The long-awaited and slightly unexpected debut album from Gay For Johnny Depp arrived as the year drew to a close. Less fixated on violently consummating their love for Johnny Depp than they once were, GFJD are angrier and louder than ever before. The twelve intense tracks run headlong into your face for twenty full-on minutes.

Cutting Pink With Knives – Populuxxe (Holy Roar)
MySpace | MP3: Coasts | Buy
Cutting Pink With Knives’ hardcore synth-pop is fun, funny and heart-burstingly harsh. Populuxxe contains sixteen examinations of love and science, screamed and smashed through your speakers like their being attacked by wasps.

PRE – Epic Fits (Skin Graft)
MySpace | MP3: Fudging On Our Folks | Buy
Straight outta Dalston, PRE bring giddy excitement to the po-faced sounds of hardcore and no wave. Frontwoman Akiko Matsuura is wound up and left to spin and bounce off the walls, screaming her way through fourteen utterly brilliant songs that have been on my stereo almost non-stop since I picked up Epic Fits.

The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (Sonovox)
Website | MySpace | Buy
The year’s biggest success story must surely be The Arcade Fire, whose second album Neon Bible took them from being that band indie fans and bloggers kept telling you to check out to being that band that absolutely everyone is talking about. And rightly so. Proving that Funeral wasn’t just a one off, the band pulled another set of fantastic songs out of the bag.

HTRK – Nostalgia (Fire Records)
Website | MySpace | Buy
Melbourne’s HTRK emerged on Fire Records with an album called Nostalgia. Recorded live to tape using two microphones its slow, droning rock is surprisingly memorable, Jonnine’s simple yelps burrow under your skull and make a nest.

Jeffrey Lewis – 12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade)
Website | MySpace | Buy
Crass are a band almost entirely written out of popular punk history. As far as the average man on the street is concerned, there was The Sex Pistols, there was The Clash and there might have been The Damned. But while the big names were talking about smashing the system and simultaneously accepting cash from it, Crass were living in a commune, having questions asked about them in Parliament and getting arrested for releasing records. Luckily, they have a fan in Jeffrey Lewis, who not only did beautiful things with twelve of their songs but proved that the lyrics still apply to the world today.

SINGLES

Enough about albums, let’s talk singles for a while. Specifically, let’s talk about 2007 singles that are going to lead on to some of next year’s best albums.

Vessels – Two Words And A Gesture (Cuckundoo)
Website | MySpace | Buy
Vessels released two great singles this year; this was their second and marked a new stage in the Leeds post-rock quintet’s continuing rise in quality. The band have just been in the studio with Explosions In The Sky producer John Congleton, recording their debut album.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Let’s Make Out (Virgin)
MySpace | Buy
Does It Offend You, Yeah? also released two singles and have reportedly now finished polishing their album, ready for release early next year. Having made their name with a clutch of MP3s and an ever-growing live reputation, this collaboration with Death From Above 1979’s Sebastian Grainger, hints more strongly than ever that 2008 will be the year they tip over into the mainstream.

Ebony Bones – We Know All About You
MySpace | Buy
Ebony Bones has had write ups in just about every magazine that counts and Zane Lowe has been going wild for her on his Radio 1 show. All this and she’s (apparently) still unsigned and yet to release a proper single. She has, however, released this one-sided 7” white label. If you have one of these, clutch it tight to your breast because it’ll be a highly sought after item by this time next year, mark my words – if you’ve seen her live you’ll know what I mean.

Plans & Apologies – Meetoo / Mel Gibson’s… Iraq! (Pandaz Pop)
Website | MySpace
Plans & Apologies’ intricate pop music has long been a favourite of mine and the band are currently in the studio recording their second proper album. This one-off 7” double A-side finds the band at their very best and also features a song in which George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld shut Tony Blair genitals in a drawer before hiring Mel Gibson to direct a new version of the Iraq war.

Peter Broderick – Retreat / Release (Type Records)
MySpace | Buy
Broderick’s mix of classical, folk and a loop pedal is something that must, must, must be seen live but that doesn’t make the prospect of his debut album any less exciting. His music is simply beautiful and the term “genius” seems appropriate in this situation.

GIGS

Live music’s great, isn’t it? I love live music. I just wish everyone would stop talking loudly through almost every show I go to. Seriously, why did you buy tickets if you didn’t want to listen to the music? Rant over. Here are some gigs that were brilliant anyway.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – The Barfly, Camden – 8th October
MySpace | Buy
What a show! The last night of a lengthy UK tour and Does It Offend You, Yeah? were on top form, blasting out their Daft Punk-influenced electro to an adoring crowd. A stage invasion almost brought the show to an abrupt end, but after closing with We Are Rockstars Morgan Yeah was carried over the heads of the audience. I picked up my jaw and went home happy.

Efterklang – Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush – 23rd November
Website | MySpace | Buy
A show so beautiful that it seemed the band couldn’t believe it either. On the Parades album there were over thirty guest musicians but at Bush Hall the eight members of Efterklang took their songs to new levels and ensured a night out that wouldn’t be forgotten quickly.

Yann Tiersen – The Scala, King’s Cross – 29th April
Website | Buy
Had I researched this show for just a couple of minutes before turning up, I would have been aware that I wasn’t about to hear live versions of Tiersen’s plinky-plonky tunes from the Amélie soundtrack. Instead, I was knocked completely off balance by two hours of juicy prog rock goodness.

Slint – Koko, Camden – 22nd August
Website | Buy
Watching Slint performing Spiderland in full was a dream I never thought would be realised. But there I was, looking right at them as the first notes of Breadcrumb Trail rang out and I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. Some people complained about the lack of interaction with the audience, but I think there’s something quite pleasing about a show where the only thing anyone says is, “who called me a cock end?”

The Moths – The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch – 21st August
MySpace | Buy
Perhaps it’s because The Moths are one of the buzziest unsigned bands in London. Perhaps it’s because this gig was free. Probably it’s a bit of both, but The Old Blue Last was packed to the rafters when The Moths took to the stage. It was hot, sweaty and frontman James Fox looked like he might kill someone, which was a bit scary because I was standing right in front of him. This was one of those gigs where you think to yourself, “one day people are going to be impressed that I was here”.

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