acb's top 10 records of 2007 (by order of artist):
The more eclectic edge of the recent crop of great new artists coming out of Melbourne; Aleks & The Ramps play epic, lavishly structured pop songs with banjos, glockenspiels, a few synths and Casio keyboards and the odd crunchy heavy-metal chord and dry-as-dust lyrics about car crashes, paranoid schizophrenia and the sensation of waking up (un)dead. Highlights: No Sé Si Es Amor, a pretty impressive Spanish-language cover of Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love".
A boundary-breaking, and very catchy, slab of left-of-leftfield psychedelic folk, sounding like a futuristic village celebration, combining a pastoral folk-rock feel with layers of instruments and electronics, along with world-music influences (one can hear elements of South African township songs in places) and quite good melodies. Highlights: Fireworks, For Reverend Green.
Zach Condon reprises his amazing début with a new album, with the Balkan sounds of his previous work largely replaced by those of old France, and it doesn't disappoint. Highlights: Cliquot, Cherbourg
Another brilliant young songwriter from Melbourne, Julian Nation is three parts Jens Lekman to two parts Lucksmiths and a bit of Stuart Murdoch, and crafts pop songs with clever lyrics and without choruses, over multi-tracked melodies with guitars, basslines, piano, glockenspiels and handclaps; his début recording is released through Book Club Records. Highlights: 1992, All The Capital Cities' Names.
Before New Rave™ was even a twinkle in a NME hack's eye, when there were no fluoro T-shirts in high-street shops, there was DFA Recordings and LCD Soundsystem; now, James Murphy returns with a new album, furthering his vocation of updating New York's mutant-disco sound for the present day, and doing a bang-up job of it. This album is more of a mature effort than their first album, with more solid songs; a collection of party-rocking jams, finished off with the Lou Reed-esque piano ballad "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down". Highlight: All Your Friends
An unparalleledly lovely collection of 24 pop songs (plus one remix), small and perfectly formed, written and recorded by an indie-pop genius and multi-instrumentalist named Alexis Hall in her North Fitzroy bedroom. The Motifs has since evolved into a band, have gotten support slots for well-known international bands touring Australia, and are getting much-deserved acclaim from all over the world; Away may be purchased from Japanese indie label Lost In Found, and there's now an EP out through UK label WeePOP! (which I haven't yet heard). Highlights: right now I'd say Dots and Set Of Wheels, though it's all good.
This record dominated the first half of 2007; equal parts psychedelia, prog-rock and upbeat pop; funky basslines, falsetto harmonies, intricate chord progressions and layers of glitchy electronics, it's a record that can turn on a dime between being Prince and Pink Floyd (as it does, in Labyrinthian Pomp). It works as exquisitely assembled (and somewhat epic) pop music, whilst avoiding the realms of pop cliché, and the musical arrangements remains sufficiently interesting to hold one's attention. Highlights: "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger", an jolly, upbeat pop number about the narrator's nervous breakdown, followed by the lengthy krautrock-tinged epic "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal". Oh, and see them live if you get the chance.
If someone left a stack of Beach Boys, Caribou and My Bloody Valentine records out in the hot Portuguese sunshine and they all melted together, the result might sound somewhat like this. Highlights: hard to pick one, but "Bros" is a good track, as is the opener, "Comfy in Nautica".
The bass guitarist from Ladytron makes a solo début with a sound grounded in the early 1970s, with its haze of drugs and free love; a bit gimmicky, but well-made, with some good songs, and a fun record to listen to. Highlight: From The Day That You Were Born
Much more has been said about the way this album was released than about the actual album itself, so one could be forgiven for thinking that it is all hype. However, this is not the case; this is a rock-solid return to form for Radiohead, who come back with the sorts of rain-hued sketches they made a career of. If anything, the contrast between this and Thom Yorke's (somewhat less compelling) solo album demonstrates the indispensable influence of the rest of the band. Highlights: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Next: my list of the gigs of 2007.
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