Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tom Szwech’s Best of 2007

Tom Szwech is the principal architect and sole proprietor of Bag of Songs, a freakishly good blog devoted to the rock and roll music that the kids like. You should visit his site. Every day. Forever. He shared his list of his favorite albums of aught-seven with us.

I listened to so many great records this year that even a list of 50 would shortchange something. The ones that really stuck with me and got played to most are the ones that ranked higher in the long run.

1. The Swimmers - Fighting Trees - far and away the one record I listened to most, in the rotation since January and still going strong. The perfect balance of catchy hooks,vocal harmonies and intelligent lyrics.

2. The Broken West - I Can't Go On I'll Go On - Jangly, smart, power pop. And it shows that they're musically well schooled, the last time I saw them live they threw in covers of Tegan And Sara, Yo La Tengo , and Buffalo Springfield.

3. Julie Doiron - Woke Myself Up - The best overlooked album of the year. Emotional, ragged and real with a sound that falls somewhere between fellow Canadians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Forget Feist you need this one.

4. The Clientele - God Save The Clientele Smooth like a Sunday morning pop, filled with sixties overtones but never sounding retro or dated.

5. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation - What Wilco could've sounded like if they didn't sand the edges off. One of the best live shows I saw all year.

6. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter - One of the best new songwriters of a generation, Josh amped it up a bit on this one and created a classic.

7. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible - Their first, Funeral, did nothing for me, but only one clunker (Black Wave) on this one kept it just shy of perfect. Embracing their Springsteen influences openly into their sound didn't hurt.

8. LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver - James Murphy obviously honed his ear for what works during his time as a bouncer at Trenton's City Gardens all through the mid to late eighties and delivered an album that put all that knowledge together for something relevant right now.

9. Creeping Weeds - We Are All Part Of A Dream You're Having - One of Philly's most original sounding bands this manages to run the gamut from desolate spacey piano, to jagged edgy guitar rockers and all points in between, and it all works. And having seen them like 8 or 9 times this past year I can tell you they're an awesome live band as well.

10. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha - 12 solid midtempo pop songs filled hooks, violin, whistling and more, what else could you ask for. It plays really well as a whole, one of the best sequenced albums of the year, each song perfectly setting up the next, just like a great mix tape.


Harris Tweed said...

It's clear that this reviewer never heard The Red Button record "She's About to Cross My Mind" -- which exceeds The Broken West on every level, the foremost being,consistently, superior songwriting. One or two jangly hooks does not a superior record make: but 11 in a row does.

Harris Tweed/Germantown, PA

-tom said...

This reviewer begs to differ, I DID listen to The Red Button record and enjoyed it, but I found it to be a little too derivative sounding for my tastes to make it into my best of the year.
My short sysnopsis probably didn't do it justice, but I thought The Broken West record far outshined The Red Button disc.


Harris Tweed said...

"Derivative sounding"? So, I shouldn't have liked Badfinger or Oasis? Hey, songs are songs --you like 'em/sing 'em or you don;t. The Red Button's record was filled with singable songs, one after the next, certainly out of the tradition of Lennon-McCartney, but with some other influences as well.

If a song like "Help" came out today by some band, I presume you would dismiss it as derivative. Me? I'd buy it and enjoy it and not analyze it.

P.S. In terms of pure songwriting, BW isn't in the same league with TRB.


-tom said...

Never said I didn't like it. Just wouldn't put it among the year's 10best. It's a thoroughly enjoyable disc. Derivative doesn't necessarily equate to bad, just not as original as I think something needs to be to be among the best of the year.

There's a fine line between "derivative" and "influence". They were oh so close, but I felt they needed more of their own ideas worked in.

Anonymous said...

From Tom Re: The Broken West, in his review:

**And it shows that they're musically well schooled, the last time I saw them live they threw in covers of Tegan And Sara, Yo La Tengo , and Buffalo Springfield.**

Also, wrote Tom in this comments section about TRB:

**Derivative doesn't necessarily equate to bad, just not as original as I think something needs to be to be among the best of the year.**

So, it's not ok to be "well-schooled" in "Beatles-oriented" stuff -- which is the best of the best in pop music --, but hey, that cool sh*t, like Yo Lo Tengo, Sara (whoever she is) and Bufallo Springfield, it's "cool" to be derivative of them. It's cool to be "well-schooled" in that abstruse music.
TS, again, to each his own, and with honestly, all due respect to your personal faves, don't go telling us that TRB is "too derivative", just because it's not derivative of stuff you think is "cool". I go back to the same criteria: if you heard the song "Help" today would you not dig it because you would call it derivative or would you just dig it because it was a great song, rendered beautifully? Give me "No Matter What", "Let's Pretend" or "Sowing the Seeds of Love" over mostly mediocre stuff as TBW is and will always be because they are just not GREAT writers. When all is said and done, it always comes down to songs and it's what seperates The Red Button from everyone else this year.

By the way, no harm, no foul -- appreciate you engaging in this debate. HT

-tom said...

no offense taken I'm enjoying this debate as well.

It's totally ok to be well schooled in the Beatles sound. There's nothing uncool about it whatsoever. But why go for pure imitation when you can add your own spin to it.

Why do 4 guys from Los Angeles feel like they need to sing with a British accent ?

I like The Red Button album, I own it, I enjoy it. I'd even say it's a pretty good record. I just don't feel the band added anything to make the sound unique as their own. That's where it lost ground in my opinion against the other releases this year.

And in the end it's all subjective anyway, what I think was the best of the year is not always the same as anyone else, and probably won't ever be, but it's all good and fuels friendly discussion like this one.

Harris Tweed said...

Well, I didn't hear any British accents with TRB. I heard consistenty amazing song in the genre /tradition that has taken a beating over the decades for lack of writing talent. Succinctly, I think their music stands on their own as , to me, The Raspberries or Badfinger stood on its own. Eric Carmen once said every song he ever did he tried to use a Brit accent!

Nevertheless, great exchange with you --congrats on your list --I have much respect for you and it. Best 2008 to you! HT

Trip McClatchy said...

Both The Red Button and Broken West albums are teriffic... thanks for the best Teenage Kicks dialogue since Starbucks-gate.

Harris Tweed said...

Hey Tom,

I really enjoyed our tete a tete. Sorry, if I came on too strong the beginning. I just have this thing where people (not you, as I mistakenly alluded to) analyze what they think is cool, without giving more credit to truly good songs that you simply want to sing.

What I appreciated about TRB was that made me feel like I did when I put records on in the 60s and 70s: you put records on and barely, if ever, picked up the needle. That's the biggest reason I thought it really stood out this year: consistency in the songs. Call it a guilty pleasure, I guess, to want to hum almost all the songs.

On the "derivative" debate, Bruce Springsteen's much-lauded album this year was an attempt to capture the 60s -- it didn't feel like TRB TRIED to do that: the songs called for a certain rendering.

An album I loved this year that didn't get mentioned was by Keren Ann. Some of her songs are great. People have called her derivative, but if the music has caught my ear and makes me feel something, that's never an issue with me.


-tom said...

I enjoyed it as well, it was a good time, and I'm guessing we now proudly share the Teenage Kicks all time commenting record. I can totally see why you really love the TRB record, as does Trip and others here. It's a really good record, it's just that with the non stop saturation of music I listen to on a daily basis with my blog it just didn't have that extra something that pushed it to the top of my pile. The word "derivative" always sounds a bit harsh, but I couldn't really think of any other way to get my impression across.

If you haven't yet,you should definitely check out the Sloan record that Michael listed, I think you'd really enjoy it.
take care,