Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Trip McClatchy's Best of 2007

I think I heard more new music in 2007 than I've ever heard in my life. Was it a good year for music because I heard more or did I hear more because it was such a good year? Thanks to all of you who visit this blog and have shared music and thoughts over the last year. We've had a blast.

1. Ike Reilly AssassinationWe Belong To The Staggering Evening – Wedding image-a-minute profane, cocky street poetry to firecracker riffs with a big ol’ heap of punk attitude, Ike Reilly recalls an unholy alliance of Bob Dylan fronting The Plimsouls. Any disc that features the boys gone wild rave-up of “When Irish Eyes Are Burning”, the anti-war lament “Broken Parakeet Blues” or the stimulant-cataloguing sing-a-long “Valentine’s Day in Jaurez” just seems too good to go unheard.

2. Jeremy Fisher – Goodbye Blue Monday – Wearing an early 70’s AM jones like a patchwork pair of faded jeans, Fisher mixes irresistible choruses, Beach Boy harmonies, sparkling boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl songwriting, and an uncanny approximation of “Me and Julio” era Paul Simon to deliver the year’s most unexpected pleasure. Hits in my mind: “Scar That Never Heals”, “Cigarette”, “American Girls” and “Remind Me”.

3. Linda Thompson – Versatile Heart – Linda Thompson’s third solo album in 22 years trades in stark, simple beauty. Her aching, graceful vocals carry secrets, love songs and sad songs with an unmatched gravitas. In year five of the Iraq War, her haunting, hesitating, heartbreaking cover of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “Day After Tomorrow” crushes the competition (including ex-husband Richard’s ham-fisted, leaden “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me”) as the best anti-war song of 2007.

4. Bruce Springsteen – Magic – 35 years later, Springsteen still matters. Forget Brendan O’Brien’s cheesy keyboard and drum pudding sounds, Springsteen still writes relevant, great songs (no small feat at this late date). You think you’ve heard “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” before, but it’s a totally fresh Spector meets Orbison cocktail of 50’s melodrama that scorches all the indie mope pretenders (I’m looking at you, The National). Part of me wanted this slot to go to Wilco, The Shins, Arcade Fire or Spoon - all terrific 2007 discs and part of the cultural zeitgiest, but Magic kept me coming back more than any of them. No part of me wanted this slot to go to Radiohead.

5. Jesse Malin – Glitter in The Gutter – Chronicling the flotsam and jetsam of the New York underground like a low rent Lou Reed, Malin has a real affinity and sharp eye for drawing character sketches of losers and lovers who wander. With punk rock passion infused by equal parts Willy DeVille, The Dictators and Jackson Browne, Glitter in The Gutter spins sugary hooks (“Lucinda”, “Black Haired Girl”), new wave riffs (“In The Modern World”, “Prisoners of Paradise”) and pop culture smarts (“Tomorrow Tonight”) into a singer-songwriter veneration of rock and roll past, present and future.

6. Rilo Kiley – Under The Black Light – I thought “Moneymaker”, this album’s first single, was a terrible turd of wooden dance rock. But the rest of it is a super slick, aimed at radio slab of pop goodness… a high compliment in my book. The handclaps of “Silver Lining”, the slinky sultriness of “Close Call”, the Ronettes meets Madonna dancefloor euphoria of “Breakin’ Up”, the Rumours-riffic “Dreamworld”, the Lolita redux of “15”, the ridiculous ear candy of “Smoke Detector” (pay no mind to the awful lyrics) and the alt-country sweetness of “The Angels Hung Around” keep me coming back again and again. And did I mention Jenny Lewis is a total babe?

7. The Red Button – She’s About To Cross My Mind – Sweet harmonies, jangly guitars, razor sharp songwriting and the most immediate, arresting hooks of any record that will come out in 2007 give the Red Button a leg up on all contenders to the power pop throne – read more fawning here.

8. The Fratellis – Costello Music – One decades old review of David Johansen called him a “fun junkie”… an apt description for The Fratellis. They mine a healthy obsession with late 60’s classic Brit-pop and marry it to a dizzying take on the spikiest Jam-Buzzcocks-T Rex punk-glam bursts of 3 minute nirvana. Exhilarating and irresistible, Costello Music should have spawned more hits than “Jamie Lynn pregnant”.

9. Romantica – America Miss the Jayhawks? Think Gram Parsons could do no wrong? Long for a touch of pre-migraine Wilco? Then belly up to the bar for a taste of Romantica, led by Irish immigrant Ben Kyle and featuring moody, lilting Irish-American tales sweetened by the moving pedal steel of Eric Heywood. Inspirational verse: “I’ve tried to live my life / Between the platter and the knife / Between my daughter and my wife / Is where you’ll find me” from “How To Live in A Modern World”. Pick to click: imagine Ryan Adams fronting Calexico for a lament of dashed dreams and hopeful schemes on “The National Side”.

10. The Mendoza Line – 30 Year Low – The best breakup record since Shoot Out The Lights. Or worst, depending on your current relationship status. The lyrics read like a warts-n-all divorce deposition, each combatant taking turns penning scabrous missives intended for maximum destruction. It sounds like how to make a record, end your marriage and barely escape killing each other. The opening lyrics are “I'll never get out the stench, lose the feathers / They cling and fray, attack the black on my skirt / I'll never know I'm alone when I'm sleeping / You come and go like the ghost of filth and dirt”. And then they start on the nasty stuff.


lahuitrefrite said...

So how come I don't know about "Romantica"? Sounds awesome.

Janet said...

Thanks, Trip, for continuing to be my best source of music info and introducing me to such great records. Mostly due to your (and Michael's) ability to be articulate, witty and discriminating (and especially because of your love of power pop), I spent many hours listening to great music this year. Looking forward to seeing what you and 2008 will bring!


EvilWoman said...

I want to thank you, Kind Sir, for opening my eyes to Jesse Malin (one of the best concerts of the year, BTW), Jeremy Fisher & The Mendoza Line.
Much appreciated!
Happy New Year and keep on keepin' on, My Friend.

Carly said...

For all Ike Reilly fans:

Be Like Ike @
Cars and girls and drinks and songs, make this world spin around...

Have you had a Reilly-esque moment & lived to see another day?
If so, we want to hear about detail.

Share your sordid stories at
Login with the user name: (password: ikereilly)
and give us the dirty details...
then send the link to all your wasted friends to read what you wrote about them.
You can post anonymously if you want...we won't tell.

Just login, write what you like & hit "Save"...your post will be live shortly after.
If you have any trouble, feel free to just email your story to and we'll put it up for you.

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