2007’s best beats

Although this is not an explicitly music-focused blog, given the blogosphere’s obsession with year-end “best-of” lists, I felt it would be appropriate to try it on for size for this blog. Music has always had a major presence in my life, from singing self-created ballads to myself softly while wandering through the woodsy area behind my childhood home to prancing along State Street to a beat emanating from my iPod today.

This is a sampling of the many albums, songs, concerts and videos that, in my opinion, stood above the rest over the course of the past 365 days. The MP3 downloads that are included are meant for non-commercial purposes. If you like what you hear, I hope that you will consider going out to your music dealer of choice (or online to the iTunes music store) and supporting these artists’ fine work. (Or check out elbo.ws to dig around for more free downloads).

2007’s Top Albums

Feist’s “The Reminder.”

1. Feist “The Reminder”
This album is masterful. Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist has an incredible voice that can speak to any emotion imaginable, and the music on this album paints a picture that is at once bold and nuanced. Beyond the standout single “1234,” which has unfortunately been bastardized (and even mocked) by the iPod television ad, every track on this album carries significance from the chill-inducing, flawless notes on “The Park” to the upbeat, organic energy of “Sea Lion Woman.” If you don’t already own this album, check it out immediately.

2. M.I.A. “Kala”
Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam’s much hyped follow-up to 2005’s Arular has matched and surpassed all expectations. This album has managed to bottle M.I.A.’s signature raw, unhinged energy with tracks that have become immediate club anthems for scenesters the world over. “Paper Planes” has become a particularly notable track, becoming a point of controversy following MTV’s decision to censor the sound of gunshots and many obligatories from their airing of the single’s video.

3. Jens Lekman “Night Falls Over Kortedala”
The bloggers are all over this one, and though I was skeptical at first, from first listen I was an instant convert. With his third major release, Swede Jens Lekman has crafted an intricate and witty album that is beyond comparison to other artists, with his use of complex and varying sampling, strings, guitar and other instrumentation to accompany his distinctive voice. “Friday Nights at the Drive-In Bingo” is doused in a flavor that seems to have come direct from the 1950s, while “Your Arms Around Me” carries a sweetly ironic air.

4. The Arcade Fire “Neon Bible”
This Montreal band have been considered by many to be something of a Canadian Beatles since their release of 2004’s exhilarating Funeral, and much like M.I.A., this album faced a great deal of pre-release hype that it has more than lived up to. This is epic music in the style of some of the greatest rock bands of all time, and the best is clearly yet to come for the Fire. Simply a flawless album — from the driving opening notes of “Black Mirror” to the desperate, organ-fueled crescendo of “My Body is a Cage.”

5. Chris Garneau “Music For Tourists”
American “Baroque pop” artist Chris Garneau’s Music For Tourists is the only debut album to make this list, and for good reason. Garneau’s whispering, piano-infused style has been described as the quirky gay male equivalent to Regina Spektor, but his talent goes far beyond that. This album is darkly whimsical and introspective, with each note being delivered with equal parts of pain, regret and longing. The single “Relief” is one of my all-time favorite compositions of all time, and I consisently take new things away from the album each time I listen to it — which is almost always from beginning to end.

6. St. Vincent “Marry Me”
7. Daft Punk “Alive 2007”
8. Tori Amos “American Doll Posse”
9. Patrick Wolf “The Magic Position”
10. Justice “Cross”

2007’s Top Songs

M.I.A. roxx.

1. M.I.A. “Paper Planes” [download]
2. The Arcade Fire “Keep the Car Running” [download]
3. Feist “I Feel It All” [download]
4. Chris Garneau “Relief” [download]
5. Architecture in Helsinki “Heart it Races” [download]
6. Patrick Wolf “Bluebells” [download]
7. Jens Lekman “Your Arms Around Me” [download]
8. Tegan and Sara “The Con”
9. Kanye West “Stronger”
10. Rufus Wainwright “Going to a Town”
11. The National “Fake Empire”
12. St. Vincent “Paris is Burning”
13. Stars “In Our Bedroom After the War”
14. Justice “Phantom, Pt. 1”
15. Tori Amos “Big Wheel”
16. Menomena “Muscle ‘N Flo”
17. Yelle “Je Veux Te Voir” [download]
18. Bishop Allen “Click Click Click”
19. Kate Nash “Foundations” [download]
20. Patty Griffin “Getting Ready”
21. Beirut “Nantes”
22. Air “Once Upon a Time”
23. Bon Iver “Skinny Love”
24. Britney Spears “Gimme More”
25. Roisin Murphy “Overpowered”

2007’s Top Live Shows

Tori Amos rocking it.

1. Tori Amos, 11/3/07, at the Riverside Theatre (Milwaukee)
The haters will hate, but Miss Diva-Turned-Mommy still puts on an incredible show, and it didn’t hurt that this particular show, my third time seeing Amos live, took place on my birthday. Highlights of the show included moving performances of “Winter,” “Code Red,” “Little Earthquakes” and “Siren,” in addition to this precious blooper during an attempt at playing “Strange.” The show could not top Tori’s performance at the Vic Theatre in Chicago the following week, but it was still pretty damn amazing. And yes, I cried.

2. Feist, 11/16/07, at the Orpheum Theatre (Madison)
Even though Leslie had injured her leg a few days prior at another stop, and was relegated to sitting throughout the show (after tentatively stepping onto the stage with the use of a cane), this show was still electrifying for the sold-out audience at the Orpheum. I spent about half of the concert standing in the front, and then later retreated to the balcony to grab a seat for the conclusion, and from both vantage points, the experience was still incredible. She rocked out “Sea Lion Woman,” giving that song a new life that it doesn’t necessarily have on the album, and also included her acclaimed hits, such as “1234” and “Mushaboom.”

3. Chris Garneau, 5/26/07, at Cafe Montmartre (Madison)
Anyone who can silence a Madison bar for an hourlong piano with string trio set deserves some sort of honor, and that’s exactly what Garneau did at this show. Playing several songs from his debut album, Garneau demanded the audience’s attention with his heart-on-sleeve performance, showing an adorable degree of shy humbleness, particularly when he made a mistake during an unplanned encore to “Halloween.” Another highlight, captured by this YouTube clip, was a heralding performance of “Not Nice.”

4. Leslie and the LY’s, 9/8/07, at the Union Terrace (Madison)
5. Girl Talk, 3/24/07, at Club 770 (Madison)

2007’s Best Videos

1. Architecture in Helsinki “Heart it Races”
2. Feist “1234”
3. Patrick Wolf “The Magic Position”
4. Justice “D.A.N.C.E.”
5. Arcade Fire “No Cars Go”

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4 thoughts on “2007’s best beats

  1. Tori Amos, Big Wheel is an excellent track!
    I have a few favourite concerts/shows myself from 2007…
    They may not appeal to you though…
    The Best was Rod Stewart at St James Park Newcastle (UK)
    Van Morrison played The Sage at gateshead and was, I must admit, a huge let down. Having said that the acoustics there are amazing so although the atmosphere was a little off the sound was really spot on.
    The Pogues at Manchester Central and The Carling Academy, both good gigs.
    The Saw Doctors at the Gala Theatre was one of those concerts that made your pulse rate soar. Small venue (700 max) but a truly brilliant experience.
    I enjoyed reading this and I’m now off to google some of the artists you mention that I have yet to sample. :o)

  2. This weblog is merely excellent, I assumed I do know quite a bit, but I’m so mistaken, like the previous saying the more you already know, the additional you obtain out how small you know. Thanks for the info.

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