At long last, here are the 2007 "best of" lists from a few of your dedicated tonevendor staff folk.
** DAN (The Boss) **
* THE TOP FULL LENGTHS *
- 1.) HEAVINESS-s/t CD (Heaviness-$15.99) This would have been album of the year for 2006. However, we only received (and listened to) the album for the first time literally during the last hours of the year, so we feel it's unfair to place it on the 2006 list, yet it can't be forgotten about, so here it rides atop 2007's best-of. After absorbing it, almost on a daily basis, for about 4 months, it's confirmed: Heaviness are mind-blowingly good and this album is absolutely incredible. Shoegaze fans, sit up, take note, and dive right in. Thick blurs of guitars, soft-spoken vocals, beautiful orchestrations, sheets of reverb and distortion. Yes, it's true, that's the stuff we generally go gaga for here at Tonevendor, but it doesn't always work out so great. Here, though, it works out to be one of the best things we've heard in years.
- 2.) THE VOICES - The Sound of Young America CD (My Kung Fu-$16.99) Their first album was incredible. But then they busted out this mind-numbingly amazing follow-up. One ofthe best shoegaze albums ofthe new millenium, this thing sizzles with beautiful soaring guitars, lilting vocals, Spacemen-3-esque droners, and all points in between. A fantastic and original sound that culls from its influences in a major way, but without sounding repetitive or boring - but rather fresh and exciting and exhilirating.
- 3.) TO KILL A PETTY BOURGEOISIE-The Patron CD (Kranky-$12.99) I suppose every year there is one disc that I will review with the same standard text: we get a shit-ton of promos here at Tonevendor, and it takes a lot to stand out in the crowd, if you will. But when this one made its casual trip into our player on my unsuspecting ears, I wasn't prepared to be absolutely floored. Incredible stuff that came out of nowhere like a jet engine falling from the sky. Absolutely gorgeous stuff that in parts reminds of a more brilliant Scala, with additional shoegaze textures, more diverse elements, and absolute breathtaking beauty. A must-have for just about anyone reading this.
- 4.) THE FIELD-From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt-$14.99) Okay, so right off the bat this album has several strikes against it: (a) it is essentially what I would call a "techno" record. I couldn't tell you the difference between house or techno or acid house or chicago house or whatever the hell - if it has a rapid BPM that goes something like "boom-tiss" over and over and over, ad nauseum, I lump it in as "techno". (b) this album was all the freaking rage after good ole Pitchfork gushed their goo all over it, causing a frenzy of sales where stores nor distributors could keep it in stock. Both of these points normally cause me to get all jaded and oldfarty and say "ho hum" and move along. But when a friend of mine popped this in the car CD player after a hike thru the woods in the Northern California foothills, it just felt so damn right. And after tracking it down during said aforementioned frenzy, I couldn't stop listening to it. I've never dropped ecstasy, nor have I ever been to a rave (read point "a" above), but I could totally envision the kids dropping a tab and hitting a rave like it's 1995 all over again with this CD as the soundtrack. Call me late to the dinner table, but I'm loving this.
- 5.) RUMSKIB-s/t CD (Darla-$12.99) Gorgeous stuff along the same ol MBV/Cocteau Twins/Chapterhouse vibe that I typically go gaga for, and here it works better than most. Just a guy and a girl, in their bedroom studio, kicking out the blissful jams in the most delightful way.
- 6.) RHYS CHATHAM-A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars) CD (Table Of the Elements-$13.99) This one has me a bit jealous: jealous at the fact that (a) I wasn't there to witness this incredible event, and (b) that - given the fact there are 400 (!!) guitars, couldn't I have, statistically speaking, BEEN a part of this?? I mean, shit, all I need is one connection, and boom, I could have been a part of history. Or so I like to think. Or not think - because then I get jealous again... anyhow, somehow the awesome French government gave Rhys a bunch of money and the usage of a landmark basilica, to gather 400 guitarists to create the ultimate wall-of-sound beauty and broadcast it in front of a television audience exceeding 100,000 people. Why is the USA so stupid??
- 7.) PANDA BEAR-Person Pitch CD (Paw Tracks-$12.99) Here comes another surprise from the hype-vault. This made just about every cynical indie snob critic's topo 5 list for 2007. Why do I want to repeat that nonsense? Well, because it's so damn good, that's why. I mean, sometimes the hype is justified. The fact that this is essentially a collection of singles kinda bothers me as far as calling it an "album" but I guess that's what we're all doing...
- 8.) VARIOUS ARTISTS-Brazil 70: After Tropicalia CD (Soul Jazz-$18.99) Here's a big surprise: a brazilian reissue release that makes my year-end best of list. Another big surprise: a Soul Jazz collection on my list. Why not kill two birds with one fat number 8 slot. Soul Jazz always does a bang-up job issuing tremendous grooves from years gone by and this collection of semi-post-bossa nova music, lumped in as "Tropicalia", runs the gamut from funk to jazz to soul to rock to bossa and everything in between. It's an incredible introduction to this era of music. I know this is linked to the CD, but get the vinyl, please, because at least you have the option.
- 9.) THE BEATLES-Love CD (Capitol-$18.99) I caught a bit of this on the radio the week it was released and was pretty blown away. Tape Op's review of it summed it up nicely too - this disc is just sonically brilliant and brings a whole new light to the tracks, and is highly recommended for anyone interested in recording or sound. Fascinating and beautiful. I don't consider myself a Beatles-maniac by any stretch, but every now and then, something crosses my path that makes me realize that maybe I am, in a miniscule way. I mean, you can't really ever top the Beatles. Period.
- 10.) SILVERSUN PICKUPS-Carnavas 2xLP+7" (Dangerbird-$13.99) OK, here is my guilty pleasure of the list. This album was all over "alternative" rock radio for months. It's got super slick production and probably sold close to a million copies. If I was some sort of snob, I would be dissing this album. But it's great. It's catchy as hell, great to drive around to, and warrants repeated listens like crazy. Call me a sellout, I don't care.
- 11.) A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW-Scribble Mural Comic Journal CD (Notenuf-$13.99) Definitely one of the more unique recordings in the genre, this one had critics and music fans falling all over themselves in the small circles that have heard it. In addition to typical instrumentation, they employ some abnormal fuxtures to make a dreamy netherworld forfans of lots of shoegaze bands, but then sounding like none of them. Pitchfork even gave it a 9 out of 10 - whoa.
- 12.) AFRAID OF STAIRS-s/t CD (Lavender-$6.99) The always-fantastic Lavender Records burst on to the scene with this release as their label debut. The label is from Sweden and so is this band, who carry the torch ofclassic labels like Sarah Records and mid-period Creation Records. Boy/girl duo creating some gorgeous stuff.
- 13.) BIRD BY SNOW -Antlers and the Sun and all the Things that Grow old and Pass Away LP (Gnome Life-$10.99) I think I wrote something about this band somewhere, to the effect of: in 40 years, music geeks will be digging up the last 1or 2 copies in existence of the recordings from this outfit and declaring it the greatest unsung music of its day - a modern day Oxford Circle, Velvet Underground, what have you... copies of it will sell for a small fortune and put your kids thru college - stock up now" Thatdescription still holds, I guess. Unassuming woodsy/earthy masterpieces that stand out amonst the glut of "free-folk" nonsense out there.
- 14.) ASTROBRITE-whitenoisesuperstar CD (Vinyl Junkie-$20.99) As with all Astrobrite releases, this comes so highly recommended I can't really even put it in words. But then it goes beyond that and tops all other Astrobrite releases because this time, Scott makes some connections and features guest vocals from yukari (HARTFIELD) cat (INSTA, ALISON'S HALO) lynda mandolyn and dita. Let me tell you - female vocals floating atop the maelstrom blur of guitarnoise is a recipe for love potion. It's massive, it's amazing, it's sheer bliss. Also features guitarwork and mastering from Narasaki from COALTAR OF THE DEEPERS.
- 15.) FLAVOR CRYSTALS-s/t LP (Mpls Ltd-$9.99) Amazing vinyl-only (to date) release that eclipses their other output by far. Produced by Kramer, he captures the band amidst sub-zero temperatures, holed up in desolate winterscapes of the far north and has them cranking out spacey, dreamy, gorgeous landscapes of sound.
- 16.) LE LOUP-The Throne of The Third Heaven Of The Nations' Millenium General Assembly CD (Hardly Art-$10.99) This is one of those under-the-radar (at least so it seems?) releases that has "genius" written all over it every time I toss it in the player. I'm like "why isn't this shit as big as Animal Collective or The Shins?" - and sadly it's not. But maybe that's a good thing too. You and I can keep it a semi-secret and enjoy it before it gets to their heads.
- 17.) JAPANCAKES-Loveless CD (Darla-$12.99) Undoubtedly, there are dozens or hundreds or maybe even thousands of folks who are repelled by this concept: anyone... ANYONE bold enough to cover one ofthe most coveted masterpieces ofmodern music surely must be an idiot. I mean, who can cover an Elvis song or a Beatles tune or a Michael Jackson track, and NOT get laughed at or forgotten about? Well, it's a good thing Japancakes did their thing and stayed with it, because thisis pretty much genius. Faithful and reverent, yet the furthest thing from "copycat" as you can get. It's enjoyable and fun and sincere and pretty much the only way this album could have been covered without being cast aside. Nice job, fellas.
- 18.) STEVE REICH-Music For 18 Musicians CD/SACD (Innova-$17.99) Probably the singlemost important piece of modern composed music, in my opinion, this classic gets the reworked/reissued/re-recorded/remastered treatment pretty often. But here, the concept is totally endearing: a guy took a band of students and volunteers under his wing and taught them the piece to the point of perfection over the course of a year. They recorded it here and it sounds amazing and fresh. Even if you have heard the piece a million times before and already own it in several different iterations, this one is a must-listen. If you are unfamiliar with the piece, this is an absolutely terrific starting point as well.
* SINGLES / EPs *
- 1.) THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART-s/t CD (Painbow-$4.99) Like The Radio Dept. and Jesus & Mary Chain collaborating in a mystical universe where members of both bands could be hip teenagers in '86 -'92 era NYC and London simultaneously. Imagine if The Ramones traded in their leather jackets for anoraks, or Stephen Pastel actually threw Aggi off the bridge and married Black Tambourine's Pam Berry and had three babies that formed a pop band in 2007.
- 2.) SEAVAULT-Mercy Seat 7" (Morr Music-$6.99) Always a sucker for an Ultra Vivid Scene cover, this one being a particular favorite! Organic, electronic, melodic songs that shimmer with light and dark textures from the UK. Antony Ryan (Isan) and Simon Scott (Televise/Slowdive) blend together a mixture of musical elements that stun and comfort.
WASHINGTON PHILLIPS - Denomination Blues 7" (Earworm-$7.99)
Incredible, hypnotic 1920s gospel - yes, really!! And it's truly amazing stuff - not a lot is known about Washington Phillips, but he supposedly invented an instrument that can only be played by himself, and that is what is heard here - highly intriguing and super recommended! Pressing of 220 only. Acetate inserts, sticker, great sleevenotes by Sonic Boom, the whole 9 yards. Great package! You likely won't be able to find one ofthese anywhere, but hopefully Mississippi Records will keep their fabulous LP in print.
- 4.) LIECHTENSTEIN-Stalking Skills 7" (Fraction Discs-$5.99) Another label we are totally gaga for is Fraction discs -- we highly recommend everything on the label! Their third release was this single - an all girl quartet from Göteborg, Sweden that is for fans of: Dolly Mixture, Talulah Gosh, Girls At Our Best, Television Personalities, Mo-Dettes, The Slits, Shop Assistants... you get the idea!
- 5.) BODINES-Shrinkwrap CDEP (Firestation-$11.99) A personal favorite album of mine is The Bodines "Played" - a Creation Records total classic. So when Firestation sent out the release notes on this, my jaw hit the keyboard. This contains THREE UNRELEASED TRACKS FROM 1988, and I think that just about says enough!
- 6.) DEEP CUT-Commodity 7" (Club AC30-$6.99) An awesome, driving single of guitarpop/shoegaze magic from this new band featuring ex-Revolver/Death in Vegas member Mat Flint. Female vocals over fuzzy guitars is a win-win recipe for sure. Hot stuff!
- 7.) VASHTI BUNYAN-Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind 7" (Dicristina Stair Builders-$5.99) A gorgeous and faithful re-issue of the landmark single from Vashti, these two tracks are among her best and it makes sense why the original was such a colletible for so long.
- 8.)TIMES NEW VIKING - My Head 7" (Matador) Fantastic slice of A-side / B-side / 45rpm magic with several minutes filled with noisepop supreme. Reminiscent of New Bad Things, but even better than that. The full lengths are a bit much to digest, but these two tidbits put to wax via single are the perfect antidote.
* REISSUES / COLLECTIONS *
- 1.) SEEFEEL-Quique Redux Edition 2xCD (Too Pure-$12.99) An absolute, stone-cold classic that rightly deserves the redux treatment. An alltime favorite album of mine, and to hear these unreleased bonus tracks on the second disc is like discovering buried treasure.
- 2.) BLOSSOM DEARIE-The Adorable Blossom Dearie CD (El-$15.99) Blossom Dearie is so cute, you just want to give her a big hug and a kiss. I fell in love with her music a few years back and aquired one of her albums (which appears as the bulk of this reissue) for a song at a record store in someplace USA while criss-crossing the country a few years back. So glad to see it repackaged here with some excellent and beautiful solo piano tracks as bonus.
- 3.)GROUPER-Way Their Crept LP (Type-$14.99) Originally released on CD in 2005 to huge acclaim, Way Their Crept was issued in '07 by the incredible Type Records label in a limited edition of 500 copies. Sadly, it's now out of print so you can't get it anymore, but I am ever thankful that they had the smarts to issue it on the superior vinyl format.
- 4.) MICHAEL GARRICK TRIO-Moonscape CD (Trunk-$15.99) Originally privately pressed in 1964 in an edition of just 99 copies, Moonscape is possibly the most rare, most desirable and certainly most valuable modern British jazz record ever made. Thankfully, the genius folks at Trunk gave it a new life. Unquestionably rare and wonderful.
- 5.) HOUSE OF LOVE-The House of Love CD (Renascent-$15.99) What can we say about this? A CLASSIC album, here restored to the original format. And the sleeve looks amazing in our matt-finish, exquisitely-tailored card sleeves... New sleevenotes from Guy & Alan McGee and previously unseen archive photos as well.
* MULTIMEDIA *
- 1.) NEW SOUND OF NUMBERS - Live Performance at Athens Popfest 2007 Amidst a sea of indiepop that, after a while, leaves you numb, suddenly this band took the stage and magically opened my ears back up and gave me a grin from ear to ear. A stunning live show, 100 times better than their recordings (which are also good, mind you). Can't wait for the opportunity to catch them again.
- 2.) GANG GANG DANCE-Retina Riddim CD+DVD (The Social Registry-$11.99) While the music is typically GGD good, it doesn't fully sink in 'til you pop in the DVD and let your eyeballs+eardrums be simultaneously serrated from the brilliant combination of imagery and sound. It's pretty much "the future of music" happening right before your eyes/ears.
- 3.) 4.) 5.) and 6.) THE KING OF KONG / WAITRESS / SUPERBAD / JUNO A four-way tie for the 4 most pleasing movies I saw this year. I think. There were no mind-blowing films that I can recall, but these are 4 great choices. King of Kong is a fantastically deadpan-hilarious documentary; Waitress was trumped up by some friends and when I saw it, I knew why -- really sweet and funny; Superbad I knew from the first preview that it would be great -- but not as great as I'd hoped for; and I'll give Juno an honorable mention: while I wanted to hate it for trying to be so indie and the fact that it was the absolute definition of "overhype", it was actually really sweet and not nearly as annoying as I would have thought.
**** CARLY NELSON **** (Carly is the Tonevendor office queen - she is the one processing all your orders and packaging your goodies to ship out)
- 01. There Will Be Blood ] Jonny Greenwood
- 02. Dedications ] Klimek
- 03. The Dethalbum ] Dethklok
- 04. Les Ondes Silencieuses ] Colleen
- 05. Bride of Dynamite ] Rio en Medio
- 06. Tout Seul dans la Foret en Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur ] Woelv
- 07. Strawberry Jam ] Animal Collective
- 08. Hvarf/Heim [ Sigur Rós
- 09. In Rainbows ] Radiohead
- 10. Widow City ] The Fiery Furnaces
- 11. Power Hor ] Lesbian
- 12. Dark Stars ] White Magic
- 13. Mentor Tormentor ] Earlimart
- 14. King For A Day ] Bobby Conn
- 15. Stars of the Lid & Their Refinement of the Decline ] Stars of the Lid
**** JUJU STEED **** (former Sacramento Tonevendor employee extraordinaire)
- Caribou: Andorra
- Blonde Redhead: 23
- Radiohead: In Rainbows
- Arcade Fire: Neon Bible
- Klaxons: Myths of the Near Future
- Panda Bear would be on the list if I could ever remember to listen to it. They can have best wish-we-were-brian-wilson track of the year: Comfy in Nautica. Yum.