What a year! 2007 was a music lover's dream. It also helped lighten the music lover's wallet too. For every fan there was something for them that was really special. For myself, here are a few of the albums that enjoyed considerable replay on my home and car stereos...
There's Something We've Been Meaning To Do
Blocks Recording Club
One day Magali Meagher (ex-rhythm guitarist/drummer from The Hidden Cameras) will be written and spoken of in the music press as the true genius she is. Until then, enjoy the disarmingly refreshing style of Meagher's in a release as engaging and warm in the form of the latest album from The Phonemes. "There's Something We've Been Meaning To Do" is the best so far from this Toronto band.
His Name Is Alive
Silver Mountain Media Group
A new album from Michigan's finest His Name Is Alive is an exercise in not knowing what to expect. Founder Warn Defever teams up with vocalist Andrea Francesca Morici to bring us yet another fresh audio experience. "Xmmer" (pronounced "summer") is one of those rare albums from a band that refuses to sound like anything else in the record store. The result is a captivating collection of songs that also spawned a great music video for "Come To Me", created by new talent Stephen W. Brandt.
No One Will Know
Don't let the deceptively simple synth pop/rock sounds of Bella fool you. There's some rather thoughtful songwriting going on here. A Vancouver trio comprised of Tiffany Garrett Sotomayor, Cameron Fraser and Charla McCutcheon, Bella made their Mint Records debut in September with less fanfare than they deserved. This is one of 2007's gems as the title track and "Give It A Night" easily demonstrate.
Puddle City Racing Lights
Initially brought to my attention via a 7"on the Static Caravan label, it was the full length on Melodic that confirmed my hopes. Let's face it - you'll either love or hate vocalist and main Windmill man Matthew Thomas Dillon's vocals. They sound more like a sad whine but please don't be discouraged. This flew under the radar but deserves a listen. If you do listen, be warned, you could very well be hooked for life.
My goodness I have not heard such an utterly brilliant label sampler as "Labrador 100" in many, many years. I was formerly only really familiar with Labrador act Radio Dept. but this sampler, a highlights collection of the first 100 releases from the label spread over four discs, is a musical goldmine. Since buying "Labrador 100" I've since been introduced to the brilliance of Tribeca, Club 8, Douglas Heart and Laurel Music among many others.
Another Vancouver band. It only takes one listen of "Touch Up" to understand Mother Mother's mandate, which is to produce insanely catchy pop music that sounds like no other band around. It's one of those albums that is at once experimental in song structures yet so appealing it would make a perfect children's album. Male and female vocal harmonies like this will remain in your head long after you've finished listening.
George Washington Brown
On The Night Plain
Formerly of now-disbanded Kenickie, Johnny X aka Pete Gofton is the central creative force behind George Washington Brown. This will be the catchiest and most rewarding album you didn't hear in 2007. That can be remedied easily by ordering "On The Night Plain" from Static Caravan. It's available on vinyl and includes a freebie companion CD for those without turntables. The songs are amazingly radio friendly yet this album truly remains an undiscovered gem. Listen to "It Still Rains", "The No Good" and "Starlife" for proof.
The Loose Salute
Tuned To Love
Mojave 3 member Ian McCutcheon seems to be concentrating on The Loose Salute these days and it's a case where the new project is just as good as the one left behind. Crenellation's own xo has already written about The Loose Salute, so catch up here...
Arts & Crafts
Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless are Young Galaxy, the core of new signings to Arts & Crafts. Initially the band seemed a bit at odds from the Broken Social Scene-centric vision of the A&C label or that label's proclivity to sign deals with established bands like The Dears or Phoenix. Young Galaxy are not quite out of this universe, however, and as this British Columbian band proves, they are master songsmiths. There's beauty in songs like "Swing Your Heartache", "Lazy Religion", "Come And See" and "Outside The City". A masterful debut.
Ghetto Beats On The Surface Of The Sun
Originally released as four separate vinyl records in 2006, the fine folks at Temporary Residence have compiled them all to a handy two-CD set in 2007. If you haven't experienced the sheer joy of the experimentation offered by Tarentel (aka core members Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Danny Grody) then you're in for a treat here. Primarily pop music at its heart, "Ghetto Beats On The Surface Of The Sun" employs stylings from perhaps every genre imaginable. That's what keeps the album so unpredictably wonderful.
We Can Create
Tellingly of the music industry currently, this is my lone major label entry into my top favorites list for 2007. Maps is the alias of James Chapman (Northampton, England) and his debut as Maps has been accurately described as "from euphoric space-rock to folksy, downtempo whisperings and clattering, thudding noise-pop". One only needs to sample the perfectly chosen singles from "We Can Create" ("To The Sky", You Don't Know Her Name" and "It Will Find You") to get the proper musical directions from Maps.
Montreal's Graham Van Pelt (aka Miracle Fortress) isn't the first musician ever to mine the song nuggets of Brian Wilson but certainly he is the one that created the finest version in recent memory. Ultimately though, the results are Van Pelt's own world of noise and buried vocals that never fails to command my attention. Listen to songs like "Next Train" and "Have You Seen in Your Dreams" to fall under the spell of Miracle Fortress.