Saturday, January 12, 2008

Best of 2007 - Music

This list isn't in order or anything, just the stuff I've really enjoyed this year. A lot of these are reissues, a couple of them involve friends of mine, so it's hard to know how to rank them.

Coconut Monkeyrocket - With Birds

My friend Jason has been making music under this name since some time around '91, but this is his first official CD release, and I have to say, he's outdone himself. CocoMoro sounds pretty much like the soundtrack to a Warner Bros. cartoon set to a funky hip hop beat, and it's as joyful a cacaphony as you'll ever hear. The programming on here is dense and intricate, but all you hear or feel listening to it is a happy good time. For fans of Spike Jones, Pee Wee Herman, Esquivel or Tex Avery, it's a must. You can hear some of the music at the Coconut Monkeyrocket website, and more of it at his myspace, but I think there's even better stuff on the CD (the incredibly dense "Juicy Jungle," and the cool and refreshing "Square Beer"). You can order the CD for $10 from the website, or from Amazon. It's also available on iTunes and eMusic.

CocoMoro also recorded a great version of Stereolab's "Moogie Wonderland" for the Stereolab tribute album The Politics of Photosynthesis, which is also available on iTunes.

V/A - Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 1
V/A - The Roots of Chicha

This is the album I've probably listened to the most this year, and I'll probably continue to listen to it throughout this summer. It's 18 tracks of funk from Cuba, and as you'd expect, there are plenty of conga breakdowns and jazzy pianos and a healthy dose of wah-wah, but there's also some unexpected elements on almost every track, from the odd vocal harmonies on "Son of Propulsion" through the electronic synth bleeps on "Adeoay" to the Bollywood pastiche "Casina Y Epidecus." Pour up some mojitos, light up the grill and crank this sucker for your backyard party.

Roots of Chicha is a collection of 70's funk from Peru, with lots of psychedelic guitars and killer funk beats mixed in with Peruvian folkways. Not quite as cool as the Cuban stuff, but still pretty great.

Dirty Projectors - Rise Above

I've written most of what I had to say about this album already. Since then, I've gotten their previous album, The Getty Address, which is maybe even better. I don't even know how to describe this band, but any band who can write a lyric like "They wear their leaves like Warholian wigs" is pretty damn cool.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Sharon Jones' new album is, like her last two, a slammin' retro soul record full of electrifying performances (the tempo change in the title track alone is enough to justify the purchase price). The Dap-Kings do a great version of the Muscle Shoals Sound on 100 Days, after having loaned themselves to Amy Winehouse, with whom they produced an equally great version of the Motown Sound (there's some jazzy torchsongs and a rocksteady beat on Back to Black, but it all has the slick sheen of a Motown production). Being a huge fan of Stax and not that big a fan of Motown, you would logically expect me to prefer the Sharon Jones album, but I find Winehouse to be much more interesting. Yeah, her voice sounds a lot like Erykah Baduh and Lauryn Hill (and ultimately Billy Holiday), but her inflections are all her own. The personality we've gotten to know, for better or worse, over the last year comes through in her singing, which always seems a bit tipsy, unrefined, and unpredictable, prone to blurting out rude notes that seem a bit more blunt than they should have been. The slick musical tracks emphasize this further, creating the impression of a girl a little too drunk at a cocktail party a little too nice for her. And the songs are great. There are several ("Love is a Losing Game," "Back to Black" and my favorite, "Tears Dry On Their Own") that you'd swear are covers of songs you've heard a million times, until you listen to the lyrics: "What kind of buggery is this?" Having said that, the Sharon Jones album is a great party-starter, and everyone should run out and buy it now.

The Eat - It's Not the Eat, it's the Humidity
F - Four from '84 7"

Two reissues of punk rock from early 80's Florida. The Eat play bouncin'-off-the-wall pop-punk that's as catchy and high-energy as anything the Dickies or Buzzcocks ever cooked up. This release collects their insanely rare "Communist Radio"/"Catholic Love" 7" (which goes for upwards of $1,000 on ebay), the equally great God Punishes the East 7", the cassette-only release Scattered Wahoo Action, and all the songs from a late-80's studio session (some of which have never been released in any form), then throws in a second disc of live material. You can get it directly from Alternative Tentacles, or find it on Amazon, eMusic and maybe iTunes.

F play old-school in the general neighborhood of Dead Boys, Pagans, Weirdos or Crime, with a little bit of Alice Cooper and AC/DC influence thrown in. This is not the band that recorded You Are an EP, but the original band those guys spun off from, and it has more old-school sounding versions of some of the same great songs. You can buy it directly from my friend Bob at Sound Idea Distribution for some insanely cheap price.

M.I.A. - Kala

I didn't really pick out a favorite album this year, but this should be a strong contender. This insane house record built on samples of all sorts of international translates electronic globalism into a slammin' dancefloor record. What holds me back from giving it the crown is just my personal tastes. I can't quite warm to this sort of hard club techno, but I've been spinning it a lot in my car. And how could I not dig an album that kicks off by quoting "Roadrunner?"

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass

He samples Snakefinger, writes an angry protest song about the demotion of Pluto, and somehow manages not to twist his tongue on his insanely complex rhymes. What's not to like?

Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops
Bucky Sinister - What Happens in Narnia Stays in Narnia

Two raw, unhinged comedy albums. I don't mean "raw" as in profanity. These two are just out on the edge. I'm sure most have heard of Patton, at least for being the voice of Remy in Ratatouille. I saw him do pretty much the same material that makes up this album (adding jazzy improvisations along the way), and he's just viciously funny. Bucky Sinister is even more out there, a shambling mess of a comic who sometimes gets into a slurry mumble you can barely understand, but there's some hilarious shit buried in there, particularly his rant about the frustrations of being an atheist in AA and his "found poetry" based on interviews with Courtney Love.

The Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control

I guess this is actually an '06 album, but I heard it in '07, so I'm counting it. Just a great collection of fun, well-written dance pop tunes. There's a little hype attached to this album about it being an exciting, new synthesis of punk and disco, but it doesn't really sound too different from, say, Pylon. That doesn't mean it ain't good, though.

Beastie Boys - Live in Poland, 6/30/07 and 7/1/07

The Mix-Up did eventually grow on me. There are a couple really great tunes on there, and it makes a great soundtrack for driving around L.A. But I liked these two concerts, which someone kindly posted, much more, especially the mostly-instrumental set from July 1. It's got a loose, mellow ound that shows the band at their very best. Get the 6/30 set here, and the 7/1 set here.

Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity

This is far from my favorite Deerhoof, but can you ever really count them out? The fact that it doesn't sound like anything they've done before is it's strength. These guys have no comfort zone. It's like they're inventing the wheel each time they sit down to write a song.

Betty Davis - (s/t)
Betty Davis - They Say I'm Different

Betty Davis is like a cartoon charicature of a Pam Grier character from a scifi movie. These two reissues from the 70's are filled with insane, over-the-top funk. Great stuff.

The Last 8 Songs on the Oxford American Southern Music Sampler 2007

To wit:
Thelonious Monk - "Trinkle, Trinkle"
David Banner - "Cadillacs on 22's"
Fred Neil - "A Little Bit of Rain"
Betty Harris - "Cry to Me"
Percy Mayfield - "HaHaHa in the Daytime"
Iris DeMent - "Sweet is the Melody"
Daniel Johnston - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances"
The Roches - "Hammond Song"

Such a sweet, mellow mix. All these songs are great on their own, but together they just slay me. I've listened to this part of the mix so many times this year. The runner-up is the back-to-back combo of Van Dyke Parkes' chamber calypso "G-Man Hoover" and Zakary Thaks' proto-punk "Bad Girl." You can still purchase the annual Southern Music Issue, which comes with the awesome mix CD, from the Oxford American website.

JD and the Evils Dynamite Band - Explodes Across the Nation

I'm not sure if these guys are from Florida, but they have a song called "Everglades," and the photo on the cover looks like it could be from some backwards Flordia swamp town. Either way, it feels like Fla., all humid and funky. Not the best album of the year by any stretch, but a pretty nice set of funk jams along the lines of early 70's Miled Davis albums. Oh, speaking of...

Most Coveted Album:
Miles Davis - The Complete On The Corner Sessions

Generally, I don't care about studio outtakes, but since On the Corner is nothing but funk jams, it would be damn cool to hear the whole session. $100 is a bit much for me, though.

Hypothetical Single of the Year:
Dave Dee, Dozey, Beaky, Mick and Titch - "Hold Tight"

b/w The Coasters - "Down in Mexico"

Which is my way of saying that the Death Proof soundtrack kicks incredible ass. I thought "Hold Tight" was as great a song as you could find, until I heard "Down in Mexico" in the extended cut.


Blogger Greg Caggiano said...

my gf just put aesop rock on and i heard "Smelly Tounges" and i was like wtf? lol. he just went up like 10 notches with me. word.

2/23/2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was searching for links to the Oxford American Southern Music Sampler #7 and landed on you site. It's one of the two Samplers I don't own, the other being the inaugural one from 1997. I haven't heard either yet, but would like to. Also the name of your blog caught my eye. I've written a book about psychedelics I think you'd enjoy based on your favorite book list. It's called Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures by Charles Hayes (me) (

Keep on having fun.

10/14/2009 12:34 PM  

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