Music: The Favorites of 2007, Hilary’s List

(Editor's Note: This is the seventh part of a series reviewing the notable music of 2007. To see the previous posting in the series, please go here. Please note, these are not listed in any particular order.)

by Hilary Crowe

Devendra Banhart – Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
Easily the most coherent of Banhart’s conceptual compositions, the sensuous singer-songwriter considered naming the album Jewish Anarchy for a time before its release. The remnants of such inspiration are evident in the track “Shabop Shalom,” which exalts an Israeli siren through humorous metaphors and witty wordplay, both trademarks in Banhart’s work.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – The Is Is
In their latest release, the tenacious trio has returned to the grit and guts of Fever to Tell but kept the epic-yet-soft melodies of Show Your Bones. Karen O’s visceral vocals make a gravelly, gristly comeback, battling with the crescendo and decrescendo of Nick Zinner’s mechanical reverb-rattled riffs, all while Brian Chase keeps time, and the hearts of many fans, thumping along for the entirety of the EP’s too-short 17 minutes. (For a full review of The Is Is, please go here.)

The Black Lips Good Bad Not Evil
Following quickly on the heels of Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo, The Black Lips’ new album retains and expands upon their retro-rockabilly and garage rock fusion delivered with the devilish charm for which these boys are known. The only difference is that the self-produced album has a cleaner production to bring their songwriting, so the band says, to the fore. (For a short review of the Black Lips' other 2007 release Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo, please go here. For general information on the band, please see "Experience The Black Lips.")

Pissed Jeans Hope for Men
On the band’s new album, Pissed Jeans seems to have matured, just a bit. Mention of bodily fluids and the exchange of which are absent on the album, the juvenile joke seeming to have grown old. However, their sound is the same – more post-adolescent, frustrated males growling a la The Dead Boys steeped in The Stooges' “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” with the seething intensity of later Black Flag and a heavy metal quality, but with more vamp than camp.

Various Artists I’m Not There [Soundtrack]
It’s no secret that Bob Dylan was a phenomenal songwriter before the millennium, but as a singer, for some, Dylan was found wanting. In the soundtrack accompanying Todd Haynes’ nonlinear, loose biopic of the living legend, the title track is officially released for the first time and is also covered by Sonic Youth. On a variety of other cuts, Iron and Wine, Calexico, Jeff Tweedy, and one of the films’ stars, Charlotte Gainsbourg, lend their voices as vehicles for Dylan’s genius to shine with new vitality.

M.I.A. Kala
The Sri Lankan-Londoner-Brooklynite is already well-known for her danceable, politically charged mash-ups of tribal music, hip hop and rhymes despite Kala being only her second release. Easily the best song on the album, “Paper Planes” is an incendiary hit for the lady MC, but “20 Dollar Bill” is the most interesting: M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam) sleepily sings the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” over the electrified melody of New Order’s “Blue Monday.”

Deerhunter Cryptograms
Singer Bradford Cox’ stage antics and shocking confessions, both on stage via lyrics and offstage via the band’s blog, belie the hooligans from Hotlanta’s latest musical masterpiece. A testament to the band’s uncanny ability to churn out progressive noise rock with pop sensibilities and ambient melodies, Cryptograms has finally won these guys some positive attention. (For another short review of Cryptograms, please go here.)

To sample some of the other reviews in this series, please see:

(To see the next review in the series, please go here.)

(Photo of Devendra Banhart by jabzoog of New York City via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. To see the video for "Seahorse" by Devendra Banhart from Smoky Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, please check below.)

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