Music: The Tops for 2007, Caitlin's List

(Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of posts reviewing the best music of 2007. For the first part of the series, please go here.)

by Caitlin Servilio

1. Rogue WaveAsleep At Heaven’s Gate
Beautiful space pop, eye-watering harmonies and more esoteric lyrics than even online message-boarders could interpret. This gorgeous release is the latest release from remarkably consistent Rogue Wave, whose lack of any sophomore or junior slump amazes and delights me. The way the ethereal, plaintive strains of Zach Rogue give way to rousing rock choruses on such tracks as “Lake Michigan” and “Harmonium,” and the pretty but edgy pop of “Own Your Own Home” and “Phonytown” more than makes up for the fact that I have no idea what any of it means. (Please go here, for another short review of Asleep at Heaven's Gate.)

2. Josh RitterThe Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
I had a chance to interview the always-charming Josh Ritter for The Eagle, American University's student newspaper, this semester, as well as see him in concert. This confirmed what I have always suspected — that Ritter is probably the most lovable artist in contemporary music. Pausing during crowd favorites such as “Kathleeen” to tell pointless-but-funny stories about potatoes or being in love with married women twice his age, the folk-rocker from Idaho bounced happily around the stage. He has a lot to be happy about — his new release, Historical Conquests, is his most dynamic and spontaneous yet, without sacrificing his trademark craftsmanship and literary songwriting. (Please go here, for another short review of The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.)

3. The Black LipsGood Bad Not Evil
I’m sure other writers on this blog, more attuned than I to the punk scene, will mention the Black Lips on their lists, so I’ll keep this short — the new release from these hillbilly punk rockers is energetic, ambitious (for them), and most of all, an extremely good time. I’d pick it up right away if I were you. (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.")

4. Ahleuchatistas — Even In the Midst
I’m not usually much for instrumental music, but the sheer staggering skill of these three musicians from North Carolina — guitar, bass, and drums—won me over. It’s impossible not to marvel at what the trio can do with these instruments, whether the end result is beautiful or discordant. Standouts on the math-rock (don’t ask me exactly what that genre name means) album include “Elegant Proof” and “The Bears of Cantabria Shall Sleep No More.” And if you pick up the CD itself, prepare to be wowed by its album art.

5. The Apples In Stereo — New Magnetic Wonder
Half of this album sounds like a compilation of some 1960s, Beatles-plus-Beach Boys hybrid band’s greatest hits. The other half is experimental tracks full of vocoder, mellotron, and synth — more ambitious and in some cases more successful: “Beautiful Machine Parts 3-4” is the best track.

6. Beirut — The Flying Club Cup
On this album, Zach Condon, the 20-year-old multi-instrumental prodigy who is all of Beirut, proves he doesn’t have to be in the Old Country to craft yearning, Balkan-influenced, emotional ballads and marches. Check out “Cherbourg” and “La Banlieue.”

7. Bishop AllenThe Broken String
Bishop Allen, with its bouncy brand of indie pop, makes it impossible not bob along to the unpretentious melodies on The Broken String. The singles “Rain” and “Click Click Click Click” are ridiculously catchy, and even the more serious tracks, like “The Monitor” and “Choose Again” are likely to stick in your head for hours. A lovely surprise right at the end is “The News From Your Bed,” the sunshiny piano ambiance contrasts with its story of loneliness and regret. (For a brief September concert review of Bishop Allen, please go here. For another short review of the band's performance in D.C. in April, please go here.)

8. Small Sins — Mood Swings
Whether recording smoothly blended, hushed vocals and synth beats for a studio album or rocking out to exactly the same songs in concert, Small Sins is more than worth the modest amount you’ll play for the still up-and-coming Canadian brainchild of Thomas D’Arcy. Just listen to “On The Line” or “What Your Baby’s Been Doing” and you’ll be hooked.

9. The ShinsWincing the Night Away
This quintessential indie band, which effectively put indie rock on the map for thousands of American kids, goes for a bigger, more echoing sound on their newest release. Tracks like “Turn on Me,” “Girl Sailor,” and “Sea Legs” show a certain growth and progress since “Chutes Too Narrow,” but unfortunately, in some cases, not enough. (For background on The Shins and the band's influence on indie rock, please go here.)

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

(Promotional photo of Rogue Wave from Brushfire Records. To see the video for Rogue Wave's "Lake Michigan," please check below.)

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