Monday, December 03, 2007

Top 100 Tunes Of 2007 (90-81)

90. Black Kids - Hit The Heartbrakes (Self-released)

One of the most talked-about bands of the latter part of the year are one that I've yet to make my mind up about. I can't decide whether they really are the saviours of indie-pop that everyone seems to think they are or yet another case of the emperor's new clothes. That said, 'Hit The Heartbrakes' at least hints at something special to come. Blending The Go! Team's melting pot party aesthetic with an affinity for the heart-bruised communality of The Arcade Fire, 'Hit The Heartbrakes' comes in like a bull through the gate and skids around haphazardly for an adrenaline-fuelled three-and-a-half minutes, leaving the listener breathless and stunned.

Black Kids - Hit The Heartbrakes (mp3)

Bonus: Shaky-as-hell live video of Black Kids doing 'Hit The Heartbrakes'.

89. Von Sudenfed - The Rhinohead (Domino)

Listening to Von Sudenfed is sometimes akin to a fevered dream. I mean, there's all these very modern things going on musically, but there, front-and-centre, is Mark E. Smith pretty much doing the same thing he's been doing for thirty years or more. It's a strange combination and one that doesn't always work, but when it does, like on 'The Rhinohead', it's a joy to behold. A stomping fusion of northern soul and acid house, 'The Rhinohead' demands attention in a way that The Fall haven't for years. MES would do well to stick to doing this in the future, if only to continue making the odd wildly incongruous, thrilling single every now and then.

Von Sudenfed - The Rhinohead (mp3)

Bonus: Von Sudenfed performing 'Flooded' live in Edinburgh.

88. Faze Action - Disco Warrior (Special Disco Mix)

One of the more welcome comebacks of 2007 - in certain circles at least - was the triumphant return of Faze Action after a couple of years in the wilderness. The track that really shouted "We're back!" was this funky disco belter. Whilst 'Disco Warrior' isn't exactly what you'd call 'the sound of now', its energy was so infectious that it found itself in the position of being something of an underground hit. It was as though Simon and Robin made a checklist of what makes a great disco track and methodically threw in great element after great element. The horns, the wobbly synths, the funk guitar, the deathless, running bassline were all in the mix and combined to make something that lit dancefloors up all over the place. Nice work.

Faze Action - Disco Warrior (Special Disco Mix) (mp3)

Bonus: Listen to more Faze Action stuff at their MySpace. Sorry, that's not much of a bonus is it? You try and find good Faze Action titbits on the web though. It's hard!

87. Boat Club - Spanish Castles (Luxury)

Sweden just keep pumping them out don't they? Great pop bands that is. Boat Club are the latest in a long line, but their brand of slightly fey Balearic pop sees them pitched somewhere between Labrador Records and the cosmic disco of Studio. Referencing the likes of Talk Talk, Screamadelica-era Primals and Junior Boys, albeit on a shoestring budget, 'Spanish Castles' is the beautiful highlight of their debut EP, Caught The Breeze. Thought the art of great bedroom pop was dead? Check out the dreamy, star-sailing guitars and cheap casio beats on display here and get ready to change your mind.

Boat Club - Spanish Castles (mp3)

Bonus: Again, not much of a bonus, but you'd do well to have a wander over to Boat Club's MySpace page.

86. Baby Oliver - Primetime (Uptown Express) (Environ)

Is Baby Oliver really the work of Morgan Geist? Who knows and, frankly, who really cares? 'Primetime' works best with anonimity in its favour so you can make your own mind up as to what these disco deviants with an obsession of the New York subway system really look like. I'd like to imagine them as three ex-Studio 54 dancers done up like perverted Guardian Angels, glitter all over their uniforms that are cut off at the arms and legs for maximum flesh-baring. But that's just me. More importantly, it doesn't matter what Baby Oliver looks like as the music does the talking; a glamorous, sexy, heady throwback to the days when drum machines were a new thing. Genius.

Baby Oliver - Primetime (Uptown Express) (mp3)

Bonus: Baby Oliver - Shot Caller (mp3)

85. The Mary Onettes - Lost (Labrador)

Again with the Swedes! The Mary Onettes come from the Labrador stable but they have more in common with New Order than their twee compatriots. 'Lost' has the echoey, floaty Hannett-like production in the verses that builds to a sky-scraping, exhilarating chorus. It's a shame that their album was such a disappointment as they really could have just done 'Lost' twelve times over and made the world their bitch. Alas, 'Lost' stands as a glorious one-off.

The Mary Onettes - Lost (mp3)

Bonus: The Mary Onettes performing 'Lost' on a Swedish TV programme.

84. Tracey Thorn - Get Around To It (Virgin)

The oft-bandied preconception of cover versions is that, try as the interpreter might, they very rarely improve on the original. Tracey Thorn's do-over of Arthur Russell's classic is not only hamstrung by the mere fact of it being a cover but also by Russell's status as untouchable avant-disco demi-god. However, Thorn pulls off the unimaginable by transplanting Russell's revered 'Get Around To It' (from Calling Out Of Context) into a modern sphere and, whilst not exactly improving on it, making it all her own. Well, she's helped a little by Ewan Pearson's identifiable, peerless electro-disco production and Gabe Andruzzi's superb sax work, but this was far and away the stand-out track from Tracey's Out Of The Woods album.

Tracey Thorn - Get Around To It (mp3)

Bonus: Watch the video for Tracey Thorn's 'Raise The Roof'.

83. Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (Self-released)

Another of 2007's big buzz bands were Vampire Weekend. Normally, I avoid buzz like the plague, but the Paul Simon comparisons intrigued me. This was either going to be the worst shit ever or an interesting curio, I thought. Turns out it's neither. 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' is the sound of a band straddling the void between homage and parody, whilst throwing in a little originality for added value. The mellifluous afro-pop guitar line weaves around drum workshop percussion and oblique lyrics about "reggaeton", "Benetton" and "Louis Vuitton" or something or other. Oh and there's something about Peter Gabriel in there too. They may well be art-prankers having a good old laugh at our expense but there's a sincerity and naturalism here that recalls Talking Heads' first forays into world music and, of course, Graceland. Sure enough, we'll all hate them in twelve months but for now, VW's alluring brand of tropical-pop sounds like the most inventive thing the American indie scene has thrown up in years.

Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (mp3)

Bonus: Vampire Weekend performing the song live.

82. Me & You - Sneaker Thief (Tru Thoughts)

This song was my summer anthem. I heard 'Sneaker Thief' seemingly everywhere but was hard pushed to find anyone else that did, which was strange. It was like a ghost anthem that seemed intent on haunting only me. Not that I minded as Me & You (Tru Thoughts' heads TM Juke and Robert Luis) conjured up a ceaseless, infectious groove that was like sunshine on wax. All disco breaks and bracing horns, 'Sneaker Thief' was a good tune to have around. Bonus points for having not one, but two false stops in there too.

Me & You - Sneaker Thief (mp3)

Bonus: Me & You - Got Any R&B? (mp3)

81. Parts And Labor - Fractured Skies (Jagjaguwar)

Mapmaker, Parts And Labor's follow-up to last year's Stay Afraid didn't stick with me as much as its predecessor did, but it still featured this, one of the most ridiculously anthemic and energising rock songs of the year. It pulverises you into submission from note one and exists in some fractious union of noise-rock, hardcore punk and stadium rock, leaving you at a loss as to whether to stroke your chin, slam dance or pump your fist. The only sane response therefore was to do all three at once. Not often a song can make you do that.

Parts And Labor - Fractured Skies (mp3)

Bonus: Watch the ace video for 'The Gold We're Digging'.



Blogger Michael said...

I just saw Vampire Weekend live yesterday in Toronto. Your Talking Heads-foray-into-world-music comparison is a good one and so far I think Vampire Weekend are a good band. Unique on the US indie scene yes. There were a few moments when I felt their appropriation of certain African rhythms and instrumentation(not that I'm an expert, or anything) felt a little unsettling(ie. how is that this Brooklyn band came to be influenced by such influences. Is this a gimmick?). However, as the show went on, it felt a little less forced. And damn, the lead vocalist has some wonderfully rich guitar arrangements.

2:20 am  

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