Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top 50 Albums Of 2007: 35-31

35. Karizma - A Mind Of Its Own (R2 Records)

It's been a pretty decent year for house music, not that any of you cats noticed, as you were too busy being distracted by all the other shiny, fluorescent stuff in the room like nu-rave, blog-house, electro-rock or whatever you call it. Geez, I'm getting old! Anyway, no-one really shone in the house spectrum like Baltimore native, Chris Clayton aka Karizma in 2007.

A Mind Of Its Own is the culmination of over a decade in the game and it showed. A lot of influences come to bear on this, Karizma's debut album that meant it should have played outside of the house sphere. That it didn't was a damn shame, as A Mind Of Its Own is a colourful fusion of breaks ('The Damn Thing'), B-more club music ('K.O.N.G.'), hip-hop and nu-soul (the various interludes that scatter the album) and different shadings of house music from deep ('Tha D') to upfront, big room stylings ('Tech This Out Pt. 2', 'Twyst This'). A diverse, multi-faceted record that barely blipped on anyone's radars and one of the most criminally-neglected releases of the year.

Karizma - Didn't See It Comin' (mp3)

Karizma - K.O.N.G. (mp3)

Bonus: As featured on Karizma's mix for Coast2Coast: Raw Artistic Soul - The Light (feat. Ursula Rucker) (Karizma Deepah Mix) (mp3)

34. Black Dice - Load Blown (Paw Tracks)

The evolution or, at least, constant motion of Black Dice's music from the pastoral, almost blissful sweeps of 2002's Beaches And Canyons through to this year's awesome Load Blown has been almost like watching cavemen discover and create dance music. The subtle pushes and pulses of that previous masterpiece have gradually given way to a more harsh, yet also more colourful sound, not unlike machinery malfunctioning rhythmically.

Because don't be fooled into thinking the chunky, multi-textured sound of Load Blown is formless, there's a wonderfully controlled agility at play here, especially on tracks like the Timbaland-flavoured (not a stretch) 'Gore', the heavy bass-fuelled opener, 'Kokomo' and the fizz and squawk of 'Scavenger' where the band actually - as perverse as it may sound - swing. It's in the more hypnotic tracks where Black Dice hit something approaching a warped state of grace that Load Blown really excels, like the devilishly addictive 'Roll Up'. No-one's suggesting that Black Dice could ever make music for the masses, but this is as close as they've come to injecting a sense of metre, cadence and, well, happiness into a full-length so far.

Black Dice - Roll Up (mp3)

Black Dice - Scavenger (mp3)

Bonus: Watch the video for 'Kokomo'.

33. Devin The Dude - Waitin' To Inhale (Rap-A-Lot)

The indolent, horny weedhead is a lost schtick in an increasingly coke-fuelled, pro-active hip-hop landscape, so it's refreshing to hear Devin The Dude extolling the virtues of marijuana, big booties and the pleasures of just letting the world pass you by in 2007. Yes, like kindred spirit Snoop, he's also pretty fucking sexist too, which, I won't lie, can sometimes be off-putting (Waitin' To Inhale would definitely be higher if some of the more mysoginist elements were left in the studio), but if you prefer to divorce politics (sexual, world or personal) from your music listening experiences and choose to look past this, then there's a whole lot to enjoy here.

Over an hour in the company of The Dude is damn funny too. You can crack a sick grimace to 'Broccoli & Cheese', laugh uproariously at the country bumpkin stylings in the 'Boom' interludes or let out a sympathetic chuckle at Devin on the broke-ass ode to the cost of living, 'Almighty Dollar'. Alternatively, you can just nod your head to some of the best mainstream rap tunes of 2007, like 'What A Job' (with Snoop and Andre 3000), 'She Useta Be' and 'Don't Wanna Be Alone'. Taken on its face value, Waitin' To Inhale is, without doubt one of the funniest, casually funky albums of the past twelve months.

Devin The Dude - She Useta Be (mp3)

Devin The Dude - Somebody Else's Wife (mp3)

Bonus: Live video of 'Lil' Girl Gone' where he doesn't even bother to rap Lil' Wayne and Bun B's verses he's that lazy!

32. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover (Jagjaguwar)

And so, Spencer Krug's march to being crowned songwriter of his generation continues unabated on the latest Sunset Rubdown album (is this now his day-job, with Wolf Parade being his sideline?), which is yet another record full of grotesque, dazzlingly strange imagery and crashingly cathartic indie rock. If that all sounds anathema to you, then this probably won't change your mind any, but if that sounds like it should be up your street and you just haven't been touched by Krug's maginificent turn of phrase and love of vocabulary, then what are you waiting for?

Random Spirit Lover feels like so much of a step forward from last year's Shut Up I Am Dreaming in every way that you lose sight of just what to pinpoint. Moment after moment here is anthemic and rousing in a way that Krug's work hasn't been before (save 'Us Ones In Between', 'Stadiums And Shrines' and his songs on Apologies For The Queen Mary) and while some of the intimacy created by its predecessor is lost (although the melting 'Winged/Wicked Things' goes some way to making up for that), there's a buoyancy to Random Spirit Lover that makes it impossible to resist. Superb, scene-setting opener, 'The Mending Of The Gown' recreates the sense of being on a particularly bone-shaking white-knuckle ride, while 'The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life' is a hip-swaying pop moment par excellence. Like I said, those who find Krug to be a little too 'rare' for their tastes won't have their heads turned by this but those who've already taken the little fella into their bosom will only find further course to cherish him.

Sunset Rubdown - For The Pier (And Dead Shimmering) (mp3)

Sunset Rubdown - Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot! (mp3)

Bonus: Live footage of Krug & co. performing 'The Mending Of The Gown'.

31. Caribou - Andorra (City Slang)

I still want to call them Manitoba, you know? I think that's because my first introduction to Dan Snaith's work was 2003's Up In Flames when he still went by that name. This is the first time since then that Snaith has come close to recreating that album's nigh-on perfect synthesis of modern electronics and 60s psychedelic pop. In fact, songs like 'Sandy', furnished as it is with stirring flutes and twinkly tambourine, and 'Sundialing', with its metronomic pulse and hazy vocals, could have easily slotted into the running order for that mini-modern masterpiece.

What sets Andorra apart from his other work is that Snaith often favours clarity over opacity, none more so than on the fuzzed-up electro-ballad, 'She's The One' - with Junior Boy, Jeremy Greenspan on vocals - or the burst of colour that opens the record, 'Melody Day'. Album closer 'Niobe' throws an even stranger spanner in the works however, in that it resembles a 4am trance number that, tantalisingly, never delivers the euphoria that its harsh ebbs suggest it might. It's an intriguing, grandstanding way to close an album on which Snaith shows he can alloy both his and music's past to its present in new, thrilling ways.

Caribou - Desiree (mp3)

Caribou - Niobe (mp3)

Bonus: Watch a BBC Collective mini-doc about Snaith.



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