Saturday, December 08, 2007

Top 50 Albums Of 2007: 40-36

40. UGK - Underground Kingz (SonyBMG)

Let me put it straight from the start that this isn't in here on some posthumous sympathy vote. Despite Pimp C's recent, saddening sudden death, Underground Kingz makes the list on merit. A double album with a seriously impressive lack of filler, this album is a massive achievement in the hip-hop sphere and music in general. Also, by and large, Pimp C and Bun B are on fire here and their choices of guest MCs (OutKast, Big Daddy Kane, Talib Kweli, Scarface amongst others) are mostly adroit.

If the pace and interest levels slack off towards the end of the second disc, it's forgivable because of all the great stuff that preceded it (although there's one more version of 'Int'l Player's Anthem' than there needs to be). At turns moody and hyped, Underground Kingz strikes the perfect balance between melancholy gangsterism and pumped club tracks. R.I.P. Pimp C.

UGK - Chrome Plated Woman (mp3)

UGK - Next Up (feat. Big Daddy Kane & Kool G Rap) (mp3)

Bonus: "I got Bobby by the pound, Whitney by the key..." Watch the video for 'The Game Belongs To Me'.

39. A Mountain Of One - Collected Works (AMO1)

You could argue that A Mountain Of One's debut album could fall into either the Balearic or the prog bracket. Genre classifiers melt away though when Collected Works' magisterial soundscapes finally hook you (it's the very definition of a grower), as there's no pigeonholing just honest-to-goodness fantastic music. The brainchild of Leo Elstob, Mo Morris and Zeben Jameson (whose emotive Ferry/Isaak-ish vocals are Collected Works' most cherished aspect), AMO1 have crafted an album (or collection of EPs and singles, if you will) that taps into the cosmic/beardo need for classy 'chill' rock.

More song-based than Lindstrom & Prins Thomas' eponymous 2005 debut, but somewhat of a spiritual successor, the twelve songs gathered here seem hand-crafted for those post-club comedown moments, but you suspect they won't be soundtracking any mobile phone adverts at any point in the future. Out-of-step with almost everything else released this year - although Studio are often seen as kindred spirits, AMO1 take the unhip touchstone of caped 70s progressive as the jumping off point, as opposed to Studio's love of the late-80s Ibizan sound - but leftifield enough to be considered relevant, Collected Works is one of 2007's most glorious anomalies.

A Mountain Of One - Innocent Line (mp3)

A Mountain Of One - Ride (mp3)

Bonus: AMO1 performing 'Ride' live in London in April.

38. Gosub - Watchers From The Black Universe (Citinite)

Although actually from Miami, Gosub's debut album proper is none more Detroit. Eschewing the micro-snares and static crunch of modern techno for a warm analogue sound, Watchers... recalls the early work of Juan Atkins ('Clear' and 'Alleys Of Your Mind' are obvious influences) and Derrick May. It's derivative then, for sure, but it's no parody; the love for early Detroit techno is palpable.

Whilst Gosub is clearly in debt to the past, there's a sure-footed confidence that pulses through this album, ensuring that he stamps his own authority on this time-honoured sound. 'Last Night At The Stardust' has a skippy urgency that could be viewed as a nod to 2-step in the right light, while standout track 'In The Wind' is all hypnotic dead-eyed rumble with a twinkly surface sheen. The lack of a CD release may have hindered its impact a little, but this is defiantly old-school robotic soul on wax and that's enough reason to seek it out for yourselves.

Gosub - Her Machine (mp3)

Gosub - In The Wind (mp3)

Bonus: For comparison's sake: Cybotron - Alleys Of Your Mind (mp3)

37. DiskJokke - Staying In (Smalltown Supersound)

Smalltown Supersound are fast becoming a favourite label of mine, so when I heard they were releasing Joachim Drydahl's (aka DiskJokke) debut full-length, I knew it was going to be something special. I wasn't wrong; Staying In is, arguably, the most fully-realised album to come out of the Scandinavian cosmic disco scene yet. Jokke is very much a crowd-pleasing producer and by that I mean that his tunes are quite often supremely hooky and catchy, but never really cheesy (save for that jokey remix of Bloc Party's 'Sunday').

Drydahl always cuts to the quick on Staying In. Where his peers will leave the listener waiting for anything approaching a memorable motif, Jokke throws it in early before going off on random tangents (like the brief, doom-metal-esque guitar rumble, audible just after the three-minute mark in 'Folk I Farta'), creating an overall effect akin to a meeting of minds between Lindstrom and Maurice Fulton. Highly satisfying and you're left with the feeling that this guy will only make better records.

DiskJokke - Folk I Farta (mp3)

DiskJokke - Glatt (mp3)

Bonus: DiskJokke - Once More With Violence (mp3) (taken from the Heft & Plunder EP released on Kindisch earlier this year)

36. My Sister Klaus - Chateau Rouge (Tigersushi)

Guillaume Teyssier - for it is he who is My Sister Klaus - is a bald-faced thief. It's true! Every song on the Frenchman's debut, Chateau Rouge steals its sound and overall vibe from some band of the past. 'Off White'? Contortions rip-off. The title track? Suicide. 'Stereo Eyes'? Lou Reed. The list goes on, but while some may carp at the obviously derivative nature of Chateau Rouge, others will just take the view that there aren't any original ideas in rock music anymore and enjoy it for its many merits.

Chateau Rouge is a fun, heavily-stylised grab-bag of art-rock touchstones and most of the enjoyment is gained from knowing where the lifts have come from. A little Bowie here, some Iggy there, Television over there, at least Teyssier does his stealing with his tongue firmly in cheek and a knowing wink and while I can see this may not be everyone's cup of cafe, I, for one, loved every unoriginal minute.

My Sister Klaus - China Gun (mp3)

My Sister Klaus - Do Wake (mp3)

Bonus: 'Chateau Rouge' live video.



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