Friday, January 11, 2008

Top 50 Albums Of 2007: 10-6

10. Glass Candy - B/E/A/T/B/O/X (Italians Do It Better)

Glass Candy are the bright yang to Chromatics' yin, ostensibly, with their flashy, almost crass pop sensibilities offering stark contrast to Chromatics' shadowy romanticism, but both bands overlap in more ways than just sharing a member (the multi-talented Johnny Jewel). Check the wan arpeggios in 'Etheric Device' or 'Last Nite I Met A Costume''s sustained, instrumental dramatics for instances. However, Glass Candy prefer to face the listener down where Chromatics lurk in the shadows.

Ida No is a massively charismatic presence in the traditional look-but-don't-touch mould; a just out of reach objet de desir for the listener to put on a pedestal, while she dances by herself. The music is much more personable however, at points betraying a startling immediacy, like on the rainbow-coloured synth-trumpet blasts of 'Candy Castle', or the fuzz-synth, pervy workout of 'Beatific'. It won't catch on in the mainstream, but for glossy pop thrills, you could do far worse than check out B/E/A/T/B/O/X's nine gems.

Glass Candy - Beatific (mp3)

Glass Candy - Life After Sundown (mp3)

Bonus: Live footage of Glass Candy performing 'Etheric Device'.

9. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Anti-)

You can almost imagine Britt Daniel pieceing his band's songs together with the intensity of a watchmaker. There are all these tiny little bits and pieces that, on their own, would resemble mere sonic detritus, but when brought together and slotted into their rightful places, everything just clicks together. Take opener, 'Don't Make Me A Target' as a for instance, there's a handclap here, a bracing blast of fuzz guitar there, a bell is struck once or twice and some seriously spare-sounding piano crops up from time to time. It sound like a rock song, but with the clasp open, baring the mechanics for all to see.

The brilliant thing about Spoon is that even though Daniel does have such a keen ear for what's going on underneath, they never sound dry. Their songs are built with as much love for music's history as precision and even when they completely dismantle it all, like on 'token weird one', 'The Ghost Of You Lingers', there are still enough hooks to draw you in. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga contains some of Spoon's most forthright POP songs, like the Clash-y 'The Underdog' and the white-soul swing of 'You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb', but even on those, you can hear everything clicking and whirring away inside. Rarely has deconstruction and reconstruction sounded so thrilling and alive.

Spoon - The Ghost Of You Lingers (mp3)

Spoon - Rhthm & Soul (mp3)

Bonus: Watch the video for 'The Underdog'.

8. Roisin Murphy - Overpowered (EMI)

Shorn of the difficult edges that rounded out her solo debut, the Matthew Herbert-produced Ruby Blue, Overpowered is Murphy's first full-on pop record. Okay, so it's a pop record with all-important - to hipsters at least - credentials. The collaborators list makes for impressive reading, with the likes of Mark De-Clive Lowe, Timbaland cohort, Jimmy Douglass, Groove Armada man, Andy Cato (the tallest man in music), Bugz In The Attic's Seiji, Larry Gold (on string arrangements, naturally) and Sheffield stalwarts, Ross Orton and Dean Honer all weighing in here and there.

With such a diverse list of co-conspirators, Overpowered is as you'd expect it to be; a bit of a stylistic mess. That's what makes it such a wonderful album though, as Murphy, ever the chameleon, steps into each guise with measurable aplomb, be it disco diva ('Let Me Know'), pop princess ('You Know Me Better'), lover's rock chanteuse ('Scarlet Ribbons'), hi-nrg dominatrix (the none-more Bobby O, 'Cry Baby'), boogie ice-queen ('Footprints') and more. With Overpowered, Roisin Murphy proved herself possibly the most flexible woman in music. World domination can surely be just around the corner.

Roisin Murphy - Cry Baby (mp3)

Roisin Murphy - Primitive (mp3)

Bonus: Roisin makes the ubiquitous 'Standing In The Way Of Control' sound utterly fresh.

7. M.I.A. - Kala (XL)

When I put together my first draft of my albums of the year list, Kala was nowhere to be seen. I'd heard it, sure, but it initially didn't hit me as hard as Arular so it went to the back of the queue. Classic case of following up one of the most innovative albums of recent years with more of the same, I thought. Then I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and allow it a few more spins. It made the shortlist and then started climbing and climbing, its brilliance being slowly revealed with each listen. Now it stands as my seventh favourite album of the year, but it still gets better with every go-round.

Floor-to-ceiling, one of the most consistently thrilling records of the past twelve months, Kala is like a microcosm of global urban music, from Baltimore club (the pumped 'xr2') to baile funk ('World Town') and desi beats (the Bollywood cover, 'Jimmy') via some Congotronics-influenced club tracks ('Bird Flu' and 'Hussel'). Kala also allows time to cover aboriginal Australian hip-hop ('Mango Pickle Down River' with schoolboy rappers, The Wilcannia Crew) and twisted, ultra-distorted hyphy/dubstep melange ('20 Dollar'). If Arular was sleek and easy to get a handle on, Kala is its sprawling, discomfiting, multi-coloured, even more exotic sequel. Choosing between the two is a bit like choosing between the first two Godfather films; they compliment each other brilliantly and, although the first is undoubtedly great, if you really want to get lost, plump for the second one.

M.I.A. - 20 Dollar (mp3)

M.I.A. - Bamboo Banga (mp3)

Bonus: M.I.A. performing 'Hussel' at Lowlands festival.

6. Kathy Diamond - Miss Diamond To You (Permanent Vacation)

When I first heard Miss Diamond To You, I fell in love hard. Couldn't get enough of its disco-soul-pop-house stew. Couldn't get enough of Miss Diamond herself either. Then I went to see her live and the love affair was in a pretty precarious position. Was I going to let one disappointing night get in the way of something pretty special. Thankfully, I got over myself, dug Miss Diamond... out again and fell in love for the second time. I still stand by the above-linked gig review, but that memory, tarnished though it is, can not and will not get in the way of my deep affection for this brilliant, beautiful record.

A collaboration between Miss Diamond and the mercurial producer, Maurice Fulton (probably one of the best around, in my honest opinion), this is just as much his album as it is hers (although she can slay without Fulton as the upcoming hook-up with Belgians, Aeroplane - the disco-pop epic 'Whispers - attests). Its Diamond's sweet everywoman tones that lure you in, but it's Fulton's thick, heady production that keeps you there. Fulton makes these songs, which could be light and airy in lesser hands, seem as deep as the Marianas trench and intoxicating as the best skunk money can buy. Maurice, Kathy, apologies for the bad review, I hope we can put this all behind us and still be friends.

Kathy Diamond - On & On (mp3)

Kathy Diamond - Until The Sun Goes Down (mp3)

Bonus: Classic Fulton - Maurice Fulton - My Gigolo (mp3)

Okay, just the top ten tunes and top five albums to come now. Can you guess what they are? Put your ideas in the comment box and whoever gets closest wins a Curly-Wurly.



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