Music

Slipped Discs 2007

PopMatters' annual tradition of offering up its Slipped Discs picks continues with the biggest installment to date. These are the albums our writers just loved, but missed our enormous top 60 albums list late last year.

PopMatters' annual tradition of offering up its Slipped Discs picks continues with the biggest installment to date. These are the albums our writers just loved, but missed our enormous top 60 albums list late last year. Some of these choices are idiosyncratic but wonderful, while others perhaps should have made that big list, but there's only so much room after all. In any event, dig in and enjoy these nearly 50 selections of great music from 2007, some celebrated and many overlooked.

Artist: Aqueduct Album: Or Give Me Death Label: Barsuk Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/a/aqueduct-orgivemedeath.jpg US Release Date: 2007-02-20 UK Release Date: 2007-02-20

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Since Aqueduct’s moderate breakout with 2005’s I Sold Gold, main man David Terry's compositional skills have broadened considerably. That's not the lone key to making good music, but he uses his songcrafting well, mixing the easily likable chord progressions of Steely Dan with the nervous indie rock energy of Built to Spill. On Or Give Me Death, the result are warm breezes that shift to chills, as dark clouds pass across the sun... and then clear away again. Yes, the mood of Aqueduct's songs are often uncertain, but the hooks are plenty confident, and Or Give Me Death is catchy from start to finish. The production is full of fine flourishes, and Terry's lyrics are just skewed enough to make this album worth listening to many times over. With Aqueduct, we have a 2000s indie band that actually gets better with age. Michael Keefe

Streaming: Full album

Aqueduct - Living a Lie

Aqueduct: Or Give Me Death

Artist: Arbouretum Album: Rites of Uncovering Label: Thrill Jockey Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/a/arbouretum-ritesofuncovering.jpg US Release Date: 2007-01-23 UK Release Date: Available as import

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Rough-hewn and mysterious, full of massive guitar freakouts and outsized drum beats, as well as whispered folky laments, this is Arbouretum's second disc, but the first to reach a wider audience. The band, led by David Heumann, the ex-Anomoan drummer and collaborator with Bonnie Prince Billy, borrows the heft and grandeur from classic rock heroes like Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. Yet there's nothing stale or historical about these slow-evolving songs. Every guitar solo feels like it is wandering in the wilderness, every call and response seems like a heart-felt plea for enlightenment. Notes unwind slowly, meditatively, as if some sort of truth might be uncovered simply by considering them. If you haven't heard Rites of Uncovering, and most people haven't, you missed the shaggiest, most psychotropic guitar rock record of 2007. An unacknowledged classic. Jennifer Kelly

Multiple songs: MySpaceArbouretum: Rites of Uncovering

Artist: Art Brut Album: It's a Bit Complicated Label: Downtown Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/a/artbrut-itsabitcomplicated.jpg US Release Date: 2007-06-19 UK Release Date: 2007-06-25

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Some people feel the same way on the subject of music about music that they do about writing about writing: that it's self-centered, self-indulgent, and self-important. Thankfully for Eddie Argos, those are the foundations of Art Brut, and inherent in what makes the arch irony of the band's songs work. Argos delivered a breakthrough debut on Bang Bang Rock & Roll in which the deadpan delivery of his spoken-not-sung, art-student-Ian Dury rhymes never stood a chance of masking the smirk. But rather than being insufferably self-centered, Art Brut's hook is songs using that casual, tell-it-like-it-is delivery to give emotions extra barbs. And so the band's natural irony goes meta in It's a Bit Complicated, reflecting on how music impacts everyday life, setting up recursive circles of thought without ever beating you over the head. Ultimately, though, Argos's Everyman characters are so easy to understand and relate to that songs about mixtapes seem honest rather than indulgent, and those of relationships between two colliding bodies coming together and falling apart never seem to wallow. It's all resignation and reflection on this disc, but there's so much more than surfaces at play that even the simplicity of the stories is charming. Patrick Schabe

Multiple songs: MySpace

Art Brut - Direct Hit

Art Brut: It's a Bit Complicated

Artist: Black Moth Super Rainbow Album: Dandelion Gum Label: Graveface Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/b/blackmothsuperrainbow-dandeliongum.jpg US Release Date: 2007-05-22 UK Release Date: Available as import

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It’s easy to understand why people might have been befuddled by Dandelion Gum, a concept album about wood dwelling witches cooking up candy for wandering strangers. Anonymity was something Black Moth Super Rainbow thrived on, hiding their gurgling pyschedelia behind pseudonyms, masks, and psychedelic artwork. The Pittsburgh-based five-piece didn’t just fly under the radar, they spat the radar back at us through an oscillator and robotic, vocodered vocals. Yet, despite the swathes of electronic detachment, Dandelion Gum sounded humane, born of the countryside, birthed in a secluded cabin with analog instruments by people with pseudonyms such as Tobacco, Father Hummingbird and The Seven Fields of Aphelion. Despite their psychedelic tendencies, the album was coated in a melancholic hue that proposed them as corduroy rather than tie-dye. Dandelion Gum was electronic music masked with a forlorn, introspective edge that should have seen them soar above those elusive radars and onto our record players. Kevin Pearson

Multiple songs: MySpace

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Sun Lips

Black Moth Super Rainbow: Dandelion Gum

Artist: Bloodlights Album: Bloodlights Label: Mateingerm Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/b/bloodlights.jpg US Release Date: Available as import UK Release Date: Available as import Germany release date: 2007-11-16

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The fine tradition of Scandinavian hard rock continued in 2007 with this debut offering from a Norwegian super group of sorts. Former members of Amulet, NPB, and Gluecifer came together on this one to lay out slick, punkish riffs and hooks aplenty. In the middle of all the catchy, window-rattling rhythms are lyrics that dance between bitter cynicism and refreshing self-awareness, tossed off with ease by dubiously named singer/guitarist Captain Poon. Poon’s frustration with phonies, shysters, and curb crawlers is apparent and especially palpable on highlight tracks “Where the Stars Don’t Shine", “Bullshit on Your Mind", and the hilariously titled “Bald and Outrageous". If anyone was keeping the spirit of ‘70s rock gods such as Thin Lizzy and T. Rex alive last year without sounding like some stupid nostalgia act, it was Bloodlights. Long live the Scandihooligans. James Greene

Multiple songs: MySpace

Bloodlights - Bloodlights

Bloodlights: Bloodlights

Artist: Burial Album: Untrue Label: Hyperdub Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/b/burial.jpg US Release Date: 2007-11-06

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In a year when dubstep matured into a multifaceted beast, this was a record that reached into the nights of the world’s strongest city and laid bare its deep and haunted pulse. Burial’s identity is a mystery but his unsequenced sound is inimitable, a sensuous yet chilling blend of the inexorable and the inescapable pressures of city life that, in the skeletal swing of its woodblock hydraulics, ethereally broken vocals, basslines like maternal abysses and static-rain-drenched midnight soul, enshrine the spirits of bygone rave and jungle. A shattered immensity of an album in which Burial has cast love’s absence like an angelic imprint in cold snow, Untrue embodies a breathtaking purity of aim and execution, timelessly captured for those lonely in the dark. The only record of 2007 to make me cry; if 2008 bears an album as great, it shall be a good year. Stefan Braidwood

Like his music, anonymity is an integral element behind the one-man project Burial, driven by an unknown somebody who refuses to reveal his identity. And so much has already been made of Untrue, his second album, and its various interpretations. Devastating is a word that has been variously thrown around describing it; it shamelessly champions murky, crackling electronica and freely toys with snippets of words like ‘love’, ‘care’ and ‘lied’. In truth, however, it’s more intimate and comforting, forming a protective, encompassing bubble out of nought but 40 minutes and a single computer. Untrue probes through the despair of a lost soul, grapples with the meaninglessness of day-to-day existence, and bustles with the afterglow of urban life, all summed up perfectly by its crabby human caricature on the front cover nursing a coffee mug. A withdrawn, unassuming record, you’ll find it inexplicably latching on, attaching itself to you. Andrew Blackie

Multiple songs: MySpaceBurial: Untrue

Artist: Café Tacuba Album: Sino Label: Universal Latino Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/cafe_tacuba_-_sino.jpg US Release Date: 2007-10-09 UK Release Date: Available as import

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Café Tacuba doesn't spin off into the wild tangents they could on this album, but they don't settle into one groove either. Instead they run through the different forms of classic rock and punk's heritage, chasing arena synths with underground bar snarls. Sino contains as many lovely sounds (thanks to the beautiful melodies and intricate arrangements) as any rock record this year, but singer Ruben Albarrán provides grit worthy of the oldest baseball writer. He shares duties, though, and the mix of vocalists flows well with the mix of styles. Throughout the changing disc, whether bouncing on Latin beats or lilting through open-air pop, the band maintains a cohesive overarching sound. It might not be the band's most ambitious work, but it's extremely listenable, whether you take that to mean "fun background" or "repeatedly rewarding to critical ears". It's pop art minus the pretension performed by great musicians, and it's a formula-less formula that can't fail. Justin Cober-Lake

Multiple songs: MySpace

Café Tacuba - Volver a Comenzar

Café Tacuba: Sino

Artist: The Chemical Brothers Album: We Are the Night Label: Astralwerks Label: Virgin Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/chemicalbrothersthe-wearethenight.jpg US Release Date: 2007-07-17 UK Release Date: 2007-07-02

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It's easy enough to dismiss any act that's been around for a decade and a half. There are lots of groups like that, for whom the blush of youth has faded, but the mantle of elder statesmanship is still slightly premature. The Chemical Brothers have entered their metaphorical middle-age with the kind of album that belies its status as their sixth -- how the time flies! Surely, this kind of sure-footed, eagerly adaptive record is the work of some fresh-faced kids, not a pair of globe-trotting "Superstar DJs". It's been long enough that half of the new electronic acts coming up through the ranks are listing the Chems among their influences, but the pair show no sign of being overtaken by history. This is strong, muscular dance music, and most importantly, it sounds hungry. Admittedly, their last couple albums haven't aged as well, but We Are the Night is the work of a group ready and eager to prove their relevance. It works like a charm: there still isn't anyone out there with the ability to make songs that sound quite like these. It may be true that they will never again scale the unimpeachable heights of their first few albums, but honestly, as long as they keep producing tracks as good as "Saturate" and "The Pills Won't Help You Now", does it really matter? Tim O'Neil

Multiple songs: MySpace

The Chemical Brothers - Do It Again

The Chemical Brothers: We Are the Night

Artist: The Cinematic Orchestra Album: Ma Fleur Label: Ninja Tune Label: Domino Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/cinematicorchestrathe-mafleur.jpg US Release Date: 2007-06-05 UK Release Date: 2007-05-07

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After a hiatus of five years and a move from London to Paris, Jason Swinscoe's outfit returned with the most subtle and sophisticated album of their career. Largely eschewing the jazz-licks, beats and samples that comprised their earlier work, this was a decidedly down-tempo record that revealed its charms slowly after repeated listens. Dominated by strings, keyboards and, unusually for them vocals. Lyrically the album dealt with themes of aging and mortality set against a procession of lushly orchestrated emotional backgrounds. Unafraid of silences there were moments when Swinscoe allowed proceedings to almost fall to a hush, before suddenly ushering in an exhilarating swell of wordless voices together with a rush of dense, soaring strings. Canadian newcomer Patrick Watson augmented the collective on several songs with his hauntingly androgynous vocals. The result was one of 2007's most surprising, not to mention moving, recordings. The US release was shorter and also marred by poor track sequencing so try and get hold of the UK version if possible. John Dover

Multiple songs: MySpace

Cinematic Orchestra - To Build a Home [Live at the Barbican]

The Cinematic Orchestra: Ma Fleur

Artist: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Album: Some Loud Thunder Label: Wichita Label: V2 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/clapyourhandssayyeah-someloudthunder.jpg US Release Date: 2007-01-30 UK Release Date: 2007-01-29

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Indie rock too affected for ya? Spent on twee? Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had an antidote. Dense and shambolic, their wrongly dismissed Some Loud Thunder was among 2007’s weirdest rebuttals to the above gripes. Its production work often hinted at preciousness but would then pummel it in shaggy storms of fuzz and rattle. A spirited clamor, befitting of Alec Ounsworth’s garbled, David Byrne-channeling voice, occasionally came out the other end. Yet patience with the album’s left turns revealed its colorful and alluring brand of pop -- the nervous swell of “Yankee Go Home”, the jangling parade march of “Underwater (You and Me)”, and, at the top, “Satan Said Dance”, which posited the Lord of the Flies as a dictatorial emcee, seeking only gyrations from his damned company. Easily the year’s most clever floor burner, courtesy of pale indie rockers. Barry Lenser

Multiple songs: MySpaceClap Your Hands Say Yeah: Some Loud Thunder

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