Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2007: Part 1

With a new blog name, new pen name, new everything this year, it makes sense to tackle the year in review a little differently from the last few years. Scrapping the traditional awards-style listing, and ignoring the countdown listings that everyone else does, here is just an all-things-equal review of a LOT of the music heard in 2007, broken over several parts this week. And only 1 mention of Amy Winehouse, promise!

Action Painters
  • Live Show
  • Record: Chubby Dancer
  • Songs: “Absolutely Clear”, “Sooner or Later”
Well it never worked out that a second Action Painters live review took place in 2007, but the random drunken entry on an August Thursday, just a few songs worth made a big impact. The Chubby Dancer EP justified what was heard, especially the lead off tracks, “Absolutely Clear” and “Sooner or Later”. The former could have been a hit single in the last 25 years and the latter is a modern rock power pop bit of heaven. If the band likes this kind of attention, they should personally thank ol’ Pennypacker’s crazy Latina ladyfriend, whose bootyshaking and drink pouring antics drove the old man out of the yuppie bar and in a cab to the Merc.


Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
  • Live Show
  • Record: Easy Tiger
  • Song: “Halloweenhead”
Quite a year for Ry. He limited himself to just one record and solidified his bond with the Cardinals. Neal Casal, Jon Graboff, Chris Feinstein, and Brad Pemberton, helped steer Ryan through his new, aware sense of the world around of him. “Halloweenhead” showed off the project’s ability to bust out a single so smoothly made that the rough edged vulgarity almost slips by entirely. The small show at the Hiro Ballroom was one of the highlights of the year, with a funny Ryan sounding excellent and the acoustics of the small room matching the band’s fluidity. The Halloween night mega-show was too long for its own good but the band still sounded in fine form. Here’s hoping Ryan has an even better 2008 and if not, there’s always DJ Reggie to fall back on.
"Halloweenhead" live at the Hiro:

Apples in Stereo
  • Live Show
  • Record: New Magnetic Wonder
  • Song: “Energy”
Sweet, syrupy, but nevertheless 3-chord bad ass fun, Robert Schneider’s Apples in Stereo is the most accessible spin-off of Elephant Six. Their LP was a treasure chest of single-friendly anthems, led by the begging-to-be-commercialized (in a good way) “Energy” and their live show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg was every bit as fun as it should have been. Hey! This summation was completed without using the word “Psychedelic”. Yes!


Art Brut
  • Live Show
  • Songs: “Direct Hit”, “People In Love”
Yeah, It’s A Bit Complicated was all right and “Direct Hit” and “People In Love” were the best tracks on it. “Direct Hit” in particular was a solid single. But let’s not kid ourselves. Art Brut is all about the live experience. Whether it was the headlining spot at the Highline Ballroom or opening for the Hold Steady at Terminal 5, it was proved that Art Brut’s songs are nothing without Eddie Argos’ spoken word engineering.
Direct Hit

“Atlas” by Battles
Seven-minute singles are really unheard of, now and pretty much ever, but New York math rockers Battles did just that. A song straight from Munchkinland in Hell, “Atlas” is a stomp-filled, metal-inspired opus that actually says something good about prog rock.

Band of Horses
  • Live Show
  • Record: Cease To Begin
  • Song: “Is There A Ghost”
They look like they should be a jam band but instead Band of Horses crafts an ethereal mix of Indie pop. Making South Carolina a respectable place to be, Ben Bridwell and company look past their “Weed Party” shenanigans for the magnificence of a single like “Is There A Ghost”. Admittedly it’s so simple as to be annoying, but Indie pop should always be this simple. Punk sensibilities never heart good pop music. Their Terminal 5 show was more than decent and kudos to Ben for actually mapping out the plan for everyone there: (Paraphrasing) “Ok so 2 more to go, and then we’ll come back out for four more, so six songs total and then you guys can go, OK?)

“Because I’m Awesome” by the Dollyrots
This is a really dumb song on a really terrible album by a pretty bad band. That being said, the song can be played on repeat for hours. It’s so good and so bad at the same time, it makes you want to listen to Little Steven’s Underground Garage all over again…and then turn it off forever.

“Been There All The Time” by Dinosaur Jr

One of the absolute singles of the year. Dinosaur Jr. has been through a lot over these many years and this ode to early 90’s-style fun-rock is a reminder that there’s been a lot of crap out there on the radio, and the old guard still do it better than anyone else. What a song.

Scott H. Biram
  • Live Show
  • Record: Graveyard Shift
Graveyard Shift is more than fine but it was the live show at the Luna Lounge, which has matasticized into a sprawling, experimental thing, that keeps Biram relevant and, more importantly, damn good.
Live in Texas:

Black Tie Revue
  • Live Show
Eh, take Code Fun for what you will. It grows on you but none of this matters as Pittsburgh’s BTR is one of the best live rock n’ roll bands around. A little power punk, a little garage, a little bar band-y, they cover all the bases equally without falling off the cliffs. Solid, solid, solid sets at the Cake Shop and Southpaw this year.

Cake Shop
The neatest little idea on Ludlow Street (and the Lower East Side and lower Manhattan for that matter), the Cake Shop really came into its own this year with a host of reviewed gigs (some great, some not) and a ton of other shows that didn’t make the Sonic Parthenon calendar but nevertheless assuredly tore the house down (The Clean, Jay Reatard, King Khan & BBQ Show, etc).

Camera Obscura

  • Live Show
  • Record: Let’s Get Out of This Country
Let’s Get Out of This Country came out in 2006 but was not heard by Pennypacker ears until this year. In retrospect, it was the Best Album of 2006 and will make a big claim on the Album of the Decade title in a few years. The band made two trips to New York this year, the second of which fell into the Sonic Parthenon purview. A beautiful, intimate set at Sound Fix Records in Williamsburg was one of the most singularly enjoyable moments possible (even with the ultra-packed crowd and a stomach ache). And the little stage banter between Obscura leader Traceyanne Campbell and this writer was as cute as it was sudden. It was so thoroughly a great gig, it inspired the birth of Sonic Parthenon TV. And the next night’s spectacle at the South Street Seaport should be wrapped up in a little box and held tightly forever. One of the best bands in the world, period.
SPTV at South Street Seaport:

SPTV at Sound Fix
Let's Get Out of This Country
If Looks Could Kill
Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken

Chicago (the city)
City-based scenes will come and go but take note of this one right now as it begins its ascent up. The Changes, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, and the 1990’s, are the vanguard in the Windy City’s more pop-infused efforts. The Changes were last year’s best new act and the latter two are duking it out for this year’s title (good thing the old award process was scrapped). And to top it all off, the garage rock sound is still being served well, namely by the continuing presence of the charmingly feisty Miss Alex White and the arrival of the Yolks. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa bands.
1900's at CMJ, SPTV:

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir at the Empty Bottle

The Changes' "When I Wake", video released this year:

The Yolks

Miss Alex White at CMJ, SPTV

CMJ Music Marathon
In accordance with the revamped spirit of this blog, this year’s CMJ was the first to be reviewed on all five nights. Wormburner and Looker owned night 1 but Mixtapes and Cellmates, by a razor thin margain, were the previously unknown act that became the find of the night and the marathon. Black Tie Revue kept things going on night 2 and then the Dirtbombs anchored the In The Red label show at the Mercury Lounge on night 3, with Jay Reatard, Miss Alex White, and Turbo Fruits helping out and then some. Night 4 started off with the sweet sounds of the 1990’s and Sahara Hotnights (and Drug Rug too for that matter) before the Dirtbombs brought it home at Southpaw. And Saturday night was a little return to the old Detroit days with the Hard Lessons in Brooklyn and the Dirtbombs in Hoboken. CMJ Personal Highlight: Chicks. CMJ Lowlight: Missing out on Looker’s house party down the block from the Dirtbombs gig. Drag.

Elvis Costello

  • Live Show
The May show at the Nokia was a lesson in legend. Dapper in a suit, with sparkly slippers to keep himself comfortable, Costello dished out “High Fidelity”, “Alison”, “Watching The Detectives”/”Let Him Dangle”, and “Welcome to the Working Week” among other chestnuts. Always independent minded, no one tells Elvis what to do and no one wants to.

“D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice

THE Hipster dance song of the year and giving Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” a run for its money. The child-turned-melisma drenched singing voice was disturbing but the beats brought it home. The Terminal 5 shows were missed but that’s probably the best way to treat that venue: as a dance club with DJ’s.

The Dirtbombs
  • Live Show
No new record, no matter. Five New York area shows by one of the best live bands in the world, and what do you expect? The end of the revolving door really seems to have meant something. This is the only Dirtbombs line-up this blog has ever known and it may as well stay that way. Great people, great band, great times. Next year, a new record (which already sounds great, by the way) and a return to the Bowery Ballroom. 2008 could very well be the Dirtbombs’ year.

“Don’t Let Him Change Your Mind” by Jarvis Cocker
One of the nicer, sweeter singles this year, from the Pulp helmsman. A likeable fellow with a loveable track.

Electric Six
  • Live Show
  • Song: “Dance Pattern”
This was the year that Electric Six was supposed to go away. Enough was enough. How much longer can someone parlay the Disco-Metal thing? And sure enough, a large chunk of the egregiously named I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master was D.O.A., how it was with Switzerland. But something happened: “Dance Pattern” was one of the best songs of the year, and the live show actually not only remained good, and not only improved from 2006’s mid-year funk, but the last outing was their best yet. And credit has to go to Dick Valentine for potentially making a serious impact on the culture with the phrase “put a little mustard on it”.
"Dance Pattern" live at Southpaw:

“The Equestrian” by Les Savy Fav
One of the more rollickin’ punk songs of the year, from an eclectic band whose live show is hyped to death but has yet to be reviewed here.
Hear it with this video

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