The Aught Music contributors (myself included) are getting close to the end. This week has seen the start of the best tracks of 2008, with the final year set to begin in the next two weeks or so. So, as I say with every update, keep checking the blog out before we reach the conclusion. Free downloads and samples are available with every track, along with some wonderful memories, analyses, and deconstructions. Here are my write-ups for the best tracks of 2007.
1.) "Impossible Germany" by Wilco (from the album Sky Blue Sky)
Even today, I'm still on the fence in regard to my opinion of Sky Blue Sky as a whole. I genuinely like the album, but I don't get the same intangible feelings generated by their earlier works. Also, I remember reading more than one review that classified it as Jeff Tweedy's "happy album." With Wilco's music, there's usually so much more to think about in terms of music and lyrics, so determining or classifying an album by so generic an emotion as 'happy' or 'sad' seems utterly pointless. However, this is my favorite song featured. There's a definite melancholy in the lyrics:
But I know you're not listening
Oh I know, you're not listening
If this is supposed to be "happy," then the reviewers must be borderline suicidal. A lot of Wilco songs seem to deal with strains in communication and understanding between two parties, and "Impossible Germany" is an excellent example of this. Also, despite the well-documented control that Tweedy has over Wilco's sound and production, this track feels like a true group effort.
2.) "Don't Make Me a Target" by Spoon (from the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga)
This track is deceptively simple. I went through a few different ideas for a write-up on this one, but nothing seemed to work. More than once, I've written about some songs here sounding like inspired jam sessions, and this one is no different. A little research on Wikipedia proved my hypothesis correct, as it states that Britt Daniel and company went through quite a few trials on this track, attempting to find the best sound. The bass line is blunt, and the lyrics work almost like a protest song against an ambivalent but worrisome opponent. The final two lines offer what sound like some awesome novel titles:
Clubs and sticks and bats and balls
For nuclear dicks with the dialect drawls
They come from a parking lot town
Where nothing lives in the sun.
3.) "Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth" by The Brunettes (from the album Structure & Cosmetics)
This song never gets old for me. It's a sly wink at pop music, both as criticism and homage. Take these lyrics on their own, separate from the song:
I love to call you 'baby'
When we're this spaceship
Sappy? Yeah. Surreal? A little. But the Brunettes know exactly what they're doing, making this an intentional mashup of pop, rock anthems, and a little bit of soul for good measure. However, the kicker is that it doesn't feel like any sort of hipster irony; there's a lot of love here. I've put this track on countless mix compilations for people, yet nobody seems to share my enthusiasm. This always gives me a little boost of energy.
4.) "My Moon My Man" by Feist (from the album The Reminder)
The abstract idea of "cute" depends on personal opinions, and can be used as an insult ("oh, that was cute.") However, Feist is one of the few musicians who can use cuteness as a benefit to their music. She sounds adorable here. While at first glance that may sound chauvinistic, it's anything but—her voice is stunning, her songwriting is terrific, and her sweetness works in stark contrast to the lyrics, which aren't as bouncy as the sound would imply:
My moon and me
Not as good as we've been
It's the dirtiest clean I know
Along with '1234,' this song was inescapable for quite some time. But going back, it hasn't lost any freshness, and Feist, in video and song, always makes me smile.
5.) "No Cars Go" by Arcade Fire (from the album Neon Bible)
Quite a few Arcade Fire tracks, if not all of them, are almost begging to be heard live. "No Cars Go" is no exception. This is the indie-rock answer to the stadium anthems of the likes of U2 and the Rolling Stones. In 2007, I saw them perform this live at the Chicago Theater, and the acoustics of the venue were literally perfect for the rise and sonic atmosphere. The lyrics are simple and beautiful, but the music here always draws my complete attention. The background vocals serve as separate instruments, creating a stunning blend.
6.) "Plasticities" by Andrew Bird (from the album Armchair Apocrypha)
They'll fight, they'll fight
They'll fight for your neural walls
And precious territory
As much as it fits the other songs and atmospheres of Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird's "Plasicities" feels like it would have blended well on his previous work, The Mysterious Production of Eggs. With an amazing "orchestral-pop" backdrop and lyrics that blend art and science, this track represents the best of Mr. Bird. This song is especially poignant. The "they" mentioned feel especially ominous, paired with the battle cry to reclaim space, thoughts, and independence. It's indie pop meets dystopian future landscapes. This may not have been his original intention, but if a track can lend itself to such wild possibilities, that's not a bad thing.
We're almost done!