Monday, December 31, 2007

The Top Records of 2007 continued (Albums 16 - 40)

The Hot List - Day Two:

Spotlighting the best music of the year.
Listen to and download a track from each album before you buy.

The Top Albums #1 - 15
and now: Albums 16 thru 40
in no specific order..

Mason Proper -
There is A Moth In Your Chest.

I have no doubt today that Mason Proper is perhaps one of the top ten most underrated bands operating in the United States today. Perhaps this status is due to their most unusual songs or the fact they hail from Michigan. But good, my friend, is good! Their brilliance was recognized by New York label Dovecote Records this past year. And what resulted was this gem of a record. Expect very big things from this band in the next year - I am! Below you will find the most inclusive, detailed interview of the band to-date and my original album review.

Here's my original writeup on the album There is a Moth in your Chest.
The Secrets of Mason Proper Revealed: Two-Part RSL Interview!
Mason Proper - Myspace

Id Guinness -
Cure for the Common Crush.

Underground Album of the Year?
Pick this one up!

I really can't stress enough how much I have enjoyed this artist's material. Id is a Vancouver musician who has gone and created a phenomenal debut album. Rather than to go on about the man, why don't you just listen to the music and read my original review of the LP?

Ryan Adams -
Easy Tiger.

Guilty as charged. - I am certainly a fan. But I will never be a blind follower as the RSL review of this record clearly demonstrates. It's a somewhat scathing review of the artist's statements and deeds - but a glowing review of the music! (Confused? No worries - read on!) This mention of Ryan as a top 30 record of 2007 comes just days before the prolific performer releases another new record. Here is one of the most beautiful songs of the year:

Easy Tiger Review (must read!) on the RSL
Ryan Adams - Lost Highway page
Ryan Adams - Myspace

Rilo Kiley -
Under the Blacklight.

I am still not able to fully put into terms how fantastic Rilo Kiley was live on this tour. What a huge success - despite what some of you snobby hipsters might say - this album and its songs are brilliant! This record is a recipe for a live show and it works really, really well. This album got bashed about by some longterm purists. Hold your breath Rilo Kiley fans... This is my favorite record they have ever done. The sooner you get over it, the quicker you can enjoy this amazing, amazing record.

"Under the Blacklight" -Review of the RSL
Rilo Kiley - Official Web
Rilo Kiley - Myspace

Spoon -
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

There is nothing I can say that Britt Daniel or Spoon's music can't tell you. The songs are rich and full. The narratives are textured and interesting. A lot of people picked this Austin band's record as their favorite of the year - it would have been a sin not to make my list! Here's The Underdog:

Spoon - Official
Spoon- Myspace

Prints - the Prints EP.

I have to be honest - the self-titled Prints record is one of my favorite albums of the year but it found some pretty tough opposition and got pushed out of the top ten. Listen, download and then check these guys out!

Here's my writeup on Prints.
Prints on Myspace

Tim Williams -
When Work is Done.

After I interviewed the red hot Tim Williams, I predicted he would do great things. It was with great satisfaction that I worked with Dovecote Records (NYC) this year to help bring his rising star to Boston. Tim has had one hell of a year - and his accomplishments can all be tied to the success of this highly recommended album.

Tim Williams - Web - Myspace

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs -
the Is Is EP.

One of my favorite live bands, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs released the Is Is EP to hold their fans over until the next big release. A great little album and a tremendous band!

The YYYs official page
Hot Concert: The YYYs live in Australia!

Ween -
La Cucaracha.

Having just seen Ween in concert a few weeks ago, I am a fan renewed. The new material and the talent level of those tracks performed live are just amazing. If you waited and avoided getting to this band - now is the time to give them a try. The new album is extremely accessible and just damn good.

Ween - Web - Myspace

Battles - Mirrored.

Battles have been classified as a "math rock band." The awesome Mirrors album is the first they have produced with a singer. Hopefully this is the beginning of great things to come!

Great Northern -
Trading Twilight for Daylight.

This is one of the most most positive/upbeat albums of the year! I had occasion to review this one way back - before it came out. Here's a recap of my review and the incredible music video for "Home." The video was created by Winch & Pulley (CWK, Irving, the Shins, They Might Be Giants) in Los Angeles and was one of my favorite music videos this year!

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky.

I am guilty of not loving this album perhaps as much as I should. Wilco are one of the most talented groups in the world. Sky Blue Sky is a lovely album. Here is Walken:

Wilco - Official
Wilco on wikipedia

Fionn Regan -
End of History.

What a wonderful and most unexpected treat! Irish singer and performer Fionn played Boston (the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge actually..) and blew the doors off the place. (Surprise - that's what all his shows are like!) The tracks are individual and yet somehow cultural explorations as well. This stands as one of most impressive live shows I saw this year. Please pick up this album, absorb the sound and improve your life!

My write-up: Fionn Regan on Ryan's Smashing Life
Fionn Regan - Official
Fionn Regan - Myspace

Animal Collective -
Strawberry Jam.

I was lucky enough to be there at ground zero - day one of the current Animal Collective tour which opened up here in Boston. This group grows on you fast - like the moss that grows on old food in dorm room fridges! Lots of people downloaded this one early when it became available as a leak on torrent pages. The band didn't bat an eyelash. They just told people to listen to the album straight through as it was intended. I agree.

Here's my writeup on the Animal Collective.
Animal Collective's new video: Peacebone is released
Animal Collective - Myspace

Arcade Fire -
Neon Bible.

There wasn't a band on the receiving end of more hype in 2007 than Arcade Fire. Their tremendous Neon Bible album made for some great listening. The group continues to grow and evolve on this record!

Ryan Adams interviews the Arcade Fire: Hot Q&A
Arcade Fire on Myspace

David Vandervelde -
Nothin' No EP.

In June, Chicagoan David Vandervelde released a truly remarkable EP that changed the way my ear was hearing music in 2007. Rich and full songs with a little bit of bar-room in them - this is a must have EP!

David Vandervelde: Nothin' No
David Vandervelde on Myspace

Annie Lynch & the Beekeepers -

I couldn't have more pleasantly surprised when I booked this band into one of the RSL exposure gigs in 2007. Annie's new album (just out) was one of the latest albums to be added to this list - but it is very deserving of its place on the list. One of Boston's best kept secrets may not be a secret for very much longer. This is a band to watch in 2008.

My 2007 Album Review
Annie Lynch & the Beekeepers - Myspace

Tigers and Monkeys -
Loose Mouth.

This album rocks. I receive a lot of music in the mail each month but if a third of the records prove to be half as good as this one from New York's Tigers and Monkeys it would make things a hell of a lot easier for me. This CD literally came out of no where and has been in regular rotation at my house. Tigers and Monkey's Loose Mouth is a Top Record in 2007!

Tigers and Monkeys - Official
My plug of the Loose Mouth album: Review

Aaron English -
The Marriage of the Sun and the Moon.

In March I reviewed a most unlikely candidate for album of the year. Seattle singer-songwriter, pianist Aaron English and I crossed paths and I was (thankfully) able to listen to his music. Tremendous from the start, his strong music is sharp, bold and clean. He is the only musician in the I have ever compared to Peter Gabriel. Listen.

Here's my original writeup on Aaron English'sThe Marriage of the Sun and the Moon.
Aaron English - Official Web
Aaron English - Myspace

Beirut -
The Flying Club Cup.

Meet Zach Condon - the man behind the modern orchestral beauty that is Beirut. In 2007, Condon and the band released a remarkably and dreamy album that soothed souls and finished dreams. If you have never heard an instrument sing or a singer sound like a stringed instrument, you may want to listen to The Flying Club Cup. Recommended music!

Beirut - Web - Myspace

Voxtrot -
Voxtrot (LP).


As I write that Voxtrot is one of the greatest bands in 2007, I have my fingers crossed. Vocalist Ramesh has been recently hospitalized and subsequently released for medical reason(s) unspecified. I wish him a speedy recovery. The band plays here this Saturday and I certainly hope the show goes on. (I have the flu, so hopefully we'll both be there!) I have missed this great Austin band every time they have played here. Not only does Voxtrot rock, they also have their own little side project of note. The band's Jared Van Fleet just happens to "be" Sparrowhouse - one of my favorite indie acts of the last two years. Take a listen to Voxtrot:

Voxtrot on theRSL
Voxtrot - Official Web
Voxtrot - Myspace

Silverchair -
Young Modern.

The great Australian band is back and - in my mind, better than ever. Gone is the teen angst and the self-loathing. This is critically, the best album this group has ever put out. There are long-term fans out there who will disagree, but this is a huge departure from the lyrically-poor albums put out by this still-very-young and very much growing band. I was lucky to see the band play live at the Paradise Boston (thanks again East-West for squeezing me into an already sold out show!) and was not disappointed to say the least. This is a band with a cult following around the world and they are now starting to get good. I expect more to come. Check out the album review and enjoy this song!

RSL Album Review: Young Modern
Silverchair - Official
Silverchair - Myspace

Explosions In the Sky -
All of A Sudden I Miss Everyone.

We head back to Austin for this latest review. Explosions in the Sky released the Double-Length LP "All of A Sudden I Miss Everyone" this spring when everybody else wasn't paying attention. I literally stumbled across it on the new release shelf at Newbury Comics. "Oh Yeah. I forgot about this one!" What a happy accident. Instrumental and Rock Explosions ensued. This is a thoroughly enjoyable listen from front to back and I think I learned as much about myself from listening to it as I did the record. It's just that kind of powerful, trance-inducing stuff. For those unaware - there are skilled music technicians out there. Meet Explosions In the Sky.

If you are in Boston - the band plays 10/13, 10/15, 10/16 at the Orpheum!

Explosions In the Sky - Official
Explosions In the Sky - Myspace

Maps -
We Can Create.

Maps creator James Chapman

Northampton, UK is the site of our next musical discovery. James Chapman is a remarkable man. He had a musical concept and created all of its parts, painstakingly recording all the instruments and editing each, carefully, into a multi-track recorder. Then he finally brought the pieces together. The result is "We Can Create." The album was a bit raw but it met enthusiastic ears at the labels. The album was reproduced and Chapman was allowed to form a band to play his music. They are currently on tour. The sounds are insanely rich and full - certainly modern, but the experience is a human one. (We feel the breath pass through our longs and the coursing of the blood through our veins in these tracks.) Remarkable music!

Listen to Don't Fear here and then check out my initial review for another track!

The RSL Review of We Can Create
Maps - Myspace

Calvin Harris -
I Created Disco.

I wrote about Calvin Harris early this year - when he was making waves in the dance clubs of Europe but had not yet made a dent in the states or anywhere else overseas. The cat is waaaay out of the bag. "I Created Disco" is being enjoyed by tens of thousands of people right now and the remixes are proliferating daily. Nothing profound on this album - just great fun. Sometimes fun is enough! Check this one out.

Calvin Harris - Web - Myspace

ALBUMS 16 - 40 for 2007!

Click HERE for ALBUMS 1 - 15

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Annual Hot List: The 15 Best Albums of 2007

The Hot List - Day One:
TOP ALBUMS #1-15 in no particular order

Spotlighting the best music of the year.
Check out the review, listen and download a track before you buy.
It's 2007 - one record and song at a time!

Starting off with...
the 15 ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE albums of 2007!

Goodbye 2007.... What a phenomenal year for independent music releases, new techniques and return to style artists (flamboyant rock, country-influenced guitar, 1970s style dancehall, re-hashed funk, electronic evolution...) This is a triumphant year for musicians and small labels. It hasn't (as I am sure you are aware) been the best of times for the dinosaur labels - the gluttoned corporate giants are struggling to find their new place in the ever-changing world of music.

A Note on What Follows: These are my top 15 releases of 2007.
Over the next day I will be rounding this list up to the Top 40 Albums of the Year. Within two days, I will be sharing the thoughts of several readers, musicians I have talked with over the year, and slip in the thoughts of people from the promotions companies, the publicists, the folks from the small labels.... This promises to be the very best series of year end posts ever! I look forward to your feedback and we can all share our 2007 Album, Artist, Song and New Band of the Year together!

One further note: You will not find Radiohead's In Rainbows album in my top 15. I really like the album - but thought it was about time somebody else got a chance to shine. Cheer up guys, you are in everybody else's #1 spot, and I still love ya.

Please return in the days that follow to hear about lots more quality music. Happy New Years. The Critic, your humble host and friend - Ryan in Boston

On with the list... The Top 15 Albums of 2007...

The Handsome Furs -
Plague Park.

I put a ton of miles on Plague Park - the debut for The Handsome Furs. Dan Boeckner, Wolf Parade, and Alexei put out this incredible album this year. They got engaged and then got married. Dan's gone back to working with his Wolf Parade comrades but this is a reminder of just how good this dynamic duo can be! An album of the year candidate. The worthy tracks are dark and full of irony. Not sure what to make of that? Here is my favorite:

Here is my write-up on the Incredible Canadian indie rock scene: The Importance of "Being Wolf"
Handsome Furs - Myspace

Pop Levi -
The Return to Form Black Magick Party.

I knew this would be a top ten from the moment I first heard it in April. Meet Jonathan "Pop" Levi - one of the most talented musicians in the States right now. The former bassist for Ladytron, Levi can play several instruments and has a powerful inclination for making catchy music (think Prince but with a Seventies sound!) The Return to Form Black Magick Party is an absolute must have album! Fall in love with Hades Lady:

Pop Levi - Myspace

The National - The Boxer.

I was so damn lucky to see The National twice this year. One show was sold-out and the other was a "secret show" sponsored by a local radio station. The room capacity was less than 250 people. This band was always good - they are just brilliant in 2007. This album slide up on my appreciation scale as the year went on. An absolute must have record.

The National on the RSL
The National - Official Web
The National - Myspace

BONUS MATERIAL (up for a limited time):
The National's "Black Sessions" (live in Paris)

The Editors -
An End Has A Start.

If you didn't know it, Editors are one of the most improved bands in the world in 2007. That's saying something when you consider how good 2006 was to them and the band's audiences. The new album is "An End Has A Start." The lyrics are improved as is frontman Tom Smith's dramatic delivery. Also better these days: The Editors' instrumentation and song structures. Both are richer and far more textured than what we saw on the "Back Room" album. The first single released this year was the impressive "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" but my favorite is this one:

Editors leave their Mark on Boston: Live Show Review
Editors - Web / Myspace

Kings of Leon -
Because of the Times.

Perhaps the most unexpectedly addictive and fun album released this year came from Kings of Leon. Because of the Times is a more sophisticated album in a sense - the tracks are more developed and the music follows its course. One of the biggest compliments I heard about this album this year is that even people that don't like Kings of Leon couldn't help but fall in love with this release. An easy selection for the top ten of 2007.

Here's my original writeup on the album Kings of Leon - Because of the Times.
Kings of Leon - Web

Delta Spirit -
Ode to Sunshine.

The new album from the Delta Spirit proved to be one of the show stopper releases of the year! I knew the record would be good - but I could not be prepared for just how great the band has become through touring and practice. This album must be owned and listened to front to back!

Here's my original writeup on the album:
Highly Recommended: Delta Spirit's Ode to Sunshine.

Delta Spirit - Web/Myspace.

Modest Mouse -
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

The Rich get richer. Issac Brock and company made a wise decision by extending a hand to guitar genius Johnny Marr. What amazing results. Modest Mouse is now a household name. This album has produced enough hit songs to keep the band touring for years to come.

Here's my original writeup on the "Dashboard" VIDEO and mp3.
Modest Mouse - Myspace

Band of Horses -
Cease to Begin.

Some time over the last year, perhaps when you were blinking, Band of Horses went from relative unknown to up-and-coming indie rock act to become one of the absolute hottest bands in the world. The band released Cease to Begin this year and it is a must have record to add to your collection. A nearly sold out tour is underway. Boston sold out the band's January appearance in literally no time. I will be there.

There isn't much I can say that the music can't. Go out and buy this album.

The White Stripes -
The Icky Thump.

Stripes by Leibovitz

Jack and Meg White joined forces again this year to produce a powerful new album. There appears to be no way to slow down The White Stripes. The "Icky Thump" is arguably the greatest in the duo's career for a number of reasons. While less loud the songs on the record are more creatively (rather than emotively) driven. This could very well have been the turning point in the band's career. They could have turned back on themselves and continued to make the same records again and again. Instead, to everyone's good fortune, they headed off into new directions. All hail the White Stripes!

Here's my original writeup on the album The Icky Thump.
The White Stripes Storm Boston: Live Show Review!
The White Stripes - Web

Eldridge Rogriguez -
This Conspiracy Against Us.

2007 has seen Boston's own Eldridge Rodriguez (ER) temporarily shed his role as the frontman of The Beatings to pursue this remarkable solo project. The songs here are awash with emotional steel and adventures resulting in love lost. In April I was all over this record and my feelings haven't diminished with time. Rodriguez just released a quality follow-up EP that follows close in this album's tracks. Do yourself a favor and check out his catalog of material available on Midriff Records.

Here's my original writeup on the album This Conspiracy Against Us.
Eldridge Rodriguez - Myspace

LCD Soundsystem -
Sound of Silver.

With a 2007 Grammy Nomination - James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem can't be all that bad! With one foot in a kind of criticism of modernity (social narcissism, if you will..) and another in the far flung future - LCD Soundsystem straddles the door to the party! I was late in getting in on this album, but I have made up for it in time! Listen and learn what put LCD Soundsystem into the top 15 albums of the year:

LCD Soundsystem - Web/ Myspace page.

The Willowz -

The Seventies Sound revival was a common movement in independent rock this year but no one did it better than Southern California's the Willowz. The magic of this record is that it sounds like you driving down a dusty road on a hot summer day while being the perfect record to listen to on your ipod at work. It seems to be just about the perfect listening material... The Willowz (who are great people to talk to) released a totally lovable gem from out of nowhere. You cannot miss with this album! Here is one of the best songs of the year:

Here's my original writeup on the album Chautauqua.
The Willowz played Cambridge: Live Show Review!
The Willowz - Web / Myspace

Georgie James -

Georgie James is the duo of Laura Burhenn and John Davis

This album is worth every single penny. Not a bad song on the album but a few are truly exceptional! Meet Washington D.C.'s Georgie James. If I had to pick a favorite record - this one would be a strong contender. One of the strengths of "Places" is the varied styles and presentations put forth by the band through the album. No two songs are the same. Very creative and very, very good. Highly Recommended!

Here's my original writeup on the album Going Places - "Places".
Georgie James - Web / Myspace

Jesse Malin -
Glitter in the Gutter.

If you are new to the world of Jesse Malin then this one is a great start! What a tremendous album. I pretty much have this one memorized. When I last saw Jesse play (a few weeks back at T.T. the Bears in Cambridge) there was a mass of fans singing along with him. The man grows more popular every day. And for good reason. This album should be owned. There probably isn't much I can say further than what his songs will do for you. Here is one of my favorites from the new album. Check out the review and get to a live Malin show soon.

Here's my original writeup on the album Glitter in the Gutter.
Jesse Malin's incredible Boston performance: Live at Great Scott!
Jesse Malin - Web

Okkervil River -
The Stage Names.

I have been a fan of all things Austin. Okkervil River released a monster (a beautiful monster!) in 2007 with The Stage Names. The band (Will Sheff, Jonathan Meiburg, Zachary Thomas, Travis Nelsen) have become one of the best acts in the states and are still (somehow) an unknown quantity amongst many music fans. The band is now in the Jagjaguwar Records stable (one of the best indie labels in the world right now!) and things look hella promising for 2008. I have included the John Allyn Smith Sails track from Stage Names. Listen for the Sloop John B treatment the band gives it. Excellent!

Okkervil River - Web / Myspace page.


(the list continues!)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

An End _ A Beginning: New Years with Radiohead


I have done very little talking about Radiohead to date this year. The band will appear on my Best of 2007 List (The Top 40 Albums of the Year). So, while I was obviously impressed, I have fawned or stood there with mouth agape. The band doesn't need my help either. That doesn't mean I don't know a great opportunity when it appears.

Thom Yorke and the band will be playing the new In Rainbows album front to back, live, on New Years Eve. The event will be brought to you commercial free on Current TV from the band's Oxford (UK) studio. For music enthusiasts and Radiohead-fanatics, this show is a dream come true. Even if you're not yet a love slave for Radiohead, this show promises to be worth a look.


From the In Rainbows album:
Radiohead - Bodysnatchers

Live In Boston:
Radiohead - Bodysnatchers (Live - 6.5.06)
Listen as Thom Yorke announces the "new song"


A special performance by Radiohead, will be aired exclusively in the USA by Current TV on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The band will be performing all of the tracks from its newest album, In Rainbows, for a taped, private, hour-long performance, which will run commercial-free on Current TV and on simultaneously.

“We are pleased to partner with Current for its innovative spirit” said Phil Costello, head of TBD Records, Radiohead’s US record label.

Airing on Current TV
Check your local listings

December 31, 2007:
9 p.m. PST / 12 a.m. EST
10 p.m. PST / 1 a.m. EST

January 1, 2008:
5 a.m. PST / 8 a.m. EST
6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST

Another Indie Gem in '07: HIS NAME IS ALIVE

ON FURTHER REVIEW: I revisit some of the best records I wrote about this year....

His Name is Alive is a quality Michigan band producing some pretty mind-bending, exotic music. The band does some high-end genre jumping (for examples of this -dwell for a minute on the diverse but quality records released over the years by Yo La Tengo and David Bowie.) HNIA is about to release the new record XMMER. I suggest you ask for it by name as I fear even your finer indie record stores may accidentally leave this one off their purchase lists.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - The record was released on Sept 18th

Close your eyes and listen to His Name is Alive's "Put It In Your Mind." First of all just know the song is an obvious guitar homage. There are no apologies needed - just an understanding in fact. Embrace the quality - get hypnotized by the track and production. By the time you have finished listening you come to realize the album should be on "repeat." There will be no need to get up from your seat anytime soon.

Web / Myspace

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Best of '07 continued: THE FORMS

ON FURTHER REVIEW: I revisit some of the best records I wrote about this year....

A favorite hobby: Getting lost between the notes of great new music. But locating new quality artists and exploring exceptional new songs can be tough. (Especially when there is just so much mediocre noise on the airwaves and playing in the malls.)

I listen to a great deal of new artists and unfortunately, due to time restrictions, find I am still am not able to share enough quality new projects like "The Forms" with you. The Forms have a fresh sound, but they are not a new band (this is their second full length album - and their first in four years, but it has the feel of a fresh start and a good one at that!)

The self-entitled release: Fun Fare

Another Great Release in '07 - HOT SPRINGS

ON FURTHER REVIEW: I revisit some of the best records I wrote about this year....

All in the spirit of discovery - During a weekend fall foliage session and a visit to friends in Vermont, I packed my bag and plotted a trip north. I was armed with six still-sealed, completely new artist albums which I happily used my teeth to open while I made my way north. This is how I discovered a new favorite band from old Montreal.

Hot Springs is a four piece band with some wicked hot hooks and a great singer in Giselle Webber. The band just released their Volcano album in '07 and are making some seriously fun waves - check out these tracks and put this band on your radar! The Volcano album is definitely worth owning. Hot Springs. You heard it here first!


The "Volcano" album


38th Adventure

Hot Springs' Giselle Webber rockin' it!

Check out Giselle's side project: Giselle Numba One!

Official Web / Myspace

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 Recap: Jude and the Low Stars

ON FURTHER REVIEW: I revisit the best artists and material I wrote about this year....

In a world of entertainers
Jude Christodal
stands out

I listened to the demos of some songs by The Low Stars back in February of this year - (wow, almost a year ago at this point...) It was a relatively hard to find indie recording at that time. Since then I ran into the album in a Starbucks when I popped in to get a dark roast and an expresso... What a difference a few months makes. At the heart of the Low Stars is Jude Christodal - a talented singer songwriter who goes by simple stage name "Jude." He was born and raised in the Boston area by a music-loving family. At some point the artist in Jude felt the westward pull to Los Angeles and there he went to pursue his passion. He wrote music and performed at open mike nights. Somewhere along the way he got really good.

Jude's latest project - "the Low Stars"

Opportunity knocks only so often. Low Stars found theirs by teaming four singers (including Jude) who share a passion – for vocal harmonies originally inspired by Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Eagles. Listening to this music is like listening to your own heritage. Solid songs!

Check out these links: