On Saturday night, a bunch of us were out celebrating Shannen and Gary’s birthdays. My memory of the evening is a bit hazy, but I seem to remember Shannen demanding some new columns from both Gary and myself, or we would no longer be allowed to play with Dan. Since Gary’s much-talked-about-but-never-actually-written book report of some book that he may or may not have ever even read will probably never materialize, I guess it’s on me to write some stuff for everyone’s favourite blog about the Fullertons.
I think I’ll fire up my new writing campaign with a big 4-part review of my favourite albums of 2007. I’ll get to the start of my top-16 albums of the year in the next column… for now, I’d like to write something about some albums from good artists that I thought for sure would be among my favourites of the year, but ultimately ended up being pretty dissapointing for various reasons.
ALBUMS THAT WEREN’T GOOD ENOUGH
Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City
Huge expectations can be unfair to a young band, but that’s what happens when your debut album is one of the best albums of the decade (2005’s Silent Alarm). A Weekend in the City is alright, but Bloc Party seem to have decided that they want to be (and can be) the next big British pop-rock band, which seems to have screwed up their priorities. Singer Kele Okerere’s voice has been pushed to the front of the mix, while their previously-badass rhythm section pushed to the back, sounding like an afterthought. The quality of their rhythm section was what separated them from so many other similar bands, and to bury it like they did does nothing but neuter their sound. Also, when the quality of a band’s lyrics fluctuate from “really good and thought-provoking” all the way to “pretty embarassing and bad”, it’s not always a good idea to force the listener to focus on them. Anyway, it’s a decent album, but ultimately pretty dissapointing.
Interpol – Our Love to Admire
Another album with huge expectations, Interpol’s latest fell a bit flat. They moved to a bigger record label for Our Love to Admire, so maybe that’s part of the problem here – the slow building moody rock songs with sweet jams on the back end have, for the most part, been replaced with fairly standard pop-rock songs, something the boys in Interpol are just too sad/moody/too cool to pull off. There are some really great songs here, including the awesomely titled “No I in Threesome” and album (and live show) opener “Pioneer to the Falls”, but this album is just not nearly as awesomely consistent as their first two. It does get bonus points for some pretty great cover-art, though.
Kanye West – Graduation
Never known as a particularly good lyricist, Kanye has always been able to drop at least a couple of really memorable/catchy lines per album that make people that don’t know a whole lot about rap and hiphop think he’s better than he is. I can’t think of a single one on Graduation. His rhymes are generic, and the subject matter of his rhymes is, for the most part, pretty boring (designer clothes, drunk girls, more designer clothes) which wouldn’t be very surprising on most hiphop albums, except that Kanye once wrote “Jesus Walks”, so expectations are a bit higher. And I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about the song he did with Chris Martin. What a disaster. All that said, “Stronger” was the single of year, which sort of makes most of the rest of the album all the more dissapointing. Moving on…
Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War
I think I’ve reached the point with Stars where everything Torquil Campbell does, says or sings is so annoying that it totally overshadows the rest of the band. I love Amy Millan’s voice, but when she only sings on half the album, it means the album can only be half good. While it was pretty cool of them to release this album for free on their website months before it’s in-store release, Torq’s lame, whiny open letter to pitchfork about their review (which was actually pretty generous, I thought), left a bad taste. Plus this album’s just kind of boring compared to their others, which really doesn’t help anything.
New Pornographers – Challengers
This is a good album that I haven’t heard nearly enough. I know that AC Newman and Neko Case sound as great as ever, and the band sounds as tight and focused as always. This album probably suffers a bit from having way too many ballads and slower songs on it than previous albums, but maybe they’re getting old and can’t rock as hard as they used to. I don’t know. I really didn’t give this album a fair shake – I heard it a few times, it didn’t wow me, and then I sort of forgot about it. It deserves a re-visiting, though I’m still not sure that it’d crack the prestigious “Top 16 of 2007”.
Caribou – Andorra
Caribou (once known as Manitoba until a lawsuit forced him to change it up) is the stage name of Dundas, ON’s Matt Snaith, a math nerd who’s really good at making music with his computer that sounds like a live band. This album is really pretty great – a beautiful mix of electronica, pop rock, and shoegaze, and could easily have cracked the Top 16, but I didn’t listen to it enough times. I got it at the same time as a bunch of other albums, and it took a bit of a back seat. I guess I could make my list a Top 17, but I don’t feel like it, so Caribou gets left out in the cold. Sorry buddy.
Alright, that’s all I can think of, for now. I’ll be back sometime soon with albums 16-11.