SEWERS OF MARS #7: Special Year-End Edition

Music Features
SEWERS OF MARS #7: Special Year-End Edition
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Dec 25, 2007, 06:14

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What a year for music! As CD sales continue to decline (down a whopping 18% from last year, at last count), those of us who still believe in the myriad powers of music-as- commodity have been rewarded with a king's ransom of incredible releases this year. Here are my favorites.

NEIL YOUNG Chrome Dreams II CD (Reprise) Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II

Uncle Neil on his very worst day beats almost anyone else on their very best. So when you listen to Chrome Dreams II – a return to form that not even the most apologetic and optimistic Broken Arrow archivist could have expected – you wonder why you ever doubted the dude in the first place. The unearthed “Ordinary People” is a stone cold classic and the equal of most of Neil's classic extended jams. Anyone who tells you otherwise is jaded or dumb. It' be a fluke if the rest of the album weren't so terrific, but Chrome Dreams II runs the gamut – Hippie Neil, Grunge Neil, Sentimental Neil, Country Neil and Angry Neil are all here. His guitar tone remains the most distinct in all of rock, and he still sings with more passion than imitators a third his age. Album of the year! AMAZON

SHOOTER JENNINGS The Wolf CD (Universal South Records) Shooter Jennings - The Wolf

If you omit just a couple of songs (one featuring a ‘rap,' the other a fairly innocuous Dire Straits cover), Waylon's son has made a perfect album. The Wolf is full of top notch songwriting, lyrics that don't make you cringe, inspired production, and great playing throughout, and bests both every nu-country album of 2007 (as well as any hipster ass ‘insurgent country' shit) by an Alabama mile. Shooter also holds the distinction of being a Fortunate Son most worthy of his rhinestone legacy. Beating the odds has to count for something, no?  AMAZON

TYVEK Summer Burns 2x7” (What's Your Rupture?) Tyvek - FAST Metabolism

Of all the new bands to crawl out of the woodwork this year, I'm most excited about a Michigan group called Tyvek, who recently released a killer double 7” on What's Your Rupture Records. Not to gas the lads up too much, but what I hear on this single is Electric Eels with better tunes. Easily the best of an endless rabble of upstart punk bands inspired by the second coming of Siltbreeze, Tyvek make their immediate peers seem as short on ideas as they are on tunes, and it'll be very exciting to see what they do in 2008.Â

ANGELS OF LIGHT We Are Him CD (Young God) Angels of Light - We Are Him

We Are Him is Michael Gira's first bona fide masterpiece since disbanding the Swans. Here's what I said: “Backed by members of Akron / Family, among others, the meticulously layered instrumentation is the perfect foil to Gira's dry, menacing vocals. Dirges and rockers sit side by side as songs are built on a single hiccupping electric guitar lines, trippy drones, and Akron / Family's collective vocal prowess, used to great effect throughout. Absolutely perfect.” AMAZON

THE HOWLING HEX XI CD (Drag City) The Howling Hex - XI

Neil Michael Hagerty continues to amaze on this exciting set of tunes. In case you missed it: “Hagerty's ability to keep us guessing while keeping us glued to our seats continues with this new one, on which his quest for an entirely democratic musical situation is finally realized. Here, all five members of the ‘Hex contribute songs and vocals for the first time. The Hag himself is only credited with authoring a third of the album, and sticks to playing bass (relax – it does have six strings!) and only occasionally sings lead, and while his excellent guitar work is missed, the relative breadth and dynamic range of the new and improved unit is astounding. The Hag's insistence on following his muse, even if it leads him to fretless basses and spoken word parts, makes him a true artist in the classic model, and makes XI one of 2007's best albums.” AMAZON

MAGIK MARKERS Boss CD (Ecstatic Peace!) Magik Markers - Boss

Boss is not only the band's defining moment, but a defining moment for noise rock and underground music in general. Elisa Ambrogio has never sounded as fiery or fired up, and drummer Pete Nolan is in magnificent form throughout. Sonic Youth-isms abound, naturally (Lee Ranaldo produces and contributes), but Ambrogio's hyper literate lyrics and evocative vocals in particular put an indelible stamp on Boss that lesser bands work years trying to cultivate. It seems clear that there's a whole new generation of wide and wild-eyed kids out there making a racket, trading spray-painted cassettes and cashing in their Lollapalooza tickets for a three day No Fun Fest pass. For those kids, Boss will be their In Utero.” AMAZON

MICHIO KURIHARA Sunset Notes CD (20/20/20) Michio Kurihara - Sunset Notes

Ghost / White Heaven guitarist Michio Kurihara's solo album exceeds even the highest expectations. Kurihara may be the first truly convincing psychedelic guitar hero since Keiji Haino. Sunset Notes features E-bow a plenty, batshit flirtations with surf rock, even obligatory female vocals on a couple of tracks. But mostly this is just a killer guitar album for air shredders and peyote hustlers alike.” AMAZON

ARTHUR & YU In Camera CD (Hardly Art) Arthur & Yu - In Camera

“Packaged in a cover design I wouldn't look at twice, In Camera is a terrific update on the indie pop formula of yore. Everything on In Camera sounds so natural and unforced, and the result is a beautiful pop album that sounds as immediately timeless as Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister. The right influences go along way, and you just know these guys have spent ample time with their Galaxie 500 LPs. Sweet.” AMAZON

FORGOTTEN WOODS Race of Cain CD (20 Buck Spin) Forgotten Woods - Race of Cain

More consistently brutal than their previous work (which sounded as much like The Cure as it did Emperor), Race of Cain cements the underrated band's reputation for total savagery and makes as good a case for the future of black metal beyond its current role as indie rock fad.” See also: Wolves in the Throne Room's Two Hunters. AMAZON

EXREMELY HONORABLE MENTIONS :

EARTH Hibernaculum CD + DVD (Southern Lord) GANG GANG DANCE Retina Riddim CD – DVD (The Social Registry) BLUES CONTROL Puff LP (Fuck It Tapes) JAY REATARD “I Know A Place” 7” (Goner) SHEARWATER Palo Santo 2xLP (Matador reissue) ROISIN MURPHY Overpowered CD (EMI) SIC ALPS Strawberry Guillotine 7” (Woodsist) VIETNAM s/t CD (Kemado) WOLD Screech Owl CD (Profound Lore) SLOUGH FEG Hardworlder CD (Cruz Del Sur) WHITE HEAVEN Out CD (PSF reissue) NOTHING PEOPLE “In The City” 7” (Ss Records) FIRE ON FIRE s/t EP (Young God) VELVET CACOON Northsuite LP (Full Moon Productions) FROM BEYOND s/t 10” (self-released) SPOON Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga CD (Merge) GEORGE BRIGMAN Rags in Skull CD (Bona Fide) BILL CALLAHAN Woke On A Whaleheart CD (Drag City) SIX WAYS TO AVOID THE EVIL EYE s/t LP (One Tree) MONARCH! Dead Men Tell No Tales 2xCD (Crucial Blast) BRAIN DEGRAW Sonic The Warhol LP (Brown Sounds) PURE Fetor CD (Freak Animal reissue) PIG DESTROYER Phantom Limb CD (Relapse) KAMIJO Martha CD (Shadoks reissue) LIGHTS s/t CDR (self-released) THURSTON MOORE Trees Outside The Academy CD (Ecstatic Peace!) BASALT FINGERS s/t LP (Three Lobed) WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM Two Hunters CD (Southern Lord) A.R.E. WEAPONS Modern Mayhem CD (Defend) BLACK LIPS Good Bad Not Evil CD (Vice) OAKLEY HALL I'll Follow You CD (Merge) WITCHCRAFT The Alchemist CD (Rise Above)

So you see, even in light of an industry on the brink of (self-imposed) disaster, bloggers and hipsters more cynical / ungrateful / misinformed than ever, the rise of the ‘ringtone' as a viable medium, and an abomination called Guitar Hero, there is still much to be excited about and inspired by. Believe it. Merry Christmas, and see you next month.

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