By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
It’s enough to make you dig a hole and listen to nothing but Kinks records for the winter: so much stuff out there and so many people ranting and blogging and IMing and YouTubing about it that it feels like we’re perpetually in the middle of a (Bit-)torrential downpour. It’s overwhelming. Whenever will we be able to catch up? Even this morning I discovered two more ’07 albums that I had yet to hear — which are now my new favorites (James Blackshaw’s The Cloud of Unknowing and Susie Ibarra’s Drum Sketches). And then there are albums that I loved in ’07, such as M.I.A.’s Kala, that have received so much ink, sucked so much bandwidth, that any words at this point seem wasted. Google “Sound of Silver” and “best of the year” and 12,500 hits come up. Do you care what I think about LCD Soundsystem? Me neither.
I’m opting out of that conversation in service of a different mission: to pull you aside, sit you down over coffee or a beer or a single malt and offer a little list of musical gems that have been overlooked or underappreciated in year-end roundups. If you want to know about the Super Size records, you can log on and get blasted with 280,000 reasons why Radiohead’s In Rainbows is one of the year’s great releases. But there were so many modestly brilliant records — exquisite, germinal masterpieces that, 20 years hence, will be being rediscovered and reissued (hopefully by the Numero Group) that it seems silly to crow on and on about “Bird Flu” when many tracks ascended alongside of it. Here are some of them, in no particular order.
Marissa Nadler,Songs III: Bird on the Water(Kemado)
The memory I have of Marissa Nadler is of her standing onstage at Spaceland in August, a vision in front of that blue sparkly curtain, four microphones set up, each with a different reverb effect on it. Over the evening, she moved from mike to mike depending on the desired sound, often in the course of the same song. “Diamond Heart,” the first track on this Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s third album, begins with this rhyme: “So do you know I’m a dancer now/With red painted lips and a Jezebel crown.” A touch precious, perhaps, but when sung in Nadler’s breathy, echoed voice, as sturdy and unwavering as Joan Baez in her prime, it sounds like a perfectly cast bell struck by a velveteen mallet. Nadler recalls Hope Sandoval when she covers Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” her voice carrying as though she were standing in the center of a basilica, overtones and reverb creating ghosts and gusts.
No Age,Weirdo Rippers (Fat Cat)
No Age write no-bullshit songs. No fat. Pure focus: a few minutes in, bang, done, see you later, next song. The best two-piece punk band in the country? Holy crap, these guys kill. One dude, Dean Spunt, on drums, the other guy, Randy Randall, on guitar, both singing and combusting as if slammed by a hammer. Ragged, distorto guitar shows the influence of the noisier areas of the Smell scene. I’ve seen them three times in the past three months, and they’ve blown my head each time. Take a song like “Neck Escaper.” It manages to bleed both shoegaze and hardcore, lobbing a hissing melody in the air like a Roman candle. Like all great songs this year, from Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” to Radiohead’s gorgeous, perfect “House of Cards,” No Age’s best tracks sound predestined, as though forces much greater than we can possibly appreciate created them. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
Boxcutter, Glyphic (Planet Mu)
Burial’s getting all the ink this year from out-of-touch rock writers looking for a hip, beat-based electronic record to toss into their lists and make them seem more well-versed than they actually are. The second Burial album, Untrue, is indeed deep, subharmonic dubstep, the British subgenre that has its seeds in London’s drum & bass and 2-step scenes. But diva vocals usually annoy me, and Untrue is teeming with them. In sheer meditative depth and rattle-your-bones vibe, Boxcutter’s Glyphic, released on Mike Paradinas’ consistently great Planet Mu imprint, hits a sweeter spot. Boxcutter loves that warbly bass of first-wave acid house and jungle, and drags scattershot Aphex Twin–style snare patterns into his six- and seven-minute tracks. Most important, he seems to understand the underlying philosophy of his music’s genetic forefather, Jamaican dub: Echo is your friend, and so is bass, and so is silence — and in that combination lies a potent recipe.
David Karsten Daniels,?Sharp Teeth(Fat Cat)
Perhaps it was the context: driving along PCH near Big Sur, sunroof open, listening to North Carolina–based Daniels, with a small backing chorus, singing a mantra: “There is a joy that you can’t contain/There is a feeling you just can’t explain.” Those are the song’s only lyrics, and they start out small. After the first eight rounds, the supporting music starts to get bigger: The guitar is joined by a humming keyboard and a few voices, then a violin creeps in, then a drum and a bass, all the while Daniels singing in a Will Oldham–esque warble, over and over, “there is a joy that you can’t contain” as then a larger chorus comes in with a magical “ahhhh.” It reminds me of composer Gavin Bryars’ stunning “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” a mantra that evolves at a glacial pace and gradually morphs from something small to something huge. Daniels delivers his songs with a weary resolution that contains a trace of anger, or sorrow, or something. Sharp Teeth isn’t perfect, but it’s a really nice thing.