Friday, December 21

Mr Dogg's Top 25 of 07: 5-1

5) Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
In ’07, indie rock’s most grandiose and dramatic band returned, grander and more dramatic than ever before. With its sweeping choruses and lifting arrangements, Neon Bible is a true album, consistent in quality, feeling, and theme. As far as quality goes, tracks like “Neon Bible,” “Keep the Car Running,” and “Intervention” are on par with their fines work, while the awe-inspiring swell of “(Antichrist Television Blues)” is not only their most well crafted song, but one of the best songs of the decade. The theme and feeling of the album, one of loss, foreboding, fear and trepidation, but not without a sense of hope, carries throughout the record. Sure, Neon Bible might blow the bad times out of proportion, but not without harping on the good that may come.

Don’t Miss: Intervention, (Antichrist Television Blue), Keep the Car Running, Neon Bible, Ocean of Noise, No Cars Go

4) Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings
Who would have thought an album influenced by 8-bit Nintendo samples and frozen computer blips would also be the most sincerely fun album of ’07? Shockingly, Spiderman of the Rings is just that; a tour-de-force of wacky, fractured dance music. Deacon is a bit like Willy Wondk, a cracked genius inviting the listener to tour his factory of high pitched whines, cat synths, and Saturday morning cartoon character samples. Sure, it’s a little scary at first, but if allowed, Spiderman of the Rings will coax you into a glass elevator of sound and invite you to a place where everyone plays drums and sings.

Don’t Miss: The Crystal Cat, Wham City, Trippy Green Skull, Snake Mistakes, Pink Batman, Jimmy Roche

3) Against Me! – New Wave
It’s getting really hard to defend these guys against the increasingly loud “Sellout!” shouts coming from the punk community, what with their MTV commercials and their upcoming tour with stadium all-stars and ticket price increase inducing Foo Fighters.

Perhaps the best weapon in Against Me!’s arsenal against these naysayers is New Wave, the best punk / rock / punkrock record of the year. Butch Vig’s grungy gloss not only gives the Florida punks more push, but takes nothing from their give-em-hell attitude and their “stand for something” attitude. From the opening notes of “New Wave,” its obvious that all the commercials and tours and record gloss and major label singings don’t mean a god damn thing; New Wave is the sound of a band hitting their stride, and challenging the rest of the world to keep up.

Don’t Miss: New Wave, Thrash Unreal, Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart, Piss and Vinegar, The Ocean, Americans Abroad

2) LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
When Ben Folds said “everybody know / it sucks to grow up,” he did it with his tongue in cheek as a catchy one-liner for a piano ballad. When James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem say the same thing, the spend an entire album doing it, and making one of the most heart-wrenching dance albums of all time in Sound of Silver. There’s a lot to get down on here; tunes like “Watch the Tapes,” “Get Innocuous,” and “Us v Them” are all so tight and dance floor ready that you’d be shocked to hear it was made by people and not machines. Murphy’s dry wit is still present on “North American Scum,” a track that both pays tribute to this fine section of the hemisphere while taking the piss out of the more electro-friendly folks in Europe.

However, it’s the two song movement of “Someone Great” and “All my Friends” that make this record such an emotional triumph and stylistic statement. The former, an 80s influenced track about dealing with loss while the world keeps spinning, is as poetic and accurate a depiction of suffering one will find in pop record. The latter, a piano lead locomotion of a song that is the best single of the year, is a melancholy diary entry about growing old and losing touch with those we came up with and, in essence, ourselves. Lines like “you spend the first five years trying to get with the plan / and the next five years trying to see all your friends again” cut to the bone of the reluctant adults everywhere. Sound of Sliver is a painful, accurate, and beautiful success of an album, one that will stay with you, long after it’s left the CD player.

Don’t Miss: North American Scum, Someone Great, All my Friends, Watch the Tapes, Us v Them, New York I Love you but You’re Brining me Down

1) El-P – I’ll Sleep When Your Dead
2007 was not a good year. The globe is heating at an alarming rate, yet those in a position to make a change are too busy debating gay marriage and lambasting misguided pop stars to make a difference. The most powerful country in the world is losing a war and losing friends around the world, turning themselves into an international rallying point for the evil of the world, yet the bigger concern seems to be that there will be no new TV shows next season. It is a dark time, dressed up in electronic denial; we would hear the horns of Gabriel if not for the Ipod ear buds in our ears.

None of this is lost on El-Producto, the author of this year’s most brilliant record, the pitch black I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. El-P, for better or worse, refuses to turn away from the realities of the world. Instead, he looks into the gaping maw of the oncoming destruction and screams at it, both in defiance of what is to come and as a prophetic wake-up call to the rest of us. To call this a rap record is to belittle what El-P has made; it’s a mirror being held to our faces, forcing us to look what is coming, whether we are ready for it or not.

As compelling and dark as the album is, it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if El-P wasn’t a top notch producer and rhyme-sayer. He lyrics, as dark and dense as the front page of the New York Times, flow in and out of the songs, not caring about where they fall as much as how they sound and frame the song. His ADD flow is sharp when entwined with his beats; his work on “Drive,” “EMG,” and “Up all Night” is as dark and twisted as anything else in the album; so complex and grand a puzzle that it takes multiple listens before you figure out there is no answer, that El-P holds all the keys,

The few guests on the record all give their best for El-P. The kooks from the Mars Volta, who produced the epic “Tasmania Pain Coaster,” find their focus for the first time in years, while label mate Aesop Rock lends his syrupy slick flow to the awesome “Run the Numbers.” But perhaps the most telling and brilliant moment on the record is found, not surprisingly, at the end of things. “Poisenville Kids No Wins/Reprise (This must be our Time)” produced by El and Cat Power, is the last stage, acceptance. Because in El-P’s world, there is no hope, only acceptance of what we must all go through together, for better or worse. “If I have you live / you have to live / weather you like this shit or not.”

Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe we can still save ourselves, but you’ll have to forgive El-P for being a pessimist. As it stands now, I’ll Sleep When Your Dead is the perfect album for modern life; dark, perverse, hard, and honest. If the world ended tomorrow, this would be the album that was played the day after, a giant "I told you so" and "what now," addressed to the wretched survivors and the roaches.
Don't Miss: Tasmanian Pain Coaster, Up All Night, EMG, Drive, Run the Numbers, Habeas Corpses, Leauge of Extraordinary Nobodies, Poisenville Kids No Wins/Reprise (This must be our Time)

Thursday, December 20

Mr Dogg's Top 25 of 07: 10-6

10) Travis Morrison Hellfighters – All Y’all
Forget the Dismemberment Plan; they are gone forever. The good news is that the Hellfighters are here, and with Travis Morrison at their helm they are sure to provide equally great tunes. Indeed, if All Y’all is any indication of where Morrison’s song writing is going in the coming years, there is a lot to be excited about. An album full of witty observations and cautious commentary about growing older and making music, All Y’all is full of t mix-tape fodder for that guy who is a little to smart for his own good. Knockout tracks like “Saturday Night,” “As We Proceed” and “Just Didn’t Turn me On” offer top notch lyrical turns, beautifully backed by the always tight Hellfighters. All Y’all may not exercise all of Morrison’s D-Plan demons, but definitely a big step in the right direction.

9) Bomb the Music Industry! – Get Warmer
With a live drummer taking place of a drum machine and new keyboard lines replacing pre-recorded samples, Get Warmer is the most polished and produced of any in the BTMI! catalogue. It’s the writing of Jeff Rosenstock, however, that will command replays. Rosenstock chronicles his move from Long Island to Athens, GA with smart observations, fresh metaphors, and a self deprecating charm that makes him an everyman and a poet for anyone whose ever felt stupid or spoiled. Get Warmer is all about seeing the imperfections in life, and finding joy in the fracture.

8) Los Campesinos! – Sticking Fingers into Sockets (EP) Sometimes, a record contains such pure joy that it makes one feel as if anything is possible. Such is the case with Sticking Fingers into Sockets, an EP from young UK upstarts Los Campesinos! Packed with so much fast-paced excitement that it’s hard not to get caught up in it. Full of innocence and wide-eyed wonderment, it’s truly an EP for you and me, full of the kind of fast pop twee that is too good to be ignored. Don’t be turned off be the scene skewering and sharp tongue, at the end of the day, Los Camp just want you to feel good. Not to mention, it boasts one of the best songs of the year in “You! Me! Dancing!”

7) Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
Looser and more grand than past releases, but still with moments of soft tenderness, Because of the Times has been called the Kings of Leon’s U2 record. More accurately, it’s the sound of a band who has come into their own and are trying to push themselves further. It’s not grandness or substance the band is going for, it’s an overall theme of life, and songs big enough to capture it. Sure, it’s as tight as ever (“McFearless”), and it’s got some real rockers (“My Party”), but it’s the grand, swooping anthems (“Knocked Up, “Ragoo,” “Arizona”) that will stick to your ribs and keep Because of the Times in your disc changer for weeks.

6) Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
No longer and indie rock secret, Modest Mouse has come out the other side of major label stardom with their integrity intact. More importantly, they’re still writing fractured, lonesome, expanse-rock, this time taking the listener to the depths of the ocean on We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

Sure, Johhny Marr makes for some nice guitar licks, and Shins lead singer James Mercer’s sweet chirp plays well off the harsh, rocky angles of the band, but it’s Isaac Brock’s madman howl and painfully honest pen that is the engine of the doomed ship in question. Still as sharp as ever, Brock’s pessimistic view of people, life, and all that lies beyond make for haunting, daunting, and sometimes painfully beautiful works of sonic art. Songs like “March Into the Sea,” “Parting of the Sensory,” and “Spitting Venom” are fierce and defensive, but is the quieter moments like “Little Motel” and “Missed the Boat” that suggest Brock’s struggle for understanding outweighs his eye for destruction.

Still, by further exploring the lonely depths of the soul through the last frontiers of man, We Were Dead is another record about looking for isolation in a world too crowded for elbow room.

Check tomorrow for 5-1!

Wednesday, December 19

Mr Dogg's Top 25 of 07: 15-11

15) Illinois – What the Hell do I Know? (EP)
Seeing as the band is from Bucks county P.A., some folks might consider me a homer for putting Illinois in the top 25. They would be right, too, if not for the near perfect blend of ’60 pop and backdoor, dirty-country porch bluegrass on What the Hell do I Know?. Old gems like the funky hip-hop of “Nosebleed” and the homemade pop harmonies of “Screendoor” are nice, backed by the banjo twang and deep percussion that is the band’s trademark. Still, it’s new, more glossy pop songs like “Headphones” that stand out on this recording, pushing the band past their trademark sound to keep them fresh. If Illinois can keep walking this line without falling on either side, they’re going to be an exciting band to watch in the coming years.

14) Japanther – Skuffed up my Huffy
Japanther, a drum and base duo that play fast punk tunes, sing through telephones, and use extensive sampling and Casio noises to pepper their lo-fi pun attack, are currently the toast of Brooklyn, NY. Listening to the rough-around-the-edges good vibes on Skuffed up my Huffy, it isn’t hard to see why. The lo-fi feel goods are all over this record; tracks like “River Phoenix” and “Challenge” pulse with a youthful energy all to absent from most traditional punk setups, while the dense audio mud of “One Hundred Dollar Cover” and “Funeral” are more than worth slugging through. Sure, it’s art-house rock, but Skuffed up my Huffy is the silliest and most relaxed art-house rock has ever been, and a must have for anyone with even a slight interest in lo-fi music or punk rock.

13) Tegan and Sara – The Con
The Con is not so much an album as it is a 14-part character sketch of romance, loss, love, youth, and the faded promises of love. At times heartbreaking, at times inspiring, Tegan and Sara have managed to take heartbreak, a theme that is crushingly personal and universal at the same time, and bottle it into an explainable feeling with an accuracy that’s almost scary. Those willing to open old wounds and look at what can be learned would do well to check out “The Con,” “Knife Going In,” and “Like O Like H.” But if all this reflection and depth ain’t your scene, The Con makes for a great background listen, you cowards.

12) Menomena – Friend or Foe
From the opening vocals of “Muscle’n Flo,” it’s obvious that Menomena’s Friend or Foe is a team effort. Some parts outshine others, but only for an instant. Like a long running game of Jegna, remove one piece and the whole damn tower falls apart.

Friend or Foe is full of the kind of sharp arrangements and musical depth that usually comes from looping songs over and over again. The great thing is that there are no loops; its humans making music with other humans. Robots zero, humans one. Still, the thing that’s most impressive about Friend or Foe is how new everything sounds while still seeming familiar. Even when something feels miles away from everything you’ve ever heard, it still brings you back to safe place. Menomena won’t change your life, but they might make it a little better.

11) Do Make Say Think – You, You’re a History in Rust (Winner of the "Best Album Title of the Year" award)
A drum kicks in; fast, tight, but with no sense of urgency. There is no panic here, only skill. Come what may, it can be handled and it will be taken care of. Later on, voices arch high; not orchestral, more like friend around a bonfire struggling to hit a high note, but struggling together. No worries about sounds ok, we will make this sound together, in safety. Later on, sound flies at a breakneck pace, horns rising with the tide as drums drive the opening of a flower, the birth of a life, the sparks of a universe. Elsewhere, at the edge of a dark wood, stings and soft voices beckon you to come, not in fear but in hope.

So go the songs on You, You’re a History in Rust, Do Make Say Think’s tightest, and yet most cathartic album to date. While staying in their jazz roots, DMST have allowed their songs some time to grow, finding the quiet beauty in echoes and the controlled chaos in crescendo. Possessing moments of pure madness and beauty, it’s a mammoth of an album that takes the listener over miles from where they began. While not as emotional as Explosions in the Sky or as prophetic as Godspeed! You Black Emperor, You, You’re a History in Rust thrives in the quiet moments between scenes; as much as in what is implied as what is said.

Check tomorrow for 10-6!

Tuesday, December 18

Mr Dogg's Top 25 of 07: 20-16

20) Smoke or Fire – This Sinking Ship
Serving up another batch of hardcore-sprinkled pop-punk, This Sinking Ship is a sharper and cleaner, but no less fierce sound for Smoke or Fire, whose first record Above the City was the best punk album of 05. While those who give the album only a cursory listen will not find much to distinguish SoF from any other punk band of the day, those in the know are aware of the socially-conscious-but-not-soap-boxing lyrical prowess of Joe McMahon and the band’s ability to write the kind of pop riffs that get stuck in the brain long after the CD is done spinning. Sure, maybe its just pop-punk, but listening to “The Patty Hearst Syndrome” or “This Sinking Ship,” one realizes that no one is doing it better than Smoke or Fire.

19) Liars – Liars
If ’06’s Drum’s Not Dead was peyote-fueled journey exploring the duality of the creative mind, Liars is the morning after, struggling to recover from the euphoric dreamscape before life and time catches up. This is a tense album; from the terror-striking drive of “Plaster Casts of Everything” to the calming resolution of “Protection,” Liars plays out like a man struggling to grip his own mortality. Turns out, Liars aren’t demi-gods after all. They are men. They bleed, feel, and worry just like you and I, and this record is a fantastic statement of that fact, both defiant and terrified. Needless to say, not a party album.

18) Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
Something is very right in the great woods of the Northwest where Band of Horses call their home. Back with more of their Neil Young-esque vocals and My Morning Jacket influenced expansive nature-rock, Cease to Begin finds Band of Horses taking there time and letting their songs breathe. Tracks take their time to develop, and blossom into masterworks that capture the simple beauty of everyday living (“General Specific” “Marry Song”). Still, the albums finest moments come when Band of Horses decided to pick it up and have some macho fun with their breathy jam rock. Tunes like “Is There a Ghost” and “Islands on the Coast,” while not as deep, are twice as fun and prove that Band of Horses is more than just indie-rock stoners.

17) Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Living with the Living
For the last seven years, Ted Leo has been a pillar of sincerity decked out in trappings of pop hook catchiness and punk rock aesthetic. That reputation is maintained on Living with the Living, an album that walks the line between political and populous with great success. Besides one lame protest song and one poorly planned Clash rip-off, Living with the Living boasts some of Leo’s catchiest tunes since “Me and Mia.” The rollicking “Sons of Cain” and the classic rock-pop of “Who do You Love” are sure to get the people moving, while less apparent tracks like “La Costa Brava” and “The Lost Brigade” will yield new delights after repeat listens. And if you think you’re man enough, try to sit through the ball-smashing “C.I.A” without pumping a fist. Living with the Living never re-invents the wheel, but it makes for a great listen for the beach-bound or the socially minded.

16) The Go! Team – Proof of Youth
Some bands you really need to see live to understand. Artists like Man Man and Andrew W.K. are great on plastic, but you won’t really get it completely until you see it live. I’m tempted to throw The Go! Team into that category, but that would imply that Proof of Youth is only good live, which is a filthy lie. “Grip Like a Vice” grabs you and pulls you out the chair. “Doing it Right” laughs in your face when you try not to dance. “Titanic Vandalism” and “Keys to the City” scoff at your attempts to ignore their 70s funk samples and driving rhythms. An album best played at full volume to a room full of party people, listening to Proof of Youth is like being 8 all over again, finding joy in jumping rope and playing freeze tag with friends. Crack for the ears, it’s the kind of album that inspires, at the very least, smiles from all who hear it. Get up and dance.

Check Back Tomorrow for 15-10!

Monday, December 17

Mr. Dogg's Top 25 of 07: 25 - 21

25) Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice
Gone are the silly song titles. Gone are the softer, dance songs that made Minus the Bear fun to get stoned and sway to. Planet of Ice finds a new, more focused Minus the Bear playing their calculated rock with more edge and more focus, albeit at the expense of sense of humor. Still, when songs play out as well as the time-shifting “Ice Monster” and the frantic pacing of “Dr. L’Ling” one can forget the overly tense moment. Surf-rock never sounded so good.

24) Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger
As the name might suggest, Easy Tiger is a more relaxed effort from prolific singer/songwriter/dickhead Ryan Adams. Older, wiser, and maybe even a little less confident, it’s the softer tracks like “Oh my God, Whatever, Etc” that bear Adams’ bones and suggest a depth and control not found since his fantastic breakout album Heartbreaker. A little heavy on the country and featuring at least one song with miserable lyrics (“Halloween Head”), Easy Tiger is still the most focused and honest of Ryan Adams’ recent glut of records. Makes you wish the guy would let himself get centered more often

23) Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
No, there isn’t anything as defining and cutting as “A Certain Romance,” but the Arctic Monkeys have managed to do what most bands fail to do on their second record; reprise their established sound without over embellishing or repeating past sentiments. The band is still as sharp as ever (“Brianstorm”), and still possesses a lyrical sharpness and a keen eye for the perils of post-adolescents acting like children (“Fluorescent Adolescent”), but what is new is the bitter, somewhat jaded edge to the songwriting that turned off many. While easy to write off as defensiveness, it’s given the Monkeys a new harshness that makes for smarter songwriting and suggests that the band can be more than post-collegiate chroniclers.

22) Kanye West – Graduation
This is an album that I wrote off after a few listens based on my disappointment with West’s lyrical development; sure, “Stronger” has got great production, but people deserve more than phoned in nursery rhymes to go over the beat. Still, there is no denying the step forward West has made on Graduation, his most well produced record to date. And there are even some lyrics worth repeating here and there, like the celebratory boasting on “The Glory” and the self-reflective-yet-edifying “Can’t tell me Nothin’.” If West could just stop side stepping and develop as a lyricist, he’d be a really special artist.

21) Silversun Pickups – Caravans
Taking the nearly-defunct genre of droning guitar melodies over driving low end pioneered by bands like My Bloody Valentine and Yo La Tengo now known as shoegazing and mixing it with the pop sensibilities of early 90s grunge acts, Caravans found near universal acclaim from every indie outlet and quasi-underground publication. Not like the accolades aren’t deserved, the record is a great listen; the kind of album that can be played from start to finish without skipping a track. Those looking for dissection would be well served to check out the driving thump of “Lazy Eye” and the cautious fuzz of “Common Reactor” to see what all the fuss is about.
We'll be back tomorrow with 20-16!