Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
The Seven Year Itch
Music blog turns seven, gets nostalgic, makes list
IMDBAnother year, another… year. This here blogsite turns seven years old today, a milestone which simultaneously fills me with pride, amazement and some degree of despair. If you told me seven years ago that I’d still have enough free time and energy to be blogging extensively on an almost daily basis, I’d have thought you mad. Mad, I say. How would I have time on top of tending to the wife and kids and other domestic responsibilities I’d surely have acquired by then? Ahem. Yeah.
The last few anniversary posts have tended along the lines of “hey, this site is another year older and I still haven’t gotten a life – that’s awesome, thanks for stopping by” but this year, I’ve decided to do something just a little more involved and put together one of those things that bloggers live for – a top ten list. “Top Ten Favourite Records That Have Come Out Since This Blog Has Been In Existence”, to be precise.
While the specific criteria for inclusion in said list was a bit nebulous, the selections weren’t – they were actually completely obvious. Each of these albums are ones that I have completely fallen in love with over the past seven years, initial infatuation evolving into long-term, meaningful relationships. I intend to grow old and sit on rocking chairs on a veranda with these records. They are my go-to records for when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to be reminded of why I continue to seek out new music. My desert island discs of the past 7/10 of a decade. Did these records change my life? Maybe not, but they definitely made it better.
As, incidentally, have all of you who come by, read and made this whole exercise worthwhile over the past years. So for that, I thank you. Now make with the clicky.
This exquisite rendition of the band that is this site’s namesake was the perfect gateway drug to this Seattle-via-LA outfit’s gorgeous, slow-motion dreampop – a recipe they’ve tweaked and refined over the years without losing sight of their strengths, namely the pure heartbreak that is Anna-Lynne Williams’ voice.
Easily and accurately described as Belle & Sebastian covering the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Automatic, it’s a wonder The Radio Dept aren’t Scottish. But Swedish will also do and though they’ve since moved away some from the glorious twee-fuzz of their debut, it still stands as a sublime example of melancholy made sound.
Though Fred Thomas’ creative restlessness finds him constantly reinventing his Motown-pop collective, both in terms of sound and personnel, he has yet to find a recipe that works better than it did on their third album. The fact that the LP had different mixes of several songs from the CD was enough to get me to go out and buy a turntable.
Why Eric Bachmann isn’t more revered on this earth will forever remain a mystery to me. Most everything he’s done is remarkable in its way but for me, the gruff rocker-balladeer-troubadour persona he inhabits here stands above the rest, Lara Meyerratken providing the ideal vocal counterpoint. “Sleep All Summer” is perfection.
Initially ambivalent about the band, I bought this album unheard based on glowing reviews and the wicked cover art. And from the first distortion blast in “For Real”, I was theirs. Grandiose, literate, ambitious and a bit unhinged, it’s a folk-rock delight for those of us who like their songs with words – lots and lots of words. My first taste of what would become one of my very favourite bands.
Imagine Ride meets The Beach Boys. Now imagine how good that combination of walls of guitars and soaring harmonies could be if done perfectly. Waiting For The Time To Be Right is actually better than that. Call it power-pop or call it shoegaze, it’s one of the best records of any genre to come out in the last five years. And of course it’s completely overlooked.
The quintissential Summer fling that turned into so very much more. The retro-Motown vibe of The Great Unwanted was so immediately and irresistibly catchy that I was sure I’d tire of it within weeks. And yet more than two years later, it remains in heavy rotation, still making me shake shake and shimmy. Quietly. In my seat. But shimmy nonetheless. Pure pop goodness with a shelf life of forever.
You could argue that that Alligator, with its deeper noir tones and more rocking turns, is objectively a better album than its follow-up but Boxer operates at a certain resonant frequency that I just can’t resist or ignore. And the fact that I prefer the more sepia-tinged, elegiac side of The National over the darker, broodier side means I might not be such a miserable bastard after all.
On top of being a wonderful record that was one of my favourites of 2008 (the above release date is for the wide re-release), Hometowns and the RAA were my first real opportunity to see a band I loved rise from local obscurity to international buzz band from right up close. Seeing them win over a packed church at SxSW 2009, pew by pew, will remain one of my fondest musical memories.
Okay, this one is a cheat because it came out months before I started the blog but it was such a huge record for me that I can say that it head-spinning effect it had on me hadn’t worn off by September 2002, and really, still hasn’t. If I had to name an album of the decade for me, this would be it. But I don’t, so don’t hold me to it.