Perils of assimilation

If only life came with subtitles.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Perils of Assimilation’s Top Music of 2007, Pt. 1

(In no particular order)

1. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
It’s no secret that my favorite band of all time is Wilco, and what I am going to say is a little out of character for me. It’s a great album, and very consistant, but when I compared Sky Blue Sky to Wilco’s previous efforts it just doesn’t hold up. It’s mellow, with a distinct Seventies influences. It’s amazing background music, unlike their 2001 masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which demands your complete attention. The guitar work on Sky Blue Sky is amazing, and Jeff Tweedy sounds a good deal stronger since he’s quit smoking. The best tracks are “Impossible Germany,” which shows off Jeff Tweedy’s heart-wrenching voice, and “Hate It Here” which sounds like John Lennon could have written it. Yet again, it’s a great album, but not what I expected.

2. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
The Stripes are finally back on track with this album. It’s filled with Jack White’s amazing guitar work, he’s definitely one of the best guitarists living. It’s clever, fun, and interesting. They always have something new up their sleeves. They diverge a little more from their initial blues/rock sound, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The best track was “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told)” with it’s bouncy tune and tongue-in-cheek humor.

3. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss – Raising Sand
When I first heard about this album, I was taken aback. The singer from Led Zepplin and a bluegrass singer? But it works, and it’s really good. Their voices mesh together amazingly well, and the songs are beautiful. I don’t usually listen to this sort of stuff, but I can’t stop playing this album. “Please Read the Letter” is pretty, strong, and just a little sad.

4. By far, the biggest album of the year was Radiohead’s In Rainbows. It’s melodic, haunting, quirky, and absolutely free. It often sounds like ghosts are trying to escape from your speakers, Thom Yorke’s falsetto is chilling. I can’t say much more about it, you just have to listen. Best Track – “Nude”

5. M.I.A’s debut album took some time to grow on me, I will admit. It was slightly annoying and her atrocious London/Colombo accent makes her really hard to understand. But her second album, Kala, just blew me away. It’s innovative and fun. If you want to listen to political tirades in dance form, look no further. “Paper Planes” is one of the few songs containing gunshots I can shake my ass to. Kala is a great mix of British dancehall, rap, and Bollywood.

6. Fever Marlene – Civil War
This Milwaukee duo’s debut album is stellar, and they certainly deserve more press than they’ve been getting. Plenty of poppy melodies and melancholy lyrics on this one. “All the Kites in the World” is the standout track on this one, a slightly bitter, dreamy tune that never gets old.

7. I never used to listen to hip-hop/rap until 88Nine switched from a smooth Jazz format to a community-supported eclectic station. There is a lot of crap out there in the world of hip-hop, but there is some excellent music out there to redeem the genre. Of the artists I have been exposed to Aesop Rock is the best. His newest, None Shall Pass, is so dark and so angry it would be a crime not to put this on Perils’ Best of list. Check out the title track. His lyrics are far better than some poetry you may have had to read(Robert Frost, anyone?)

lash that buttery gold, jittery zeitgeist
wither by the watering hole, border patrol
what are we to heart huckabee art fuckery suddenly?
not enough young in his lung for the waterwing
colorfully vulgar poacher outta mulch
like "i'm 'a pull the pulse out a soldier and bolt"
sign of the time we elapse
when a primate climb up a spine and attach
eye for an eye by the bog like swamps and vines
they get a rise out of frogs and flies
so when a dog-fight's hog-tied prize sorta costs a life
their mouths water on a fork and knife
and the allure isn't right, no score on a war torn beach
where the cash cow's actually beef
blood turns wine when it leak for police
like "that's not a riot it's a feast, let's eat!"

8. While we’re on the subject of hip-hop, I must mention Saul Williams’ The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust. The slam poet has branched off and made a solid hip-hop album, produced by Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor. The amazingly Niggy Tardust goes to show that anger at the establishment is not passé. Give a listen to “Convict Colony” and for fun listen to Saul’s cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”


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