Monday, December 10, 2007

Top Eleven Independent Albums of 2007

11. Battles - Mirrored
Even though this collection of outstanding artists settled on the greatest possible band name and signed to one of the top record labels (Warp) around, they still managed to deliver a thunderous, rhythmic album that puts many of the releases from their former bands to shame. One listen to this record should get anybody fired up for a two-hour commute!

10. Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals
An album that I had no expectations for when I downloaded it a month ago, but which I cannot go more than a day or two without giving a listen. It has influences all over the place, and it sounds like something XTC would have performed if they were from Tehran.

9. The National - Boxer
I must admit that this album went unnoticed at first, as I simply believed them to be another morose band from Brooklyn after they released Alligator. However, after two cross-country drives of constant listening and a show at the 9:30 Club, I am pleased to realize this band possesses more dynamic than their counterparts who released the limp, Our Love to Admire.

8. Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings
This Baltimore Freak-out’s response to being unknowingly used in a Greyhound advertisement: “Like many evil companies they are trying to use subversive advertising and I will not allow myself to be a cog in their wheel of lies and deceit. These rats stink like rotten cum. Fuck them with 1000 fires.” Brilliant.

7. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
The night Olivia returned to Portland, we went to view this “side-project” at the Wonder Ballroom. Although we entered midway into their set, we had an opportunity to listen to them introduce a number of these tunes. I was thoroughly impressed, but she would later describe their sound as being “too zizzy (sp?).”

6. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
This is their most accessible album to date. Yet, nothing was more awkward than watching them perform on Late Night earlier this year. The Collective is creating spectacular, experimental pop music that may not be fully appreciated for years to come. I may have placed this album with a more lofty position, but one of its member’s decided to mix an album on his own (see #1).

5. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
The sound on this album is muffled and the lyrics may even be darker than those on Funeral, but somehow the ensemble managed to compose an amazing compliment to their debut while facing seemingly impossible expectation. A record that kept me company for many of my return commutes from the Crystal Ballroom.

4. Deerhunter - Cryptograms
Not only does this band have the namesake of one of my all-time favorite films, but they are also a great rock band from Atlanta. What an anomaly! If they could have included the songs from their Fluorescent Grey EP on this album, it may have been as high on this list as they were when they recorded it. Either way, I hope they can find a way to record a follow-up, as Cryptograms was a “Fuckin’ A” (movie quote).

3. Radiohead - In Rainbows
This band is slowly, and quietly, making a name for itself.

2. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
An album that is loaded with dance-party singles, with a wonderful ode to NYC as a closer that will allow you to momentarily relax before you jump back up for another listen. One of the few acts that helped to usher in the sound’s revival that haven’t already become an obscure footnote in recent musical history.

1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
A beautifully layered masterpiece that possesses a myriad of complicated samples and sounds, which seamlessly piece to create one hell of an album. Easily the best album released in a number of years.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Reason to be Thankful.

The last fourteen hours had been spent traversing the mid-Atlantic and Midwestern interstates en route to a holiday weekend with my family in the Chicago suburbs. We passed the time discussing academic programs, professional relationships, fast-food consumers, and an assortment of memorable/forgettable holidays with our minds dreaming of a tranquil expedition far away from any distractions or troubles we’ve experienced in “The City that Needs Work.” Despite an afternoon start to our travels, we hoped to avoid delays in relation to weather or traffic and arrive late on the eve of this holiday. However, as the final hours of night were upon us, and we still remained hours from our destination, the likelihood of this presumptuous pace taking us home seemed impossible. A further compounding factor to this delayed realization was the transformation of the misting rain and forming puddles on the asphalt into heavier sleet and black ice on the arterial. Conditions in weather and personal fatigue had now cemented the realization, and we exited on the next ramp to get some due rest at a lodge just inside the Michigan border. We were approximately three hours from our holiday destination, and would wait until morning for more favorable surroundings to finish our lengthy trek.

Sunrise arrived a short time later and there was enough anticipation and anxious emotion within myself to compensate any lethargic feeling I may have had from a deprived rest. Checking the television set, we noted a weather system moving eastward, and directly in our future path, which left snowfall in the areas already crossed over. This is the sort of news no traveler wants to hear, but I figured that the risen daylight would warm temperatures enough to break the clouds from the prior evening, or at worst, leave us with some morning showers to dredge through. So we loaded the car back up and departed from the lodge with clear skies and roadways, around. The interstate towards South Bend was bare and fairly free of traffic, so we now anticipated making good time and being at the parent’s home, Thanksgiving morning, by the noon hour. Shortly after our morning drive began, we noticed the landscape had altered from endless stretches of green fields and plowed agricultural grounds to white-covered flats with scattered patches of foliage sporting a coat of newly fallen snow. Then within a few minutes, we started to find the cause of our changed environment dropping from the sky at an increasing pace. The interstate was now littered with freshly deposited snow, except for the worn paths of the leading automobiles that had left parallel streaks of dark gray for trailing drivers to wisely follow. It was in this immediate moment that I am warned to slow down, as the weather was poor and the driver, myself, was not compensating for such. I was pressing along with traffic, but shouldn’t be, since traffic was not a flock of Chevrolet Malibus, but instead a pride of eighteen-wheelers with enough weight, protection, and experience to ready them for any slight created by the elements. But before I came to this necessary realization, I was passed on the right by one such vehicle, which caused enough distraction to lead our car’s wheels off the beaten path and into the slippery unpacked snow outside the parallels. The car began to slide a bit, and my cell phone vibrated in my left pocket, and before I had time to understand what was occurring, I was now trying to re-correct the slide of the car. I was unable to effectively steer back into the slide, as taught, and the car had now crossed over the centerline and into the right lane. There was no traction between the tires and the asphalt, and I was completely helpless at this point, with the car traveling over sixty miles per hour towards the shoulder. I had long since released the gas pedal and was reluctant to test the anti-lock brake system, for I was not headed in any straight line. The rear passenger tire then touched the eased slope of the grass beyond the shoulder, and the car instantly spun into the white expanses of a field with light foliage in the forefront of a thicker wooded area. We were moving forward, in reverse, beyond the expressway’s path and down a slope. My head was now turned around and facing the rearview window, attentive to the light brush that the bumper was mashing through. There was still some distance until the denser woods would arrive, when the car final comes to a complete stop some seventy feet or so from the road. We were both alright, the car was undoubtedly damaged and still running when I switched the ignition off, but most importantly we were alright.

This is an accurate, but incomplete depiction of the unfortunate events that occurred early this past Thanksgiving morning. It is difficult to describe the accident in detail, which is far different than stating that it is difficult to remember every detail. I can vividly recall the terror I felt with the recognition of loss in control of the car’s direction, the image of looking into Olivia’s beautiful eyes and seeing a desperate plea to avoid disaster, the flash moment when you believe it may all be over, and it is all too hard to effectively convey. Later that day, we would remain startled, but with our health and in the company of those whose care we are thankful for. And today, I am thankful to be typing this entry in my Baltimore apartment, with the love of my life quietly seated steps away from me diligently studying for an upcoming examination.