the little heart beats so fast

List-making is delightful, and I listened to music last year. (Man, 2008. That year is entirely too incomprehensible. All of its numerals are too round and will take a week to get used to.) So and but: here are my favorite albums of 2007, loosely ordered by some sort of algorithm of how awesome vs. how critically shafted they are. (There is no algorithm. I don’t even know what that word means, really. Bah.)

10. Do Make Say Think – You, You’re A History in Rust
The bombast of “The Universe” could literally rock one’s socks off. Also this band put some semi-intelligible words in their songs on this album for the first time in their career, to my knowledge, and I was impressed with that. I listened to this a lot in Chapel Hill in the springtime, so now I guess it is sort of an album of leaving a place with really fond memories of it, and of dumpster-diving and then rocking out on top of buildings.

9. Feist – The Reminder
More Canadians! Totally sweet pop songs! Maybe one of them was in an iPod ad or something! I am glad I finally heard this album, because once I did I listened to it fairly exclusively for about two weeks. The fast songs are better than the slow songs but the songs are all pretty nice. If I had a choice of a person to sing like, it would be Neko Case, Leslie Feist, or Corin Tucker, in that order. Instead I just sing terribly.

8. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
At this point I should probably stop pretending that I am not cribbing John Allison‘s music-review writing style wholesale, because that seems to be what is going on. His review of this album can be found here. I think all I really have to add to the fact that Jens Lekman “gave up fame to become a bingo caller but then thought better of it” is that if I ever accidentally slice off the tip of my index finger it will be hilarious fun times in the emergency room because of “You Put Your Arms Around Me.” Also this Swede covered “You Can Call Me Al” in concert, which I just barely caught after biking all the way across town to retrieve my wallet with the concert ticket in it from an ice cream parlor, and it was wonderful, and if you can obtain for me high-quality mp3s of Jens Lekman covering Paul Simon I will probably mail you baked goods.

(Sub-list item: This was somewhere around my third favorite live music moment of 2007, a bit down the list from seeing “Testament to Youth in Verse” performed live by an actual living Dan Bejar on an actual stage where some other people were also playing instruments while Dan Bejar drank some beer and had very chaotic hair. It is my favorite New Pornographers song. Anyway!)

7. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Oh yeah, another extremely fine concert moment of 2007 was seeing this gentleman do his thing with a violin and some spinning Victrolas. It’s also another album that I listened to a lot towards the end of my time in Chapel Hill; “Simple-X” was kind of the informal theme song of graduation week in my mind. There’s something strangely reassuring about Andrew Bird’s verbosity and about his music in general: it must take a really special sensibility to write a song about the apocalypse that invariably puts a smile on my face. (The song in question, “Tables and Chairs,” is not on this album, but it’s the best example I can think of to describe the quality that I like so much in his music.)

6. Matthew Dear – Asa Breed
I really don’t have much to say about this other than it’s very fun to listen to and the first time I ever heard “Don and Sherri” I unconsciously started dancing a little on the train platform. I just Googled it and the first adjective I noticed in skimming the label’s capsule review was “accessible.” The subject of a whole ‘nother rant sometime should be my feelings on that word, because I invariably read it as backhanded condescension to the listener/reader/viewer/consumer-of-“accessible”-cultural-artifact. Like everything else that can possibly be said about music, accessibility is all a matter of perspective, and so writing about music continues to be like wanking about architecture, and so on and so forth blah blah blah. Loud electronic noises and vocoders are hella rad, and here you will find them!

5. Ricardo Villalobos – Fabric 36
Counterpoint: This shit is probably about as inaccessible as it comes. I mean, we are talking about the dude who made a 37-minute track that is essentially one beat with an occasional weird sampled horn-bleat (and then these dudes danced to it, which was pretty great). In the context of all of the insanity of the rest of this album (which is actually something sort of in between a DJ mix and an actual proper album, since he made a bunch of original tracks and then mixed them together, in contrast to the other 35 mixes in the Fabric series, which draw from other artists’ tracks), the last few minutes are some of the more revelatory and beautiful this year, I think. The beat drops out into spare, bell-like sounds, and it’s like leaving the world’s most ridiculous dance party alone to see nothing but snow and hear nothing but echoes. Really it’s an awfully good few minutes.

4. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Everyone already knows everything about this. Some songs are on it, they ditched their major label, etc. Along with loads of my friends, I adored Kid A-era Radiohead back when that happened, and In Rainbows is a fairly glorious return to form. Here I’m partly running out of steam and partly not feeling like repeating everything that has been said about pop music for the past three months. Listening to “Videotape” and looking at the antennae of the Sears Tower through the fog is goosebump-inducing and supremely creepy. That’s all.

3. Burial – Untrue
I don’t know if this is quite as insanely hyped as I feel like it is, but it’s nevertheless pretty worthy of it. This album is like the atmosphere I was desperately trying to evoke in describing the end of Fabric 36, but for 45 minutes instead of 3. In fact, the description of it that Burial (whoever he actually is) gives in one of his only interviews pretty much says what I look for in the less-crunk types of electronic music: “What I want is that feeling when you’re in the rain, or a storm. It’s a shiver at the edge of your mind, an atmosphere of hearing a sad, distant sound, but it seems closer – like it’s just for you.”

Yeah. I don’t even know. It’s the theme music of walking around Chicago at night, taking pictures, hearing whatever distant sounds or mind-shivers there are around: the lake, people leaving bars, trains and traffic coming and going.

2. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
And now: the noisy side! With drums! And electric guitars! And yelling about the state of indie rock! “Patty Lee” is sort of my favorite song of the year. It reminds me of a demented pillow-fight: “this party’s gotten out of hand.” Like most other albums I ever really love, my least favorite thing about it is that it’s not very long. I would desperately love to see this band someday, I hear it’s pretty much the best time one can have at a concert.

1. The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
Decidedly my favorite album this year. It’s also electronic, and I recently learned that it was recorded in one take, which is kind of impressive and a nice contrast to the months or years of obsessive insanity behind anything Ricardo Villalobos makes, for instance. The title of this post is the first song I heard from this album. For me it doubles as the sort of music you might dance to and the sort of music you might listen to if you wanted to be alone with your thoughts – to pull a Burial, as it were. Though this may sound strange and even degrading, I think my favorite kinds of music are ones that are just as rewarding to hear as background noise as they are to scrutinize and obsess over every beat. Putting “The Little Heart Beats So Fast” on across the room as I type this, I’ve noticed new tones in it whenever I start to space out. It’s the kind of thing I think will reward years of repeated plays; it’s something I know I’ll go back to. And so! Album of the year ftw wtf lol pwn.

Unfortunately, listening to the Field will not cure a head cold, so I’m off to make yet another pot of white tea and stare blankly at another crossword puzzle. Happy new year and pleasant music-listening to everyone!

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