2007 turned out to be a very good year for new music – new to me, at any rate. I discovered several artists that I had inexplicably overlooked, picked up excellent new albums from some of my long-time favourites, and encountered some great new talent. So let’s take a look.
The year started and ended with offerings from one of my greatest favourites, Faithless. In January there was a new album, “To All New Arrivals”, and in December an excellent single, “A Kind of Peace”. Along the way I bought the “Renaissance DJ Set”, a triple CD of early works and influential sources. (Among the latter was a track by LSK, which prompted me to seek out their – one and only – eponymous CD.)
Steven Wilson’s Porcupine Tree is right up there with Faithless, and this year we got the outstanding “Fear of a Blank Planet” and an outtakes collection “Nil Recurring”. I added several items from Wilson’s circle of friends: “Blackfield II”, a live collection by John Wesley (who plays second guitar with PT on tour), and “My Hotel Year” by Tim Bowness. Next year we’re promised a new no-man album, which I’m awaiting eagerly.
I’ve got to stop comparing every Radiohead album with “OK Computer”, although I guess that’s the price they have to pay for coming up with one of the greatest recordings of all time. “In Rainbows” is really, really good, and I was happy to pay $10 for the “name your price” download.
The rediscovery of the year was street pianist Jonny Hahn, whom I blogged about in March. I bought several of his CDs, including “Collage” and “Lost in the Inzone”. His music reminds me of the soundtrack to the movie “Once”, which was also a great discovery.
I filled in gaps in my collection with music from the 60s to the 90s. Neil Young‘s “Live at Massey Hall”, The Who‘s “Endless Wire”, “Jupiter’s Darling” by Heart, the Oasis collection “Stop the Clocks”, “London Calling” by the Clash, The Cure‘s “Mixed Up”, “Blues” by Jimi Hendrix, and “The Blue Thumb Recordings” by Arthur Lee’s Love. iTunes came up trumps by unearthing “New Dark Times”, the 1996 album by Sunscreem. Some deep web spelunking yielded a copy of Robert Hunter‘s “Flight of the Marie Helena”. And I almost forgot the first acquisition of the New Year: U2‘s “U218”.
But as I mentioned, 2007 was a great year for discovering new music. Four women head the list: Regina Spektor, with her inspirational “Begin To Hope”, Kate Nash with the brutally honest punk poetry on “Made of Bricks”, Joanna Newson‘s indescribable “Ys”, and the comfortable intimacy of “One Cell in the Sea” by A Fine Frenzy (Alison Sudol). I also enjoyed “Songs From The Deep Forest” by Duke Special, and “Live at SoHo: The Good, The Bad & The Queen EP” by the unnamed band that Damon Albam of Blur has put together.
Then there were the artists that I had somehow overlooked. How about the Mekons? They’ve been around forever! How could I not know the Mekons? After seeing them in concert, I bought their latest CD, “Natural”, as well as the retrospective “Heaven and Hell.” Two other omissions that were finally corrected: the Polyphonic Spree, with “The Fragile Army”, and “Hats” by The Blue Nile.
And finally, the album of the year has to be “Arzachel: Collectors Edition” by Uriel. This will only make sense to a handful of people who appreciate the glorious insanity that was the English psychedelic music scene in 1969. I owned the original LP, then the Demon CD, and now this. Excuse me while I light a few joss sticks, put on the headphones, and turn out the lights….
No, really. The real album of the year is the glorious, bizarre, ethereal “The Butcher’s Ballroom” by the Swedish group Diablo Swing Orchestra. Wikipedia tries to pigeon-hole them as “avant-garde metal” or “symphonic metal”; perhaps “operatic jazz metal” will do. (And I do mean “operatic”.) Paul kept nagging me, and eventually I listened to all of the samples on the Amazon MP3 store and saw what he meant. Thanks, old friend. (And when are you going to finish writing that review?)