The Year in Music – 2007

What a year – 2007 has to be the WORST year for popular culture since I started giving a shit. Can you feel the exhaustion of American culture yet? It smells like the decline that it is — 2007 was the year the housing bubble burst, promising to accelerate the process of the poor getting poorer and even dragging down a few rich people with ’em. Oh, and don’t forget this is the year where everyone realized how awesome capitalist democracy is — that no matter which party occupies Congress, the U.S. military occupies Iraq indefinitely. What does this have to do with music? Suffice to say we get the culture we deserve, and we have way more naughty than nice lately. On the other hand I bought records in half a dozen major American cities this year. So:

Albums that were really good

M.I.A. – Kala – thank god for buzz backlash so now I don’t have to listen to every 20something with a Spin subscription vomit forth some trite pseudo-opinion about music they wouldn’t listen to unless they were told to. This album is grimy and bitter, bangs hard in your car stereo, and is much better than Arular. Cribbing lyrics and melodies from NYC to the outback made it feel a bit mixtapey — a good thing, which I hope she pushes farther in the future.

Durrty Goodz – Axiom EP – Grime had rough years, or at least years where despite my best efforts I could find barely anything I liked. 2007 felt like a resurgence, even though Dizzee’s album sucked horribly: Wiley’s album was half decent, and Goodz put out eight tracks (yes EPs!) of hot fire. Not only can he rap his trainers off, but the beats are quite inventive with some dubstep flava sneaking in there.

After Dark comp / Chromatics album / various Glass Candy Tour CDs – Sublime neo-disco from the Italians Do It Better label touched me in special places this year. A nice comedown after six months of listening to loads of electro and booty bass for the thesis — like switching from a daily diet of blunts and cheap beer to a bottle of red wine.

Burial – Untrue – I liked the first Burial album well enough, but this one I love, and it’s all about the disembodied male R&B vox put through the digital wringer. I even went through an abortive 90s R&B phase after first hearing this album. While I enjoy a lot of pop R&B, I don’t often love it; but when a good remix or reappropriation can tamp down the cheesy aspects but keep that vulnerability and yearning intact… mmmm… See DJ Screw’s remixes of R&B hits for a similar effect.

Britney Spears – Blackout – Her best album yet. The further she gets from Swedish maximalist teen pop, the better — here she’s going for that electro-disco sound that’s been all the rage since like ’04, but it works so well for Brit. All the autotuning and pitchshifting of her vocals re-emphasized her out of control personal life, divorced of the idiotic morality play plot line that the tabloids keep forcing on her. She’s not apologetic, she’s not slowing down, she doesn’t give a fuck — she just wants more. It’s all she knows how to do. Maybe the album that says “2007” to me more than any other.

Blaqstarr – Superstarr EP – More spooky male R&B vox, this time wedded to some intricate B-more riddims. Oh, and a fucking BANGER with “Shake It To The Ground” featuring some precocious lil girl rapping, which everyone knows is like the best thing ever. I rinsed this and Blaqstarr’s 2006 EP like CRAZY for weeks, finally snatched Superstarr up on wax when I was in NYC.
James Murphy – Fabriclive 36 – Guess what? LCD Soundsystem’s albums sort of suck, and they sort of sound the same. This mix, on the other hand, made me want to weep sassy brassy NYC disco tears while spinning in circles. I will clean my apartment to nothing else.

Justice – – Sort of sick of it now, but still pretty good. Actually, I would LOVE to have the original EP since my favorite track is “Let There Be Light” (and the DJ Funk remix is smokin’), but this is just fine — bangs pretty hard, doncha know?

Tego Calderon – La Abayarde Contra-Ataca – Tego’s always been the most inventive reggaeton star, and he gets even further away from the Luny Tunes cul-de-sac, throwing in some Kanye-style chipmunk-en-espanol beats, salsa, and oh yeah, lots of bass!

Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams  – This album is slooooow, a lil spooky, a lil rough around the edges, but quite good. You forget how fucking good the Clan are as MCs (even U-God!), and the RZA backing, while not always breaking new ground, definitely grows. It’s maybe the closest Wu Tang in sound to the old melancholy Stax stuff that has long been RZA’s inspiration. Oh, Ghostface’s album was nice too.

Singles that I liked for about a month, then was completely done with

Rihanna – Umbrella. Liked it enough to cop WBGU’s 12″ copy. Have yet to play it.

Sean Kingston – Beautiful Girls. “Suicidal” no longer radio-friendly.

Simian Mobile Disco – Hustler. Yeah, I listened to too much electro this year to really get into nu-electro. Sue me.

Lil Mama – Lip Gloss. Something about the structure of this song began to grate on me after a while… maybe a re-edit in 5 years or so?

Mims – This Is Why I’m Hot. Mmmm, tautological.

Cupid – Cupid Shuffle. Ok, I still sort of like this song.

50 Cent – I Get Money. I was like, “Hey, this song is actually pretty sweet!” when I first heard it. Then I realized it was just a rip of Cassidy’s “I’m A Hustla” but with those heavy preset synths all the hip hop producers are using these days. Ho hum.

Singles that are actually still great

50 Cent – Ayo Technology. The only actually good song on his album, and Timberland/lake totally steal the show. Oh, and it’s about the alienating distance of text-message flirting. Or internet porn. Or something.

Young Leek – Shake And Jiggle It. Another Blaqstarr production, and unsurprisingly it’s all about the beat.

T-Pain – Buy U A Drank. Probably colonized more of my consciousness than any other song this year.  DUMB fucking lyrics and extra autotune gravy only make it that much more endearing.

Britney Spears – Gimme More. I absolutely love how they pitchshift the “mores” in the chorus so it almost sounds like she’s barfing or retching. Or maybe she was actually barfing.

Britney Spears – I Got A Plan. Icy, eerie, spooky. No song this year conjures the pathological need for the desire of the other, which sums it up almost too neatly. It’s like the Britney-bot is running down, but she’s begging for the diddick, almost going to cry for it (‘cept she can barely register emotion any more. Definitely need more neo-Italo with smeared screwed-&-chopped vox from our pop stars PLEASE.

Rich Boy – Throw Some D’s. This song is a masterpiece. I can’t really say anything that will do it justice.

Soulja Boy – Crank Dat Superman. Still slays. Single of the year.

R&B Songs that provided perfectly serviceable filler on hip hop radio

Lloyd – Get It Shawty, Chris Brown – Poppin, R. Kelly – I’ma Flirt, Diddy – Last Night, Beyonce – Upgrade U

Best Trend of 2007

Crank Dat songs. I have over 40 of these now. I love them. It’s all about Fruityloops presets, a clever angle, and lots of SPACE in the beats (viva SNAP)… and they each have their own dances!

Shit that sucked in 2007

Fergie. Someone get this fugly perpetual-celeb hooked on meth again. It’ll be funny.

New LCD Soundsystem – Mr. Murphy, do not sing. Please continue your excellent production work & DJing. Only release 12-inches. And make me a fucking sandwich while you’re at it. No mayo.

El-P – I’ll Sleep When Yr Dead. I can’t remember one song off this album, but I do remember a very lame performance on Conan that made me feel embarassed. The prodcution was too… tight, or something; I much preferred something sloppier, more chaotic.

Kanye West – Graduation. “Stronger” is not good, certainly not better than Daft Punk or Edwin Birdsong. This album smells like ‘ye was cramming for a final exam on A-Trak’s hipster hits and managed to get a C-. “Flashing Lights” is pretty ace, most everything else is sappily mediocre (“I Wonder”) to shockingly bad (“Drunk and Hot Girls”).

Dizzee Rascal – Maths and English. Ok, he’s shooting for the UK pop charts. Unfortunately the UK pop market is absolutely atrocious.

Other shit that was pretty righteous in ’07

Dondolo – Dondolisme, Still Going – Still Going Theme, Dopplereffekt – Calabi Yau Space, Gang Gang Dance – Rawwar, Ricardo Villalobos – Fabric 36, Wiley – Playtime Is Over, Stephen Bodzin – Liebe Ist, Swizz Beats – It’s Me, UGK – Underground Kings, Calle 13 – Residente o Visitante

Best Shows

I was stuck in rural Ohio for a while, so shows were not exactly forthcoming. Things improved once I moved back to Chicago.

-DJ Godfather, DJ Nehpets, and Gant-Man, Smartbar. Juke takes over the northside, and it was free.

-Bonde Do Role, Empty Bottle. Free again (thanks Jim), fake blood, and they broke up a couple months later! What could be better?

-Metro Area, Studio B. DJing the slickest disco you’ve never heard before. Viva Brooklyn!

Foreign Genres that gave me jollies

Bassline House out of the UK, Kwaito out of SAfrica (late to the party on that one), Central/Eastern Europop, Senegalese rock-funk-soul
Shit I’ll be keeping my eye on in the coming year

The Juan Maclean, Black Ops, DJ Cleo, XXXchange, Mr. Oizo, Audion, Dem Franchize Boys, Blaqstarr, Gant-man, Dexplicit, ravier baile funk, juke mixshows, Glass Candy


One Response to The Year in Music – 2007

  1. I won’t quibble with your tastes, since we differ considerably (“Graduation” good, Soulja Boy bad, “8 Diagrams” a letdown). Though you have a point about the “Kala” reception being largely insular and uninformed.

    However, your opening paragraph reeks of flame-fanning nihilism, yellow overgeneralizations and incipient back-in-my-day fogeyism. 2007 was a not a bad year for any medium besides music (movies, I think, had a stellar year), and that has more to do with a gradually collapsing industry model that may not survive the worsening economic crisis. Your “we get the culture we deserve” argument is ludicrous. Much of the greatest American fiction stems from the 1920’s, when American isolationism and burgeoning class divides ran rampant. The 1950’s only birthed rock and roll at the height of McCarthyism and other manifestations of Commie paranoia, as well as an upsurge in urban flight. By contrast, the youth movements of the late 60’s, when people (i.e. the middle and upper classers not overseas) were taking some form of action (its effectiveness is arguable), was soundtracked with just as much self-righteous shit (The Doors, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Country Joe and the Fish) as awesomeness (Sly & The Family Stone, “Let It Bleed”-era Stones). The idea of a correlation between the quality of American culture and the severity of American misdeeds is historically misguided and downright foolish, a relic of the inaccurate theory that overromanticized rebellion (or marginalization) signifies the only culture worth consuming.

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