04
Jan
08

KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: BEST MUSIC OF 2007

emBrownlowe

BEST SONGS OF 2007 (in no particular order):
1. My Broken Arrow – Pallaton
2. If I’m Drinkin – Podunk Nowhere
3. Chelsea, Let’s Join the Circus – Agent Ribbons
4. Horse and I – Bat for Lashes
5. Vertabrae by Vertabrae – Bjork
6. Isis – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

BEST SHOWS OF 2007 (in no particular order):

PATTI SMITH @ BITE OF OREGON
Confession: I don’t know how it was possible making it through my lady-music-maker-worshipping era of my adolescence without knowing Patti Smith’s music but somehow I didn’t discover her genius until early 2007. So when I heard she was playing at Waterfront park for only $7 I was all over it. She was headlining the Bite of Oregon festival (foodies unite!) and talked about how she had eaten 6 tacos and didn’t get gas. She opened with one of my favorite songs, Kimberly. At one point she stuck her hand down the front of her pants and it lingered there for quite awhile. I was literally 8 feet away from the stage in a dancing frenzy with a few older ex hippies. I was completely sober but was intoxicated by the performance and the sky turned pink. Fucking amazing.

MIRAH @ SIREN NATION; WONDER BALLROOM
Mirah is such a charming gal. Sweet songbird of the NW. The highlight for me was the first song where she and her accompaniment played electric finger pianos and towards the end of the song she puts her instrument to her mouth and starts to sing into the input producing a truly haunting atmosphere in the ballroom.

BJORK @ SASQUATCH FESTIVAL
After being in a no re-entry festival setting for almost 10 hours with nothing to eat or drink (they were trying to sell 20 oz cans of Coors Light for $10 – WTF?!) and had already danced my heart out to Electrelane and had been wandering for hours, separated from my friends. I was pretty beat by the time Bjork arrived to close out the night. I had tried to stake a standing spot near the right hand of the stage but my issues with clausterphobia wouldn’t allow me to make it through half of the Arcade Fire’s supporting set. I decided to walk back and forth on the walkway between the VIP seating and the norms so I could be close enough to see Bjork 2 inches tall. This flew for a bit until I stopped to looking through the gates, mesmorized, quickly being requested to keep walking by a guard. I settled for walking across the hills and the gorge of the amphitheatre, a meandering traveler, with Bjork as my soundtrack.

HEY LOVER (cd release show) @ TOWNE LOUNGE
I have never seen tiny Towne Lounge so packed. It was in celebration of garage punk sweethearts, Hey Lover, debut CD. The floors got messy. People were dancing like a hurricane. Justin dropped his pants on stage. There were people in furry Yeti and Mexican wrestler costumes. Enough said. This isn’t from their CD release but I think you will get the point:

CAT POWER @ MFNW PRESHOW
Ahhh… Nike attempts to be indie lover’s best friend by hosting a free Cat Power show in celebration of the local music scene monopoly weekend, Music Fest NW. I had seen Cat Power once before and contrary to other people’s bad experiences with her erratic moodswings and breakdowns, it was amazing. Even though I hate her latest album (the Greatest, which should be titled The Worst), I still wanted to see her play this time around. This took a bit of dedication on my part. In order to go to the show you had to get a pass from one of the local music stores… The music store opens at 10 so I decided to be on my way at 8am to up my chances of getting a ticket. Of course at that early hour, in the rain, there wasn’t anyone there except three kids that sat outside the door. I was a bit more cushy and decided to watch the doors of the record store across the street from the warmth of a cafe while eating a delicious bagel and drinking local coffee. Once the line reached 10 people I left the cafe and sat on the cold concrete. Lucky I was early because by the time the doors opened there was about 50 people in line. After I received my pass I was informed that it didn’t guarantee admission since people who had the weekend MFNW pass would also be allowed in. I was also denied a second ticket for my friend who had to work that morning so I had to drive across town to another record shop to pick up a ticket for her. A few hours later I showed up early to wait outside the doors of the venue to guarantee I would get in. I felt like a teenager again waiting to be let in. It was really hot but at least there was free ice cream and I ran into some friends. Finally, after the doors opened and we had to sit through an overdrawn opener, Cat Power appeared with this guy who looked like a costume rocker (you know, leather outfit, overdone hair, etc). He played a bluesy guitar and the occasional piano as she wandered around stage making weird dances, giggling to herself and later making outlandish comments such as, “Yep, got them skinny jeans”. After making it known through the press that she was a recovering alcoholic she switched her vice to non-alcoholic beer and filled the stage with purple cigarette smoke. Still, her voice sounded like a record and it was totally inspiring and she totally nailed the songs. She even had her sweat towel stolen by a rabid fan (not me).

PODUNK NOWHERE @ BITTER END
My dear friends, Johnny and Heather Janiga, drove up from San Diego on their Podunk Nowhere tour. They played at a dive on W Burnside called The Bitter End and it was definitely a night to remember. Without the aid of percussion, their Their whiskey soaked alt-bluegrass-folk inspired the crowd to swing dance with each other. Free beers were brought onstage and for their second set some crazy drunk folks (including myself) joined them in an impromptu singalong.

VIVA VOCE @ SASQUATCH FESTIVAL
I feel like such an asshole sometimes. I used to make fun of Viva Voce, calling them adult contemporary rock, but I was totally misinformed. I got my shoes stuck in my mouth when I saw them play three songs at the Sasquatch festival in the Gorge. They played on an outdoor stage with a natural sky backdrop that made me realize why painters were inspired in the 1700s. The wind was blowing and the band was fucking rocking hard on stage. The energy was electric. A married duo, Viva Voce played off each other like lovers. The drummer was so stoked he pound his drums hard and yelled out with excitement every other beat. His wife, the guitarist wailed some of the most impressive solos I’ve seen in awhile. Effing incredible.

WHITE MAGIC @ HOLOCENE
Gypsie infused indie rockers, White Magic, made everyone fly off on broomsticks the night before Thanksgiving. People danced like entranced medieval street performers.

BAT FOR LASHES @ DOUG FIR
I went to see this band a week after discovering them. They came out with elaborate Celtic outfits and headbands and had cut outs of wolves and deer decorating the stage. All of the women switched instruments from guitar, piano, violins, tom toms and drum machines. The lead singer had a rich, thick Brittish accent that was soothing between each song before she pounded this massive walking stick on the stage as a percussive instrument. I was hearing many of these songs for the first time and they were so beautiful, real and delicate. I think I was in a mood that night but for whatever reason I was moved to tears.

KATIE EASTBURN @ WONDER BALLROOM
Earlier that day I had interviewed Katie Eastburn for Church Of Girl Radio. She said some pretty inspiring things. You should read it here. I am a huge fan of her band, Young People, and was interested to see how she would perform solo. As I expected, her performance was excellent and lo-key. She Played piano and sang in her melty alto croon and kept the beat simultaneously on a kick drum with a special click heel. Here are some lo-fi live songs I video taped:

BEST ALBUM 2007 (In No Particular Order):

BJORK – VOLTA
I am a huge fan of Bjork, don’t get me wrong, but I am SO glad she returned to semi-structured pop music with Volta after fleeting off into experimental ancestral soundland for a couple of records. This album is so emotionally charged and is a reminiscent cousin of the dark undertones of Homogenic with the electro styling of Debut and Post which made me fall hard for this cultural icon’s career. Each song has a sense of urgency and embraces both synthetic and natural sound programming. Songs such as “Innocence” and “Earth Intruders” provided me with fist pumping optimism and movement while “I See Who You Are” and “Pneumonia” charges human emotions and intimacy through Bjork’s delicate vocal yearnings. “I see who you are / Beneath the the skin and the muscles / I’ll see who you are now / and when you get older later / And afterwards, later this century / When You and I have become corpses / Let’s celebrate now. “Declare Independence” and “Vertabrae by Vertabrae” also stand out as jolted, primal tracks leaving me feeling struck with raised hair, empowered “Protect your language / make your own stamp / declare independence / Raise Your Own Flag”

YEAH YEAH YEAHS – ISIS
This energetic release from Brooklyn’s artrock stars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, blew me a new one and made me believe in sustained ability of this band that has experienced extreme success. Whenever I listen to this album I feel a rush inside myself. Something needs to come out. A tapping on my steering wheel, singing along when I’m alone, compulsive energy needing to be released. The album is rock steady while retaining pop melody and accessibility. For some reason I feel as if I am listening to a modern version of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The haunting twang of title track, “Isis” made this album love at first listen for me. After watching their live video performance I became inspired because the YYY are literally a duo of sonic sound fronted by a crazy sexy-ugly hipster lady who and actually smiles and laughs and acts goofy onstage and does not give a fuck!!!

AGENT RIBBONS – ON TIME TRAVEL AND ROMANCE
This album is fucking incredible. If you like catchy as all hell, sweet alto voiced gals singing stories over simply strummed serenades this is the album for you. Agent Ribbons was definitely best souvineer I brought home from a Swallows California tour. My disc was one of a kind, handmade, decorated with puff balls, polka dots, cuts outs of people, and playing cards. Cuteness aside, the real package is what is inside. After listening to the music my biggest regret in life is that I didn’t go to theater school cause if I did I would adapt the album’s music into a Broadway musical. Take their vagrant Saloon tale found within “Strangers” “When he came to his gun was gone, his shirt was in a twist / Dog tired and hungry with no money the blood boiled in his face / He saw a whore and asked her how he came to have such luck / She said “You don’t look at those hard workin’ women that way when you don’t got a buck” / “I’m sorry miss, I tell ya, but old bastards like me are so hung on living life we don’t meditate on curtesies / So go ahead and shoot me I ain’t got nowhere to go / I’ll have myself a whiskey with the devil down below” / Ain’t it funny how strangers find home in the strangest places”. Now if that doesn’t scream Broadway musical meets Johnny Cash then I just don’t know what to say to you little reader! How about I enjoy risking my life for this album as I ride my bike singing in the summertime, driving in the rain or riding the bus, basically anytime when I shouldn’t be zoning out, however, it’s hard not to when you are concentrating on each individual song’s story of love, spontenaity and hopeful humor. And how about those sexy lines like: “The orange trees are in heat and the summer air is good enough to eat” or really sweet ones like “The bees are all buzzing around me because they heard you call me honey” and “He said ‘you’re the best reason to wake up in the morning’ / He said ‘you’re the best reason to stay up late at night’ / I want to be buried with you / But not until at least 50 years of being married to you”. I seriously don’t even need to stop the music to write the lyrics down cause I have them all memorized.
ONLINE: http://www.myspace.com/agentribbons

HEY LOVER – HEY LOVER
Hey Lover is a band meant to be experienced live. Lucky for you, music listener, they have super powers and have captured this energy on record, bleeding knuckles, sweat and blonde hair flips and all. This album is so fun and is great for working out, dancing in your bed room, biking up a hill through a cemetery or while driving over the speed limit. The band also has their sensitive side on a slow track appropriately titled “The Slow Song” which Justin painfully sings about the uniform man taking his money. My favorites include the jolted, garage punk hurricane, “Hey TB”, pop sing-a-long, “Here Comes the Snow” and the romantic threat of “I’ve Got To Get You Home”.
ONLINE: http://www.heylovermusic.com

THE VULTURINES: FOWL PLAY
The Vulturines are one of the top 5 most creative bands in Portland, Oregon. They blend quirky eclectic pop with Latin America/Flamenco influences and have intelligent confrontational lyrics sung in a small voice commanding attention. The music recalls The Pixies’ Surfa Rosa tangoing with a listenable poppy Deerhoof with surf music and touch of Umpa Lumpa infused flamenco and VIOLIA! you have a hell of a record.
ONLINE: http://www.myspace.com/vulturines

CRAZY FOR JANE – WATERMELON CLOUD
Oh how I love this charming sibling duo from Berlin. Perhaps it is the quirky serenades, the fact they giggle and meow in their songs fact that they can sing/speak English better than I can as an American. Lyrically, this band is poetically complex and it is incredible how they are able to sustain a memorable melody. “They buy glass domes of miniature monuments that scatter snow / When shaken reveal the city in endless winter / In a room in a bookshelf or in a glass case where they stand next to each other / Like trophies collecting dust”. Their song structures always keep me guessing and are mildly theatrical tongue twisters. Take “This Song is About You” where Josepha spouts off a myriad of lyrics “You have to leave the house to have a relationship with the weather / To feel the impending storm in the thick pull of your scars / Someone is following you taking your photograph / Like a detective tracking your coming and going / Noting 10: to the post office / As if there was meaning in the phrase / As if it explained everything / As if a phrase could reveal the crime you committed / And then you sit at your window / Even though you’re not old”. Do to their quirky and the fact they are brother and sister I am forced to relate them to a German, acoustic version of the Fiery Furnaces except I like Crazy for Jane a lot more.
ONLINE: http://www.myspace.com/crazyforjane

ALINA SIMONE – PLACELESSNESS
The title of this album is the perfect metaphor for Alina Simone: Placelessness. This girl tours frequently throughout the U.S. and Europe. The road is her home. In a way, I kind of interpret the words on this record are about her experiences on the road, pursuing her dream and calling to do music. It doesn’t surprise me that this would be a good road trip soundtrack for whatever horizon to attempt to cross. Starkly sweet, dark tales of the underground, blistering thick vocal melodies these songs are also in spirit of early Cat Power (Myra Lee / Dear Sir) which I’m a freak about. “They said sorry, you’ll have to wait / And I ran to the place where it was all supposed to all go down / I couldn’t see anything through the crowd / We’re all rufugees looking for someplace warm and safe to hide”.
ONLINE: http://www.alinasimone.com

PODUNK NOWHERE
Heather Janiga and guitar wielding hubby Johnny J. are a formidable songwriting duo from San Diego. Her freight train of a voice has an indie vibe, at times hinting at a folky Portishead or P.J. Harvey while sparse guitar is reminiscent of the lighter side of Led Zeppelin. Ranging from alternative to bluegrass to even a bit of country folk this band has an incredible presence fueled by their passion for music. My favorite song on the record is “Embroidery Queen” a dark, brooding tale of betrayal and passionate addiction to the pain. “She’s a vampiress that feeds off will / She’ll take your moment and make it still / You better watch what you start to feel / don’t assume what she says is real”. The song is a structurally profound for the group equipped with many parts that flow together perfectly through chaos. The album closes with “And, Yes”; a barstool favorite and perfect ending to an excellent debut. A harmonica slow dances with vocal melody “And Yes, I can see the light’s are on / But no one said you have to go home / And Yes, I believe you will be saying ‘girl I’ll be driving you home'” and at the end if you listen closely and pop open a beer or take a swig of whiskey you’ll feel like you’re hanging out at the bonfire with the band!
ONLINE: myspace.com/podunknowhere

BAT FOR LASHES – FUR AND GOLD
I first caught on to this band by the presumptious single for Fur & Gold, “What’s a Girl To Do”. The song starts off with a vintage drum kit with sparkly tamborines and then transforms into a creepy harpiscord riff and a heavily accented lady confides to you that she has fallen out of love and asks for your advice: “What’s a girl to Do?”. Well, I don’t know, probably her idea was best: write a mystical collection of music and make others fall for you.
http://www.batforlashes.com

SWALLOWS – CLOUD MACHINES
My inner narcissism tells me I really shouldn’t include this album in my Top 10 because I don’t want to come off as a narcississ but I truly cannot help it if I create music I love to listen to and wear our band t-shirt 4+ days a week. To make myself comfortable I will begin to talk about our band in the third person: Duality and opposition drive Swallows as through the creation of Cloud Machines. The duo challenged themselves developing ideas of how to recreate the concept of a pop music structure. Take starting track, “Anchors”, for example: It does not follow a standard pop structure, as each section of the song is different, either slight or drastic. It is essentially a pop song because each part has a catchy hook and flows seamlessly into each other. Second tracks of albums are very important in keeping the listeners attention which is why “When You’re in Love” is such a great catalyst. It is a lot more accessible to the casual listener yet has a sense of urgency and simple, hopeful lyric: “We’re Never Gonna Break Up Until We’re Dead / Cause When You’re in Love It Never Ends”. The third track, “Twilight’s Last Hour” lowers the momentum and is the most “emotionally resonant” song on the album. This song is an excellent example on how Swallows play off each other as each guitar part is backed by an accompanied percussion. “Everyone on Trial” serves as a direct anthem of empowerment and independence and closing “Language is Restless” is a mouthful of shamanic awakening (((“In our dreams we are the actors / playing all the roles / Holographs of all the people that we’ve seen and known / Language is restless often oppresses what we have to say / Used as a weapon a sign of affection everyone has their way” ))) closing with hypnotizing chants suggesting subliminal messages that clearly marks this album as one of the best contributions to the music community at large in 2007.
ONLINE: http://www.songsofswallows.com

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