Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 - My Year in Tunes

Another year, another unhealthy expansion of my CD collection. When I started sorting through this year's new arrivals, I thought I'd have a real hard time narrowing it down to just a few highlights. In the end, however, these really rose to the top. As usual, I don't make any claim that these are the "best" of anything, but at least some favorites.

New for 2007

  • Richard Barbieri - Things Buried: Barbieri is currently best known as the keyboard player with Porcupine Tree, although he first came to prominence in the 1980s with the arty synth-pop band Japan. Barbieri isn't a Wakenman/Emerson fleet fingers of fire kind of guy, but instead is a master of sound creation and texturing. This - his first solo album in all these years - is an all-instrumental exploration of those tones, noises, and rhythms that he can conjure up. There's just enough "real" percussion and some tasty fretless bass from Brand X's Percy Jones to provide some variety. If I had any kind of talent, my stuff would sound a lot like this.
  • Beardfish - Sleeping in Traffic: Part One: While not the revelatory experience that the band's two-disc The Sane Day was last year, this is still an excellent album. It's a little heavier and less keyboard friendly, but contains lots of great bits. It also has my favorite track of the year, "Roulette," which ends with a nice accordion feature!
  • Rush - Snakes and Arrows: To be honest, while Rush has long been one of my favorite bands, their more recent offerings have been inconsistent at best. Not bad, mind you, but devoid of many highlights. For whatever reason, the boys brushed off the cobwebs with Snake and Arrows, my favorite Rush disc since around Grace Under Pressure. Musically, the presence of lots of acoustic guitar (and even some Mellotron!) is a nice contrast to the thundering sections. Lyrically, Peart's focus on issues of religion, faith, and the lack thereof is right up my ally.
New to Me
  • The Decemberists - Practically everything: I developed a serious band-crush on The Decemberists this year. It started when I read about their last album, The Crane Wife, on some 2006 best of lists and picked it up in January. I really liked it. Spurred on by some comments to this post, I explored the back catalog. By the end of the year, I had the whole thing (except for one EP, I think) and Netflixed the DVD. Perhaps even more impressive - I got them all at the local Borders, no Internet commerce required. It's been some time that I could say that about a new discovery.
  • The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002): This album entered my brain in the same way as The Crane Wife, even though they're not a thing alike. It was highly praised when it came out, so that I eventually picked up a copy this year. I really like it, even though some fans of the band consider it to be overrated compared to the rest of their catalog. Which just means I'll have to explore it some more, I guess, in 2008.
  • D.F.A. - Lavori in Corso (1997): What a buy. I picked this up in a clutch of used discs being sold by the organizer of ProgDay, sort of vaguely knowing the name, but that's about it. What I discovered was a band that reminds me a lot of a more melodic less jagged version of their countrymen Deus ex Machina (and without that Latin lyrics). Lots of symphonic influenced fusion with interweaving keyboard and guitar runs. Excellent stuff, if you like that kind of thing.
Honorable Mentions
  • Keneally & Genesis reissues: Sometimes things come around that are neither new for the year or new to me in particular. Such is the case with a pair of excellent reissues. First came the goodies from Mike Keneally, who recently regained the rights to his first few solo albums. 2007 saw the reissue of the first two, hat and Boil That Dust Speck, in remastered forms with bonus DVDs including all sorts of making of videos and old & new live footage. Then came the Genesis reissues, which (at this point) cover all of the non-Gabriel years. Released in two boxed sets, I picked up the one with A Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering, . . . and Then There Were Three, Duke, and Abacab. Each came in a 2-disc set, with the remixed album on one disc and a bunch of DVD bonus goodies on the other, including some very cool hard to find live footage.
That's it for tunes. Check back tomorrow for the annual review of film & video.

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