Further reflection on the music year that was: GEOFF STAHL lists his ten best albums (plus a few more), while KIRAN DASS chimes in with an alternate top five for 2007.


GEOFF STAHL: The Year seems dominated by some pretty groovy Gallic gals (and an ex-pat Canuck who resides there now). This year seemed to put France back on the musical map, at least for me. Nary a new rock album in here, but you’ll no doubt get those from elsewhere.

It was also the year of the re-edit, but I’ve not listed any as they’re not something you’ll find with much ease, limited pressings that they are. I’ll just note that Prins Thomas and Pilooski have done some fancy dancey ones. They’ve been a big part of my new investment in blogspot and rapidshare as twinned sources for hearing new (and old) music.

As another important port of call in race to be the most infinite and time-sucking pleasures of on-line musical access, the demise of OiNK is also worthy of lament. A model in many ways of how music should be archived, catalogued and distributed (minus the invite system), it was a shame it went down. Good news that others have tried to pick up the ball and run with it. The big labels should be looking to nick this as a business model rather than busting teenagers and grandmothers.

Mareva Galanter, Ukuyeye: Lovely retro-fuelled album that is only just shy of twee at times. A haunting cover of “Bang Bang” which veers towards schmaltz (with Jacno adding a few near croons) makes it for me, but anyone who can channel France Gall as well as Mareva does is a winner to these ears.

Fabienne Delsol, Between You and Me: More deliberately classical than Galanter, the flair for 60s yé yé makes this album a nice stopgap while we wait for the next April March LP to drop.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, 5.55: With the help of Air, Charlotte puts out an album that we could only hope to be a global hit. Sophisticated Sunday listening fare, to be frank, but if you’re going to fritter a day away, this should be your soundtrack.

Feist, The Reminder: Perhaps the iPod-wedded ubiquity of “One, Two, Three, Four” tempered the lasting appeal of this one, but redeemed for being more consistent and through and through pleasant than the last ones. And faint praise is not meant to be damning here.

Yelle, Pop-Up: Conjuring up some of the best French 80s pop (nods to Les Rita Mitsouko, with the risqué intact), no doubt inflected by repeat listens to Heaven 17’s “Penthouse and Pavement,” Yelle puts her distinctive stamp on Gallic electro.

M.I.A., Kala: More consistent than “Arular,” this sounds like the template for future pop.

Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?: Psychedelic progressive pop which name drops Bataille and doesn’t get caught up in too many rockist trappings? Works for me. Seeing them on Conan was a joy.

For me, this year also gave us four great electronic albums, all of which seem to reach for a little body even in their minimalist guise:

Fairmount, Coloured in Memory: Minimal techno that aspires to a dark moist cakey analogue warmth and richness. Nothing quite approaching the stripped down Jean-Jacques Perrey-inspired charm of their earlier single “Gazebo,” but an easy to swallow listen all the same.

The Field, From Here We Go Sublime: Soaring at times and spare at others, this album charts an electronic landscape whose topography is blips, pops, whirs and bottomless basins of bass.

Gui Boratto, Chromophobia: Pulsating and epic, this remains a compelling mix of 4 on the floor dance beats and more stretched out spartan soundscapes.

Ellen Allien and Apparat, Orchestra of Bubbles: Cut-up sampling and frenetic beats strung together into a glistening set of post-techno tracks that should be the closer of any dance club worth its salt in sweat. Dark, and with just a hint of menace at points, this augers well for the always already future of electronic music.

Bonus Compilation:

VA, After Dark: Mainly for bringing together the Chromatics’ lean, slow burn cosmic disco of “In the City,” (the band which also gave us a melancholic cover of “Running Up That Hill” which is infinitely more compelling than that other forgettable version a couple of years back – note that nothing touches Patrick Wolf’s live version of same) with Glass Candy’s cuts (two great covers – Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love” and “Miss Broadway” by Belle Epoque).

Reissues:
» VA, Achili Funk: Gipsy Soul 69-79
» VA, Andergraun Vibrations
» VA, BIPPP: French Synth-Wave 79-85
» VA, Bombshell Baby of Bombay
» VA, Bombay Connection
» VA, Sitar Beat Vol. 2
» VA, Disco Deutschland Disco
» VA, Gózalo! Bugalú Tropical Vols. 1&2
» Jack Arel, Chappell Recorded Music Library Works (+ remixes)
» Selda, Selda (Finders Keepers)

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KIRAN DASS: I sort of feel like a feeble fraud compiling a list of what I reckon to be the best albums of 2007. That’s because by and large, I listen to loads of “old stuff” – my friends often give me jib for having the music tastes of a middle aged man; you know, being stuck in the musical cave of 1982. But, you know what? I actually did hear some fantastic new albums in 2007. And what do you know? None of them were by Arcade Fire or L.C.D Soundsystem.

Pumice, Pebbles: A national treasure, I tell you. Auckland’s Pumice has perfected the art of the gloriously scrunched up, wonky and mumbly folk/noise song. Like sea shanties recorded on broken equipment underwater, Pebbles is a gleaming collection of 11 gems. Every single track is exquisite, including the stomping ‘The Only Doosh Worth Giving’, the heart-stopping ‘Brownbrownbrown’ and the clattering ‘Northland’. It’s mesmerising, beautiful and certainly a country mile ahead of anyone else.

VA, Compact Listen: Compiled by Tim Coster, himself a key player in the Auckland experimental/noise circuit, Compact Listen is one of the most meticulously compiled compilations I’ve heard in a while. A wonderful mix of old and young guns, it has a considered cross-section of artists from Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Tokyo and Los Angeles. My favourites are the dusty ‘A Tin Dinghy’ by MHFS, the startlingly crystalline and sharp edged ‘Peace Pill’ by Sweetcakes, the wistful and achingly beautiful ‘Odessa’ by Rosy Parlane and the only slightly menacing ‘Moon of the Moongoat’ by Stefan Neville. www.halftheory.com/claudia

Thurston, Trees Outside the Academy: Yes, that’s Thurston Moore, the other hip priest of indie rock. Good on you, Thurston, I like it when you ditch noodly experimentalism in favour of good old pop song. Trees Outside the Academy is his second solo offering outside of Sonic Youth since 1995s Psychic Hearts. It’s clear Moore has always been able to shift effortlessly between the avant garde and the pop, but I love how this sounds like a classic rock album. The jaunty instrumental ‘Off Work’ is a beaut.

Alastair Galbraith, Orb: Whether you delve into his previous work with The Rip, Plagal Grind or his solo offerings, you can’t go wrong with any Galbraith, I reckon .Cut from the Flying Nun and Xpressway Records cloth, Galbraith has released work of remarkable beauty for well over 20 years. Orb is a real treat of utterly moving, fragile folk songs punctuated by gorgeous drones and sheer fragments of astonishing wonder.

The Terminals, Last Days of the Sun: Nobody else really sounds like The Terminals. From Stephen Cogle’s trilly croon, and Mick Elborado’s swirling organ to their Jacques Brel-esque sense of dark humour and drama; their psychedelic and catchy garage pop makes them a special band. The release show for this album in Wellington at the end of 2007 reminded me of why I even like music in the first place. It was one of the most gleefully exuberant performances I’ve ever seen. Everyone in the room was smiling, and I was left grinning like the village idiot for days afterwards. My favourites here include ‘Premonitions’, ‘Creepers’ and ‘Different Air’.