Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top Albums of 2007

Top Ten Albums of 2007

By Josh Ruffin

Witchcraft
The Alchemist

In case you ever wondered what Cream would have sounded like with a little more drone and an almost unhealthy interest in the occult, Witchcraft would like to show you. The Alchemist takes a giant leap past the Sabbath/Pentagram worship of their first two offerings, and drops a warped blues-rock bomb right down your throat. Absolutely essential listening for…well, anyone.

A Life Once Lost
Iron Gag

ALOL rep the ugly underbelly of Philadelphia, as opposed to every other ugly part of Philadelphia. Iron Gag finds the group at what is thus far their creative peak as they churn out a perfectly-balanced but combustible mixture of groove, sleaze, and just generally being really drunk and pissed-off. I hit repeat on “Firewater Joyride” at least once every time I spin this disc.

Moneen
The Red Tree

This thing actually dropped back in April of 2006, but I just reviewed it this year, so accept it and get over yourself. One of the sleepers on this list, The Red Tree is unabashedly emo, but distinguishes itself by being about eighty-five times as intelligent as anything Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco could ever even think about writing. Also just about the best live band I’ve seen…period. Kenny Bridges gives awesome hugs, too.

Zoroaster
Dog Magic

Assisted by a skyline-sized wall of Sunn and Green amps, Zoroaster are what a black hole sounds like. These Atlanta-based sludge-o-matics aren’t breaking any new ground with their latest album, but I’ll be damned if they don’t take every single stoner-fuzz formula in the doom canon and do cartwheels with them. A split EP with Sunn 0))) within the next five years sounds like a good idea.

The Hotel Alexis
Goliath, I’m On Your Side

The production and instrumentation on this second LP from Sidney Alexis is so fragile, you’re afraid to break it if you listen too closely. Goliath, I’m On Your Side presents a version of Alexis equally as contemplative as on his 2006 debut, but one infinitely more adventurous. Don’t take that as an implication of machismo, though; his pained vocals evoke assurance as well as vulnerability on “Sister Ray” and “Suddenly It’s You and Me,” respectively.

Pelican
City of Echoes

One of the few instrumental bands to distinguish themselves as more lyrical than most groups that actually have a singer, Pelican’s compositions prior to 2007 had been typically characterized as sprawling, progressive epics usually clocking in at over ten minutes. For City of Echoes, the foursome pared down the arrangements, resulting in their most tightly-focused and accessible work to date; weighty, aggressively optimistic songs like “Spaceship Broken, Parts Needed,” and the title track are just a reminder that the best of Pelican is probably yet to come, but what we’ve got so far is pretty damn cool.

Bigelf
Hex

If anyone goes and tells the dudes of Bigelf that it’s not actually the early 70s anymore, I’ll hunt you down and bludgeon you with a stack of vinyl. Though recorded in 2003 and released stateside only this year, Hex takes everything melodic and funky about the Zeppelin era and rolls it all into one big psychedelic eight-ball. They’ve definitely earned their “evil Beatles” moniker; “Sunshine Suicide” sounds like George Harrison repeatedly slamming his Telecaster into Paul McCartney’s larynx. And yes, that’s a good thing.

Jesu
Conqueror, Lifeline

That’s right, Jesu’s got two albums on this list. Don’t bitch too much, though; at least I had the decency to combine them into one spot and not let it take up too much room. But c’mon…we’re talking Justin Broadrick here, and if you don’t get that, then this isn’t for you. Conqueror’s thundering guitars meld seamlessly with Broadrick’s trademark atmospherics, while Lifeline fully realizes the direction that the Silver EP implied, as the former Godflesh main man lays out an ocean of ambience as the foundation for some truly ethereal melodies.

Burning Brides
Hang Love

This one snuck in under the radar, and I wouldn’t have even had a chance to give it a listen if it hadn’t randomly shown up in my mailbox one day; thanks, File Thirteen! For their third album, Philadelphia’s Burning Brides deliver an absolutely pulverizing barrage of boogie-metal riffs, balanced by refreshingly self-aware pop hooks. Apparently they teach this stuff at Julliard. “Ring Around the Rosary” is the most ferociously catchy thing I’ve heard all year, and probably the best opening track in recent memory.

The Blow
Paper Television

Proving once and for all that electro-pop can actually make you tilt your head to the left and ponder the meaning of life, The Blow’s Paper Television made a relatively soft commercial landing when it was released early this year. I get the feeling, however, that brainchild Khaela Maricich could give a piss; “Pile of Gold” and the quirky love ballad “Parentheses” are simultaneously whimsical and challenging.

Honorable Mention:

Pig Destroyer, Phantom Limb: PD turn in their usual big f’n slab of death-grind, only this time it also happens to have some hooks hidden within the murk.

High on Fire, Death is this Communion: Try to imagine Motorhead being dragged across the ocean floor by a brontosaurus on a bad day.

Calvin Johnson and the Sons of the Soil (self-titled): A career-spanning collection of re-recorded gems by the seminal Northwest troubadour freak; he and Nick Cave should duke it out in a Battle of the Lower Registers.

Ladybirds, Regional Community Theatre: Saccharine pop perfection from Gym Class Heroes’ keyboardist Tyler Purcel and vocalist Teeter Sperber. Prepare to grin like an idiot in love.

Grinderman (self-titled): A garage-punk splinter of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, the Aussie songsmith gets downright raunchy on “No Pussy Blues,” and reaffirms his pop sensibilities with “Honeybee Let’s Fly to Mars.”

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