The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mix CD - Best Songs of 2007

As a music lover, I have reached into my collections of albums. cassettes and CDs over the years and created collections of favorite songs. When I was in college and hadn’t caught onto the CD craze, I used by dual deck tabletop stereo copy songs onto blank mix tapes. This was a painstaking process involving grabbing the cassette containing the song, inserting it into one side of the cassette deck, fast forwarding and rewinding until I found the very beginning of the song I wanted to copy, and press the button to copy it onto my blank cassette. Hopefully I wouldn’t have copied over the last song I had copied.

Now with recordable CDs and Itunes (and songs I have paid for fair and square), the process of making a mix CD is much easier. But with so much great music coming out over the past year, picking a list of my favorite 20 songs to put on a CD wasn’t easy. And this is only from the CDs I managed to get around to downloading this year. I’m sure a few years down the road I’ll stumble across some brilliant recording by some obscure band from this year that blows me away, and tomorrow I might decide on one song I decide I like better than another on this list. But I think these 20 songs are terrific and fit together really well on a mix CD, with the appropriate amount of diverse songs and climaxes. So here goes, my favorite songs of 2007.

1. You! Me! Dancing! - Los Campanesinos
- A joyful jumpy dance song by a new group from Wales. They only have an EP so far, but it was so catchy it made my top 10 list of albums for the year. Please release a full CD soon.

2. Running Away - Polyphonic Spree
- This 21-piece ensemble here uses their choral rock and roll shtick to its fullest effect. And they put on a heck of a live show.

3. You Got Your Cherry Bomb – Spoon
- From one of the year’s best crafted rock albums, where no drumbeat or guitar chord is wasted in building incredibly catchy songs

4. Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire
- Evoking 70s’ era Springsteen and Jackson Browne in creating a song for the ‘00s about escaping urban decay and isolation

5. Skyway - Apples in Stereo
- A groovy power pop song from one of the grooviest power pop bands out there

6. Imitosis - Andrew Bird
- The staccato violin string picking gets inside my head and won’t let go, and lyrics about the inability of science to solve the problem of loneliness (a common theme in the top songs of the year, it seems)

7. Cage in a Cave – Rasputina
- From one of the strangest CDs of the year, a story having to do with the invasion of Pitcairn Island by a blimp army in the 19th century, comes this heavy metal cello trio. This song leads with a great cello hook, proving that great cello hooks are not the exclusive domain of Yo-yo Ma.

8. Mistaken for Strangers - The National
- Paste Magazine called Boxer by the National, the year’s best album. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a good album. At its high points, The National captures the loneliness and discomfort in the corporate culture of modern corporate America. I considered using “Fake Empire”, which itself is an amazing, song, but the heavier attention-grabbing sound of this one fit into my collection better. It forces you to pay attention and make you think whether or not you have sold out to the machine.

9. Pull Shapes - The Pipettes
- A British revival of the classic ‘60s girl group sound, one of the year’s best feel-good singles. I can’t help but grinning when I hear this song.

10. Valerie - Mark Ronson (with Amy Winehouse)
- Another terrific pop song, a reworking of a Zuton’s song courtesy of UK DJ Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, who won’t go to rehab but is a fabulous soul singer.

11. The Apocalypse Song - St. Vincent
- From one of the year’s most unique new artists, a mesmerizing slow build of a song that lodges itself in my brain due to an incessant off-beat guitar chord.

12. I Understand – Sloan
- From my favorite album of the year, a near perfect power-pop song by the Canadian popsters.

13. 92 Suburu - Fountains of Wayne
- A power pop ode to an unremarkable automobile, but the fact that this particular model is the object of romantic obsession is pretty darn funny.

14. My Cardboard Box - Swirling Eddies
- One of the wittiest tunes of the year, a love song between homeless folks, the kind of thing that I’ve learned to expect from Terry Taylor.

15. Power On, Little Star - Maria McKee
- Maria Mckee channels a late night cabaret chanteuse trapped in the body of a rock star. Bravo!

16. A Sunday Smile – Beirut
- One of the years best new artists, Beirut channels the feel of early 20th century jazz filtered through Eastern European folk music, and creates a languid lush concoction.

17. Don't Wait for Tom - Over the Rhine
- OtR gives Linford Detweiler a rare lead vocal, and he offers up a funky tribute to Tom Waits that would make the man himself smile.

18. Bury Me Closer – Palomar
- Ethereal and haunting. Lovely female harmonies in a song that recalls the better moments of the Shangri-Las

19. When Your Mind's Made Up - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
- From one of the best films of the year, Once. A song that slowly builds to a soaring climax.

20. Myriad Harbor - New Pornographers
- A song that evokes a strong sense of place, a leisurely stroll along a boardwalk, watching the hucksters and hipsters hanging around, a soundscape of urban life

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Lists - Best of 2007

It's another New Year's Day. A time for looking forward to new opportunities and the chance to put up the new calendars I got for Christmas. It also means that it's time to look back at the past year and make lists. So here goes with my best of 2007 in music and film. I know there are other things that people make lists of, but I will spare everyone in cyberspace the list of goofy YouTube videos that matches everyone else's lists anyway, and I will not catalog my favorite condiments. There is only one that really matters anyway, spicy brown mustard. So here goes:

Top 10 films for the year (subject to change when really good films that premiered on the West and East Coast finally make it here to my city in the dark days of January):

1. Paprika
2. Ratatouille
3. Into the Wild
4. Juno
5. Michael Clayton
6. The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters
7. Once
8. Lars and the Real Girl
9. Gone Baby Gone
10. The Lookout

Top 10 music recordings. (This is subject to change when I get around to a lot of cool stuff that I haven't gotten around to listening/downloading yet):

1. Sloan – - Never Hear the End of It
2. Arcade Fire – - Neon Bible
3. Spoon – - Ga ga ga ga ga
4. Apples in Stereo –- New Magnetic Wonder
5. New Pornographers – - Challengers
6. Los Campanesios – - Sticking Fingers into Sockets
7. Beirut – - The Flying Club Cup
8. Rasputina – - Oh Perilous World
9. Swirling Eddies – - The Midget, the Speck, and the Molecule
10. Radiohead - In Rainbows

Top songs of the year, which I will burn onto my Best of 2007 mix CD (I hope they all fit):

1. You! Me! Dancing! - Los Campanesinos
2. Running Away - Polyphonic Spree
3. You Got Your Cherry Bomb - Spoon
4. Skyway - Apples in Stereo
5. Imitosis - Andrew Bird
6. Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire
7. Cage in a Cave - Rasputina
8. Mistaken for Strangers - The National
9. Pull Shapes - The Pipettes
10. Valerie - Mark Ronson (with Amy Winehouse)
11. The Apocalypse Song - St. Vincent
12. I Understand - Sloan
13. The Picture - Son Volt
14. '92 Suburu - Fountains of Wayne
15. My Cardboard Box - Swirling Eddies
16. Power On, Little Star - Maria McKee
17. A Sunday Smile - Beirut
18. Don't Wait for Tom - Over the Rhine
19. Bury Me Closer - Palomar
20. When Your Mind's Made Up - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
21. Myriad Harbor - New Pornographers

Top Live Concerts:

1. Polyphonic Spree, The Pageant, St. Louis
2. The Police, ScottTrade Center, St. Louis
3. The Bears, Blueberry Hill, St. Louis
4. The Lee Boys, Cornerstone music festival, Bushnell, IL
5. Bloodgood, Cornerstone music festival, Bushnell, IL
6. Over the Rhine, Cornerstone music festival, Bushnell, IL
7. Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Riverfront stage under the Arch, St. Louis
8. Apples in Stereo, Blueberry Hill, St. Louis
9. ilyAimy, St. Charles Coffee House, St. Charles, MO
10. Andrew Bird, The Pageant, St. Louis

Favorite Books I read this year (I'll do a top 15 list instead of 10 ten, because, it takes a lot of time to read a book, you know)

1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke
2. Crazy '08, Cait Murphy
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J,K. Rowling
4. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
5. Auralia's Colors, Jeffrey Overstreet
6. The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon
7. Trackers, Kathryn Mackel
8. The Fireberd Trilogy, Kathy Tyres
9. The Legend of the Firefish, George Bryan Povlika
10. Rethinking Worldview, J. Mark Bertrand
11. Story of a Girl, Sara Zarr
12. Fantasyland, Sam Walker
13. In High Places, Tom Morrisey
14. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders
15. Hood, Stephen Lawhead