Friday, January 11th, 2008

Best Music of 2007

Feel Mysterious Today?

The theme of my year: learn to act up, not down. Doesn’t mean I can’t crank it with the youngest of them. And I ain’t mad at your Members Only. But I did that in 8th grade.

When I was a teenager, I used to read Rolling Stone and Pazz & Jop religiously, and buy, tape or somehow cop all the top-rated stuff (then hate half of it). The first time Xgau sent me an invite to Pazz and Jop in 1992, I hung it on my wall.

But when the whole critics poll thing imploded last year, with the Idolator Jackin’ Pop splitting from the P+J, I began to stop caring. At one point, seeing a hip-hop act atop the critics’ charts was really important to me, but now it’s clear that searching for pop consensus—and trying to move that consensus—is not the best use of the time I have left.

So I submit this list to you more out of a sense of obligation than evangelical fervor, just to let you know—if you care—what I dug, in the hopes of possibly turning you on to something that will move you the way it did me. I really think you really don’t care what was on my iPod last year. But supposing you do, here it is what it was…

As always in no particular order. And now, in no particular format either, because the album as we’ve known it is dead or at least dying and privileging album-lengths no longer makes much sense. Format inserted only so that you can be a happy consumer, if you wish. Somewhat helpful notes included sometimes.


“Night” :: Benga + Coki
Afrofuturist carnival dubsteppa whose soca beat and bell-ringing Latin breakdown allusions to Todd Terry’s classic “A Day In The Life of…Black Riot” had me falling out of my rocker. Rewind of the year, if not the century.

Kala :: M.I.A.
Maya Arulpragasam, why don’t you love me? Just kidding. You’ve heard me on this album before, but I’ll say it again. Respectfully breaking from many of my peers who, like the homie O-Dub (see, we are different people) have called MIA’s record “politically uneven”, I repeat that artistry and policy are not the same thing.

Lefty musicrits have talked this trash since Bob Dylan’s 1965 electric parting of the pop seas. (Note the lefties back then were on the ‘folk’ side of the folk/rock split.) And it’s a charge that they only make against so-called “political” artists like Bob Dylan, the Clash, Public Enemy, and Rage Against The Machine. If I ever hear a musicrit accusing Ted Nugent or Toby Keith of being politically uneven, I will eat his copy of Atlas Shrugged without ketchup.

Really, do we want MIA to set the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to a dirty house beat on her next album? I thought not. Next…

Hamsterdam, Volume 2: Stash To Da Strip :: Darkroom Productions
The rap mixtape I listened to the most this year. Featuring a true cross-section of Bmore’s best, Darkroom takes gangsta back to the days when it was scary, not merely stylish, and blew absolutely everything on the majors and, uh, Koch, right off the page. Tyree Colion’s relentless, ambivalent, shocking “Projects” was the best rap song of 2007. Period. Quote me.

Inna Di Road :: Chezidek
True Reflections…A New Beginning :: Jah Cure
Since I Wayne’s 2004 breakthrough “Can’t Satisfy Her”, one-drop fans have been pushing back towards more gentle falsettos, which partly explains the swelling of support for Jah Cure, who literally built his fanbase from behind bars, and Chezidek, a consummate stylist whose previous albums never drew much attention. Of these two great records, Chezidek’s is the more consistent, Jah Cure’s has the higher heights. If Cure can survive freedom, he might become one of the all-time greats. Chezidek is already on his way.

Untrue :: Burial
After Burial’s ethereal first LP, one might have expected his sophomore effort to float away. Instead, it become slightly more melodic and groove-oriented, a little more defined. Untrue is a less demanding pleasure, yet one whose meanings remain elusive and mysterious. Dubstep at its most auterist, and that’s not a bad thing yet.

…I Scream Bars For The Children :: Bambu
My favorite mixtape this year didn’t come from a dude named Wayne, but this brother from Los Angeles (and the Yay) from Native Guns. (LATE CORRECTION (1/23) :: it’s actually his second LP…) Bambu easily accomplishes the very thing that De La Soul used to do so well: humanize the day-to-day struggle. But this is hardly by-the-numbers neoclassical hip-hop in a ’89 vein. There’s no wasted nostalgia. Instead Bambu has idiosyncratic humor and sly insight that come from actually having lived something real. …I Scream… is an effortless evocation of west coast streetwise polyculturalism, an understated classic bound to grow in the hip-hop imagination.

“Hunting For Witches” :: Bloc Party
A burning number about the hypocrisy of the politics of terror and Lou Dobbs-style anti-immigrant pseudo-populism, sung hard by the UK son of Africans. Bloc Party took critical hits this year for supposedly going topical and obtuse, but this one song had more balls than that entire album by those wack Talking Heads wannabees Spoon. Rrrrrrahhh!

African Underground Volume 2 : Depths of Dakar :: Various Artists
A bicoastal project—from New York City to Dakar—that not only demonstrated the ridiculous talent of Senegal’s port city but played a role in voter protection in this year’s landmark elections. The music ranges from skittery hi-tempo beats that sound like grime-on-meth to Senegalese reggae to downtempo urban potboilers. Slept-on, but essential.

“Nothing Better Than” :: Joss Stone
I like my corn. Yes I do.

Gutterfly :: Lifesavas
The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams :: Me’shell Ndgeocello
The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust :: Saul Williams + Trent Reznor
Ok, ignore what I said about the album format. Here are three records that—like Return To Cookie Mountain did last year—loudly and quietly make the counterargument—that the form is not just relevant, but necessary, in order to tell a layered narrative, and to present difficult, interconnected ideas that can somehow substantiate all those critical claims of genius.

“Morning Child” :: 4 Hero
If strollers were outfitted with subwoofers, this would have been the Saturday AM bump on Seventh Avenue in the Slope this year.

“2D” :: Skream
And this kid is still only, like, 21. Praise di yute dem!

“Shadowcasting” :: Martyn
“Grimey Princes” :: Joker
Two more dubstep tracks leading toward the field out of its half-step pogo toward an encounter with the strange perspective-warping spatialistics of 80s Detroit techno.

Betty Davis
They Say I’m Different :: Betty Davis
Monumental reissues by the fantastic Seattle label Light In The Attic—lovingly remastered, blissfully annotated by O-Dub—of an unjustly forgotten, incredibly important figure in the funk.

Live Convention 77-79 :: Kenny Wilson
The record’s provenance is still indeterminate, but the grooves are glorious. A true evocation of old-school Bronx-style hip-hop, featuring the voices of Lisa Lee, Kool Kyle, Melle Mel, Cowboy, Smiley, and more.

Mad Decent Worldwide Radio Podcasts :: Diplo
Hate him because he’s got red-carpet treatment at airports around the world. Even hate his music. But admit that the second year of podcasts has often been revelatory, including a killer cumbia set, a ridiculous mix that reduced the BBC’s Pete Tong to on-air confusion (OK, so that’s not too difficult), and a guest spot by Radio Clit spinning blazing African rumba rockers. Plus, dude posted Arkade Funk on his website (only about two years after me). Face it, Diplo has great taste and you don’t.

We’re About The Business :: Chuck Brown
Chuck links with Chucky Thompson and sets a new standard for go-go. Long live The Godfather!

Forever Version Deluxe Edition:: Dennis Alcapone
Roots Man Dub :: The Revolutionaries
Heartbeat’s reggae reissue series steps up with two of the greatest Jamaican records. Alcapone’s 1971 record shows him in fine form over all the classic Studio One riddims, an important early DJ record, and adds 6 new tracks. The 1979 Roots Man record is a classic dub album from Alvin Ranglin’s vaults, with an entire previously unreleased CD’s worth of dubs.


Back East :: Joshua Redman Trio
“Back Home” :: Blue Scholars
Back to Black :: Amy Winehouse
The Big Doe Rehab :: Ghostface Killah
The Cool :: Lupe Fiasco
“Crown Royal” :: Jill Scott
“Culture United” :: X Clan & Damian Marley
Dawn :: Build An Ark
“Dreaming” :: Mavado
Dubstep All-Stars Vol. 5 :: N-Type
“Emergency Bass” :: Dr. Das
“Hustlin'” :: Calibre
In Rainbows :: Radiohead
Keep Reachin’ Up :: Nicole Willis & The Investigators
Live At The 2006 New Orleans Jazz Fest :: Hot 8 Brass Band
La Radiolina :: Manu Chao
“Nostalgia” :: Marco Polo feat. Masta Ace
Maths & English :: Dizzee Rascal
SiNo :: Café Tacuba
Sound of Silver :: LCD Soundsystem
“Take Back The Scene” :: Durrty Goods
Two Sevens Clash Deluxe Edition :: Culture
Underground Kingz :: UGK
United We Swing :: Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Visions :: Dennis Brown
West Coast Vaccine (The Cure) :: Turf Talk
“What You Need” :: Lyrics Born with Galactic

posted by @ 4:39 pm | 1 Comment

One Response to “Best Music of 2007”

  1. Optimum says:

    Check out recent new dubstep in the form of Ikonika, forthcoming tune out on hyperdub!!

    Get on this before everyone else does 😉 Great blog btw

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