These go to 10
A look back at the good, the rad and the (sm)ugly of 2007
OK … quick, there’s no time or space for jibber-jabber. Lists rule. Read on to see what floated our writers’ boats in the world of music and arts in the past year.
10. The old guys still make the best noise: The original Dinosaur Jr. trio (with Lou Barlow!) returned with Beyond, a scorcher of a new disc that harkens back to the days of Bug and Your Living All Over Me. And, S.F.'s Track Star played three reunion shows in the city, and the one I caught at Hemlock Tavern made me feel 10 years younger for a few days.
9. The nine great albums: The National, The Boxer; Chris Bathgate, A Cork Tale Wake; M.I.A., Kala; Bishop Allen, The Broken String; Arcade Fire, Neon Bible; Amy Winehouse, Back to Black; Los Campesinos, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (EP); Okkervil River, The Stage Names; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder.
8. The Not Feelin’ It Award: Radiohead, In Rainbows: Recorded really well and released in a very noteworthy way (without a label, and at a price chosen by the consumer), but it still leaves me cold.
7. The 12 great songs: The Go! Team, “Proof of Youth"; Vampire Weekend, “Mansard Roof” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"; Los Campesinos, “You! Me! Dancing!"; The Mae Shi, “Run to Your Grave"; Feist, “1234,"; Peter, Bjorn & John, “Young Folks"; Sean Kingston, “Beautiful Girls"; Titus Andronicus, “Titus Andronicus"; Robyn, “Konichiwa Bitches"; Tim Armstrong, “Into Action"; Lil Mama, “Lip Gloss.”
6. The local trifecta: Bear Hunter’s debut CD, You Will Be Heard; Michael Lee’s song “The Jealous Type;” and Erin Lizardo’s magnificent voice.
5. The Arcade Fire experience: If I see Arcade Fire live 10 times, there’s a very good chance that my top 10 live shows of all time will be Arcade Fire shows. Live at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley is No. 2.
4. The (many) great new bands: Titus Andronicus. Je Suis France. Black Before Red. Los Campesinos. The Cool Kids. Blitzen Trapper. Kissaway Trail.
3. The (one) greatest new band: Vampire Weekend. On the strength of its Blue CD-R release/demo, this fresh-faced group of Columbia grads has sparked heated Internet music-geek debates that swing from dismissive rants on the band’s preppy looks and co-opting of African rhythms to exultations on it as the next great American band. I definitely lean heavily toward the latter sentiment and think that this is the most fun I’ve had listening to a band in years.
2. The 2008 release I’m most looking forward to: Jan. 29, XL Recordings … Vampire Weekend.
1. Vampire Weekend
Christine G.K. LaPado
(no particular order)
The Chieftains at Laxson, Jan. 30: A whole lot of very fine and lively fiddlin’ (and playin’ of other instruments), steppin’ and singin’ for a sold-out crowd from one of the must-see Irish groups of all time.
Sourdough Slim and cowboy poet Baxter Black at Laxson, Feb. 17: Dare I say it, but opener Slim stole the show with his great accordion playing and yodeling, and adorable antics. Black had a hard act to follow, and by some estimations never managed to live up to Slim’s tone-setting excellence.
Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands and Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys at Laxson, Feb. 23: One of the best double bills of the year. Either group alone would have been worth the price of admission, but kick-ass newgrass queen Lewis teamed up with bluegrass king Stanley was pure yee-haw and excellent fun!
Karen Joy Brown, CD release party at Café Coda, March 30: The local musician’s lovely voice and great, folksy-pretty songwriting (and good food and drink) made for a very pleasant evening, made even sweeter by the fact that one could take home Brown’s fine album Fabulous Junkyard.
Ántiguo Autómata Mexicana at The Crux, June 9: The Mexican minimalist techno master brought his laptop wizardry, teaming up with fellow countryman Carlos Icaza on perfectly metronomic live drumming for a quirky, fun evening.
This American Life host Ira Glass at Laxson, Nov. 3: One of the most fun events of my year—meeting and talking to Glass before attending his totally satisfying, funny and thought-provoking show. Glass also goes down as my favorite interview of the year.
Another Day in Baghdad: Chico-turned-Seattle playwright David Tucker II’s play was directed by Randy Wonzong and showed at The Blue Room. Excellent tackling by everyone involved of important issues in the ongoing war in Iraq.
Best show that I didn’t get to see: Super-cool and funky Seattle experimental jazz quartet Das Vibenbass (there’s a bass and a vibraphone—get it?) at Café Coda. I didn’t get to go, but I’m damn sure gonna see them at Coda Jan. 9!
Can’t forget all the great visual art: Peter Jodaitis', and Pat Collentine and Susan Larsen’s exhibits at Chico State’s Humanities Gallery; Dylan Tellesen, Janice Lee Porter and Erin Wade’s wonderful, innovative stuff at The 46; world-class painters Chunhong Chang and Caitlin Schwerin’s very different but equally breathtaking work (on display at CAC’s Open Studios Tour); and Matt Barber’s avant-garde board pieces at Empire Coffee, to name a few.
All the great music I’ve listened to on MySpace: Locals Three Fingers Whiskey, Erin Lizardo and The Dr. Yes Experiment!, and S.F. glam-uke queen Uni and Her Ukelele ranking right up there as some of the most enjoyable, fresh and interesting.
Charles H. Peckham V
(top 10 comic books of 2007)
10. Superman and Batman Versus Aliens and Predator: I don’t want to include this title, but I just have to.
9. Mystic Arcana: Marvel takes a moment to recognize various witches, sorcerers, magicians, etc., from the universe, by giving them each their own one-off.
8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8: Since the show got canned, Joss Whedon and team decided to continue the story as a comic series. Novel concept.
7. X-Men: Messiah Complex: The series that well wraps up the events that started with the House of M. Finally.
6. The Loners: Former child superheroes who want to do something more realistic with their lives? This could go places.
5. Squirrelly Gray: Thank goodness James Kochalka finally produced something for children. I love all his work, but he’s been fence-sitting for long enough.
4. World War Hulk: I don’t know about you, but after the events of the Civil War, I was really looking forward to seeing the pro-registration guys taken down a notch, or get the snot stomped out of them by The Hulk. That works, too.
3. Tank Girl: The Gifting: She’s back, with original writer Allen Martin and new artist Ashley Wood. The very first story revolves around a handbag full of poop. What’s not to love?
2. Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America: Absolutely the biggest shocker of the year. I mean, it’ll take at least another month or so before he comes back, for Pete’s sake!
1. Zuda Comics: DC is allowing anyone to submit comics and choosing the best as the writers for their new offshoot. That’s about as cool as it gets.
10. Blackbird RAUM, Purse-Seine: Santa Cruz underground anarchist jug band combined its anti-establishment hatred of society with raucous moonshine-laced folk punk.
9. Bunny Rabbit, Lovers and Crypts: Melisa Rincon, aka Bunny Rabbit, came together with her lover Black Cracker to produce an album that’s irreverent girlie-rap, laced with giant beats and candy-sweet attitude. Straight from Brooklyn, these ladies deliver some disturbing music that’ll keep your head bobbing.
8. Erin Lizardo, You Should Always Do the Things That You Say: Chico darling released her first album with raw and passionate songs that could eek emotion out of the coldest heart you know. “Morning Glory,” as she recently confessed onstage, is about the morning after “being deflowered.” Almost everyone can relate to that.
7. Feist, The Reminder: “1234” is one of my favorite songs of 2007. With her sweet, playful voice, former Broken Social Scene member Leslie Feist grabs you, shakes you and then gives you a kiss on the nose.
6. The White Stripes, Icky Thump: The duo’s latest seemed to reflect a change in the music, which for some fans was welcome. Flamenco horns and bagpipes make this album bigger, though not necessarily better. While I don’t listen to it like I do White Blood Cells, I keep it in the car for long drives.
5. Uni and Her Ukelele at The Crux: Uni finally returned to Chico for a packed house of devoted unicorns on her Glamtrak Tour 2007. Along with her tour buddy/burlesque dancer Mariel a la Mode, and Chico’s Dick & Jane and Erin Lizardo, Uni’s unique magic made this an evening I’ll never forget.
4. Erotic Art Show at The Crux: Bondage, breasts and butts pretty much sums up this year’s debaucherous experiment in nightlong hedonism. The A.S. Women’s Center created yet another Bacchanalia paying homage to sensuality and strength.
3. Jenny Owens Young, Batten the Hatches: You’ve probably heard her on Six Feet Under or Weeds. Songs like “Fuck Was I” and “Coyote” are self-deprecatingly good, especially for those times when you’re being a little hard on yourself.
2. M.I.A., Kala: Representing for third-world nations while simultaneously becoming the international diva of hip-hop is impressive. Straddling cultures and genres, Bollywood meets booty-banging bass with cameos by Timbaland and aboriginal children.
1. CocoRosie, Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn: These sisters make my heart go pitter patter like the feet of little ghost children haunting a stairwell. Creepy and utterly delightful, their third album is a carnival of spook and beautiful vocals. “Rainbow Warriors” is, without a doubt, my top song of the year.
(no particular order)
Found Footage Festival at the Pageant: The hint of a possible Jack Rebney (put his name into a YouTube search if you haven’t seen him) guest appearance the next time the festival is in Chico made this one particularly awesome.
Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam: Just about every song is a standout, but “For Reverend Green” is probably my favorite song of the year. When the ooh’s of the chorus come in a tad early around the 1:41 mark only to be immediately cut off by a badass Avey Tare scream … that makes me happy.
The Yule Logs: It’s not an easy task to make Christmas music sound fresh and exciting, but that’s exactly what The Yule Logs do. Great musicians, great harmonies, great arrangements, great guys. Chico is a better place for having had them around these past few years.
The alternate Kanye West “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ “ video: Zach Galifiankis and Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) wandering through some cornfields, popping the hydraulics on a tractor and lip-syncing along with one of Kanye’s new singles. Classic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpwgYsYWw
Dr. Dog, We All Belong: In my perfect world, songs like “My Old Ways” and “Ain’t It Strange” would be on everyone’s lips and blasting out of storefront windows. The best of the old mixed with the best of the new.
Ween live in Santa Cruz: Horribly underrated by a lot of people who think a band with any funny material is automatically void of legitimacy. For my money, these guys have consistently written amazing songs and they proved they’ve still got it live with a long, diverse and flawlessly played set. Dean Ween is an incredible guitarist.
The Dr. Yes Experiment!: Local (Oroville) electronic one-man show. This guy is onto something special.
John Vanderslice, Emerald City: A smart and unique songwriter who deserves some more popularity. I love the overblown guitar sound on this one.
Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger: Probably not his best, but solid from beginning to end.
R. Kelly, “Real Talk” video (YouTube Behind the Scenes) version: Funniest thing I’ve seen all year. “Is you tweakin’?!” www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdaAWFoWr2c
C. Harris- Nystrom
10. 2008: The year that will see America’s most creative post-rock string benders Polvo reunite for a one-off show in London, and England’s shoegazing greats My Bloody Valentine reform for shows and to finish the album shelved in 1995.
9. Everett True’s Nirvana: The Biography: It may not necessarily be high-brow literature, but it is a compulsive read—entertaining and heartbreaking for anyone who ever cared for the “negative creep” and his staggeringly appealing noise pop.
8. The National, The Boxer: Carried by Matt Beringer’s warm, sad-sack croon and unique lyrical turns, this band carries the same appeal and hope that brought success to U2 and R.E.M.; and yet The National easily outshine the last 20 years of music by the both of them.
7. Times New Viking, Presents the Paisley Reich: These Ohio art-school malcontents write perfect melodies only to suffocate them in a wailing wall of ecstatic fuzz. Their enthusiasm is palpable, perfect and necessary in the predictable, sterile soundscape of today.
6. Emma Pollack, Watch the Fireworks: No smoke, no mirrors, just unimaginably great songs. “Adrenaline” and “Acid Test” are the kind of songs that turn gray skies to blue, coax a smile from a frown and, much like a character from Dr. Seuss, make your heart grow 10 times bigger.
5. HEALTH, self-titled: Recorded at L.A.'s underground rock club The Smell, this debut album is all at once beautiful, terrifying and alive with the kind of ferocity that leaves you shaking your head, mumbling; “Did they really just do that?!?”
4. You Shall Know Our Discography: This blog is really just an excuse for some indie rock obsessive to convert his 7-inch vinyl to MP3 format and post for others to enjoy. What this means is an introduction to many great, underrated and forgotten bands from the ‘90s (Wingtip Sloat, Air Miami), or, as in my case, a place to finally find the few Polvo songs (notably “Colonial Arms” and “Two Fists") I spent years struggling to track down. Hallelujah!
3. Black Lips, Good Bad Not Evil: Anyone who says they dig garage rock and has yet to check out this Atlanta quartet is a charlatan, plain and simple. Black Lips are the real thing—reckless, spastic and oozing raunchy reverb from every pore.
2. Deerhunter, Cryptograms: Atmosphere rides shotgun beside fragile melodies bolstered by pulsating beats and spooky guitar all cloaked in a sodden aural gauze. The easy reference points are MBV’s Loveless and Wire’s 154; and as with all great albums, this one leaves plenty to discover with each new listen.
1. Downsiders, “She’s Orbit” and “Days of Invention": Perhaps the best songs ever recorded by the late Chico band were never released (there were four). Through the benevolence of former member Cole Marquis (and his MySpace page), a couple of the songs are now available for download. The Downsiders were ahead of their time; and with “She’s Orbit” on infinite repeat, I can go back to the future again … and again.
10. Down at the Senator Theatre, Sept. 29: This was scary good. Almost too much metal for the old Senator to handle. Phil Anselmo and Co. still bring it.
9. Queens of the Stone Age at the Senator, July 24: This was ridiculously hot and loud. In fact, the heat might have added to the Queens’ sludgy goodness.
8. Track Star and Eux Autres at the Hemlock Tavern, April 27: I was a Track Star virgin before this night, and the band far exceeded my expectations. Portland Francophiles Eux Autres were their usual sweet selves, and gave us a preview of their excellent just-released album Cold City.
7. Fancy: I think the androgynous French rock trio annoyed everyone around me, which only made me like them even more … I’m immature like that. Sleazy ‘70s glam meets modern technology. Mm hmm.
6. Dos canciónes perfectas: Feist’s “1234” lasts only three minutes, yet manages to run through every emotion from the melancholy first notes to the joyous chorus that crescendos to the final horn-filled climax. And Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” … heard it a million times. Never got tired of it. That speaks volumes.
5. Dungen, Tio Bitar: The Swedes’ second full-length boasts some of the nastiest (i.e. beautiful) guitar distortion ever put to tape. But there are plenty of flute, piano and acoustic guitar flurries to go along with multi-instrumentalist Mattias Gustavsson’s soaring vocals. Must listen: “Gör Det Nu,” “Ett Skäl Att Trivas” and “Svart Är Himlen.”
4. Erin Lizardo, You Should Always Do the Things That You Say: I’ve said it before—her voice melts me. Her new album kills me. Her new band Petticoat rocks me. OK … I admit it—I’m in love with Erin Lizardo.
3. M.I.A., Kala: As sexy as it gets. Period. But why the hell isn’t “Hit That” on here?!
2. Willie Nelson at Feather Falls Casino, April 28: I don’t know how the hell he does it, but Willie Nelson can squeeze more emotion out of a single note than most musicians half his age squeeze out of an entire career.
1. The Mother Hips, Kiss the Crystal Flake: Made me fall in love with the MoHips again. A stunning collection of songs that makes use of all the band’s tools—sweet harmonies, hooks, a little country twang, ‘60s psychedelic and just the right amount of guitar crunch.