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Having once been a relatively enthusiastic proponent of the end-of-year ‘best of’ list, a few years ago I stopped putting these together in favour of just creating an aural review of releases I particularly liked in the form of a CD compilation. I suppose I rejected the idea of trying to rank the year’s releases, to come up with the ‘best album’ of that particular year, as this was forcing me to evaluate the music on a critical/intellectual level that doesn’t work for me – for me music is about feeling; from wanting to bang my head or creep myself out, from getting goosebumps of euphoria to twinges of melancholy… But I suppose it is sacrilege for a music-related blog to come to the end of a year and not attempt some sort of round-up, so rather than create a ranked list justified by socio-political contexts or clever meta-musical references, these are the records (in no particular order) and live performances that have rocked / droned / folked up / brokebeat / hiphopped my world in 2007, that have made me feel



Top 25 Albums of 2007


NarcoAgent Top 25 Albums of 2007

from top, l-r:

Magnolia Electric Co : “Sojourner” boxset (Secretly Canadian)

PJ Harvey : “White Chalk” (Island)

Angels Of Light : “We Are Him” (Young God)

Low : “Drums And Guns” (Sub Pop)

Liars : “Liars” (Mute)

Mammal : “Lonesome Drifter” (Animal Disguise)

Grinderman : “Grinderman” (Mute)

Boris with Michio Kurihara : “Rainbow” (Pedal/Drag City)

El-P : “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” (Definitive Jux)

Vic Chesnutt : “North Star Deserter” (Constellation)

Nina Nastasia & Jim White : “You Follow Me” (Fat Cat)

Om : “Pilgrimage” (Southern Lord)

Scout Niblett : “This Fool Can Die Now” (Too Pure)

Shellac : “Excellent Italian Greyhound” (Touch & Go)

Epic45 : “May Your Heart Be The Map” (Make Mine Music)

Magik Markers : “Boss” (Ecstatic Peace!)

MIA : “Kala” (XL)

Sigur Rós : “Hvarf-Heim” (EMI)

Stars Of The Lid : “And The Refinement Of Their Decline” (Kranky)

Jesu : “Conqueror” (HydraHead/Daymare)

Alela Diane : “The Pirate’s Gospel” (Holocene/Names/Fargo)

Six Organs Of Admittance : “Shelter From The Ash” (Drag City)

Bracken : “We Know About The Need” (Anticon)

Future Of The Left : “Curses” (Too Pure)

Earth : “Hibernaculum” (Southern Lord)




Top 5 EPs/Singles of 2007


NarcoAgent Top 5 EPs of 2007

l-r:

Efterklang : “Under Giant Trees” (Leaf)

Zonderhoof : “Zonderhoof” EP (Sound Devastation)

Joanna Newsom : “Joanna Newsom & The Ys Street Band” EP (Drag City)

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy : “Ask Forgiveness” EP (Drag City/Domino)

Jesu : “Sundown / Sunrise” EP (Aurora Borealis/Daymare)

 



Top 10 Gigs of 2007


NarcoAgent Top 10 Gigs of 2007

Future Of The Left + Infants @ The Luminaire, London (10 March 2007)

Josh T Pearson @ ATP festival, Minehead (27 April 2007)

Nick Cave / Grinderman @ ATP festival, Minehead (28 April 2007)

Dirty Three @ ATP festival, Minehead (29 April 2007)

Scout Niblett @ Bush Hall, London (21 May 2007)

Isis + Boris @ Koko, London (02 July 2007)

Liars @ Madame Jo Jo’s, London (03 July 2007)

Six Organs Of Admittance @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (12 August 2007)

Sonic Youth do “Daydream Nation” @ The Roundhouse, London (30 August 2007)

Jesu @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (05 December 2007)


Correctly guess which picture was taken at which gig and I will send you a copy of my “Best of 2007” 2CD compilation (once I’ve pulled my finger out of my ass and actually made the thing). Use the contact form on the Disclaimer page to submit your ‘entry’.



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For riff-fetishists you won’t get much better bills than Isis, Boris and Oxbow, a primal gathering of guitar gods in a London lashed by thunderstorms. The weather forces plane delays and knocks out rail power-lines, conspiring against me arriving in time to catch Oxbow (although I learn on arrival that Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson and Niko Wenner actually played as Love’s Holiday, an acoustic version of Oxbow). The acoustic nature of their performance apparently doesn’t stop Eugene ending up in vest & underpants, abusing a microphone stand and threatening to punch audience members, but the addition of a cellist does momentarily distract from Eugene’s love/hate muscle.


Just as the Japanese assimilated then bettered Western technology during the “economic miracle”, so too have Boris absorbed a history of hard rock and now spew it back at us leaner & meaner but encased in a thick layer of sludge. Boris start with the awesome “Farewell”, Wata & Takeshi both sending out slabs of distorted guitar, sounding like a tranquilized My Bloody Valentine. Takeshi sports a double-necked guitar/bass, playing it with dexterity, but it is the slight Wata who amazes with her playing, her squalls and riffs precise, controlled and fuckin’ heavy. She barely moves, and it is drummer Atsuo who is the showman, whooping & yeahing into his headset mic, pulling rock poses in his white gloves and theatrically beating on the huge gong strung up behind him.
They end with the almighty “Just Abondoned My-Self”, the most ‘metal’ song of their set, during which Atsuo jumps onto his bass drum, then clambers up a speaker stack, waiting for a spotlight to find him before launching himself into the crowd. He surfs the sea of hands a good twenty rows back before being returned to the stage, his bandmates all the while filling the room with a Sunn O)))-like doomdrone.

Boris live @ Koko (02-07-2007)

I’m not steeped enough in Boris (urgghh) to be able to recognise all their songs (in fact I cooly asked the Boris merch stall bishoujo which album the last song they played is on, convinced I hadn’t heard it before, only to be pointed to “Pink” which I have heard many times…), but I have it from a reliable source that the setlist was as follows (almost everything coming from “Pink”):


Setlist: Boris @ Koko (02 June 2007)
Farewell
Pink
Ibitsu
Woman On The Screen
Just Abondoned My-Self



Isis live @ Koko (02-07-2006)It’s time for Isis, and a long sample of weird vocal chanting plays before the band take to the stage. They open with the rolling drums of “Wrists Of Kings”, which builds and builds to its towering finale, then follow the running order of “In The Absence Of Truth” with “Not In Rivers, But In Drops”. Here bassist Jeff Caxide gets to flip the switch on his amp marked “Robert Smith” for that underwater bass sound so beloved of The Cure. In fact, much of “In The Absence Of Truth” reminds of The Cure’s “Disintegration”, but I digress…
Caxide switches the bass back to its “Godflesh” setting, and Isis launch the full-frontal assault of “So Did We”, a song which as it switches down a gear gives me clarity on why I like this band so much: apart from their mastery of the riff, it’s Aaron Harris’s beats that power through the noise giving economical yet powerful forward motion to the songs. In an “Absence…”-heavy set, “Dulcinea” follows all submerged bass & polyrhythms, and one of the highlights of the night for me. Harris again outdoes himself on this, sounding like there are three drummers pounding away in tribal delirium. The following songs all build up to a crushingly heavy mountain-raising riff at some point – “Holy Tears” in particular sounding far heavier live than on record – but all with long passages of celestial or submarine space to counteract the guitar maelstrom and Aaron Turner’s throat-rasping, (unfortunately) unintelligible vocals. The set ends with the epic, rhythmic “The Beginning And The End”, drummer Harris once again combining with Turner, Caxide and Michael Gallagher’s three-pronged guitar onslaught to create something elemental, unstoppable, like a lava flow – serenaded by a choir of angels thanks to the ‘electronics’ of Bryant Meyer.

Isis live @ Koko (02-07-2006)

For the encore, the band play an extended instrumental jam (sorry, I hate that word, but can’t at the moment think of anything more appropriate) during which Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson (with his clothes back on) swaggers menacingly onto stage, gives a few menacing growls and yelps, before slinking menacingly back off stage. Isis then build up a drone as the prelude to one of their earliest and heaviest songs, the rifftasm of “Celestial (The Tower)” which eventually decays into psychedelic keyboard swirls and washes of overdriven guitar… and it’s over. It’s the end of a seven-week tour for Isis, the end of a whirlwind day for me, and every one leaves into the wet London night having truly rocked out.


Setlist: Isis @ Koko, London (02 July 2007)
Wrists Of Kings
Not In Rivers, But In Drops
So Did We
Dulcinea
In Fiction
All Out Of Time, All Into Space
Holy Tears
The Beginning And The End
jam (w/ Eugene Robinson)
Celestial (The Tower)



Here is a blistering version of “So Did We”, live at the Launchpad, Albuquereque, New Mexico (taken from “Live 3 (12.17.04)”)


Isis – So Did We (live in Alberquerque, 17-Dec-2004)



You can buy Isis recordings direct from their store here. Boris recordings are available from Inoxia Records. Oxbow albums can be purchased here.

See some photos of the gig on Damon Allen Davison’s Flickr page. dennisstempher has some great Boris shots from their performance in Tilburg, Holland on Flickr here.



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