Best Music of 2007 According to Chris Leavens

By Chris Leavens

In order to drive year-end holiday sales and seem important, every music critic on the face of the Earth releases a "best of" list in mid to late December. I'm not a music critic and, according to my Mom, I'm already important, so I'm delivering my Best Music of 2007 now, at the near-end of January 2008. A good deal of you know of my level of music appreciation and some of you have even requested knowledge of my favorites, so here it is, a gift from me to your ears:

(NOTE: I've included links to buy the albums via Amazon, which, if used, earn minor cash for Unloosen. Use this resource as you see fit.)

Official Unloosen Album of the Year:

Spiderman of the Rings by Dan Deacon

The only album I can wholeheartedly recommend to 90% or more of the Unloosen-consuming public also has what is known far and wide as the greatest album title of 2007. Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings is a Casio-borne kaleidoscope of sound, a perfect union of fun and insanity which must be heard to be believed.

Deacon kicks off the album with "Woody Woodpecker," a song which will instantly separate wheat from chaff; wheat will like it, chaff will not. Unless chaff is the more preferable of the two, in which case, chaff will like it. The track is built around a sample of Woody Woodpecker's laugh played both at normal woodpecker speed and slow woodpecker speed. The laughs are repeated over crunchy, pummeling, synth drums and a cyclical keyboard riff. The effect produced sounds like a Saturday-morning cartoon on the brink of a sugar-fueled breakdown. Some may find it annoying. Wheat (or chaff?) will know it is awesome. Anyone who's willing to continue listening after the onslaught will reap incredible rewards.

Case in point, the second song, "The Crystal Cat" (one of the strongest on the CD) delivers a satisfying blend of Deacon's signature Casio circus, electronically-distorted, nonsensical vocals, and a fast rocking beat. It's not beyond a reasonable man's set of beliefs to think that one might be annoyed or even "turned off" by "Woody Woodpecker," but only a true sucker could deny the charms of "The Crystal Cat." In fact, if you hear this song and choose not to like it, start visiting a different website. The same goes for the "Okie Dokie," another full-on rave up in which Deacon dizzyingly sings about a guy with a rattlesnake gun and another guy with an arrowsmith gun. Again, the vocals are blasted through God knows what, creating a sound that could have easily sprung from one Brian Eno's fun albums (Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Here Come the Warm Jets, or Before and After Science). The thing is, Deacon's musical chops more than likely trump Eno's. This guy can play.

Honestly, there's not a stinker present. From the eleven-plus-minute-long "Wham City," the centerpiece of the album on which Deacon and a chorus of his disciples sing about a bear and his "sick band/ Of goats and cats and pigs and bats/ With brooms and bats and wings and rats And play big dogs like queens and kings" to the more mellow instrumental tracks like "Pink Batman" (yes, I know, yet another excellent title) and "Big Milk," there's nearly something for every Unloosenite. And if there's anyone out there you'd really like to annoy, "Woody Woodpecker" on a loop will work like gangbusters. You'll enjoy it, they'll cringe. It's a win-win.

Try it if you like: Early Brian Eno, Casio-driven music, massively-distorted vocals, honest, giddy fun

Avoid it if you prefer: Jack Johnson, Norah Jones or any other non-threatening mellow music, sitting in your room alone, moping

Other Strongly Recommended 2007 Music:

Mirrored by The Battles
: Tortoise cut with Devo, but with more emphasis on elastic, propulsive rock than jazz drones.

Friend and Foe by Menomena
: One of the most endlessly rewarding rock albums of the year. The emphasis here is on the music, not on scene or trend. A+ for that, brothers!

Aman Iman: Water is Life by Tinariwen
: Straight out of Mali, nomadic rock sung in a dying language. Killer, non-ironic hair cut on the main dude.

Recommended with Caution:

Loney, Noir and
Sologne by Loney, Dear
: Two of my favorite albums to be released in 2007, but probably a bit too twee (read: wussy) to be recommended to everyone. You might like it if you like Belle and Sebastian or Radiohead's poppier moments, but if you like metal or aggressive music (which some of you do), stay away.

The Reminder by Feist
: I don't care how many times I hear her songs on commercials, it doesn't annoy me. Her songs -- and the entire album -- are solid to boot. Remember what I said about Loney, Dear and metal? Same rules apply.

Tromatic Reflexxions by Von Sudenfeld
: The blipping electronics of Mouse on Mars meet The Fall's Mark E. Smith, literally! Fans of both shouldn't miss this, but I can't fully recommend it to everyone; it's just not solid enough. Plays like the dark foil to Dan Deacon's bright, colorful sonic party.


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As you know, I have two of these records and I am digging them, having already put them in my itunes, even.

I was, in fact, just thinking, these past several days, that it would be cool to see some more reviews a-happening on this site. I was originally thinking film reviews, because I would like to see some Unloosen-type's take on "Rambo," but music reviews also fit the bill. So this is great.

These are also quite well-written and stone-solid reviews. "Pink Batman" is maybe my current favourite on SOTR; it has a lively, inspiring quality to it which, while simple, somehow borders on the epic and makes me feel whatever it is I often feel when listening to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Perpetuum Mobile." "Wham City" is up there, too; I was just listening to it a moment ago and now, possibly because of this review, am listening to it again -- even as I type.

Anyway, good picks. The timing is good, too, because it helps to drag 2007 out an extra month; good for those of us who still haven't accepted that that whole year has now completely come and gone. The only thing keeping this set of reviews from being perfect is that you seem to have forgotten to include any material pertaining to the past year's Black Metal or Viking Metal offerings... Why, Primordial's "To The Nameless Dead" is said to be quite the fine record...

I'd like to throw LCD Soundsystem's "Sound of Silver" into the ring as well. I want to also suggest Vomitory's "Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize" as well but it's Swedish and you know what that means.

Also, Dan Deacon while driving after drinking about 8 cups of coffee is a fever dream I highly recommend.

I don't own any of these records, but I get the feeling Dan Deacon and The Battles will be added to my collection in the near future. As for myself, I picked up quite a bit of music in 2007, some of which was actually released in 2007. My faves:

David Byrne, The Knee Plays (reissue)
Caribou, Andorra
Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Enon, Grass Geysers... Carbon Clouds
Fridge, The Sun
Fripp & Eno, Beyond Even
Fujiya & Miyagi, Transparent Things
Holy F**k, LP
Junior Senior, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo
Low, Drums and Guns
Steve Moore, The Henge
Patton Oswalt, Werewolves and Lollipops
Pylon, Gyrate Plus (reissue)
Radiohead, In Rainbows
Robert Rodriguez, Planet Terror sountrack

David: Holy crap, man, it's been a long time since you've graced us with your presence. Welcome back. I enjoyed Sound of Silver, but it didn't stick with me like the others on the list. It's nice to know someone else out there listens to mid- to late-70s Bowie and enjoys it, though. LCD boasts quite the Lodger fetish on said album.

Craig: I meant to pick up that Caribou album, but I kept forgetting about it. Thanks for the reminder. Also, In Rainbows is a no-brainer recommendation for anyone. I actually left it off the list because I ignore lossy mp3 released entirely. In my world, the world of CDs and lossless compression, it's 2008 music.

Alex: Hey.

Thank you for these picks. I'd still be listening to Too Short and Joey Lawrence albums if it were not for your enlightened guidance.

When someone asks me what kind of food I like, typically I answer "Italian." After sifting through this list, I'm certain your answer would be "well prepared."

FYI..still rockin' "Smell The Glove."

Chris: I know the CD version of In Rainbows has a 2008 copyright, but a store in my town broke street date and put it out the last weekend in December, so that's why I included it on my list. It was literally the last CD I bought in 2007.

Craig: Your integrity is intact, but would the RIAA be proud? It's really their opinion that counts, right?

Right In All Affairs.

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