Year End Wrap-up: 2007’s Missteps

2007 was a weird year. Like any year, a lot of good releases fluttered their way onto my hard drive, but I did notice that there were a handful of noticeably mediocre follow-up releases. Not that they were albums that were expressly bad, but more albums that the initial sugar high faded far quicker than I would have liked:

GOGOL BORDELLO – SUPER TARANTA

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I’m a pretty staunch fan of Gogol Bordello despite whatever they may release. There aren’t many bands that I follow who’s career rests on solely their live show. While Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike was a solid release, the real majesty lies in their live show; they basically perform every song as if it were the final song of a third encore. Super Taranta isn’t necessarily a bad album but it certainly lacks the staying power their previous release. I’d give half the tracks passing marks, but a few of the later songs definitely veer into the land of filler.

PEAK: Super Theory Of Super Everything

This jaunty number takes on a pretty archetypical format for a Gogol Bordello song: accordian, dub bass, and gypsy violin. What takes the song outside the usual is the lyrics. I’m content with any Pesudo-Balkan folk-punk song that spends 3 minutes ruminating on quantum physics and athiesim.

VALLEY: Harem In Tuscany (Taranta)

A moment early in the album that veers dangerously into a feeling of parody. It lacks the pop-ish hooks that usually pull better Gogol tracks out of that dangerously campy place that only a singer with a Russian accent can lead to.

BERIUT – THE FLYING CUP CLUB

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PEAK: Guyamas Sonora

This song is the sole track on the album that I found myself revisiting repeatedly. It’s one of the mid-tempo numbers, full of the usually gorgeous floaty horns and stumblingly loose percussion.

VALLEY: The Whole Album

Now, that could be unnecessarily harsh, but there’s just something lacking from the album as a whole. The biggest hindrance to The Flying Cup Club is the basic fact that there’s a uniformity to all the tracks. This commonality isn’t really anything bad, most any song that Zach Condon writes is going to have a unique glow about it, but there is certainly less urgency overall than was contained in 2006’s Gulag Orkestar.

IRON AND WINE – THE SHEPHERD’S DOG

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It’s the ultimate conundrum when an artist takes the time to grow and takes such a shift to polarize the fanbase. I do like to call bullshit on people who can’t handle such growth, but even I fall prey to just missing the old days with Iron and Wine. The Shepherd’s Dog made it onto many peoples “Best of ’07” lists, but I can only wish that I loved it so much.

PEAK: Boy With A Coin

This song retains much of the laid back vibe of older Iron and Wine, save a few backwards guitar overdubs. The key to this song lies in the syncopated clapping, which unlike some of the other additions that scatter The Shepherd’s Dog work to add to the mystery of the song. I honestly didn’t really wrap my head around the track till I caught the music video, which just grabbed me with it’s lovely simplicity.

VALLEY: Lovesong Of The Buzzard

While at the core, I can see that this is a very straightforward Iron and Wine song, the addition of a meandering organ just distracts the hell out of me. I ultimately can’t fault the man for growing. Sticking to the unencumbered lo-fi style can only be satisfying for an artist for so long. Even at his worst, Sam Beam makes some gorgeous music, it’s simply that throwing in layers of organs, funky percussion, and somber piano only pushes his music into a more generic realm, stripping away the alone on front porch feeling of his earlier recordings.

THE ARCADE FIRE – NEON BIBLE

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PEAK: Neon Bible

Utilizing pretty much just Win’s reverbed voice and some lonely strings, more is truly conveyed with less. Neon Bible manages to be understated and successful, a tough gamble for a band who’s songbook rests on a pillar of melodrama. Points also for the abstract and semi-interactive music video.

VALLEY: No Cars Go

This song honestly comes pretty close to being a moment that doesn’t bother me so much, but the fact that it misses the mark by so little frustrates me ever more. Like “Keep The Car Running”, the majority of this album plods along, lacking the fierce urgency of older tracks like “Wake Up” and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”. I feel in some way that it’s just an fault of the production. Even at its peaks, I’m not swept away like I was with Funeral. Quite possibly, it’s also the fact that the whole Arcade Fire sound isn’t new to me anymore and I’m just bored with the predictable moments when the choir of voices kicks in or the mid-song arrival of percussion. Even while the initial magic is gone, I’ll go see them any chance I can as their live show is, as everyone knows, captivating. No matter what kind of weird haircut Win Butler decides to get.

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