2007 in Review


A few of us over at zap! bang! thought we’d discuss what we particularly enamoured with in 2007, so here’s some lists of our individual favourites.

Tom’s top stuff of 2007:
Records:

My Brightest Diamond – Bring Me The Workhorse
A beguiling combination of ethereal melancholy and grace, shot through with moments of ragged guitar. This work by Sufjan Steven’s cohort Sara Worden slipped out under the radar in August but deserved greater recognition in the long cold moments of Winter.

The Besnard Lakes – …Are The Dark Horse
The combination of dense harmonies, slow tempos and layers of instrumentation gave The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse a hypnotic, otherworldly feel. As much influenced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor as the Beach Boys.

Justice – Cross
Containing one of the year’s best pop songs (“D.A.N.C.E”) and some belting electro bangers (“Let There Be Light”, “Stress”), French duo Justice’s debut was a highlight in a decent year for dance music.

The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls Of America
The first great album released in 2007 and the first of the Hold Steady’s output to be released in the UK. Poignant, funny tales of ups and downs wrapped in Springsteen-esque rock and roll.

Radiohead – In Rainbows
That Yorke, Greenwoods et al made their first LP in over 4 years effectively available for free suggests they were pleased with their handiwork, and rightly so. This was Radiohead’s most concise, focussed and genuinely brilliant album since Kid A.

Live:
Bjork – Electric Picnic Festival
Bjork’s live appearances are few and far between and her festival appearances this year were rapturously received. That voice, the stage set up (Icelandic choir, odd electronic instruments and loads of colour) and her back catalogue were all flawless. Particularly revelatory were the songs from her latest Volta LP.

ATP vs the fans
This small, boutique festival in a holiday camp in Somerset had few big names but so many great performances from the likes of Les Savy Fav, Battles, Grizzly Bear and Death Vessel. Noise, confusion and bewildered Butlins staff was never so much fun.

Arcade Fire – Brixton Acadamy
They started the year playing in a couple of London churches and finished it at Alexandra Palace. A run of Brixton shows followed the release of Neon Bible, both of which were almost universally adored.

Band Of Horses – Scala
This fantastic show was a first taster for Band Of Horses fine Cease To Begin LP. Engaging frontman Ben Bridwell’s country rock was shot through with soul and melancholy.

Menomena – Hoxton Bar and Kitchen
A mix of Pavement’s alt-skronk,Ian Dury-esque sax-punk and a krautrock rythym section, and also a lot of fun.

Films:
Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s rural action/comedy was sharply edited, very funny and appealed to a broad audience, from movie geeks to dating couples. Hopefully it was also a step towards the big leagues.

Apocalypto
Mel Gibson may be a right-wing oddball but Mayan adventure movie was relentless, brutal and well directed.

Planet Terror
Robert Rodriguez’s half of Grindhouse may not have been as hyped or celebrated as Death Proof, but was schlocky, inventive fun and much more enjoyable than Tarantino’s rather laboured effort.

Mike’s thoughts on 2007

Albums of 2007

Justice – Cross
The French duo unleashed their brand of electro and a benchmark for others to follow.

The Chemical Brothers – We Are the Night
Their sixth album proves they are as strong and innovative as ever.

Burial – Untrue
The dubstep master returned with his second album of hauntingly trippy tracks.

Digitalism – Digitialism
The German electro duo released an impressive selection to offer Justice healthy competition as another of the genre’s most forward thinking acts.

Tunng – Good Arrows
The third album from the pastoral pop band has playful and simplistic tones overlaid with quirky, nursery-rhyme lyrics to form an experimental sound which draws on Icelandic prog rock, choral music and film soundtracks for influence. It’s quite an achievement.

Films

Knocked Up
The pregnancy comedy was one of the comic hits of the year along with…

Superbad
Another example from Apatow of comedy done properly. This time a trio of teenagers try to get laid.

The Darjeeling Limited
Quirky comedy doesn’t get much better than this with Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman heading up the cast.

Eastern Promises
The London-set Russian gangster flick boasts a slow burning story with one of the standout fight scenes of the year.

Curse of the Golden Flower
We had to wait until April of this year to see Zhang Yimou light up the screen with another martial arts epic.

Gigs / Festivals

Justice – Koko, London
They sound even better live than on their album, which is quite an achievement.

Digitalism – Scala, London
Again, seeing them live will win over new admirers and impress the fans in equal measure.

The Verve – The Roundhouse, London
An impressive return for Northern Soul.

The Chemical Brothers – Trafalgar Square, London
A landmark gig by all accounts.

Glastonbury Festival
Yes, it rained all weekend. But did we care? No.

Annie’s 2007 Review

Favourite Albums of 2007:

Burial – Untrue
South London’s shyest producer delivers a broken and breathtaking second album. Highly anticipated and definitely worth all the attention.

Frank Bretschneider – Rhythm
More mischief from those sine-wave and white noise obsessionists at Raster-Noton. Rhythm is a brilliantly intricate study of the most holy of our God given frequencies and thereby an exploration of what we know as ‘rhythm’ itself. Despite all this serious stuff, ‘Rhythm’ is a playful in its cleverness and nods to dub and funk alongside its eccentric electronics.

Ben Frost – Theory of Machines
Dark, dank and sticky electronic/rock mush which fill massive expanses of icey Icelandic space.

Skull Disco – Soundboy Punishments
2CDs of head to toe Shackleton and Appleblim make a fine show of the most innovative beats and pristine exotic influences in the current dubstep terrain.

Deadbeat – Journeyman’s Annual
A somewhat underrated album release of 2007, Deadbeat’s sound travels across national borders as the title suggests and bridges ambient, dub, reggae and techno seamlessly.

My Favourite Films of 2007:

The Lives of Others
Not only set in my favourite city ever but just a great film with a fascinating social context where you can really get caught in the intrigue and into the Stasi policeman Wiesler’s character.
Death Proof
I’m not usually the biggest Tarantino fan but this film with its slick dialogue and danger girl action delivered everything it set out to deliver.

Transformers the Movie
Purely the stuff for teenage boys’ bedrooms but was easily enjoyable and mainly because of its astounding sound design, finds its way into my top films of the year. I was kicking myself for not watching it in the cinema.

Inland Empire
A long and arduous on-screen nightmare which drags you down one freaky Lynch rabbit hole after another. Trying to squeeze meaning out of it is confusing to put it mildly and is probably best not attempted.

This is England
Shane Meadow’s portrait of young Shaun in grim early 80s England was realistic, touching, funny and well executed, and on a more serious note pointedly gives us some time to reflect on Britain today by looking back more than 20 years.

Live highlights of 2007:

Haswell and Hecker UPIC Diffusion Session at Lovebytes Festival, Sheffield, UK
Full on abrasive audio-visual experience, an otherworldly combination of lasers and sine waves using Iannis Xenakis’ UPIC ‘graphic input computer music composing system’. Mind-boggling brain-meddling at its best.

UK dubstep stage at Sonar Festival
Pure blinding yoof energy of Skream’s set blew everyone away with no word of exaggeration, not to mention Kode9 and the Spaceape’s & Oris Jay’s sets – all in all made the whole night a momentous occasion for UK dubstep as 2007 saw dubstep spreading it wings to international stages.

KTL at Sonar Festival
Beautiful and bountiful sonic suction from Stephen O’Malley and Peter (Pita) Rehberg. Deliriously dark. And loads better than Wolf Eyes.

Books:
I can’t say I read many books which were actually released this year except Haruki Murakami’s ‘After Dark’ which I didn’t really rate.

The best book I read this year was an old one, Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover (from 1992), the story of William Hamilton, his wife Emma and Lord Nelson. Fifteen years after it was written and the author is now dead, I still found it hugely refreshing, and within it was a frank and revealing account of gender roles relevant from the eighteenth century into the present day.

Phil’s best of 2007:
Records:
Closely bringing up the rear were albums by Om, Panda Bear and The Fiery Furnaces but the best five albums were:

Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Yet more captivatingly catchy yet wholesomely leftfield pop music.

Glorior Belli – Manifesting the Raging Beast
The French band’s first album for Southern Lord was full of riff-heavy black metal, tortured, brutal and not afraid to stray from the template and go from blast to half time and even whack out a killer solo.

PJ Harvey – White Chalk
Simplistic, touching, beautiful and haunting, PJ Harvey’s step away from the guitar and step up from her normal vocal register was a distinct success.

Battles – Mirrored
After three EPs of stormingly awesome Steve Reich meets Don Caballero instrumental math jams the band pulled out an album of intricate progressive experiments (with vocals) that united forward thinking fans of both rock and dance musics in a grinning wonky head bob.

Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
A pure joy.

Live?
Performances from OM (Underworld) and KTL (Luminaire and Koko) were engulfing and intense, the SunnO)))Boris big-band night at the Forum was ace (with Earth in support and sets from both parts of the headline act also doing individual band sets) and Guapo supporting Circle at Corsica studios was outstanding with Guapo showing how impressively clever prog can be and Cirle showing how maniacally mental it can alternatively be…

Elsewhere both Liars and Deehoof at ATP’s Release The Bats were great, Neurosis and Feist wre impressive at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (on different nights, surprisingly) and Animal Collective supported by Marnie Stern was a fascinating show. Espers played a great gig at Dingwalls and in Brighton’s Pressure Point and Cowley Club bands like Restlesslist, Zettasaur and The Mojo Fins caught the eyes and ears.

For pure insanity also one of the events of the year was an talk and music evening with David Lynch and Donovan based around the benefits of transcendental meditation. That’s one to hold on to for the rest of your life.

Films:
Film-wise 2007 had much to offer and there was a load of nearly’s making the (nearly) list like Dans Paris, Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Ltd, Zodiac, Taxidermia, The Science Of Sleep, After The Wedding, Hot Fuzz and the re-released Holy Mountain (which would be in my top 5 were in not a re-release…) but the list is:

The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
A film this good deserves a title that makes it stand out (further on the page than any other this year, by far). Fantastic performances specifically from Pitt and Affleck and a great, fresh and engrossing filmmaking approach.

The Lives of Others
This cold thriller didn’t win its Oscar for nothing – it won it for being an outstandingly written, acted and filmed story – heartbreaking and powerful.

Inland Empire
Yet another enthralling and insane journey through the complex weave of David Lynch’s creative tapestries. May God help Laura Dern to work out what the hell she was put through. And mau God help her to then help us to work out what the hell we sat through. Only joking – lets not destroy the clouded shell of the masterpiece.

Control
It could have been so disappointing but it was cooler than ever. And Hooky was pitched perfectly as the comic nob.

Silent Light
Ultra-slow, reserved, artful and poetic. Carlos Reygadas is by no means everyone’s thing but this is cinema that deserves respect.

Books:
Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries make for a classic read, in fact music biographies made the end of my year a whole lot of fun – also including Zappa, Syd Barrett, and well the perfect companion piece to The Heroin DiariesThe Dirt.

Apart from those the best book I read this year was BS Johnson’s Christy Malry’s Own Double Entry.

And what are we looking forward to in 2008?

Tom:

My Bloody Valentine live
The trend of reformations is continuing with the return of the legendary perfectionist Kevin Shields’ original incarnation, both live and with a new LP. Likely to be more satisfying than the return of James.

No Country For Old Men
The adaptation by the Coen brothers of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal, brilliant pulp western seems like a match made in heaven. A slew of awards an a cast to die for (Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson) suggests it will be.
Be Kind Rewind
Michel Gondy’s follow up to to The Science Of Sleep stars Jack Black and Mos Def as two guys trying to remake movies that the former has accidentally erased in the latter’s video store. It is likely to be a

Comic books on film
Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy 2, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Nightwatch director Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted and Jon Favreau’s Iron Man all promise to be big, smart blockbusters. It’ll be interesting to see who can deliver.

Debuts
After excellent early singles the first LP efforts by Adele, NYC’s afro-influenced indie group Vampire Weekend, and Scottish wall of sound Glasvegas should all deliver.

Mike:
A few albums to look forward to early on:
Clark – Turning Dragon
Chris Clark is promising to offer a harder, dancefloor friendly sound. Judging by how he can get the crowd jumping around like madmen, a full album of his darker side could be devastating in a very, very good way.

Autechre – Quaristice
In March the electronica duo will release the follow up to Untilted. It’s sure to be one to watch.

MSTRKRFT – new album due first half of 2008
After Justice and Digitalism’s albums of 2007, MSTRKRFT will be wanting to ensure they don’t get forgotten in 2008 with new material of their own.

Four intriguing films to get you to the cinema:
Sweeney Todd
Burton and Johnny Depp are at it again, always a reason to watch.

Hellboy 2
One of the best superhero adaptations in the last few years gets a well-deserved sequel. Keeping Del Toro on board along with Ron Perlman will be key to its success.

The Incredible Hulk
The French director is an odd choice for this latest reboot of the Marvel roster but maybe Edward Norton will be able be more acceptable to the public as the superhero’s alter ego Bruce Banner.

Rambo
Rocky Balboa turned out to be a respectable end for the franchise. Hopefully Stallone has been equally careful with his other iconic character.

Annie:
Bloc Weekender in Hembsy, Norfolk, UK with a stonkingly impressive line-up, though a bastard to get to if you don’t live in London/the South.

Futuresonic 2008, Manchester’s own “Festival of Art, Music & Ideas” seems to be getting bigger and better each year.

New Saatchi Gallery opening in 2008

More releases from the elusive Various, who have been paving the way with innovative release formats/gimmicks this year.

More music being released as high-quality digital downloads, e.g. FLACs. Less suffering with low bitrate mp3s!

Phil:
New Guapo album – their first for Neurot and more importantly, for a couple of years. This better, and no doubt will, be worth the wait.

More great indie festivals like the ATPS, Glades and Green Mans etc

Some great films including the Coens’ No Country For Old Men, the return of PT Anderson with There Will Be Blood, Haneke’s harrowing Funny Games remake, Harmony Korine’s oddball lookalike drama Mister Lonely (with more classic Herzog acting) and Jason Reitman’s follow up to Thank You For Smoking Juno. Oh and…

The return of John Rambo and Indiana Jones – much more anticipated than Shrek, Captain Jack and Spiderman were in 2007.

And lastly, more news on the apparent plans Terry Gilliam has for resurrecting his Quixote project.

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