Tuesday, 18 December 2007


40. NORTHERN STATE: Can I Keep This Pen?
Fearlessly maintaining the tradition set by Luscious Jackson – and you have no idea how old typing that made me feel – their raps are sharp, their hooks deadly and delicious, and “Sucka Mofo” is a modern masterpiece. If only Tangled Up had sounded like this.

39. THE GOSSIP: Standing In The Way Of Control
Yes I KNOW it’s technically a 2005 album but two 2007 tracks – or at least mixes – have been added and this was the year when Beth Ditto really came forward as an articulate spokeswoman for a systematically replenishing political Left in America; she impressed me wherever I saw or heard or read her and this is a terrific modern R&B-gone-punk explosion of a record, whereas, say, Icky Thump by the White Stripes packed a somewhat less cumulative punch than “Wild Thing” as performed by the Goodies.

38. TUNNG: Good Arrows
Took me three albums to get Tunng’s point but it was worth trying; British folk music escorted into the modern world denuded of unnecessary inverted commas and bolstered by real musical adventure; remarkable songs like “Arms” and “Bullets” suggest that the 1967 experiment is still being conducted.

37. RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: Release The Stars
Splenetic, tender, ranting, caressing, hardening and worrying; the umbilical cord stretches all the way to Paris and back but Rufus is going to say his piece anyway and does so with spectacular, spot-on venom through this carousing post-Pet Shop Boys concept of a pop record.

36. LED BIB: Sizewell Tea
The real rebirth of British jazz, part two: drummer Mark Holub leads decisively, altoists Pete Grogan and Chris Williams do their best to blow each other’s brains out and electronica flutters underneath, all culminating in a brilliant deconstruction of Bowie’s “Heroes” as John Stevens’ Away might once have interpreted it. Mercy be blessed for the return of BLOOD to this music!

35. THE BIRD AND THE BEE: The Bird And The Bee
In which Greg Kurstin proves himself to be the year’s least sung backroom pop saviour – he is also an important contributor to Natasha and Kylie’s records – in tandem with the unlikely figure of Lowell George’s daughter to produce something which sounds as though it should have come out on Warp Records in 1995; the spectre (or Spector?) of the Beach Boys is never far away, but they are never overawed or subdued by prospects of ghosts; compare and contrast with Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, the year’s winner of the So Uncontrived That It’s Contrived award, and just the record for you if you fancy seven inferior remixes of “Zabadak!” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich but don’t actually like pop music (and no one, but no one, samples from “Always Coming Back To You” uncredited on my watch and gets away with it).

34. RICHARD HAWLEY: Lady’s Bridge
Less easy to palpate than Coles Corner, but its rewards were profound; in the subtlest of ways, so subtle that most people missed it, Hawley learns from the Everlys and Big O records that he loves but applies it to the wracking indecision of modern-era Sheffield in an attempt to make the whole place live and breathe again, and he did it with a lot more wisdom than the Arctic Monkeys, who this year delivered their rapid-fire second album, and qualitatively it was easily comparable with This Is The Modern World.

33. CARIBOU: Andorra
When he was known as Manitoba I’m not sure he’d worked out quite what to do with his notion of 1967 – the early records were a bit all over the Four Tet place – but now he grasps those Strawberry Alarm Clocks and Misunderstoods, he is more able to feed them through his own bubblegum telescope and makes soft but sinuous and deceptively hard-hitting music.

32. LAVENDER DIAMOND: Imagine Our Love
LA burnout leads to beyond passionate post-folk songs of hope and unambiguous wonder; “When will I love again?” sings Becky Sharp as though leaning into a thresher one nanoinch short of impalement with every beat, and yes, there are answers to follow and they are all to do with letting go of the bad and holding onto and nurturing love, love and, as Smokey Robinson once said in LA in 1967, more love.

Ah, the golden summer that was this Easter, and warm late nights hearing these two lads from Sweden who fancied trying it and came up with songs which happily wandered off to all kinds of unexpected harmonic and genre corners, largely and fortunately because they hadn’t yet worked out how to do it, and therefore did it better.