Wednesday, 19 December 2007

THE BLUE IN THE AIR 2007 TOP 50 ALBUMS: PART THREE


30. APOSTLE OF HUSTLE: National Anthem Of Nowhere
The second album by Broken Social Scene guitarist Andrew Whiteman’s day job band was a far more remarkable example of world music fusion than many other more loudly trumpeted records; percussion-heavy but inclining towards the kind of stealthy, thoughtful pre-post-rock typical of mid-eighties SST and therefore re-opening some musical doors long since sealed off.

29. NATASHA BEDINGFIELD: N.B.
Provided that she gives a major body swerve to the glutinous Diane Warren ballads, Natasha has the potential to become perhaps the furthest out there of all British female pop singers this side of Julie Driscoll; songs like “I Wanna Have Your Babies,” “How Do You Do?” and the brilliantly baffling “Pirate Bones” were quite unlike anything produced by the more feted (because more immediately comprehensible/because better connected in the industry) likes of Amy, Lily and sundry Kates. New Pop with a curl of a wink and a soupcon of genuine lunacy; fearlessly adventurous but always approachable.

28. ROBYN: Robyn
Making a return appearance from its original appearance in the same section of this list in 2005, largely because things like “With Every Heartbeat” – one of the great number ones – weren’t on the original downloaded CD, but it still sounds bold and shiveringly contemporary and points towards the tape of pop winding forward forever.

27. DIZZEE RASCAL: Maths And English
How was he going to cope with no longer being “grime”? He simply went about his enhanced manor as boundlessly as ever; often furiously (“You Can’t Tell Me Nuffin’”), sometimes guiltily (facing up to his own grim past in “Sirens”), but more often than not hilariously, particularly on “Wanna Be,” a.k.a. The Bugsy Malone One, where “Diamond Lil” Allen finally finds her niche and which contained the year’s best lyrical couplet: “Why don’t you just kick back, be jolly?/Stay at home with a cup of tea and watch Corrie?”

26. JUSTICE: †
Extracting the relay baton from Daft Punk, Justice took French disco smartly forward with this encouragingly noisy and resilient album, taking in everything from disorganised children’s choirs (“D.A.N.C.E.”) to one of the finest examples of hypnosis-inspiring-awe which constitutes the first and second parts of “Waters Of Nazareth,” a CN Tower of a dance tune if ever there were one.

25. HOLYFUCK: LP
They’re from Toronto, have been likened to a crash between the Chemical Brothers and Lightning Bolt, though if Joe Meek had lived to work in the post-rock field he might have come up with something like “Lovely Allen”; squalling synths meet ramshackle rhythms to equal a record which squirted life back into the hardening arteries of Gimme Indie Rock – largely instrumental, but speaking volumes, and the year’s biggest seller in Rough Trade’s shops. The miracle is that it sounds like the first post-rock record ever made.

24. ROBERT WYATT: Comicopera
Wyatt will have an indirect input into another album higher up this list, but it remains depressing how our enfeebled mainstream critical community (although in Monday's Guardian its Film and Music Editor urged its readers to abandon any notion of a “community” in a particularly nauseating and smug tone) saw fit to bury this record in the “three stars equal ageing arty weirdo” category, which as we all know is nowhere near as profitable or attractive as the “five stars equal bad Dusty Springfield impersonator” field. But the album’s tripartite structure served Wyatt well; at first he sounds and feels utterly lost, seceding his grasp on a fading age, then he wanders out into a world which turns into a tumult of war, and finally, frustrated, he finds (not for the first time) salvation and deliverance in the words and sentiments of other languages. As the man himself ruefully noted back in 1985: “We get so out of touch/Words take the place of meaning.”

23. PJ HARVEY: White Chalk
Such a seemingly unassuming record, coming in a sleeve so slim it could easily be lost on one’s shelves; but Harvey has always been at her best when no one is watching her; ancient keyboards and a purposely strained upper register – did somebody say Scott Walker? – are used as tools to express immense outpourings of grief; a quiet passage of thought until “The Mountain” when the unwary are quickly snapped by her most trenchant bark of rage. A stunning half hour.

22. DIRTY PROJECTORS: Rise Above
The tactic doesn't always work but here it did; Yale man David Longstreth and his band decided to tackle Black Flag’s Damaged, a 1981 beginning of time for many, song by song and from memory alone. The result was one of the most unassumingly inventive albums of 2007 to come out of any arena of “rock”; girl group harmonies, Nigerian hi-life and various other improbable post-MBV stratagems are put to creative ends, all gloriously climaxing in the subtly immense onset of the title track – “We are tired of your abuse/Try to stop us but it’s no use.” Perhaps as radical and influential as Greg and Henry’s original, if the world will let it.

21. LADY SOVEREIGN: Public Warning
Rescued from 2006 because I hummed and hawed about including it in last year’s list, but provided you’re not looking for the Great Grime Album (I suspect that any search for the Great Bassline Album in 2008 will prove equally fruitless) this is Neneh Cherry sassiness writ anew; the lovely sliding sarcasms of “Those Were The Days” were the hook which caught me, and “My England,” “Hoodie” and “Blah Blah” are much more than alright, still.