Maps: We Can Create

Maps, not in fact a band as I originally thought, but a person; namely James Chapman. “We Can Create” was another of this years Mercury nominees and is a decent sort of fairly typical indie rock / Electronica affair. “It Will Find You” is an upbeat jolly sort of ditty with its gyrating repetitive beats and swirls, the sort of thing that could inspire a more hip and younger person than me to strut his funky stuff. Then on the next track “Glory Verse” the tempo and mood drop completely to a more tranquil level.

Alabama 3: M.O.R.

The Reverend Dr D Wayne Love and his crew offer more Acid Rock Country Gospel madness. The Brixton based band continue with their unique sound but never seem to match the success of “Woke Up This Morning” (The Theme tune to the Sopranos).

Ian Brown: The World Is Yours

5th Solo album from monkey faced ex Stone Roses front man. More of the same really, which is no bad thing if like me, you liked the other albums.

Babyshambles: Shotters Nation

I bought this album because I was curious if Pete Docherty was just trading on his excellent albums with the Libertines and his subsequent lifestyle and inevitable paparazzi attention. Listening to the album it’s immediately recognisable that it’s the music that’s the key. The album has many parallels with the Libertines self titled album and certainly worth a listen.

The Coral: Roots and Echoes

The Liverpudlian quintet continues to successfully blend late 60’s psychedelia and rock with a modern twist. Roots and Echoes is their 4th album since 2001 debut and they have spent a successful summer touring with the Arctic Monkeys.

The Horrors: Strange House

The name of the band and the album cover give a good clue as to what to expect. The album also came in handy at this years Halloween party to help provide a suitable backdrop. Especially the cover of Screaming Lord Such’s “Jack The Ripper”

PJ Harvey: White Chalk

Polly Jean has abandoned a lot of the guitars used on previous albums for a more piano focussed collection of great songs. Despite being quite piano pieces she seems to be no less edgy and even disturbing at times.

Interpol: Our Love To Admire

Doom laden indie rock with maybe a hint of early Radiohead or Joy Division. This, their third studio album will certainly inspire me to find out what I have missed on the first 2 albums.

The Klaxons: Myths and Legends of the Near Future

The London Based 2007 Mercury Prize Winners seem to be topping a lot of the “Newcomer for 2007” polls and although I’m not totally blown away by them I can’t think of a better alternative for a top 2007 newcomer. I’ve noticed over the last few years that I’m having to label all of my albums with an appropriate genre so iTunes or Media Player are able to neatly pigeon hole everything. In searching for an appropriate label for the Klaxons a number of suggestions have been given including “Psychedelic”, “Progressive”, “Pop”, “Acid Rave” and “Sci-fi Punk Funk”. However the term suggested by their record label is “Nu Rave”. I not really sure what that means but as I’m not overly concerned on the importance of it I will not dwell on it. (Despite taking up almost my entire review on the subject )Anyway, “Golden Skans” has been a fairly hard to avoid tune this year even for a commercial radio dodger like me and is consistent with the rest of the albums fast paced guitars and synthesisers. “Myths of the Near Future” is also a vast improvement on the Hours’ debut album from earlier in 2007 toting the same dubious genre

Robert Wyatt: Comicopera

I’m never sure what to expect from a wheelchair bound cornet playing drummer from a late 60’s avant-garde jazz rock fusion band (Soft Machine). Comicopera is in fact a gentle musical landscape with something to also provide a bit of interest for Howard Moon from the Mighty Boosh.

Paul McCartney: Memory Almost Full

A jolly little Macca album and much better than 2005’s Chaos and Creation offering. If you’re too tight to actually buy this album, I’m sure if you hang around Starbucks buying your morning Latte long enough, you’ll be able to hear most of it. “Dance Tonight” is a typical McCartney ditty that gets the album off to a good start and for those listening to Jools’ Annually Hootenanny, also closed 2007.

Radiohead: In Rainbows

In Rainbows is the reason why I was late getting this years music review out. Not being hip and trendy enough to specify my own price and download the album from the bands website, I waited instead to buy it in my normal way from Amazon and the dam thing didn’t arrive till the end of the first week of January. The last 3 Radiohead albums have been hard work, but sticking with them for a while and repeated listening tended to bring out a few musical qualities that just about made it worthwhile. (Although in my opinion never getting close to “The Bends” or “OK Computer”. In Rainbows seems much more palatable on the first listen. Does this mean I’ll get bored of it, or will it grow into something even better? Don’t know yet.

Patti Smith: Twelve

“Twelve” is a collection of a dozen classic covers revisiting the material of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Nirvana, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones and the Doors to name but a few. Cover versions can be hard work when you know and love the original, but on most of these remakes Patti’s familiar harsh tones seem to add something new and deeper although never veering violently from the original script. My particular favourite is her version of “Smells like Teen Spirit” which strips the song down to its bare bones to reveal even more of the genius of Kurt Cobain.

Kaiser Chiefs: Yours Truly, Angry Mob

Like the Arctic Monkeys the Kaiser Chiefs had a monumental task in producing a worthy follow up to their stunning debut. “Yours Truly” is a descent attempt using the same formula as the first album with instantly apealling numbers like “Ruby” and “Highroyds”, but doesn’t really match its predecessor.

Kings Of Leon: Because Of The Times

The third album from the Followill brothers (Caleb, Nathan, Jared and Matthew) is perhaps their best yet. The album opener, “Knocked Up” is a great track with resonance's of a responsibility the band seem to be taking on.

The Artics Monkey's: Favourite Worst Nightmare

I woke up the other morning with the clear sound of “Teddy Picker” resonating in my brain on a never-ending loop. I’m pretty sure John Humphries wasn’t playing it on the Today programme, so I’ve no idea where it came from, my only guess is that this powerful song has buried itself deep in my unconscious, which in hardly surprising as it’s a corking tune. “Favourite Worst Nightmare” as a whole though although being great somehow fails to have the certain spark that made their brilliant debut stand out so well. Although in may ways, “Favourite, Worst Nightmare” is superior to its predecessor, it has more rockier guitars, great production and catchy tunes perhaps it was just the originality and surprise of the first album that they couldn’t recapture.

The Pigeon Detectives: Wait For Me

High Octane Indie rock to rival the Kaiser Chiefs. “I Found Out” is a bit of a stand out track with its simple riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a late 70’s punk album.

The White Stripes: Icky Thump

When you buy a White Stripes album you can expect some raw riffs, pounding beats and classic blues rock. In this department, Icky Thump fulfills all my expectations. “Conquest” is a bit of a surprise though with its sort of Spanish/Mexican horns and screeching vocals. Love this album as I do, I’m still more excited about a follow up to last years Raconteurs debut.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen: The Good The Bad & The Queen

Damon Albarn always seems to deliver something familiar but refreshing when he comes up with a new side project. The Good the Bad and the Queen aligns more with his Blur work than with the Gorillaz but provides a poignant thoughtful vision of pop.

Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

The critical success of Arcade Fire’s debut, “Funeral”, has enabled this 7 piece from Montréal to offer a lavished packaging for their second album, not to mention the music within. It’s an album that I find rather hard to describe, as the Arcade Fire seem pretty much peerless. The album features orchestration throughout with strings, a large brass section and a gospel choir not to mention the church organ that takes the lead on “Intervention”.

Grinderman: Grinderman

When most men hit their mid life crises they normally buy a Porsche or have an affair, Nick Cave’s answer seems to be to make a raw grunge album. The album consists of a harsh sonic attack of brutal edgy blues that must seem quite unpalatable to those brought up on boy bands and similar easy listening commercial filth. I think my favourite lyrics of the year come from the second track of the album “No Pussy Blues” which recants the tale of a girl he meets and invests a certain amount of time and effort into but alas she just “doesn’t want to”. Other highlight include “Depth Charge Ethel” and the excellent “Go Tell The Women” its main refrain of “Go Tell the Women we’re leaving” could be an anthem for Men’s Lib (if there is such a thing).

Kula Shaker: Strange Folk

It could be argued that I have a bias for any group whose lead singer is called Crispian. However, this was one of my most anticipated albums of the year being a massive fan of 1996’s “K” and 1998’s “Pigs, Peasants and Astronauts”. In the intervening years Crispian put out a couple of albums with the Jeevas before reconvening with rest of Kula Shaker (minus Jay Darlington) last year on a few warm up gigs and a brief EP. This years full resurrection of the band and their first new album in 9 years sees them not too far from where they left off. The Eastern influences are not as prominent but are still there and the Hammond Organ still take a key role in most of the tracks. The opening lines to “Die For Love”, “Don’t Wanna be wrapped up in a flag, or spill my blood upon the sand, don’t wanna die for some pack of lies” is a good summary of the band’s feelings and politics that are sprinkled throughout the album. One of my favourites is “Persephone”, (the bonus track on the limited edition CD), an acoustic vision of Mother Nature’s only daughter lying dead underground waiting to be reborn..

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

Despite loving this album, my greatest fear is that Alison Krauss is likely to be lynched by an angry mob of hairy arsed Zeppelin fans following the announcement of the duo touring the new album in early 2008, and thus putting a kybosh on any immediate Zeppelin tours in 2008. Although I was disappointed not to be afforded the opportunity to see the mighty Zeppelin at the O2 in December and regularly check the websites for a glimmer of hope on a possible tour, I’m still very much looking forward to seeing Percy and the American Country singer at Wembley in May. Plant rightly believes this is some of his best post Zeppelin work and understandably wants to set aside the time to promote and tour the album. Raising Sand is an elegant album that leans heavily on the major influences of its two performers, namely Blues and Country. The selection of covers, predominately I believe, chosen by album producer T. Bone Walker provide an innate late 60’s ambience to the piece. Highlights include the opening track, “Rich Woman”, with its distant sliding guitars providing the stage for Plant and Krauss’s complimenting vocals.

The Waterboys: Book of Lightning

This gem of an album seems to passed under the radar of much of the music press that I have read this year which is a real shame as this album is up their with the best of their work. It has the typical Waterboys sound featuring the intricate Irish fiddling of Steve Wickham, evocative of Fisherman’s Blues and the more rocky guitars of Dream Harder. The stand out track is “Everybody Takes a Tumble” which is a showcase for Wickham’s mastery of the fiddle.

Neil Young: Chrome Dreams II

Titling an album “Chrome Dream II” automatically begs the question “What happened to Chrome Dreams I?” Chrome Dreams I is in fact one of a number of either unfinished or unreleased Young projects that never officially saw the light of day. Although some of the new songs on Chrome Dreams II actually come from unreleased material from the 80’s I don’t really see the connection with the unreleased Chrome Dreams I from 1977. Still, it sounds like a good title for an album so why not? Anyway, this claimed sequel is my favourite album of 2007 by a clear margin and the two pivotal tracks strategically positioned near either end of the piece greatly exceeded my expectations. The first of these 2 epics, “Ordinary People”, at 18 minutes plus contains Young’s prophetic vision of the human condition emphasising as usual the scary neo con dominated culture. Each verse contains a glimpse into a society of factory workers, drugs, security and guns punctuated by substantial horns (courtesy of the Bluenotes) and a few grinding guitars. Menacingly loitering at the other end of the album is the even better “No Hidden Path” with its hammering rhythm and a most welcomed and lengthy ZZ Top style bluesy guitar solo.