Features | Lists

Top 50 Albums 2007

By The Staff

Elliott Smith

New Moon

(Kill Rock Stars)

Describing the Elliott Smith Sonic Experience to anyone our age is moot. If you were at the time of Smith’s death a sophomore in college of any stripe, you knew bits of X/O (1998) and certainly “Needle in the Hay” and “Miss Misery.” You knew that shattered voice, those careful words, those quick, dancing guitar lines, and (if you were a listener) you knew their combined might. You had seen his austere missives level buildings; you had on occasion been one of those buildings, earbudded and sludging hungover toward some brick repository of stale sociological ideas. You were smoking a lot of weed then, and listening to a lot of music while doing so, but for some reason (even though you were going through an Elliott Smith phase at the time) you listened to him alone, clear-headed, at strange hours. You felt like a ghost; Smith sang like one. You were writing bad short stories about things he was capturing in half-lines (“With a broken sink for a face”).You found in Smith a shard of certainty that, though sharp, was precious; it radiated with a misery that you would’ve cherished in high school but it did so now in autumnal, unsparking shades, unlike the emo you were listening to way back then and were now shaking with Smith’s help.

Now that I think about it, you were probably a lot like me as a sophomore in college. We should’ve hung out.

Anyway, you know the Elliott Smith Sonic Experience. You have connected with Smith on a cerebral and emotional level. New Moon is probably one of the best odds-and-ends posthumous collections ever because it recaptures over the course its two discs the feeling of hearing Elliott Smith. Depending on your fandom, you will have heard quite a few of these tracks in various forms before. But it is still (although old) new Elliott Smith music. And this is something we could all use, right?

Clayton Purdom

Various Artists

After Dark

(Italians Do It Better)

The full appeal of the Italians do it Better label took awhile to sink in, but when it did it was almost entirely thanks to After Dark. The label comp is one of those genres that, in a lot of cases doesn’t work so well. Secretly Canadian, Merge, Matador, and Thrill Jockey have all tried their hand at it in various ways over the last few years, but none of the results have been particularly good. Italians do it Better has the advantage of being a one trick pony label, and these songs work well together simply by dint of similarity. Chromatics and Farah work a lot better together than, say, squeezing Cornelius between Yo La Tengo and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (as on Matador at Fifteen). The disc also benefits immensely from the small differences between these groups. Where a full hour of the Chromatics Night Drive can be rather tiring, mixing it up between the six groups represented here keeps it interesting. We’ll see how long icy disaffection and minimal disco beats stay cool, but for now this is the best place to start.

Peter Hepburn

Velella Velella

Flight Club EP

(Hush)

Words can only rubber up the electricity of this thing, though the EP pushes more vocal lines through the buttercream spaceMIDIs of “Flight Cub” than on all the tracks from Velella Velella’s debut combined. Bay of Biscay (2005) had a lot of tracks, so the concision of their EP — flaunting an official four members with the addition of Sylvia Chen and Jeremy Hadley assigned to Korg, clavinet, and the occasional Wurlitzer fills — seems impossible for the stomach of self-ingesting genres they cobble together. The names escape me: while cuts like “Brass Ass” and “Your Name Here” curse the very notion of restraint with wah-wah and falsetto, the band shoulders the pain of a cratedigger gone geriatric in the basement while eliding the actual breaks and breaking vinyl; funk and soul, or new wave and R&B and cock rock pieced intuitively into something simply, relentlessly movable, samples only consulted like blueprints. That’s fandom unleashed, twenty-three-point-eight minutes to tangle the viscera of all walks of life until this flaccid blurb is just an attempt to label the crates, to poorly copy band logos with magic marker (the true sign of a devotee and nothing more).

Dom Sinacola

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Is Is EP

(Interscope)
Peter Hepburn

Young Marble Giants

Colossal Youth & Collected Works

(Domino)
Danny Roca

Neil Young

Live at Massey Hall 1971

(Reprise)
David Greenwald