Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Monday, January 07, 2008

2007 Year-end

To continue with Hipsterality '08 (it's thematic!). J (see here also) put a review in the local alt-weekly (e-dition) of the year's music. I thought I'd cut and paste here

A number of the musical highlights of 2007 for me seemed to focus on the idea of revival, or setting old wrongs right.

Anytime I visit Atlanta I come back with a stack of music from the shops in Little 5 Pts, and last summer was no exception. It started off with the re-release of Betty Davis' They Say I'm Different, by Light in the Attic Records. I was browsing through the new music section when I saw an amazing cover photo of a woman crouched down and dressed like a disco/pharaoh/go-go-girl from outer space. I picked it up and nearly ran off the road when I hit track two on the ride back to Columbia. Davis was living in "He Was a Big Freak," most likely written about Betty's then-husband — none other than Miles Davis — is illuminating. She fell into obscurity when she wouldn't accept an unfair record deal in the '70s, but the folks at Light in the Attic are trying to bring her back. She's now receiving well-deserved royalties for the two albums Light in the Attic remastered and released.

Another favorite from 2007 was Bettye LaVette's The Scene of the Crime. LaVette already got her share of comeback story press with a record of soulful covers a couple years ago. This time around, Anti records got her to collaborate, often contentiously, with The Drive-By Truckers to create an album of growling Southern soul. The effort worked, producing tracks that make you hit repeat a few times in a row, such as "Jealousy."The Numero Group continued its ongoing project of curating previously unreleased or rare R&B, funk and soul records with several great (and conveniently numbered) collections in 2007, including NUM013 Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation, a great two-disc set highlighting Chicago soul that never made it, and NUM014 Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay, put together from island-influenced soul records found in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. The movement was brought home, though, with the release of a compilation of funk and soul records from our own backyard, Carolina Funk: Funk 45's From The Atlantic Coast. Paul Burton, one of the artists on the album, was in attendance at the October release party and blew The Whig's packed basement away as he breathed life back into his 1974 track "So Very Hard to Make It (Without You)." The song might be about another kind of relationship, but it also speaks to the need an artist has for an audience. My hat is off to the record collectors and boutique labels who found these gems in 2007 and brought them back into the limelight. And it begs the question: Why would you listen to a strung-out, commercial imitation of soul music when you can still find the real, homegrown thing?
Other 2007 releases that found their way into heavy rotation at Chez J:
Feist, The Reminder
The National, Boxer
Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
Justice, †
Loney, Dear, Loney, Noir

And as an aside, I would say that this short list shows my taste for indie pop, except that the term "indie" is becoming increasingly ephemeral, isn't it? Advertising firms have been snatching up all these non-Top 40 artists and licensing their work to sell steaks, mutual funds, hotel rooms, etc. Perhaps it started with the trend of movie soundtracks becoming more song-driven rather than being based on scores, but it seems like TV commercials can't be bothered to write their own music anymore. I think it's great for these artists to be rewarded for making good music, but I wish it could happen in a fair and equitable manner within the recording industry. Selling songs for sandwiches makes me sad.

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