You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2007.

You can see a full list of my favorite albums of 2007 at Tiny Mix Tapes, but here are my ten favorites of the year, and why. I’ve written about a lot of these bands before, but hopefully I won’t be completely repeating myself.

10. Pink Reason – Cleaning the Mirror
Essential tracks: Storming Heaven, Thrush
In a sentence: Metallic, angular, cold, and slow, but also emotionally convincing, without becoming trite or navel-gazing.

09. Ponytail – Kamehameha

Essential tracks: Dear God Plz Make My2Eyes N2 One, Lion Down
In a sentence: An energetic explosion of an album that will keep you gyrating like a speed freak, that also manages to incorporate some mind-bending references to Classical music.

08. Akron/Family – Love Is Simple

Essential tracks: There’s So Many Colors, Phenomena, Of All the Things
In a sentence: Angel-folk that makes me want to float into a cloud and stay there, without enough intense guitar riffage to keep me from drifting off to sleep.

07. Double Dagger – Ragged Rubble

Essential tracks: The Psychic, Camera Chimera, Luxury Condos for the Poor
In a sentence: Finally, someone makes a good, hardcore album that matches sheer sonic impact with lyrical depth, in the old Dischord model but updated for the 21st century.

06. Dirty Projectors – Rise Above

Essential tracks: Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, Rise Above, Depression
In a sentence: Eclectic, African-inspired instrumentals and gospel singing transform a Black Flag album into something universal.

05. Gowns – Red State

Essential tracks: White Like Heaven, Fake July, Clawless
In a sentence: A minimalist soundtrack to rural desperation, with flashes of spiritual clarity.

04. Times New Viking – Presents the Paisley Reich

Essential tracks: Teenage Lust!, Let Your Hair Grow Long, Love Your Daughters
In a sentence: Lo-fi basement punk makes a triumphant showing, fusing irresistible pop melodies with the controlled chaos of amplifier fuzz.

03. Panda Bear – Person Pitch

Essential tracks: Take Pills, Bros, I’m Not
In a sentence: Can’t do it. See my blurb at Tiny Mix Tapes.

02. Marnie Stern – In Advance of the Broken Arm
Essential tracks: Every Line Means Something, Grapefruit, This American Life
In a sentence: A girl with the most impressive, self-taught guitar skills explores philosophy and inner space.

01. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Essential tracks: Heimsdalegate Like a Promethian Curse, Suffer for Fashion, She’s a Rejector, Gronlandic Edit
In a sentence: Kevin Barnes sublimates a painful breakup into a personal transformation, using pop and funk as his guides and revolutionizing both genres in the process.

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I know I haven’t posted in, oh, four months. Chalk it up to grad school. But now that I’m done with the semester, it’s time for me to count down my favorite movies of the year. More top 10 lists to come, maybe.

10. Superbad

I am not a Judd Apatow fan. I wasn’t even interested enough to see Knocked Up. But Superbad is just so believable. It’s a sophomoric guy-comedy with some humanism to it. Michael Cera is endlessly endearing. And it goes without saying that the movie is hilarious from beginning to end.

9. Hannah Takes the Stairs

It was impossible to read about Joe Swanberg’s third film without getting some sort of mangled, old-guy-film-critic diatribe on “mumblecore.” I prefer to think of guys like Swanberg and Andrew Bujaski as the budding Woody Allens of my generation. Sure, there’s a lot of navel-gazing in their movies, but there’s also a lot of insight into mid-20s urban existence. And Hannah Takes the Stairs plays like a documentary, zeroing in on what it’s like to work a creative but still boring job and try to find meaning through doomed relationships.

8. Control

Anton Corbijn handled Joy Divison singer Ian Curtis’s life in the only way possible: starkly, with as little sentimentality and hero worship as possible. Because Curtis was not, in fact, a hero. He was troubled, mentally ill, and destructive to himself, his friends, and his family. But he also happened to be one of the greatest musicians of the past 30 years. Corbijn captures the good with the bad, but keeps it all at a critical distance.

7. Ratatouille

Leave it to Pixar. I saw Ratatouille on a really bad day, and it made me feel 20 times better. It is all of those kids’ movie cliches–heartwarming, sweet, cute, etc.–but also genuinely funny with real, old-fashioned storytelling. And I guess it didn’t hurt that it was all about food.

6. Scott Walker: 30th Century Man

I guess this film still doesn’t have distribution. But it’s my favorite documentary of the year. It illuminates the career of one of popular (and not-so-popular) music’s most enigmatic, talented, and media-shy artists. And it sticks to the work itself, focusing on interviews with Walker and other musicians, completely avoiding the gossipy and the sensational.

5. Romance and Cigarettes

Some critics loved this film and some hated it. Indeed, it’s not for everyone. But if you have a soft spot for John Waters, it just might be for you. See Susan Sarandon in her trashiest (and most musical) role since Rocky Horror, along with James Gandolfini (as her unfaithful husband), Mary-Louise Parker (as her intentionally-implausible teenage daughter), and Kate Winslet (as a big slut). What’s really surprising about this film is that when the camp starts to subside, you realize that you actually did care about the characters and their plight.

4. Tears of the Black Tiger

This Technicolor Thai masterpiece may not have been made this year, but it never reached the US until 2007. With hand-painted scenery, over-the-top acting, and a timeless, fairy tale storyline, Tears of the Black Tiger surpassed almost every Hollywood western I’ve ever seen.

3. Brand Upon the Brain!

I may be a bit biased because I did happen to see this with a live orchestra and narration by Lou Reed. But Guy Maddin’s black-and-white fantasy film about girl detectives and mad scientist fathers is steeped in family-based sexual anxiety. Brand Upon the Brain is haunting and gorgeous, both referencing the retro and embracing the postmodern.

2. Waitress

Adrienne Shelley’s last film is everything classic, Hollywood movies were: warm, uplifting, but somehow unexpected. Subtly challenging social norms while indulging in ’50s diner nostalgia, Waitress deserves to be taken seriously. Performances by the late Shelley, Cheryl Hines, Kerry Russell, Jeremy Sisto, and even Andy Griffith, are nuanced and memorable. And the art direction is just gorgeous.

1. I’m Not There

I love Todd Haynes, and here he proves that he can even take on a personality as complex as Bob Dylan. Rather than playing it straight, he splits what is a truly fragmented public image among several actors. Cate Blanchett was a standout as Don’t Look Back-era Dylan, and the influence of Rimbaud and Woody Guthrie also ring true. I flinched at Richard Gere’s inclusion, but thankfully he hardly had to act at all. And the Greil Marcus notion of the “old, weird America” that crops up in the Gere section is essential in even beginning to understand the mystery that is Dylan.

Honorable mentions: The Darjeeling Limited, Zoo, Death Proof

Movies I didn’t see but probably should have: Eastern Promises, No Country for Old Men, Juno