The National

So, I read Pitchfork a lot.  And by a lot I of course mean daily.  And by daily I of course mean whenever my Profs become less than adequately engaging.  Thus, I get a lot of my musical stylings from Pitchfork recommendations, especially the ‘Best New Music’ list.  However, on occasion, it’s difficult to cut through the hype to see which records are actually worth spinning and which records are simply getting positive reviews because the writer knows a guy who knows a guy who robs a guy who plays in, say, Vampire Weekend (although I’m really getting into their demos).  As Ca Va Cool Contributor / Headmaster / Generalissimo Dan suggested, I will be attempting today to cut through the hype with a clear head, open ears, and biting satirical wit.  I will be giving you guys the top three records from 2007 that deserved the Pitchfork hype, and the top three records from 2007 that did not deserve the Pitchfork hype.

Records that Deserved the Hype:

The National – Boxer

Put simply, I think that this is one of the great records of this decade, taking a place alongside Is This It?, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Elephant, Turn On The Bright Lights, etc. etc. (you can insert your record of choice here to avoid argument).  On Boxer, Matt Berninger crafts intensely personal stories in a more understated manner than on Alligator.  However, what Berninger loses in ‘jaw drop factor’ he makes up for in understated beauty and one of the most accurate accounts of modern American life yet put to vinyl.  Further, Boxer features beautiful orchestral arrangements that complement the band’s instrumentation while never overshadowing it.  I could continue on for pages upon pages, but I won’t.  I will simply ask you to pick up this record as soon as possible (get yourself a Christmas gift, you deserve it).

The National – Brainy

Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I have already written about this record once on Ca Va Cool, so I won’t say a lot about it.  Its funky, its rocking, its OCD (Britt Daniel, who has previously written songs about fitted shirts and his tour manager, dedicates an entire song to My Little Japanese Cigarette Case), and, at times, its haunting.  The Ghost of You Lingers crops a krautrock piano line while heavily reverbed voices swirl, asking the question “If you were here, would you calm me down, or settle the score?”  However, when You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb starts up seconds later with its bubble gum hooks, Motown horns, and Phil Spector – esque production palette, it doesn’t seem out of place.  That’s what makes this record so good.

Spoon – My Little Japanese Cigarette Case

M.I.A. – Kala

M.I.A. is pissed off.  She’s pissed at The War on Terror (being a Tamil Tiger might have something to do with that), the music press’ belief that Diplo was primarily responsible for Arular’s success, and a whole host of other issues that I fear my comfortable first world existence may be causing.  However, instead of channelling that anger into the typical tools of protest so often seen among activist groups, M.I.A. has created a record spanning cultures and languages.  While Arular seemed to sugar coat its political content with electro beats and fuzzy synth sounds, Kala takes its beats straight from the battle drum, ensuring that the listener knows M.I.A. would much rather fight you than dance with you, given the chance.  This record is everything that I think hip-hop should be today which it unfortunately isn’t (although I love both Rich and Soulja Boy).  Kala is swaggeringly confident, radical, sexy, absolutely terrifying, and a masterpiece.

M.I.A. – Paper Planes

And now to the bitchy section.  Records that didn’t deserve the hype.

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

First of all, I don’t think this is necessarily a “bad” record.  I really tried to get into it over the summer, but was unsuccessful.  Missing Fauna has its moments – The production on the record is interesting and original, the hooks are solid, and Gronlandic Edit has got an excellent bass line.  However, it wasn’t the career defining, genre changing, or intensely engaging record that Pitchfork made it out to be.  I figure this won’t be a popular opinion, maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t like this record all that much.  Plus, I think I’m the only person on earth who doesn’t like The Past Is A Grotesque Animal.  It’s really self indulgent people.

Of Montreal – Gronlandic Edit

Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings

Again, maybe I just don’t get it.  This record is weird, but not in a good way (just like Dan Deacon).  To put it practically, if I was waiting in line at Pizza Pizza at 1:30 AM on a Thursday night and I somehow knew that the sweat pant clad, balding, mouth breathing guy behind me was the creator of Spiderman of the Rings, all of my sheltered, Queen’s student paranoia would be confirmed.  This record is not pleasing to listen to.  I would suggest that you not listen to it.

Dan Deacon – Woody Woodpecker

Deerhunter – Cryptograms

In my opinion, this is the clearest example of hype outweighing substance in 2007.  Bradford Cox was able to play the blogosphere like a cheap violin by posting pseudo-pornographic montages on his band’s Myspace (the link is to the Pitchfork article covering it, not the website itself.  Eww.), dressing up in dresses for most of his band’s live shows, getting robbed at gunpoint, breaking up his band, reassembling his band, announcing his band was going on hiatus, and publically playing up the death of Deerhunter’s first bassist.  With all of this news, people forgot one simple fact about the band – they aren’t good.  Crypotgrams is a self indulgent dirge of reverb and atonal melodies.  It did not deserve to be written about as much as it was.

Deerhunter – Spring Hall Convert

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— , December 16, 2007    7 Comments

Paper Planes is my favourite! I loooooooove M.I.A.:)

— Justine, December 17, 2007

you’re right about Of Montreal, you are missing something.

you’re missing the emotional progression, the complex myriad of meshed sounds, the pure depth of the album.

go out and experience some heartbreak, and then maybe you’ll understand why people love this album so much.

— gronlandic, December 17, 2007

Sorry mate, to each their own. Glad to know people are that attatched to their music, makes me happy. I’m quite sorry we don’t see eye to eye. Have a good 2008!

— David, December 17, 2007

I also disagree with the Of Montreal critique (definitely was a favourite of mine this year) but I understand your viewpoint; it’s not for everyone. But I toooootally support the Dan Deacon comment. That one went right over my head.

— Bri, December 17, 2007

And, good choice by posting Brainy. Probably the best track off Boxer.

— Bri, December 17, 2007

I totally agree with the three albums that deserve the hype. But I think that the one album that got the most hype and probably deserved it too was Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible.

Daniel, December 18, 2007

i was starting to think i was the only one who thought this. deerhunter is terrible…and of montreal did nothing for me. what is it with all that weirdness.

agree with the guy about arcade fire. also thought our love to admire wasnt as bad as pitchfork made out. the last part of the album’s a bit slow, but the start is awesome. pioneer to the falls is possibly my favorite song of 2007!

— will, December 24, 2007