Moroccan Role: Best of First Quarter 2007, Part. III

Moroccan Role

A Totally Kiler Music/MP3 Blog.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Best of First Quarter 2007, Part. III

The third and final part of this series showcases a couple albums that I have spent a lot of time with over the past two months. This post will conclude the listing of what I view to be the Top 10 8 albums that have been released so far in 2007. It just so happened that when I finally had the motivation and time to start regularly posting again, my laptop hard drive died and I was without a computer for about a week and a half...but all is straight now. I was planning to discuss a couple of other records from earlier this year (Of Montreal & Patrick Wolf), but I'm ready to move on to some new stuff...The National, anyone? Following this post, we will be back to previews of upcoming records, highlighting lesser known acts, and individual tracks reviews/recommendations. Hope you enjoyed this quick series and thanks to everyone who, despite my lack of posts, still reads this thing.

The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Expectations were off the charts for Neon Bible, the sophomore record from the Arcade Fire. Their widely loved 2004 debut Funeral was the album of the year and is one of the strongest albums of this decade. After a recent outbreak of the sophomore slump, (see, i.e., The Killers, Bloc Party, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) a potent mixture of anxiety and excitement was in the air around the time when bits of the album started trickling out. When I first heard a few of the tracks that became available, I was not terribly confident this album would be nearly as good as it turned out to be. All was remedied once I heard the album in its entirety with the intended track sequencing. Thankfully, they did not set out to record Funeral part II nor did they undertake a radical stylistic departure; the band was smart enough to stick to their strengths and, as a result, produced a second great album. Comparisons between the two albums are inevitable, but they are, in many ways, two completely different beasts. Besides the thematic differences-- Funeral took internal pain and mourning and expressed them in a universal manner, while Neon Bible analyzes global events and makes them personal-- the scope of this album somehow feels smaller despite the use of huge church organ, ornate instrumentation, and political and religious lyrical content. This is a testament to just how epic and grand the debut really is. There is nothing on this album that quite packs the emotional punch of the two strongest tracks on Funeral, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" & "Wake Up" ("Intervention" is the closest), but with these phenomenal tracks notwithstanding, the albums are basically equivalent. The most important aspect of this album is that is solidifies the Arcade Fire as a band with definite staying power and, now officially, indie rock's premier act.

MP3: The Arcade Fire - "Keep the Car Running"
MP3: The Arcade Fire - "Intervention"

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Full disclosure: I'm a bit of a Modest Mouse fanboy. For one reason or another, I seem to be among the minority who claim to enjoy both their earlier material and Good News. This collection of songs is perhaps the most stylistically diverse yet from Isaac's ever-expanding troupe. There's a bit of everything here, as the album is bookended by a pair of aggressive teeth-clinched rockers ("March Into the Sea" & "Invisible") and, due in large part to backing vox from Shins frontman James Mercer, the midsection contains two of the most poppy songs of the band's career ("Missed the Boat" & "We've Got Everything"). First single "Dashboard" is the slickest thing yet from MM and even with the horns, strings, and disco-type feel, it still manages to sound like them. (Quick aside: Am I the only one who thinks this song is somehow reminiscent of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire"? I'm always wanting to sing, "woulda been, coulda been, Russians in Afghanistan" when I hear the verses) "Fire it Up" is probably my least favorite track and is a somewhat uneasy marriage of old-school Modest Mouse and nearly lowest common denominator accessibility, and as a result, has a distinct possibility of becoming a fratboy anthem. While clocking in a 5:37 and 8:30 respectively, the two longest tracks are among the best: "Parting of the Sensory" starts as an acoustic lament and evolves into a manic rave-up with its killer "steal your carbon!" outro and "Spitting Venom" contains expert shifts in dynamics (from quiet folkish top-tapper to loud guitar-driven indie rocker and back) and a triumphant horn-driven second half. These two are the type of works only a band this seasoned is capable of producing. Even though the original concept (envisioned as a concept album about a boat crew that dies in every song), was mostly abandoned, a distinct maritime/nautical feel still remains. The many faces of Isaac all make an appearance on this album, as he yells, barks, howls, croons, and talks (often within the same song) his way through these 14 tracks. For an incredibly accurate and detailed diagnosis of Isaac's multiple personalities see Will Hermes's Interview with the band in the most recent issue of Spin. The album ends strong with two excellent tracks, the awkwardly-titled "People as Places as People" finds Brock and crew at their most comfortable and the aforementioned rocking closer ties things together nicely. Is this their best album? No. Is this another fine entry into their already stellar catalog? Most definitely.

MP3: Modest Mouse - "Missed the Boat"
MP3: Modest Mouse - "People As Places As People"

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