John Greak Poop 07

Another girl, another planet. Another year, another POOP list. They just called the South Carolina GOP primary for John McCain, so i can finally get off the edge of my seat and rave up those favorite records from the past 12 or so months. I am sure it was a spectacular year for music, but I tried to avoid it all, mostly in an “I’m so far ahead of the underground music curve that all I listen to is my neighbor’s syphilis ridden monkey pound away on bongos as accompanied by the autistic boy down the street on mellotron – it’s sooooo transcendental” way.

If anything, 2007 was the year that critically acclaimed music went into an accelerated “commercial” rotation. Sure, we have had classics from Nick Drake, the Kinks, the Buzzcocks, New Order, et al, selling us vanity products for years, but 2007 saw artists hawking goods with their latest tracks quicker than the bearded guy at the coffee shop (you know, the one with the messy hair and beard sucking down a vegan latte) could yell sellout. So hey, are you checking out the new Feist single or are you just relaxing to a sampler of songs used in ipod commercials? Is that a new Wilco album or just a collection of tracks from the latest series of Volkswagen adverts? Wait, is that Catpower hawking diamond necklaces? Of course, i bought an ipod and a Volkswagen this year, and Rick Lange did give me a diamond necklace; heck, I guess that shit works!

In truth, I am all for the use of good music in commercials, movies, TV shows, et al, based upon the assumption that we will need all the little highs we can get to survive the final 12 months of the Bush Administration and the 2008 campaign season . The phone can be tapped, the house foreclosed on, the entire Middle East destabilized, the dollar worth the equivalent of a peso, the bill of rights removed in favor of the ten commandments, whatever – just as long as that John Mellencamp song is there to sell me a Ford truck. “This Is Our Country”, indeed.

On with the show…


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5. Gram Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers – “Live At the Avalon Ballroom 1969”
Yep, my 5th favorite record of the year was recorded 38 years earlier. I was thinking of making some kind of archival list, but who cares – it was commercially released in 2007, deal with it. Sound quality isn’t perfect and the two discs contain almost the same tracks recorded two nights apart, but outside of that, there isn’t much for any Parsons fan not to like. I can’t wait for future releases from the archives…


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4. Neil Young – “Live At Massey Hall – 1971”
And yes, album 4 on my list was recorded 36 years ago. I told you, 2007 didn’t do much for me! I’m not some Neil Young freak by any stretch, but the entire performance is simply beautiful. Not much else I can add…


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9. Wilco – “Sky Blue Sky”
The album that turns into an $18,000 car. After repeated listens, i also purchased an entire set of Ginzu knives – Jeff Tweedy can sell me anything.


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10. Fountains Of Wayne – “Traffic & Weather”
Some of the catchiest 80’s inspired pop tracks with some of the worst lyrical content you can imagine. I would prefer more metaphor and symbolism on an album featuring tracks titled “’92 Subaru”, “Michael & Heather At The Baggage Claim”, and “Yolanda Hayes”.


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6. Golden Smog – “Blood On The Slacks”

Jeff Tweedy sits this one out (my wallet thanks him), meaning the rest of the Golden Smog crew is responsible for this super fantastic 8 song EP. A great cover version of “Tarpit” and at least 2 classic GS originals: “Without A Struggle” and “Can’t Even Tie Your Own Shoes”.


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8. Robert Wyatt – “Comicopera”
My arty guilty pleasure of the year. I usually think his albums are hit and miss, but this one strikes just the right chord and the songs are really good. Note: young “experimental” singer/songwriters should give a listen and take notes on showing restraint and developing a sense of self! Can I get extra street cred by name dropping Matching Mole and the Soft Machine now?


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7. The Shins – ‘Wincing The Night Away”
The Shins go all cosmic and goofy with their lyrics (as if they swallowed the entire contents of the Rush and Hawkwind back catalogs) but the songs still have the special Shin-ness about them that i love. For a band that shows so little soul (in the R & B sense of the word), I always find their melodies irresistable.


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3. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – “100 days, 100 Nights”
What can i say that hasn’t been said already. This album exposes everything that modern R & B isn’t: soulful, gritty, funky, and real – no studio trickery or vocal manipulation here, just 10 tracks of juicy greatness that should be owned by one and all.


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2. Saturday Looks Good To Me – “Fill Up The Room”
Ah, and here is where it becomes oh so predictable. If SLGTM or Ted Leo put out a record, chances are one is going to top my year end list. This year, we got new records from both and someone had to come in second. This one features 11 songs of lost love and angst against a back drop of lo-fi retro pop with era appropriate string flourishes. “Hands In The Snow” (unfortunately, the only track sung by former vocalist Betty Marie Barnes) is my favorite song of the year…


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1. Ted Leo/Pharmacists – “Living With the Living”
Ted Leo speaks to me. Whether it be the Chisel albums from the 90’s or each of the Pharmacists LP’s over the past 7 years, I just can’t get enough of the stuff. For one, he’s one of the few musicians out there taking direct aim for the current crop of Christian conservatives/corporate whores running the country into the ground. I am a sucker for a rocker with a conscience, and songs like “Army Bound”, “Bomb.Repeat.Bomb”, “Annunciation Day/Born On Christmas day”, and “C.I.A.” cut to the heart of the chase. It certainly helps that the songs rock in a shake your booty, pump your fist, sing along until you’re in a frenzy type of way that allows us to think about changing the world for the better while turning all those frowns upside down at the same time. What more can you ask for out of rock & roll?


I bought lots of re-issues this year…

…as I am a sucker for updated packaging, remastered sound quality, and live bonus tracks and b-sides. Standouts included discs from Leonard Cohen, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Betty Davis, the Fix (which may have come out in November 0f 2006), Peter Brotzmann, and Townes Van Zandt. The Sly & The Family Stone box set and the 3 disc version of Pink Floyd’s “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” were much appreciated. Oh, and Elliott Smith’s “New Moon”, although not exactly reissue but more one of those “archival” releases, was stellar. At this point, feel free to quietly applaud my good taste.

I only went to three live shows this year (I am getting old!), but all rocked:

The Lemonheads at Maxwells in Hoboken,
Social Distortion at The Chance (which was actually a bit disappointing)
Ted Leo at Revolution Hall in Troy.

Movies I liked:

Lars & The Real Girl,
We Are Marshall,
Music & Lyrics,
Knocked Up,
The Darjeeling Limited.
There are a ton of films I missed in 2007…oh well.


Ike Turner,
Punk Planet,
Molly Ivins,
David Halberstam,
Brent Liles,
Alice Coltrane,
Tony Wilson

John Greak