After a long holiday hibernation the industry bursts back to life. The darkly dramatic EDITORS, the experimental ska-punk rascals THE WALKMEN and performer, producer, and living legend TODD RUNDGREN ignite the area concert scene this January. January CDs tackle life on ecological terms with a plethora of nature titles and an eerie tendency towards songs centered around drowning your sorrow. The flood's obviously coming, but hope floats so check out the following seven discs and go green and go clean.
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS - Distortion (Nonesuch) Fuzzed-out and corrosive, MF's alt-pop honky tonk bangs up against a rusted wall of sound. Misogyny, zombies and mistletoe figure in the swamp of serrated guitars and overloaded amps as lonely robots and goth girl groups play droll love songs and tales of romantic woe. Encased in metallic caverns, Distortion seduces with moody splendor. www.houseoftomorrow.com
TYLER RAMSEY - A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea (Echo Mountain) Frail vocals emphasize grand scales then plug into something grander as pre-dawn songs turn after-hours jamming. A Baptist of folk-rock RAMSEY's warm and honest homilies dive inside shipwreck serenades as fluid runs of sparkling acoustic chemistry flow, splashing affectionately upbeat before gliding calmly into almost spiritual waters. www.tylerramsey.com
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS - Hey Venus! (Rough Trade) Smug and subversive, cool and calculating the courageously contagious confections from Wales' most excellent power-pop pranksters clears a well-constructed road between dazzling RASPBERRIES-era posture and cheeky 10 cc seizures. Sequined synths ply rhinestone riffs as the clownish FURRIES shine, combining post-modern playfulness with devilishly ironic nostalgia. SFA play Chicago's Metro Feb 16. www.superfurry.com
JOE JACKSON - Rain (Rykodisc) Despite a stripped-down sound of voice, piano, drums and bass, JACKSON nevertheless concocts an immaculate universe of sour sages and bittersweet sentimentalists. Sorrowful soliloquies brush against steely social indictments as Rain broods smoothly over classy jazz piano, fires up pounding Memphis soul and turns new wave sophisticated through cutting lyrics, clever irony and consummate razzle-dazzle. Joe is slated to play Milwaukee's Pabst on April 21st. www.joejackson.com
PATTY LARKIN - Watch the Sky (Vanguard) World music and American roots blend into a heavenly choir of musical hybrids as PATTY's talented imagination turns art emotional and emotions artistic. Whether conjuring spooky Delta blues, thoughtful folk or exotic gospel vamps, Sky bewitches as it whispers. Wistful and mystical, PATTY pits sambas against mantras, instilling educated mojo into cultivated raves. www.pattylarkin.com
PHOTON BAND - Back Down to Earth (Empryean) Orbiting over semi-savage psychedelia, PB's lumbering Lotharios freefall into the soulful sludge of zero-gravity blues while Earth moves from the vast to the vital. Re-entering the atmosphere like drunk angels on fire, Earth spins off stompin' rockers, sixties R & B and cosmic shuffles with laser-guided clairvoyance, causal wisdom and heel-kicking gumption. www.theephotonband.com
KATE NASH - Made of Bricks (Geffen) Pulling no punches in her melodic bobbing and street savvy weaving, this cocky British bird is a sweet beat poet camouflaged as a flippant pop princess. The bold and brassy NASH grabs bohemian panache, adding jaunty piano and folky trip-hop to make Made a frank yet bubbly cabaret bursting with thrills and sport. www.katenash.co.uk
Another year ends with a cache of memories trailing behind them. This year's top ten list has the double requirement for the artist to have not only produced a terrific disc but followed it up with an equally impressive local performace. With that in mind here are Slipped top ten for 2007.
The beginning had some great concerts from artist plugging 2006 releases but July brought the first wave of excellent new recordings when Madison's La Fete de Marquette Festival hosted VIEUX FARKA TOURE. As the son of Mali legend Ali Farka Toure, he proved music is in the blood with his astonsihing self-titled debut and an inspiring live show.
Milwaukee's Pabst in August was the place for modern melodies when they welcomed CROWDED HOUSE then THE MAGIC NUMBERS. CROWDED HOUSE reformed after years away and crowned their return with the deeply felt and worldly wise, Time on Earth. THE MAGIC NUMBERS' post-Bacharach bounce featured in their stunning, Those The Brokes roared in performance and the sweet bass player kid sister showed some great chops. August also reaped a rare freebie when Madison's The Loft snagged up and coming cosmic blues rockers PORTUGAL THE MAN. PtM's debut, Church Mouth corrugated history into gutsy pyrotechnic glee and live they simply bowled over the crowd.
September brought alt-folkies GIRLYMAN to Madison's High Noon Saloon and they in turn brought the gloriously open-hearted Joyful Sign. Disarming and yet opinoinated - a perfect fit for Madison's hip underground.
October had The Pabst doing it again, booking both SPOON and THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS who in turn did it again by producing two great discs. Both Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Challengers suffered in having to follow 06's respective masterpieces, but in concert the new material shined. BRENDA WEILER duplicated the sterling intimacy of her outstanding End the Rain at Cafe Montmartre and bravely channelled painful memories into poetic revelation.
Madison's Orpheum pullsedboth ends of indie in November when they kicked the month off with the raucous and ecliptically cryptic MODEST MOUSE then end it with the romantic flavors of boppy French-Canadian chanteuse FEIST. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank and The Reminder are prime examples of muscial ingenuity and imaginative orginality.