Graham’s soundtrack to 2007

Disc 1

1 LCD Soundsystem – Get Innocuous!
2 Battles – Atlas
3 Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill
4 The Go! Team – Doing It Right
5 Arcade Fire – Intervention
6 Future Pilot AKA – Nothing Without You (Tery Bina)
7 Aliens – Rox
8 PJ Harvey – The Devil
9 Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
10 Radiohead – 15 Step
11 Low – Always Fade
12 The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Herculean
13 Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit – Leftovers
14 Lisa Knapp – There U R
15 Múm – The Amateur Show
16 Björk – Wanderlust
17 Von Südenfed – Dear Dead Friends

Disc 2

1 Múm – Blessed Brambles
2 Lo-Fi-Fnk – Change Channel
3 MIA – Paper Planes
4 The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name
5 LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum
6 Radiohead – Reckoner
7 Apparat – Arcadia
8 Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve – Winter In June
9 James Yorkston – The Hills And The Heath
10 Feist – I Feel It All
11 The Mountain Goats – Woke Up New
12 PJ Harvey – Silence
13 The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Kingdom Of Doom
14 Low – Murderer
15 Okkervil River – Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe
16 Arcade Fire – (Antichrist Television Blues)
17 Sigur Rós – Hafsol
18 Future Pilot AKA – Festival Of Lights

‘Did I imagine it would be like this / Was it something like this I wished for / Or will I want more?’

The year 2007 is a funny one to assess now – it was pretty much dominated by one event that was later rendered meaningless. But even if the memories of my wedding have been packed away permanently, the year turned up a load of truly great music. And the soundtrack to 2007 is completely unlike its immediate predecessor – my acoustic and folky leanings of 2006 were largely stripped away, leaving an electronic sheen. Where the guitars make a comeback, it’s usually with a heavy side-dose of melancholy. With six years of hindsight, I can see this as the start of my ‘current’ tastes; guitar music rarely inspires me much now, and actually I can see that the upcoming 2013 soundtrack is going to have a very similar vibe to this one.

It starts with LCD Soundsystem, and with a beat that sounded like it was directly lifted from their breakthrough song, ‘Losing My Edge’. But then ‘Get Innocuous’ shape-shifts itself into an entirely different beast, with Brian Eno-style vocals and a relentless, propulsive rhythm. It’s the opening track from the best album of the year, Sound Of Silver, and although other songs from that album get more critical attention I don’t think anything beats this. It does make for an uncompromising start and things get weirder with track two, the self-described ‘math rock’ of Battles’ ‘Atlas’, and track three, the invective-laden ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip.

Those who haven’t run for the hills during that opening triple-whammy will found much to welcome them after that. The Go! Team played ‘Doing It Right’ when touring the amazing ‘Thunder Lightning Strike’ album, but kept the recorded version back for the second LP. A wise move, as it was the only memorable thing about Proof Of Youth. That track’s euphoric mood is killed instantly by the doomy church organ that opens ‘Intervention’, like ‘Doing It Right’ the opening single for a second album. Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible can sound overblown in both production and message – and ‘Intervention”s lines about ‘working for the church while your family dies’ as an orchestra soars behind it certainly fill that description – but hey, Arcade Fire remain a special band to me and I’ll let them off for that.

After a diversion off into Indian traditional music – definitely a first for my soundtracks – with Future Pilot AKA’s ‘Nothing Without You (Tery Bina)’, a track from a tragically under-appreciated album with a stellar guest list, we get the Aliens reworking the lyrics from 2006 soundtrack highlight ‘Robot Man’ into an entirely new track that sounds like it could have come from the Happy Mondays after one of their harsher comedowns. ‘Rox”s second half, with its coruscating synth riff, is just brilliant.

As ‘Rox’ fades away into the night, thunder cracking and dogs howling, it’s appropriate next that we bump into Polly Harvey in one of her more haunted songs, ‘The Devil’ – one of her more muted efforts too, at least until that ‘Come, come, come here at once!’ chorus comes in from nowhere. Hardly lifting the mood is Elvis Perkins, whose extraordinary family history (his mother died on one of the planes in 9/11) feeds into the almost unbearably sorrowful ‘While You Were Sleeping’.

Radiohead made headlines at the end of 2007 for releasing their new album ‘In Rainbows’ at short notice and using an innovative ‘pay what you like’ price model, imitated later not just by other bands but by completely different industries. Luckily the album was good enough for people to eventually stop talking about the death of the music industry, keeping fans of both the ‘early stuff’ and ‘later stuff’ happy. ’15 Step’, with its batshit 5/4 time signature, falls firmly into the post-Kid A category. Other established guitar bands like Low had started mucking about with drum loops and ‘Always Fade’ consisted of little but a bassline and an echoey drum loop, its starkness complimenting some brutal lyrics – ‘The streets run bright rosy red’ being my favourite. Damon Albarn’s latest in his long line of Blur side-projects was supergroup The Good, The Bad and The Queen, a series of introspective takes on west London, an area I was calling home at the time. ‘Herculean’ is the single and the high point of the group’s one and only album.

I hadn’t completely lost my folk tastes just yet and the next two tracks were by up-and-coming folk artists who I’d had the pleasure of seeing live at Maida Vale in two of my last visits there for Radio 1 sessions. Johnny Flynn was rather overshadowed by his co-headliner, the aforementioned Elvis Perkins, but I loved a couple of his songs, one of which appears here in its live form from that very session, ‘Leftovers’. Lisa Knapp played the previous year’s Onemusic Christmas special, and she played ‘There U R’ – though here you get the recorded version. The lyrics are a bit trite – ‘there you are, shining like a star’ etc – but the music has such an urgent quality that I barely find myself paying any attention.

Disc one ends with a trio of brilliantly realised experimental tracks. Múm are an Icelandic band that had occasionally drifted across my radar, but they hit a run of form around 2007, so much so that I include one of their B-sides here – ‘The Amateur Show’ is the song that backed up the brilliantly-titled single ‘They Made Frogs Smoke Till They Exploded’ and consists of a patchwork of found sounds. How they shaped this into something that could pack an emotional punch I can’t quite explain but it’s a work of genius. Fellow Icelander Bjork had been toeing the line between pop and the avant-garde for the best part of two decades, and I don’t think there’s been a better demonstration of her mastery of that particular tightrope than ‘Wanderlust’, with a full horn section, a sledgehammer beat, and that voice. Bjork sings of sailing away on a voyage of discovery, and here it sounds like the song finishes with her boat washing up on a Caribbean island with Mark E Smith for company, as the final track marks surely MES’s only ever attempt at calypso – not with The Fall, but with German electronic duo Mouse On Mars, under the name Von Sudenfed. It’s every bit as wacky as it sounds, and the feeling of playfulness is best summed up by its abrupt ending, an explosion followed by a random assault of 80s computer game sound effects.

Disc two starts much like disc one finished off – with a dose of playful avant-garde. And like Múm’s previous contribution, it’s one of the warmest things here – ‘Blessed Brambles’ begins with a weird riff on an instrument I can’t identify, before a harp, a harmonica and a percussion track that seems to consist of random household items being hit. This might sound a bit preposterous, uit feels like the work not of a band but of a little remote community who’d discovered music for themselves without ever having heard a note before.

As ‘Blessed Brambles’ fades off to the distance, pure pop – of varying quality – comes crashing through in its place. Swedish duo Lo-Fi-Fnk’s ‘Change Channel’, all speaker-busting synths and cut-up beats, feels like the sort of song that could have been a hit today with the right guest vocalist, while the following two tracks did manage to top charts – MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’, complete with its comically loud gunshot and cash register sounds in the chorus, makes you wonder why it took hip-hop 25 years to realise how ripe that riff from The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ was for sampling. The next track I can only apologise for – if ever there was a song that suffered from death by over-exposure, it was the Ting Tings’ ‘That’s Not My Name’ (here in a Maida Vale session version, not one I attended). In my defence it was included here a full six months before it became a number one hit, but I can’t stand the song now. Far better is LCD Soundsystem’s obnoxious (in a good way) ‘North American Scum’, reminding me of a riotous party held in Myrtle Beach by my friend Dave King, which loads of my friends and family attended as they were all in town.

‘Reckoner’ is one of the great Radiohead songs, one of the few post-Kid A songs that seem to make it on to fans’ top fives. It was my instant favourite from In Rainbows and six years have not dulled its impact, even if I’m still not sure what Thom Yorke’s singing about in that falsetto. I should probably research the lyrics sometime. It’s complemented well here by Sascha Ring’s Apparat, who’s become one of my favourite electronic artists of recent years, and by the act of pure genius that is former Grid man Richard Norris’s Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve, whose schtick involved remixing obscure ’60s psychedelic singles – in this case, taking the Mystic Astrologic Crystal Band’s ‘Flowers Never Cry’ (who could resist a band name like that?) and throwing an old interview with celebrity gardener Percy Thrower over the top. The flower-power ambience feeds wonderfully into the following track from perennial favourite of mine, James Yorkston.

What you might term side two, if there was such a thing on a CD, starts off with flavour of the year Feist’s ‘I Feel It All’, before one of John Darnielle’s devastating lyrical vignettes, ‘Woke Up New’, describing the inane details of living along post-break-up (example lyric: ‘The first time I made coffee for just myself, I made too much of it / But I drank it all just cause you hate it when I let things go to waste’. Yes, that.), and another one of PJ Harvey’s sparse piano pieces from her White Chalk album, ‘Silence’.

‘Kingdom Of Doom’, the second track on this compilation from Damon Albarn’s The Good, The Bad and The Queen supergroup, reminds me of a trip to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, as it was stuck in my head for most of my day there. I think it was just the word association rather than anything more sinister. What is sinister is Low’s ‘Murderer’, a message to a god who might be looking for ‘someone to do his dirty work’.

Disc two rumbles towards its conclusion with a pair of similar-sounding tracks very clearly influenced by Bruce Springsteen – Austin band Okkervil River’s ‘Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe’ (a song I discovered via Dandelion Radio, a web-based radio station created by fans of John Peel, still going strong), and Arcade Fire’s unnecessarily-bracketed ‘(Antichrist Television Blues)’, possibly a tribute to Bob Dylan as the track does sound rather like Springsteen doing ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’.

When that song is ripped away by a startling edit, we set up for the big finish – ‘Hafsur’ is probably the ultimate Sigur Ros track, expanding the poppier sensibilities of their later work into nearly ten minutes of slowly-unwinding genius, hitting its emphatic, euphoric peak about six-and-a-half minutes in, when it sounds like every Sigur Ros song played over the top of each other at the same time, before fading away in a long outro of backwards loops.

And just when you think it’s all over, you have what I called at the time my favourite track of the year, ‘Festival Of Lights’ by Future Pilot AKA. Starting gently enough with gently plucked acoustic guitar and sitar, what gives it its emotional punch is the intervention two minutes in of a crackly, disconnected voice whose lyrics are impossible to make out – it sounds like a man trapped in a faraway galaxy trying to communicate a message with Earth (the voice is actually Can frontman Damo Suzuki, literally phoning his contribution in from Berlin). And with that, the music fades to black and my 11th soundtrack compilation is complete.

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