SWC Awards 2007
2007 was a fascinating year in music! The year featured new releases from old masters, current stars (in our eyes) and up and coming artists. Here are the releases and artists that really caught our attention this year:
CD of the Year: Pj Harvey: White Chalk: While we are big fans of Polly Jean Harvey, her usual rugged rock-blues sound does not fit in well with the ethos of this site. However, that all changed with the haunting White Chalk. With its piano-based compositions, out-of tune acoustic instruments, little-girl vocals and lyrics dealing with death, graveyards, chalk hills, the English countryside, and sub-conscious states, White Chalk amazed listeners. The CD is a beautiful collection of fragile songs that seep unaware into the inner core of the listener.
Other Great CD’s:
RF & Lili De La Mora: Eleven Continents: Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Eleven Contients culls the absolute best of classical-influenced slow-core/folk and mixes it with pensive electronic arrangements, all sung over by one of the most endearing and truly beautiful female voices we’ve heard in a while. Exquisite songwriting, expert production, and the best artwork of the year to boot, RF & Lili De La Mora have created a true work of gorgeous art.
Blonde Redhead: 23: Breaking out of silence for the last few years, Blonde Redhead emerged in 2007 with one of the most respected and talked-about releases of the year. With sighing male/female vocals trade off over lingering guitars and dense atmosphere, with undeniably catchy songwriting undergirding the whole CD, 23 is a delight.
The Sound Gallery: Umbra: In a perfect world, Umbra’s singular focus of powerful and dense guitar drones and menacing sounds would be respected and appreciated by music listeners worldwide. In spite of the lack of attention that Herb Grimaud Jr. (a.k.a. The Sound Gallery) receives, he continues to make some of the best-crafted drone music with humility and artistic integrity. Umbra fascinates careful music listeners with its many layers of otherworldly sounds.
Stars of the Lid: Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline: The masters of the soft drone
reappear after a prolonged hiatus with delicate, gentle, and profoundly moving music. Incorporating orchestral instruments into their well-honed guitar drone skills on this double-disc, Stars of the Lid build on their past work with a maturity and poise that is rare among musicians of all genres. Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline soothed our weary souls time and again in 2007.
Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd: Before The Day Breaks/After The Night Falls: Are these discs two totally separate releases, or two sides of the same coin? Whatever the case, Guthrie & Budd, two members of the old guard who have taken part in creating dreampop/ambient music as we know it, renew their working relationship to release two discs of pristine music. Guthrie’s distinct delayed guitar gracefully rode the piano arpeggios of Budd, drawing the listener into an placid and rewarding music experience. The old guard are still indeed still here, showing the young kids a thing or two about expert music-making.
Bracken: We Know About The Need: With main band Hood on an indefinite hiatus, front-man Chris Adams decided to release music under the name Bracken, to an amazing effect. Featuring glitchy electronic warblings, a myriad of odd instruments and sounds, but anchored with solid songwriting and Adams’ distinct whispery vocal delivery, We Know About The Need sounds like Hood on drugs caught in a digital blender. And that is a very very good thing.
Destroyalldreamers: Wish I Was All Flames: Canadian powergaze group Destroyalldreamers released an overwhelming collection of hazy instrumental songs that amazed us! The group’s signature wall of guitar sound was impressively matched with forlorn melodies that take the listener on inner journeys to the far beyond. By incorporating white noise and molding it into a thing of sheer beauty, Wish I Was All Flames is an impressive and noteworthy release from this promising band.
God is an Astronaut: Far From Refuge: Stormy, patient, punishing, wistful, charging, dense, moody…Far From Refuge is all of these, and more. God is an Astronaut is a fave of our former writer, Jason, and on this release, the band does not disappoint.
Odessa Chen: The Ballad of Paper Ships: The sophomore release from this unheralded talent, The Ballad of Paper Ships combines the quiet intensity with the classical vocal stylings of Chen. The passionate lyrics are only equally matched by Chen’s remarkable voice and sensitive songwriting.
Artist of the Year: Stars of the Lid: What else can be said about this band? After years of inactivity and rumours of their demise as a band, Stars of the Lid emerge to release a stunning double CD of all new material. With immense restraint, precision, and yes, refinement, Stars of the Lid captivated listeners with Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline. The band then embarked on a European tour featuring jaw-dropping music that had listeners floating (and anxious North American listeners salivating at the prospects of the 2008 North American stint). For proving once again that they are the masters of ambient music, Stars of the Lid the masters of minimalist music.
EP of the Year: Sigur Ros: Hvarf/Heim: Actually a double EP, Hvarf/Heim showcased the versatility of the darlings of the Post-Rock world. Hvarf featured dense layers of guitars cradling sharp melodies, while on Heim, Sigur Ros plays a live-in-the-studio set of acoustic versions of some of their hits. Always precious, always wide-eyed, always hopeful, always beautiful, Sigur Ros does not disappoint with this double-EP soundtrack to their highly revered DVD, Heima.
Comeback of the Year: Electro Group: Good Technology: Okay, so maybe Stars of the Lid was the real comeback story of the year…but we just HAD to acknowledge California shoegazers Electro Group’s first full-length in what, like 6 or 7 years? Good Technology shows off the bands chops in writing fun poppy songs and coating them in ridiculous layers of guitars and distorted bass. Yet, the band has also shown growth in their approach, relying a tad less on their sonics in favour of sharp melodies and patient arranging. But wait, it’s still an Electro Group record, so the shoegaze blasts are still there. Thank God that these guys didn’t give up!!
Compilation of the Year: Amp: All Of Yesterday Tomorrow: This massive 3-disc retrospective of the mysterious Amp blew us away this year. Well over a decade of rarities, unreleased, alternate versions and compilation tracks are compiled, along with rare photos and a great write-up that captures the essence of this esoterical drone/atmospheric band. Each track also has a write-up that explains the origins and oddities behind it…but of course, with every <b>Amp</b> release, the real treat is the mind-blowing and truly creative music. We love this compilation!
DVD of the Year: Sigur Ros: Heima: Set in the cold summer of Iceland, Heima follows Sigur Ros as they play a set of free shows around their home country. The settings are various: outdoors/indoors, intimate/huge, quiet/loud, but the effect is the same: this is one special band. The incredible scenery of Iceland only adds to the mystique of this band, and is beautifully captured on film. Heima is a must-have for any Sigur Ros (or post-rock) fan…
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