Wamp-Wamp: The Good Stuff from a Very Bad Year

And the empty place got dark, and the fire went out.

Randall Jarrell, The Animal Family


It’s always seemed to me that very little of the music I love in any particular year makes much of a reappearance in subsequent years. If I looked at lists of my favorite records and CDs from virtually any of the last twenty years, I’m pretty sure I could sell more than half of them for all the time I’ve since spent listening to them.

So before I started monkeying around with any sort of list pertaining to anything related to last year, I tried to figure out which discs from 2006 were my favorites in 2007, and which of the discs I loved in ’06 disappeared entirely from my life in ’07.

I know for a fact that in the last year I didn’t listen even once to Yo La Tengo’s "I’m Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass" or Sonic Youth’s "Rather Ripped." I’m sure I listened to other, older stuff by both bands, but I also know that I spent more time listening to Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard than to either. I’m pretty sure, also, that I never dug out Neko Case, Band of Horses, Beth Orton, or TV on the Radio (which would have been a strong candidate for my top pick in ’06).

The disc from 2006 that I spent the most time listening to last year —Hell Hath No Fury, by Clipse– is a record I truly love but which, geezer that I’ve become, I can’t really recommend to very many people in my life. I still spend so much time with it primarily because I spend so much time in my car, and wearing headphones while walking a dog. In both contexts it sounds fabulous, and I haven’t even begun to grow tired of it.

I was actually sort of surprised by how many 2006 discs made it into fairly regular rotation in ’07, including a bunch that I didn’t spend much time listening to when they first came out (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cat Power, Howe Gelb, P.O.S., The Coup, and Ali Farke Toure). There were also some things that would have been near the top of my list last year that I continued to listen to on a regular basis, including Jon Dee Graham’s stupendous Full, Roddy Frame’s Western Skies, The Hacienda Brothers’ What’s Wrong With Right, Ornette Coleman’s Sound Grammar, Joseph Arthur’s Nuclear Daydream, Bob Dylan’s "Modern Times," and the Hold Steady.

I didn’t think 2007 was much of a year for new music, but I also have to admit that I seldom venture out to hear music anymore, am not much of an internet browser, and actually buy most of the stuff I do eventually hear. So, then, based on that information, and what I now recognize would have been a dodgy 2006 list, here are my favorites from the last year, ranked top to bottom based on how much I listened to them and how likely I think they are to hang around through 2008:

  1. Ian Hunter, Shrunken Heads. Sure, an even bigger geezer than I am, and it came to me out of left field, but, shit, I really love this disc. Whippersnappers might be impressed to learn that Jeff Tweedy chips in some backing vocals.
  2. The National, Boxer. I just listened to it for about the fiftieth time last night and it still makes me happy.
  3. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver. Another great dog-walking record, and "All My Friends" was probably my favorite song of the year.
  4. The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru. I hate the term psychedelic, and I’m not sure what’s psychedelic about this. I just hear surf guitar, farfisa, and the sound of bar bands in oil boom towns along the Amazon.
  5. Nick Lowe, At My Age. The Jesus of Cool has become a first-rate vintage-era Nashville crooner. He’s not as big a geezer as Hunter, but still even more of a geezer than me, which is a consolation. This is too damn short, but it’s all lovely.
  6. Avett Brothers, Emotionalism. I’m still not sure how to categorize or describe this, but I like it more and more all the time.
  7. Ween, La Cucaracha. It always makes me laugh. It always makes me happy. Dean and Gene Wene may be the only musicians I actually envy, precisely because they always seem to be having so much fun, and entirely on their own terms.
  8. Tie: Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta, Balkan Beat Box, Nu Med, and Tabu Ley Rochereau, The Voice of Lightness: Congo Classics 1961-1977. Because they all remind me of Paris in the late-80s, when Les Negresses Vert, Manu Negra, and African Soukous were all such reliable blasts of fresh air.
  9. Lili Allen, Alright, Still. The disc that was in my car all summer. It sounded just as good driving home the other night.
  10. Iron and Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog. I always try to resist Iron and Wine, and in the past I’ve mostly been successful, but this is one I keep playing.

Tomorrow I’ll try to put together a list of books, as well as some of my most memorable dining experiences [sic].