Looking Back: Our Favorite Albums of 2007 #5

Now that we exhausted ourselves thinking about the blissful nights of music that made Iowa City hot this year, it’s time to take a step back and look at our favorite albums of the year. These are truly the 5 albums that made us continue our faith that there’s no shortage of great music in this world, and probably never will be. Sometimes you just need to know where to look, but sometimes - be it fate or coincidence - that music finds you. Either way, taste can be extremely subjective, but these were the albums that made our year, and we hope to share them with you. We’re kicking off with our fifth favorite album today and will be counting them down, one a day all week to ease you through your finals. Procrastinating? We’ll be here.

#5 :: Fourth of July
Fourth of July On the Plains (Range Life, 2007)

The 4th of July is the most American of holidays, a day we come together to appreciate the things (hot dogs, beer, bikinis, explosions) that make our country the best (or at least, the most confident) nation in the world.

True to its namesake, the debut album from Kansas rockers Fourth of July, entitled Fourth of July on the Plains, is a case-study exploring the agonies of long distance love, told from the uniquely Middle-American perspective of vocalist/guitarist Brendan Hangauer. With his band of brothers (bassist Patrick and keyboardist/vocalist/trumpeter Kelly) and a few others (guitarist Steve Swyers, drummer Brian “Bronco” Costello, and vocalist/tambourinist Adrienne Verhoeven) behind him, Hangauer throws you into the front car of his emotional roller-coaster, pulls down the safety bar, and takes you on a frantic ride through his most personal thoughts and desires.

From the traditional lyrical/musical standpoint, Fourth of July on the Plains is not necessarily a “groundbreaking” album. However, where it lacks in what we critics often value as “innovation,” it makes up for with refreshingly, endearingly, and at times brutal honesty. It’s these qualities, combined with a songwriting approach that treasures simplicity, that remind us of our own humanity - both the good and the bad. Writing about his girlfriend who is studying abroad in France, Hangauer trudges through the gamut of emotions - jealously, longing, despair, self-pity, spite - that all long-distance lovers feel but try desperately to suppress. While the subject matter sounds somewhat depressing, this album is by no means some Midwestern emo mope-fest. The album’s attitude remains exuberant throughout, thanks in large part to a generous dose of catchy sing-along melodies, male/female harmonies, and sparkling horn interludes. Standout tracks like “She’s in Love” and “Long Gone” capture a particular energy not seen since fellow Lawrence residents the Get Up Kids broke up, while tongue-in-cheek song titles like “Why Did I Drink So Much Last Night?”, “Pimps in Paris”, and the Wu-Tang Clan inspired “Killer Bees” serve to remind us that while life can invariably suck sometimes, everything generally turns out OK when all is said and done.

As Hangauer astutely articulates in “Surfer Dude,” love really can compel you to do some crazy things. So when he sings about making late-night drunk dials and struggling to fend off the advances of other women, it reminds you why you started listening to and caring so much about music in the first place: that magic feeling that starts in your gut and shoots to your brain when you realize that there’s somebody else out there who feels the same way - and does the same stupid shit - that you do. (Scott)

Download: Fourth of July - Long Gone

Buy it here.
Fourth of July
Range Life Records

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