Looking Back: Our Favorite Albums of 2007 #1

Here we are at the end of our celebration of the best 2007 had to offer in music. Thanks for reading. We’ve come a long way in the 2 months since we started, and have big plans for the coming year. Hopefully you’ll all stay with us in 2008. We’ve got some really awesome things on the way, including the 2008 Mission Creek Music Fest. More details on that are forthcoming. You won’t hear from us again until December 29, so until then, please have a safe and happy holidays. Now, without further ado:

#1 :: Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (Polyvinyl)
I don’t know if there’s ever been an album so distinctly pop on the surface, and yet so destructively dark beneath. Almost as if Kevin Barnes was working to accomplish what the New Popsters of the early 80s strove for, the deeply subversive and personal themes of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? work within a sugary pop milieux to deconstruct notions of what pop should be about.

Rather than draw on the postpunk that came and went in the last several years, Of Montreal’s 2007 masterwork heavily uses musical tropes from the glam and disco era, with bits of expansive psychedelia mixed in. At its bubbliest, on songs like “Suffer For Fashion,” we have effusive would-be hits that mirror the rising trend of dance music infiltrating the formerly (and famously) introspective indie rock scene. However, beneath the gloss lie songs deceptively dark. On “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,” the indomitable hook yields Kevin Barnes’ secrets of depression and self-loathing. It’s this dual persona that dominates the record, and makes it one of the most intriguingly schizophrenic records of the year. To his credit, the role of theatrical pop star was made for Barnes, as those who have seen him in concert can attest. And the music was made to go along with that, a record far more ABBA than Pavement, and he embraces his role.

Beyond being the brilliant (if not tortured) frontman, Barnes is also the studio mastermind who meticulously layered the shit out of this record, making it infinitely rewarding as far as pop music goes. He endlessly adds vocal tracks on tracks like “Faberge Falls For Shuggie,” further adding to the general feeling of psychosis that goes on here. But it’s on tracks like “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal” that show the albums ultimate musical genius. The epic, 12-minute dance-drone of the song is the most divergent of the effervescent disco of the other songs, instead preferring a limitless sonic landscape. Throughout, Barnes embarks on a bitter surrealist diatribe detailing in great absurdity his romantic failings. It’s heavy shit, but for all its wallowing hyperbole, it’s also perhaps the most convincing piece of songwriting from this whole year. When Barnes sings of “The Gestapo circling my heart,” it’s the pinnacle of his paranoid narrative reality. It also marks the most purgative song on the record, and a marked difference in tone from the other songs. They all bear similar scars, but by all accounts Barnes has emerged with his band, and his well-being, in tact. Unlike some of our other favorites of the year, there’s really no expectation that anyone will somehow connect deeply with the weighty subject material of the record. But the fantastic (phantasmic, really) nature of it makes it more enjoyable. For one man to have gone through all that and have emerged with a record that sounded like it does is truly remarkable. (todd)

Download: Of Montreal - A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger

Buy it here.
Of Montreal
Polyvinyl Records

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One Response to “ Looking Back: Our Favorite Albums of 2007 #1 ”

  1. Of Montreal - great band. Best album and cd cover :)

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