Here goes with the year-end run down, of the most memorable listens and reads during the year 2007. Note that many items here came out in previous years, but it takes time to pick out the worthwhile stuff! Links go to earlier Mediated posts on the subject.
Music (2007 releases):
- Menomena – “Friend and Foe” – pop from Portland that pushes some boundaries, but always keeps a nice rhythmic base.
- The Shins – “Wincing the Night Away” – another Portland-based band (these days anyway), this CD strikes me as a bit watery somehow, with great production that’s better recorded than live.
- Spoon – “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” – more pop, pared down to the basic elements with great catchy songs.
- Panda Bear – “Person Pitch” – weird home recordings that channel Brian Wilson into the electronic era.
- Bruce Springsteen – “Magic” – one of his better efforts in recent years, more varied and lively than “The Rising”, say.
- I’m Not There – Soundtrack – two CDs worth of Dylan covers, proof that many old gems still have some life to them.
- Mekons – “Natural” – the old Leeds punks are still at it 30 years later, retaining the “Dark Dark Dark” vision.
- Tabu Ley Rocherau – “The Voice of Lightness” – compilation of the Congolese superstar from the 60s and early 70s.
- (I’ve not heard the Radiohead, so that will have to wait til next year!)
- (And I’ll put in a good word for the new Dion release, “Son of Skip James”)
Music (older releases, mostly jazz, just the tip of the iceberg!):
- Sonny Rollins – “Way Out West” (1957)
- Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (1959)
- Sun Ra – “Space is the Place” (1972)
- Joe Henderson – “Lush Life” (1992)
- Vijay Iyer – “Reimagining” (2005)
- Ernie Watts – “Analog Man” (2006)
Best Live Shows
- Viva Voce @ Dante’s, Jan 25
- Dave Holland Quintet @ The Shedd, March 21
- Billy Hart Quartet @ Village Vanguard, May 30
- Decemberists / Menomena @ Edgefield, July 22
- Spoon @ Crystal Ballroom, Sept 6
- Vinicius Cantuaria @ Rasa, Utrecht, Oct 5
- Battles @ Doug Fir, July 3 & @ Melkweg, Oct 14
- Tacuma, Reid & Weston @ Bimhuis, Nov 11
Books (Fiction first)
- The Echo Maker – Richard Powers (2006). How a knock on the head could make you another person (and you wouldn’t even know it). Somewhat disturbing reflections on identity, set in the mid-West heartland.
- The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolano (1998, trans. 2007). A journey with the young poets of Mexico, as told by those who met them along the way.
- The End of Mr. Y – Scarlett Thomas (2006). A story of the ‘end of mystery?’ which puts the narrator into the heads of other characters, sort of how a reader enters the head of the author, perhaps.
- From Hell – Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (1999). A ‘graphic novel’ of the Jack the Ripper story, with stark black and white drawings that still seem incredibly garish, as fits the crimes.
- Falling Man – Don DeLillo (2007). A reflection on 9/11 and how it turned people in new directions, some anticipated and some not.
- The Island at the Center of the World – Russell Shorto (2004). The story of Manhattan in the Dutch years. Shorto argues for the distinctive contribution of the relatively tolerant Dutch in shaping New York City.
- The Geography of Thought – Richard Nisbett (2003). An examination of different patterns of thought in East and West.
- The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007). How the improbable may be more likely than you think!
- I Am a Strange Loop – Douglas Hofstadter (2007). Ideas about what we are (I’m not sure if I’m a strange loop though…).
- A Brief History of Everything – Ken Wilber (1996). An overview of Wilber’s integral philosophy, in Q & A format.
If you want more ‘Best of’ lists, I recommend the music lists at PopMatters – interesting choices in lots of genres with good, brief writeups.