ALARM’s Top Ten Albums of 2007

a6.jpgHeavy Trash: Going Way Out with Heavy Trash

Jon Spencer is among the best rock showmen of the last two decades. That’s evident on Going Way Out with Heavy Trash, his second collaboration with guitarist Matt Verta-Ray as rockabilly/roots-rock act Heavy Trash.

The duo’s sophomore album, with a pulsing, twangy backdrop, cranks its reverberation, solos, and salaciousness well beyond its self-titled predecessor. “That Ain’t Right” stands out as an especially cruel declaration in a sea of bad intentions, which isn’t easy given that Spencer demands asphyxiation in the bawdy title track. The raunchiness isn’t always blatant, but the songs are always steeped in ‘50s revivalism.
Yep Roc:

a7.jpgHigh on Fire: Death is This Communion

Joining forces with producer extraordinaire Jack Endino (Nirvana, Hot Hot Heat), High on Fire unleashed the colossal Death is This Communion this fall. The follow-up to 2005’s critically acclaimed Blessed Black Wings, Death is… displays the enormity of the trio’s talent and depth, from speedometer-busting “Turk” to the slow, hypnotic title track and enchanting acoustic interludes on “Khanrad’s Wall” and “Cyclopian Scape.”

Guitar legend Matt Pike’s muscular riffs are matched by his growly vocals and drummer Des Kensel’s ferocious yet restrained beats. With the intense bass lines of former Zeke member Jeff Matz rounding out the trio, High on Fire has further solidified their reputation as one of the best and most influential heavy bands of recent years.

a8.jpgPhosphorescent: Pride

Songwriter Matthew Houck, the man behind the Phosphorescent alias, delivered a marvelous folk record in Pride. The album, his third, presents eight beautiful, eerie tracks that succeed with minimal instrumentation.

Different octaves of Houck’s voice paint “A Picture of Our Torn-Up Praise,” the album’s gorgeous opener, while distant, booming drums pound along with a tambourine and shakers. Pride stretches through powerful melodies, epic harmonies, and musical styles ranging from Appalachian to gospel.

With four songs whose durations are six minutes or more, the album distributes long-form beauty straight from Houck’s mouth.
Dead Oceans:

a9.jpgTinariwen: Aman Iman (Water is Life)

The members of Tinariwen, a musical collective formed among the nomadic Touareg people, have been through arduous journeys. Having their music reach the Western world is an accomplishment in its own right, albeit one that pales in comparison to overcoming exile and internment.

Aman Iman (Water is Life), sung in French and Tamashek, chronicles those hardships as well as death and drought, political ignorance, and tribal rivalries. Some songs are haunting and slow, some sound almost like American blues, and some are vigorous folk-rock songs that never stray from their African roots. All songs have a steady beat of hand drums and a chorus of women and children in the background that leave listeners crestfallen for tribes snuffed out by the modern world.
World Village:

a10.jpgTomahawk: Anonymous

The third album from Tomahawk, the super-group featuring vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Duane Denison, and drummer John Stanier, is a collection of unaccredited Native American songs given a bruising sonic makeover. The songs are rhythmically complex, combining dance-inducing guitar lines, huge, reverberated drums, electronics, and Patton’s ghostly voice to create stark, distinct material.

Marching snares and polyrhythmic interludes weave indigenous and original moments together; chanting, samples, overdubs, and electric guitar provide additional harmonic layers. The end result makes Anonymous a firm balance between homage and innovation.

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