Rats, rock and redheads: The Beacon picks #039;07#039;s Best

by Beacon Staff • December 12, 2007

1. Stars of the Lid, And Their Refinement of the Decline

Putting their current projects aside, Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride got together to follow up 2001's The Tired Sounds Of., and on this release they use a more minimal approach to create even more of an effect on the senses than in their previous releases.,Nate Heskia:

1. Stars of the Lid, And Their Refinement of the Decline

Putting their current projects aside, Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride got together to follow up 2001's The Tired Sounds Of., and on this release they use a more minimal approach to create even more of an effect on the senses than in their previous releases. And Their Refinement of the Decline clocks in at just about two hours and is a precise work of wonderfully layered elements including strings, trumpet, flugelhorn, clarinet, harp and a children's choir.

It's a release that, like much of their later work, blurs the lines between modern classical and ambient drone. It's as hopeful as it is sorrowful; as much music as it is sound. While the tracks on this album may be slow in movement, it's an effect that adds to their extremely affecting, poignant nature. These soundscapes and stimulate your visual imagination in a way most music fails to evoke. Stars of the Lid's work exemplifies interesting paradox within the ambient genre: while their music is perfectly cinematic, and could work well in the background of a film or a rainy afternoon, there are just too many beautiful things going on in And Their Refinement of the Decline to turn your attention elsewhere.

2. Maserati,

Inventions for the New Season

A lot has changed since Maserati's last album,2002's The Language of Cities. Their previous drummer, Phil Horan, has been replaced by Jerry Fuchs of Brooklyn-based !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) and they seem to be taking a step even further back-past bands like Tortoise into the realm of Pink Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel and Neu! The result is a unique album that explores the cosmic universe of psychedelic and progressive rock, yet has enough rhythm to make you move, and enough power to throw you off the dance floor. Just when the opening track, "Invention," seems like it will end with it's bouncing, ping-pong delay notes, Fuchs comes in with the same type of disco-like beat he might use in !!! to turn this track--and really the rest of this album-into a 46- minute psychedelic dance hit.

Their awareness of the flaws in modern post-rock/instrumental composition have let them stand out in a genre currently plagued by the loud-quiet-loud pattern. Maserati make each song intense, not through the use of volume, but through gradual build-up of layers, U2-ish delay riffs and pounding rhythmic bass lines and beats. Additionally, they only crank their distortion when the moment is right. It's enough to keep you on your feet for all eight tracks on the album.

3. The Dirty Projectors, Rise Above

4. Battles, Mirrored

5. Blonde Redhead, 23

Ben Collins:

1. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

2. Menomena - Friend and Foe

3. Sondre Lerche - Phantom Punch

Superlatives:

Tremendously popular song you can no longer whistle in public and expect to survive the experience: Peter Bjorn John - Young Folks. Aren't you glad they came out with that second hit single? Wait, it doesn't exist? You don't say!

Eventual Grammy-winner we can get behind: Kanye West - Graduation. One of those epic albums that could have five singles on it. Kind of like the Beatles used to do-if Paul kept making phallic allusions to Barry Bonds' Louisville Slugger.

Would-be top-3 album if we had the adequate time/patience/emotional disposition to get through the whole thing: Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. A 44-minute instrumental string-based rock album themed on depression. There's not enough Valium in the world.

Harry Vaughn:

1. Ratatouille

Don't act surprised by this choice. Yes, it's an animated film. Yes, it's about a rat. But just because Ratatouille's not a glamorous, real-life Oscar contender doesn't mean it cannot achieve as much in scope and spirit. Under Brad Bird's faultless direction, the CGI-enhanced children's story also happens to be the most refined and sophisticated film of 2007. As unlikely as it might sound, Bird manages to turn a story about a rat who wants to cook into a thoroughly intelligent and inspired examination on the creation of art. Just like Remy, the gifted chef rat in his film, Bird has proven himself a true cinematic artist with Ratatouille, an inspired and exhilarating film that just happens to be an animated feature.

2. No Country for Old Men

Michael Meyers and Hannibal Lecter, step aside. Anton Chigurh, the horrifying serial killer in No Country for Old Men, has just become one of the scariest villains in recent cinema. With a pair of the coldest, meanest eyes imaginable (not to mention, a really nasty looking hairdo), Javier Bardem portrays a monster fit only for the worst nightmares. He is the most effective and haunting aspect of the Coen brothers' newest creation, a remarkable adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's already-spellbinding novel. Though labeled as a nihilistic thriller, No Country for Old Men feels more like a straightup horror movie, and in the darkest and most disturbing way possible.

3. Zodiac

Like No Country for Old Men, Zodiac follows a persistent and invincible serial killer that no one, not policeman nor investigative journalists, can hunt down and find. In Zodiac, the killer is shot entirely behind shadows and yet his presence spills into every frame of this spine-tingling crime drama, making for a relentlessly frightening two and a half hours. Though long, Zodiac is utterly absorbing, mostly because the desire for the evil in this film to be squashed and destroyed is so strong. But just as No Country for Old Men makes clear with the character of Anton, perverse acts of violence and crime in this day and age are not going to go away anytime soon; they're only going to get a whole lot worse.

And the rest...

4. Lust, Caution

5. Rescue Dawn

6. Atonement

7. In the Shadow of the Moon

8. Once

9. Away From Her

10. Into the Wild

Nick McCarthy:

1. I'm Not There

2. 12:08 East of Bucharest

3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of

Quarters

4. Day Night/Day Night

5. No Country for Old Men

6. Dans Paris

7. My Kid Could Paint That

8. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone

9. The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

10. Ratatouille