Originally published in Punk Planet January/February 2007
1. Clogs – Lantern
An almost sublime offering from a quartet that blurs the line between classical composition and post-rock experimentalism without cranking out songs that feel over-cooked or over-analyzed. The hushed silences from the audience that watched them open up for Rachel’s in New York City in 2006 said it all: this sound engulfs you.
2. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – The Letting Go
Will Oldham adds another gem to the Palace stable with what might be his finest outing in years, a 12-song set marrying the studio-refined precisions of Sings Greatest Palace Music with the tender acoustic refrains that have captivated listeners from Days In The Wake right up through Master and Everyone.
3. STNNNG – Dignified Sissy
An incredible disc from a group that doesn’t write songs as much as it plots explosions. Blistering, borderline-apocalyptic punk with lyrics as bizarrely literate as they are incendiary. You must find this record.
4. The Lesser Birds of Paradise – Space Between
Mark Janka and company follow up String of Bees with a disc that’s even more fragile and aching than its predecessor. If the whispered folk of “I Envy The Photons” doesn’t break your heart, Tim Joyce’s piano-laced take on “You Are My Sunshine” definitely will.
5. Don Caballero – World Class Listening Problem
You know the storyline: thunderous Pittsburgh math-rock outfit releases critically lauded catalog, goes silent during lengthy hiatus, reunites with new record with only one original member. The result? An unexpected return to form. It’s no Don Caballero 2, sure, but it’s pretty damn good.
6. Calexico – Garden Ruin
I know, I know, it’s not The Black Light. Then again, what is? Joe Burns and John Convertino crank up the radio-readiness on their desert rock and Latin-tinged acoustic ballads and the outcome still captivates you.
7. Tris McCall & The New Jack Trippers – I’m Assuming You’re All In Bands
Synth-pop as satire and social commentary. Jersey native Tris McCall toys with a rougher-around-the-edges live sound to punch holes in Brooklyn’s hipster scene. If you swear this record’s not about you, it just might be.
8. Jack Endino – Permanent Fatal Error
This Skin Yard alumnus/Seattle studio guru’s first solo outing in years is all the proof you’ll need that the Pacific Northwest still understands the vitality of grungy guitars and distortion-drenched choruses.
9. The Sea, Like Lead – S/T
A quietly released EP that could be one of the year’s better debuts: a three-song demo whose long-form post-rock exercises call to mind early June of 44 and the tangled eruptions of A Minor Forest.
10. The Vanities – Coma Kiss
A local band comes into its own. After a few records and a few years, this studio-polished quartet – part At The Drive In, part Mr. Bungle, part Nirvana – sounds like it’s teetering on the big time. Catch them before the cover price at the door climbs skyward along with them.