Wait Up!

Tully Rohrer

December 21st, 2007

This family was walking up to the Delicate Arch when we were, and one of the kids (you can see him in the distance) kept running far ahead. When Katie and I passed the family and caught up to the boy, he said, ”They’re really slow. I’m fast.” Sure you are, little buddy. Like lightning.

Listed below is the completed column of my favorite 20 songs and albums of the year. Feel free to comment below - if you’re so inspired, post your favorite albums and songs of the year for debate!

Top Songs of the Year

20. Handsome Furs - Sing! Captain
19. Beirut - Elephant Gun
18. Spoon - Don’t Make Me a Target
17. Kevin Drew - Lucky Ones
16. Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan
15. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation
14. Band of Horses - The General Specific
13. St. Vincent - Now. Now.
12. The Shins - Sleeping Lessons
11. Caribou - Eli
10. Andrew Bird - Dark Matter
09. Modest Mouse - March Into the Sea
08. Feist - Past in Present
07. The New Pornographers - My Rights Versus Yours
06. The National - Mistaken for Strangers
05. John Vanderslice - White Dove
04. Iron & Wine - Boy With a Coin
03. Blonde Redhead - 23

02. Radiohead - 15 Step
Early in the morning on the tenth of October, hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously listened to a song. That song was ”15 Step”, the opening track from Radiohead’s In Rainbows LP. Perhaps never in the history of music have so many people heard a song for the first time - and AT the same time - as ”15 Step”, and the greatest band of our generation did not disappoint. Rambling along in a tricky 5/4 meter, we all heard the question at the same time: ”How come I end up where I started?” ”15 Step”, however, marks yet another progression and yet another stunning track in Radiohead’s unparalleled discography. And in listening, we all reacted just as the chorus of children does at the 2:13 mark: by screaming ”yeah!”.

Decide for yourself: Radiohead - 15 Step (From the In Rainbows LP)

01. Menomena - Rotten Hell
At the top of a list of undeniably incredible songs is the song that got more plays on my speakers than any other. Before I continue, however, I must admit that any of three Menomena songs would hold down the #1 spot if any of the other two did not exist - ”Muscle ’n Flo”, ”Wet and Rusting”, and ”Rotten Hell” are my three favorite songs of the year, and in my opinion, also the best three songs of the year. ”Rotten Hell”, however, takes the cake. I purposefully never posted this song on Optic Distraction, choosing instead to keep it for this honor. I beg of you - download this song. Please download this song - it will improve your day. While ”Rotten Hell” is a veiled discourse on the war, it’s lyrics are less critical and more investigative than anything else - in fact, they are ambiguous enough to be interpreted however you wish. From a musical standpoint, the only real way to listen to this song is with a really good set of headphones, because you will want to be able to hear every subtle bass note, every deep bass drum, and every intertwined vocal harmony. But the highlight comes after a gentle bridge with a wandering piano line, as the band explodes into the best catharsis of the year, singing, ”Well, it’s high time we step outside, drop the gloves, and settle this like a man! Oh, we might stall and hem and haw. We might not fight. But we won’t walk away!” I can’t imagine that anyone would dislike this song, as there is nothing about it to dislike. The instruments, the vocals, and the lyrics are better than anything else released this year. If you enjoy music, you absolutely owe it to yourself to listen to this song. I can only imagine that you will be as impressed as I am.

Decide for yourself: Menomena - Rotten Hell (From the Friend and Foe LP)

Top Albums of the Year

20. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder
19. Elliott Smith - New Moon
18. Blonde Redhead - 23
17. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation
16. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
15. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
14. Handsome Furs - Plague Park
13. St. Vincent - Marry Me
12. Feist - The Reminder
11. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
10. Rogue Wave - Asleep at Heaven’s Gate
09. Kevin Drew - Spirit If…
08. Caribou - Andorra
07. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd’s Dog
06. Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
05. The New Pornographers - Challengers
04. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
03. The National - Boxer

02. Radiohead - In Rainbows
What is there to say about this album that hasn’t been said? It claims the title of most brilliant release strategy, well, ever. But in all of the hoopla surrounding its release, I believe that people have missed the point. The point of offering it for download on a ”pay what you want” basis wasn’t to make news headlines. Rather, it was to let the music stand for itself and let the listener decide what the music was worth on an individual basis. And this collection of songs is worth a lot. From the aforementioned ”15 Step” to fan favorite ”Nude” to the reserved ”Videotape”, In Rainbows is simply another flawless LP from a truly incredible band. Everyone should own it, and everyone should appreciate it for what it is - five incredible musicians at the top of their game, releasing an album every bit as intricate as it is accessible.

Decide for yourself: Radiohead - All I Need

01. Menomena - Friend and Foe
Aside from the ”Best of the Year” honors, this album also gets my ”Best Surprise of the Year” title. I expected Radiohead, The National, and Andrew Bird to release incredible albums. But Menomena was not even on my radar, and that’s embarrassing on my part. This album is unorthodox. It’s bizarre. It’s not easily accessible. But no one put as much focus on every individual note as Menomena did, and it has more spine-tingling, extraordinary moments than any other 2007 release. Take opener ”Muscle ’n Flo”, for example. An expression of the struggle of daily life, this track has one of my favorite moments in music ever (and that’s saying something). At 1:56, a distant organ provides the atmosphere and a simple melody dances on piano while the band sings:

Now here I stand, a broken man.
If I could, I would raise my hands.
I come before you humbly.
If I could, I’d be on my knees.

Then, in one of my favorite musical moments ever, the organ rises to the forefront of the mix with the power of someone being born again:

Come lay down your head upon my chest.
Feel my heart beat, feel my unrest.
If Jesus could only wash my feet,
then I’d get up strong and muscle on.

Friend and Foe has dozens of these moments, making it, in my opinion, the most powerful album of the year. ”Wet and Rusting” is as good as it gets - a song of failed love with the sadly defeated statment, ”It’s hard to take risks with a pessimist.” ”Air Aid” is a brooding, terrifying anthem that brings the listener right into an air raid. ”The Pelican” is a hard-rocking piece of perfect indie rock. In all honesty, I can’t think of a string of six tracks as strong as the first six of Friend and Foe. But the rest of the album isn’t to be missed, either. I could on and on, but I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lyrics, from the underappreciated ”Boyscout’n”:

Maybe it’s a long shot now, but still I say
Should my soul survive this fall
Then I pray, if I pray at all
That I could catch my breath and come away unscathed.

Oh, by the way… you need to buy this album, and buy it on CD. Don’t download it. Because in addition to having the best music and lyrics of the year, it also has the best album art I’ve ever seen. Truly, as a whole, Friend and Foe is - in one word - perfect. Thank you, Menomena.

Decide for yourself: Menomena - Muscle ’n Flo

well done, friend. always fun to see your list. heres mine. happy holidays everyone!
01. 15 Step- Radiohead
02. 1234- Feist
03. Windowsill- Arcade Fire
04. Wet and Rusting- Menomena
05. Mistaken for Strangers- National
06. What We Had- Handsome Furs
07. Yawny at the Apocalypse- Andrew Bird
08. 23- Blonde Redhead
09. Down Boy- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
10. All My Friends- LCD Soundsystem
01. In Rainbows- Radiohead
02. Armchair Apocrypha- Andrew Bird
03. Plague Park- Handsome Furs
04. The Reminder- Feist
05. Boxer- The National
06. Neon Bible- Arcade Fire
07. Sound of Silver- LCD Soundsystem
08. Shepards Dog- Iron and Wine
09. The Good The Bad and the Queen- The Good The Bad and the Queen
10. Is Is (EP)- Yeah Yeah Yeahs

v — December 21st, 2007

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