Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top 30 Albums of 2007

(That I heard.)

Yes, these lists are bogus and self-indulgent. But the longer I hold off on posting this, the more I'll vainly continue to refine these rankings--and try to force reviews about sounds I can't describe.

30. Pelican: City of Echoes
You might say I've generally drifted from straight-up rock music, but this is just a solid batch of songs with an edge.

29. The Fiery Furnaces: Widow City
O Matthew Friedberger! How is it that you entered my life when you did? I had just moved back home after a collapsed relationship, and I might have sworn you composed your sophomore album, Blueberry Boat, exclusively for me, that I might lose myself in your imagination. You offered such rich narratives and 3-dimensional characters, squeezing conflict and tension into every song, unfolding the whole like a collection of Mother Goose stories for college dropouts: magnifique!

On follow-up Rehearsing My Choir, when the world thought you faltered, I understood. It was exactly the album I'd hoped it would be. Instead of ushering us from place to place and character to character, you followed an overarching story arc, always complementing your bombastic verses with such insightful rhythms and real-time tempo shifts that I often wondered if you could strip away the lyrics and still envision the very same outcomes. It didn't matter that you lacked some of the cryptic relatability of other artists; your stories were of their own realm and league. I didn't need to find parallels between my life and that of Olga Sarantos; I understood her plight through the same human empathy that stalls me at the threshold of a coffee shop to hold the door for an elderly woman. Even when I'm in a rush. I was even willing to pardon your one faux-pas, rhyming the words "Kevin", "seven", and "heaven". No one's perfect. (Seriously, though, never do this again!)

Bitter Tea
was harder to swallow. It lacked a sonic unity that seemed to gel the other releases, but I eventually formulated my own interpretation, and I would attest that it's perfectly sequenced. Ahead of its time, to boot.

The solo double album was something of a hodgepodge, but I do like Holy Ghost Language School for the same reasons mentioned re: Choir. It tells the story of the world's greatest acid dream. The other album, Winter Women, felt like a cop out, as if you had examined your work to that point, devised some kind of blueprint, and were merely pulling from your bag of tricks to keep fans interested. I did read that interview in which you noted how important it is for bands to feed their audiences, just like the Who had done for you as a teen. You know, how those classic bands weren't governed by marketability and single momentum to further their bodies of work. Eventually, this double album, sans that vixen sister of yours and her oddly alluring pipes, settled in my mind as something worth re-visiting for years to come, even if I didn't feel any sense of immediacy with it.

Sigh. Widow City. First nine songs: a beautiful coalescence of tale and soundtrack. By now, it would bludgeon a dead horse to describe your sound to people. Either they get it or they don't. Some like their tea bitter, some like it sweet, and, in the case of tracks one through nine, I like it zombified. So why amp up and write monstrous anthems to describe subtle moments, and, conversely, musical whispers to describe cataclysms? It's not that I dislike the lyrics, and it's not that I dislike the music (some of your most immediately likeable ever), but forcing together such antithetic sentiments absolutely destroys the charm you've always embodied. When did you forsake your storytelling sensibilities? Why did you forsake your storytelling sensibilities? What went so horribly wrong?

28. M.I.A.: Kala
For what it's worth, I think Maya Arulpragasam is a nut. What I don't know is how much of it hinges on her Sri Lankan upbringing or the circumstances thereof. It's hard for me to think of her without reflecting on her confrontational Pitchfork interview during which she, very unprompted, launched into a schpeel about how Diplo hadn't contributed much to Kala and that she was looking to marry into the United States to further her career. Perhaps the former is a result of the tunnel-visioned media, but the latter is definitely kind of extremist in my view. Of course, I'm assuming that she didn't care whom she married, so long as it would circumvent future issues with work VISAs and border crossings. Whatever.

As to the music, that should be judged purely on its own merits, and Kala is definitely a step forward from 2005's Arular. The biggest leap? The arrangements. Tracks like "Bamboo Banga" have a cumulative build that just didn't seem as present on her first releases. It's not that they lacked rhythmic prowess, but they did find their own patterns and stick to the formula. Here she explores more intuitive compositions, which can't save an album, but they can make it more appealing. What's nice is the exotic feel, too, as there are more perceptively Middle Eastern flourishes and less London club scene. That's not to suggest her adopted UK heritage has been cleansed, but the instrumentation is slightly more varied to coincide with the other changes. Her delivery is veritably the same, and the lyrical content ranges from insightful to critical to downright inane, and even the best moments can be ignored to the non-detriment of the experience. It's not terribly often that I crave alternative dance arrangements, but Kala definitely scratches the itch when the mood is right.

27. Marissa Nadler: Songs III: Bird on the Water
"Holidays are the hardest hours of the year." So sings Nadler on opening track, "Diamond Heart", with such emotional disconnect that it absolutely shatters me. Bird on the Water is not for weak stomachs; it's as cold as the isolation that permeates the whole of the album. Sometimes I can listen to music and feel such an intense chill pass through me, as if my soul has been awoken from a slothful sojourn, but this almost borders on shaking hands with Death. It's desolate, longing, and empty. Oddly, it's a beautiful experience, just not for moments of fragility: it will knock you down a peg. I've often maintained that music is not inherently valuable, but it's the experience of listening to it. It's funny how my mind thinks of the island of lost toys on the classic animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yes, they would understand Marissa Nadler. Surely.

26. Mirah and Spectratone International: Share This Place: Stories and Observations
If you ask me, concept albums that start to wear thin toward the end are much more appealing than rehashed staples that lack the cojones to bloat the envelope. I genuinely respect Mirah for her sheer audacity, adopting the persona of creepy crawlies to write the quintessential insect soundtrack. Even the song titles wear her authorial intent: "Gestation of the Sacred Beetle"; "Emergence of the Primary Larva"; "Love Song of the Fly". Mirah explores some very human themes, as expressed through the politics of the crumb snatchers and plant pollinators that populate ye olde backyarde and vegetable patches. Share This Place has an eerie baroque vibe, which does become sonically repetitious toward the 47th minute, but taken metaphorically the instrumentation almost hums along like a symphony of critters. And there's ample substance to reward repeat listens. Just as she describes her subjects, Mirah's delivery is instinctually smart, and I would think that anyone who doesn't need to barrage his or her mind with relationship fodder could really glean some fun from this experiment.

25. Alina Simone: Placelessness
Alina Simone is a girl with a guitar and a penchant for belting out her feelings. She never hides behind her voice; instead, she sends it into the trenches like the trumpets of war that command awe in front of insurgents. Stand and be counted. Boss!

24. Panda Bear: Person Pitch
Lemme guess: you've never heard the term acid folk? I'm not a huge Beach Boys fan, even though the indie crowd have canonized the likes of Brian Wilson. In other words, I can't say beyond doubt that he's never written a druggy album about going to war or urging a lover to drop a pill habit, and, if not, Noah Lennox AKA Panda Bear has forever filled that gap in your collection. The results are shockingly compelling, as this is such a sun-drenched musical experience. Sadly, a lot of these songs overstay their welcome, which makes it all kind of mesh together toward the end, much like the beach bum afternoon I envision when I listen to this stuff. It's a great way to escape the winter chill, if your imagination isn't anchored by disbelief.

23. Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam
Experimental Rock visionaries offer a comparatively consistent follow-up to 2005's Feels, but the myth is starting to wear thin. Perhaps I didn't give this one enough chance to settle in my mind. Definitely worthy of mention on this list, however.

22. Caribou: Andorra
This year's most hummable album.

21. Liars: Liars
No, rock is not dead. It's just needed an injection of whatever these guys stuck it with.

20. Battles: Mirrored
If you follow the indie press at all, you've read ample praise for this Math Rock album. In terms of composition, this is quite a masterful behemoth. While it's certainly not a sentimental favourite of mine, this is quite a sonic experience. Some seriously ambitious rhythms.

19. Grand National: A Drink & A Quick Decision
Le catchy Britpop.

18. Gui Boratto: Chromophobia
One of the many brilliant electronic releases this year. It's all about sonic interplay.

17. Sage Francis: Human the Death Dance
This is Sage's safest album to date, but a weak offering from this master poet is still better than most artists' best work, bar none.

16. Radiohead: In Rainbows
It's not that I wanted Radiohead to drop the ball, but I really didn't expect them to release this. When I think of all the bands I retroactively fell in love with, it almost turns my stomach to know that I missed the chance to experience the height of their careers. Sonic Youth, especially. This point is only exacerbated by the fact I live in a rural area that gets few decent concerts, so I didn't even see most of the bands that actually defined my teenage years, let alone the kind I fantasize about now. Still, the fact remains these British lads scored the soundtrack for some of my most fragile, impulsive, piss-and-vinegar moments. Quite adeptly, in fact. Truth be told, Radiohead had waned substantially in relevence to my life. When I listen to albums like The Bends I feel really...old. And I certainly don't care to revisit the angst and depression and confusion that is adolescence, be it via memory or nostalgic plastic discs. (Wink.)

So, what's so great about In Rainbows? For starters, it's not really a Radiohead album but for its sound. That seems like a gratuitously oblique comment to make, but I don't think they've ever explored such honest arrangements. Here they find a strange compromise between the sonic landscapes of Kid A and concise execution of Ok Computer, evidenced by the fact that In Rainbows is, at its core, a guitar album. Where the predecessors were adequately layered, this really doesn't feel like avantgarde gluttony. Like or lump it, Radiohead have certainly pulled a lot of knee-jerk stunts during their career, and they did so to spite the Recording Industry and its fickle musical trends. I can't help but feel this was equally spiteful to the creative process. It's great to explore new sounds--don't get me wrong--but it strikes me as rather insincere to pen songs from random lines drawn from shards of paper in a hat. Some of the greats have done it, but it deprives the music from any real glue. Yorke's vocals can make it compelling, even insightful, but there was more in his enunciation than his message. That's precisely what they started to amend on Hail To The Thief. They seemed to have a motivation in songs like "Sit Down. Stand Up", whereas "Optimistic" was pieced together by Dr. Frankenhead. In Rainbows is very simply an album. It's about time.

15. Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity
The little band that could AKA the world's smallest big band AKA Deerhoof. I've gotten quite accustomed to how polarizing these guys are, and I'd be very impressed if one percent of my entourage actually likes them. Of course, it doesn't really matter. The same could be said for the rest of my listening interests. That notwithstanding, you can call me biased, but I just don't see why Deerhoof doesn't have people swooning. I'm talkin' broken jaw lawsuits. They might be raucous, but their rhythmic prowess and ballsy conviction wins me over every time. They seem like they're always rediscovering their own music, as if it formed of sheer human honesty and manifested itself through their instruments, not their creativity. Much like natural feelings, they ebb and flow with every new moment, constantly upping the sonic ante as if their compositions live and breathe. This time around, things are little more constrained, a little tighter, a little more--dare I say it; here I go--pop. It would be futile to describe Friend Opportunity beyond the fact that it is what it is: expressive. You can decide for yourself whether it's gold or feces, but I tend to lean toward the former.

14. Yesterday's New Quintet: Yesterday's Universe
Motley assortment of Jazz/Fusion tracks under Madlib's many monikers. This album seriously kills, but it can be a little straining on the noggin to ingest in one sitting.

13. Chromatics: IV: Night Drive
It's funny, I received this album in the mail on Halloween, and it couldn't have arrived at a better time. Much like the Knife, Chromatics has a very macabre feel to it, like the film noir of music. It's catchy yet ominous. This is fantastic mood music and great for inspiring other forms of art, be it writing or painting or tribal living room dances.

12. Josh Ritter: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Ritter is a deep brotha, and he writes from the heart. I might have cut about four songs from this disc, but the ones that hit home are very important to me. "Right Moves" could be the soundtrack of the last few months of my life, and "Empty Hearts" very adeptly describes the state of mind that preceded my new Christian life. As I've said in conversation, this was the year that almost destroyed me, and as melodramatic as that might sound, I wholeheartedly believe that God lifted me from ruin right at the brink of it. Ritter understands.

11. Cornelius: Sensuous
If you're unfamiliar with the Shibuya-Kei genre, it's hard for me to explain to you why it completely transcends my ability to describe it. Hopefully the name itself will tickle your curiosity, because this is one seriously exploratively fun album.

10. The Field: From Here We Go Sublime
Progressive trance. One of the best electronic albums I've ever heard. If you like the genre at all, you must hear this stuff. Again, I would struggle to describe its pulse and execution, but it's such an amazing journey to embark on.

9. Strategy: Future Rock
Once again, my inability to describe sound fails me, but I can't sufficiently stress what an experience this album is. Over the course of nine songs, each of which could score a short film, I'm treated to sonic journeys through jungles, wild and urban, barren and lush, and it's as if, as the title implies, future societies are birthed and destroyed in 57 minutes. If you're familiar with groups like Talk Talk, imagine how they'd sound if they dropped some of the organic noises in favour of ambient or dub, remove Mark Hollis's voice (bear with me, okay?), and you'd get Strategy. This is really trippy at times, and I've already compared it in discussions to something akin to a robot porn soundtrack. On paper it sounds a lot more static than it is, and it really comes down to a listener's willingness to bathe in the music and allow mental images to form. The song titles often do more justice to the sonic properties than I could with my limited vocab, as songs like "Windswept (Interlude)" really encapsulate the mostly instrumental Future Rock. One of these days I'm definitely going to have this playing in the background when I work on my novels. Art begets art, as I like to think. Highly recommended.

8. The New Pornographers: Challengers
Carl Newman has a pretty impressive streak going, at least where it concerns my taste. He somehow manages to write about cataclysmic life changes as if they were carnivals, and, dang it all, it works. By all rights, he should probably rank higher on all my lists, but he keeps permitting Dan Bejar, the Christine McVie of the New Pornographers, to contribute songs to the albums. Now, I'm not the type who would encourage people to download music. I don't have any P2P applications installed on my PC. What I can't find through blogs or official sites, I hear after having forked out for the record. Anyway, everyone who reads this must hear "My Rights Versus Yours", "All The Old Showstoppers", "Challengers", "Failsafe", "Unguided", and "Go Places". There are other tracks that rock more, but these penetrate deeper. So let it be known that, as it was in the past, this one ranks higher than it ought to on the strength of just a handful of songs. But the impact they've had on me can't be overstated. Oh you Canadian romantics, you.

7. Dan Deacon: Spiderman of the Rings
I recently saw a Canadian (propaganda/pride/same thing?) commercial with a brief Mike Myers interview. Myers (AKA Austin Powers/Dr. Evil/same person?) quoted his father as saying that nothing in life is so serious it can't be laughed at.

What did your mind first think of when you read the gist of that statement? Did you ponder green skulls, the kind that might adorn Dan Deacon's soundboard? Or did you think of funerals and the nasty letter your ex wrote you in a moment of incensed passion? While I haven't reached a verdict on Myers's hypothesis, I do think Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings is one heck of a fun album. I might even argue that whimsy is precisely what makes indie music so fantastic.

When I was a teen, I had so many chips on my shoulders they must have looked like abused antique furniture. I was the kind of guy who would spend hours trying to decipher Michael Stipe or Thom Yorke lyrics. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, except for the eventual burnout from incessantly trying to glean significance from music; I half wonder if I wasn't in fact imposing meaning on my teenage soundtrack instead of merely discovering authorial intent in those verses. Then you have Dan Deacon. He's the guy who doesn't need to get drunk at the party to don the lampshade. He's the artist whose compositions inspire happy-go-lucky fools to volunteer Dr. Evil impersonations on the street, regardless of how many strangers roll their eyes. Take "Wham City", the album's standout track, which is an 11-minute opus about, well, nothing. Sonically, it starts off as a handclappy twee sing-along, evolving into a veritable Huck Finn raft ride before it coasts to the shore in a fun but deranged outro. The rest of the album promises just as much kaleidoscopic fun without making you OD on sonic cotton candy.

I'm not saying life is explicitly funny or maudlin, but I'm glad I've grown to appreciate the simple bursts of humanity that radio seldom embraces. It might be easy to shrug it off when singers like Avey Tare meow, or when Björk feels such a jolt of emotion that she launches into an excited shriek, but we've all felt that way before, and I see no need to censor these emotive deliverances. I guess we are subject to second childhoods, after all.

6. Menomena: Friend and Foe
This album confuses me. My inner critic is quick to note that it encapsulates virtually every indie stereotype that emerged over the past few years, and yet it manages to hold my interest start to finish. Strange as it might sound, the vocals are the most enigmatic component. Depending on the track, I hear traces of Roger Waters, Wayne Coyne, and even group chants that approach an Animal Collective kind of aesthetic. If there's one thing I can't fault musically it's the tempo; there's a seductive property at work, as if the whole album were some kind of sonic foreplay that churns along with such conviction that you expect a climax that never comes. And yet, it's in this longing experience that I don't feel disappointed. To actually describe the music would be an exercise in futility, and I can't say whether time will solidify Friend and Foe as a fluke or an ascending star.

5. Joanna Newsom: Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band
I don't want to suggest that everything she touches turns to gold, but it's getting to the point where I might shift the burden of proof onto dissenters instead of fans. Not only does Newsom tickle a harp with the conviction of an old soul, but she sings as one. Her verses are akin to experimental Tennyson, heavy on imagery but a little less indulgent. There's only one new song on this EP, "Colleen", whose namesake protagonist is cursed to forget everything, and it's quite heartbreaking to see the challenges she faces, almost like the ordeal Pete Townshend expresses via Tommy's amazing journey on the Who's 1969 rock opera. Newsom invites a backing band to rework one song from each of her full-lengths, and there's a certain off-the-cuff organism that manifests in these new takes. Not much material time-wise, but Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band is thick in substance.

By the way, Ys is not a pluralized letter but a city name that rhymes with the Springsteen comparison. Kind of like the middle portion of the word yeast. (Admit it, you were curious.)

4. Björk: Volta
There's a history here that bears mention, as those who've talked music with me over the past, well, decade, will likely remember how vehemently I spoke out against Björk, previously declaring her a no-talent hack whose voice could induce glass to shatter of its own volition, if not for the sake of sonic resonance. I should probably add that, to my recollection (and shame), I had largely based that assessment on one song I saw on MTV in the mid-1990s. In short, I thought she was arrogant to the point of being offensive. Chalk it up to maturity, but when I stumbled across the Volta artwork, my disgust for Björk was reignited. The problem was, it was now 2007 and I couldn't remember a single track of hers, including the one that had curdled my stomach before. (Anticipating your question: "It's Oh So Quiet" from the Post album.) This being the age of the Internet, I had blogs and search engines at my disposal, so I saw little harm in treating myself to a reminder, as I felt a strange urge to rekindle for myself why I disliked her, and, surely, with another 10 years of intellectualism and experiences, I could do more justice to my original sentiment. This is where I met a humble-pie-binge of a dilemma.

I thought time would have festered her catalogue, that her hodgepodge collection of albums would have only decayed further over years of maggot feasting. What I found instead was an artist who embodied the very principle and personification of conviction. In her old videos, as representative of her first batch of solo releases, I discovered a groundbreaking blend of conflicting genres into such a beautiful hybrid of soul and Electronica. Even worse, I loved her voice, the driving force behind her intuitively honest lyrics, which had previously been the most identifiable stumbling block, the thing that must have acted as proof positive that her fans were tasteless saps. From your vantage, you probably couldn't have heard my Adam's apple recoiling into my oesophagus as I choked on my own pride, but there was no way I could further allow myself to not invest in her music. It would define 2007 for me, just as Sonic Youth had done the previous year.

So what's so wonderful about Volta? Very simply, Volta is. The production and arrangements are self-contained, as evidenced in the opener, "Earth Intruders". With sweeping synths and jungle beats, the song could score a wordless alien invasion, as the frequencies find a strange way of mimicking the gravity of realizing we aren't alone in the universe. To describe it in words is to do injustice to the song, and the same might be said of the album's remainder.

I can certainly understand why most of my entourage still couldn't sit through this album, but if you were to understand the way my listening mind works, the pieces all fit. I find in Björk the same guttural, downright ballsy approach that bands like Animal Collective and Deerhoof express in place of self-revealing lyrics. These other bands rely on the primal urges within their loins, expressing their base and complex feelings through the conviction of every note their play. Björk does just this, except with the occasional cute mispronunciation and heck of a lot more zeal for the ideas she tries to convey. In case it's unclear, I've also fallen in love with "It's Oh So Quiet". Funny what an honest approach and an open mind can unlock.

3. Various Artists (Italians Do It Better): After Dark
Like certain drugs, it's easy to OD on Electroclash. It seems high flutin' to cast an entire genre in such light, but a rudimentary dissection of its sonic properties just seems like a blueprint for smarminess. Percussive beats, vague lyrics, synths; it's faux-disco, really. And yet, there's something magical that emerges when a composer's sensibilities transcend the groundwork, which is precisely the type of roster the keeners at Italians Do It Better have culled together. Take Glass Candy's "Computer Love", a thematically amateur song that paints the scene you'd expect: a lonely recluse bathing in radiation on a Saturday night, while the rest of humanity has a life. The mood is anxious, a nervous anticipation for acknowledgement from a name on the screen that never indulges. The whole album sounds like the soundtrack of an acid film noir, and it's strikingly compelling. Even the instrumental tracks manage to convey a sense of character, such as Professor Genius's "La Grotta". There's a 3-d world to explore amidst the synths that creep up, explode, and vanish behind city blocks, just as sirens or drive-by shootings leave a sonic retina burn in the mind's speakers.

After Dark
is a great debut for up and comers like Farah, who've yet to release anything substantial. But it's the A-list that shines brightest. Veterans like Chromatics and Glass Candy offer up some of their most nail-biting songs to date, "In the City" and 'Miss Broadway", respectively. The former could score the life of a serial killer; the latter sounds like an illegitimate lovechild spawned by Joy Division and ABBA. "Miss Broadway" teems with life, venturing into the disco-punk scene of 70s New York before emerging more cynical than before.

This compilation wasn't supposed to succeed the way it does--heck, some of the tracks are demos--but, by the time the final beat settles in your mind, there's a certain residual perversion that will take more than a few showers to cleanse, a certain cloud that seems to linger beyond its welcome. As much as you might want it to vanish beneath the horizon, you just can't help looking skyward and wondering how something as pure as water (or something as malleable as the human spirit) was made so dark through existence. Whether it's empathy or fear, it's a gripping fascination that just keeps me revisiting.

2. Au Revoir Simone: The Bird of Music
Put simply, The Bird of Music is a collection of diary entries we've all been too cynical to write.

1. Jesca Hoop: Kismet
When reviewing music, there are a few inescapable truths. For starters, there's no way to interpret any art form objectively. Let's immediately cross that off the list of requisites. Also, it seems inherent on the writer to describe the sonic properties to readers, so they might infer whether this album or that could find a suitable place on their CD racks. I will sadly fall flat in this area, too, because Kismet is an instrumental kaleidoscope. Much like Björk, Jesca Hoop adeptly christens a multitude of hybrid genres, and I simply don't have the time or gusto to decipher them all. Am I dynamic enough to invent even one? Hmm... Ouija Rock. Anyway, the sheer intricacy of this collection is in and of itself a wonderful experience, but the glue is the songwriting. Very simply, it's kismet, occasionally striking some resonant groove that comprises equal parts Cardigans, dancehall, lounge, and Keith Richards's swagger. Not to sound sexist, but I've never associated the term swagger with women. I used to interpret women who were possessed of swagger as being seductive, because semantics are funny like that. Jesca very simply has swagger. It's like the confidence of a fortune teller who actually sees images at the crystal's centre. That's the kind of magic that permeates these songs.

Album opener "Summertime" rises with the dawn, as a lush guitar riff that flirts note after note over distant cawing. It gradually gains momentum, describing scenes of corn field daydreaming and water conservation. From there she reinvents a song from her 2004 demo disc, which was previously available for something like $4 through her website. "Seed of Wonder" is not only a lyrical masterpiece, perfectly strung like a web Charlotte might spin, but it has one of the most groovy, unstoppable rhythms I've heard in a long time. It's almost worthy of classic R&B comparisons, but I probably shouldn't venture into that territory. I was a little sceptic when I heard a 30-second clip, as this was the song that propelled her star into a state of ascension when she was a budding artist in Los Angeles under Tom Waits's wing. (He would eventually describe her music as swimming in a pool at night. I would eventually agree, once I heard it.)

Jesca then slows the pace with "Enemy", a bittersweet vocal gem that describes the torn relationship between antagonists, only instead of dwelling on the opposing forces, she beautifully touches on how antitheses inherently need one another for their own, self-motivated purposes. Other album highlights include the dark, faux-dancehall "Money", which is as catchy as it is cynical. Still, in spite of its tone, she can't keep her cuteness from seeping into every second. "Havoc In Heaven" is particularly compelling, and I didn't even notice it claim the top spot in my profile, likely due to its regularity during her live sets and the fact that it's graced all her official releases but the "Summertime" single. There's also a Hurricane Katrina-inspired ballad that reads like a sappy number, but the way she sings it is oddly sea shanty, and it really paints a new face on what might otherwise be her weakest lyrical outing.

Truthfully, I thought it kind of boisterous to name an album Kismet, but then I listened to it in context and understood why I had spent so much time waiting for Jesca Hoop's first proper release: It fills the shoes it promises.


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