1. Life With Tamar - Retaining her hold on the number one spot is my lovely wife. She has stated that I have dug myself a hole that will be very difficult to extricate myself from. However, I counter that she
knows the exceptions that will force her from the top spot (sudden wealth and/or success, neither of which have a chance of ever appearing on this list; personal tip: bet on Snowball in Hell before betting on a
new number 1) and realizes that I am unlikely to ever utter the words "What a great book/film/record that was, sorry Tamar you're number 2 this year". She retains her top spot by being her and this year that includes her first appearance as published author. Mother always told me to marry a doctor, and my favorite doctor of geography continues to prove her right.
2. The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky DVD box set (Abcko) - "Fando y Lis", "El Topo", "The Holy Mountain" and the soundtracks to both "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain" (never before released collaboration between Jodorowsky and Don Cherry) along with extras. I don't think there needs to be anything else said about this except for the fact that I do miss the Japanese subtitles from the old bootleg videos taken from laserdisc. And, "The Holy Mountain" is my favorite film. And when itcomes to Jodorowsky I am like a fanboy. [Click here for Real Audio from the Holy Mountain soundtrack.]
3. Eliot Weinberger - An Elemental Thing (New Directions) - Beautiful writing filled with information from a lifetime of reading that you can never exhaust no matter how many Google searches you do. It isn't very often that a book comes along that I pick up again and again and find something new in both book and myself no matter how many times I read it (Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and "T Zero", John Crowley's "Little Big", a few others). I think this is such a book. I believe that the sum of the parts are threaded through its divisions; so many wholes.
4. Frequency (live at Jimmy's No. 43, NYC) - Great live jazz in a small intimate setting is something that makes me very happy. Even better (though not necessary) if that small intimate setting serves great beer. On this particular night in this particular place Frequency were one of the best bands I've ever seen. I was entranced by Nicole Mitchell on flute, loved watching Avreeayl Ra on percussion who looked
like he was having more fun than the audience, forgot that Edward Wilkerson was even there on sax as, except for some great solos, his playing was weaving support, but that night especially I sat in awe of Harrison Bankhead on bass who must have burls for thumbs. I realized something that night: someone needs to get Harrison Bankhead and William Parker onto a stage...into a recording studio...both. [Click here for streaming Real Audio of Frequency's "Portrait of Light"]
5. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks) - This will probably show up as number one or close to the top on many lists this year. Sometimes everybody's right. I do love when strangeness infiltrates the pop as long as that strangeness is the nail and not a decorative patch. [Click here for Real Audio of Panda Bear's "Comfy in Nautica")
6. Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleeds (Locust) and Polytheistic Fragments (Drag City) There are too many solo guitar records available right now and most of them sound exactly the same. The good Sir however realizes that people other than guitar players like to listen to solo guitar also. While My Guitar Violently Bleeds is the more experimental of the two, at times trying though beautiful as success should be. Polytheistic Fragments is more cinematic and playful and just as good. [Click here for Real Audio of "Smashana"]
7. Death Ambient - Drunken Forest (Tzadik) - Fred Frith, Ikue Mori, and Kato Hideki (w/special guest Jim Pugliese) bring you music you can't relax to(o) to relax to. [Click here for Real Audio of "Thermohaline"]
8. Robert Wyatt - Comicopera (Domino) - A man who has yet to make a bad record continues his lifelong streak. Anger very rarely sounds as polite as Robert Wyatt makes it sound. Why he doesn't reach a larger
audience I don't understand since polite anger is the anger of the masses. [Click here for Real Audio of "Just as You Are"]
9. Various Artists - Songs The Bonzo Dog Band Taught Us: A Pre-History of the Bonzos (Lightning Tree) - The original versions of songs covered by the Bonzo Dog Band, both recorded and performed live, individuals within the group (Roger Ruskin Spear, Neil Innes), and songs that the compiler feels they should have covered ("Misery Farm," "Skirts," et al.). This CD is the best way to eliminate the Chicago song that sometimes gets stuck in your head. [Click here for Real Audio of Jay Whidden and his Band performing "I Life up my Finger and I say Tweet Tweet"]
10. Kemialliset Ystavat - Kemialliset Ystavat (Fonal) - One of this year's finest pagan shindigs. I hear this and I feel the inner shaman grab his rattle of bones and head to the fields to dance with a hare sated upon a midsummer's eve of boxing with the moon, breath visible in our transparent cold. [Click here for Real Audio of "Superhimmel!"]
11. Instant Composers Pool Orchestra (live at Tonic) - One of the last nights at the very missed Tonic, ICP Orchestra was amazing. The personal highlight was Ab Baars performing the most abstract version of
"Caravan" I've ever heard. But there were as many highlights as there are stars in the band. And, for me, it's the best way to remember Tonic.
12. Paul Karasik - I Shall Destroy All Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks (Fantagraphics) This is another thing that you'll see on a variety of Top 10 lists this year and it is good, in an outsider comic art kind of way. The art and plots are so absurd and lacking in logic that they bypass cliche and become original in a good way. But the reason I really like this book is the last piece where Paul Karasik tracks down Fletcher Hanks' son and finds out that hero worship, like all worship, can only lead to two things: enlightenment and disappointment.
13. Zweistein - Trip/Flip Out/Meditation (Captain Trip) A beautifully packaged reissue of a rare triple LP from Germany that I'm sure lends itself well to the shifting planes of here, the shifting planes of there, hell, why not...the shifting planes of everywhere. Yeah, I know, not necessarily cliche but a little too easy but this list is due so indulge me for a moment because that's exactly what this record asks of the listener. This is all about indulgence as much art of the time period is. I am a wall, toss it at me and see what sticks. The Meditation section reminds me of Tom Dissevelt/Kid Baltan. [Click here for Real Audio]
14. Bernhard Edmaier - Patterns of the Earth (Phaidon) Personally my brain gets off on staring at patterns of nature particularly if those patterns fill me with thoughts of flow/solidity/crackling. For some reason photos of such natural phenomena triggers an experience of what I can only describe as a very sensual experience. (Yeah, I know, too much information but that's the age we live in.)
15. Three things that were released in 2006 but were unknown to me when composing last year's list:
1) Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Modern World Vol. 1 (Collins) - For some reason this wasn't released until December 26, 2006 (in time for the Oscars, I guess) and therefore becomes a footnote
to this year's list. Any of Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guides are fabulous but the histories are the best. All of them should be standard textbooks. Unfortunately, since they are both interesting and "comic books", that will never happen.
2) Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" - Best film of 2006 but I didn't see it until 2007. A great film that has a depressing ending if you're a realist and a happy ending if you're a fantasist. The child is the revolution.
3) Gerald Majer - The Velvet Lounge On Late Chicago Jazz (Columbia University Press) - Like Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes but substitute Chicago jazz for the New York Giants.
Other new releases and reissues: Ghost - In Stormy Nights (Drag City); Jose Maceda - Drone and Melody (Tzadik); Marc Wilkinson - Blood on Satan's Claw (Trunk); The Necks - Townsville (ReR); Wadada Leo
Smith/Gunter Baby Sommer - Wisdom in Time (Intakt); Tarentel - Ghetto Beats on the Surface of the Sun (Temporary Residence Ltd.); Hala Strana - Heave The Gambrel Roof (Music Fellowship); Islaja - Ulual YYY (Fonal); Andrew Hill - Compulsion! (Blue Note); Fred Frith/Evelyn Glennie - The Sugar Factory (Tzadik); Serpent Power - Ourobouros (Locust); Various Artists - Music of Nat Pwe: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Subliminal Frequencies); Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From The River To The Ocean (Thrill Jockey); Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (Domino); Brian Harnetty - American Winter (Atavistic); Marek Styczynski - Cyber Totem (Requiem); Sylvia Courvoisier - Lonelyville (Intakt), Signs and Epigrams (Tzadik); The Reveries - Live In Bologna (Rat-Drifting); The La Drivers Union Por Por Group - Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana (Smithsonian Folkways); Art Fleury - I Luoghi Del Potere (Die Schachtel)
Live performance: The Just Alap Raga Ensemble - June 29 (Dream House, NYC); Animal Collective (South Street Seaport, NYC); John Tchicai (Jimmy's No. 43, NYC); Robert Ashley Concrete (LaMama E.T.C. Annex, NYC)
Film - not necessarily 2007 releases but necessarily viewed in 2007: Todd Haynes I'm Not There; Guy Maddin Brand Upon the Brain (w/Crispin Glover, narrator, and live music and sound effects); Satoshi Kon
Paprika; Tony Richardson Charge Of The Light Brigade (1968, DVD); Jaromil Jires Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970, DVD); Norman McLaren The Master Edition (Various, DVD) - my investment this year.
Book - not necessarily 2007 releases but necessarily read in 2007: Alex Ross The Rest is Noise (Farrar Straus Giroux); Philip K. Dick Four Novels of the 1960s (The Man In The High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik) (Library of America); Jan Swofford Charles Ives: A Life With Music (Norton); Joel Smith Saul Steinberg: Illuminations exhibition catalog (Yale
Comics: Osama Tezuka Buddha (Vertical); George Herriman Krazy Kat (Fantagraphics); E.C. Segar Popeye Vol. 2 "Well Blow Me Down" (Fantagraphics); Comic Art (Buenaventura Press); Andy Hartzell Fox
Bunny Funny (Top Shelf); Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, All-Star Superman (DC)
Art: Saul Steinberg Illuminations (Morgan Library); Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (The Grolier Club)
Dance: Washington Square Park, November - Fellow WFMU DJ Bryce plays Jew's Harp while older man in fluorescent green tracksuit prances about. Soon the prancer along with his fellow prancers are called forth
by the ringing of a bell and they all run to the fountain and cavort. This happens three times. Not a dream. Not a hoax. "Deja vu" springs to mind.