Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Best-of 2007:: Most ambitious projects

It's the end of the year - well almost. There are a few records we still have marinating in the review sauce, but for the most part the records that were scheduled to come out have come and gone. 2007 has been a great year for the hill. We've done some incredibly cool stuff - interviewing J Tillman in Paris for example - but without a doubt the best thing this year was actually reuniting like Voltron for HPX07.

I actually made the trip back to the motherland - yo Ack you went to Africa? No the (former) Birdland - and we spent a week seeing some of the best Canadian (and international) acts play in our home city. Miracle Fortress, Eric's Trip, Joel Plaskett, Brother Ali. Good times.

So our 4th year is finishing up, and we want to hand out some hardware. The first list is something not many people will probably care about, but blogs are done out of a passion for music, and a few records really exhibited that passion. So here are the records we thought were the most ambitious.

3 - Ray's Vast Basement:: Starvation Under Orange Trees

This record came out of nowhere for me. Jon Bernson was originally asked to write songs to accompany a theatre production of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. He ended up creating a masterpiece. Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite novels, so naturally the project intrigued me, but trying to capture Steinbeck's voice and settings in song is no easy project, especially when every hipster loves his work and was probably waiting to dismiss it out of hand.

Not only did Bernson succeed in sound tracking a play, but he manages to evoke imagery from a collection of Steinbeck novels, without loses an independence. The songs stands on their own, with beautiful instrumentation and tone. Considering it was written for a small play and resulted in one of the most beautiful records of the year, it deserves special mention.

MP3:: California's Gone
MP3:: How Through Sacrifice Danny's Friends Gave A Party
herohill review

2 - Jason Molina:: Soujouners Box Set

Box sets. Usually they are a huge disappointment. You scrape the bottom of the barrel to get some nuggets for the fantatics, but not Jason Molina. The Sojouners box set highlighted every diverse element of his song writing. Each disc was a different style - full band, solo recording, one produced by Albini, a recording in Sun Studios - and each record delivered a different emotion.

When someone is as prolific as Molina, you almost take his catalog for granted, but this collection is a must own for any fan. It's fresh, diverse, exciting and start to finish fantastic.
Video:: Little at a Time
herohill review - Sun Session :: Nashville Moon :: Black Ram

1- Yerbird Folk Music for the End of the World

Quite simply put, this is what blogging is all about. Every little "think I can" person with a goal. Yerbird records is a one-man shop, run by Morgan with the goal of putting out great music. No more, no less. I mean, he's given us Hezekiah Jones and a great J Tillman record, but this is the crowning achievement for the label. I could go on and on about it, but I thought it would be better to let Morgan talk about it:
Folk Music for the End of the World is really what I started Yer Bird to make. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but it's very much the culmination of the music I fell in love with and the artists I've come to know since starting the label. I'm stunned, really, that so many artists that I am a huge fan of and have the utmost respect for were willing to work with a label that had so few releases under its belt. Moreso, I'm stunned that they poured so much into the songs they recorded for it.

As the tracks slowly rolled in over the course of the year I was repeatedly floored at the incredible quality of the tracks - tracks that channeled the concept of the record even better than I could put into words. They all meshed together so perfectly - both in telling a loose story of apocalypse and rebirth, and in condensing the broad scope of the tiny pocket of music that I think Yer Bird nestles in.

Really, as a fan (and music nerd), it's a dream come true. Hayden's first released track in 3 years? A 6 minute J. Tillman drum machine song? My favorite Elephant Micah track ever? Getting name checked by The Gunshy? Getting to work with Matthew-freaking-Ryan?? If nothing else, the joy of getting to assemble and release this compilation of music is enough to justify my time on this planet. Every single artist that contributed came through far beyond what I had hoped for, and it's truly been an honor to be part of such a fantastic collection of songs.
MP3:: No One Remembers the Drunk - The Gunshy
MP3:: A Flash of Light Followed By - Chris Bathgate
herohill review

Posted at 11:17 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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