Wednesday, January 23, 2008

TOP TEN OF 2007

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#2
LCD Soundsystem
Sound of Silver
(Capitol Records)

Before anyone else had the chance to do it, James Murphy was already predicting his own irrelevance in 2002. At the time, the man also known as LCD Soundsystem and half of DFA Records didn't have a full-length album nor did his label have a back catalogue on which one could base any critical assessment. All Murphy had was his first single titled "Losing My Edge," a 7-plus-minute dance-punk track detailing how "the kids coming up from behind" and "the kids from France and from London" were better-looking and more talented than Murphy could ever be. It was a brilliantly minimal club banger rife with Murphy's insecure confessions and wry indie-snob references ("I used to work in a record store / I had everything before anyone"). It sounded like a hipster Woody Allen writing lyrics for the Fall, and it resonated strongly with the scenesters.

Murphy's strategy as a songwriter has always been simple: Make it fun. The follow-up single to "Losing My Edge" was called "Yeah," and the chorus simply repeated the title's sentiment ad infinitum ("yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah"). The first song from his self-titled debut, LCD Soundsystem, was a fictional scenario in which a Parisian duo dressed as robots performed at a house party ("Daft Punk Is Playing at My House"). And now with his sophomore effort, Sound of Silver, Murphy has yet again proven himself wrong by being so right—not only is the record incredibly strong, it may even overshadow his previous work.

"Get Innocuous" opens the album with pure gold. Murphy's signature rubbery beats ascend until a rippling piano sample jogs along, and within the first two minutes you're hooked on LCD. With the exception of the glam ballad "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down," Murphy successfully replicates the gyrating euphoria of LCD's high-energy live shows and maintains the momentum throughout the record. "North American Scum," the debut single, is both snarky and apologetic, straddling the fine line between remorseful and deal-with-it. In his distinct nasally voice, Murphy sings, "I hate the feeling when you're looking at me that way because I'm North American." But the dance mastermind is at his most sophisticated during "Someone Great," a stunning, bittersweet Eno homage that introduces us to the producer's new tender side ("I miss the way we used to argue…").

Despite the nine months still left in the year, Sound of Silver is easily one of the strongest records of 2007. It's quite refreshing to hear an artist this committed to improving an aesthetic with every release, and in the process, pleasing the fans as well. Murphy's not only preserved his edge, he owns it—and in the meantime, those kids coming from behind got nothing on him.

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