Year in Music: Bling

Frenzied xylophones in 2007
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There's no getting around it: for me, 2007 was the year of the vibes, case closed. But before anyone gets the wrong idea and paints me as a hacky sack–thwacking trustafarian slathered in sandalwood oil and picking chunks of crusted hummus from my beard, let me qualify: those ain't the kind of vibes I'm a-grooving on. Nah, we're talking vibraphones here. You know, aluminum bars, mallets, the whole bit, just like Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, and Cal Tjader used to rock. And while we're at it, let's throw in xylophones, glockenspiels, and marimbas too. Basically, if you hit it with a couple of sticks and it chimes out a sunny-day "ping," "bling," "blong," or "pong" in response, you've got my undivided attention. I'm a hopeless sucker for percussion with pitch, and this year has heaped a veritable bounty of warm, mellow tones into my headphones.

Oh, the twinkles and sparkles of the ceaselessly charming, thrillingly cheeky Gruff Rhys. The title track of the Super Furry Animals vocalist's sophomore release, Candylion (Team Love), rolls along like an ice cream van from a subversive children's television show, thanks to its misleadingly bright, singsong xylophone patterns, trilling away while Rhys plays the part of the medicated host, informing the kiddies, "Dreams can come true. Nightmares can also." Delicious! Then there's the Brunettes. The Kiwi duo lay down a mighty double assault of lush glock action on their Structure and Cosmetics (Sub Pop) with "Her Hairagami Set" and "Credit Card Mail Order." The former picks up the mallets to plunk down an OMD-inspired round of '80s romanticism, while the latter evokes images of poodle skirts and beehives with a glock melody beamed down from Buddy Holly.

How about Midnight Movies, whose glorious, Mazzy Star–like "Ribbons" billows and whirls heavenward with its elegiac xylophone line? The Barbarella-isms of Dean and Britta's Back Numbers (Zoë) just wouldn't be the same without the orbit-seeking wooziness of those space-jazz vibraphones. And where would I be without Welsh xylophone abusers Los Campesinos!, whose breathless pummeling of the metal bars on "You! Me! Dancing!" approaches levels of rapture? Finally, I bow to my icon as I revel once more in the mesmerizing marimba rumbles of Siouxsie's captivating solo debut, Mantaray (Universal). Honestly, what could possibly beat a rhythm that's also hummable? Good vibes are flowing, indeed.

TOP 10 ALBUMS

<0x0007>The National, Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

<0x0007>Beirut, The Flying Club Cup (Ba Da Bing)

<0x0007>Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

<0x0007>Blonde Redhead, 23 (4AD)

<0x0007>Bettye LaVette, The Scene of the Crime (Anti-)

<0x0007>Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold (Echo/Caroline)

<0x0007>Grinderman, Grinderman (Anti-)

<0x0007>Celebration, The Modern Tribe (4AD)

<\!s><0x0007>Jens Lekman, Night Falls on Kortedala (Secretly Canadian)

<\!s><0x0007>Gruff Rhys, Candylion (Team Love)

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