Having decided to compile this almost obligatory(to myself and the fledgling integrity of this "blog") list, I chose to wait until the dust has settled on 2008. After all, this allows one to carefully examine other lists from various sources such as: friends, magazine, web-zines, blogs, casual glimpses at mass-mailing from record stores. I have noticed that this year in music does not live up to the previous years. Maybe that's stigma closely related to the feeling of nostalgia, which over values experiences past. This stigma does not allow for a close enough analysis of this year as far as amazing albums go. People have tried creating top fives, top three's, top tracks, etc. in order to readdress this "top ten year end list" phenomena. I try, for my own records mostly, to make these lists, while at the same time considering the sociological impact of these albums. The result more often than not is ...failure. From that point on, I viewed my top ten lists purely a personal endeavor. The practice of abbreviating the year in music by others have affected my own top ten lists. A brilliant if not perfect example comes from a friend of mine named Rob Chandeliers. Below is a peak at his list (note the Robjectivity taking place):
Nice read, eh?!
"Honorable Mention:Monotonix - "Body Language" (Drag City)
hype deserved. nutbars live show that i imagine gets old around the third time you see it. the EP is NOTHING NEW, just zepplin-y riffs and hilariously broken english lyrics, but it's infinitely listenable.
Radiohead - "In Rainbows" (Interwebz)
wait, did this happen last year? whatever. i still can't get into this snoooooozefest past the first two songs.
BEST NEWS OF THE YEAR :
the jesus lizard set to reunite and tour with their original line-up next year (and re-issue all their good albums on vinyl!)
dudes, i'ma be out like lindsey at the end of freaks and geeks following these motherfucks like they were widespread panic.
Best Old Find of the Year:
do you guys listen to Form of Rocket? that band fucking rules. it's like, kids listen to every time i die but don't know bands like Form of Rocket. what is wrong with kids? they should be listening to bands from salt lake city whose songs have been know to include catchy choruses like "i'm gonna/beat my/woman/til i'm satisfied" (Makes sense in context.)
Worst News of the Year:
The bass player for Vampire Weekend's amp doesn't make ANY SOUND. what the fuck is wrong with that band.
- runner up: the yankous and will changed their band name FROM Balls Balls Balls Vagina. what the fuck is wrong with that band.
Worst Old Find of the year:
man i can't stand that battles record anymore.
well, i'm done jerking off. this was fun!
Why did I choose this excerpt exactly? The answer is simple: this section is what I immediately jumped to after giving his entire post a scant overview. He curses like a sailor and he likes to rock pretty hard, which are characteristics that make him my kinda guy. Earlier in his post he gave his "props" to several "brutal" and "crushing" rock acts: Race Bannon, Boris, New Brutalism to name a few. He also gave praise to the TV on the Radio, which was a little out of place. Imagine if there was a bill with Race Bannon, Boris, New Brutalism, and TV on the Radio. The only plus of that arrangement is that with TV on the Radio on the bill, there might be girls at the show. Moving Along, This more or less award ceremony that Mr. Chandelier engages in seems to be the most interesting part of his post. Immediately, He goes into mentioning obscure bands (Monotonix), then a quick insult at the legendary Radiohead (this album came out more than a year ago, mind you), and a brief mentioning of an off-kilter rock band with edgy lyrics (Form of Rocket). He does all this with the revelation of a Jesus Lizard reunion. To me a great post, which lacks the objectivity, but posses the narrative knack that accurately corresponds to this author's personality. In summation Rob Chandeliers or more commonly, Rob Montage strikes again. Whatever, dude!?
Another year-end list worthy of mention comes from an associate of mine that goes by Blaise Cronin. Although, he did not write it he was accredited with this list purely because he supplied me the link: Popless Epilogue 2.
I will spare the details, because you should actually take a gander at it. It has the top songs of the year with a neat little miniplayer which plays the songs for you. Also, with these song snippets there is a brief review about the song for better or worst.
Take his analysis of Jay Reatard:
There was way too much Reatard in '08 for me to make sense of it all, and since I wasn't previously aware of Jay Lindsey's half-dozen other bands and solo projects, it's going to take a while for me to get up to speed and figure out where I stand. In a nutshell, I'd say that I'm not entirely convinced that Lindsey's prolific nature serves his music all that well, though the preponderance of memorable melodies and exuberant sound on Jay Reatard's two '08 singles collections is clearly indicative of an artist working at such a peak that he's unwilling to stem the tide, even when leaves behind a lot of flotsam. Can't say I blame him, actually.Couldn't have said it better myself. I almost got punched in the face at his concert and some nasty bugger stole my blue scarf.
Enough with the stories! It is time to unveil my best of 2008:
1.) Deerhunter: Microcastle/ Weird Era Cont.
As the name indicates, it is a double album. With this format the band seemed to be free to explore various musical landscapes. These landscapes venture off into the shoe gaze territory. The result being good drug music. In a nest of reverberated vocals and guitars your mind will slowly drift into outer space with little intent on returning back. In fact, as Todd Rundgren once said " If you haven't got time to rest, turn the record off now." The first several tracks from either album hit it out of the park. Idioms aside tracks like "Agoraphobia" and "Operation" have the potential to sneak their way on my top tracks of the year (see the post script). These tracks exemplify the albums diversity. At times it does not even seem like the same band, which may initially seem to be a set back. However, there is a sense of identity among these tracks, which makes these songs clearly their own. The subtleties in the various production techniques on each track enable this band to cross over into different realms (that is not to say that they do reggaeton or hip-hop). Instead these realms are categorized by the diversity of texture, which occur on the album. A good example is in the track "Dot Gain". It begins as a song focused on percussion, because of the the multiple percussion tracks and the vocals being very low in the mix. As the track progresses the vocals turn into a ghostly drone and the guitars become louder in the mix, and before you know it you are immersed in a swirl of guitars and angelic, ethereal voices.
2.) Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours
There isn't much to be said about the innovation behind this album. In fact, most of the conventions employed by this album have been used previously. That isn't to say that this album is nonetheless amazing. What this album lacks in musical innovation it makes up for in good song writing. Every song on this album is good and the transition tracks between the "songs" are notable as well. With these transitions the flow of this album is so smooth that each track bleeds into the other. As far as the sound of this album goes, it is very 80's (dance beats, synth bass lines, etc.). Ameliorated by the productions styling of DFA's Tim Goldsworthy each song is as punchy as it is poppy, which creates songs that will be in your head for hours on end. In fact, after a month or owning this record I found myself listening through at least once every other day.
Admittingly, I have not listened to this album as much as I would have liked, but after several listens the importance of this album shines through. The verdict is that Portishead has and will continue to innovate and develop their sound, which is unique and unparalleled by even the most adventurous modern acts. Ghostly vocals and electric beats paint an erie composition . This arrangement is characteristic of Portishead's old sound, but with the inclusion of a wider variety of electronic conventions Portishead successfully looks ahead towards the future
4.) Stereolab: Chemical Chords Can these guys ever mess up? Alluding to 60's french pop coupled with modern production techniques. You can't go wrong with this combo. "Daisy Click Clack" is a perfect example of this deadly combination (This can be found on the mix: see below)
5.) Hercules & Love Affair: S/T- Feel the funk and those wet wet drums. Sound like someone submerged the marraccas. Yet another Tim Goldsworthy production job which appears on this list. Antony guests on several songs in this album, which creates this '85 New York club sound which is nothing but infections. Subtle Horns and several polyrhythmic percussion tracks create intricate and at times dense dance grooves. If this fails to even incite a toe-tap, then you clearly have no soul.
6.) The Walkmen: You & Me- Murky and dank these two word pretty much sum up this album. All in all a valiant effort on behalf of this seemingly consistent rock-outfit. They put on a great show and deliver an adequate amount of energy. If you are a fan of The Walkmen, you will most likely love this album. Sounds great on vinyl!
7.) Snowman: The Horse, the Rat, and the Swan
Finding music like this is really life-affirming. Hidden away in some remote corner of the world there is a band, which exits to bemuse even the darkest of hearts. The dark trance that this album puts you in is reminiscent of other Aussie acts like Dead Can Dance (not as worldly). At times this album ventures onto the heavier side of things similar to Birthday Party (also, Aussie). Note that it is a similarity rather than a carbon copy. This band's ability to be dark, brooding, and at times beautiful make them one of the best acts of 2008. It is really depressing and at times scary, but these moods only intensify the listening experience. Additionally, one of the singers sounds like a vampire, which is good, because vampires are so in right now! Seriously, this guy might actually be a vampire, which is not good. I must know slay this demonic hell beast!
8.) Vampire Weekend: S/T
The inclusion of this band is a "f*ck you!" to my friends that ridicule me because I like this album. I am not going to apologize for their catchiness and infectious song smith-ing. In fact, isn't that what makes an album good; a neatly crafted rhythm, pretty melodies, and smooth vocals. It's not the best music out there and it even out-stayed its welcome, but every now and then, I put on "Cape-Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and let the good times roll.
9.) Flying Lotus: Los Angeles
Perhaps, this is the future of music. It makes sense, because it would take an alien from the future to be able to distinguish the f*cked up time signatures. It would also require an additional alien to be able to decipher the seemingly endless layers of noise. At times there is a groove or driving beat. In fact, there are a lot of "dope beats" happening here. Hopefully, this will influence the hip-hop community. There are moments when the beats are reminiscent of madlib, but then they go into outerspace with the endless layers and slightly offbeat grooves. Hopefully the future of music is unquantized.
10.) Krallice: S/T
One of if not the only black metal releases I really dug this year. The average song length is over ten minutes. These ten minutes do not include "space out" interludes, instead they are just overwhelming blast beats. The vocals on this album are mixed well. They act as a compliment to the evil dark chasm of music, rather than sounding like some orc that frequents D&D conventions (not that there's anything wrong with that), they sound like a hell beast falling into the abyss of darkness. The opus entitled "Forgiveness in a Rot" is 15 minute barrage of blast beats and unequivocal evil. What do you expect from a black metal band? The genre rarely strays away, however the production of this album presents a more meticulous less over-produced metal sound, which is quite soothing (in a strange dark way) to my ears.
P.S. an extra special suprise: Liberace Sequence Best of 2008 (click to download)
The track listings are as follows:
1. Lil' Wayne "La La"
2. Gang Gang Dance "House Jam"
3. Chairlift "Planet Health
4. The Dodo's "Fools"
5. Deerhunter "Operation"
6. Violens "Spectator & Pupil
7. Cut Copy "Strangers in The Wind"
8. Lansing-Dreiden "I Dissappear"
9. Hercules & Love Affair "Athene"
10. Air France "June Evenings"
11. The Walkmen "Canadian Girl"
12. Stereolab "Daisy Click Clack"
13. Snowman "Gods of the Upper House"
14. The Magnetic Fields "Zombie Boy"
15. Fying Lotus "Camel"
16. Portishead "Machine Gun"