Albums of the Year 2008 (Rob)


It's end-of-year-list time again, and this year it's been particularly tough to round up a top ten. There were plenty of great albums out there, but there also seemed to be a big gulf between the few truly amazing records and the far more populated category of 'pretty good'. Find out what's made the cut in the readmore.

10. Simon Bookish - Everything/Everything

This year saw classical composer-come pop genius Leo Chadburn release his most accomplished album to date under the Simon Bookish moniker. Everything/Everything is elaborately & impeccably orchestrated, while at the same time being lyrically fantastic. It the kind of album that's strongest point is how damned interesting it is- strange arrangements will come out of nowhere, making you sit up and take notice. That said, at the end of the day it is a pop record, so all that aside, the songs are still enjoyable as hell.

Listen:

Simon Bookish - The Flood


9. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

The second album from canuck supergroup Wolf Parade is a thoughtful, rich affair. A fine follow-up to 2005's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary', it has shades of everything from Britpop to Bonnie Prince Billy. All made nice'n'hooky by the distinctive guitar of former Hot Hot Heat mastermind Dante DeCaro.

Listen:
Wolf Parade - Soldier's Grin



8. Santogold - Santogold

Fusing hip-hop, punk rock, and a whole lot more, Santogold's debut is nicely bold in the realm of pop. LES Artistes was one of the songs of the year for me, and the album contains a handful more gems. Expect huge success in the next year.


Listen:
Santogold - I'm A Lady


7. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

Another indie debut made good, this album soundtracked the summer as MGMT went stellar. Though marred slightly with a bit of filler, you can't argue with awesome singles like Kids, Time To Pretend & Electric Feel.

Listen:
MGMT - Kids



6. The Faint - Fasciinatiion


I love The Faint. This is fairly clear. So with their return after a four year absence I was pretty happy to say the least. Fasciinatiion is a touch more dancy & electro than the band's previous offerings, and has all the class that made them one of my favourite bands in the first place. One of the highlights of my musical year was when I first got hold of 'The Geeks Were Right', the first track released off the album. There was a touch of ceremony about going to a quiet room, getting 'the good headphones' and sitting down to really listen to it. It didn't disappoint.

Listen:
The Faint - Forever Growing Centipedes.


5. Story of Hair - Cheap Rate

In a year which had a crazy amount of quality Irish albums (in fairness, we could probably populate this whole list with Irish acts), this one stands out for me. Being a fan of the Hair's live show, a lot was expected of this debut LP, and I was by no means let down. From maniacally happy to reassuringly pensive, the band barely put a foot wrong in these fourteen tracks. Being the pop-whore that I am, getting an album with as many shamelessly feelgood tracks as this feels like heaven. It's also great to see a set of quality tracks actually being realised impeccably on record. It sounds like a simple thing to do, just put a mic up and press record, but it doesn't always work out that way and something gets lost (for me, this is the reason the excellent Fight Like Apes aren't quite making this list). The song below is also undoubtedly one of the songs of the year.

Listen:
Story of Hair - Unsteady


4. Why? - Alopecia

I am a relatively recent convert to Why? (thanks, Ste), but this album wholly converted me. On paper it really shouldn't work. Alt-rap, folk-hop, whatever you want to call it... it seems like a fusion doomed to failure. But it works. It hella works. Alopecia is one of those albums which stayed in my stereo for months, each and every song growing on me in turn. It's got so many elements in it that there's something for everyone- and for all that quality hip-hop to suddenly break into an metal-sounding guitar riff is something so insane it's brilliant.

Listen:
Why - The Hollows


(This is where it gets very hard. I've spent weeks trying to separate these top three entries, and have decided it's just impossible. So first place is a three-way tie).


=1. Jape - Ritual

This was another much anticipated album, one which any attendee of Jape's legendary live shows will have been expecting to be filled with greatness. And it was. Taking indie electro by the horns Richie Egan & Co. got everyone dancing, and grounded the party with what are some undeniably great songs. From the frenetic I Was A Man to the now legendary ode to Phil Lynott, every track on the album is fantastic. It makes me want to buy a synth or two. And possibly grow a moustache.

Listen:
Jape - Strike Me Down


=1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

This is one of those out-of-the-blue masterpieces that so perfectly defines the musical year. Justin Vernon's tale of woe and redemption through music plays out in magnificent lo-fi, and it couldn't have worked better any other way. The album's circumstance has already become the stuff of legend, with the story behind it's conception becoming almost as enduring as the music itself. As for the songs- with only nine tracks there's not much room for filler, and every song justifies it's place completely (OK, with the exception of Team, which I'm assuming is merely an extension of Creature Fear). I've always been a fan of the ol' acoustic album, and this is by far the best of it's kind in many a year.

Listen:
Bon Iver - The Wolves (Acts I & II)


=1. TV On The Radio - Dear Science


I'll admit straight off that I have a tendency to get very excited about certain bands, and in the process heap so much praise upon them that it could be considered by some as somewhat of an exaggeration. That said... TV On The Radio are probably the greatest band in the world today. Dear Science is another stage in evolution for a band that had already completely won me over, and with this stage they flex their pop muscles while still maintaining their distinctive production and powerful energy. At times during Dear Science one would be forgiven for thinking that the band are channeling the souls of some of Motown's greatest stars. Guitar licks like those on lead singles Dancing Choose & Golden Age are made for dancing, and dancing with soul. The album's masterstroke, however, comes with the understated Love Dog, which is an astonishing recording where not a single note is wasted, and every subtlety is hugely effective. There's so much to enjoy here, and given that at this stage TVOTR have officially 'lived up to the hype', there's so much to be excited about the future for.

Listen:
TV On The Radio - Love Dog

Honorable Mentions:

First one has to go to Passion Pit, who's Chunk of Change EP is one of the bast things I've heard all year, and would have made it very, very high up this list if only it had had a couple of more tracks on it and actually qualified as an album. I can imagine they will probably be featuring on this list next year.

As for the others... Hot Chip's 'Made In The Dark' ('Shake a Fist' was definitely one of the songs of the year)... Tokyo Police Club's 'Elephant Shell'... Elbow's 'Seldom Seen Kid'... Department of Eagles - In Ear Park... The Most Serene Republic - Population... Irish favourites included Adebisi Shank, Fight Like Apes & Queen Kong/ You're Only Massive...

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3 comments:

December 25, 2008 at 5:50 AM will said...

Dante DeCaro?!? The guy's little more than a hired-hand bass player in Wolf Parade...

December 25, 2008 at 6:14 PM Clockwork Rob said...

Is he not the guitar player?? I'm pretty sure he is. Clearly Spencer Krug (Frog Eyes=awesome) is the brains behind Wolf Parade, but I'm a DeCaro fan too.

I really loved the first HHH album, and judging their swift decline in quality since he left I'm guessing he had something to do with that initial greatness.