First of all I should apologize for cluttering the internet with yet another blog... I'm sorry. But truly the blame should go to Tom D. Henry, and Danielle Nemet for making their blogs so great, and making me want to throw my gloves into the ring with this whole blog thing. Also blame NOW magazine, as I really got a taste for this kind of writing when they offered to host my tour blog this fall. Or don't blame anyone, just the read the damn thing you might enjoy it fer fuck sake.
Thought this would make a good first post. Who knows how often I will update this thing, and with what.
\\\MY FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2008///
1. PORTISHEAD - THIRD///
When I first heard of the existence of this record it didn't interest me all that much. Before I heard it I would never have guessed it would be topping my list of '08 favourites, but once it was heard the impact was immediate. After listening only a handful of times I was convinced it would end up as my favourite album – it appealed so directly to my sensibility.
The record exudes a thick fog that I've had a hell of a time decoding. The mysterious sounds that surround the songs are truly expressive, and the production is a total tour-de-force. Sounding at once decaying, and pristine I could spend hours fascinated by the textures these songs exude.
Is that sound a quarter spinning on a table, or a helicopter flying above in 'Plastic'? How is that strange drum fill stitched together? As the record begins, have I somehow tuned into a pirate Portugese radio station? Are those strings sampled from an early horror film? Doesn't the final sound on the album sound like the mournful cry of a sick mammoth? Are those zombies singing the back-up vocals on 'Deep Water'? How is it that 'Machine Gun' is exactly as I always hoped post-apocalyptic future pop would sound pre-apocalypse? I could go on. Listening to this album is like excavating treasure from an ancient burial ground for ailing machinery, and quite honestly it had me reeling with jealousy.
2. METRONOMY - NIGHTS OUT///
I hadn't heard of Metronomy before 2008, but they (or he?) quickly became a listening staple aimed directly at my pleasure centre. In terms of sheer catchiness and replayability this album had all others beat, which is not to suggest that it is a vacuous thrill. Once again, the production wins out. Yes this is a pop album, but it distinguishes itself by being an art-pop record in the grand British tradition of Bowie & Eno.
Unusual vocal treatments (the breathtaking 'Holiday'), bizarre synth textures ('Nights Out'), immaculately captured drums ('My Heart Rate Rapid'), and a full flush of five perfect singles made this album essential to me. That it manages the striking balance of creative idea-centric production, and perfect pop is an adrenaline boosting pleasure. Once again, shame on the critical establishment for underrating such an accessible and deserving album. (Or is it even out yet in North America? Took me ages to find the LP).
3. NICK CAVE - DIG, LAZARUS, DIG!!!///
Having been a devoted fan of the Caveman for several years now his new renaissance has me pretty giddy. Last years Grinderman album was probably my favourite record of his since the 90's, so that this new LP fits as a counterpoint was a nice treat (how bout another Grinderman album though, eh?)... I've never heard the Bad Seeds so texture-driven as they are on 'Night Of The Lotus Eater' (this song absolutely SLAYED ME live). I've rarely heard Nick so playful as on 'We Call Upon The Author'. I love how truly rockrolling songs like 'Albert Goes West,' and 'Lie Down Here' are.
My favourite thing about St. Nick is how deranged and intense he can appear while still being so literary. The lyrics seem slightly more observingly narrative and less first-person-character driven than some of my favourite material, but nonetheless he is probably the best 'writer' in rock. This I admire, as it inspires...
4. ERIC COPELAND - ALIEN IN A GARBAGE DUMP///
Black Dice, Black Dice, Black Dice. As evidenced by last years top selection (see my old myspace blog) I am pretty crazed about these chaps. 'Beaches & Canyons' is one of about 4 records that absolutely altered my existence (I heard it at the impressionable age of 15). Eric Copeland is the most musically prolific member of said group, and to my ear among the most idiosyncratic and exciting sound-artist/musicians working today.
What is so exhilarating to me about this music (in both Black Dice, and Eric's solo works) is how modern it is. These are unmistakably contemporary sounds. I have ownership of them in that they are of my time. Also worth remarking is that these contemporary vibrations could come from no one else. Listening to this record is similar to receiving a collage from someone and realizing that the associations and chosen images combined could have only been made by that person. They are particular. I am grateful that an artist like Eric Copeland pursues only what feels familiar to him, what makes sense of his dreams that he may decode. My life feels richer for it.
5. CLINIC - DO IT!///
I love album titles with exclamation marks! (You'll notice this is the 2nd album with such distinction on this list). Remember how good Entertainment! looked emblazoned on the cover? In this case the exclamation point marks a degree of enthusiasm not witnessed from Clinic! since their first (which is not to say it is my favourite since that record – that'd be 'Winchester Cathedral'). Simply, this is a diverse and spirited bunch of new songs from one of my favourite bands. It's also a grower. When I first heard it, I had the same complaint as every Clinic-critic ever: “this album sounds just like the last one, and the one before that blah blah blah.” Fuck off y'alllll. Clinic have a distinct sound, and no doubt wonderful record collections, and funky band outfits (i miss that trend), and a sense of the 'LP' like few other bands today. I'm a fan. I let this album play, and soon enough the songs started growing on me, and then I couldn't go a day without listening to it, but now I'm recovered... (But it's still great, and I still throw it on regularly, just not daily so get off my back...).
As an unrelated side note, my forthcoming 2009 debut fucking long player will sport an attractive exclamation point at the end of it's title...
6. ACTUAL WATER - DOUBLE NEGATIVES///
Henceforth known as the rawest sounding studio project of all time. Anthony I'm talking directly to you (I hope you read this): Get a live band together, like NOW. You will have show offers up the ying-yang. You will do very well for yourself. I am fairly certain of this. People in Toronto fucking DIG this shit.... I am no exception, and a proud champion of these young rapscallions.
Anthony and drummer friend (Garry?) make amazing, krauty, noise-addled, surfy, garage-made, paint stripping, tight pant, pompadour, minimalist design aesthetic abusing, wonderful guitar based music. I want to see these bastards live and say DAMN. I wish I was that loud, I wish I had a Fender Jaguar, I wish my pomade was that shiny, I wish I was being offered to open for like every cool band that comes to town... I wish. Until then I have 'Double Negatives,' an obnoxiously addictive and schizophrenic listen by a teenage record hound. Lets get that Guiness bud...
7. THE REBEL - NORTHERN ROCKS BEAR WEIRD VEGETABLE///
I don't know if I should get into this Country Teaser business. I am OBSSESED. I (shamefully) had not heard the group until early in '08... and have since pretty much only listened to Country Teasers this year with the exception of the other records on this list. The Rebel is the songwriter for that band, and I am entirely convinced of his utter genius. His songs are hilarious, depressing, satirical, idiosyncratic, and at times catchy as all-fuck. He is a true original, and a great writer of obscure pop gems.
This isn't my favourite of his releases, but more a placeholder of the fact that I discovered him in '08. Nevertheless, this record has some great moments. I'm used to The Rebel sounding kind of like a sarcastic Johnny Cash, so hearing his strange banshee wail on 'Arabian Knights' (yes the Siouxsie and the Banshees song) & 'Kissing & Touching The Void Hem Of The Cloth / Fuck Syngenta' was a fun surprise, as was hearing him use Tammy Wynette's hair as an analogy for criticizing sexism abroad. This recording is a lot cleaner than past Rebel releases, which I'm actually not sure I prefer as the 4 track grit that is so prevalent in The Rebel's work is actually part of it's charm. In any case, this is a great record released by an exciting young label. Sacred Bones Records also released 'Dream Code' by The Pink Noise another record I enjoyed this year, both complying to the label's wonderful design format. Check it out.
8. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS - FOREST OF TEARS///
Another hometown fave! This is a country music album. I like country music, but I don't often love it (sometimes I do, I'm just saying not as frequently as I love art-punk or some other genre for young impatient things like myself). The songs are great and totally memorable, but for me the album signifies the arrival of an exciting young writer. Simone's lyrics are completely heartbreaking, compelling, and most importantly – humanistic. This is a trait I am not used to in admiring in a songwriter. Normally I go for more abstract, or imagistic lyrics but Simone sells her stories with a conviction that is hard to ignore.
$100 are also one of the best live bands in the city right now, and I am convinced are destined for much acclaim – or so i hope, the stories are worth hearing.
9. JAY REATARD - IN THE RED & MATADOR SINGLES///
For my money the In The Red singles are slightly better, but both these compilations are bursting with memorable hooks and garagey weirdness. Jay Reatard writes my favourite short pop blasts of the last couple years. I don't want to try and dissect these records, as they are pretty simple pleasures... plus I'm getting a little tired... plus I'm worried people will start to think that I'm a music critic or something, when I'm really a musician........ I think. I hope. ya?
10. GUILTY SIMPSON - ODE TO THE GHETTO///
To be frank, I'm not entirely certain this is my 10th favourite album of the year. It is kind of a token hip hop record on an otherwise pretty, ahhh... white list. But FUCK, this year was a drought for decent rap music (a genre my iPod time is almost 80% devoted to). Seriously were it not for 'Tha Carter III' my runner up album might be 'Trilla' by Rick Ross (... I know. This sounds ridiculous, I know. Oh my god. Rick Ross almost made my top 10, let's never let this happen again (but seriously that albums does have some jams on it (but come on!......))). So yah, this album is heavily decent though. I did listen to the first 3 songs on repeat for about a month after I got the album. Plus it features an absolutely GORGEOUS late period Dilla beat, as well as my favourite Madlib beats of the year, plus some great stuff from Black Milk (I heard his new album is supposed to be pretty good??).
You're probably wondering why 'Tha Carter III' isn't on my list instead. Because it has between 5 & 7 completely whack songs, and because I still can't decide whether the album cover is brilliant or awful. Also, see my favourite song of the year.
My picks 11 – 15 (not in order): Cheveu – s/t, Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III, Madvillain – Madvillain 2 (Remix Album), School Of Language – Sea From Shore, The Chap – Mega Breakfast, Abe Vigoda – Skeleton.
\\\MY FAVOURITE SONG OF 2008///
A MILLI BY LIL WAYNE
So I get to shed some ink on the rap monument of the year after all! Basically this song was irresistible to me. For starters it shares the combination of a minimalist approach to melody, paired with a booming bass-heavy beat that has become the hallmark of my favourite rap singles of this decade (Epitomized by 'Grindin', perfected by 'Drop It Like It's Hot', and perverted by 'Tell Me When To Go'). However the beat is not even the main attraction.
I have to get something off my chest, I am jealous of this song.
Lil Wayne really perfected a song-persona that I have been aspiring to for a minute now, but could never put my finger on. The exorcism of a towering, swaggering, completely volatile male id/ego. A machismo fueled black hole dripping with raw negative sexual energy, devouring any sense of morals or consideration of other people in it's path. There is a perverse charisma in this kind of self-mythologizing that I am fascinated by, and have attempted to emulate long before this song. When Lil Wayne calls himself a beast, and a dog a shiver rolls down my spine. I wish I wrote that line, I might nick it. Gate Hearing & Brothl Hunting were attempts at this pathos, there are many more attempts on the new album. Keep your eyes peeled, til then listen to A Milli.
Thanks for reading. If you have a list feel free to send it my way...
North America: Sam Kogon / email@example.com
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