Skip to content

The Year In Review

December 4, 2008

Just thought I’d get in before Pitchfork goes and makes it official. Here are my top five albums of the year.

5: Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
These songs have gotten an absolute workout this year. Perfectly arranged, full of heart, soul and, of course, sporting the best vocals in years. This record’s simple grace obliterates every lackluster freak-folk embarrassment and every contrived roots-music abomination that redundant bohos dig on.

fleet foxes – ragged wood
fleet foxes – white winter hymnal (black dominoes remix)

4: Flying Lotus – Los Angeles

Just when you think instrumental hip-hop is so irrelevant or boring that it will soon disappear from collective memory, someone comes along and breathes new life into it. The last man to do this was J Dilla and he still had to die to get given any attention/credit. Now following in the same line comes Flying Lotus, who had already compiled a promising blend of dubstep, bit-reduced electronica, and whoozey hip-hop a la Dilla. But where as these earlier efforts seemed like a collection of tracks/obvious expositions of his basic DNA (up tempo funky hip-hop one, slower banger with big bass whomps one, slower jazzier one with female vox, etcetera), Los Angeles managed to push all these sounds into strong, varied and unexpected pieces that all played off each other/melted together, showing off a wide array of grooves/left turns/hooks… To the point where, after this album, there may be no tricks left in the book, that instrumental hip-hop will once again feel tired and irrelevant. But we at least we got Los Angeles in the deal.

flying lotus – gng bng
reefer – let it go (flying lotus remix)
And his essential mix for Radio 1 isn’t bad either. (Click here.)

3: Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing
Maybe its just because I started paying a bit more attention, but noise seemed strangely close to crossing over this year. The sheer volume of bands and mini-festivals and shows was astounding and regular indie fans seemed to be more interested with the resurgance of shoegaze and so on. But of the many acts putting on good live shows, not many are going to put out an album that is this easy to digest or colourful. Taking typical noise textures and building big electronica pushes and fades, with discernable riffs and well marked movements/sections, made this something you could actually follow while you sat on the bus or whatever.

It also didn’t hurt to get some decent production courtesy of Mogwai and Part Chimp dudes, a tonne of buzz courtesy of the internet and some pretty cool visual accompaniments, all working to create a clearly defined world, thick with distortion, day-glo and insanity. Can not wait to see these guys in January.

fuck buttons – sweet love for planet earth
fuck buttons – colours move (mogwai remix)

2: TV On The Radio – Dear Science,

This was surely going to be a massive disappointment. More of the same from a band who had already given us too much of a good thing, who were too distinctive for their own good, whose political side seemed irrelevant as the Bush era drew to a close, who had already come way farther than anyone could have expected. Surely the best thing to do would be lay low, produce some vanity projects, do some acting, play some solo/side project gigs then come back when it was really necessary.

(To recap: Band produces amazing/faultless EP, tries to extend the sound to a full length but fails slightly, falling victim to the thick, immovable grooves that it has created, causing songs to stall and listeners to fatigue. Band returns with big record, turning signature textures into palatable songs, sacrificing some of the previous weight for dynamics and variety. Will the band be able to combine these two elements, cohesion and heaviness, in the future?)

The answer of course is who gives a fuck, when they can just turn around and take their signature sounds and vibe, make it sparkly and new (i.e. 80’s), stop relying on the “ooooh oooh wooohs” that were too common on Desperate Youth and Cookie Mountain for hooks, really stretch the two amazing voices they have in their arsenal and get the listener easily from beginning to end. Even “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, I mean “Dancing Choose”, has grown on me.

tv on the radio – lover’s day
tv on the radio – crying (telepathe remix)

1: Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
I have rarely been a fan of prolific artists. It is better to make grand statements/leave them wanting more than release every chord progression you ever play. Burnout>Fadeaway and so on. But I have not been able to get enough Deerhunter/Atlas Sound this year. And I guess when you are following up your breakthrough LP by going off in a brave new direction that may possibly alienate existing fans, it must be nice to record a whole other album that meets them halfway, almost eclipsing the old record in the process, then just tack it on the back and half tout it as leftovers or a bonus disc. Weird Era Cont. may not stand out as such a singular, pristine vision as Cryptograms. And its poor cousin status will rob it of the recognition it deserves but it bursts with creativity and blends Deerhunter’s previous malice and dirty reverb with their pop skills, now officially in full flight.

And Microcastle. The leaks, the blog posts, the doo-wop and etcetera. What really remains to be said? Gorgeous from start to finish, a billion guitar lines that go straight to the pleasure-centre, brilliant interplay of influences. A shimmering, melting, fully realised vision. Cox’s voice gets better, uses more variation, is avoiding overkill even after how many god damn songs in two years? I guess now that it is so easy to access music it is possible for bands to work this fast and we (I) can actually keep up. Anyway, album of the year hands down.

deerhunter – saved by old times
deerhunter – octet (simian mobile disco remix)

Honourable mentions to: Atlas Sound, High Places, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, No Age and Ruby Suns.
Didn’t really get around to: Yeezy, Weezy, Beach House or Vivian Girls.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Sackinton permalink
    December 5, 2008 11:13 am

    and yet here we are without you putting the new metallica album here.

    rohan is going to spank you.

  2. a fork is not ironic permalink
    December 8, 2008 2:44 pm

    -Sigh- I have only heard of one of these bands, I am tres uncool. I do like Flying Lotus!

  3. Berryman permalink
    December 8, 2008 2:44 pm

    Definitely digging Fleet Foxes this year, but not up on the others as yet. Thanks for the tips, need some new tunes, but will be carefully measuring you against Pitchfork!

  4. a fork is not ironic permalink
    December 8, 2008 2:45 pm

    oh yeah, and Sackinton (if that is his real name) sounds sweaty

  5. Berryman permalink
    December 8, 2008 7:41 pm

    Oh yeah… thoughts on M83?

  6. December 9, 2008 11:06 pm

    Another one I never got around to… Was pretty into about half of Before The Dawn Heals Us when that came out but the other half was a bit too much (I know, “too much” coming from me). Should probably give it a go, Graveyard Girl is pretty sweet.

  7. Berryman permalink
    December 20, 2008 11:21 pm

    I definitely enjoyed Sat = Youth, give it a go. Gutted cos had tickets to see them and I’m from Barcelona in London but was stuck in Aus on visa debacle!

    I see Pitchfork list now up, Fleet Foxes top spot! But you already know that though 😉


  8. slap dot permalink
    December 24, 2008 10:48 am

    Dear Science. What to say? I try and I try and yet the album fails to strike anything noticeable within me. I play it, and if I can stand it for longer than 10 minutes, I notice Im drinking even quicker than usual, or I stare off into the blandness of one of the unadorned walls of my house.

    Everyone loves this shit but Im of the opinion Im the last sane man on Earth. No matter how well its done, the album is disposable, and thus is already a dead man walking.


  1. simple simian mobile disco | Digg hot tags

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: