Good evening! There’s less than an hour of 2008 left and so it’s time for my traditional Best Albums list. This year, I had to whittle it down from 63 albums to the final forty below. Therefore, every album below is a winner, no matter the placing, I had to leave a lot out that I loved!
This year, I loved:
40. Late Of The Pier – Fantasy Black Channel
A fabulous electroprogpop album that is as poppy as it is off-kilter. Probably the only band operating now that approaches the aesthetic of Devo.
39. Girl Talk – Feed The Animals
I got so many requests for tracks from this album this year when I was DJing and it’s easy to see why: the beats are undeniable and the mashing is, unlike so many others, sophisticated and musically lovely.
38. Burning Skies – Greed. Filth. Abuse. Corruption
Ahhh, clean out your lugholes with this fine barrage of METAL! Some lovely riffery here coupled with a great, simple ferocity.
37. The Primary 5 – High Five
Take some Soup Dragons’ playfulness and some Teenage Fanclub melody, mix it up with a slew of sunny, warm pop songs and you have this lovely, lovely album. High five indeed…
36. A Different Breed Of Killer – I, Colossus
More metal mayhem that deserves a space in anyone’s collection. Standout track: ‘Omega.’ Just perfect!
35. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Yes, it’s Springsteeny (as are a lot of albums at the mo) but what makes this album different from the herd is the lyrics. Some beautiful imagery there and I love the lack of embarrassment. More like this, please!
34. Ghosty – Answers
If you’ve ever liked Weezer, Pavement, MMJ or any American indie rock, you owe it to yourself to check out Ghosty and in particular this stormer of an album.
33. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Pershing
More summery indie rock, this time with a touch more Beach Boys and perhaps even Ben Folds about it? Whatever, there’s some catchy shit on here!
32. Sons And Daughters – This Gift
Moving from their early, folkier sound to a more ragged, urgent rock, Sons And Daughters remind me in places of The Poppy Family channelling John Leyton. Which is, of course, a huge compliment.
31. Austrian Death Machine – Total Brutal
A thrash band fronted by Arnie himself? (errr…) Every song a classic line from one of the Governator’s films? How can you not like this album, eh? COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIIIIIVE!
30. The Fairline Parkway – A Memory Of Open Spaces
And, as a complete contrast, welcome to the whisper-quiet, vibraphone-padded heaven of The Fairline Parkway. A pretty safe bet if you’ve ever loved any American Analog Set or any similar quiet magnificence.
29. The Girls – Yes, No, Yes, No, Yes, No
Wow. Just some great, angular, jerky, catchy pop songs on this album. Every time I’ve DJed ‘Not I,’ someone has come and asked me what the band is. That’s pop!
28. Division Of Laura Lee – Violence Is Timeless
Bizarrely, I met the drummer of DOLL in an Apple Shop on Aveny in Gothenburg a couple of years ago. Lovely guy… umm, well, nothing to do with this action-packed album that you should check out if you’ve ever liked rocking in a melodic hardcore-y way. Hell, it’s just fine pop music!
27. Cyne – Pretty Dark Things
Cyne have been making damn excellent hip hop for years now and they keep up their standards with this album. And, yes, ‘Excite Me’ does just that.
26. Mystic Man & Eshamanjaro- In Heavy Weather
Mystic Man on the beats, Eshamanjaro rapping, this is a damn near perfect hip hop album. That’s it’s a debut and that it’s UK hip hop only makes me happier. ‘Cheshire Cat’ should be everywhere all the time.
25. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
This is the first of two magnificent Aussie synthpop albums in this year’s best-of. Cut Copy’s second album is pure, swooning ’80s-ness, sometimes drifting through Fiction Factory through B Movie via Lotus Eater-y melodies. Oh, and it’s bloody good to dance to, too! Tutu!
24. Orion – Esperanza
Independent hip hop putting the big, corporate artists to shame. Check out Orion if you love hip hop but you’re bored of hearing the same lame chattering over and over again. Solid.
23. Dosh – Wolves And Wishes
Anticon’s Dosh delivers an album that sounds as fresh as it is catchy. ‘Waiting For The Needle To Drop’ is seductively, deceptively simple sounding at first until the meld of drums and tuned percussion just draws you in. This is cinematic.
22. Sebastien Tellier – Sexuality
France’s greatest ever Eurovision entry, Tellier’s sweeping synthpop is playful and yet still sincere. That’s quite a trick. But if you listen to tracks like ‘Divine’ or ‘Sexual Sportswear,’ there’s real heart there.
21. These New Puritans – Beat Pyramid
Heavy beats, Barnett’s marvellous sneer of a voice, lawnmower rhythm guitar, These New Puritans take a host of disparate, jarring elements and bake us a fine, dancey cake. As an old man, it’s great to hear something as novel as this.
20. Ladytron – Velocifero
You can always rely on Ladytron to deliver some fab, catchy pop and frame it in novel ways. My fave track from this gem of an album is ‘Ghosts,’ I must have listened to it a gazillion times in the car. Such a swagger and sway!
19. Modcam – Six Minute City
For more info about this album, click here!
18. Mystery Jets – Twenty One
17. Kettel – Myam James Part 1
Blissful, dreamy electronic music that sounds like lullabies you’ve forgotten. Check out ‘The Wombat.’ If that doesn’t move you, nowt will!
16. Deerhoof – Offend Maggie
Another best-of, another Deerhoof album! How do these bleeders keep making experimental pop music that pushes things but never retreats into technique for technique’s sake? Again, some lovely pop songs on here.
15. Russian Circles – Station
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve played ‘Harper Lewis’ when I’ve DJed this year. From the first time I heard it, I fell in love with the grandeur and power. I’m not a postrock fan so I hesitate to label Russian Circles as such, though that’s where they come from. They’re just hugely more interesting than most of their genre brethren.
14. Neon Neon – Stainless Style
More classy synthpop, this time of a more shiny, aerodynamic bent. Top tracks: ‘I Lust U’ and ‘Alderaan.’ Stick this on and start throwing shapes in your bedroom.
13. Deerhunter – Microcastle
I dunno why, but this album reminds me loads of late-period Delgados. It has the same catchiness, the same unpredictability from track to track and the same mix of sombreness and err.. fun?
12. Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You
Do you like the idea of Nick Drake singing over a glitching laptop once owned by Frazier Chorus? If so, buy this excitable balloon of an album.
11. Blitzen Trapper – Furr
I loved the first Blitzen Trapper album and this one is even poppier! Mixing country, rock, country-rock and anything else they can get their hands on, Blitzen Trapper frame great pop songs in erratic, fractious settings. Works for me!
10. Why? – Alopecia
Jonathon Wolf can’t be tied to any one genre. And that eclectic rambling is what makes every Why? album a rare treat. Is it indierock? Is it hip hop? Is it electronica? Who cares – it’s brilliant.
9. MC Chris – MC Chris Is Dead
More great rapping, this time from the absolute monarch of geek hip hop, MC Chris. His rap skills are awesome, his imagery is pure magic. Forget all the nerdcore hoo-haa, this is simply brilliant hip hop.
8. Ratatat – LP3
I’ve listened to this sublime album so many times this year, often when I’m writing or tidying or whatever. It starts off as perfect backgroundy music for that kind of activity but eventually I’ll end up stopping what I’m doing and just listening. Utterly captivating.
7. The Presets – Apocalypso
Why I love these Aussie synthateers here.
6. School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms
A very late entry in this list, I have to put it so high because SOSB’s album clicks, ticks and whirrs along on a shimmery bed of grunty synths and girly harmonies. What’s not to like?
5. Pacific! – Reveries
‘Hotlips’ was one of the top songs of the year and it comes from an album just as poppy and just as fantastic. Stomping, singalong Swedie synthpop, you have to check this album out.
4. Billie The Vision And The Dancers – I Used To Wander These Streets
3. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
I often get accused of being deliberately obscure in these best-of lists. Not so! It’s just my tastes don’t often coincide with the big sellers. But here’s a bona-fide US number-one album that is also one of the best albums of the year. This one deserves every one of its sales. Every one.
2. Hello Saferide – More Modern Short Stories From…
Easily the best indie / pop / rock album of the year, ‘More Modern Stories From…’ is what I wish more guitar-rock music would be like: honest. Sometimes painfully honest as in the horribly intimate ‘Anna’:
You know, we could have had a daughter
And we could have named her Anna
And she would have been a sweetheart
But with punk rock manners
You could have taught her to play hockey
I could have taught her the guitar
And her granddad could have shown her the way to the bar
She could have supported us when we retire, bought us a cottage near the countryside
…which is about a child that never got to be. It’s all the more effective for the non-goth framing, the song lulls you into expecting just another wispy indie singalong and then kicks you in the head.
Really, if you’ve ever loved Leonard Cohen or Tim Hardin or Martin Gore or… well, any songwriter who deals with the extremely personal and intense, you need to own this album. Every song is a perfect vignette, every lyric a poem.
1. Braintax – My Last And Best Album
It was close but Braintax’ album is definitely, defiantly the best album of 2008. The lyricism, the beats, the concepts… this is an artist at the top of his game. All the sadder then that the following appears to be true:
In 2008 Braintax suddenly announced his retirement with the release of his final album titled My Last And Best Album and also the end of Low Life Records to the disappointment of many UK Hip-Hop fans.
If he has given up, the world, not only the UK, has lost one of its best rappers. He runs circles round all of the major-label corporate rappers clogging up the airwaves, Braintax is as nimble as they are plodding, as erudite as they are incoherent. Think I’m hyping him too much? Check out these lyrics:
Spit ’bout crimes we forget for the sake of our own little tragedy’s
Irrelevant like a fucking Akon ballad is
The biggest shame of this society we live in
While we act all spiritual when we’re money driven
It’s the way we forget in a hell of a rush
Like ‘If it ain’t affecting me, then I ain’t too fussed’
Then there’s bombs on the street and us Brits get shaky
But how can we be shocked – Check our leadership lately?
They’re rattling the sabres, talking ’bout Jesus
Fundamentalist believers acting like crusaders
Memories are short over here
The zeitgeist is a truck that the media steer
So we ain’t on the streets protesting – We’re stuck in front of TV sets digesting
Forgetting about the lies and the unfound weapons
Suggestions, the questions we should be asking journalists a second
I’m (BRAAAIIIIN) taxing – the opposite of aspirin
Blood is on the streets and the East End soaking it up
Bush making me a target – and I’m not too pleased
There’s no peace when the beast is us.
And that’s just one verse from one song off this truly stunning, seminal album. How he comes up with this shit, I really don’t know. This is stellar songwriting, these are lyrics I’m going to remember snatches of years from now.
Braintax, I’ll miss you. Thank you for some of the best music I’ve ever heard in my life. I hope Australia brings you what you’re looking for.