Before I announce the result of the Irish vote this week, let’s have a look at the greater picture. It’s another list! Here are my top 30 albums of 2008.
- 30. Minotaur Shock – Amateur Dramatics
- 29. Pivot – O Soundtrack My Heart
- 28. Fuck Buttons – Street Horrsing
- 27. She and Him – Volume One
- 26. White Denim – Workout Holiday
- 25. Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual
- 24. Jamie Lidell – Jim
- 23. Fight Like Apes – And the Mystery of the Gold Medallion
- 22. R.S.A.G – Organic Sampler
- 21. Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
20. Clark – Turning Dragon
2008 was the year Chris Clark let rip with some real bone-crunching, distorted glitchy rave-ups. Turning Dragon was like some grimey journey through the seedist club known to man.
Key track: New Year Storm
19. The Vinny Club – Rocky IV Reckyrd
Vinny’s solo project away from the furious bass duties for Adebisi Shank was a 26 minute triumph of computer-generated fun. The film of the title informs each 8-bit workout with song titles, samples and theme. It’s the sound of an Atari throwing shapes on a dancefloor.
Key track: It’s Not You It’s OF
18. The Jimmy Cake – Spectre & Crown
The Jimmys’ third and best album, a welcome return after five years of silence. Spectre & Crown ebbs and flows wonderfully through Herculean orchestral passages of melody and cadence, leaving an indelible chronicle of nine musicians contributing to a singular and necessary vision. The production is immaculately precise yet organic, the music epic yet controlled; brimming with piano, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, bass and saxophone.
Key track: Jetta’s Palace
17. Cadence Weapon – Afterparty Babies
Rollie Pemberton’s second album took us on a journey of his hometown Edmonton, on the way he recounted tales of his friends, failed club nights, hairdressers, tattoo artists and underage youth cliques all set to bouncing dancefloor-orientated hip-hop beats.
Key track: In Search of the Youth Crew
16. Little Joy – Little Joy
Fabrizio Moretti, the drummer from the Strokes hooks up with some friends in LA to make an album of sunshine-infused folk-pop and manages to surpass all other Strokes-related material since Is This It?. Little Joy is the perfect name for these little nuggets.
Key track: No-one’s Better Sake
15. Q-Tip – The Renaissance
What a delight it was to see Q-Tip overcome years of label battles and shelved releases and release a genuinely superb hip-hop album. Now in his late thirties, Tip hasn’t lost any of the swagger, style and substance that made him a great MC in his A Tribe Called Quest days. The Renaissance was as thoughtful as they come for hip-hop in 2008.
Key track: Moving
14. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
There’s always one Scandinavian electro-popstress after our hearts isn’t there? This year’s knockout contender was Sweden’s Lykke Li whose songs leapt into our consciousness with melodious hooks aplenty. Occasionally, she throws a stylistic curveball but there is enough substance to the style to push Lykke over the edge into essential territory.
Key track: Little Bit
13. Deerhunter – Microcastle
A surprising third record from the Atlanta group saw the unheralded introduction of pop into Bradford Cox and company’s normally strained psychedelic hearts. There are still touches of the ambient punks of old but suddenly, Deerhunter were a band unfettering polychromatic shades rather than monochrome dirges.
Key track: Nothing Ever Happened
12. Portishead – Third
After years out in the wilderness, Portishead returned unexpectantly with a fascinating album. Gibbons and co. are still as moody as ever, but this time the sheen is one of industrial paranoid soundscapes and diversions into acoustic torchbearing numbers. There’s certainly no chillout here. With ‘Machine Gun’ and ‘The Rip’, Portishead created two of the most unique singles of 2008.
Key track: Machine Gun
11. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
With his second full length, Fly Lo exceeds all expectations placed on him as grandson of Alice Coltrane and a Warp artist. Where before he laboured in hip-hop instrumentals, Los Angeles extends his palette considerably with a stunning collection of intense, organic, mind-altering ambient, electronic and hip-hop soundscapes.
Key track: GNG BNG
10. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
M83 have always been purveyors of emotionally-charged, gut-kicking shoegazing electronic landscapes. With Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzalez turned his attention to the decade of his teenage years and made an imagined soundtrack to the cultural touchstones of the 1980s and all it encompasses from John Hughes films to the music of the period. Weirdly, M83 were even namechecked by Kings of Leon as a major inspiration for their recent album Only By the Night.
Key track: Kim and Jessie
9. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
If Return to Cookie Mountain was this band’s autumnal LP, Dear Science is their spring: airy, breezy, funky and the first serious signs of longevity. Seriously, it’s so good it suggests this Brooklyn band might one day soon make one of the best albums of this or any other millennium.
Key track: Golden Age
8. Daedelus – Love to make Music to
The most thrilling electronic album of the year? Alfred Darlington certainly has the production chops and the uncanny ability to twist samples into emotionally resonant and dancefloor friendly songs. Hip-hop, dubstep, and cut and paste wizardry combine to produce the kind of album DJ Shadow should be making.
Key track: Fairweather Friends
7. Heathers – Here Not There
Twin sisters, a guitar and heart. Listening to Ellie and Louise McNamara’s intertwined melodies has brought shivers down the spine of many lucky enough to hear them. Clearly the synergistic nature of these Dublin 18 year olds’ relationship has enabled them to produce an inspiringly simple and singularly brilliant record.
Key track: Remember When?
6. Jape – Ritual
Richie Egan, a bass player from Crumlin became Dublin’s most exciting solo musician in 2008. Ritual was packed with ten quality songs ranging from playful electronic synth pop to heartfelt genuine acoustic ballads. There are too many highlights to mention really. ‘I Was A Man’ is a growling gem, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is neo-electro soul and ‘Phil Lynott’ which really should be (Christmas Number One iTunes, DownloadMusic.ie) contained one of the lines of the year with “Look. at. the. Fucking. Moon.” Jape is Grape 08.
Key track: I Was A Man
5. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Justin Vernon sequestered himself in a log cabin in Wisconsin filled with a little despair and heartbreak and the result poured out into this record. Consisting of layers of choral tones, brittle acoustic guitar, a warm falsetto and a broken heart it is one of the most beautiful, winsome, melancholy and affecting albums of the year. A gossamer thread of melancholy hangs throughout but it is never depressing, always uplifting.
Key track: Skinny Love
4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
How can an album be so damn good? And catchy? Finally, a blog-hyped band which actually lived up to the talk. This debut was a charming, delightful, danceable and superbly crafted mix of Upper West Side indie-pop, Africa-centric rhythms and collegiate lyrics. Extra brownie points for being one of the best live bands of 2008 to boot. Essential.
Key track: Oxford Comma
3. Foals – Antidotes
Invariably called dance-punk, math-rock or post-punk, Foals’ music can be more easily categorised by that which it does not have – guitar chords. Two guitars precipitate notes from the high frets, sustaining each other around a taut drum and bass section with some occasional electronic touches. Vocalist Yannis sings about tennis and Roman Emperors and why the fuck not when the songs are this good.
Key track: Balloons
2. Neon Neon – Stainless Style
Inspired by the rise and fall of car manufacturer and entrepreneur John Delorean, Gruff Rhys (of the Super Furries) and Boom Bip concocted a chrome elegy to the hedonistic ’80s. Spank Rock, Har Mar Superstar, Fatlip, Cate le Bon and The Magic Numbers all help out on the best ’80s synth pop album of 2008.
Key track: Racquel
1. Why? – Alopecia
With its rich instrumentation rooted in indie-rock and its confessional narrative borrowed from abstract hip-hop, Alopecia is a unique hybrid that is sometimes uncomfortably personal, frequently visceral, always engaging and wholly convincing. In Yoni Wolf, Why? have a lyricist with the ability to relay real-life with real-life poetics. Music as unpretentious art.
Key track: The Hollows Pt. 2