Thursday, 11 December 2008

2008 Top 10 Albums

I guess people like Top 10s... They're hard to come up with - much easier to just throw together the albums that you've liked in any one year. When I did that this year, there were around 45... So, trimming was in order. Here's where I got to:

1. Centro-matic/ South San Gabriel 
Dual Hawks
Will Johnson is the singer and songwriter for Centro-matic, a Crazy Horse-The Band style rock 4-piece and South San Gabriel, a quieter, mellower, folkier outfit. It is hard to overestimate the impact of his voice and ability to write a song - at his best, he reaches directly into your soul. Elegiac, spare melodies and aching building dynamics double up on power pop with a buzzsaw edge. Dual Hawks should ensure the bands are given the kind of accolades usually reserved for (friends) My Morning Jacket or Drive-By Truckers.

The Black Keys 
Attack and Release

A band playing primal blues that captured mass attention for the way they have made not only a man with a guitar and a drummer into some kind of modern rival for early Zeppelin, but the way that they have made elemental music popular with people under 25. Keeping their stark sound from Thickfreakness and adding in some wonderful atmospherics to a more soulful sound. Attack and Release sees the band grow into one of the best around.

Delta Spirit 
Ode To Sunshine

A five piece band from Southern California, Delta Spirit are The Cold War Kids meet the Beatles, and the Kinks, and the best folk music. It is joyful, melodic, anthemic and rootsy. Ten songs seems ten too few. When the electric guitars kick in, they mean it; when the choruses kick in, they sing with the evangelism of a Baptist preacher. There is not a weak moment, not a filler song, not a thrown away note. There is no preaching, no overreaching, no preening. It has spirit, soul and boundless energy.

Royal Bangs 
We Breed Champions
Audio Eagle

So, so good. A band that combines the best of The Clash and Dinosaur Jr unleashes a thick slug of buzz and energy alongside some great melodies. With a studio-full of instruments thrown (appropriately) into the mix, the enthusiasm is captured and remains wonderfully thrilling, dirty almost, but always deliciously more-ish. There seems to be no higher purpose than simply making great music - there are parallels with an unleashed In Rainbows Radiohead, but lead man Ryan Schaefer seems to be having a better time than Thom Yorke. 

5. The Walkmen 
You And Me

The Walkmen are an individual, and remarkably cool collective, making left-of-The-Strokes New York indie. In The New Year, I Lost You and Seven Years of Holidays are as good as any Walkmen song (including single of the noughties, The Rat). Like New York Dolls playing Tom Waits, the band's rhythms and textures and punk spirit infuse the soundscape like a tequila marinade. 

6. The Quiet Ones 
Better Walk Than Ride Like That
In Advance

An energy like The Lily's Nanny In Manhattan and a musical mix like Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, The Quiet Ones seem instantly like one of the best bands you've heard in an age. At times, a hipper Foo Fighters (All Day), at others a rockier Wilco (O Mexico), coming back around with a B-52s cheese-fun thrash (Biggest Love), this is an album unlike any other, and wholly welcome for that. 

7. Cage The Elephant 
Cage The Elephant

Like a red hot Red Hot Chili Peppers mixed with the Arctic Monkeys, this five-piece band throw a storming number of influences into the mix. It is like the 70s punk scene all over again - Sex Pistols attitude and Black Crowes songsmithery mixed with a wholly noughties attitude,. Lead singles In one Ear and Ain't No Rest For The Wicked will surely be the Chelsea Dagger of this summer's festivals, The funk underlying the tunes (listen to Lotus and try to keep your head still) adds depth and listenability to the whole album. 

8. Tokyo Police Club 
Elephant Shell
Label - Memphis Industries

So long as The Walkmen don't want to make The Rat again, this is as great a bunch of rapid-fire propulsive singles as you'll hear. Only one song comes in over three minutes, and none of the others needs to. The song ideas keep coming at you - they burst in, deliver their message breathlessly and with great melody, and get back out. With pounding backbeats, synths driving the melody, guitar adding edge and character, and a snaking punky bass under the shy boy voice, this is all the band you need.

9. These United States 
United Interests

Crimes is The Basement Tapes brought right up to date - in song quality, instrumentation and overall feel, it is hard not to believe that Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and Rick Danko were in the studio for this one when Get Yourself Home or Six Fast Bullets kick in. We Go Down To That Corner is a stunning song, a modern blues parable. Crimes is a step forward and sideways for These United States - a grandiose communal statement. 

10. Eef Barzelay 
Lose Big
Label - SLG

What Barzelay does so superbly is craft quite incredible lyrics, with an ability to balance bitter, sweet and achingly beautiful, and then fit them to songs that enhance every emotion. Rolling Stone captured it succinctly when they said, "Lyrically, he can be as cool as jazz, as earnest as folk, as sorrowful as country, as goofy as pop and as ironic as indie rock, sometimes all in one song." Basically, Lose Big is a Clem Snide album, freed from the constraints of genre. It is a lovely thing, full of texture, feel and touch.


G.Wo said...

Great list. Thanks!

Armani said...

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