Year in the Rear-view
September 25th - the last time I posted on here. Who knew grad studies would take away so much blogging time.
Nevertheless, on Friday my good friend Julia and myself will be celebrating the glory that was music in 2008. We will be playing some of our favorite tracks of the year (except for the fact that Julia will probably play some M.J. as well as the Dirty Projectors, neither of whom released anything in 2008). I've decided to put together a top 12 for the year. Why 12? Two reasons: it's Biblical, and I'm just too lazy to keep it to 10.
Without further ado, the top 12 (in descending order)
12. Jay Reatard - Matador Singles 08 (Matador)
He may be short-tempered, but this man can sure write one hell of a pop hook. From the first notes of "See-Saw" through to the closing moments of "I'm Watching You" Jay Retard has proven that he is indeed one of the more prolific power-pop writers of our time.
11. Zomby - Where Were You in 92? (Werk)
Where was I in 92? I was in grade 5 trying to decide if I preferred "End of the Road" or "Under the Bridge". Where should I have been in 92? In England dancing to 808 State and watching the final scene of Bladerunner over and over again. I only first heard this album a month ago. Had I heard it sooner, with its catchy melodies pushed forward by spastic and at times unpredictable beats, it would have ended up much higher than it did.
10. Invincible - Shapeshifters (Emergence)
This is what an overtly political album ought to look like. Clearly Invincible is concerned with the current state of affairs in Detroit (almost every song on the album surrounds issues of urban decay). However, at no point does this album move into that Ani Difranco-like realm of propaganda. Here the art itself is the message (yeah, overused I know), as Invincible invites you to contemplate the issues she sings about, obscuring them with fascinating metaphors and clever rhyme schemes. This album is so good in fact, it almost (emphasize almost) got me listening to Peter Gabriel.
9. Eric Chenaux - Sloppy Ground (Constellation)
A stunning song-cycle about that 'in-between' stage in romance, Sloppy Ground is as precarious an album as there is. Chenaux has a wonderful ability to allow a melody to maintain its beauty in midst of or at times in spite of all the messiness surrounding it.
8. Chad VanGaalen - Softairplane (Sub Pop)
VanGaalen's first album that was actually meant to be an album, and the results are more than satisfactory. Even though the guy stood me up 3 times for an interview, if he keeps writing songs like "TMNT Mask" and "Molten Light" I won't be able to hold any grudges against him.
7. Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers (Kill Rock Stars)
Surprise! Another Xiu Xiu album on my top 10. I've said so much about this guy already that I've run out of witty metaphors. Just go and listen to "No Friend Oh" and enjoy.
6. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Lie Down in the Light (Drag City)
An album that many overlooked simply because of the fact that it seems Oldham is releasing something new every week. Those who took the time to take this one in were treated to a beautiful album, that almost lulls you to sleep only to wake you up with a resounding chorus full of captivating harmonies. My personal favorite disc of his since I See A Darkness.
5. Azeda Booth - In Flesh Tones (Absolutely Kosher)
It kills me to have two Calgary acts on this list, but In Flesh Tones is just too damn good to ignore. Falsettos, disruptive drum beats, soothing keyboard sounds, reverb-drenched guitars all make for a truly remarkable debut album.
4. Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies (Epitaph)
[SEE NUMEROUS OTHER POSTS WHERE I EXPRESS MY LOVE FOR ROLLIE PEMBERTON]
3. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair (DFA)
This album single handily convinced me that I have always been wrong about disco. I've often enjoyed watching old Ashford and Simpson videos, but until hearing HaLA and their full-out love affair with disco, I always considered that joy to be more ironic than anything else. Not anymore!! In fact, with the release of this album I had envisioned legions of skinny white indie rock fans joining together to burn their Judas Priest shirts while dancing to Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby.
And now a word on "Blind". Pitchfork recently chose this song as its number one track of the year. Really, I can't think of a song that deserves that recognition more. "Blind" is 6 minutes of pure bliss, built around solid bass octaves, a steady syncopated drum beat, and a vocal performance by Antony that is next to none. I've listened to this song more than any other this year, and I still get shivers hearing Antony shout "BECAUSE I FEEL BLIND!"
2. Deerhunter - Microcastle/Wierd Era Cont (Kranky).
In spite of my new love affair with disco, it's still the guitar that was my first love, and
Deerhunter have most definitely given us an album worthy of praise from any guitar nerd.
Microcastle is one mess of an album, taking the loose nature of Cryptograms and cramming it together with the pop sensibilities expressed in Fluorescent Grey to make their most fully-realized disc yet.
1. Veda Hille - This Riot Life (Ape House)
This one is a no brainer really. There is not an album that came out this year that surprised me more than This Riot Life. It is a near-perfect song cycle blending issues around religion, human nature, pop culture and psychology with ease. It truly is my favorite record of the year and I can't recommend it enough.