Saturday, 13 December 2008

2008: A Look Back, The Year In Review, Year-End Wrap Up...

I realize the year is not over, but it's close enough for me. I don't think I'll be hearing any new music in the next 2 1/2 weeks. Maybe! But I doubt it. So, here's my lists and such.

Top 20 Best Albums:

1. Marnie Stern - This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That

I couldn't stop listening to this album. It's a bunch of weird things put together that somehow work. Insane overdubbed vocals, motivational lyrics, SHRED, furious drums, and excellent, disjointed songwriting somehow made this album this best thing ever.

2. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

I also could not stop listening to this album. When I first heard CC, I dismissed it as lame, video game music. After a while, I noticed the complexity and craftsmanship that went into it. It's not just video game sounds, there are actual songs and a lot of punk attitude and sass.

3. Boris - Smile

This may be the most inconsistent Boris album, but that's probably why I love it so much. All their different styles, noise, drone, rock-n-roll, experimental, krautrock, and even shoegaze, appear somewhere on this album, making diverse, but still distinctly Boris.

4. Titus Andronicus - The Airing Of Grievances


5. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing

Noisy, droney, hypnotic and addictive is how I'd describe this record. It's abrasive, yet beautiful. It's the kind of album designed for a stereo and best listened to without any distractions.

6. Ellen Allien - Sool

A huge departure for Ellen Allien, but an exciting new direction. I don't know if I'd call this her best album, but it is great.

7. Black Mountain - In The Future

This was a real surprise. At first, it just seemed to be a derivative, 70s rocknroll/psych retread. And it kind of is. But the songs are interesting and memorable. They have two vocalists, both of whom are distinct and add something different. The guitar tones are lovely and the riffs are effective.

8. Enslaved - Vertebrae

This rules. I've liked pretty much any Enslaved tracks I've heard over the years and this is the first proper Enslaved album I've heard. It's just amazing proggy, black-ish metal. It's like a much more interesting and just plain better version of Opeth.

9. Basic Channel - BCD-2

Best album to dance to of 2008. It's minimal, but pounding techno with 10+ minute tracks that get stuck in your head right away.

10. Indian - Slights And Abuse/The Sycophant

Amped up doom metal with savage vocals. Perfect for the stereo.

11. the Magnetic Fields - Distortion

So many good songs, plenty of biting humor and guitars turned up to 11: a winning combination.

12. Juana Molina - Un Día

I don't know what to say about this album, other than that it's wonderful. I can't find the right words to describe it or even a genre that accurately suits it.

13. Gigan - The Order Of The False Eye

This is the best death psych-inflected death metal album Dillinger Escape Plan never made. I really can't stand Dillinger post-Irony Is A Dead Scene, so it's good to hear the tech-metal style continuing and still being innovative.

14. Flying Lotus - Los Angeles

One of the most surprising albums of the year. It's beautiful and relaxing, but full of force and strength. It's mind-bending, but danceable.

15. Intronaut - Prehistoricisms

Another surprise. I liked Intronaut a lot on the strength of The Challenger EP and eagerly awaited a new full-length. I couldn't believe how proggy this album is and how much awesome bass work is present. I mostly expected it to be a relatively good Neu-Isis/Metalgaze record.

16. Matmos - Supreme Balloon

I love Matmos. Doing an all-synth album sounded a bit too restrictive to me, but they managed to make something completely out-there, with each track sounding totally different (and incredibly Kraftwerk-ian).

17. Portishead - Third

Portishead's comeback is a resounding success. The songwriting is stronger than ever and the sampling is refreshing and modern.

18. Origin - Antithesis

Absolutely brutal technical death metal, no surprise that I like it. But Origin knows how to write a song and these dudes really brought their A-game to this record. I now want to buy their older albums...

19. Roots Manuva - Slime & Reason

I can't get these songs out of my head. At first, I thought it was a bit gimmicky and one-note, but it's got a lot more heft and innovation than it initially lets on. Roots is a fabulous emcee and his beats incorporate reggae and electro.

20. Cynic - Traced In Air

Cynic is back and kickin'. The disparate elements that make up Cynic's sound are better incorporated on this album than on Focus (I'm not sure that it's necessarily better, only time will tell). I'm glad that Cynic didn't botch (or Botch) this one. I was afraid it might not have the artistic merit of Focus and would be a sell-out album (not that that could be good also), but my fears were in vain.

Honorable Mentions:

These are some enjoyable albums that I didn't think were great per se, but still worth my time in some way. Some were very close to making the top 20, but there was something else better.

AIDS Wolf - Cities Of Glass
Bison B.C. - Quiet Earth
Black Spade - To Serve With Love
Blink - The Epidemic Of Ideas
the Breeders - Mountain Battles

the Bug - London Zoo
David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Cosmologic - Eyes In The Back Of My Head
Cult Of Luna - Eternal Kingdom
Dismember - Untitled
Dub Trio - Another Sound Is Dying
Dungen - 4
Eagle Nebula - Cosmic Headphones
Experimental Dental School - Jane Doe Loves Me
Fujiya & Miyagi - Lightbulbs
Jucifer - L'Autrichienne
Gong Linna - Chinese Folksongs
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Maus Haus - Lark Marvels
Meshuggah - ObZen
the Microscopic Septet - Lobster Leaps In
Murs - Murs For President
Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle Part 2
Hossam Ramzy - Sabla Tolo III
Saviours - Into Abaddon
Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Squarepusher - Just A Souvenir
Jessica Williams - Songs For A New Century
Withered - Folie Circulaire


the Bad Hand - In This Line Wish You Happiness,
Starting Teeth - I Continue In The Nude
Talk Normal - Secret Cog

Haven't Heard, But Wanted To:

I didn't have the time or the money to check out these albums, unfortunately.

5ive - Hesperus
Autechre - Quaristice
Capricorns - River, Bear Your Bones

Clark - Turning Dragon
Coffins - Buried Death
Grails - Doomsdayer's Holiday
Harvey Milk - Life... The Best Game In Town
Hennes Siste Høst - Host
Kasai Allstars - 17 In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into A Swimming Fish And Ate The Head Of His Enemy By Magic
Krallice - Krallice
Mamiffer - Hirror Enniffer
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
the Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
Ocrilim - ANNWN
She & Him - Volume 1
Stereolab - Chemical Chords
Syclops - I've Got My Eyes On You

There's probably some others

Worst/Biggest Disappointments:

In no order...

1. Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skill

What is this? Earth? WHAT? This isn't drone or metal at all. My expectations were all wrong for this album and frankly, it just isn't very interesting music at all. What happened, Earth?

2. Made Out Of Babies - The Ruiner

I can't stand Julie Christmas. She's awful. Her singing is just garbage, it doesn't have any feeling. It's like she's just trying to be weird for no real reason.

3. Disfear - Live The Storm

Wow, why is this crap even getting any praise? It's been done and better. There's nothing new or particularly invigorating here. Tomas Lindberg doesn't make an album suddenly good. All the songs sound the same to the point that listening to this album is tedious.

4. Gojira - The Way Of All Flesh

I really wanted to like this album, but I can't connect with it or even just enjoy the sounds. It's like a big mess of polished, overproduced, pristine nothingness. The lack of humanity makes it hard to care about. They band has some serious chops, sure, but where's the heart?

5. the Kills - Midnight Boom

This is crap. Some songs are OK, but what happened to the blues? Why is this band suddenly a crappy, boring indie-pop group? I know, I know, bands change, blah, blah, but this was a horrible change. This band used to actually be interesting and have some substence.

No best songs list, it would take waaaaaaay to much time to compile, even if I only did singles. I guess my playlists in the past would sort of be like best song lists. So look at them.

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