Luke's Best of 2008

I realize that we're nearly to the third quarter of 2009 already, but I hope that you will forgive me the ridiculousness of posting my favorite albums from 2008 and just go with the entire process.

Jameson is on to something with these quick, youtube heavy posts, so in that vein I present you with my 'best of' 2008, as well as a solemn promise that I will do more posting in the very near future.

And in descending order we go:

10 - This is Ivy League - S/T

Over the last several years I have learned a great deal about my changing musical tastes... among the most important of these lessons that I am a sucker for straightforward rock. Perhaps it's a soft spot for no-nonsense music, but to be honest, I think that it's quite possible that the most difficult album to record in these days of diversified and beatles/radiohead-inspired creativity is a simple pop-rock album that is actually good.

This is Ivy League is phenomenal simply because they play instruments and channel the 1960s in a way that makes you smile and want to sip a beer from the end of a row house porch in Liverpool on a hot summer day.

9 - Friendly Fires - S/T

I have to admit that Friendly Fires was a complete unknown to me until June of 2009, so I suppose it's a lucky stroke that I didn't write my best of '08 until now.

Though I am usually somewhat aversed to dance based music, Friendly Fires have just the right amount of rock, dance, and too-cool-for-schoolness to make me get up and shake my surgically repaired knee.

If you don't like the video below I pity you:

8 - Fleet Foxes - S/T

Although I still don't think that they are quite as good as My Morning Jacket were in MMJ's vintage days of corn silo(gh?) recorded alt-country, it's impossible to deny the harmonies and overall loveliness of such a talented band.

On the MMJ front, by the way, Jim James is releasing a solo EP under the name of Yim Yames (that's right) that consists only of covers of George Harrison to include The Ballad of Sir Franky Crisp and Behind that Locked Door among other classics. Can't wait for it, though I wish that The Art of Dying were included somewhere.

7 - Vampire Weekend - S/T

It's Paul Simon's Graceland sung by preppy boys with polo shirts from America's best universities.

Seriously... it is... listen to Graceland.

Hell of an album, though.

6 - The Week that Was - S/T

What is it with self titled albums this year?

You all know I love me some Field Music and the brothers that are the core of the band, Peter and David Brewis, have gone solo and they've both managed to create albums that are not only unique, but ridiculously so.

This is Peter's album, which is phenomenal, but not as good as David's, but which includes a better video, as you will see below (got it!?). Look out for the David Brewis cameo in the video, complete with rapid-type action!

Check them out... I'm tired of asking

5 - Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul

Alright... it's a bit of a homer pick, but go read my previous review (drunken though it was) and you will see that it's worth checking out.

Seriously... Oasis is still really damned good.

4 - School of Language - S/T

Here's the other half of Field Music. David's album is better, but his video is not.

Centered around multiple versions of the same song, the School of Language album is, quite honestly, ridiculously fantastic. He takes the Field Music aesthetic of disjointed beats and sounds and marries them once again to devilishly catchy melodies.

3 - The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Just the right combination of shoegaze and pop-rock to tickle my fancy.

Think Ride mixed with Spoon and what you get is an amazing album with among the most catchy melodies of the year.

2 - Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

This is not a pick based on my, or my wife's, own personal love for the band or on previous albums.

The Seldom Seen Kid is, to be perfectly honest, a masterpiece. Every note is specifically chosen and placed in its appropriate place with incredible care.

It's an album that doesn't sink in right away, but which takes time.

Have a listen to the opening song, "Starlings", which, I know, seems awkward at first but which is among the most controlled uses of sound and vocal ability I have ever been exposed to.

It's essentially a song that maps out the highs and lows of the feeling of falling in love in both sound and lyrics. Guy Garvey's voice is the best on Earth and, let's be honest, you have to have recorded a pretty fucking good album to win the Mercury Music Prize and have the BBC Concert Orchestra devote an entire night to playing your album.

Additionally, the below video features the greatest lyric ever written:

"You are the only thing in any room you're ever in"

1 - Maupa - Run Run Sleep

How do you beat an album that I would consider nearly perfect?

Know me!

Well, it helps, but Maupa are my album of the year not because I happen to correspond with them, but because they have crafted a gem.

It's an album that will continually catch you by surprise and which runs the gamut. It's one fucking hell of an album.

There's a reason that NME gave them a review including the phrase "one step away from genius", though I'd argue that NME is missing something and that the album is, truly, genius.

As they would say in Accrington (or so I'd like to believe)

"'Ave a listen, mate"



Jameson said...

Luke - I am happy to see a little convergence in our lists this year, but I also think its great that we don't have the exact same lists. Allows us to still pick up stuff from one another.

That being said, I have been doing some listening to a number of the items on your list, and the early results are in...

Elbow: As you note, it is apparent that this album is meticulously put together. In my mind, a little less natural, and a little more calculated. Now this is not necessarily a negative. In fact, some bands have built historic careers on being painstakingly calculated in everything they release (see: Radiohead, Talking Heads, the Beach Boys). I think the extra effort pays dividends here, as well. I am currently quite fond of "Grounds for Divorce" - which is actually quite ruckus compared to much of the rest of the album. Garvey's voice is great too...but am I wrong to think he sounds like a mix between Peter Gabriel and Damon Albarn? Once again, that's not a criticism. Overall, seems like a night time album to me.

Helio Sequence: I have been enjoying this album a fair amount, as well. Pretty straight-forward indie (pop) rock stuff here (which is what we've come to expect from Sub-Pop). It is really interesting to me how much this one moves about. Sonically speaking, some of this is folk (in the vein of Dylan or Springsteen - see: "Broken Afternoon"), some of this is almost arena rock (U2 wishes they could still write songs like "Hallelujah"), and some of it is much more "indie" ("Can't Say No" and the title track sound like Rogue Wave songs to me). Luckily, I am cool with all of that. This is really great stuff.

Field Music: Now, I still have not checked out the side projects listed on your 2008 list, but I have checked out the second Field Music album (Tones of Town). If you had told me that these guys basically sound like the Kinks on steroids with CSN vocals, I would have jumped on board a long time ago. The production on this record is really quite impressive, as well. It is clear that these guys are pretty heavily influenced by the Beatles, as well. Which probably explains your undying love for them (and everything else they do). I also think some of this reminds me of the Shins.

I am still going through this stuff, as well as some of the other items on your list, but I am glad to have checked some of this out. I think for some reason, I always think any band you like is going to sound really spacey/ambient, but that really is not what I have gotten from these albums (albeit, most of your list is pretty focused on the other side of the pond). Overall, good stuff.

Luke said...

Guy Garvey does sound like Peter Gabriel... spot on there!

Very glad to hear you're enjoying what I've given you thus far. I look forward to many more music swaps in the future and I'll give you my results after a few more listens to your cd, though I've heard much of it at your house already and most of it is excellent (gotta love the japandroids).