Looking back over my records at the end of the year as usual, I was pleased to see that I had bought/been exposed to loads of new stuff this year, which makes a top ten worth bothering with. I also noticed that there was loads of stuff from this year that I keep meaning to buy but haven’t got round to, like Fennesz, Bon Iver, Stereolab, TV on the Radio etc., so this list might have looked a lot different if I’d managed to get hold of everything I meant to listen to.
Any other highlights of 2008 you could recommend for me to check out?
1. Portishead – Third
This was going to be number one in my list from the first moment I heard it. It’s magnificent, groundbreaking music with everything from krautrock and Silver Apples to scratched old soul records and swish futuristic techno. It made me think differently about music to some extent, and I can’t praise it any more highly than that.
2. Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull
This is just wonderful – big, long droning monoliths with every single note deliberate and crystal clear. It’s doomy and sludgy, but manages to combine that with beauty and a real light touch.
3. Avrocar – Against The Dying Of The Light
Affable ambient Brummies who quietly go about creating some of the most gorgeous electronic music in the world, while virtually no one notices. This is superb stuff, and, even better, accompanied by a lovely hand-written letter from the band when I bought the album. You just don’t get that from Brian Eno.
4. Zombie Zombie – A Land For Renegades
I first heard of this band when I was offered a show by them on their UK tour last year, but we didn’t have space to put them on. But the press material got me salivating. So here’s a band with ‘zombie’ in the name TWICE, who are synth-driven krautrock lovers from the same musical school as Holy Fuck? Yes please! Daft Punk meets Neu!
5. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
Allow me to join the massed ranks of critics gathered to worship at the feet of Glasvegas. I fell in love with ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart’ as soon as I heard the demo version. They were terrific on the three occasions I saw them live this year (including a show at the little Jericho Tavern that I’m sure will drift into Oxford music folklore in a couple of years). And the album is so good that it doesn’t collapse beneath the weight of hype dumped on top of it before it was released. Anyone know if the Christmas record is any good? All the record shops here have run out of copies…
6. Fujiya & Miyagi – Lightbulbs
Absolutely more of the same from Fujiya & Miyagi. I’d have no trouble believing these songs were done at the sametime as Transparent Things – they’re so similar to the first record. Thankfully the first record was terrific and this is also great. Not for me to worry about where they head next, and ‘Knickerbocker’ is my favourite sing-along-in-the-shower pop song of the year.
7. The Bug – London Zoo
An album I bought purely on the strength of critical praise and the fact that your man there had something to do with Techno Animal/Godflesh, apparently. And it’s a real treat, going from pretty brutal breakbeats and seriously heavy bass to lighter, ragga-inflected stuff, frequently within the same track. This is far and away the most, umm, ‘zeitgeist’ record on the list, for want of a better term.
8. American Music Club – The Golden Age
Not a patch on Love Songs For Patriots as far as I’m concerned – it really seems to lack some of that heartfelt despondency and rawness. But what it lacks in that area it makes up for in being really rather pretty and charming, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Decibels and the Little Pills’ and ‘Windows on the World’ are up there with any of their vintage material. Shame there’s a fair bit of filler on there too, though.
9. Kid606 – Die Soundboy Die
Technically only an EP, but in here because it is EXCELLENT. I’ve already reviewed this and you can see what I thought of it over here. Bags of fun, basically, and his live set at Audioscope was bang on form.
Kid606 live at Audioscope from thespiderhill on Vimeo.
10. Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element – More Than 20 per cent
Yeah, I know. I’m in the band. But if you can’t put your own record into your own top ten records that affected your life this year, then something’s up. And there’s some good stuff here – the live tracks sound good and clangy, and there are some great remixes. My favourites are by Karhide, Space Heroes of the People and Kosmische. BONUS TREAT for blog readers – get your hands on some free Sunnyvale MP3s over here.