Yes, it’s that time of year again folks, where we start looking to the year ahead, full of wonder about what lies in store. Unless you know already. But before we look ahead, a cursory glance over our shoulder is required, if only just to make some sort of sense of what’s actually happened in the past year – it’s a bit of a haze to be honest. 2008’s seen some monumtal records released, whichever side your bread’s buttered on, from the modern classic that is TVOTR’s Dear Science, to Fucked Up’s crossover hit The Chemistry of Common Life, as well as some captivating debuts from the likes of MGMT, Glasvegas, Fuck Buttons, and lots more. Some of us humble scribes at Beat Happening compiled a short list of our five favourites of the year….
House Made Of Glass
Death By Panda
Most bands struggle to release stuff every few years of any quality. Death By Panda have released three albums this year, all for free, and consistently deliver something that sounds like Explosions In The Sky meeting broken Brian Eno electronics.
Notes From Life On The Wire With A Wrecking Ball
(Faith and Industry)
I don’t know why more people haven’t heard this album. It’s ridiculously accessible and doesn’t contain tracks that are 200BPM fast and sample squirrels. The masses are missing out.
Mars People Meets The Trinitron
Trinitron Meets The Mars People
Randomly sent to me via Myspace to review for another website, this record is completely bonkers but in a tripped out psychedelic guitar instrumental way. Getting praise where they hail from, LA, world domination must be happening for their soon.
Put Your Slippers On
Tim and Sam’s Tim and Sam Band With Tim and Sam
(Full Of Joy Records)
For anyone who likes Tunng, you’ll adore this release from a band who should easily pick up more fans in 2009. A good record to put on when you’re feeling hung over from the night before.
Filling Up The City Skies
I literally got introduced to this album a few days ago and I can’t stop listening to it. Using all sorts of styles from hip-hop, dubstep and house there will be something for everyone. A free download of their latest album is available.
A huge sidestep from how we previously knew and loved Goldfrapp, this was a perfect fresh start to 2008. And where it was different, it was stand-alone fabness on its own merits.
Only by the Night
Kings of Leon
A true coming of age for the hairy mumblers, the Kings waved this record awesomely in our faces at Glastonbury. The ultimate in autumn releases, my sex was massively on fire.
I’m way past puberty but Andrew Van Wyngarden still had me gazing at the album’s record sleeve for way longer than is acceptable for a bird in her mid-twenties. Easily the soundtrack to 08 and not far off being that of the decade: ZING!
Attack and Release
The Black Keys
I’m a perve when it comes to unbridled seventies throw backs of a musical nature. Proggy, fuzzy, psych and sexual, Attack and Release was my very own tarantula on wax.
Gruff Rhys and Boombip’s one-off (or is it..?) was bizarre and a little bit daft, but mildly epic by way of compulsion. With Har Mar and Yo Majesty! bunging in their tuppence worth of cavorts, Stainless Style is a modestly seminal piece-a moosik heestory.
In Ear Park
Department of Eagles
Everything that the members of Grizzly Bear have done since 2006’s Yellow House makes them seem increasing like a genuine super group, but this tops it all: stark song-writing, immaculate production and soulful vocals. Timeless.
For Emma, Forever Ago
Along with Fleet Foxes, this is easily the breakthrough album of the year. Although everyone knows the story behind it by now, the end result of Justin Vernon’s solitary sojourn in the Wisconsin woods is set to endure for a long time.
Microcastle/ Weird Era Cont
A well-produced, wonderfully cohesive synthesis of rock’s most adventurous and comforting moments
Self-Titled/Sun Giant EP
Possibly the most talked about band in 2008, Fleet Foxes stand out as the year’s biggest success story. Reverb-soaked vocals and shimmering baroque arrangements provide an uplifting release of endorphins every time.
Warm harmonies and a singular song-writing motif sustain Swimming‘s cosy atmosphere – perfect for some winter time listening.
David Hellqvist (www.davidhellqvist.bogspot.com)
This is immaculate punk funk from one of Britain’s most promising bands. Clever Oxford lyrics, bouncing rhythm beats, screeching guitar melodies and the guts to leave two massive tracks – ‘Hummer’ and ‘Mathletics’ – off their debut album must be applauded. Bring it on, boys!
They might number 49 in NME’s top 50 Albums of the Year list, but just because Rosie, 14, from Swindon (or whoever reads the NME), doesn’t ‘understand’ Intimacy doesn’t make it shit. No, this is a great comeback from one of Britain’s bestest and cleverest bands. Just listen to Russell’s furious guitar on ‘One Month Off’.
This is – together with Foals’ Antidote – the debut album of the year. For many reasons: the Scottish accent, the black clothes, the painstakingly honest lyrics and the beautifully put together wall of sound. Just a shame James Allen had to be such a cock on Never Mind the Buzzcocks…
For Emma, Forever Ago
Media hype? Sure, but he deserved every bit of it. Makes me want to break up with my girlfriend, move out to a cabin in the forest outside Birmingham, drink shitloads of whiskey and write nine sentimentally perfect tracks. But it’s not gonna happen – it’s too cold and I’ve just bought a box set of The Wire’. Let’s just listen to the record once more, shall we?
TV On The Radio
Dave Sitek has been dipping his producer fingers into many a great record this year – including Foals – and he managed quite well with his own bunch as well. Golden Age, Family Tree and Dancing Shoes are not only eclectic, eccentric and electric, but also just plain bloody fantastic. Good enough reason, eh?
Amazing to think this is the work of just one man. Intelligent, original but mostly just unadulterated fun.
Only properly ingested this EP-plus latterly, but now I’m hooked hard with a pure and almost dumb devotion to this Strokes meets Stooges rock ‘n roll. They’ve since re-branded themselves The Soft Pack. More’s the pity.
TV On The Radio
The kind of album David Bowie wishes he could still make. Or Prince, for that matter. If only I could dance, I would to this – often.
Alas, I Cannot Swim
Entirely penetrative – it bored its way deep inside my consciousness. Not particularly original, of course, but lyrically it is staggeringly mature.
For Emma, Forever Ago
Magical and impossible to completely get to grips with. There is nothing about this record that I don’t adore, from the cover onwards.
Waited Up Until It Was Late
A gloriously angular collection of the guitar led maelstrom those endless demos and singles promised. Beautiful, free and devilishly ramshackle.
Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
With the success of Grinderman the Bad Seeds were somewhat overshadowed last year, but with this transcendent collection proved they are still Caves spiritual home and most vital inspiration.
Shield Your Eyes
Shield Your Eyes
(Run For Your Life)
Like a Greek riot Shield your eyes run amok across your cochlea with a debut album of caustic sonic terrorism that heralds the dawn of something special.
Buraka Som Sistema
The MIA approved sound of the streets from Africa via Lisbon. An album that simply makes you want to move.
Sunday at Dirt Devil
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
(V2 Co-Operative Group)
This is the sound of your dreams fucking as the sun comes up on a night of green chartreuse abuse. Two of the best voices in music.