Monday, December 29, 2008

First, music of the year....

...I will get on to books of the year in a day or two, I hope, but music's a little easier. I've listened to so much this year, and I do feel its been a bit of a good one, with a wide range of new talent, mostly American, coming into the open. My singles/tracks of the year are mirrored in my favourite albums, but would probably finish off as 1. Time to Pretend - MGMT 2. Love Lockdown - Kanye West and 3. Paper Planes - M.I.A. 4. Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip 5. Piece of Me - Britney Spears

Albums of the year then... (to be rearranged no doubt!)
1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes; like Midlake a couple of years ago, it almost defines what Americana is, an instant classic, based on the past, but also very now. Beautiful songs, beautifully sung and arranged. For me, its the combination of the album and their "Sun Giant" EP rather than the album on its own, as I downloaded both from Emusic to make a debut album +.
2. Third - Portishead; reviews and the album passed me by, but a couple of recommendations from friends made me pick it up. I was never a big fan, too ubiquitous, too sedate; but this new album reinvents their sound marvellously, taking in all sorts of new-retro devices yet remaining their mystique and magic.
3. What Does it all mean? - Steinski; a long overdue compilation of the original mashup expert - utterly wonderful, and remarkably contemporary.
4. Stay Positive - the Hold Steady; remarkably their 3rd great album in a row, and with songs as good as on their previous two, but with a fuller, more rock sound. In a year when landfill indie and tired old metallers were the best that rock music could give us, the Hold Steady went from being the best band that should have been around in 1978 to the best rock band of the day.
5. Supreme Balloon - Matmos; synthy Californian experimentalists surpassed themselves on this album, all recorded on golden age synths, the elongated title track in particular is a masterpiece
6. Seventh Tree - Goldfrapp; a real grower, and yet again Goldfrapp seemed to understand the zeitgeist better than anyone; perhaps all the songs weren't as good as on previous outings, but the overall feel, subdued and pastoral was a wonderufl listen and singles "A&E" and "Happiness" were standouts.
7. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT; best single of the year in the ubiquitous "Time to Pretend" but the album almost lived up to it. Like much of the best music from Bowie to Prince it thrived in its inauthenticity - you felt that they were having fun, but there's none of the cynicism of the Killers.
8. Beat Box - Glass Candy; best of a new wave of electronic acts - a short poppy album full of unexpected gems including a great version of Kraftwerk's "Computer Love"
9. Feed the Animals - Girltalk; not an awful lot different or better than their earlier "Night Ripper" but the year's ultimate party album. A stars on 45 for the iPod generation and probably the last word in sampling.
10. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver; more Americana, and a universally acclaimed record; but it deserves it; a thing of unexpected beauty and poignancy
11. Arena - Todd Rundgren; a surprising mix of all that's good about Rundgren - great guitars, wonderful tunes, and fascinating arrangements. Live, the subtlety was lost a little, but otherwise, a real surprise in a year when the big names and old favourites weren't that much around.
12. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles; an exciting adventurous all-over-the-place debut that didn't always reach the heights of their astonishing singles and live performances but was always interesting.
13. In Ghost Colours - Cut Copy; more electronica, but this time with an unmistakable pop edge to it - a bright shiny, pop album that just nicks a place ahead of Ladyhawke and Nick Cave as antipodean album of the year.
14. Dig Lazarus Dig - Nick Cave; not a bad track on it, not a bad album - yet so familiar are we with Nick that if it doesn't reach the heights of say, Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus it almost seems like an also ran of an album.
15. Pacific Ocean Blue - Dennis Wilson; reissue of the year and a top 20 hit as a result; a wonderful late seventies piece of Beach Boys magic
16. Made in the Dark - Hot Chip; more electronic-pop, but with lead track "Ready for the floor" one of the year's finest, and surely showing them to be fans of OMD, the album, a mixed bag, remains highly listenable.
17. Imperial Wax Solvent - the Fall; not their best even after a recent run of form, but with enough high points to remain highly relevant.
18. Fourth - Verve; surprisingly excellent return album that ditches the more introspective moments from their past and goes straight for the jugular with powerful guitar
19. One of the Boys - Kate Perry; unashamed pop record guilty pleasure of the year was her "I kissed a girl" but the anthem heavy album has its gems as well.
20= Jukebox - Cat Power; not as great a record as "The Greatest" but her total reworking of diverse songs such as "New York, New York", let alone her self-written Dylan tribute make this a good, if not stunning album.
20= We Started Nothing - The Ting Tings; (I knew I'd forget one...)... pop as anything but it should have been infuriating, and was actually great fun for longer than it should have been. I hear "Great DJ" is on the soundtrack of the new Danny Boyle as well...

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