Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top Ten Albums of 2008

I think it's time for me to look back at 2008 and appreciate some of the best music I've listened to the past 12 months.

I can't admit to have listened to every album (and you can't too), and I can't admit to have listened to all the albums I have carefully. So with that in mind I hope you see this for what it is. It's a top ten of my choice. My opinions. You may not like it, and I have no problem with that.

So here goes.

[10] Hadouken! - Music For An Accelerated Culture
Most of the criticism towards Hadouken! has been centred from their choice of genre rather than the actual music. Many dismissed 'Music...' as a fad album, soon to be replaced by the next nu-rave sensation.

Fad or not, 'Music... is a good album. Never mind it's a white boy rapping over synth-filled electronica. Never mind the brash lyrics and the questionable themes of getting smashed and partying till the late hours. When it's done this good, all that won't matter.

[9] Metallica – Death Magnetic
I remember as a young teenager I quite liked 'St. Anger.' Yes, I did. It got me into Metallica. But then after listening to the beautiful 'Master Of Puppets' and '...And Justice For All' I suddenly realised 'St. Anger' is utter rubbish. It's a decent metal album. But this is Metallica. They don't do decent.

'Death Magnetic' signals Metallica's return to the days of 'Master Of Puppets.' and it's a very welcomed one, to say the least. Back are Kirk Hammett's guitar solos. Gone are the tin can drums. Now this is fucking metal. This is fucking Metallica.

[8]Duffy – Rockferry
Singer-Songwriters are a dime a dozen nowadays. Many are an either-or. They are either a good songwriter but mediocre singer, or vice versa. Duffy is both an amazing songwriter and a brilliant singer.

Her vintage voice is especially beautiful on tracks like 'Mercy' and 'Warwick Avenue.' Her voice is emotional and frank yet tough. For anyone sick of Amy Winehouse's antics yet are in love with her voice, you might want to take a look at Duffy.

[7] Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Fusing African influences with an ear for truly listenable tunes, Vampire Weekend has come out with an album that has an infinite replay value. It's charm comes from it's simplicity.

There's no need to overthink yourself. This is an album you can just sit back and enjoy.

[6] Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
They're called Crystal Castles, and they hail from Toronto. An expression of teenage angst through violent poetry and 8-bit, glitch-filled samples, Crystal Castles is a band that uses their hatred to create music that is both piercing and danceable. Call it electro dance punk if you may. That's the best I could come up with.

Alice Glass and Ethan Kath were both brought up in neighbourhoods with levels of violence and fucked-upness that beggars belief. That explains the distorted, pained voice of Alice in songs like "Alice Practice," coupled with incomprehensible lyrics, makes for a very unique, audio experience. The lyrics are so incomprehensible at times, that you wonder if they made the lyrics on the spot while performing. But the words don't matter. It's the pain in the voice, the angst, the anger in the gameboy samples, and the disturbing notion that it makes you want to dance just a little bit.

[5] MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

How do you explain MGMT? Well, when asked they explained themselves as making pop music that aren't comfortable. Whatever that means, it might just be true. Eclectic is probably the most appropriate description here.

You certainly want to dance to the music, but there is a certain discomfort in that feeling. This is no bad thing though. 'Kids' is the obvious place to start. Then there are 'Time To Pretend' and 'Electric Feel.' Don't stop there. You might find yourself awkwardly dancing in the CD shop.

[4] Girl Talk – Feed The Animals

Admit it. You've listened to those questionable mash-ups. Two songs cut up into bits and pieces and made into one song that's not quite a remix and then when it's time to sort out your iTunes, you're not sure how you should name the song.

If you like that kind of thing then you'll be amazed with Girl Talk. Rather than just mixing up two songs that kind of makes sense, he grabs a scalpel and surgically cuts up hundreds of songs that range from Avril Lavigne to Ice Cube to Aerosmith and and stitch them up with a precision that is staggering, then divides it into 14 tracks so everything makes a little bit more sense. When you can download the whole album for free, what's there to lose?

[3] Slipknot – All Hope Is Gone

Whoever would have thought a nu metal band wearing masks would grow into one of the most exhilarating, successful and intense musicians in the world? Yes, it's fair to say they've escaped the shackles of the nu-metal scene, and how they've flourished. Their fanbase now spreads outside the circle of metalheads, and have been nominated for Grammy awards.

'All Hope Is Gone' is pure Slipknot. It's merciless and unwilling to compromise. The sheer intensity of Corey Taylor's vocals and the dark, unforgiving riffs attack you every step of the way. This is possibly the best metal album of 2008.

[2] Bloc Party – Intimacy

Bloc Party is not known for being complacent. They're certainly not known for churning out the same kind of music again and again. Their debut album 'Silent Alarm' was brilliant. It was raw and powerful, yet intricately beautiful. Then came 'A Weekend In The City,' which has gone the opposite direction. Subtle yet harsh at the same time, the ambience of the whole album was breath-taking.

But then when you compare 'Intimacy' to both these albums, 'Silent Alarm' and 'A Weekend...' might as well have been identical twins. 'Intimacy' veers so far off into the realms of electronica you wonder if this is the same band who wrote 'Helicopter' or 'Hunting For Witches.' Of course there were clues. Don't tell me you've forgotten about 'Flux.'

Again, the songs are centred on Kele Okereke's personal life in London (mostly the East side), with references to Bethnal Green and Soho. Yes, it is Okereke's intimate moment. But it is so intimate to Okereke' we almost feel excluded. But that never becomes a bad thing. This is Bloc Party at their best, again.

[1] Foals – Antidotes

Phenomenal live, Foals is a band that never fails to amaze. As catchy as the flu, their music is jerky guitar heaven. Many have compared them to Bloc Party, but these comparisons are off the point and inaccurate. To start with, Yannis Philippakis (the frontman) is actually quite charismatic. He h as a certain kind of mystique without being too introspective. He's mysterious without being reclusive.

'Antidotes' is a record you can either dance to or jump to. If you try hard enough, you might even be able to mosh to it. The lyrics are surrealist, dream-like affairs, dealing more with the visual summing up of the words rather than the actual semantics. The choruses are infectious without being predictable. The music is relentless in its pursuit to make you stand up and dance. It is anthemic and works wonders live.

Foals' 'Antidotes' is the best debut album of 2008, and it is also my choice for best album of 2008.

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