Monday, 15 December 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2008 15-1

Part two of the biggest countdown this side of 2009. Oh yes.

15: Flight Of The Conchords - S/T

First off, the Flight Of The Conchords TV programme is absolutely amazing, and I implore you to watch it if you haven't already. Bret and Jemaine are two musicians from New Zealand who have their own special brand of comedy-folk. That said, this album is an absolutely fantastic collection of songs from the award-winning first series of the TV programme, and no track is quite like the last. Whether they are being influenced by the Pet Shop Boys ("Inner City Pressure"), Gangsta Rap ("Mutha'uckers"), or David Bowie (er.."Bowie"), Flight Of The Conchords always manage to bring a smile to your face. Definitely the comedy music album of 2008. Here's to the second series of the show, and (surely) the second album in 2009.

14:Hot Club De Paris - Live At Dead Lake

Despite the slightly misleading title, Live At Dead Lake is the second proper album from Liverpool alt-pop band Hot Club De Paris, and how it hasn't escalated them to levels of Wombat-esque stardom is absolutely mental. Lead single "Hey Housebrick" is a big highlight here, being one of the indie singles of the year. Elsewhere, the quality remains high, with the ever-so-slightly dark "My Little Haunting", and the ultra-catchy "This Thing Is Forever". "Boy Awaits Return of the Runaway Girl" is also worth mentioning, with it's perfectly mellow chorus. Hot Club De Paris are a band who definitely deserve your attention right now. Check out the "You've Been Framed" style video for Hey Housebrick below.

13:Pockets Filled With Matches - Strobe Lights and Ambulances EP

First off; EP's count in my top 25. Just in case a fuzz was kicked up. This debut EP from Sheffield's Pocket's Filled With Matches is a brilliant 7 track showcase of beautifully fuzzy female-led post-punk rock, with splashings of Pretty Girl Make Graves and Help She Can't Swim all over. Stand out tracks include the exhilarating "The Monophonic", and the frantic "So Sorry, Simone", and between the clever guitar lines and the energetic vocals of siblings Paul and Elie respectively, you'll barely have time to catch your breath. With several singles being lined up to follow up this EP in the new year, bigger things are surely on the way for Pockets. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this EP is entirely free? Download it from here (rapidshare link)

12:Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing

This is one of the most blissed out indie-rock albums to come out of America this year, and it's not hard to see why, with opening number "Glue Girls" inducing the type of surf-rock feeling that the Beach Boys were once king of. The whole album just gives off the aurora of one of those perfect sunny days you see on adverts where everyone is just chilling out at the park eating ice-creams, so as you can imagine, listening to this album in the depths of winter is an extreme headfuck, but a worthwhile one at that, as it warms you up inside quite awesomely. I also challenge you to get album highlight "Modern Mystery" out of your head after a few listens. Perfec'

11:Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Speaking of blissed out indie rock, we come to number 11, and Narrow Stairs by Death Cab For Cutie. This album took all the good parts from previous album Plans, and combined them with the atmosphere of album-before-that Transatlanticism, and it is absolutely fantastic. Obvious album highlight is the 8 minutes-plus "I Will Possess Your Heart", a song about longing made perfect by a 4 minute intrumental buildup at the start of the song. Single of the year? Very possibly. After this, the album turns into a mix of american indie rock anthems ("No Sunlight", "Long Division") and slower, more atmospheric numbers, which are what we've come to know, are Death Cab's strong point. And they don't disappoint, with "Talking Bird" and album closer "The Ice is Getting Thinner" being so full of longing, that you can feel it in every drum hit, every guitar line, and every syllable of every word. Overall, this is one of those albums where each track has it's own special reason for being, but when brought together, they become something special indeed.

10:Lykke Li - Youth Novels

About a day after reading Lykke Li's name for the first time, I entered a competition to see her live in Manchester for free. I won said competition, and then saw her for the first of two times in the same month on that night, and both times I was absolutely in awe the whole time. Lykke Li's stage presence is so unique, so demanding, that it's hard not to get trapped in the almost tribal performances of the synth pop tracks that dominate Youth Novels. That said, Lykke Li's music sounds a lot more organic than the synth pop tag gives her credit for, and tracks like "Dance Dance Dance", "Breaking It Up" and "Little Bit" can't help but make you want to groove along with them. Online bonus track "Tonight" proves to be a fantasticly longing closer to the album, and demonstrates an exposed fragile innocense that the rest of the album manages to hide behind tribal drums and acoustic guitars.

9:Laura Marling - Alas, I Cannot Swim

Laura Marling must surely be on track to becoming a national treasure. On the the release of this, her debut, mercury nominated, album, she has had only just turned 18, and the songwriting on display within this album does not suggest such a youth. From the start of "Ghosts", to the end of the hidden track, this album swells with a timeless romantic yearning, sometimes so close to the edge of despair that it can literally pull your heartstrings and start sawing at them with a small, delicate blade. 2nd Single "Cross Your Fingers" puts an upbeat alt-folk backing track to otherwise downbeat lyrics ("Cross your fingers/Hold your toes/We're all gonna die when the building blows"), and it has a habit of being one of those songs you start singing at random times without really realising it. Warning;This could be a potentially awkward situation. 

8:Anathallo - Canopy Glow

Whenever I try to describe Anathallo to people, I always tend to go for the description of "Like the Arcade Fire, but a lot more uplifting", and this seems to be a good starting point. Anathallo is a 7-piece band from Chicago, and they play some of the most delicate, uplifting music you are likely to hear. Seeing them live is an utter delight, and I was honoured to support them down in London recently. Canopy Glow builds a lot of the grandiose foundations laid by previous album Floating World, and is absolutely full of alt-pop moments, from the "When you wake up" vocal lines on "Italo", the killer chorus of "The River" and pretty much everything about "John J. Audubon", from the handbell intro, to the enchanting "Ooh's" and "Doo's" and background vocals. In all seriousness though, it's live where these guys truly astound, when they are next playing near you, I recommend you see them. You can download "The River" here. (right click save target as)

7:Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

From the strange machine like drum beats that lead into album opener "Centennial", Tokyo Police Club grab you and don't let go, taking on a tour of their short snappy indie rock, like The Strokes hyperactive younger brothers. Almost every track on this album clocks in at under 3 minutes, and because of this, it is absolutely impossible to get fed up of it. The more mellow "Juno" appears at track 4  with its glacial lyrics and glockenspiel to slow proceeding down again, but as soon as the last glockenspiel note rings out, we're straight back into the urgent post-punk indie rock with the fantastic single "Tesselate". This album also wins an award for the strangest chorus to get into my head on a regular basis, and this is "Elephant shell/You're my cave and I've been hiding out" from "In A Cave". I can't fault this album. Even though it's only about 25 minutes long, it all fits perfectly.

6:Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

To say that Los Campesinos are prolific is nothing. This was their second full-length release of 2008, and if anything is improves on their debut wholeheartedly. This record is a feast of amazing lyrics, and the twee instrumentation highlights Gareth Campesinos amazing vocal work. The title track's lyrics in particular are amazing, if only for the brilliant little run where Gareth reminisces about "the one in Canada/when you got drunk/ate loads of crisps/and threw up by a football pitch". Elsewhere, teenage heartbreak, revenge and hundreds of awesome little references are to be found on an album that manages to switch between naive optimism and sharp realism at the drop of a violin bow. Almost perfect indie pop. You haven't seen the end of team campesinos in this countdown though...

5:The Maple State - Say Scientist EP

The second EP to make this top 25, and rightfully so. This EP is a collection of six songs by The Maple State that are absolutely perfect. Opener "We Swear By The Light Life" is a great little pop song, with driving bass sneaking underneath the glossy guitar lines, and passionate vocals, that are found all the way through this EP. Things turn dark on "Don't Take Holidays", which is the most straightforward rocker on here. However, the best is saved for the second half, leading off with the anthem-in-the-making of "For Our Temperature Lives". I dare you to find another song that utilises the line "Now i'm not so fucking chipper". I dare you. The syrupy sweet synth lines in this track are absolutely perfect, and manage to dig inside you and just take up residence. Personal highlight for me is "Starts With Dean Moriarty", a song which seems to fit my whole year of being an overly poor student perfectly, with it's chorus of "This is a bad sign/I'm believing my own lies/The money is gone/Now there's no-one left to bail me out". With the members of The Maple State still being at university themselves, i'm guessing that they were in the same boat as myself. Nice. Roll on 2009, and hopefully their debut album.

4: Los Campesinos - Hold On Now, Youngster

The debut album from Los Campesinos (their first of two this year;see no.6 on this list) was pretty eagerly anticipated by myself. Ever since hearing "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" on a Drownedinsound podcast (which is a song that has been cruelly left off this album, uncondonable), I got officially hooked on Los Campesinos. Hearing the opening track "Death To Los Campesinos" for the first time before the album came out was the icing on the cake; It's possible the track that encapsulates what LC are all about - good clean fun indie pop-rock, with subtle dark undertones. Early single "You!Me!Dancing!" acts as a centrepoint for the album, with an extended post-rock noise intro bursting into dancey twinkly indie pop town. Good times all round. "We Are All Accelerated Readers" deserves extra special mention as being one of those "gets in your head" songs, and the exhilarating ending of "One blink for yes, two blinks for no" makes "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" one of the uplifting highlights of the album. I just realised that I almost forgot to write about "My Year In Lists". This is probably THE track of the album, and the video to it can be seen below, and I HIGHLY recommend it!

Even though this album is rated two space higher than "We Are Beautiful..." I think I rate both albums about the same; This one just edged ahead due to the fact I've been listening to it all year, whereas i've only had "We Are Beautiful.." for just over a month. So there that is.

3: Gregory And The Hawk - Moenie And Kitchi

I've only had this album for just over a month, and it's completely sucked me into it's delicate off-kilter world. This record is one part acoustic guitar, one part off kilter drums and percussion, and multiple parts of sweet, beautiful vocals, courtesy of singer Meredith Godreau. I can say with complete 100% honesty that I think "Oats We Sow", "Doubtful" and "Ghost" are absolutely perfect songs, and the rest aren't far behind. Also worth checking out, although not strictly album related, is her acoustic cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable", with is absolutely stunning. You can listen "Oats We Sow" here, and I really recommend you doing so;

2: The All New Adventures Of Us - Best Loved Goodnight Tales

This album is so close to being my favourite of the year. For one, single "Firetruck Doki Doki" has been one of my most played tracks since TANAOU put it on their myspace page for the first time. Next, when the actual album was first released earlier this year, it was released on vinyl only, which made me madly excited, being a huge fan of albums of vinyl to say the least. Next up was when it arrived, because it wasn't just a vinyl record; there was a (photocopied) handwritten lyric booklet, a badge, a 7" record adapter in the shape of the TANAOU logo, a sticker, and even a CD-R with the album tracks on, as well as a tonne of random sideproject songs and demos. Can I say awesome? 

Onto the actual content of the album, and every single second is filled with beauty. Singles "45 Forever", "Firetruck Doki Doki" and "St Crispins Got Our Back's" shine out brightly, and they are surrounded by beautiful tracks such as "Loftets Grand", which is an amazing 8 minute centrepiece that somehow manages to place you into a snow covered carpark outside a service station in another country. The lyrics are picturesque and subtle, and are delivered with one of the most sincere and emotional voices in musical history. This album is your new best friend on cold quiet nights, I promise.

1:Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light

Firstly; Salt Peppa and Spinderella, otherwise known as song of the year. Birmingham's own Johnny Foreigner score the number one slot on my top 25 albums of this year, making a perfect messy indie rock album. This band are absolutely exhilerating live, and this album is the perfect collection of songs that showcase how amazing they are. In particular, "Salt Peppa and Spinderella" features the most satisfying build up and finale in any song this year, fact. Elsewhere, single "Our Bipolar Friends" and "Eyes Wide Terrified" speak for themselves, whereas tracks such as "Lea Room", "The End and Everything After", and "Yes, You Talk To Fast" are all waving their arms in the air trying to get your attention, with both Alexei and Kellys vocals on great display all over. Some quiet respite is offered with a slower acoustic track "DJ's Get Doubts", but as soon as you hit "Absolute Balance" and "The Hidden Song At The End Of The Record", you are hit with the most beautiful cacophony of noise. Which sums this album up quite succinctly really.   

So, that's it for this year! Coming up soon, my tips for 2009, and a few other more brief lists. 
Like top 10 tracks of the year perhaps.

What are your favourite albums of this year?

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