Best of 2008

I’m reprinting this from my lastFM account as it seems relevant to this blog. Not all the albums on this list are electronic but not all the best albums of the year are electronic (though I think most were). (and that said, only R.E.M. and The Breeders can be absolutely said to be wholly organic, The Kills and Maple Bee, some case could be made for a hybrid.)

While 2008 left a lot to be desired on the part of mainstream music (Kanye West, Keane, Pink and even Britney had some interesting stuff out these year but these were exceptions), alternative music had another bang-up year. I’m an album guy so I tend to focus on the “best” albums (knowing full well how stupidly subjective something like this is; look at someone’s playlist and you’ll be able to guess their best of list, which would be markedly different than anyone else’s), but there were some singles (and a few album tracks) that stood out in a big way like Weezer’s awesome “Pork and Beans”, Tricky’s fantastic take on the Kylie Monogue track “Slow”, Ra Ra Riot’s “Ghost Under Rocks” (an album that, along with Humanizer by Thermostatic, would be in my “top 12”), Lily Allen’s great new track “The Fear” and “The Best Revenge” by Fischerspooner, among many more.

But this is about the albums. First I want to say there were some highly anticipated but terribly disappointing albums by Mobius Band, Goldfrapp, Shiny Toy Guns and She Wants Revenge this year. It seems that the more I looked forward to a followup from one of my favourites, the more let down I was (with notable exceptions see: 2,3,5,6). Goldfrapp in particular was heart-rending. Goldfrapp are very possibly my second favourite band and their last album, Supernature is among my very favourite albums of all time. Their new one, Seventh Tree, is dull, and tries awkwardly to blend in conventional instruments into their traditionally electronic landscape and it just doesn’t work. Four years I waited for this?? But then there were the great:

1. The Kills: Midnight Boom – No album released this year was as exciting and raw as this one. A singer, a guitarist and a drum machine and they manage to pack more sound and emotion into these tracks than they have any right to. Stand out tracks are the ballads Goodnight Bad Morning and Black Balloon, but really they all work on some level.

2. Ladytron: Velocifero – The exception to the followup rule cited above, this album is near-perfect. I worried that they would decide to build on their sonic experimentation of their last brilliant album Witching Hour, and start becoming a more traditional drums/bass/guitar band (see: Goldfrapp) but instead they veered left, kept things fresh and interesting and produced some of the best songwriting of the year. Standouts include Runaway, Season of Illusion and Predict the Day.

3. The Faint: Fasciination – I can take or leave the Faint, to be honest. I really like a lot of their material but I don’t find myself seeking them out a lot. Until this year. This is a ridiculously original, clever album full of spooky picked guitars and strange electronics and some of the best lyrics of the year. Standouts include I Treat You Wrong and the neat, nostalgic Fulcrum and Lever.

4. Diffuzion: Bodycode – This was a surprise. I had heard one forgettable track by Diffuzion and thought little more about them until I got my (virtual) hands on the album. Belarussian darkwave. Who’d’a thunk it? Sinister in places, catchy in others, but Jesus, it works well. Standouts: Our Wings Are Gone and Delicious.

5. Nine Inch Nails: The Slip – ‘ol Trent has really been delivering of late. With Teeth, Year Zero and now this one, all in the last couple of years. Prolific and genius. Plus this was a free download(!) Not much to say except be continues to produce hard edged, angry, but meaningful electro-influenced rock. Standouts: Discipline, Echoplex.

6. The Breeders: Mountain Battles – I was sorely disappointed in their last effort, Title TK, and had few hopes for this but it’s a real return to form. Crunchy guitar rock and some lovely ballads (Kim Deal is under rated as a writer of ballads, her best stuff comes when she slows it down). Standouts: We’re Gonna Rise, Walk it Off.

7. R.E.M.: Accelerate – Not much I can add to this that hasn’t already been said. Solid REM doing their best after a couple of truly lousy albums. Standouts: Hollow Man, Mr. Richards.

8. Ayria: Hearts For Bullets – The lone Canadian on the list she’s nothing if not consistent. Songs constructed in a repetitive, almost trance style that should be dull but work well thanks to very catchy, well-constructed rythms. Not a bridge to be found on this album (and the bridge is usually my favourite part of a song), just driving beats that make you move, no matter how hard you resist. Standouts: Analog Trash, Insect Calm.

9. The Black Ghosts: The Black Ghosts – I struggle to explain what this band is. Sort of organic, sort of electronic, sort of weird, but with mainstream sensibilities, but above all some great tracks, particularly standouts Anyway You Choose to Give it and the awesome Repetition Kills You.

10. Maple Bee: HOME – This is actually Melanie Garside from the Mediaeval Baebes with a new project. While not as good as her first album, Chasing Eva, this is very strong folk mixed with electro and pop influences. Her voice is hypnotic and her song writing as strong and risky as anything else out there. She deserves a wider audience. Standouts: Mirrior and While You Were Sleeping.

There were other great albums but these were the ten that moved me most this year and stuck with me month after month. Pick any of them up and you won’t be disappointed.

Watch : Ladytron, Runaway

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