Music is basically as important to me as running. I just happen to be better at running than music! I can't sing for peanuts, my guitar playing is suspect but my DJing is proficient! Anyway, it doesn't matter, music is joyful and personal. I run with my shuffle almost everyday and I listen to music for hours every night. With that being said I have not listened to many albums this year. I think it was an average year for albums really. But irrespective of the quality of album output throughout a year there is always a few blinders and for me this year was no exception. I looked at a lot of year end lists on the blogosphere and in the many music publications. Fleet Foxes was without doubt the most acclaimed album of the year across major zines and on most blogs. I did not like it, it is not my cup of tea and the songs did not strike a chord in me. Likewise, another top 10 album on almost everyones year end list was TV On The Radio "Dear Science", a good album, but not one of my favs at all. It gets an honorable mention but thats it.
It is very difficult to listen to everything and digest it all, especially albums that need work. Vampire Weekend is a good example of this. I wanted to like this album because I liked what I read and the reccomendations came thick and fast. But I simply couldn't love it. I listened on a few runs and had it playing in the house. Solid tracks but nothing that gets the hair on my neck standing. I did not listen to Deer Hunter, The Walkmen, Of Montreal and many others. I will try to revisit these in 2009 but clearly I spent too much time with the 10 albums on my list below.
10. French Teen Idol - Enlightened False Consciousness (Lost Children)
I went back and forth with the number 10 spot. This album just pipped Air France and simply because I made this my ultimate chill album over the last 6 weeks. I also love the fact that it was free. Not because I'm cheap, rather here is a guy who completely loves music and wants people to hear it so he gives it away. A lovely philosophy in a capitalist world. The album has lush piano, swirling synths, beautiful pads, creative samples, striking crescendos. The ingredients create Post Rock meets Electronic at 3am after a night on the tiles. Fantastic music and very emotional.
9. Bloc Party - Intimacy (Vice)I really enjoyed this album, and I love that they did a bit of a Radiohead on it by releasing it on the web with little introduction. It is the third studio album by Bloc Party and for me it hit the spot. I only listened to it over the last month on a regular basis and 4 or 5 of the tracks make the shuffle playlist daily. The album opens with Chemical Brothers meets Fatboy Slim big beat sound and the lively tempo sets the tone for a fantastic album. Having said this, it is the slightly more mellow tracks that get me fired up because of the depth and honesty in the lyrics. Not that I can call Bloc Party downtempo! Without much fanfare this album is a real treasure, full of beauty and emotion coupled with thrilling instrumentation. Perhaps not better than the previous two albums but certainly as good and consistent. Lovely pop tunage.
Bloc Party - Better Than Heaven (Intimacy)
8. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (Sony)I first heard these guys as "The Management" up in Creed, Colorado. Tom McArdle and Mark Brissette were working on a ranch with Brett Easton Ellis style rich kids who had absolutaly no morals. One of them, a guy who attends Dartmouth College was out of his gorge on something and kept playing a song called "Kids". If Creed was good for one thing it was my introduction to this band. The buzz has worn off a bit but its a great album and many of the tracks helped me on my dark evening runs last Feb and March. Electric Feel, Kids, and Time To Pretend are my favs. Uplifting pop not far from The Flaming Lips leaves you feeling warm all over.
MGMT - Electric Feel (Oracular Spectacular)
7. Parlour Steps - Ambiguoso (Nine Mile Records)Vancouver outfit Parlour Steps are my suprise of the year. I stumbled across these guys searching the blogosphere and they are quite simply spectacular. They have a few albums preceeding this one but I can't trek through their back catalog because this album is still without a weak point and hasn't come close to being played out. Lovely music, great voice and lyrics, and lots of joy to play endlessly.
Parlour Steps - Thieves Of Memory (Ambiguoso)
6. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (Last Gang Records)
A love it or hate it experience is what you will get when you listen to this Toronto Duo. Me, I love it. Its like The Knife meets a Spectrum computer trying to load the latest version of Fifa 88'. Their sound evokes old video arcade noises. I personally love the eight-bit computer sounds and the banshee vocals. Its all very uplifting and beautiful when banging away in my ears. Its eclectroclash and nu rave rolled into one. Piercing noises, drums, synths, and chopped up lyrics. Underneath it all is beautiful melody. The album is bold and very infectious.
Crystal Castles - Vanished (Crystal Castles)
5. Portishead - Third (Island)
When I heard Thom Yorke play a song called The Rip I was delighted to hear it was a Portishead cover. I immediately went and got the album. One of the most satisfying moments of the year 2008 was sitting in Coffee Exchange listening to this album with a large dark coffee. It left me feeling very tense and uneasy while being completely moved. If this was a movie it would be directed by David Lynch. Beth Gibbon's voice is so haunting and full of soul. The music is beautiful and the album a thrill to listen to. Utterly absorbing.
Portishead - The Rip (Third)
4. M83 - Saturdays = Youth (Mute)
For me M83 will always be about "Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts" simply because it was on this album that I discovered Anthony Gonzales. We went to see them in Boston and I was completely blown away. Soft lyrics over epic soundscapes and journeys. Truly emotional music. On this album Gonzales goes in a slightly different direction. He maintains all the characteristics of M83 but the theme of the album is a nostalga for the 80's, particuarly for John Hughes style films like Sixteen Candles. The cover is a tribute to 80"s youth movies, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and even The Karate Kid. Among the hazy nostalga of tracks like standout "Kim and Jessie", are some pure M83 moments that keep the album focused and organic regarless of the pop and commercial cross over. From start to finish the album is epic and the 80's refrences are not just cinamatic. Morgan Kibby offers her vocals on the tracks Skin Of The Night and Up! and its on the latter that the tribute to Kate Bush becomes evident. Buy the album and listen often.
M83 - Graveyard Girl (Saturdays = Youth)
3. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colors (Modular)
An album full of breezy anthems. This sophmore record from the Australian trio is a joy to listen to and perfect company on those long evening runs. No album better displays the nu-wave revival than this. Lansing-Driden do a great job but In Ghost Colors really nails it for me. The lyrics are hardly ground breaking but Dan Whitfords voice is straight out of the 80's and it suits the music so well. The album is complete with excellent synth based tracks that echo the best parts of New Order. "Lights and Music", "Hearts On Fire", and "Feel The Love" are superb, and extremely energetic. These storming tracks are intertwined with epic moments like "Strangers In The Wind", with rolling baselines over Fleetwood Mac style guitar. This album will make you smile and dance around your home, no doubt about it.
Cut Copy - Hearts On Fire (In Ghost Colors)
2. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer (Sub Pop)Apologies To Queen Mary is one of my favorite albums of this decade. At Mount Zoomer was always going to have its work cut out to satisfy but with ease it succeeded and I can't stop listening to it. The album is kind of an instant classic for me since it is like a more patient version of ATQM. The tracks are more subtle and yet still extremely melodic and driving. An Animal In Your Care is one of my favorite songs of the year and it is buttressed by a whole album without any weak points. If you like stuttering pianos, textured synths, arrangement that swells and breaths, and lyrics that are simply awesome, then this album is for you.
Wolf Parade - California Dreamer (At Mount Zoomer)
1. Sigur Rós- Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (EMI, XL)The title means "With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly", and it makes me truly happy. The title can be held in sharp contrast to previous (all amazing) works due to its uplifting positive vibe. While previous works were completely epic this is more folky and summer sounding. "Gobbledigook" has a Dave Matthews sounding intro before joyous drums kick in to create festival atmosphere. This is Sigur Ros right? When I first saw these guys live it was in the Boston opera house in 2005. I went with my friend Shawn Donnelly and neither of us spoke during the show, no one in the crowd did either. When it was all said and done I still couldn't speak and I remember the first words I uttered to Shawn when we got out onto Stuart Street. Basically I said that I couldn't be friends with anyone who would not be in some way moved by a Sigur Ros show. I still stand by that. The live performance is beautiful, plain and simple, regardless of what kind of music your into. So this is the Summer album by Jonsi and the boys and I love it so much. It is not as good as some of the other albums but that means nothing. In Rainbows was the best album of 2007 but it is nothing on Ok Computer or Kid A. Great bands put out amazing albums everytime. Sigur Ros are a great band that make otherworldy music. Listen to this album with your hands in the air and a smile on your face. It is the best album of 2008.