Jon Kane's Top Ten Albums of 2008
In alphabetical order:
Crystal Castles’ self-titled album is a relentless assault of thrashing electro at times on the listener which for the uninitiated will feel completely unlistenable. Polarising opinion, there are as many dissenters are there are people praising it. Frantic Nintendo like noise samples are everywhere on the album. Once you recover from the ear splitting stuff there’s some fine tunes more than worthy of your monies that would happily find a home on many a dark electro club night. Crystal Castles are essential listening material for the slightly unhinged.
‘Microcastle’ is by far Deerhunter’s most accomplished album to date. Plenty of classy ambience and guitar noise makes Microcastle sound more mainstream than the band’s previous output with ever-lasting delicate experimental tracks such as ‘Agoraphobia’ still sounding good after many repeated plays.
A complete surprise, ‘Wermland’ is full of magical child-like fairground-symphonies full of moogs, accordions, xylophones going mad, pianos going hyper and the listener being caught up and carried away in it all. Most tracks on ‘Wermland’ sound like music for a bedtime story, so this album gets in purely for being unlike anything else in this Top Ten and pulling off what it sets out to do, being a strange but very likeable oddity in the quagmire of music circa 2008.
A true gem of an album, ‘Dynamo’ contains some timeless mellow electro-soundscapes swathing and swimming in wave after wave of soothing synths and blissful beats. A side project that apparently became a full-blown release after the stuff recorded as a mild diversion in a flat became just a bit too good to not be heard on a much larger scale.
Frightened Rabbit have the potential to go to stratospheric levels based on the promise of ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’. Only their second album, it rewards repeated listening with its perfect blend of intense melancholy, clever lyrics and polished production from the same guy who did Interpol and The National. Frightened Rabbit seem far too good to remain largely unheard of.
Far and away the album of 2008. ‘Saturdays=Youth’ encapsulates a long forgotten era in heavily stylised, pure dream pop opening up a world of sublime eighties movies inspired melodrama. From the crystalline production to the fantasy pop sheen quality perfectly re-capturing the era when ‘The Breakfast Club’ was king. ‘Couleurs’ ranks as one of the album’s finest tunes with ‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’, being a fitting end to the best album of 2008.
If you were going to listen to one of the Indie bands that the record labels furnish with pots of cash every year then it should’ve been Mystery Jets, if it wasn’t where were you? One of the few, warranting the expenditure, ‘Twenty One’ will go down as an excellent indie pop album, subjugating the sounds of ABC, the sophisto-pop of Prefab Sprout and re-inventing those sounds to fit their own zeitgeist which going by the storm they went down at the festivals, was an unmitigated and uniform success. Just listen to the number of tunes on the album and with a guest vocal slot in ‘Young Love’ from Laura Marling, what more would you want from the bona-fide pop album of 2008.
Concept albums are seldom made these days for good reason, they’re usually rubbish. Neon Neon, a collaborative partnership between Super Furries Animals Gruff Rhys and producer Boom Bip, attempted one based on infamous carmaker of the Eighties, John DeLorean. ‘Stainless Style’ is a largely successful tribute to the new-wave sounds of the time from the hooky keyboards of ‘I Lust You’ to the tuneful warm dance pop that pervade most of the other tracks like on ‘I Told Her On Alderaan’ and ‘Belfast’. ‘Stainless Style’ is successful enough to warrant perhaps being called a lost new wave classic that the Eighties never had.
Not essential listening for manic depressives is Portishead’s ‘Third’. A swift viewing of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ would be needed if they did listen to it for ‘Third’ is about as depressing as it gets. But of course it’s the new Portishead album. The band don’t re-invent the wheel with their sound, more like how can we make an album with more sombre and haunting noises than the last. However, it does contain some amazing moments of pure brilliance that really do make the listeners hair stand on end, most notably on ‘The Rip’ and ‘Machine Gun’ that surpass a lot of what came out in 2008 and can rank alongside with the best in their canon.
TV On The Radio seem to have finally harnessed their experimental palette of sounds on their latest, ‘Dear Science’. They’ve gone forward in direction with a lush and cleaner production sound than on previous albums which further elevates the band’s grooving sound into the forefront of the mix creating a more party feel. The more mellow tracks sound like a band at the top of its game clenching their fists in the air proclaiming ‘This Is Ours, We Made This, Now You Listen’.