John Donnelly's Best of 2008
In terms of albums, 2008 seemed a slightly disappointing year. Or was this a hangover after the excellent trio of LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver, Radiohead's In Rainbows and Burial's Untrue in 2007? My personal favourite ended up being Quiet Village's Silent Movie, not one a lot of people will have heard and which would have admittedly passed me by too if I did not write for this fine site. Biggest disappointments were from the once great Primal Scream and Mercury Rev, but the less dwelling on those, the better.
Nevertheless, it was a great year for singles, with MGMT's Electric Feel and Sam Sparro's Black & Gold the sort of forward-thinking, slightly subversive pop music that stands up to being played again and again and again and again… Yes, even Radio 1 and its commerical rivals couldn't turn you against them.
On the live front, my favourite act of the year were Sigur Ros, caught at Glasgow's Carling Academy; a true marvel despite the venue's severe limitations (or being able to see practically bugger all). Other notables included Guillemots (even if they were promoting a ropey second album) and German dance act, Booka Shade, whose furious sound and light show had us uncharacteristically retreating to the back of The Arches.
Anyway, without further ado, some lists.
1. Quiet Village - "Silent Movie"
Forget for a moment that the band name and album title are actually fairly terrible. One half of Quiet Village is Matt "Radio Slave" Edwards, something of a cult figure in dance music circles; the other half, er, Shaun of the Dead soundtrack supervisor, Joel Martin. Together, they've built an album from samples, with nods from everything to old exploitation movies and cod reggae to chilled Balearic goodness (but, alas, no minimal techno). However, it's the slo-mo disco of Can't Be Beat, juxtaposing the strings from The Days of Pearly Spencer with a sinister, treated vocal, that is perhaps the best entry point. Silent Movie pretty much went under everyone's radar, but you owe it to yourself to hear it.
2. Goldfrapp - "Seventh Tree"
Goldfrapp's decision to ditch the tiresome electro-raunch in favour of a more folky sound paid off. From the soft focus psychedelia of Clowns to the excellent, chart-bothering single A&E, Seventh Tree is a classy, frequently gorgeous, album.
3. Justice - "A Cross The Universe"
Are we allowed live albums? Even if one can't generally be bothered with live recordings, A Cross The Universe is worth hearing for its mashing of tracks from the French duo's debut LP into new, crowd-teasing shapes. Also includes We Are Your Friends, Soulwax's NY Excuse and, as if to force the point that Justice have as much right to be considered a bloody loud rock act as much as dance music, a thumping Metallica riff. Thrilling, ear-bleeding stuff.
4. MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular"
In line with a live show that was a little too noodly, MGMT's debut was patchier than one would have ideally hoped for. Still, you can't really argue with an album that in Time To Pretend, Electric Feel and Kids contains three of 2008's very best singles.
5. Sebastien Tellier - "Sexuality"
2008 saw the fantastically-bearded Tellier soundtrack a car ad and, bizarrely, represent France in the Eurovision contest. Despite this, his credibility remains uneroded. Sexuality was produced by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (aka one half of Daft Punk) and is a mix of hooky, laidback electronic pop and, I'm guessing, slightly tongue-in-cheek orgasmic moaning. Arguably 2008's best album to make love to.
6. dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip - "Angles"
Some fine beats (particularly the "jungling up" of Planet Telex on Letter From God To Man), some wise words and another fantastic beard. I still can't get used to that subtle re-jig of Thou Shalt Always Kill, however.
7. Sigur Ros - "Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust"
There were complaints from certain quarters about the new lighter, poppier direction, but three minute single Gobbledigook still didn't sound like anyone else exactly and Festival is up there with their epic, heart-wrenching best.
8. Portishead - "Third"
An aural work of art, Third is often easier to admire than to actually enjoy, but when it connects, as on Machine Gun for example, it does so devastatingly.
9. Spiritualized - "Songs in A&E"
Although far from the quality of Pierce's 90s work, Songs in A&E is still reasonably satisfying. Soul on Fire proves he can still knock out a big ballad as well as anyone (probably in his sleep, too).
10. The Streets - "Everything is Borrowed"
Dropping drugs, laddism and celebrity excess for spiritual concerns, Everything Is Borrowed works at least occasionally. The sentiments in The Escapist, The Strongest Person I Know and the title track are strangely affecting.
Tracks of the Year
Black Kids - I'm Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
Booka Shade - Outskirts
The Bug - Poison Dart
The Chemical Brothers - Midnight Madness
Christian Falk/Robyn - Dream On
Daedelus - Make It So
Eric Prydz - Pjanoo
Goldfrapp - A&E
Hercules & Love Affair - Blind
Hot Chip - Ready For The Floor
Kings of Leon - Sex On Fire
MGMT - Electric Feel
Portishead - Machine Gun
Quiet Village - Can't Be Beat
Roots Manuva - Again & Again
Sam Sparro - Black & Gold
Sebastien Tellier - Roche
Sigur Ros - Festival
Spiritualized - Soul On Fire
The Streets - The Escapist