Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Records of the Year 2008

1. of Montreal - SKELETAL LAMPING

This record almost scares me, it's so over the top, ambitious, grand, endlessly perplexing, multicoloured, like peeking through a kaleidoscope into a multi mirrored projection hall where all sorts of dreams, nightmares and sexual traumas, fetishes and obsessions get played out relentlessly and reassembled in bizarre combinations. There are some very catchy bits that stick in your head, and some of the more upbeat passages can grate a bit to my ears, but the melancholic/weird interludes that kick in frequently are really holding it together for me, take that utterly desolate piano interlude where Kevin is singing in his sad clown voice "why i'm so damaged? why am i such a troubled soul?'... the kaleidoscopic effect of the album to me is comparable to something like GBV's "Alien Lanes", where snippets of genius songs blur against each other and cancel each other out, it's such a disorientating and overpowering ride. Critically it didn't receive quite the same adoration as the rightly celebrated "Hissing Fauna..." album but I believe people will discover SL in time, it has a lot to offer...

2. TV on the Radio - DEAR SCIENCE

It's more streamlined, and seemed too polished at first, but a few listens in, the songs are strong, and complex, and tense, and are infused with a powerful underlying sense of dread. It doesn't really preach, though it is very angry in places, and it's still very poetic in its images and complex word play, but it conveys a sense of the contemporary world sliding out of our control into previously unknown abysses. Still, it's a pop record for all that, so quite an achievement, a very here and now record...

3. The Notwist - THE DEVIL, YOU & ME

It's quite gentle and understated but underneath the relatively calm surface it's a reassured minor masterpiece of complex soundscape molded into leftfield pop songs. The astronauts/dirty planets/retro sci fi theme running through it is tasty to me too... live, they rocked in their own way, it's always such a pleasure to see them!

4. Brett Anderson: WILDERNESS

Without a record contract, Brett went into the studio for a week and recorded this largely acoustic album featuring downbeat ballads (and no Suede-style stompers) with just him, a piano, a guitar and a cellist, and released it himself. The result is one of his most coherent and concentrated records, and I think a lot of the fans loved it. While it's big on sadness, there's a sense of hope somewhere in there. On the sleeve you see him walking through wintery country spaces, but it looks as if this is very early spring and the first flowers are starting to appear, and this would describe the peculiar mood of this album to me, downbeat, morbid, but with a sliver of positivity, and a sense that he hasn't lost his direction. Live this translated into a first half of Wilderness/solo stuff, the second half was all Suede, done acoustically. Really wonderful...

5. The Gutter Twins: SATURNALIA

Mark Lanegan and Gred Dulli, a dreamboat collaboration/product of a long running friendship. And it really worked!

6. Robert Pollard IS OFF TO BUSINESS
Kinda what it says on the can. I've lost much of my critical faculties when it comes to Bob I'm afraid but this year has seen him bounce back with a new record label, band, coffee table book, and the news that this Cleopatra musical (directed by Steven Soderbergh, for which Bob has written the music)) is finally... I don't know, what is it doing? It may actually happen now. So it's all good in Camp Bob I guess and I'm good with that too... though maybe not quite as excited as I used to be/maybe should be? BTW all other records he's made - I either don't have them yet or haven't spent that much time with them...

More blissed out, washed up, weird pop. The second disc, Weird Era Cont, means a bit more to me right now but that could change. Bradford and Alex, who created the striking cover art, are both at least semi regulars on Dennis' blog so I feel that there's something going on here, the blogs are taking over, haha.

It took me a while to notice that Kim Deal sings in German on "German Studies" but once I did I loved it, it's hilarious. This is a fun record that seemed a bit insubstantial to me on first listen but has found my affection, there's always something sharp poking in the background in the Deals' wayward laid back sound that keeps me wanting more.

9. Times New Viking: RIP IT OFF

I've said it before but I'll say it again, I don't think this record sounds that much like GBV, yeah, it's very lo fi, they're from Ohio, on Matador, so it gets all that right but there's a different beast in there, and none of the personality of a Bob Pollard. Still, it's a fine party (in your head) record when you're alone in your room in a haze late at night which is how I mostly experienced it. It's definitely cool in all the wrong ways, haha...

I'll better stop now. I don't think this list is too exciting myself, but it's partly due to not feeling the need to buy everything new that came out. So it could be quite different. Of Montreal has been the band of the year for me, I don't know where I've been with them before. But their music resonates with me in ways I didn't think possible... And so I'll leave you with a live video of my favourite song right now, Forecast Fascist Future, from the album "The Sunlandic Twins". Have a good x-mas!

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