Top 5 Albums of 2008I wrote in my blog (I blog) the other day about my frustration with making “top” lists (even though I had made the suggestion to Vu). Music, like any art form, is so openly subjective that any attempt at creating a definitive “best” list is hopelessly, well, hopeless. So I present to you my purely personal Top 5 of 2008 compilations. Take it or leave it (but please take it, and love me too).
1. Beach House – Devotion
Their first album was nice. Occasionally heavy-lidded and aimless (as in, the mind wanders when listening), but nice, certainly a curious take on dream pop. Then Devotion came out and it was like Beach House even further demented the dreamy stargaze domain, in, you know, a really, really attractive way. With Victoria’s sad, velvet voice (not at all, never ever cute, for godsake), the off-putting pace, the hollow beat, the moodiness, the sometimes romantic/sometimes painful lyrics, the harpsichord, that Daniel Johnston cover…it just works. How often do all the pieces fall into place? It may never happen again. Enjoy, Beach House.
2. The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
So the Raveonettes are getting fuzzier and less defined, and moving further from those neo-noir 60s Phil Spector-inspired melodies into darker territory. Darker, louder territory. Like, seriously loud. I’d probably be less impressed with this album if it wasn’t for the sheer enormity of sound. Every song has a kind of feverish build-up; by the end it’s bye-bye future hearing, hello creepy weird aural enlightenment, or something.
3. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash
What I like about Real Emotional Trash is that it combines the best of the Pavement core—bizarre/absurdist lyrics and sprawling noise/extended “jammin’/freak deaky guitar rifts. This album sounds very Malkmus; it isn’t the work of a middle-aged rocker desperate to fit in one last reinvention and prove to the twenty-somethings that he’s “still got it.” No, Malkmus hardly seems concerned with too much change; he may choose different directions with each of his solo albums, but there’s always a comfortable familiarity. (And, for the record, he’s definitely still got it.)
4. Santogold – Santogold
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: yes, she reminds you of M.I.A. Sure, Santogold sings through her nose, loves a crazy beat, and is scarily supa fly (intimidating to the average-looking), but if you actually listen to her album you’ll realize that she ain’t no M.I.A. Which isn’t to say that Santogold ain’t fabulous. Au contraire, it’s perfect downtown club music (for the mild, hip and white). You can bump, grind, convulse, jump, rapidly move your hands in front of your face, remain mostly still while nodding your head, twirl, whatever. Also, with the absence of any kind of political message you don’t even have to pretend that you care about real things.
5. The Magnetic Fields – Distortion
What an aptly titled album. I’m found of aptly titled things. I wish Animal Collective and Xiu Xiu would take note and start naming their albums “Weird Crazy Things That Sound Like Woodlawn Creatures and Kitchen Utensils.” It would be convenient for writing reviews. Anyway, Distortion is Stephen Merritt doing distortion, which means fuzzy, drone-y guitar that lovers can still swoon to, and sad/silly lyrics like “sober, you’re old and ugly; shit-faced, who needs a mirror” (“Too Drunk to Dream”).
Top 5 Songs of 2008
1. Beach House – “Heart of Chamber” (Devotion)
Honestly, I could have chosen any song from Devotion, but “Heart of Chamber” is the one that gives me the strongest heart palpitations (like remembering a teenage night that never happened). As I said before, it works, and who needs solid logic?
2. Beck – “Walls” (Modern Guilt)
My relationship with Beck is similar to my relationship with thrift shopping: 99% of the time I leave the store irritated and resentful; however, maybe once a year I find something absolutely stunning, like amazingly, disgustingly perfect that I forget about all the previous disappointments. “Walls” is my disgustingly perfect gold lamé romper that I will never wear again.
3. Okkervil River – “Lost Coastlines” (The Stand Ins)
Apparently there are (self-proclaimed) straight men out there that would “go gay” for Will Sheff. Who knew. I cannot make that same declaration, but I will say this: Jonathan Meiburg’s voice keeps me comfortably heterosexual.
4. Benoît Pioulard – “Brown Bess” (Temper)
His name is Tom (hint: he’s not French). Tom taps into those same otherworldly arrangements that Zach Condon used to convince hipsters that foreign music could be edgy too. “Brown Bess” is just too pretty to ignore. I don’t know what he’s singing (it’s in English; he mumbles, I selectively listen), but similar to hearing a beautiful French phrase, do you even care?
5. Lucinda Williams (ft. Elvis Costello) – “Jailhouse Tears” (Little Honey)
The whole album’s kind of a mess: a few old-school bluesy ballads, some terrible angry rockers, and a truly frightening AC/DC cover (Lucinda, no). However, this duet with Costello makes me smile because I think Lucinda’s being a bit cheeky, no?
Top 5 Bands to Think About in 2009
What: Anti-twee indiepop
Where: Chicago, IL
Think about: “Oh Man!” (Into the Trees, 2008)
What: Halloween-voiced lad + pop music + geek beats
Where: St. Louis, MO
Think about: “Gamble” (Classy Entertainment EP, 2008)
3. Alina Simone
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Think about: “Half My Kingdom” (Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware, 2008)
4. The Pharmacy
What: Dirty rotten indie rock
Where: New Orleans, LA
Think about: “Little Toys on the Shelf” (Choose Yr. Own Adventure, 2008)
What: White-friendly (read: non-threatening or “not too ghetto”) “smart” hip-hop
Where: Minneapolis, MN
Think about: “Dots and Dashes” (Doomtree, 2008)
Note: Doomtree is extremely popular within their home state of Minnesota, but have they crossed the border? Let me know.