Well I finally finished this massive post, so I decided to post it now. Here are my thoughts on 50 records from 2008. I decided to do a top 8 of 2008 and write in detail about those, and then only do a bit about the others because it would take me AGES to write in detail about 50 records. The top 8 are in order, then the rest don’t follow any real order. Also, I am too lazy to proof read all of this, so please excuse any spelling and grammar errors, and anything else that doesn’t make any sense.
1. of Montreal- Skeletal Lamping
My favourite record without a doubt. It’s such a fulfiling, intricate, complex record that makes repeated listening really rewarding, which is why I’ve listened to it literally dozens of times. of Montreal certainly have come a long way since their simpler, more innocent Cherry Peel days. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the record. I found out that it leaked right after I got back from the dentist (no fillings or anything required, yay). I listened to some at my desk and then went for a walk and listened to the rest. At first I was perhaps a little uncomfortable with some of the lyrics and song topics… some of the songs aren’t really the type you’d want to sing along with on the train. The album is so schizophrenic and jarring, it took me a few listens before I learnt all the lyrics. Now that I have, it’s so fun to sing to. All the changes in melodies, it’s like I’ve learnt the words to a hundred songs. I love Kevin Barnes’ way of saying things. Instead of saying “I like you and feel comfortable with you” he says “you’re the only one with whom I would role play Oedipus Rex“. True, some of the things he says just shouldn’t be said, but when he says them it’s funny, you can just roll your eyes and laugh. I’ve been through those “oh my god I love this song” moments with every song on the album apart from Death Is Not A Parellel Move, I’m kind of indifferent to that song. All the rest I love. Right from start to finish it’s a brilliant record. And the band pull it off live. Nice album art. It’s the full package. I can’t wait to see them play again in January.
2. Beach House- Devotion
I love every song on this record. I’ve only been listening to Beach House since the end of last year, so for this record to beat off Jenny Lewis and Whispertwon2000, who I’ve been listening to for alot longer, it just shows how great this record is to me. For me, it wasn’t immediately catchy. But the more I listened to it, the more addictive Victoria’s voice became, and the more I noticed how dreamy and fantastic Alex’s guitar is. It’s such a fantastic record. D.A.R.L.I.N.G spawned one of my favourite lyrics “In this harbour of a room/you’ll find your anchor soon“. When I moved to university in September and moved into my rectangular, plain room, and hated how hard and boring my course is, that lyric always came to my mind. It’s become quite special to me. The record is strong from start from finish, the instrumentation is perfect, Victoria has a fantastic voice, I love it lyrically… I just love the whole thing. The Used To Be single fits well with the record and is one of my favourite songs this year. I can’t wait until they make more music.
3. Jenny Lewis- Acid Tongue
I love Rabbit Fur Coat a ridiculous amount, so I had my expectations set pretty high for Jenny’s second solo jaunt. It would have been so easy for me to be disappointed, but I wasn’t. Granted, I don’t love it as much as Rabbit Fur Coat, but I do like it an awful lot (ALOT more than Under The Blacklight). Godspeed is such a beautiful song. I love lighthouses too, so when I first heard the song I loved it immediately. I have to say, if it wasn’t Jenny singing I don’t think I’d love it as much. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a fan of hers for so long, I’ve got a loyalty of sorts to her. I just love her voice, I’m used to it, it’s great. She really does sing so well on the record, and she sings as good live. I loved Carpetbaggers since I first heard it ages ago when Jenny and Johnathan performed it on that puppet music show. When I heard the album version with Elvis Costello, I was like “What. The. Hell”. Costello sounds like he’s got some sort of problem, like he’s about to be sick or something. I wish he wasn’t on the record. Other than that, it’s all great. The title track is simple but very enjoyable, and Jack Killed Mom is a riot. Tryin’ My Best features Zooey Deschanel… as if the album couldn’t get any cooler. I’m so glad that Jenny put this out and I want her to come back to London, right now.
4. Whispertown2000- Swim
I was so excited for Swim. And I wasn’t disappointed. This year Whispertown2000 changed their name to “The Whispertown 2000″. I prefer the old name, it’s got less spaces and is easier to type, so I’m calling them by that. They also released Swim on limited (200 copies only!!!) vinyl, which was very exciting. I ordered my copy last week and the lady at Acony Records (Gillian Welch’s label) sent it out the same day, so it got here super quick. It’s very pretty and lovely, I got 51/200. I can’t believe that this band aren’t huge, they really are fantastic. Morgan has got a unique, earthy voice. They play folky pop songs. Vanessa chimes in for some pretty harmonies. Atlantis is an album highlight, it’s a slow simple piano song that lets Morgan’s voice shine, it also features fellow LA-er Jenny Lewis on back up vocals. More up tempo songs like From The Start/Jamboree are alot of fun and I can imagine they would be great live. Whispertown have never been to our shores, but I’m hoping that they’ll be here next year. Pushing Oars is another album highlight, and I loved Mountain right from when I first heard the Daytrotter Session version, a long time ago now. Time flies! I expect big things from Whispertown in he future. They’re just fantastic.
5.Bodies of Water- A Certain Feeling
Bodies of Water are so good live! Their really epic choral, gospel-esque songs really rise up and escalate and it’s such a pleasure to hear. It’s hard to believe that five people on a stage can make such big sounding songs. The group vocals are really powerful and fun. The album is made up of great songs. Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey kicks the album off. It starts fairly calmly, then BAM! The tempo picks up, group vocals come in and Meredith is wailaing “and all the colours! the colours are gold and tan! and they are peach and grey! and they are gold and tan and peach and grey!” over the chorus of “ohh ohh ohh“. The call and response “no more!” part is just superb. The band are all really friendly and lovely which makes me like them even more. David drew some sunglasses on the dog on mycopy of the vinyl. Songs like Water Here build up and build up to really epic endings. David’s guitar riffs are pretty catchy on tracks like Under The Pines and Darling Be Here. The Mud Gapes Open is the perfect ending to the album, I love the opening section… it makes me want to listen to the song over and over. Wonderful!
6. She and Him- Volume One
A beautifully produced album. I love Zooey’s voice. I’m usually pretty skeptical about actors/actresses turned singers (just look at that trainwreck of an album by Scarlett Johansson) but this turned out brilliantly. Perhaps because M Ward is a genius. I’ve never seen any of Zooey’s movies anyway, although I did watch five minutes of Tin Man on TV before I was bored/confused (I missed the start and it was near the end). Volume One is an album full of really catchy pop songs with a nostalgic feel. So lyrically the album is a little cliche on more than one occassion, but it works well. The cuteness of the whole thing is just so endearing. It’s got a nice playful feel and I don’t think it takes itself too seriously. Songs like Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? and This Is Not A Test are just so much fun, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like them. I Thought I Saw Your Face Today has a whistle solo. A really really catchy one. I love it so much, one of my favourite songs this year. The guitar on the album is great too. Zoeey and Matt duet on You Really Got A Hold On Me. It’s great to hear his voice. Will I ever get to see them play live? It looks unlikely. Oh well, I guess I can hope.
7. Mates of State- Re-Arrange Us
This is a really uplifting album. It’s so fun and poppy and brilliant. WHYYYYY haven’t they been here since 2006? At first I only really liked the first half of the album and thought that it tailed off a bit towards the end, but the end half has grown on me too now. I still think that the first four songs all flow really well and the first half of the record is stronger than the second. Now and the Re-Arranger are really fun and remind me of riding my bike around in the summer. You Are Free is another really sweet song. Kori and Jason’s voices work really well together. They’re both a bit quirky and weird but that’s what makes them so addictive and loveable. The whole album is really so catchy and it’s impossible to listen to withouut taping your feet or nodding your head. The album cover is a little creepy, don’t you think? Maybe I’m morbid, but it reminds me of heads on pikes.
8. Langhorne Slim- Langhorne Slim
I didn’t like this album as much as I do now until I heard it live. I love Sean’s voice and accent. I love the album lyrically too. Some of the songs are really catchy. There’s great songs all the way through the album. When I first heard the line in Collette that goes “Collette, I know the second we met/you’d go to my head/I took a breath and leapt into the atmosphere” I thought it was pretty cheesy, but after hearing him sing it live it’s my favourite part of the song. Restless and Diamonds and Gold are real stand out tracks. I love when in Diamonds and Gold the song builds up and Sean shouts “a tough day at the office, and a worse night at home!”, that part is great. Hummingbird is a ridiculously beautiful closer, all the hammer-ons and lovely piano, it’s really wondefully arranged, and I love the line “Now I’m dreaming of leaving my demons/and the first one I’m leaving is you“. Great album, you’ll probably like it if you like stuff like the Avett Brothers.
REALLY REALLY GOOD:
Okkervil River- The Stand Ins: I loved this album a whole lot more after I saw them live. Lost Coastlines is one of my favourite songs of the year. You can’t go wrong with that chord progression! The acoustic version Will does with AC Newman is ridiculously good and has caused me to sit on youtube watching it on repeat for more time than I should admit to.
The Dodos- Visiter: At first I didn’t really understand what all the fuss about the Dodos was about, but the album’s a ‘grower’. Atleast for me anyway. It becomes more and more catchy the more you listen to it.
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down- We Brave Be Stings And All: Folk pop fun! I love Thao’s voice too. Swimming Pools is so catchy and upbeat and is one of my favourite songs of the year.
Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes: I think everything that you could ever want to say about Fleet Foxes has already been said, they’ve been blogged about and talked about so much this year, and deservedly so. Great album. Your Protector is one of my favourite songs this year. I also really love the album artwork, this Wikipedia page about the original painting is really interesting.
Human Highway-Moody Motorcycle: Catchy, mellow, laid back songs. It’s a simple record, nothing ground breaking or out of this world, but I do like it alot. It’s a real summer-time record, you have to listen to it in the summer. The duo consist of Jim Guthrie and Nick Thorburn (Islands). Their voices work well together.
Cat Power- Jukebox: Why so much hate for Chan’s releases this year? Blogs don’t seem to like Jukebox or the ‘left overs’ EP, Dark End Of The Street. I love Chan’s voice so I would probably listen to anything she sings. I love the way Chan performs Lost Someone, she does it so well! The version she did on Jools Holland was stunning.
Scary Mansion- Every Joke Is Half The Truth: A really beautiful record, I love it alot. The band name is apt, when you listen to it you can imagine it being recorded in a big, empty, scary mansion. Leah Hayes has a beautiful, sometimes haunting voice that works really well over the sparse music. Go To Hell is a fantastic track, I would love to hear them play it live some day.
Conor Oberst- Conor Oberst: A ‘solo’ release from Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, put out on Merge Records. It’s pretty poppy and fun, I like it alot. NYC-Gone, Gone, is like a barn dance on your ear drums. Sausalito is probably my favourite on the record, and I love the video for Souled Out!!! It all has a great, fun, light-hearted feel and doesn’t take itself seriously, which is nice to see. Conor has come a long way since his whiney “I’m done feelin’ like a skeleton, no more sleeeep walkin’ dead!” days. I kind of miss the whiney days.
White Hinterland- Phylactery Factory: Brilliant record. Calliope is my favourite song on the record, the beautiful piano, strings, thumping bass, Casey’s beautiful vocals… it’s perfect. When the song picks up tempo at the end it’s fantastic. There’s a nice warm, jazzy feel to the record. I love it.
Frida Hyvonen- Silence Is Wild: SO catchy! Such a brilliantly fun, poppy, wonderful album from this Swedish singer. London! and Birds, and Dirty Dancing are my favourites. It feels a bit like a musical. I really love this record, it’s just so much fun.
Coeur De Pirate- Coeur De Pirate: Such a beautiful album. I love it. Beatrice has such a beautiful voice and the fact that she sings in French just makes me love this album even more. She’s only 18! That’s my age. She’s such a talent, I would love for her to come play over here. Comme Des Enfants, Berceuse and Printemps are my favourites. Such a wonderful record! The more I listen to it the more I love it. I could easily include it in the top 8 I did up there.
Woodpigeon- Songbook: Well, this came out in Canada in 2006, but didn’t come out here until this year. I usually just go on the date stuff is first released (otherwise some of the stuff that made my list last year would be in this year’s list) but I’m making an exception for Songbook. Such a fantastic record. I love Mark’s soft voice. Great album from start to finish.
OTHER GOOD STUFF:
Neva Dinova- You May Already Be Dreaming: Neva Dinova are so depressing! But in the best possible way. Depressing pop.
Port O’Brien- All We Could Do Was Sing: All they could do was sing and play music and put on a great show. Port O’Brien are wonderful, they really involved the audience when I saw them live and it made the songs and show super fun and created a lovely atmosphere. The album is great, full of folky sing a-long goodness.
Flowers Forever- Flowers Forever: Derek from Tilly and the Wall’s side project. This is the type of record that makes you want to rise up with fists. It’s alot of fun. Strange that I enjoyed this but didn’t like the new Tilly. I wish Flowers Forever would play some shows here, American Dream would be so awesome live.
Destroyer- Trouble In Dreams: This is quite old now. I remember it caused alot of buzz when it leaked, but I haven’t seen it in that many year end lists. Destroyer is fronted by Dan Bejar. He has kind of a weird vocal style that sometimes reminds me of Torquil Campbell.
Jason Collett- Here’s To Being Here: I like Jason’s voice alot. I don’t like this record as much as Idols Of Exile (Idols of Exile is really great though) but I still like it. I’m pretty sure it’s one of those albums (for me atleast) that you really start to love when you hear it performed live.
Beatbeat Whisper- Wonder Continental: A beautiful, folky album from the brother/sister duo. I got copy 143 out of 150, I don’t know if there’s any left. If there are you should get one, it comes with a really pretty lyric booklet. I did an interview with the band, you can read more about the album and the pretty artwork there. It’s in the interview section.
A Weather- Cove: Some dreamy, whispery goodness from this Team Love band. My favourite song is Spiders, Snakes. I love the lyrics. “Do you read when you go to bed? Do you lie there shaking instead“. The dual whispered vocals over that beating drum, it’s really beautiful. I remember when I first heard it. It was in A-Level business studies. My teacher was rubbish and missed loads of our lessons. So I first heard this while I was doing my coursework in a lesson that she missed. I remember just thinking “Wow. this is wonderful.” It reminds me of those times. Ah nostalgia!
I’m From Barcelona- Who Killed Harry Houdini?: I originally put off listening to this record, because I was silly and did that whole judging a book by it’s cover thing. I saw the album cover and thought “that looks depressing and serious”. But then I saw them live and listened to it, and, while it is darker than the band’s other material, it’s still fun. Mingus is my favourite track.
Pierre De Reeder- The Way That It Was: A nice simple pop album from the Rilo Kiley bassist. It’s nice to see him take the spotlight. As the title suggests, there’s a nostalgic feeling across the album. Nice poppy songs for lazy days.
Chad VanGaalen- Soft Airplane: I would have liked to have gone to the London show, I was at I’m From Barcelona instead though. Instrumentally lovely, lots going on. I hear some interesting percussion. Layered vocals. Banjo. Running Water. I like Chad’s voice, I like when he sings high notes. I like the more folky parts, some parts sound a bit like crazy video games.
Nik Frietas- Sun Down: A warm, poppy album from the multi talented instrumentalist
Martha Wainwright- I Know You’re Married But I Have Feelings Too: That’s quite an album title, and cover (why would you want to have a picture of yourself upside down on a sofa as the artwork foryour album?). I almost got to see her play a show in NY this summer. I did the hard part of convincing my family to want to see her, then it turned out we couldn’t go anyway because we’d be leaving during that day to go up to Rhode Island. I also missed out on seeing Beach House by 1 day and Feist by 2 days, darn it. Bad timings aside, it’s a good record. I love Martha’s voice.
My Brightest Diamond- A Thousand Shark’s Teeth: Shara Worden has a really beautiful voice. A wonderfully detailed and intricate record. I sometimes forget I’m listening to My Brightest Diamond, at times it’s like I’m listening to Annie Clark/St Vincent. They sound so similar, especially on tracks like If I Were Queen.
Dutchess and the Duke-She’s the Dutchess, He’s The Duke: Punchy, upbeat folk with nice guitar parts. They supported Fleet Foxes across the States, be nice to see them over here next year. I really recommend them. Listen to Strangers, it’s great. They did a Daytrotter Session too, listen to Scorpio. It’s from a 7″ I think, it’s not on the record, but it’s one of my favourite songs from 2008.
Peter and the Wolf-Mellow Owl: I really recommend this. As the title suggests, it’s really mellow, folky goodness. I think there are 2 groups called Peter and the Wolf, there’s this one from Austin, TX and another from the UK I think. PATW is the project of Red Hunter. I know he came over here for a few shows earlier this year, but that was pre-me living in London. It’s a shame I missed them.
Chairlift- Does You Inspire You? : Besides the annoyingly grammatically incorrect album title, great catchy album. Caroline has a great voice. Don’t Give A Damn is beautiful and Bruises will get in your head whether you like it or not.
O’Death- Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin: A foot stomping punky, folk-rock jaunt. I’ve only listened to the record a couple of times. It’s more fun live. Angeline is my favourite.
The Felice Brothers- The Felice Brothers: The band’s first outing on Team Love Records. They make folk rock kind of music, you’d probably like them if you like O’Death/Langhorne Slim/The Avett Brothers. Rube Mae is my favourite track on the record, nothing beats a good murder ballad!
Gregory and the Hawk- Moenie and Kitchi: Gregory and the Hawk is the name of NY singer Meredith Godreau. I finally listened to this after seeing her play a couple of times. She has a fantastic voice, and she sings that well live too. Keep your eyes peeled to Bandstand Busking to see her busking session.
Those Dancing Days- In Our Space Hero Suits: Indie pop fun from the Swedish all girl group on Wichita. Catchy, fun stuff. I saw them do a Pure Groove instore a few months ago, they were great and I really enjoyed their set. I look forward to seeing them again sometime.
Flowers From The Man Who Shot Your Cousin-Hapless: Phew, after writing out that ridiculous name of his I feel less inclined to write any more. FFTMWSYC is Morgan Caris from Canada/France. It’s a sparse, folky record. At times he really, really reminds me of Leonard Cohen.
The Tallest Man On Earth- Shallow Graves: Folky goodness from Sweden. Kristian has a very strong voice, and the finger picked guitar and banjo parts are beautiful. You’ll like him if you like Langhorne Slim/Felice Brothers.
Man Man- Rabbit Habbits: A really fun record! Frontman Honus Honus has a deep, husky voice that is actually quite pretty at times. Maybe ‘pretty’ is the wrong word. It’s like listening to a weird, demented circus let loose in a musical instrument shop. The result is a record of pure fun. I can only imagine how fun Man Man must be live.
The Watson Twins- Fire Songs: They have beautiful voices that really shine on this record. It’s very folky and wonderful.
Mirah- The Old Days Feeling: A collection of old and unreleased songs. The songs are all very short. Lyrically some of them are a bit bizarre. It’s brief but catchy and lovely. Mirah’s voice is sugary. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. It’s sweet and poppy and therefore sugary.
Vivian Girls- Vivian Girls: A nice debut from these three NY/NJ girls with a great lo-fi feel. It’s actually quite catchy, especially tracks like Where Do You Run To. I’d really like to hear them play live again.
Women- Women: This album is too short! I guess they decided to keep it short and sweet. It’s quite catchy, in the sense that once you finish listening you want to listen again. Music to nod your head to. Group Transport Hall is my favourite song on the record.
Ane Brun- Changing of the Seasons: Some nice chord changes and violins make for a really beautiful record that pulls on your heartstrings. Ane Brun is originally from Norway, but now resides in Sweden. She has a lovely voice, and it’s quite unique. It’s quite folky.
Hello Saferide- More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide: The Scandinavians are making alot of appearances in this list. This album is fantastic, so poppy and brilliant. I like Annika Norlin’s accent and voice. 2008 (the song) has a warm, nostalgic feel. I’m hoping she comes and plays London in the first half of next year so I can go see her, but she’s got alot of Swedish shows lined up. Those lucky Swedes.
Tilly and the Wall- O: I couldn’t just ignore this record off of my list, it’s released by one of my favourite bands. I tried so hard to like it, but was really disappointed. I remember getting the CD and Beat Control 7″ in the mail from Saddle Creek. It was right in the middle of my summer exams. I listened to it a few times but I just felt it lacked the specialness of Wild Like Children and Bottoms Of Barrels. I love Cacophony, but I had heard that before as it was the B-Side to Beat Control. I think the name of the record is silly too. And I didn’t like my piece of slot in ‘artwork’. It was just some blue metallic colour with scratches in. It’s so ugly compared to the lovely beautiful covers for WLC and BoB. I tried to like Pot Kettle Black, but I just can’t. I don’t mind Alligator Skin. I thought perhaps I’d like it more if I heard them do some of the songs live, but after seeing them live again I can safely say all the set highlights were oldies. Nevermind, hopefully I’ll like their next one better. I still think they put on a great show.
And there you have it! My thoughts on more records than anyone would (or should!) care to read. That’s practically a novel up there. Next year I’ll review stuff as we go through the year so my 2009 list will be more organised (maybe, but probably not). After I made that list up there I realised I had totalled about 58 so I cut some of the ones I like a bit less from the list (Mountain Goats, Margot etc etc). I wanted there to be a nice square 50 records. I wonder how many times I wrote the words “beautiful”, “folky” and “lovely”. Probably too many times. I almost had the patience to put the list in alphabetical order, but decided against it. Too much unnecessary effort! So… please do enlighten me to what I’ve missed out. I’m so excited about 2009.