By Stuart McPhee Dec.22.2008
In: Album Reviews, Commentary, Opinion, Recommended
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TMB's favourite albums of 2008

switchedonsantaIf we can blow our own trumpet for a second.

The great thing about The Music Blogs is that the staff writers come from different backgrounds and different towns and have varied musical influences. We are not all from the same hipster textbook (or any textbook for that matter) but we definitely share the common love of recorded sound.

It is here, with our 1st annual list of TMB’s favourite albums, that this communal adoration of music is best illustrated. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Thanks for all your support in our first year. Here’s to a great 2009!

Andrew Stapleton

eaglesofdeathmetal

Eagles of Death Metal :: Heart On

This band is the magically sex injected mo’ sportin’ rock devil, Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes and the endlessly talented and insanely individual Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss) or “Baby Duck” as he’s known here. Heart On is basically an onslaught of catchy as all buggery fuck hooks, buzzy/cool/weird geeeeetars, broken trashbag drums, farty basslines (farty in the best possible sense; as in its your own fart, and you’re watching everyone keel over on the ground having seizures while you stand triumphantly over their quivering bodies with a smug, accomplished look on your face as you take in the wofty aromas of cheese and onion chips with oaky overtones of beer and nachos) and lyrics that are funny, sexy and even sincere and genuine at times.

It’s a great example of Josh’s ability to jam a tonne of character into every single element of a song; from the lead guitar right down to the high-hats and cowbells. He basically plays most of the intruments, plus he produced and mixed the damn thing too. This, mixed with Jesse’s loveable-ness and developed songwriting and unashamedly rock and roll, boogie-woogie stylings makes it the funnest, most danceable and re-listenable album I’ve heard in very very very very very long time.

Buy it!

Key Track: The whole thing is solid gold but I’d say High Voltage

Anique Vered

lykkeli

Lykke Li :: Youth Novels

The thing that I most love about music is how I find myself surrendering to feelings of calm, clarity, peace, heart-throbbing love VS head-banging, hip-swinging, feet-stomping craaazyiness all at the same time.  And so, whilst listening to Swedish 22 year old Lykke Li’s album Youth Novels, I’ve found myself gazing out to the horizon all melancholic-like, and at other times, dancing around like a Tom Cruise-inspired-cleaner with my 80s-punk-and-free jives.

Indeed Lykke Li exudes a freshness that seeps into your skin.  Complimented by producer and co-writer Björn Yttling, from renowned Indie-Pop band Peter Bjorn and John, this album decks up just the right amount of … well, as Lykke describes her genre herself: “Other / Other”.   Every song on “Youth Novels” takes you to another station on the Lykke Li subway – each with their own unique characters, smells, sounds and settings – add to this her radiating honesty and Björn’s beats, and you’ve got yourself the ride of the year.

This is definitely one worth buying to share with the grandkids I say.

Key tracks: Tonight and Dance Dance Dance

Annik Skelton

lauramarling

Laura Marling :: Alas, I Cannot Swim

This eighteen year old British-born indie/folk artist has released a gorgeous debut album of delicate, refreshing tracks to keep you leaning forward and listening carefully. Thought-provoking lyrics, intricate guitar work and soft-yet-powerful vocals pay testament to a maturity far beyond Marling’s years as she takes us on a journey of love, lust, religion, self-loathing, death and a constant quest for truth. Each build-up engages flawlessly as this album proves that less is definitely more.

Key tracks: Night Terror and Tap At My Window

Geoff Kim

thedears

The Dears :: Missiles

It feels a little disjointed, almost awkward, on first listen, but over the course of the year it grew to become my favourite record of 2008. There is a certain sense of tenderness and heart that has not been seen since Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ and you will be thoroughly rewarded if you allow it some time to sink in. Headphones recommended.

Key track: Crisis 1 & 2

Jye Smith

citycolour

City & Colour :: Live

Without a doubt my favourite album released this year is Dallas Green’s solo operation: City & Colour and in particular their Live release.  It’s a powerful, emotive and most noticeably of all it’s very pure.  His voice carries with it a certain piercing quality that really articulates the tone and message of each track.

The album includes a few unreleased tracks which are very special.  The alternative version of Coming Home is also a great look at the potential of these recordings — each and every song seems to have an endless amount of power behind it and Green’s control of this power is unmatched.

Key track: Day Old Hate

Nathanael Boehm

blissneso

Bliss N Eso :: Flying Colours

One of my favourite Australian hip-hop releases and album this year. A strong, pumping selection of tracks with a fresh variety of sounds across the album.

Key track: The Sea Is Rising

Peta Kiellor

eaglesofdeathmetal

Eagles Of Death Metal :: Heart On

How can you go wrong with a title like Heart On? Seriously. This album is beyond amazing as far as I’m concerned; it was the first I ever heard of these guys and was recommended by a friend who insisted he wouldn’t leave me alone until I listened to it in its entirety. Which I did… something like 7 times in the first day. And it’s still in the CD player in my car.

This album is a perfect mix of sleaze, sex and power-chord driven stoner rock in which most tracks are about girls, the beach, tight pants and parties. It’s nothing for the faint hearted, conservative, or anyone with any moral or intellectual values. Those who love this album will love it for eternity. And will understand why those of us already listening to it already only want to get drunk and party until dawn.

Go buy it. Really.

Key track: High Voltage.

Rob Tilleard

boniver

Bon Iver :: For Emma, Forever Ago

So much has already been written on the drama, sorrow and tragedies that inspired Justin Vernon’s debut as Bon Iver. It is not worth attempting to dissect the heartache and loneliness that inhabits this album. This is a man who is, or was, sad. That he manages to convey such sorrow in such a beautiful way does not make it any happier. Vernon travels to a place we have all been at least once, a dark place. A swirling mix of emotions and deep deep sorrow.

That Vernon’s lyrics themselves are disjointed, forming their own puzzle, draws us into his own isolated world. The words are as disturbed and searching as Vernon plainly was as he wrote the album. On Re:Stacks Vernon rustles up some confusing imagery: there’s a black crow sitting across from me\his wiry legs are crossed\and he’s dangling my keys he even fakes a toss\whatever could it be\that has brought me to this loss?. Shit, I have no idea what that means, seriously, can’t the fucking crow just give the poor man his keys back? Yet his tentative high pitched wail and impassioned yearning delves past that and shoots right for the heart. Easily the album of the year.

Key track: The Wolves (Act I and II) – A journey into the heart of darkness.

Scott Drummond

calexico

Calexico :: Carried To Dust

It’s been hard for me not to like Calexico, even if 2006’s Garden Ruin lacked the cinematic grandeur of some of their previous records. Happily, with Carried to Dust they’re back to their mariachi-loving, Morricone-infused best. The record features accomplished cameos from Tortoise’s Doug McCombs  and Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam, and poppy numbers like Writer’s Minor Holiday help to add light to the beautiful shade of the album’s more expansive core.

Key track: Hard to pick one, but at a push Two Silver Trees is haunting, dense yet seductive – can’t stop listening to it.

Stanley Johnston

neilyoung

Neil Young :: Sugar Mountain (Live At Canterbury House 1968)

This intimate live recording by Neil Young has been buried in the vaults for 40 years. Recorded just a couple of days before Young’s 23rd birthday, it finds him finding his feet as a solo performer following the acrimonious breakup of Buffalo Springfield. The highlight of this album is, believe it or not, the between song banter, with Young having plenty to talk about.

Key track – Many of these songs were yet to be recorded, so Young was beta testing them with a live audience. My personal favourite is the show closer – Broken Arrow.

Stewart Heys

thebug

The Bug :: London Zoo

This was an album I knew was going to be strong as soon as I started listening to it. The opening track ‘Angry’ commands attention with its drum beats alone, and when Tippa Irie gets going, you know things are going to get rough. The assault continues for most of the album, but there are moments where the ragga/ dancehall aspects drift away to leave a more Burial-esque minimalist dubstep flavour. By the time Warrior Queen appears for her second guest appearance on Poison Dart towards the end, I had experienced a distinct beginning, middle and end as if I had just heard a great story.

And that is the point of this album – there is a vast amount of creativity and variation within the tracks, but it all fits together perfectly. The spooky, dystopian tone sits nicely alongside the at times confrontational evolutionary/ revolutionary lyrics and punching, driving basslines. And these contrasts match the very positive, uplifting message I take from listening to this album – sure, things are a mess at the moment, but we can and will sort it out.

Key Track: Poison Dart featuring Warrior Queen

Stuart McPhee

teddythompson

Teddy Thompson :: A Piece Of What You Need

Due to my own strict rules/his crappy release date (circle where appropriate), Lupe Fiasco misses the cut this year. However, Brit Teddy Thompson is certainly no also-ran and his fourth album A Piece Of What You Need had me talking him up to anyone that would sit still for a minute. His sophisticated brand of Pop music blended with Country-ish vocals (think Roy Orbison) help to produce classic tunes like first single ‘In My Arms’ and the sweeping and remorseful ‘Don’t Know What I Was Thinking’.

A measure of an artist and an album is the ability to persuade the first time listener to immediately track down the rest of their back catalogue. Mission accomplished Mr Thompson, well played sir.

Key Track: In My Arms

Ty Pendlebury

deerhunter

Deerhunter :: Microcastle

I haven’t been this obsessed with an album since Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy. It’s a slow-burner and not as willfully weird as last year’s Cryptograms — though there are some Breeders’ Last Splash-type moments. This is a gorgeously languid shoegaze of an album, and if you thought the second coming of My Bloody Valentine was the most exciting thing to happen this year, then you’re almost right.

Key track: Nothing Ever Happened