Sunday, 7 December 2008

The best albums of 2008

25. Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head
I liked it, okay?

Best track - I Wish I Was In New Orleans

24. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
Not vintage Oberst by any means, but there were enough tunes on here to make his solo debut more than a worthwhile listen.

Best track - Cape Canaveral

23. Spiritualized – Songs In A&E
Calling it his best since Ladies & Gentlemen might be damning Jason Spaceman with faint praise, but it really is.

Best track - Soul On Fire

22. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Way short of their best and, yeah, they miss Blixa, but as a slightly softer Grinderman experience, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! worked completely.

Best track - We Call Upon The Author

21. Black Mountain – In The Future
Came out so early in the year that I nearly forgot about it, which would've been a shame because In The Future is possibly the best loud-quiet-loud album since Mogwai Young Team.

Best track - Tyrants

20. Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
If the rest of the album had been as good as the first two tracks, this would've been an absolute masterpiece rather than an unpronounceable treat.

Best track - Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur

19. Lindstrom – Where You Go I Go Too
Three tracks. One's 10 minutes long, one's 16 minutes long, one's 29 minutes long. They're all great.

Best track - Where You Go I Go Too

18. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim
Marling reckons the inspiration for this album comes from Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's I See A Darkness. Now, it's not as good as that particular example of Will Oldham genius, but what is she, eleven? She's got time yet.

Best track - Ghosts

17. The Dodos – Visiter
Proof that guitar and drums is enough to cut it even when they're not being played by Jack and Meg.

Best track - God?

16. Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees
That's nine albums now for the Washington songwriter and not a single clunker amongst them. Someone please buy this fella's records, he's amazing.

Best track - Gillian Was A Horse

15. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Even when singing about serial commas and imperialism they don't sound pretentious and snobbish. They sound like the brightest and most buoyant thing all year.

Best track - A-Punk

14. Ben Folds – Way To Normal
He might be as saccharine and goofy as ever but Ben Folds is always full of awesome.

Best track - Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)

13. Girl Talk – Feed The Animals
Mash-ups are usually fucking awful but, this... this was something quite different. Still Here, for example, features Whiter Shade Of Pale, No Diggity, 15 Step and Stranger In Moscow, which might make it the greatest four minutes ever.

Best track - Play Your Part (Pt 1)

12. Portishead – Third
In what world The Seldom Seen Kid was better than this, I don't know. Shame on you, Mercury panel.

Best track - Machine Gun

11. No Age – Nouns
Dean and Randy might have softened the edges since last year's debut, but Nouns rattles through 12 tracks in 31 minutes, leaving you wanting more in an extremely good way.

Best track - Teen Creeps

10. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
Somewhere between J Dilla's Donuts and Company Flow's Little Johnny From The Hospital, Los Angeles sounds like it was recorded at least fifty years into the future.

Best track - Parisian Goldfish

9. El Guincho – Alegranza!
Hypnotic and hallucinatory, propelled by giddy Afrobeat rhythms and tropical steel drums; Alegranza! was the party in 2008.

Best track - Antillas

8. Noah & The Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
Certainly the cutest, most charming collection of songs released this year. Plus a million bonus points for brightening up a miserable Field Day.

Best track - Give A Little Love

7. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Alright, so it's the same as the last one and the same as the one before (and the same as the one before that) but no one writes better college rock tunes than Craig Finn.

Best track - Sequestered In Memphis

6. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Evocative, effortless and epic, I imagine this will top a lot of end of year lists. Were I not so cantankerous, it'd probably top this one.

Best track - White Winter Hymnal

5. Air France – No Way Down
This Swedish duo are due to drop their first full-length album next year (this one had a miserly seven tracks), if it's half as good as this and their previous release, the equally blissful On Trade Winds, we can already safely name the best album of 2009.

Best track - June Evenings

4. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
Notwithstanding Zane Lowe's embarrassing declaration that this is the album that defined music in 2008, Tha Carter III is actually really fucking good.

3 Peat, Phone Home, La La ensure that it never quite reaches the standard of Illmatic and Ready To Die that Weezie was all-too-clearly shooting for (just have another look at that cover) but it's still the best hip hop album of the year; and in A Milli and Lollipop was responsible for two of the year's best singles.

Best track - A Milli

3. Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
After the rockin' Tanglewood Numbers, Dave Berman returned to more traditional ground for his second post-addiction album. But with the heroin out of his system, the world's greatest ever lyricist is now confident enough to write songs about his drug addiction (Candy Jail), paint a beautiful self-portrait (Suffering Jukebox) and on Strange Victory, Strange Defeat tell us why most indie bands suck.

Best track - What Is Not But Could Be If

2. The Mae Shi – HLLLYH
With new records from Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, Flying Lotus, Beck, No Age, HEALTH and… umm… Metallica, Los Angeles pretty much owned 2008. HLLLYH was the pick of the lot.

No longer content releasing collections of 40 30-second bursts, this time The Mae Shi wrote proper songs and everything. But they still had the balls to include an 11-minute track (Kingdom Come) that offers nothing but snippets of all the other songs on HLLLYH. And, of course, they plonked it right in the middle of the album. Genius.

Best track - Kingdom Come

1. The Bug – London Zoo
From reggae to electronica to grime to dancehall to hip hop to dubstep, London Zoo is a thick, thumping musical fog; a monstrous tour de force that was simply unmatched this year.

Monumental bass and apocalyptic drums are couched in smooth, deep melodies, with subtle bursts and flourishes supporting the mayhem going on elsewhere. At the top of the mix, the likes of Ricky Ranking, Tippa Irie and Warrior Queen toast harrowing and disquieting tales of life in 2008.

Paranoid, politically-charged and brutally rewarding, London Zoo is a truly global record; the kind that could only have come out of the planet's only truly global city. London Zoo represents these corrupt and crumbling times every bit as well as OK Computer captured the pre-millennium blues.

Best track - Skeng

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