Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Alex's Fashionably Late Top 10 of 2008 pt. 2

The home stretch!

5. Cut Copy, "In Ghost Colours"
No better album has come out in this flavor since the groundwork was laid out in the late eighties by New Order and the Happy Mondays. Far from limply replicating the work of those bands, CC expertly incorporate the intervening twenty years of indie rock and the rise, fall and institutionaliation of house music. Which would be impressive enough, if it wasn't easy to just ignore that stuff and get sweaty on the dancefloor or in your bedroom like it's not even a basic thing whenever you hear "Hearts on Fire" or "Lights and Music". Dance music and rock music needn't have ever had an artificial wall erected between them, and listening to these mop topped Australians do their thing, it's kind of hard to imagine there ever was such a division.

4. Portishead, "Third"
"So we haven't put out a record in eleven years or so. I was thinking that instead of what made us massively popular in the nineties, what we might do instead is jettison any traces of trip-hop (which was kind of a made up genre anyway) and reinvent ourselves as a weird, seventies Krautrock band. And instead of our meticulous studio sound, let's dirty things up a lot, have lots of loose ends and oddball choices and generally make a record that sounds like we kinda jammed it out direct to tape. Oh and the first single will be an abrasive sea change on the order of Radiohead's 'Idioteque'*, and will be fucking genius. Does that sound like fun guys? It does? Okay good, you set up the echoplex and the Moog, I'll get Beth on the phone."

* Music writers of previous generations would likely have used Dylan plugging in as their point of reference here. You have permission to stab me to death and bury me in a shallow grave if I ever reference that largely aprocryphal nonsense.

3. Disfear, "Live the Storm"
I would give anything to live in a world where the meeting of Heavy Metal and Punk Fucking Rock sounded like this and not like hardcore, which is largely BORING. This record is a monster, it sounds like the greasy biker album that Lycanthropic Motorhead would make in between burning down your village, pillaging your livestock and drinking all the whiskey available to them regardless of vintage, pick sliding and basement show chanting all the way. Actually, regular Motorhead might do that stuff, but you get the idea. Featuring At the Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg and production work from Converge's Kurt Ballou (him again!), "Live the Storm" can't be bargained with, can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop. It is the most energizing album I have heard in ages and is the perfect soundtrack to basically any violently anti-social activity imaginable.

2. Fuck Buttons, "Street Horrrsing"
I'm sure somebody must have tried to do a pop noise record before, but chances are it was someone like the Boredoms and kind of sucked. Not so this gem, which happily marries the seemingly disparate worlds of fun catchy loop based music electronic music and hard, unforgiving white noise. Toss in some Portion Control style industrial and the occasional touch of oozy ambience and you have the album that I have returned to most over the past year, the one which demands constantly to be put on in any context, and to be listened to for it's entirety. I have hard time putting a finger on what makes it so compelling, devoid as it is of quaint ideas like songwriting and even "songs" themselves. Maybe it's the idea that pop music needn't be burdened with those concepts or silly qualities like accessibility or approachability. Maybe I just like having some british guy shout at me through a children's toy such that his voice distorts, while his buddy plays a toy piano through a fuzz pedal. Maybe I won't even understand. A number one record any other year if not for....

1. m83, "Saturdays = Youth"
Well would you look at that, Bruce I agree on the number one for the first time ever. I am way too personally invested in this album to EVER be able to be objective about it. I was listening to it at the exact moment my life fell apart in 2008. I was listening to it at the exact moment I finally realized that no matter what I was going to be okay. It has been a companion to me this year, the feelings I have for it are akin to those you might have for a beloved pet. I am incapable of not viewing it through that lens, so I tend to get gushy and sentimental when discussing it. It's hard to think of where to begin given that. It's a big record, open and warm, enveloping without smothering. It's atmosphere is omnipresent, whether you're hearing it loud over a PA or in tinny headphones. It sound like an album you know back to front from the first moment you hear it, I swear I knew the choruses to before getting thirty seconds into any given song. It sparkles like distant stars, soft and immeasurably far away. It's a timeless fantasy of what the eighties were, a platonic representation of what someone who might have never heard Kate Bush, This Mortal Coil and the Cure might imagine them to sound like. It's the sound of the first time you ever thought you were in love. It's the score to the moment when you realized that life is hard and confusing but mostly eventually turns out okay. It's a friend you haven't met yet.

I don't have anything to say about 'Saturdays = Youth' that will convince you of why it's the best album of 2008. I guess a lot of people don't feel the way I do about it. That's okay.

It's something special.

2 comments:

Bruce said...

First time ever? Was "Silent Shout" not yr #1 of '06?

alex said...

Nope, The Junior Boys "So this is Goodbye" was.