2. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes
3. Portishead - Third
Other than the sound of Beth Gibbons’s vocals and a vaguely driving tone of ominous menace, Portishead arrived in 2008 barring no resemblance to their prior selves. Previously content to strike a novel mood (trip hop), Third finds the band forging each song of this utterly consistent album into a wonderful and strange fun-house of experimentation. The plaintive lyrics and strings at the beginning of "The Rip", for example, are totally ethereal, and when they give way to midi-driven bout of electronics, it’s like a roller coaster taking a thrilling turn. It’s like, you know, Space Mountain or something.
But what I like most about the album is intangible and defies easy analogy. There’s this troubled sound to it– both in the lyrics and the backing music– yet with each unpredictable turn, each spot-on bit of strangeness, the album emits a sense of creative triumph in the eye of pervasive, vacillating sadness. With battle-scarred aplomb, Portishead were Thomas Hardy’s millennial thrush, chirping into the growing gloom. And me, leaning on my "coppice gate" (my car) on the way home, around the bend of highway 24, the city obscured by clouds as the full-hearted evensong hits me.
4. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
The dance music that Crystal Castles make is novel in the details, the shades. It combines darkness, youthfulness, fun, and heroism in equal measure and ends up being the perfect conflation of (1) your memories of playing Super Mario Bros 2 at your neighbor’s house, and (2) the feeling of being drunk on the dance floor in your underwear.
In other words, Ethan Kath and Alice Glass are role models for the new generation of reckless, damaged, cheap-booze fueled, neu-rave what?, urban minimum wagesters; “drink ‘n fuck”: a pretty irreproachable weltanshuuag now that AIDS doesn’t exist anymore.
5. The Walkmen - You & Me
To no other album this year did I feel so helplessly drawn. Comments about the band running out of ideas make sense to me. I mean, “In the New Year” is pretty boldly unoriginal coming from a band that seems to have already tapped out the bittersweet holiday nostalgia vibe– for fuck’s sake, they already have a song called “New Year’s Eve”! And for everyone who has given this album a chance and think The Walkmen are running on empty, I empathize and will not admonish you to look deeper and determine that the album is actually, like One Hundred Miles Off before it, a re-hauled vision and sound. But, you know, if you want to look deeper, you may find that You & Me is a re-hauled vision and sound.
In hindsight, each of their albums evoke a different season or mood. Everyone felt like music in a cold city apartment. Bows was wintery. Hundred had a blurry summer sound. You & Me conjures a year of changes at the New England boarding school. Loves, losses, books under the arm, football in the autumn-colored field, sneaking off campus in the summer to drink beers by the wrought iron bridge overlooking the old tupperware factory. Which is to say, You & Me is a turning point. It feels more comprehensive in mood than the previous albums, more like a collection of short stories. On You & Me, like on Everyone about five year ago, they seem comfortable enough to let their music shift to fit the mood and story of a particular song.
But then again, The Walkmen have created a sound that is very personal to me. I can’t help it if I still recall playing their first two albums in my CD Walkman as I walked to my summer job in 2004. Or that I still remember pleading the DJ at the Arrow Bar to play “The Rat” so I could lose my shit on the dance. Brent DiCenzsceno, former Pitchfork writer and superbly gonzo musical journalist, in his masterful and polarizing departing review at Pitchfork, lamented having to give To the 5 Burroughs a numerical rating.
My interaction with music goes well beyond simple, academic analysis of sound. Nostalgia, emotional context, the continued story and history behind the artist, the packaging, and everything else matters in my love and fascination with music. This is why writing for Pitchfork, which prides itself on discovering unknown underground artists, means so little to me anymore. Listening to music as some form of continued, insular experiment with recording driven by faceless, MP3-based rock bands bores me. I was immediately prepared to love To the 5 Boroughs from my history with the band– from listening to Ill while playing Atari with Andy Eberhardt, to mowing neighborhood lawns with Gregg Bernstein and Paul’s Boutique in a walkman, to holding my portable CD player off the front cushion of my Buick Century to keep Check Your Head from skipping as I passed over the speed bumps in the Marist parking lot every day after my Junior year, to shooting bottle rockets from poster tubes at passing trucks on 400 off the roof of the AMC multiplex I worked at when Ill Communication came out. It is not mentally possibly for me to switch on apathy towards the group.He’s right, of course. How can you objectively evaluate albums like these? I didn’t grow up with Daydream Nation. If I had, maybe I would not like it less than White Trash, Two Beebs, and a Bean. Maybe if I hadn’t slow danced with Patsy to the Walkmen Christmas song at the jo-tel party while drunk off brandy and egg-nog, I would not love the holiday-friendly sound of this band so much. But subjectivity is the only reality our aesthetic knows. The rest is intellectual approximation. And we get enough of that during the work week.
6. Plants and Animals - Parc Avenue
7. Santogold &- Santogold
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus, Dig!!!
8. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
9. Arthur Russell - Love Is Overtaking Me
10. Sigur Ros - With a Buzz In our Ears We Play Endlessly
11. Islands - Arm's Way
12. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
13. The Dodos - Visiter
14. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
15. Black Mountain - In the Future
16. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
17. Beach House - Devotion
18. Beck - Modern Guilt
19. M83 - Saturdays=Youth
20. Marnie Stern - This Is It, Etc.
21. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
22. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
23. 2562 - Aerial
I. WHY THIS ALBUM IS SO GOOD.
A. A Circumstances Album
1. Hits a resonate frequency with your life movements by tapping into the rhythm of breathing.
2. However, it moves off-center with your life– wobbling in chaotic cycles like Ahab on his pivot hole– but slightly faster, which makes it devilish at heightening moods.
B. Clean Dub(step)
1. It takes the messy dub influences of traditional dubstep and cleans them up so that the album sounds like a virtual reality approximation of dub. The busted vibrations of dub and dubstep produced by bass or reverbed samples is replaced by cleanly echoing snyths and precise bass hits.
2. This is where the ‘minimo’ comes in. But don’t expect a Villalobos-esque rave-through-the-wall sound. This album is big: it’s the best headphones album this side of Steingarten, and the best electronic album of 2008 by a small landslide.
II. WHY I CAN NEVER FIND THE COLANDER IN OUR APARTMENT.
A. I Don’t Know.
1. Everytime I need the colander I can’t find it so I ask Patsy or Deepa and they say, “Um, it’s … here let me just get it.” And then they start to look around in the kitchen and then I get bored and walk away and then I come back and they’ve found it but I don’t know where they found it.
2. Then I find myself needing it again and, not wanting to pathetically repeat the process, end up using a plate or something to drain the water, resulting in the loss of more than a few pastas.
24. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
25. The Kills - Midnight Boom
26. Paavohharju - Laulu Laakson Kukista
27. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything that Happens Will Happen Today
28. Man Man - Rabbit Habits
20. The Garlands - The Garlands EP
pound-for-pound the best release of the year.
31. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
32. Hauschka - Ferndort
33. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
34. Belong - Colorloss EP
35. Apes and Androids - Blood Moon
36. The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
37. Mau Mau Starter - Waterless Sky
38. Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow & Blue
39. The Mae Shi - Hlllyh
40. Sun Kil Moon - April
41. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
42. Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
43. White Denim - Exposion
44. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
45. Gang Gang Dance -
46. Deerhunter - Microcastle
47. Shearwater - Rook
48. Spiritualized - Songs in A&E
49. Erykah Badu - American: World War 4 (or whatever it's called)
50 (TIE). Little Joy - Little Joy
50. Byetone - Death of a Typographer
Glitches, clicks, pulsing and driving pan sonic noise-beats, thumping basslines, teasingly melodic synths, and austere, dancey beats to the dome. Headbangers for liberal city dwellers.
50. Grouper - Dragging a Dead Dear up a Hill
50. Ellen Allien - Sool
50. Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea