Top albums of 2008 (that I learned about during 2009)

March 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

As I mentioned in my previous top 10 list of 2008, I love end of year lists to help me expand and also filter through my experience of the limitless amount of music there is out there to enjoy.  I spent time reading a lot of lists.  I learned about a lot of records I never heard about during 2008 proper.  I started digging like a small child and got lost in the wrapping paper.

So now that the wrapping paper has cleared, I got out a pick axe and pried open the large box labeled “2008”.  I poked my head inside to see what all stuck with me going through those lists.

Once again, there are links wherever possible so you can click away and start listening to this stuff at the speed of thought.  Also, since this is about finding things through other people’s lists, where I can recall I have given credit to who introduced me to the music.


Portugal.  The Man – Censored Colors

Introduced by : Carmen

This record to me is a continuation in the tradition of well-crafted songs from The Beatles.  There are a few tracks on here which are so well crafted and I believe have a universal appeal that they sound to me like a modern version of “Hey Jude” (check out “And I”).  So even though there is a substrate of The Beatles going on here, there is a lot of complexity to the music.  There are elements which are angular, disjointed, and fractured which remind me of Mars Volta.  There is a lot of soul and expression in these songs and it’s hard not to sing along with John Gourley on these tracks.


Everest – Ghost Notes

Introduced by : Taylor

A great enjoyable collection of classic songs which will draw comparisons to bands like Wilco and Calexico.  There is a lot of alt-country essence here and it’s a great record to listen to while driving.  There are also some spacy exploration in the latter half of the record as well but it’s not out of place.  I could recommend this record and the Portugal The Man record mentioned above to nearly anyone I know.


High Places – High Places

Introduced by : Carmen

This record is a great little surprise.  It took a few ambient listens before it grabbed me and I really started paying attention.  It is a beautiful formula of the beautiful voice of Mary Pearson, sweet melodies and the tribal percussion which dance around her.  Given this formula, one might guess that it could be similar in sound to School of Seven Bells which I had on my top 10 list for 2008, but the end result is very different.  I’m curious to see if this one grabs people right off the bat or if it takes a few listens like it did for me.


Russian Circles – Station

Introduced by : Corinne

Immediately upon listening to this I had an image pop into my head.  I just spent the last 20 minutes trying to find the image and I can’t.  If anyone can send it my way, they get a high five.  The image is a drawing from Igor Stravinsky in which he drew 2D figures which represented the music of several composers. Included are Bach, Schoenberg and others.  The figure her drew for Richard Wagner consisted of spirals.  This record from Russian Circles creates the same image and feeling as I listen to it.  Their instrumental heavy guitar driven forms are like a gigantic whirlpool.  It makes me wonder if Wagner would enjoy it.


Diplo and Santogold – Top Ranking

Introduced by : Matt at work??? Can’t remember???

I listened to this a lot in 2008 but for some reason I didn’t include it in my other top 10 list.  This record is a fun experience.  It travels all over through the spaces of Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop, Baile Funk and more.  There are a lot of tracks here so felt like I needed to fold down the corners of the MP3s as a crude bookmark.  For a few beginning bookmarks, I recommend these tracks : “Creator”, “Get It Up”, and “Light’s Out”.  (what?  Panda Bear mixed in here?  it works…)


The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost

Introduced by : Taylor

Dark, brooding, and full of swagger.  This record instantly reminds me of Darker My Love, Jesus and Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Velvet Underground all at once.  If you like any of these then go pick this up yesterday.  There are some incredible trips in this record which leave Earth’s atmosphere far behind.  My little roommate bunny Radar loves this record.  If it gets the approval of a selective and sometimes disapproving stoner bunny then it’s a pretty good pick.


Wow. WordPress seemed to censor this. It said "crunching..." for a bit and then the image never appeared. I threw it into MS-PAINT and then wordpress was happy. I guess it doesn't want me to post breasts???

Grails –  Doomsdayer’s Holiday

Introduced by : (thanks statistically-based recommendations!  you work!!!)

Way to go,  Another great record I did not know about without your help., I feel a bit embarrassed here.  You give me so much and I do little in return besides filling your servers with loads and loads of data about what I listen to.  Does that bother you?  Does it get heavy carrying all the music that I love?  I appreciate your hard work and especially your talent in recommending good music to me.  Thanks for giving me Grails.  This is great music.  Most people who read this probably will not like it, but I like it.  It’s loud and mean and, you know what I needed.  I will be sure to send you a Christmas ham this year.  I promise this time.


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Top 10 albums of 2008

December 18, 2008 at 4:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I love this time of year.  One of the things I enjoy most about it is sharing music that I loved during the year and digging up records that other people enjoyed.  I would love to hear what other people listened to this year, so please let me know.

P.S. all these below have links where you can listen and\or read more about the musics.


#1 – Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing

I’ve already written a bit about this record here so I won’t say too much more.  Layers and layers of fuzz like blankets over your ears.  Beautiful melodies and textures assemble themselves as it feels like the ether around you is resonating and crackling.  This may not be for everybody, but I would recommend at least checking out one track.


#2 – Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

A complete journey from one point to another while rarely re-treading over its own path.  The song forms on this record are free of traditional verse\chorus\verse structure.  Its pieces together music from the Middle East, Asia and various corners of the world into one meandering voice.


#3 – DJ /rupture – Uproot

Weaving together disparate musics from around the world, dj /rupture has created one of the most thoughtful and carefully created re-combinings of music I have ever heard.  From Moroccan hip hop to classical music to dubstep, they are all weaved back together with a very deliberate and cohesive alchemy.


#4 – Portishead – Third

Beyond the disbelief that this record finally came out is the disbelief that it’s actually good.  It’s more than good.  It’s one of the best records I have ever heard.  After 11 years they are back with a record which is a completely new exploration and a very enjoyable one.  Their commitment to reaching out to new musical space is nothing less than inspirational to me.


#5 – MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Hands down among this list, this record is the one that I would recommend to almost anyone I know.  Maybe even my mom.  She would probably love “Electric Feel”.  Some of the spaciest, danciest pop I have ever heard and I still can’t get enough of it.  It’s sweet and catchy and still it lasts.  I’m looking forward to more from these guys.  Especially if they continue working with Dave Fridmann since they seem to be like a younger and catchier Flaming Lips.


#6 – Buraka Som Sistema – Black Diamond

If you want rhythm, then check out some of this music called by some “kuduro” (“hard ass” in Portugese).  Full of fresh rhythms that I had not previously imagined, it’s hard to describe without playing it.  So click.  Pull down shades.  Shake your hard ass around your living room.


#7 – Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I – IV

Far and away this is the record I do not agree with music critics on this year.  Admittedly it is a collection of song ideas.  Fragments.  Nothing produced.  Nothing seen to completion.  However, there are moments in these recordings that I find to be extremely valuable.  Moments that made me feel something more than anything else I have listened to this year.  I didn’t expect Trent Reznor to remind me that I have a heart.  For examples of these, please see “Track 13” and “Track 22”.  The rest is left as an exercise to the listener.


#8 – The Kills – Midnight Boom

Pure guilty pleasure.  A great blend for tastes like mine since it combines atonal complicated musical ideas with instantly enjoyable pop.  Their most accessible record so far, it is sensual and well produced while still retaining its quality of being raw, and almost animal.  Those of you who were with me at the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks know that I was a bit impressed with Ms. Alison Mosshart as well.


#9 – Torche – Meanderthal

Is this really my only heavy guitar album on the list?  I’m afraid so.  Beyond being heavy, Torche are melodic and epic.  Some of these songs are so huge I think they could become anthems of small nations if they were to fall into the wrong hands.  Despite being “heavy” guitar driven rock, the music feels positive, almost uplifting at times.  I think I will go ahead and give this record the distinguished and highly sought after award of  “Kelly’s pump up record of the year”.


#10 – School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms

Fell completely backwards into this record.  I had forgotten that the Secret Machines had changed their roster and I read that they had a new record.  I listened to it but it didn’t really sound like them.  Turns out that previous vocalist\guitarist Ben Curtis left and created this wonderfully ethereal record with a couple of young ladies.  Filled with lush, psychedelic layers, African rhythms and beautiful vocals, I would recommend this to anyone who loves My Bloody Valentine, M83, or Cocteau Twins.

Honorable Mentions


Marnie Stern – This Is It […] That Is That
Who would have known that such technical guitar playing could be so enjoyable?  If 2009-Kelly came to visit 2008-Kelly to tell him that one of his favorite records was full of two-handed guitar weedlemanship (weedlewomanship???) would he have believed 2009-Kelly?  Most likely not.


This Will Destroy You – This Will Destroy You

An album I was not expecting.   I was not expecting it to destroy me.  But it did.  A great record of “post-rock” which employs a bit of noise and glitch elements along with more guitar-driven instrumentals a la MONO, Explosions in the Sky, and Mogwai.  It turns out that good things can come out of Texas.


The Flaming Lips – Christmas on Mars (soundtrack)

One more to file away in the “I can’t believe this finally happened” category.  Along with new recordings from Portishead and Guns n Roses, I started to wonder if this movie and its soundtrack would ever see the light of day.  I love the Flaming Lips but was not too impressed with their last album.  It had a few moments, but overall I felt it was lacking.  This does not disappoint.  It is a soundtrack, so there’s nothing here to tap your foot to.  However, the compositions and soundscapes here are masterful.  It feels like there were some deliberate efforts on the behalf of Stephen Drozd to try new thematic methods in creating the score.  On the interviews on the DVD he talks about how we would write a melody and then re-write it so that the melody and rhythm changed places to invert back and forth on one another.  The sound\music of this film are definitely the highlight and after years of waiting and receiving Christmas cards from Wayne saying that the movie was “finally coming out that year” I’m glad that they took their time to do it right.

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