Listlistlist. How else does one express enjoyment besides comparison and competition?

December 25, 2008 at 7:38 pm (Music)

Best Music 2008

I’ve put way too much time and effort into this, and most of the list spotlights music based more on atmosphere and attitude than, well, musicality; Oh well, here we go:

Top Five Albums

1) Flying Lotus: Los Angeles

There was no way any other album was taking this spot on my personal list. Besides a natural affinity for the bedroom headphone composer, it’s an astounding solipsistic accomplishment. I’ve talked before about the album as aural excitement (scroll down a little to find it), but more than that it’s a stylistic parade which converges hip hop with electronic at a jazzy intersection of dancy avenues and glitchy detours. All of which a single musician with a good network and an even better laptop accomplished.

2) Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes

As much as Flying Lotus represents the triumph of the individual in this year two thousand and eight, Fleet Foxes are a success story of friendship. The songs on the list all thrive on the vocal harmonies of all its members, adorned with wacky instrumentation which inspires the envy of Brian Wilson, and even more exciting than that, the album was recorded in a patchwork of instances, fitted together in the divine quilt whose soft hymns accompany us into somnial comfort.

3) Why?: Alopecia

My personal choice for rap-inflected generic oddity of the year (over some stiff opposition), and I am an iconoclast when choosing iconoclasts. Instead of approaching pop’s smoothness or ODB madness while still resisting comparisons, Yoni Wolf went and picked up a couple more members for his band instead of an electronic enhancement, the result this indie rock record with a singer comfortable in a country hiccup and hip hop flow. There’s enough time for a couple pop hooks in between. And all of this attention paid to the music (listen to the piano on the first track that bubbles throughout until the ending’s climax and the outro fades out in a catchy hook) was not at the expense of lyrics. “We lifted the body from the water like a gown” is a taste of its elaborate lyrical narratives, its poetic twists and turns of phrases.

4) Dungen: 4

You have to hand it to Gustav, he knows how to play around. His international sleeper hit Ta Det Lingt (such a thing could only exist post-internet, making the album’s time period even more intriguing) revived acid rock as in need of visitation, and with vintage equipment and a soft, frail voice as blatant anachronisms he innovated in a style long decomposed. And now, on 4, he continued the trend by arranging his songs around soft pop vocal melodies and plenty of jazzy improvisation in contrast to the rockin solos of his earlier breakthrough. I’ve talked about this album before, and I’ve even linked to that time I’ve talked about this album before (scroll down a little to find it).

5) TV on the Radio: Dear Science,

Like leaving off Radiohead from last year’s list completely, this album really should make the number one spot if one judged by stylistic and compositional mastery abstracted. Plenty of musicians and producers contribute to a sonic banquet, and Tunde Adabimpe turns in his most howling vocal performance full of rhythm of soul. Kyp Malone compliments with luscious vocal harmonies, and they aren’t shy on bringing the funk, break beats, and guitar fuzz. I just have a soft spot for the bedroom laptop magician and underfunded collective over a platoon of performance musicians; my taste buds are to blame, and they are stubborn, conservative monarchs of my enjoyment…


Best Debut:

Crystal Antlers: Crystal Antlers

This band frickin’ rocks! Their EP’s most common tempo is between neck breaking and fist pumping, and when they do relent from their energetic riffs and frantic, throaty-but-in-a-good-way-unlike-others singer, they bathe their rock in a haze of vocal harmonies and peaceful noise, just enough of a break until the next cymbal is smashed and bass drum stomped!


Best Song (Not on any of those albums as a rule, but this is how it would roll out regardless):

I Feel My Stuff” by Brian Eno and David Byrne

Gospel Music is a music of space and light. The sea of vocal harmonies singing a melody signifies a multitude of mouths, and the major chord cadences of each piece often focus on light imagery, besides an obvious need for light so all singers can adequately see their sheet music. Imagine hearing an entire choir shrouded in darkness, and it’s obvious that to sing about saviors and joy one needs, among other things, an ample amount of lamps. The rest of Eno-Byrne’s album continues the parade of light and space, but this one iconoclastic song drenches the gospel in shadow and darkness. Instead of a million voices singing, a lone David Byrne without overdubbed company shouts in reverb and horror: “I Feel My Stuff”. More than just a song of darkness, it’s a song of blindness, a horrific catabases to the entire album’s joyful stroll; an electric guitar slices through the minimal music just as a few voices sing in the background unintelligible words, and the true victor of the piece is the listener who spotted a rare moment of horror-gospel built from ambience and absence.

I could only find incredibly crappy live youtubes and a song clip; here’s something that might work, but it makes the piano sound like a glitchy synth instead of Eno’s consistently pristine production, and is still very low quality:

Runner Up:

Buriedfed” by Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

More than the Freak Folk tag the few people who’ve listened to MBAR call him, he’s much more freak-bluesy: instead of just mucking up his voice while instruments croon, he turns the entire musical cast into a desperate celebration. When he howls “God, I Wish That I Were Dead” in defiant amusicality, you know it’s catharsis you’re knee-deep in, and it isn’t too bad a place to be four minutes of manic expression impressively arranged in so many vicious layers.

Link of surprisingly high quality:


Notable “did listen to but didn’t quite make the cut”s:

Hauschka’s Ferndorf, Fucked Up’s* The Chemistry of Modern Life, Fuck Button’s* Street Horrrsing, Brightblack Morning Light’s Motion to Rejoin, Brian Eno and David Byrne’s Everything that Happens Will Happen Today, and Beck’s Modern Guilt.

*Just on the list to type fuck, of course. Fuckedyfuckfuckerson.

Notable “didn’t listen adequately to”s that would probably make the list (ten entries long!):

Fennesz’s Black Sea, DJ /Rupture’s Uproot, The Bug’s London Zoo, Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series vol. 8, and Johann Johannsen’s Fordlandia.


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