Best Music of 2008

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
My album of 2008

Exactly one year ago, I posted my list of the best of 2007. Strange then that I woke up at 6:00am this morning thinking of putting together my 2008 list. I’m a subscriber to eMusic, so most of my music this year has come through downloads from this excellent service. As well, my experience attending some of the music portion of SXSW has helped me find new music this year. Looking over this list, some are quite recent listens, while others have become old favourites, so it’s a little hard to rank them precisely. That being said, here are my choices (idiosyncratic and personal, definitely) for the best music released in 2008:

  1. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
  2. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
  3. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
  4. Sigur Rós – Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
  5. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
  6. Deerhunter – Microcastles
  7. Love is All – A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night
  8. Islands – Arm’s Way
  9. The Jealous Girlfriends – The Jealous Girlfriends
  10. Emiliana Torrini – Me and Armini

Just outside the top ten (either due to quality or just not enough listens yet):

  • Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping
  • The Dears – Missiles
  • Portishead – Third
  • The Vivian Girls – The Vivian Girls
  • Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster
  • Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Here are some of the “pro’s” lists:

Chromewaves Best of 2008
Pitchfork Top 50 Albums of 2008’s Albums of the Year
Britt Daniel (Spoon) picks his best of 2008 on the Merge Records blog

How about you? What were some of your favourites?

We Salute You

Amazing blog: For Those Who Tried to Rock, chronicling “every band to have been formed by teens with that perfect mixture of big dreams and questionable talent in suburban garages, high school music rooms, and college dorms across America. And to preserve them cryogenically with the very dry ice they once merited, for future generations.”

You’d better believe that the Gitch Band will soon be included in the canon of “those who tried to rock”!!! But I’ll post the story here first. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to lift some of our music off that ancient cassette somehow.

(via Canuckflack)

The Future of Music (for Me)

Last night, on my friend Jay‘s recommendation, I downloaded Radiohead’s “video album” In Rainbows – From the Basement from the iTunes store. It’s fantastic, with the band playing most of the album live in a basement studio. And it made me realize that with CD sales dropping, the future of music is for musicians to really connect with fans again, to show how music is made and what kind of passion goes into its creation and performance.

Simply listening to music doesn’t bring us face to face with the people who make it. Going to live shows is somewhat better, although it can often be hard to make a connection in a crowded sweaty club full of drunk people, or, in the case of a more successful band like Radiohead, in a huge stadium sitting quietly in an overpriced plastic seat.

Stripping the music down in some way, and allowing us to get closer, really helps to make the musicians human again, and the music feels much more immediate when it’s being played live in an intimate setting.

I noticed this trend taking hold recently when I began to download the wonderful HD video files from Soft City Lights, sometimes from bands I either didn’t know or previously didn’t like. The Black Cab Sessions is another favourite, with musicians performing live and acoustic in the back of a London taxicab.

The Radiohead album is the first time I’ve actually paid for music video online, but I suspect that it won’t be the last.

Vicarious Road Trip

I’m barely 40 pages into Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself to Live and I’m already feeling jealous. Not of his talent for comic writing, though he has plenty of that. I’m feeling strangely jealous that I’ve never been able to go on a solo road trip with 600 CDs like he’s doing. You see, I’ve never had a driver’s licence. 99% of the time, it’s no big deal at all. Well, more like 80% of the time. When my wife and I do occasionally need to drive, we either rent a car or borrow my Dad’s or her Mum’s, and Brooke does the driving. I know she resents it a bit (okay, maybe a lot), but at this stage I really think it might be too late for me to learn.

I did know how, once. Just like every other kid, I signed up for the driver education classes at my high school and did perfectly well. Except for one thing. It was probably at my very last lesson when my driving instructor advised me not to book my test appointment until I practiced my parallel parking. A lot. At this point in the story, my memory gets a bit foggy (this is, after all, now more than 25 years ago). I did NOT practice my parallel parking. In fact, I got a bit annoyed with his advice. And when it came down to it, I guess I just didn’t care enough. All of my friends were getting licences, and some of them were even buying cars. I was happy, like Iggy, to be the Passenger. Until now.

It’s not that Klosterman has made me crave the experience of actually driving thousands of miles. The physical and mental effort of keeping the car safely between the lines and away from the cars in front and behind strikes me as exhausting. But there’s just something about the particular kind of solitude with musical accompaniment a “road trip” offers that a bus journey with an iPod just can’t match.

Even if I were to practice my parallel parking, after all this time, and successfully obtain my driving licence, I doubt very much whether I’d be able to take off on my own with a trunk full of music. I suspect that there would be some marital payback which would involve me doing every single bit of driving for the next ten years, and beyond. And as a much older new driver, I could never build up the self-confidence that would let me roll down the window and rest one arm on the doorframe. Instead of the freedom that I have in mind, more likely I’d be squinting at highway exit signs, nervously changing lanes and trying not to fall asleep behind the wheel.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll get back to my vicarious road trip now. At least when I start to get sleepy, I can just put the book down and go to bed.

Great Albums: Rattlesnakes

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

I’d met Goldie through my friend Colin around 1983, I think. With his thinning hair and permanent scowl, he looked like a perennially pissed off old man. We shared a love for punk, even though he was somehow affiliated with the strange evangelical subculture I’d recently become part of. I remember him bringing us Dead Boys records when Colin and I were in residence at Bible College. We’d play those and Colin’s Zapp funk records as loud as we could, enjoying the vicarious thrill of swearing and talking sexy. I remember Goldie and I commandeering the lounge television one night when Rock ‘n’ Roll High School was on. So we shared a taste in music and a slightly skeptical attitude toward the world around us.

Around 1984, our tastes were broadening. Goldie was the first one to tip me off to The Style Council, a new direction from The Jam‘s Paul Weller. So it was no surprise when he showed up one afternoon with a home-recorded tape that he wanted me to hear. Side A was Eden by Everything But The Girl, well before their dance music days. Though I enjoyed Tracey Thorn’s soulful vocals, I was much more interested in Side B, which Goldie hadn’t even mentioned.

Lloyd Cole’s anguished voice and whipsmart lyrics drew me in. Here was a guy who seemed impossibly sophisticated and world-weary at the same time. Every song was tinged with regret but filled with literary barbs and wry humour. One of my favourite lines is from Four Flights Up: “Must you tell me all your secrets when it’s hard enough to love you knowing nothing?” The songs had a sophistication that screamed Europe but the album title sounded American. And Lloyd seemed worldly enough to know New York, London and Paris equally well. This guy was flat out cool, like an upper class and definitely more hetero Morrissey.

In the same vicarious way that I listened to Zapp and the Dead Boys, I absorbed the heartbreak and romantic adventures of Lloyd Cole. I didn’t have anywhere near that sort of experience (and still don’t), but when on the final track Lloyd sang “Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?” I wanted to jump up and scream out “Yes!”

Track Listing

  1. Perfect Skin
  2. Speedboat
  3. Rattlesnakes
  4. Down on Mission Street
  5. Forest Fire
  6. Charlotte Street
  7. 2cv
  8. Four Flights Up
  9. Patience
  10. Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?

Lloyd Cole’s weblog
“Perfect Skin” video on YouTube
“Forest Fire” video on YouTube

Great Albums is an occasional feature on Consolation Champs where I relate some personal stories about life-changing music in lieu of any proper music criticism. You’ll probably learn more about me than about music, so consider that fair warning. For more, click the Great Albums category tag.