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Monday, December 29, 2008
2008 REVIEW: Part 1 - Music
Is it that time of year already?

Classy as ever Amy!

Yup indeedy~do! My round~up of all things 2008 begins now and what a year it was for music. I must have listened to about 70 new albums this year and only about 10 were stinkers. For the most part, I was mightily impressed with the new stuff and it's been very difficult whittling it down to just 10 releases. But I have!

Is it just me or is Madonna a gross old hag?

This year, I've split the music into two categories: one being a 'normal' album selection and the other being a 'not normal' album list, ie. soundtracks, compilations, etc... Before I do a Top Ten of the normal, here's a list of albums that didn't quite make it but, by blimey, very nearly did. They're just too good not to mention (why don't you do a Top 20 then?), so here they are:

A groin~grabbingly good year for Georgey Boy (only 1 arrest)


BETH ROWLEY - Little dreamer
SPARKS - Exotic Creatures Of The Deep
Not in the Top Ten, I'm gonna point slightly to the left!

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
SIGUR RóS - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
She may dress like a blamange, but she sure sounds sweet.

AIMEE MANN - @#%& Smilers
SUPERGRASS - Diamond Hoo Ha
HOT CHIP - Made In The Dark
CSS - Donkey
Whatdaya mean our second album is nowhere near as good as our first?

REM - Accelerate
ELBOW - The Seldom Seen Kid
MARTHA WAINWRIGHT - I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too
In the absence of Rufus, Martha will do nicely...

TV ON THE RADIO - Dear Science
THE RESEARCH - The Old Terminal
KINGS OF LEON - Only By The Night
They might be in everyone else's Top 10, but not mine!

Great, great albums but not quite great enough to make the....

10. MYSTERY JETS - Twenty One
Guitar~based indie bands have learned they need to do/be more than just that. The MJs (as I call them) recognise that with shifts in tone and instrumentation. The lead single Young Love was one of the best of 2008 and still tightens my trousers in a very real and meaningful way.

9. WE ARE SCIENTISTS - Brain Thrust Mastery
Like the MJs these guys are not simple white guitar boys. It's almost like they've purposefully went out their way to make each track sound different ot the next. Lead single After Hours, to be honest, is almost typical indie fare but that's where tedium starts and ends. Opening track Ghouls sounds like it was born in Blade Runner whereas the closing track, That's What Counts, could be the bastard son from a Squeeze album. Looking forward to what they do next.

8. COLDPLAY - Viva La Vida Or Death & All His Friends
I have to say that I am not a Coldplay fan. In fact, I've been quite derisive of their efforts in the past but this really got me going. The first single Violet Hill was a nothing at first but after a few more listens it grew and grew (like a number of my fave songs this year) - a wise move from them giving it away free on their website. The title track has become the sound of this year and I don't think a day went by when RADIO 2 didn't play it. Martin & Co. had the audacity to release a Deluxe Edition within months of the original but it included even more gems. Because of this, I am now re~thinking everything I know about music...

7. KILLERS - Day & Age
Like Coldplay, I'm not really a fan of these guys either and their single, Human, was also another I thought little of at first. Now it's sits happily in the Best of the Year category. Mind you, the rest of Day & Age has got some immensely instant tunes, namely Spaceman and the soon~to~be~released (surely) I Can't Stay. The latter is possibly my favourite song this year by anyone. They've also gone a bit Eighties (and I don't mean that in the pejorative sense) with some very interesting instrumentation and production. But what will their 'normal' fans think?

6. SHE & HIM - Volume 1
Some of the more cynical amongst you may think that this is only here based on the groin~grabbingly beautiful Zooey "The *coughs* Happening" Deschanel, who sings for this duo. Tush and pish, I say! There's an honesty and beauty that doesn't exist in most of the albums in the Top 10 and her voice does something more than erotic to me. Top track Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? is the hit that never was. Let's hope some X~Factor/American Idol reject covers it soon...

5. RON SEXSMITH - Exit Strategy Of The Soul
Blogites with a long~term memory will know my lurve for Mr Sexsmith. Sadly this offering is not one of his best but, as you can see, even his lesser offerings can still sit proudly in the company of others. Collaboration with fellow Canadian Feist, Brandy Alexander, displays his prowess for a top tune with a tit~tuttingly amazing arrangement. The track Brighter Still is possibly one of his best and shows that his voice is one of the few in the world that could sing the phonebook and still make me weep.

4. THE TING TINGS - We Started Nothing
Before you use the words 'bandwagon', 'on' and 'jumping', check out my music review from last year (link at the bottom of this post) where I exalt a couple of their tunes. Without wanting to sound like some elitist music snob from High Fidelity, I've been banging on about them since I first heard That's Not My Name when it was first released over a year and a half ago. The album did not disappoint and showed they're not just pioneers of shouty~school~girl~pop, displaying a knack for beats and tunes. Plus, I fancy the singer, regardless of how old she is...

3. LYKKE LI - Youth Novels
A Little Bit was one of those tunes that hit me straight off and made me glad I still tuned into the radio to hear new songs - thanks 6MUSIC. A true pop classic that will probably become a 'hit' at some point I'm sure. The rest of her release is just as exciting and engaging, focusing mainly on pop sounds. Lykke Li wants to take over the world and sees herself as a Madonna~style figure. Personally I think she's a little too unique for mainstream success at the moment but I hope she gets it 'cos more people need to hear that Europeans can still make great pop songs.

2. VAMPIRE WEEKEND - Vampire Weekend
Despite their awful bloody name, these guys have a simplicity that charms my ears no end. An act that when I first heard I fell for immediately and the album doesn't have a duff track on it. Even more remarkable is the fact that one of their songs features the words 'Peter Gabriel' in the flippin' chorus. Here the man himself cover the tune with Hot Chip HERE. What times we live in!

1. FLEET FOXES - Fleet Foxes
This one is destined to be remembered regardless of what happens to the band themselves (mind you, I think they'll be allright). I can't recall such a different sound to not just the mainstream but also the autre~stream. What made me happy was hearing them on RADIO 2 (Terry Wogan's show, believe it or not) and seeing them on BBC 2. It seems that great tunes and originality can be challenging and popular. A number of people have asked me to describe their music but I can't. The nearest I got was vocal~progressive~choral~acoustic~folk~pop~rock and even that belittles the scope of what these guys are doing. A must is their accompanying, Sun Giant EP, featuring the sublime Mykonos.

Dancing on the ceiling? Sadly Amy gets it slightly wrong...

If only MUSE looked like her!

10. MUSE - H.A.A.A.R.P.
The Sound Of The Smiths
Worth the 'price' alone for the wonderful Peter Gabriel track, Down To Earth. The rest of it ain't too bad either.

Oi! I told you Donkey wasn't good enough!

7. JONNY GREENWOOD - There Will Be Blood OST
5. MURRAY GOLD - Doctor Who Series Four OST
4. VARIOUS - Sweeney Todd OST
3. MONKEY - Journey To The West
Like the Fleet Foxes album, this is a truly unique listen. So many interesting (but not always good) sounds and songs with melodies that are as striking as they are unusual.

This is not Adam & Joe, though give it a few years...

2. ADAM & JOE - Song Wars Vol. 1
Forget what you know (or think you know) about Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish and their telly career from that dark time called The Nineties as the duo have 'reinvented' (and I use the word quite wrongly) themselves as the Pet Shop Boys for The Noughties. These songs are compiled from their crucial weekly 6MUSIC show and if it had been released under another name as a 'proper' act and album then it would have been hailed as an 'urban' masterpiece; matching The Streets for beats, Nick Cave for social observation and Chris Rock for larfs. Roll on Vol. 2 and their Quantum Of Solace songs; two tracks that should have sat at number one and two in the charts, not bloody Hallelujah!

1. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - Here Come The 1,2,3s
This is probably the album I've listened to most this year, and that includes all the 'normal' ones. A release for 'kids' is, in actual fact, the best of 2008. Too many tunes to mention and too many melodies to pontificate on. If you've got children buy this for them and listen to it for yourself. If you don't have kids then just get it anyway and let any cynicism about the world seep away as you sing songs about the number Three, Seven and Zero!

The Joker musical begins!

For my rundown of the 'best' of 2006, visit THIS link and for my 2007 selection, click HERE. See how much I've changed...

Adele is laughing 'cos she hasn't realised that her 'work' ain't here...

'Til the next time,

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posted by Cameron McEwan at 12:12 pm -
  • At 8:25 am, Blogger Tony said…

    Excellent. Surprised to see Rem even near a best of list. Lost faith in them after seeing the Monster tour. Scales fell from eyes and realised everything since Green was desperately dull. Talking of dull, unlike the unwashed masses I find the new Coldplay stuff limp and dreary. Jerusalem bells are not ringing for me. Highlight of 2008 for me was Kings of Leon, and Bon Iver. Killers is great but the album came too late. I'll count it as a best of 2009 especially after seeing them in March. Will pick up They Might be Giants too though. Thanks!

  • At 9:18 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    I agree whole~heartedly with you on REM (I couldn't make it through one listen of their previous album) but there's some real good stuff on the most recent release. And it's really short too, not much time to get too dull. Up until Green, they were one of the best bands ever. Happy times, sniff...

    I was wary of putting the Killers in 'cos I've only had it a month or so but I think I must have listened to almost every day. Must be a good sign. And I'm not even a fan!

    Well, it's good to see that not everyone likes Coldplay. As I said in my post, my brain is re~calibrating my taste as I type.

    As for TMBG, the CD also comes with a DVD so it's double value. I'd really like to know what you think of it as they've got some other 'kids' stuff that's also superb.

  • At 2:59 pm, Blogger joy said…

    Argh! I could have done with this list last week, when I was fighting the crowds at poor Zavvi in Cardiff!

    Love end of the year list, if only because it gives me the rundown of what I've missed over the year. I never listen to the radio anymore (sorry), generally sticking to my Pandora stations.

    As I mentioned on FB, a friend of mine did his annual Best of playlist, and you'll see some familiar folks on it.

    Thanks for pulling these I can see what's at Best Buy here in the States! (Though I already know that TMBG is in my near future...if not tonight.)

  • At 1:19 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Happy to share!

    What is, dare I ask, a 'pandora' station?

  • At 5:52 pm, Blogger joy said…

    OMG. Ya'll don't have Pandora
    ? It's only the best thing ever.

    I'm sure you guys have your own version of it, but it's basically just an online radio outlet, but you create your stations. You pick the artist, song title or genre, and then it pulls together all the similar songs from various artists.

    I love it, because while it includes the artist/song that you requested, it exposes you to various other ones that you may not have heard of before...or ones you love. (And some you hate, of course.)

    I listen to it at work...because for some inexplicable reason, I don't get a radio signal. In the heart of NYC.

  • At 9:45 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Ah yes, I have heard of similar things.

    No signal in the middle of NYC? Sounds like a job for Mulder and Scully...

  • At 4:04 pm, Blogger Richard Starkings said…

    You're allowed to like any album produced by Brian Eno. For that reason VIVA LA VIDA was my favourite of the year.

    I also discovered Laura Veirs this year -- check out YEAR OF METEORS or SALTBREAKERS.


  • At 1:00 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Brian Eno?
    Is he the drummer....?

    [for those too thick to realise, that was a 'joke']

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