Top 5 Records of 2008

A list
by Chris Hibbard

My Top 5 Records of 2008
2008 in Review

(Originally published on http://www.earshot-online.com: Looking back at some of the best, the over-rated, local surprises and more! – “Picks and Pans 2008; The Kitchen Sink”):

Portishead – Third – (Mercury) – http://www.portishead.co.uk

Finally, after a decade-plus hiatus, these merchants of haunting electro-trip hop have returned, dropping a paranoid album of dark and dreamy landscapes that sounds only, and unmistakably, like a killer Portishead album.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive – (Vagrant) – http://www.theholdsteady.com

Screw any references to Bruce Springsteen; or any comparisons to Canada’s like-minded Gaslight Anthem – this disc just simply rocks with no easy way to describe why. Stay Positive is catchy as hell, complete with intelligent lyrics and high-quality production value.

The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia – (SubPop) – http://www.theguttertwins.com

Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli have worked together before, most notably as the Twilight Singers. With Saturnalia though, they’ve created a dark, brooding album that would work well as the soundtrack to a funeral procession in hell. Though it may require a number of repeat listens, this album is simply intense.

Kings of Leon – Only By the Night – (RCA) – http://www.kingsofleon.com

Tennessee’s Followill brothers are back, now more mature and wise beyond their years. While the former half of the album is undoubtedly stronger than the latter, the Kings have evolved into becoming one of the warmest, most ambient rock groups out there. They still write about women, wine, and whiskey, but they seem to do it now through a lens of experience; women, wine and whiskey taken in moderation to avoid a bad morning after. Don’t let the title fool you, Only by the Night provides a good listen during any time of the day, in any mood.

Clinic – Do It! – (Domino) – http://www.clinicvoot.org/

Granted, the singer takes a little getting used to, but this gang of Brits have continued their trend of ‘updating’ 60’s psychedelic rock; twisting and turning riffs accompanied by bell chimes, fog horns and an ample serving of oddness. Do It! is a stunningly well put together record, which hopefully casts aside all notions of Clinic as 1990’s ‘schtick’ artists. This is enjoyable on a many different levels, and is best listened to cranked way up.

3 Most Underrated Records of 2008

It would seem that few people are even aware of these releases, which is truly a shame. Unusual, unique and in a class of their own, these three discs have been in heavy rotation for me for months now.

ASG – Win Us Over – (Volcom) – http://www.asgnation.com

Killer stoner rock riffs, psychedelic backgrounds and a deliciously heavy rhythm section, This North Carolina’s third album will appeal to all fans of Mastadon, Fu Manchu, Kyuss and the like.

Daedelus – Love to Make Music To – (Ninja Tune) – http://www.myspace.com/daedelusdarling

Alternating between rump-shaking funk, ambient beauty and experimental hip-hop sound collage, this California producer has a seemingless endless well of creativity.
Recommended for fans of Cut Chemist, the Avalanches and DJ Shadow.

The Aliens – Luna – (Pet Rock Sounds/Independent) – http://www.thealiens.co.uk

This second album by a Scottish group (consisting of former Beta Band members) is a high-fidelity wonderland, full of complex and unpredictable arrangements, all drenched in sixties-era pop sensibility.

Most Overrated Records of the Year

The way that these albums were reviewed and acclaimed by friends, I had very high hopes for each. Upon repeat listens though I feel disappointed. While all are fine examples of their genre, they failed to meet my expectations and live up to all the hype.

Chad VanGaalen – Soft Airplane – (Sub Pop)

Russian Circles – Station – (Suicide Squeeze)

Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling – (Matador)

Juno Reactor – Gods and Monsters – (Metropolis)

Best Local Releases

Lethbridge’s Endangered Ape have released a raw, gritty lo-fi six-song analog EP called Variations on a Theme, that conjures up memories of early 80’s garage punk & new wave – Joy Division meets The Stooges. The drawback is that this recording can’t hold a candle to their high-energy, borderline-crazy live shows. – http://www.myspace.com/endangeredape  

Calgary’s Beija Flor released an excellent second album this year, full of catchy choruses and unpredictable time-changes. Pick up a copy of Beija Flor’s The American at your first opportunity. This is definitely a band to watch. – http://www.myspace.com/beijaflor

Records Most Anticipated for 2009

I’m waiting patiently and hopefully for new material from Queens of the Stone Age, Massive Attack, The Avalanches, Therapy? and The Weakerthans. A new album by Tool may be asking too much, but a guy can dream can’t he?

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~ by Chris Hibbard on November 30, 2008.

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