Logan K. Young’s Top Albums of 2008

Logan K. Young contributes to Drawer B when he damn well pleases. He also writes for anyone who will pay him. Ladyboys welcome.

1. Fuck ButtonsStreet Horrrsing (ATP)

2. Baby DeeSafe Inside The Day (Drag City)

3. Free KittenInherit (Ecstatic Peace)

4. Lou ReedBerlin: Live At St. Ann’s Warehouse (Matador)

5. MGMTOracular Spectacular (Sony/Columbia)

6. Carlos GiffoniAdult Life (No Fun Productions)

7. Xiu XiuWomen As Lovers (Kill Rock Stars)

8. The Matthew Herbert Big BandThere’s Me And There’s You (!K7)

9. Be Your Own PetGet Awkward (XL/Ecstatic Peace)

10. T.I.Paper Trail (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

K’s Top Albums of 2008

I’m the less eloquent half of the Drawer B partnership and I am a fan of the Oxford comma. My tastes skew synth, twee, pop, and lately Scandinavian. I have been known to branch out from time to time, but judging from my list, I apparently did not do so this year. None of the following albums are listed in any particular order of preference.

1. M83 Saturdays=Youth
For a long time I honestly resented the way M83 plundered and raped my childhood summers spent in front of John Hughes films. Eventually, I got over myself and embraced this record like every other music obsessed 30-something this year. Pure wall of sound cinematic pop genius. Their live show at St. Giles in the Fields Church in London pretty much ranks as the best show I saw all year.

2. Detektivbyran – Wermland
Quirky and whimsical accordion, vibes, and keyboard music from Gothenburg, Sweden. I’ve got a thing for the accordion. And Swedes.

3. School of Seven Bells – Alpinisms
I fell in love with Alpinisms upon first listen and never looked back. It awoke in me a sort of latent nostalgia for Slowdive and Cocteau Twins that I never knew existed. I’m also a sucker for female harmonizing.

4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
I put this album on my top of 2007 list and declared that the novelty would wear off. It didn’t. I’m embarrassed by how often I listened to this album in 2008.

5. Santogold – Santogold
My god. Santi made probably the catchiest record of the year and then sold every track to some conglomerate to sell something crap and subsequently wore out her welcome in my ears. That said, it seriously is an amazing album. The Diplo vs. Santogold Mix Tape is a great companion, featuring amazing remixes.

6. The Bell – Make Some Quiet
Sweden’s The Bell Tap into that same vein of post-adolescent guitar driven pop that got me through high school.

7. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
I have no idea why I like Cut Copy. I just do. “Hearts on Fire” gives me the chills and makes me want to dance around the room like a pre-pubescent adolescent. It is rather embarrassing and probably the reason I didn’t go see them live a few months back.

8. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
I tried to not fall in love with Lykke Li. I really did. I absolutely knew I would love Youth Novels from the moment I read about her and once she inevitably penetrated my ears, I was hooked. Yes, I have a predilection for Swedish pop. It’s a known weakness.

9. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
I’m torn listing Crystal Castles. I listened to the hell out of this album until it came out that they pretty much ripped off some other “chiptune” musicians which sort of left a bad taste in my mouth. That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to listening to and loving this collection of brash electronic pop punk.

10. Foals – Antidotes
I was slow to accept the awesomeness that is Foals. Antidotes is pretty much amazing in its angular brilliance. Thank you to Eric Greenwood for convincing me I was missing out on something brilliant.

11. She & Him – Volume One
I totally forgot about this album after the summer ended (and to be honest, until about 10 minutes ago). It’s such a Spring/Summer evening front porch swing collection of retro pop bliss. And then there’s the Zooey Deschanel half of the project. Swoon.

Honorable Mention: Los Campesinos – Hold on Now, Youngster…
Cardiff’s Los Campesinos play a riotous brand of Sarah inspired neu-twee pop often reminiscent (to my ears) of Talulah Gosh and Heavenly.

Singles I loved in 2008 – Thao Nguyen’s Bag of Hammers, “Paper Float” from Cassettes Won’t Listen, “Sunshine Lover” from Denmark’s Small, “Tak o Tak” from London’s Sticken City, The Whip’s “Trash“, “Till I’m Gone” from Australia’s Elke and “You Were Too Old For Me” from Detroit’s Pas/Cal, as well as George Pringle’s Carte Postale. Oh and Bikini’s insidiously infectious “Tonight.”

*update: Whoops. Totally forgot Daylight from Matt & Kim. Infectious.

Records that I missed out on in 2008:
The most obvious omission is probably Deerhunter’s Microcastle. I gave this a listen, enjoyed it and then promptly forgot about it. Same goes for TV on the Radio’s Dear Science. Ditto for Deerhoof’s Offend Maggie. The Notwist’s The Devil, You + Me was on repeat for a few days but never hooked me like Neon Golden. I thought Bon Iver would knock Sam Beam out of rotation, but it never happened. I didn’t get around to listening to much of the new Walkmen record. I’m regretting that, now. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything from Marnie Stern and now I’m quite curious. Embarrassingly, I downloaded but completely forgot to listen to the new Ladytron. Too many records, not enough time. Sigh.

Patrick Wall’s Top Albums of 2008

Patrick Wall
Music Editor, Free Times
Blogger, weekendsofsound.tumblr.com.

Knee Meets Jerk: In Which a Beleaguered Music Journalist Attempts to Identify Ten Albums Released Between December 2007 and December 2008 That Were Better Than All the Other Albums Released in the Same Time Period. Listed in no particular order. (Results Subject to Change.)

CapsuleBlue (Robotic Empire)

capsule

Lithe, vicious hardcore. A monolith of aggression and power. A panic attack gone horribly, horribly right.

 

FoalsAntidotes (Transgressive)

foals

Fuck Vampire Weekend: This is the indie rock record of the year. Gorgeously twitchy and mathematically adept, Antidotes is the best thing by four pre-quarter-life-crisis Brits since John, Paul, George and Ringo came across the Atlantic.Come for the indie-rock bounce of “Red Socks Pugie,” stay for the much better deep cuts (“Balloons,” “Olympic Airways,” “Heavy Water”).

TorcheMeanderthal (Hydra Head)

torche

Heavy and catchy don’t always have to be diametrically opposed, as proves this Atlanta-by-way-of-Florida quartet. Tracks such as “Grenades” explode with shining swaths of Florida sunshine cutting through the impossibly low and preternaturally heavy din; stoner rock has never sounded this accessible, and brutality has never sounded this beautiful.

EarthThe Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord)

earth-bees-made-honey

Bees is dark, thick and heavy, and its exquisite, glacially paced drone sounds like cascading tides and shifting tectonic plates.

 

Why?Alopecia (Anticon)

why-alopecia

In which Yoni Wolf combines the honest in-rhyming and lyrical enjambment of backpacking underground rap — Anticon’s calling card — with cryptic, esoterically accessible indie-folk arrangements and wears his incredibly dark neuroses on his sleeve.

Cadence WeaponAfterparty Babies (Anti-); Lil’ WayneThe Carter III (Cash Money)

cadence-weapon-afterparty-babies lil-wayne-tha-carter-3

The former is the underground hip-hop record of the year; Rollie Pemberton spits insanely genius gold while his beats shit diamonds. The latter is the mainstream rap record of the year: When it comes to the modern rap game, can’t nobody touch Weezy’s flow or psycho sense of humor.

The FieldThe Sound of Light (Dealers of Nordic Music)

field

While fellow Scandanavian Hans-Peter Lindstrom was building epic dance grooves, this Swedish superproducer Alex Willner was musing on the aural qualities of Northern Lights. In doing so, he created a glimmering work of ambient techno that unfolds gorgeously, as if guided by unseen mathematics and programmed to burst into one million tiny pieces of light on a night sky.

Al GreenLay it Down (Blue Note)

algreen

In a year filled with reunions both welcome (see: Portishead, Q-Tip) and unwelcome (see: Guns N’ Roses), nobody came back stronger than the world’s reigning king of soul.

 

No AgeNouns (Sub Pop)

No_Age_Nouns_Sub_Pop

Weirdo Rippers was great; Nouns is greater. Los Angeles punk hasn’t been this relevant — or this good — in nigh on three decades.

 

SawhorseCover It With Asphalt (Blackjaw Records)

sawhorse-coveritwithasphalt

Note: This will destroy you. Baltimore sextet Sawhorse does post-apocalyptic post-rock right, beginning with a cryptic, haunting Charles Manson soliloquy and subsequently traversing through chiming bridges and fuzz-laden freakouts. America’s answer to Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

The Gaslight AnthemThe ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy)

GaslightAnthem-The59Sound

Four working-class Jersey punks make the record The Hold Steady always wanted to make, but couldn’t. Springsteen would be proud.

 

Honorable mentions/Apologies To:

1000 Robota, Die Nicht Er Nicht Sie Nicht EP; Erykah Badu, The New Amerykah Part I; David Banner, The Greatest Story Ever Told; The Baseball Project, Vol. I: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails; Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago; Boris, Smile; Citified, The Meeting After the Meeting; Colour Revolt, Plunder, Beg and Curse; Crooked Fingers, Forfeit/Fortune; Don the Reader, Humanesque; Flying Lotus, Los Angeles; Genghis Tron, Board Up the House; Grails, Doomsdayer’s Holiday; Harvey Milk, Life … the Best Game in Town; The Heist and the Accomplice, Connections Work (Fork and Spoon); Let’s Wrestle, Let’s Wrestle; Lindstrom, Where You Go I Go Too; Lupe Fiasco, The Cool; Mogwai, The Hawk is Howling; North, What You Were; Q-Tip, The Renaissance; Russian Circles, Station; Taylor Swift, Fearless; Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend; The Vandermark Five, Beat Reader; The Walkmen, You and Me; The Whigs, Mission Control

Robert Howell’s Top Albums of 2008

Robert runs The Daily Sabbatical and has contributed to Drawer B intermittently over the years.

1. DeerhunterMicrocastles/Weird Era Cont. (Kranky/4AD)

microcastle An album in the top spot should be difficult to describe, and this one certainly fits that ticket.  Deerhunter has thrown some elements of shoegaze in here, though without foregoing the crisp pop songs.   There are drifting, semi-psychedelic melodies as well as bass-driven tunes of a Sonic Youthy color.  This album just has everything.  Even without Weird Era Cont., the accompanying disc of outtakes and add-ins which would probably merit a place on this list on its own, Microcastles is the most complete album of the year.

2. Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

bon_iver_emma The most beautiful album of the year introduces us to Justin Vernon, the year’s most exciting new songwriter.  Sam Beam can relax–the gift doesn’t all rest on his shoulders now.

 

3. FoalsAntidotes (Sub Pop)

foals There’s definitely something Rapture-ous about these guys, but where The Rapture left the races and went off the tracks, Foals gets the checkered flag.  Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, with guitar and bass counterpoint.  Pitchfork desperately needs to revisit their review on this one.

4. DevotchkaA Mad and Faithful Telling (Anti)

Devotchka Beirut and Calexico can put up their horns and balalaikas.  Devotchka wins the international sound award.  Take Roy Orbison, David Byrne, a Mariachi band and a polka band, put it all in a blender with a shot of vodka and you have Devotchka.  Transliterator might be the best song of the year.

5. Mountain GoatsHeretic Pride (4AD)

heretic_pride John Darnielle puts out his second best album–nothing will beat Tallahassee probably–but his second best is good enough to be one of the best of the year.  Darnielle’s songs give us a peek through windows we would otherwise never approach, in part because the folks inside might be playing with pistols.  Easily one of our best songwriters.

6. Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Fleet-Foxes I get tires of My Morning Jacket’s Jams despite my love of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.   (Jesus!)  Fleet Foxes comes to the rescue with a debut that introduces us to one of the best vocalist’s going: Robin Pecknold.  The Breugel cover of their album tells you something about their sound–let’s call it Feudal Folk and move on.

7. Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend (XL)

VampreWeekend This makes private-school Robert, with a penchant for Peter Gabriel and Pennyloafers, very happy.  It makes public-school Robert very suspicious, in no small part because it is catchy as as an STD in Thailand.  Very difficult to dislodge from Car CD players.

8. Chad Van GaalenSoft Airplane (Sub Pop)

chadsoft How can Chad Van Gaalen be Neil Young reincarnated when Neil is still alive?  Nevermind.  This Canadian’s third album sees him out of his small sophomore slump and expanding his songwriting horizons.  Best one man band I know of.

9. Marnie SternThis Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That (Kill Rock Stars)

ThisIsIt Somewhat embarrassingly Ms. Stern is the only woman on my list this year, but she so clearly outrocks anyone else on the list that she’s an excellent representative for the ladies.  The innovative guitar work and the unrestrained vocals make this one of the year’s most energetic records.  (The album’s title may be annoyingly long, but it more than answers the question by posed by The Strokes.)

10. The NotwistThe Devil, You + Me (Domino)

DevilYou ME Neon Golden was so good that any following album by Notwist will be crippled by the comparison.  Still, those head circling melodies are here and if there is a little less going on as far as song structure goes, sometimes simplicity is a good thing.

Eric Greenwood’s Top Albums of 2008

Year-end lists are gratuitous, back-patting, and masturbatory, but, like death and taxes, they are unavoidable. So, we succumb. We’re doing things a little differently this year, inviting current and past contributors as well as a few respected peers to submit their lists, while linking back to their respective blogs. They will be posted sporadically over the next day or so. Here’s how my top records shake out this year:

1. FoalsAntidotes (Sub Pop)

foals This record was love at first sight. The moment I heard the song “Red Sox Pugie” I knew this was my new favorite band. With intricate guitar work that melds Battles-esque interplay with ear-bending melodies, Antidotes is chock full of clever surprises. And most importantly, it rocks. David Sitek’s pristine production makes the band sound slightly cleaner than it is live, but it gives the album a strange and enduring allure. It’s weird, arty rock, for sure, but its depth and precision make Antidotes essential listening for fans of post-punk with a kink of new wave.

2. Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend (XL)

VampreWeekend I understand backlash against bands that get a lot of press, especially in this shallow cell-phone blogging media shit-heap time we live in; I just don’t pay much attention to it. I love this record. All the talk of Graceland and Talking Heads is just lazy. I would never sit through Graceland on purpose; it’s just not my cup of tea, whereas I have listened to the shit out of this record. Seriously, if digital files could wear out, mine would be out of order from constant repetition. I tend to shy away from music that could be characterized as “fun”, but good is good and Vampire Weekend’s ambitious twist on worldly pop is infectious. And they dress better than anyone else. Well, except, maybe, Chuck Bass.

3. The NotwistThe Devil, You + Me (Domino)

DevilYou ME I had trouble at first with this record simply because the last Notwist album, Neon Golden, was practically perfect. It was my favorite record of 2002, hands down, and it’s still one of my favorite records of all time. Any time I listen to it, I am immediately sucked into its uncharacteristically warm world of German glitch-folk. A lot of bands have caught up with The Notwist in the intervening years, so The Devil, You + Me doesn’t sound nearly as ground-breaking or fresh, but the songs are strong and lure you back in for repeated listens. There’s something remarkably intimate about Markus Acher’s fragile voice that makes him sound like what he has to say is the only thing that matters. Never mind the fact that his lyrics are often beyond incomprehensible.

4. M83Saturdays = Youth (Mute)

Saturdays Youth It’s been said in practically every review of this record, but that’s because it’s true: distilled down to its essence, this is John Hughes soundtrack music. That may sound like a back-handed compliment, but if you grew up in the 80’s, and these movies meant anything to you, then you will be all over this album. With a shoegazer’s watchful eye, Anthony Gonzalez recreates his teen angst through washed-out synths, big, bombastic beats, and whispered, echoing vocals. It’s not a one-dimensional retro-fitted ploy, either. Gonzalez knows this territory well, and he mines it delicately, so that it comes off as homage rather than blatant rehash.

5. Girl TalkFeed the Animals (Illegal Art)

FeedThe Animals Putting aside the hackneyed “is sampling really art?” argument, Girl Talk records are insanely fun to listen to. I appreciate and admire Greg Gillis’ ridiculously sophisticated ear for blending seemingly disparate songs and styles into a pummeling listening party that makes you think and dance. And, yes, sampling can be an art, if you’re good at it. And Gillis is genius at it.

6. The WalkmenYou & Me (Gigantic)

You&Me The Walkmen are one of my favorite bands, evidenced by the fact that their last two records were both in my top tens for their respective release years. They’re just one of those bands that can transport your attention to some weirdly familiar context that’s both beautiful and sad. They have a sound that’s instantly recognizable, even though they crib elements from so many different styles. It’s not every band that can make its influences sound like a unique, unified whole. You & Me is at times gritty, atmospheric, joyous, languorous, and melancholic, yet you leave the record feeling cautiously optimistic. Hamilton Leithauser’s voice is the kicker. His bellyaching warble is in top form. This is a record that will probably surpass others ahead of it in this list over time.

7. Vivian GirlsVivian Girls (In the Red)

VivianGirls I can’t think of too many better ways to spend 22 minutes than with this debut full-length by the Vivian Girls. Psychocandy meets Phil Spector. If this description means anything to you, then welcome to one of your new favorite bands. With a gauzy garage-rock foundation, the Vivian Girls harmonize in odd, off-kilter melodies that propel an ordinary song into a celestial hymn. No one song stands out on this record, and, since it’s so short, that hardly matters. It’s the (Lord, forgive me for using this word) vibe that matters here. The lyrics are opaque and often inconsequential. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s being said; it only matters how it’s said, and the Vivian Girls possess one of those rare combinations of voices that immediately sets off alarms in your brain to tell you that you are listening to something special.

8. Marnie SternThis Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That (Kill Rock Stars)

ThisIsIt Marnie Stern plays guitar like one of those weird, prog-rock dudes obsessed with Don Caballero. On top of that, she has one of those bone-chilling voices that sounds more than a little scary when it’s double-tracked. She can also write challenging, wildly off-kilter songs that wouldn’t be alien to a Deerhoof record. And just to make your chances with her dwindle even more, she’s very cute. Also covers Journey like nobody’s business.

9. AppomattoxA.O. (Triple Down)

A.O This Brooklyn by way of Boston trio’s frantic guitar lines remain grounded only because its rhythm section is so taut. The blistering shards evoke a searing mix of Polvo and Fugazi packed through a thinking man’s power-trio filter. An aggressive, angular Police, perhaps. Nick Gaynier’s voice bleats through the chaos with pellucid power. The highlight of the record is the searing rocker, “Either Way”, an instantly familiar loud/soft dynamic with an incredibly catchy chorus. It will garner many, many repeated plays should you bother to track it down.

10. Jay ReatardMatador Singles ’08 (Matador)

MatadorSingles08 I wish I could hear things before I read about them. I was late to this party, simply because I was annoyed by the way he was covered. Ridiculous, I know. Biases and prejudices aren’t our most evolved qualities. When I finally heard a Jay Reatard song, I wanted to punch myself for ignoring him for so long. This collection of 7”s perfectly encapsulates the man’s rambunctious punk-pop panache. Matador released six 7”s total, each one in more rarified quantities and each one better than the last.

Close calls:

Portishead – Third (Mercury)
No Age – Nouns (Sub Pop)
Santogold – Santogold (Downtown)
Beck – Modern Guilt (Geffen)
Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)
Stereolab – Chemical Chords (4AD)
Bottomless Pit – Congress EP (Comedy Minus One)
Bonnie "Prince" Billy – Lie Down in the Light (Drag City)

The Grinning Plowman “Radiator” mp3

When I was in High School, Nashville, Tennessee had a few underground bands making some national waves. Clockhammer, Dessau, F.U.C.T., Buzzkill, etc. The Grinning Plowman were easily the oddest. A mix of dark, electronic rock with tinges of industrial, the band had signed with Carlyle Records, which put out three of its LP’s. I Play Jupiter spawned the college radio hit, “Radiator”, which was a staple on Vanderbilt’s WRVU. I’ve had their first LP on vinyl since High School, but I never picked up a copy of I Play Jupiter, which I’ve often regretted. In fact, I’ve been looking for a copy of it for years. This morning on Blip.fm, I just randomly typed in Grinning Plowman to see if anything showed up, and the first hit was at The Sound of Indie, which just happened to have uploaded “Radiator.” I have re-uploaded it here:

The Grinning Plowman – Radiator.mp3

There’s even a MySpace fansite: http://www.myspace.com/thegrinningplowman