Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Just like every other jerk-off that listens to music, the end of December marks that time when I get to thinking about my favorite albums of the past year, and those thoughts turn to forming a list, proving that I have, in fact, been thinking about it. Usually, I compile a list on a napkin or scrap of paper, intending to do something more with it, like write a brilliant article about each of the albums, complete with a full history of the band and all of their eye colors and favorite flavors of pie, then sell it for copious amounts of money to Rolling Stone and secure a full-time job with them. But usually I just end up losing that scrawled little list as soon as I put it in my pocket, and then struggle to remember who even cracked my top five.

But now that I've got this little blog thing going, and it's lasted far longer than my MySpace or even my Xanga ever did, I finally have the vehicle to spout my opinions about music you likely either don't know or just downright hate! I might not be putting Michael Azerrad out of a job, but at least I won't feel like such a Nick Hornby loser, making lists upon lists for myself to wank over. At least now you can wank with me. Or watch me wank. Whatever you're into.

But I don't want to blow my load all in a single tug (I can keep this kind of innuendo up all day), so I'm going to do it in increments. If nothing else, it gives me a reason to get up tomorrow, and plenty of material to write about for the next week and a half when I'll be trying my best to convince myself to sit down and type instead of finishing my Premiership season in FIFA07--a challenging feat, as well as Hull City is currently doing. So it'll be an album a night or so, counting up to my favorite album of the year, but tonight I'll give a double dose: two albums that didn't quite make the list, but I'll still proudly label as my honorable mentions.

Below each review here (and throughout the rest of the list, providing I can turn something up for all of the other bands), are links to YouTube videos for their singles. Please excuse the quality of the videos--I didn't upload them, they're just there to give a sample of the music since I can't upload mp3s to this website. Close your eyes when you listen to them if you must, and just be glad I found the actual video for at least the first one, and didn't have to link to the slideshow of horse pictures someone made. Oh, YouTube, you never cease to amaze me.

Honorable Mention #1

Sigur Rós
Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

The problem with being one of the greatest, most emotive bands in the world, is that as soon as you put out one album--nay, one song--that doesn't quite live up to your full potential, everyone is down your throat, nails out, screaming about how you're past your prime and you might as well just throw in the towel. Thankfully the backlash on Sigur Rós' fifth studio album (translated "With Buzzing in Our Ears We Play Endlessly" from their native Icelandic), was not quite so harsh. But this latest offering, especially with its strangely upbeat lead single, "Gobbledigook," did not have the same expansively minimalist quality we've come to look for from our favorite Icelanders, and I personally felt cheated.

I'm typically a fan of an artist's freedom to try something new, but when I pick up a Sigur Rós album, I am picking up something very specific. What they tried on this new album was definitely a different direction, and an interesting one at that, but it was not Sigur Rós. It was a little bit Animal Collective, and a tiny bit... Coldplay, actually, who in no way, shape or form came close to cracking my Top Infinity Albums of 2008 list with this year's Viva la Vida. I hope that with this release, Jónsi and his boys have exorcised whatever pop demons that were troubling them and that we can expect a return to the beautiful soundscapes with which they've led us into dreamland for the last eleven years.

Sigur Rós - Gobbledigook

Honorable Mention #2

Midnight Juggernauts

Probably my favorite dance album of the year, Australian trio Midnight Juggernauts are riding the coattails of their friends from France, Justice. And while I loved the album to death, with "Ending of an Era" and "Into the Galaxy" making it onto just about ever mix CD I put together this year, it is that exact fortunate turn of events that keeps them out of my Top 10. Right now, nothing is hotter than the rock-dance that Justice turned the world onto with their emblematic "Cross" album last year. Throw an electric guitar over a heavy trance beat, maybe a catchy sample to put a bow on that neatly-wrapped package, and you'll find yourself in car commercials and as background music for every self-respecting hipster's Friday night out. But what have you really made?

In this case, probably just a throw-away dance album that we'll all, unfortunately, forget about in another year. The only reason I paid attention to this album in the first place was its attachment to Justice (the duo extended their hands to these three boys from Melbourne with an opening slot on their North American tour last year), and one of the only reasons their album has stayed in my head all this time is because Justice didn't release anything this year to knock it out. That and maybe a little bit because there's just a hint of INXS on this record that makes me feel all sexy inside when I turn it on. But I feel bad! I really do like these guys, and I want to see them succeed! I'm just afraid (read: certain) that when this whole heavy-metal-trance-punk thing comes crashing down in another year, Midnight Juggernauts won't have enough to stand on, and will be swallowed up, a forgotten band of a has-been fad. Like The Hives, and that Garage Rock Revolution we were all talking about four years ago.

Midnight Juggernauts - Into the Galaxy

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