Arbitrary List Fun Time (Favorite Music Releases: 2008 Edition)

I would be failing miserably as a blogger if I were to remain excluded from the hive and not offer my opinion of the top music releases of 2008.  Let’s face it– nobody actually reads these things.  They just skim the list, looking for artists they love/hate, and then praise/criticize the listmakers accordingly.  If an album the reader is unfamiliar with happens to grace the top spot, then there is a slight chance that this person may actually look into the album.

So why do we waste so many hours of our lives at the end of every year deconstructing every album, every 7-inch EP, and every cassette?  Because we are tremendously vain douchebags who enjoy using the internet to validate our opinions and safely snipe at others from the comfy confines of our own homes.  I am not above the fray.

This year I decided to do a few things differently with regard to my pointless list.  First, I decided to include EPs on my list, as they are far too often shunned in favor of their big brother, the LP.  Second, I decided that there is far too much good music out there to limit my list to fifty favorites– this year I did 100.  I hope you enjoy my self-indulgence.  Thank you for reading.

100. Cruel Hand – Prying Eyes
99. Geisha – Die Verbrechen Der Liebe
98. Lords – Fuck All Y’all Motherfuckers
97. Leviathan – Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
96. Pentemple – O))) Presents
95. The Raveonettes – Sometimes They Drop By
94. Trap Them – Seizures in Barren Praise
93. Cursed – III: Architects of Troubled Sleep
92. Inca Ore – Birthday of Bless You
91. Killer Mike – I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, Vol. 2

90. Mythical Beast – Scales
89. Stereolab – Chemical Chords
88. Disfear – Live the Storm
ÆthenorBetimes Black Cloudmasses
86. Emeralds & Dilloway – Under Pressure
85. Cold World – Dedicated to Babies Who Came Feet First
84. Ex-Cocaine/Yellow Swans – Split
83.  Coffins – Buried Death
82. Trash Talk – Trash Talk
81. Robedoor – Closer to the Cliff

80. Birchville Cat Motel – Gunpowder Temple of Heaven
79. Alpha & Omega – Devil’s Bed
78. Brian Eno & David Byrne – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
77. Young Jeezy – The Recession
76. Emeralds/Quintana Roo – Split
75. Alghazanth – Wreath of Thevetat
74. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
73. Mount Eerie – Black Wooden Ceiling Opening
72. Clipse – Road to Till the Casket Drops
71. Ceremony – Still Nothing Moves You

70. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
69. Olga Kouklaki – Getalife
68. eMC – The Show
67. Genghis Tron – Board Up the House
66. Ladytron – Velocifero
65. Have a Nice Life – Deathconsciousness
64. Xiu Xiu – Women as Lovers
63. Shearwater – Rook
62. Religious Knives – It’s After Dark
61. Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

60. Valet – Naked Acid
59. Skullflower – Desire for a Holy War
58. UFOmammut – Idolum
57. The Goslings – Occasion
56. Killing the Dream – Fractures
55. No Age – Nouns
54. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna
53. Indian Jewelry – Free Gold!
52. Burning Star Core – Challenger
51. Hair Police – The Certainty of Swarms

50. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
49. Antony & The Johnsons – Another World
48. Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls
47. Birchville Cat Motel – Four Freckle Constellation
46. Evangelista – Hello, Voyager
45. Pyha – Haunted House
44. Mighty Joseph – Empire State
43. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO – Recurring Dream & Apocalypse of Darkness
42. Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh – H
elena Espvall & Masaki Batoh
41. Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker – Fantasma Parastasie

40. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
39. 2562 – Aerial
38. Bun B – 2 Trill
37. Emeralds – Solar Bridge
36. Verse – Aggression
35. Cyne – Pretty Dark Things
34. Barn Owl – From Our Mouths A Perpetual Light
33. Torche – Meanderthal
32. Lair of the Minotaur – War Metal Battle Master
Yellow Swans – Disintegration

30. Pidgeon – Might as Well Go Eat Worms
29. Aussitot Mort – Montuenga
28. Vordul Mega – Megagraphitti
27. Shed – Shedding the Past
26. Uno Actu –
Hors des chemins de la raison
25. Paint it Black – New Lexicon
24. Harvey Milk – Life…the Best Game in Town
23. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
22. The Tallest Man on Earth – Shallow Grave

21. Micah P. Hinson – Micah P. Hinson & The Red Empire Orchestra

20. Bardo Pond – Batholith


Nearing two decades as a unit, Bardo Pond continues to be an impressive force in the world of psych-rock.  Batholith is a short-but-sweet gathering of songs previously heard live, but never before laid down in a studio.  Songs like “A Tune” and “Slip Away” display the strung-out vocals of Isobel Sollenberger and the mesmerizing guitars that we all know and love.

19. Pocahaunted – Island Diamonds


If you follow this blog at all, it should be no secret by now that I love these girls.  Island Diamonds strips away Pocahaunted’s shambling native American war songs in favor of murky street music.  It’s still as dark as you would expect from this duo, but Island Diamonds possesses an accessibility that you would not usually associate with a Pocahaunted release.  I wouldn’t expect them to stay in this space, but it is nonetheless an exciting and worthwhile diversion for those with a bit of an ear for experimental sound.

18. Prurient – And Still, Wanting


In what was perhaps the most vicious release of 2008, Dominick Fernow’s terrifying And Still, Wanting razed the ears and minds of all those who dared to take it on.  In my post about the album from April I said “Once And Still, Wanting reaches its conclusion, the listener is left with the imagery of charred corpses and rubble that extends infinitely into the blackened horizon.  There is no light here.  No joy.  This is the soundtrack to night terrors.  And it is fucking beautiful.”  You have been warned.

Buy it from No Fun Productions

17. Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill


The sound of the space between the dream world and waking.  Liz Harris’s Dragging is an extremely lo-fi slice of meandering folk.  Harris’ vocals reverberate and float around her fuzzed guitar, remaining indecipherable most of the time, much like the way we struggle to glean meaning from the stories of our subconscious mind.  Enough drone for the experimental crowd, and enough melody for everyone else.  One of those “crossover” albums.

16. Nadja & Black Boned Angel – Christ Send Light


Aidan Baker. Leah Buckareff.  Campbell Kneale.  The sound of the kingdom of heaven crashing from the skies and reducing the wicked to pools of blood, resulting in a massive flood that turns the Earth into a giant crimson sphere hurdling through space.  The macabre atonement for the sins of the world.  The survivors are left to bask in the blinding light of the Lord.  It’s a good thing I’m an atheist.

15. James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes


James Blackshaw is an enormously talented guitar player.  He also happens to be an enormously talented songwriter.  A lot of the time it seems like the two are mutually exclusive.  With 12 string guitar in tow, Blackshaw pieces together intricate modern classical works in the vein of Steve Reich and Philip Glass.  Like the great minimalists preceding him, Black shaw manages to harness simplicity and layer it into something gorgeously complex and rewarding. With Litany of Echoes Blackshaw continues to expand, offering his standard arpeggio-laden guitar drones in addition to beautiful piano and string sections.

14. Yasushi Yoshida – Little Grace


One of the most likely albums on this list to extract a visceral emotional response from me.  Yasushi Yoshida’s Little Grace is an oft-overlooked, consistently wonderful modern classical album.  The overall mood of Little Grace is somber.  While occasionally errupting into triumphant joy such as on “Grey,” Yoshida generally opts to go straight for the tear ducts.  This is painfully beautiful music.  The aftermath of tragedy.

13. Why? – Alopecia


Alopecia is largely an album for the healing of old wounds.  Throughout the album we hear and feel all of Yoni Wolf ‘s insecurities and obessions.  Alopecia is a very personal album about letting go.  Despite the heavy-handedness of this overarching narrative, Wolf’s charisma and always entertaining lyricism make for an immersive listen. Despite a few spotty moments, the highest-highs on Alopecia elevate it to the top as one of 2008’s most adventurous and personal statements.

12. Coldworld – Melancholie²


Atmospheric black metal greatness from Germany.  Not just blast beats and screeching, Coldworld (Georg Börner) utilizes heaps of ambience to enhance his music and paint a portrait of endless frozen wastelands.  It’s as bleak as one would traditionally expect from the genre, but the injection of melody helps to carry this beyond standard black metal retreads.  This comes highly recommended for fans of depressive black metal artists like Xasthur.  And no, I will not compare it to shoegaze.  Take that shit elsewhere.

11. Thursday/Envy – Split


In one of the stranger pairings of 2008, Japanese hardcore legends Envy teamed up with popular American post-hardcore act Thursday for a split album.  Yeah.  I don’t think most of Thursday’s fans even realize Envy exists.  Anyhow, this ended up being far better than I could have ever imagined.  Envy continues to refine their mixture of post-rock and hardcore, while Thursday shows the most stunning transformation of all.  Their songcraft has improved a considerable amount, and they are now beginning to implement elements of electronic music and post-rock into their sound.  I went into this record expecting Envy to pull all the weight, but both bands turn in impressive performances here.  Their combined strength makes this one of 2008’s best.

Buy it from Temporary Residence

10. Mount Eerie – Lost Wisdom


This album has a lot going for it.  First of all, it has Phil Elverum, one of the brightest minds in music right now.  Second, it has Julie Doiron on it, who is actually Elverum’s favorite singer.  Third, it has the best song of the year on it.  Lastly, it takes its name from a Burzum song, and its album cover is inspired by the cover from a Burzum EP.  There was no way this was going to miss my list.  This album is a short selection of songs that primarily feature the more stripped-down side of Mount Eerie.  Elverum’s usual obtuse-but-touching backwoods narratives are bolstered by the presence of Doiron and Fred Squire, who work so perfectly in their roles that one finds it hard to believe they had basically no experience working with Elverum prior to recording.

09. Fennesz – Black Sea


My love for Christian Fennesz is well-established.  I loved Endless Summer and Venice, so it was likely I was going to love Black Sea.  And I did.  But Black Sea isn’t just another rehashing of ideas from one of the ambient world’s most popular artists.  With laptop and guitar in hand, Fennesz set out to again push the boundaries on pop music.  Expanses of mellow guitar noise and synth crackle and sway like the waves pictured on its album cover.  Gorgeous and constantly shifting ever-so-gently, Black Sea is yet another triumphant portrait to come from Fennesz’s delicate musical brushstrokes.

08. Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life


Yeah, Fucked Up is on Matador now, but they didn’t forget how to rock.  Although Chemistry appears to strip away a slight bit of their “prog hardcore punk” persona from Hidden World, it does so in an entirely logical manner. On Chemistry we see the next evolution for Fucked Up.  “Black Albino Blues” is a melding of melodic guitar rock and punk that is almost accessible enough to be put on mainstream radio.  Almost.  For all of the new areas that they take their sound into, they can still kick teeth in as evidenced on tracks like “Twice Born” and the raging closer “The Chemistry of Common Life.”  It will be interesting to see what direction they go in next.

07. Sex Vid – Communal Living


This album came out in December and they have virtually no web presence.  Of course Communal Living was going to be overlooked.  The first proper full-length (albeit 15 minutes long) from Washington’s mighty hardcore collective Sex Vid, Communal Living is some of the most corrosive hardcore punk around.  Sex Vid records with barren production values and they don’t seem to give a shit.  This is punishing, noisy hardcore in the vein of Void.  It’s hateful, violent, paranoid, and ugly as sin.  It’s pretty much perfect.

No Myspace, but you can buy this album at the Relapse store.

06. Foul Mouth Cringe – The Richard Dastardly Identity


Roughneck Jihad and DJ Ruthless combine to form Foul Mouth Cringe.  In what amounts to the psychotic cousin of Kool Keith’s Sex Style, The Richard Dastardly Identity is a hilarious masterpiece of vulgarity and dazzling lyricism.  Roughneck, known for his awesome work in Third Sight covers lots of progressive topics on Richard Dastardly, such as sex, violence, sex, and more sex.  DJ Ruthless provides beats every bit as seedy as the rhymes of Roughneck, resulting in a crude cocktail of decadence.  You’ll need a shower after listening to this one.

05. Nadja – The Bungled & The Botched


Two tracks.  One hour.  Pure sludge.  The duo known as Nadja again demonstrate why they are some of the best the experimental music scene has to offer. Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff use their guitars to emit a thick miasma meant to steal the breath from your lungs before liquefying them. The title track is frozen doom, and the other track, “Absorbed in You” is an all-enveloping abyss of low-end skree that eventually blossoms to beauty.  Those with short attention spans or a lack of illicit substances need not apply.

04. Fire on Fire – The Orchard


Another year, another winner for Michael Gira’s Young God Records.  Fire on Fire’s The Orchard is an awesome send-up of bluegrass and folk music with a hint of gospel influence.  My friend said it best when he likened Fire on Fire to Vetiver-meets-Akron/Family.  Beautiful voices, choruses that are impossible not to sing along with, and lush instrumentation.  One of 2008’s best musical revelations.  Go. Sing.  Be joyful.

03. The Dead C – Secret Earth


Long time avant garde noise rockers The Dead C put out one of their best records in years.  Secret Earth is a four-track improvisational sound collage of epic proportions.  Here The Dead C proceed to lay waste to everything with a wreckless attack of searing guitar and  incoherent vocal wailing.  Secret Earth’s strength lies in the exciting unpredictability of it all.  Utterly superb and challenging rock for the perpetually fucked up.

02. Krallice – Krallice


Whoa.  Now this is killer.  Fiercely technical black metal from Mick Barr.  Krallice has drawn numerous comparisons to one-off black metal greats Weakling, and while I do not know if they quite reach those heights, they certainly eviscerate pretty much all of their peers on this outing.  Despite being comprised of immense talents, Krallice’s songwriting never dips into the mundane or masturbatory.  Barr, for all intents and purposes, sets his guitar on fire and plays like his family is tied up in the next room with a bomb strapped to his wife’s chest.

As intense as the whole affair is, Krallice always bows to their senses.  They freqeuntly break up the assault with slower passages and melodic leads to avoid becoming monotonous.  This is one of the best-written, technically stunning metal albums I have heard in quite some time.  I hunger for more.

01. Boris – Smile


Smile is an incredible album.  Some have criticized this album for not being Pink 2, but those people never understood Boris to begin with.  Boris is such a great band because of their diversity.  They never make the same move twice, and that is what makes each successive release so exciting to dive into.  Smile is the culmination of everything Boris has learned since their foray outside of the experimental/doom/sludge scene on 2002’s Heavy RocksSmile’s dizzying array of influences stretch from prog and thrash to sludge and hardcore punk.

On their cover of Pyg’s “Flower, Sun, Rain” they get a scorching psychedelic solo courtesy of Michio Kurihara.  “BUZZ-IN” sees Boris paying homage to 80s thrash.  “Laser Beam” borders on fucking d-beat hardcore for crying out loud.  I can go on and on.  The point is, Boris refuses to settle into one space.  This may have cost them their “darling” status on many terrible online indie publications, but that is all irrelevant.  Smile is a raucous, heartfelt affair from a group of veterans who are doing whatever they want, expectations be damned.


~ by theoberlander on January 2, 2009.

One Response to “Arbitrary List Fun Time (Favorite Music Releases: 2008 Edition)”

  1. […] is one of the most lauded acts in the noise genre at the moment; I even named And Still, Wanting one of my twenty favorite releases of 2008.  As good as that album is, I think The Black Post Society might be even […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: