Top 10 Bands in 2008 (According to Last.fm) January 26, 2009Posted by reidmix in 4AD, Band Reviews, Best of 2008, FatCat, Free MP3, Indie, Labels, Lists, Marriage Records, Music, Reviews, States Rights.
Tags: 555 Recordings, Beggars Banquet, coachella, coachella 08, coachella 2008, fiction records, Fleetwood Mac, Futurama, Geffen, Isota, kexp, labrador, madchester, modular interscope, new order, new wave, NPR, orbital, Patrick Nagel, paul hartnol, Pierre Henry, RCRD LBL, Rhino, shelflife, stereogum, The Beatles, The Beta Band, The Pixies
Unlike my Top 12 Bands 2007, this year is a throwback to all good things ’80s and ’90s (kinda-sorta). Because I like to blame Tim Peysar for my musical deviations, I will continue to do so for he led me, kicking and screaming, against my will, against my better intentions, against the will of my wallet, to buy all the Cure deluxe re-issues.
As I’d like to give him that full credit — I’ll also give him The Radio Dept. — I continued to buy re-issues of The Smiths (7″ Singles: hawt!), and a deluxe re-issue of Beck Odelay (did DGC forget Mellow Gold?) all by my lonesome. I’ve been avoiding those Sonic Youth re-issues.
If anything, it stands as a testament that this year in music was a grab-bag into the past instead of the push forward I’ve seen over the past few years. Sometimes those leaps aren’t so obvious, or aren’t mined from the depths for years from now, but it gave me some time to discover and re-discover some of my musical roots.
The downside, this has been one of the most frustrating posts to put together and I know why I love my indies and give them all my money every chance I get. To the major labels of my 80s and 90s icons and their weakness to share: they make it impossible to legally link to any mp3s. High margins for them — no downloads for you — but you’ve probably heard it all before.
01. The Cure on Fiction, thecure.com
I swore off The Cure with Wild Mood Swings. I didn’t buy Bloodflowers. Alt.End: What.Was.That? I didn’t need the deluxe reissues, I had everything I wanted on LP, tape, and CD, Boxset, OMG. Then the I Am a Cult Hero single was on one of the Reissues, then some of the non-Curiosity Anomolies, then I saw the packaging, in person with those wonderful liner notes. After Robert Smith’s vocals made an apparance on The Orb Orbital’s Paul Hartnol “Please” single, and the once a month campaign of CD Singles leading up to 4:13 Dream, I got sucked back in. The Verdict: stay with the classics, they’ve held up to the test of time and bought up by the majors which is probably why their MP3s are on lockdown. Re-issue Disintegration already!
02. Cut Copy on Modular Interscope, cutcopy.net
If you listen to any songs from In Ghost Colours you might be inclined to wonder how did you miss them on you last 80s comp you bought. Didn’t they come out of pre-Madchester with the sensibilities and guitars of New Order? Even their debut album, Bright Like Neon Love, cover art is oh-so-Nagel. But as implied by their name, the genres are exquisitely cut from different pieces and blended seamlessly like a crossed memory. There’s the edge of The Pixies on “So Haunted” and the comfort of Fleetwood Mac on “Strangers in the Wind.” There is an urgency of youth in the tapestry of songs. I feel very lucky to have discovered Cut Copy and had the chance to see them at Coachella last year.
03. The Radio Dept. on Labrador, Shelflife, theradiodept.com
If Pet Sounds was the epitome of 60s-era genius, you could say that Pet Grief is analogous to 90s shoegaze on par with My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. What’s surprising, like Cut Copy, is that they have arrived within this decade! From Sweden. What I love about The Radio Dept. is that their take on shoegaze isn’t groundfacing, overdriven with guitar bloat. It’s crisp as a leaf on a fall day, bringing the best of Cocteau Twin-sy ethereal without getting lost in the sirrus. Hints of Johnny Marr, Robin Guthie run side-by-side with synth and piano, vocals receding alongside them. So many free downloads it makes you want to learn more about Labrador!
04. Lucky Dragons on Marriage, 555 Recordings, hawksandsparrows.org
I’d been looking forward to see how Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara would follow up Widows but to my surprise, winning tickets to see them perform at LA’s The Smell, I saw what Make a Baby was all about. It’s hard to explain, nearly religious in experience, where the audience to become participants in Lucky Dragon’s collaborative music making — Make a Baby, because, participants have to touch skin to affect the music. I highly recommend! There’s plenty of free music on Luke’s site, a copy of Dark Falcon, Bleach on Bleach (A Nirvana “remix” album split with Y.A.C.H.T.). I was happy to discover to Pierre Henry‘s “Atelier” on his site, perhaps giving insight to Luke’s influences.
05 French Kicks on Vagrant, frenchkicks.com
I burned through all of French Kick’s albums this year but was stuck on Swimming, their latest release. The first song “Abandon” is maybe one of the best jumps into an album, with bright guitars, deep bass, clapping, and the dulcet voice of Matt Stinchcomb. I think it’s one of those albums that is burdened by it’s past, comparisons to their post-punk debut “One Time Bells” or the shimmering electronics of “Two Thousand” somehow undo what I feel is an album that can stand well on it’s own. And I wonder, if the weight of the past was lifted, would we be more receptive to let Swimming soar?
06. Department of Eagles on Isota, 4AD, departmentofeagles.com
I feel like I can address that wonderful album The Cold Nose. When they were known as “Whitey on the Moon UK”, their approach is freer, consuming abandon of The Beta Band and downing it with a good dose of trip-hop. In”Gravity’s Greatest Victory / Rex Snorted Coke,” Rossen’s beautiful pipes are still there, but now we can gleam the 50s scifi-beatnics at their finest. On their rarities album, songs are overdubbed with both whimsy and what makes “In Ear Park” so beautiful. On a live performance of “Sailing by Night” we are introduced to “Señor Buttmerge” and a “Cat named Johnny Glaze” who “knows his ways around all the public bathrooms / always has a cookie in his pocket.” Yeah. All over the Rossen harmonies that make us think of the Beatles.
07. Beck on Geffen/DGC/Interscope, beck.com
What can I say about Beck that isn’t already covered. I bought the Deluxe Reissue of Odelay. Modern Guilt was better than The Information but still not as good as Guero. I wished that I had bought Midnight Vultures when it came out in ’99, I think 10 years has aged it pretty well tho. I’ll still buy Beck albums and one of these days I’ll make it to The Echo for one of his free shows (I hope!)
08. The Smiths on Rough Trade, Rhino
I love the Smiths. I love mexi-goths for their love of Morrisey. I bought the Singles Box set for the dirty pictures — uh, original cover art. There are a few songs that illicit such a precise feeling in my adolescence the way that “How Soon Is Now?” does. The late discovery of “Jeane,” I swear it sounds familiar: “We tried and we failed.” The tumble of the locks at the end of “Rusholme Ruffians” and all that walking home alone sums up my high school years so succinctly. Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking I would like to mash every tooth in you head.
I wish there was more Silje Nes in the world — I had to dig deep to find the NPR feature on “Shapes, Electric,” where the DJ is equally awestruck on how she composes this warbled little affair. You feel deeply seated in between the ears and within the mind of Silje and just want to know more. An Ames Room, a forced perspective illusion, is an appropriate metaphor for the album, where Silje can grow to unexpected sizes with that childlike singsong that make you want to ask along with NPR, “How’d she do that?” It’s not all an experimental hodge-podge, i said before, it’s rooted and organic, subtle in its wash, a stretching of cassette tape and static. The songs are like pills that’re easy to swallow, Alice-like and precocious. One of my top 3 in 2007 if I had heard it in 2007!
10. Bauhaus on Beggars Banquet, bauhausmusik.com
Oh boy did I ever feel at home amongst my peeps at Coachella watching Love & Rockets, the Bubblemen, missing Peter Murphy, and seeing the goth-glam-goth come full out and close the festival. With Bauhaus, I have lived primarily on “1979-1983” Parts I & II, “Swing the Heartache,” “Crackle,” and somehow I never bought the originals. Oh what a trip to listen to the songs in their original inception some wildly different, others right on par. “A trick of the light and too much caffeine, he thought.”
Next: no surprises in my Top 10 Albums of 2008.