Saturday, December 13, 2008


Well as warned - and only one day late - here's my selection of the Ten Best Albums of the Year in reverse order.

Dependable doesn't mean dull. As venomously sarcastic as ever and with the tunes to boot. Nigel Blackwell should be the new Poet Laurate and 'National Shite Day' should be the country's national anthem.

9. THE ACORN Glory Hope Mountain [BUY]
A concept album based on the life of the songwriter's mother's life from growing up in Honduras to moving to Canada. Sounds terrible on paper. On record it is sweet, joyous and rewarding. And much better than your average Mother's Day card. Think this will gain the full attention it deserves during 2009.

8. LAURA MARLING Alas I Cannot Swim [BUY]
One of the shortlisted albums for the Nationwide Mercury Music Award, much has been made of Laura's age but the real story is the quality of the song-writing and the delivery. If this is what 'popular' sounds like I might shift my avowedly anti-mainstream stance.

7. RADAR BROS. Auditorium [BUY]
I'd lost touch with Radar Bros. over the last couple of albums. This was like discovering an old friend and realising how much you missed them. Making slow-motion songs about watching cows cross rivers or warm air rising and making them so affecting and engaging, is truly an art.

As the follow-up to 2007 'The Stage Names' this could simply have been the left-overs and also-rans. But it's far stronger than that - an outstanding set of literate indie-rock, telling the tales of damaged characters and fading artists with real heart and soul.

5. CLINIC Do It! [BUY]
Another 'dependable doesn't mean dull' selection. On the one hand Clinic's template (distorted garage-punk stomp) suggests a straitjacket; but they constantly can stretch and innovate within these narrow confines. Breathtakingly good. Again.

4. THE WAVE PICTURES Instant Coffee Baby [BUY]
Lo-fi production and presentation but bags of charm. This harks back to earlier eras (C86, Jonathan Richman) but is totally fresh. If last year's songs from the double A-Side (We Dress Up Like Snowmen/Now We Are Pregnant) had been on this, it probably would have been a contender for the number one position.

3. ADRIAN CROWLEY Long Distance Swimmer [BUY]
Unexpected discovery of the year for me (but also for Mr MM and for others too I know). Wrote briefly about this here. Adrian takes a sparse folk-blues and turns it into something utterly beguiling. Buy this now.
2. BRITISH SEA POWER Do You Like Rock Music? [BUY]
January releases rarely do well in end of year polls. But for me this record has been a constant presence this year. Despite the Nationwide Mercury Music prize nomination and playing on (some) bigger festival stages this year, I don't think BSP will ever cross-over to mass acceptance. They have too many eccentricities and a singularlity of vision that doesn't sit well with popular appeal. But if they continue to produce music this good (epic in sound and ambition, peculiarly English) who cares? Let's just hope they continue ...
1. FRIGHTENED RABBIT The Midnight Organ Fight [BUY]
And from England to Scotland. I was bowled over by how good this record was from the first listen and never lost that sense of wonder all year. It has a top-notch production job done on it but this to me enhances the songs rather than smooth the edges. Self-deprecating indie-folk-rock mixed with sexual jealously, disgust and rancour never sounded so appealing. And as well as my album of the year, Frightened Rabbit have the song of the year too in 'The Modern Leper'.

And bubbling under a whole host of records including in alphabetical order (because trying just to ten in preferential order was difficult enough):
Ballboy I Worked On The Ships / Bon Iver For Emma / Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Dig! Lazarus! Dig! / Los Campesinos Hold On Now Youngster / Neil Diamond Home Before Dark / Matt Eaton Finish Your Chips / Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes / Robert Forster The Evangelist / Giant Sand *proVISIONS* / Herman Dune Next Year in Zion / Eugene McGuinness Eugene McGuinness / Micah P Hinson & The Red Empire Orchestra / Conor Oberst Conor Oberst / Pete & The Pirates Little Death / Silver Jews Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea / Thomas Function Celebration! / TV On The Radio Dear Science / Willard Grant Conspiracy Pilgrim Road / Woodpigeon Songbook / James Yorkston When The Haar Rolls In

Given the time I have taken to put this post together (the links! Have you seen all the links!?) I'm not going to risk it's appearance to some trigger-happy, DCMA-wielding irritant by adding mp3 downloads. But if you want to sample any of the above albums here is a mixtape of songs.

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Normal service will be resumed soon. Sometime before New Year I will post a compilation of favourite tracks from the year. As well as working on the compilation itself, I'm also considering the title (to be drawn from the lyrics of one of the songs) carefully. Not all these songs might make the final cut but titles under consideration include: Fat Cops Make Bigger Targets; Pedestrian Etiquette; Stockard Channing Held Sway; My Blushing Bride, the Figurehead; On His Last Leg; Towards The See-Saw. Any favourites?


Chris said...

I'd go for Stockard Channing Held Sway, but then I'm the kind of guy who only reckons it's been a good year if there's a new Half Man Half Biscuit album out. Full CSI:Ambleside lyrics here, by the way. Liked the Laura Marling too.

Jim said...

Nice to see Half Man Half Biscuit turn up on a list, it was one of my favourites too. Can't argue with Frightened Rabbit taking the top spot. It won't be my favourite, but it put up a good fight. Err, no pun intended.