Friday, January 2, 2009

Best Albums of 2008

It turns out, you can't have whatever you like


21. Nas-Untitled/Nigger
Here's where I usually stand with Nas. I'll forgive his Kweli-esque offbeat rapping on "Queens Got The Money". I'll forgive him allowing a distracting, almost radio R&B-like bassline and breaks that detract from the gorgeous and moving "N.I.G.G.E.R". But pussying out on the album title after months of campaigning and playing up the political nature of the album in conjunction with this being just as filler-laden as almost all of his records (though admittedly one of the better Nas releases in terms of consistency) as well as it being completely destroyed by how good The Nigger Mixtape is is disappointing but for some reason it just feels par for the course. Nas seems to live to disappoint, to waste great verses on boring lite-jazz Salaam Remi beats, to push muddled politics that makes Dead Prez and Mos Def seem like Paolo Freire, to still have crappy breath control during live performances and forget lyrics. But we still check for him because there's a masochistic hope that eventually he'll drop something more than half good for a change, more "Nas Is Like" or "Oochie Wally", less "Got Urself..." or Hip-Hop Is Deads. Illmatic and the subsequent notable songs he did on each album were so fucking good that the well-wishing and chagrin spilled over onto each subsequent album, and the deluge of weedplates he's released this decade alone begs the question that maybe Lil' Homie should fall back and re-evaluate his shit, as his maturation and noticeable wide-eyed brightness and elder statesmen stature that has replaced his youthful blunted-to-shit air, but he hasn't actually grown enough to not commit partial-births like "Sly Fox", which is by far probably the worst song he's ever recorded.

(All is forgiven "Nastradamus".)

This album is included because it is the best thing he's done in years consistency-wise, although I doubt that at this point what's left of the believers will let Nasir continue to disappoint after this.


20.VA-This Comp Kills Fascists
Full disclosure: This is one of two albums on the list I haven't listened to the full way through yet. But fuck it, its a grind/crust comp put together by the increasingly questionable Scott Hull (godblesshimandhisartgrindanyway) and Relapse Records, who really just have PxDx and Dillinger of worth in their roster now that High On Fire, Mastodon and Suffocation have jumped ship.

Comps always work better in the context of genres where great albums are rare due its compositional nature or other factors. Usually, different offshoots of punk and electronica/dance are excellent for comps because they're singles-based genres anyway and the successful albums are immediately canonized, leaving everything to be digested and assesed by song. Part of this can be that the genres tend to produce acts that can churn out one or a few catchy songs but can't spread it to a whole full-length, part of it can be, like in the case of happy hardcore, crust and grind, that the attraction isn't the quality of the music of the songwriting, the attraction is the sound itself, so not only is it possible to enjoy a grind song without actually thinking its any good in comparison to say, TV On The Radio or T-Pain, but its pretty much the rule. Bands like Brutal Truth, who actually put out two great, in an objective extra-genre sense, albums in the mid-90s, are really the exception. So an album full of really fast, crusty, grinding music isn't meant to be assessed for counterpoint or melody or interesting chord progressions. Really, all that matters is that the drummers and throats are good or interesting enough to keep your attention, and that's it.

Like the last good Relapse comp (also compiled by Scott Hull), Drummmachinegun, this album isn't meant to be dissected on iTunes and to have the best songs picked and choosed from like a normal record, its meant to be taken in as a whole, as a midrange-laden, cymbal-chopping clusterfuck of blastbeats and white guys alternately tough-guy growling and bitch-shrieking their hearts out with some humor and politics thrown in to stay true to convention. This Comp Kills Fascists rules at that, and though there are only a few notable tracks that I'd single out outside the experience of the album (one of which being the faux-wiggertastic Agents of Satan tracks), it still beats the shit out of Vampire Weekend


19.Disfear-Live The Storm
There are basically two go-to guys for great-sounding albums by quality bands in metal and harcore today. One is Scott Hull, who to a small degree has had his dick in a lot of interesting projects, but unsurprisingly the main guy is really Kurt "Godcity Studios" Ballou from Converge who has been producing amazing shit for years with a resume that includes pg.99, Animosity, Genghis Tron, Torche, and Disfear. I feel the need to mention this because it was the atypical sound of Converge's You Fail Me, which featured jangling overdriven rickenbacker guitars with EMG pickups as opposed to standard ESP or Gibson guitars, spaghetti western passages, 60's reverb and echo effects, and an ability to make records sound dirty, heavy, yet clean enough to listen to and with an existent midrange that makes him my favorite producer today and is important to note when talking about this record. It's definitely a Kurt Ballou produced album, and sound brilliant, which just allows more room to take in the odd mix of early Hellacopters and Dismember that Disfear brought on Live The Storm. Huge, anthemic, and utterly Swedish sounding, the record is essentially a lot of the same on each track, so the half of the album that's catchy is essential, but the half that isn't suffers from fatigue. Plus, Tom "The Red Chord is too dissonant" Briehan dug it, so that says something.


18. Arghoslent-Hornet of the Pogrom
I avoid debates over whether Arghoslent are actually racist partially because there's always the chance that, with all the artistic pretension that goes into their work they very well could just be provoking people in a subtle way, or maybe their opinions are just so well-articulated that it doesn't merit the same scoff-and-point reactions typically given to white separatists and racists who, like most demagogues, have built up entire fortresses of opinion that, depending on who you talk to, may be devoid of rationale and critical thinking with provable facts or composed entirely of them.

Whatever the case, metal, following an early 00's resurgence due to Headbangers Ball and the prevalence of metalcore is, like hip-hop, sort of creatively dead due to the indirect effect an influx of music fans has on the quality of a genre's output. So, not only is it rare to get a good metal album, but a good melodic death metal album at that is the rarest Pokemon of them all. Though having as much filler as their last album, this record has a couple of great standout tracks that continues to eschew the European melodeath fail of In Flames and the like who basically wrote down-tuned power metal with sappy gothic lyrics and over-dramatic vocals with the galloping majesty of 80's prefix-less heavy metal. And if not for the music, its at the very least great for a liberal arts roundtable on transgressive art and morality.


17.The Knux-Remind Me In 3 Days
This record was somehow both fairly assessed and overlooked. Fairly assessed as being full of filler and having only about 4 or 5 good tracks on it, overlooked because three of those tracks were fucking great, the best of which being "Fire", which in an ideal world would've been released as a single and gone at least top 50 or something.

The Outkast comparisons are as lazy as when people compared Interpol to Joy Divison or The Distillers to Hole, in that its superficial, as are most people's observations it seems. Sure, two guys who make slightly eclectic and out-there hip-hop from the South. But these dudes are brothers, and though one really does sort of sound like Big Boi, they're decidedly less spacey lyrically than Dre and Big, though still frequently jaw-droppingly clever with matching flows. Plus, Outkast would've never rapped on half the Stereogum sounding shit on this record. It'd be optimistic to say these guys will eventually, based on the good tracks, go on to make great shit, but given the economic state of the world, record industry, and rap respectively, this might be their only shot.

That is, unless they can do like Lupe and pull a "Superstar" out their ass so they go Gold.


16.Origin-Antithesis
There's a few things I never expected for this list. One was a death metal album, seeing as the genre's been an albatross creatively, with some exceptions, since the mid-90's. The other was a tech-death album, from a genre notorious for merging the snobbish wankery and speed-obsession of prog with the immaturity and antisocial lameness of modern death metal. But by some strange fluke, Origin pulled a three-peat by not releasing a shit album, not releasing a shit death metal album, and not releasing another shit tech-death album.

Like...there are actually memorable riffs and passages on this thing. And what passes for hooks! And there are more than 5 good songs on it!

The great thing about the album is that, as opposed to say, Spawn of Possession, this record's guitar parts sound simple in terms of metal, allowing a lot easier experience in processing what the fuck is going, which is needed as this is the "brutal assault of tremolo picking and double bass/blast beat" strain of death metal. As opposed to most records, this sounds willingly sterile and machine-like, and with my synesthesia in full-gear, listening to this record brings to ming a massive convoluted Giger-esque killing machine that does nothing but thresh and grind life forms into paste and dust. All hammers, sickles, drills, screws and blades. And that's really what the non-horror/gore themed splinter of death metal should bring to mind. If not zombies and viscera, why not fucking robots and aliens?

(It should be said that Origin are the most fucking boring band to look at ever. What a bunch of chuds)


15.Erykah Badu-New Amerykah Vol 1: The 4th World War
I fucking love Erykah Badu. Though Mama's Gun was really overrated, Baduizm is still a fucking great R&B album and Worldwide Underground, though sometimes a bit too coffee shop for its own good, had its moments too. So naturally I was excited for any new Erykah because, as "Dave Chapelle's Block Party" documents, she and Jill Scott are two of the most gifted singers around and part of the fun of their new releases is just to see what they do with their voice, what tasteful yet out-there tricks and riffs and etc.

This album immediately struck me as far from what she had done before, as it was more timely in its composition being basically rap instrumentals for the most part with Erykah singing over them, as opposed to the jazz and neo-soul backing of her previous shit. Plus, she really went in on her whole Funkadelic allusion, though to be fair to her her lyrics were always weird and bohemian. By itself, its half-trying and half-great, as none of the tracks are bad per se, but the realization that no all of them hit like they should or drag a little too long into self-indulgence comes when the preciseness and catchiness of "Honey" and "The Cell" appear towards the end of the album. Had the whole record been as good as those tracks as well as "The Soldier and "The Healer", this probably could've been the best record of the year. Its still a great, warm and dense album full of quirkiness but there's a lingering feeling even on repeated listens of falling a bit short of the mark.


14.Tobacco-"Fucked Up Friends"
So, as with the Flying Lotus and Erykah Badu album, there's a weird clunkiness to the drums on 00's analog hip-hop productions. I can't quite explain why that is, but its extremely noticeable, although in the realm that Flying Lotus, Tobacco, and Ammoncontact exist in, it really aids the sound and colors it with this weird boutique sci-fi toy feel. I was put on to Tobacco during meetings for my school's Fall Fest concert, of which tobacco was chosen to be a performer, though I missed him due to class (and maybe disinterest in fucking around my campus underdressed in a 40 degree chill).

Instrumental hip-hop has always been weird to me, because from Premier to DJ Shadow, once you take rapping off a lot of tracks, they tend to sound flatter than regular vocal-less electronica/dance songs and have this odd isolated/desolate feel to them, as if they're just empty space. There's also a weird gray area where instrumentals sound that way because a rap wouldn't sound good anyway. People will claim that they make beats, but one listen clearly illustrates they had no intent or concept of someone laying vocals over tracks that may be too busy, fast, or just out there for anyone not named Busdriver to tackle. A neat track with Aesop Rock rapping serves to dismiss any thoughts regarding that notion and Tobacco, and in the company of the other instrumentals gives a nice perspective of "Man, what would this shit sound like with ____ rapping on it?"

I could see why a hipster would eat this up, but the cool actor of analog beats with 8-bit melodies made by the guy from Black Moth Super Rainbow doesn't detract from the fact than there's about 5 or 6 really cool tracks on this record, although like I brought up before, the actually sound of this sort of splinter of hip-hop is weird for reasons that are sort of hard to really put into words, but it'd be interesting to see where this sound goes and how many people besides the aforementioned artists get into it.


13.Venetian Snares-Detrimentalist
I maintain that Venetian Snares is more interesting and novel than good, which tended to be true regarding Aaron Funk's albums up until Detrimentalist, which like the Origin record, ended up being a weird exception, where not only was it pretty consistent and actually good, but it was a good album in a genre very much devoid of good albums. The record is a lot more traditional drum 'n' bass/jungle than his previous stuff, but that probably ended up making the record a lot more satisfying. The drums are still ridiculous though, and tends to have a lot of moments that seem designed to maintain interest, with ill breaks and riffs coming in after bit that may sometimes feel complacent. And like when I went to go see the Dillinger Escape Plan two years ao, I probably looked insane shopping for work clothes around 23rd street with my iPod blaring the record an my unconscious headbanging in odd-meter.

Now if only the guy would make an album full of happy hardcore and gabber...


12.Flight of the Conchords-S/T
Continuing with last year's pattern of at least one comedy album inclusion, this year its the Flight of the Conchords album, which really, is a lot more Liam Lynch than Tenacious D in terms of music. Though the TV show, enjoyable about half the time, isn't really that funny, there's a bunch of gems on this album that don't require the backdrop of an episodes plots, an aspect that sort of hurts the record since you'd have to to enjoy the show to enjoy the songs (although if you're listening to the record, you probably do). The odd thing about the band is that their best songs are all either soul of tropicalia/samba-based and their songs that fall outside those genre parameters, with the exception of "Bowie" which is just fucking perfect in its absurdity and over-the-top homage to everyone's favorite English labyrinthine gay alien Jesus vampire rock star, sort of only exist in that weird comedy rock nexus where the music itself is incidental and sort of boring without the attached humor. However, "Ladies of the World", and "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" actually work amazingly as standalone tracks because the songs themselves transcend that aspect of comedic music. Especially the outro on "Ladies of the World". Shit's almost "King Tut" good.


11.Danity Kane-Welcome to the Dollhouse
Despite me initially fawning over this ringtone girlpop in the first months of '08, in light of my top 10 and the passage of time, its slowly making its way down the list, to the point where by the end of '09, if I even listen to it still at all, it'll probably be somewhere near the bottom. This is most likely due to the weird compressed and thin-sounding production that seemed to be thinking more of cellphones than CD players and iPods. But its probably really because this is a really really shallow pop/dance record put together by Puff Daddy, and I stand by every hook and beat on the record, though "Damaged" is a fucking godawful song, the sugar high is bound to wear off eventually, burning up quicker than the actual group's lifespan.


10.Eagles of Death Metal-Heart On
This shouldn't be a good record. By all logic, this should be total crap, being the third album by a group that, though never making an absolutely great record, have come damn close and whose songs have just gotten catchier over the years. But how often to band put out three good albums in a row, besides Converge and TV on the Radio?

On the album, Jesse Hughes said he wanted to simply write better songs, which is evident as the lo-fi 00s quirkiness of the first EODM album is officially completely gone, to the point that a few lackluster ballads are even included on the album. But the maturation of the band's sound, emphasizing the seriousness that was buried in the lyrics to earlier EODM songs without losing a sense of fun has an interesting effect, with the record sounding pretty dark, even if some of the songs themselves aren't dark. Some of that could be attributed to Josh Homme who has an expertise in making music that sound like black holes (if black holes had sound). Basically, the album has the catchy, dense songs of Death By Sexy, but more serious and with odd production flourishes like the Easter Island head "Hrmphs" of "Wannabe in LA" and Bauhaus-style treble guitars of "Secret Plans". This band kind of, along with the Hives and Queens of the Stone Age, kept my faith in riff-y rock music, so its a miracle that they've avoided making a "Lullabies to Paralyze" so far.


9.Johnson & Jonson-
There are a lot of wordy, clever MC's. In fact, there are so many that sometimes I wonder whether some of these guys would've been as revered as Rakim and other game-changers had they been around in the late-80s to early-90s. But the problem with a lot of the Okayplayer types are 1.They have boring voices and 2.Boring beats. Its practically conservative hip-hop, for its misguided allegiance to a sound, aesthetic, and style that really might've been fabricated from the beginning and even if not, not that great in the first place. Blu was well on his way to being just one of those kinds of rappers until he released this record with Mainframe. While simultaneously washing the bad taste that is the CRAC Knuckles album out of my mouth, it also proved that with the right producer, Blue could produce something not only clever, but hook-laden and pretty cool. Apparently the different producer for every album thing Blu is on is to present a different style for each album and that this was his "swagger" album or something like that. Given how good the results turned out, including an old Supreme Clientele breakbeat and two beats that sound like Ghostface should be on them, maybe Blu should just eschew the hipster silliness of CRAC Knuckles and the blu(e) collar Lupe-isms of Below the Heavens and focus on the shit he's doing here.


8.Torche-Meanderthal
There's something unnerving about how poppy some of the songs on Meanderthal are. Spending most of the summer rocking out to In Return, their superior vinyl-only EP, this album was a bit of a disappointment, but after a while all the 90'[s altrock-isms started to digest easier with every consecutive listen. The idea of "sludge-pop" is pretty fun really, and the more distance new-school sludge bands have from Leviathan-era Mastodon, the better. Still, there are a few missteps on the record, despite a nearly flawless first half. Their insistence on not being considered metal is odd, but regardless they're one of a scant few breaths of fresh air and competency in a genre full of overfed manchildren with egos bigger than their sunlight-deprived dicks.


7.The Black Ghosts-S/T
I ran into this early in the year rummaging around iTunes for good recent dance music. I think somewhere around Boyz Noise of Simian Mobile Disco (or a weird search result for the Black Keys) I came across this, which was a really cool surprise. The Black Ghosts are a two-man group composed of a producer and one of the guys who used to be in Simian, who did that song with Justice two years ago that at the MTVEurope VMA's Kanye West ran onstage bitching about how much he paid to have Lupe's Sega Saturn flown to the Grand Canyon for his "Touch The Sky" video. Simian broke up, with the non-bald guys forming Simian Mobile Disco, and the bald guy, Simon Lord, teaming up with the bald guy from The Wiseguys to make probably one of the catchiest albums I've heard in two years, especially the singles "Anyway You Choose To Give It", "I Want Your Touch", and "Repetition Kills You". The best way to describe the album is sauntering, from the almost Brian Molko-style preening and emoting in Simon Lord's singing, that somehow evokes a mix between higher register Thom Yorke and Josh Homme while maintaing a dance-style, and full of more hooks than you'd expect from a guy who was previously known for making that song from "Zoolander" 7 years ago. Also notable is that, in terms of both the music and vocals, the album is crammed full of harmonies and, representative of Theo Keatings previous occupation making Big Beat records, isn't that electronic, with the distorted octave parts on "Anyway You Choose To Give It" and slick new wave tinges on other tracks giving it a closer feel somewhere between dancerock and electronica without the cloying annoyingness of LCD Soundsystem or Hot Chip.


6.Lil' Wayne-Tha Carter III
This is weird because, as flawed as it is and my previous review of the record, listening to it right now for this list, I'd on any given day probably prefer to listen to this album than most things. I still only kept about 12 of the songs but lyrical clunkers aside, its just a ridiculously fucking fun album. Its not terrible, its not great, its pretty okay, but its a fun okay which is a weird gray area with Wayne's output this year. Also, I was wrong about preferring the mixtape version of "A Milli". The album version is clearly better.


5.T-Pain-Thr33 Ringz
I have a sneaking suspicion that T-Pain only beat The Black Ghosts on my list because I've been listening to his album longer, but regardless this is once again another example of "The Thing That Should Not Be" this year, where an album was a lot better than I expected it to ever be. Especially in the treacherous terrain of modern hip-hop-influenced pop/R&B where not only are songs and artists nondescript and interchangeable, but they tend to sort of suck. Last year my only issue with Epiphany was that the filler outweighed the really good songs, and that's an issue T-Pain managed to almost completely correct on a record that remains dense, catchy, weird, layered, intricate, funny, and cohesive. Why not have a scary looking 23-year-old singing/rapping/dancing/producing Muslim from Florida that looks like a teddy bear with fronts and dyed dreadlocks and has an unhealthy fascination with scrippas channeling "Computer Love" and pretending to be the ringleader of a circus?


4.TV on the Radio-Dear Science
This is arguably the best album of the year. My "Best of" lists get sort of iffy and interchangeable around the top 5 because, like last year, the top 5, at any given moment depending on how I feel could all be the best album of the year. This list is pretty scientifically determined by taking the fraction of songs I deleted/songs I kept from the album, or alternatively, good songs/total songs. The fraction increases until you get to the top 10 or 12 or so when every song is basically good and the record is then judges by how good the songs are in terms of each other which is usually analyzing for things like density, production, whether or not the song had missteps of moments of questionable writing, terribly lyrics, etc.

As I'm listening to the album again, the two reasons Dear Science isn't my top album is that 1.I'm still put off by how stereotypically Williamsburg the first verse of "Dancing Choose" is, even though the song picks up speed after the first chorus and 2. Like every TV on the Radio album, the last three songs or so on the album are filler that could've simply been excised from the record (moreso on Desperate Youth..., less so on ...Cookie Mountain). In this case, those songs are "DLZ" and "Lover's Day".

In terms of actual songs, this album is probably better than everything on this list, took enough repeated listens to like (like all really good records) to ensure future enjoyment (unlike the first Franz Ferdinand record, for example which was like a year-long sugar rush), and is different enough from their previous records that nothing feels stale. Some of the tracks, like a lot of what TV does, are just achingly gorgeous and emotive.

So, as a weird caveat, this is the best album of the year and is probably my favorite album. But for the sake of difference and the futility of ranking my top 5, I'm going to place it at number 4 until I drunkenly recant this rash decision.


3.Kanye West-808s & Heartbreak
Like I said before, all these albums are great (and I say that confidently. If you disagree, you're wrong, [No DocZeus]) but there's an unsettling air of douche on this album that, though it did grow on me upon repeated, more open-minded listens, sort of taints some of the songs. Plus "Amazing" is fucking awful. There's something to be said that rap has been filled with bragging for decades, but for some reason when Kanye goes out of his way to do it, its unlikable. Maybe its because Kool G Rap never had such a bi-polar, Lil'Wayne-esque good line:bad line ratio. Good as it is, despite being an intentional mess, the best songs on the album are the ones where the lyrics aren't so intensely personal as to ask the listener to give a shit about Kanye to enjoy the song, and the weakest tracks are the ones that do. Regardless, I had no expectations going into this record, so to have Kanye put out an unprecedented 4th good record in a row, something even Ghostface never did due to the weedplate that is Bulletproof Wallets, even though for some reason I still can't accept him as being as talented as he clearly is. Hardly objective on my part, but maybe douche-fatigue is setting in.


2.Q-Tip-The Renaissance
So Dubai froze over and Q-Tip made the best rap album of the year. Not only the best rap album, but a lean, efficient one ,though sort of a little too light feeling in terms of length and, like Brandon noted, sequencing. Still, the rapping is on-point, and "Dance on Glass" is the first time I've noticed that Q-Tip swings his flow or realized how effective his tendency to start-and-stop with the drums can be. Plus, like Brandon also noted, the record could be from anywhere. The swirling Rhodes' sound like the late 90's and early 00's, but the actual EQ and production and little electro flourishes sound extremely curr. Just as surprising as this album's success is, it just makes how bad Pharoahe Monche's Desire was seem even worse. Both had nearly 10 years to make a new reord, and MonChiChi got showed up by a former Mr. Jonathan "No homo on my dreaming of Busta Rhymes" Davis? Damn. If this is any inkling, that Tribe reunion album might actually be good.

Oh, and "Move" is my shit.


1.Portishead-Third
I've fucked to Dummy. I had also fucked to Kid A the same night, but that's inconsequential. Besides an intense, desperate romantic trip-hop album, Dummy represented one of a select few things you could put on during sex and not feel cheesy (another being LoveHate by The-Dream). Kind of a double-edged pedigree for such an amazing album, but with the filler on Portishead and the weird James Bond-esque songs featured within (along with Mars Attacks spaceship theremin), Portishead were bound to be remembered for their first album primarily and as something college students put on to bust a nut to.

So when Portishead announced their reformation and the release of a new album, naturally people were both hesitant of what to expect and fearful of having their expectations dashed. What would it sound like? How could it still be trip-hop in 2008? What if its bad?

The answer to the first question is "scary as fuck". Though they claimed to have started from scratched to avoid repeating themselves, the feeling of the album is that the "trip" part of their former genre association was excised in favor of psychedelic rock and even weirder and more tense film soundscapes like those found on their second album. This was a positive change, as even detractors agreed that to come out with a Dummy II would be meaningless. The new sound on the record is both radical and familiar enough that its still Portishead, but arguably the record serves as a proper bookend for Dummy, as its polar opposite.

Simply put, this isn't the soundtrack to two (or more) kids fucking passionately, this is the wailing bereavement of a widow being fucked and strangled to death in her cliffside home by a man she just met. This is music for stalking and unpleasant walks home at night, paranoid thoughts in the rain, brooding silently, but with a BA from a Liberal Arts college as to differentiate yourself from your standard-fare goth. On Dummy, the dread was implied, but everything was relaxed, smooth, and the longing was romantic. If Beth Gibbons was hurt, she wasn't forlorn enough to gut herself to black metal, which is what it sounds like on Third. There's just unpleasant and odd things going on throughout the album, from the dissonant doom metal riff accompanied by an acoustic black metal-esque passage that interrupts every verse on "Hunter", to the hypnotic "witches coven celebrating while 2002-era Clinic is playing" lurch of "We Carry On". The difference now is the dissonance is electric, bashing errant strings, minor seconds, tuned down guitars borrowed from drone metal, all juxtaposed to the expressive range and preternaturally hurt-sounding vocals of Beth Gibbons, such a howling, mournful voice surrounded by creep and din makes for an album that is simultaneously my favorite electronica record, black metal record, and doom metal album. The latter is serious, as there are many part of the record that are too unsettling to be psychedelic rock, creeping with a control that makes "Small" and "Threads" feel more unhinged and foreboding than they would with full bashing toms and Marshall stacks behind them. Even moreso when the din stops long enough for "Deep Water", wherein the dread is amplified as Gibbons sings accompanied by a ukulele and occasionally aided by the ghostly voices of radio-era male harmonies (the fucking creepiest sound ever if you're ever alone and listening to "Mr. Sandman".)

In a record full of "...really?" moments, like "Machine Gun", and with word of another album to be cranked out by the end of '09, the only logical thing left for Portishead to do is seems to J-pop.

Honorable Mentions:
Flying Lotus-Los Angeles.
I didn't get a chance to actually listen to this like the other records this year since I was preoccupied and didn't find out about him until early December.

Janelle Monae-Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Fantastic Edition)
She's fucking amazing, but I forgot to illegally download this record for some reason so I can't place it on the list.

G-Unit-Terminate On Sight
Believe it or not, the middle to second half of this record is actually really competent shallow 00's NY mixtape rap. Or maybe I'm biased because putting a hoodrat on the hook of your song ("Kitty Kat") is gold to me.

Coffins-Buried Death
I just sort of forgot to write about it, and my rule about post edits (which I've broken fairly recently, actually) precludes me from altering this now. Or maybe not, depends on if my cold goes away.

3 comments:

floodwatch said...

One of the best '08 year-end lists I've had the pleasure of reading (Weezy excepted). Your "there's an unsettling air of douche on this album" quote is spot-on but also the reason why I can't get down with 808's. I still don't buy the argument that there's something wrong with the sequencing on The Renaissance, but to each his own.

Good shit regardless.

Christopher said...

Floods- Thanks! Yeah, it says a lot about Tha Carter III that I had originally already published this before I noticed I hadn't included it anywhere on the list.

See, I personally think the Renaissance might just be too efficiently lean, Illmatic-style, so it feels like its a geat album but missing something, whe its probably just the length. I sort of agree with Brandon's assessment of the sequencing, but its really just theorizing on why the labum feels so light.

Jay (d)eff Kay said...

Man, I can't believe that at this stage you were able to prepare a list so thoroughly enjoyable. Massive kudos. Well, it helps that you write really well and that your list isnt a regurgitation of every other standard list out there. Heck, there's a few records here I haven't listened to yet. So thanks for keeping me busy.

What else, agree with most of it, Portishead can get it, Torche's pop metal is such a great aesthetic to be experiencing, Kurt Ballou continues to modestly cook up a major storm (With that impressive a resume, I'd imagine this dude would have a kanye-sized ego. And that he'd beat up every blogger and award show presenter who didnt reward his works)

I don't necessarily get mad that tha carter 3 isn't on some of these top hip hop records of the year lists. But I am starting to hate a few records in retrospect just coz of bloated shine that certain records are getting over it. For ex. people vehemently arguing that something like the Knux (a group that debuted with very little expectation and surprised many with a few great tunes) is greater than something like the Tha Carter 3 (a really fun record that gets shit on coz on one hand, haters have been rooting for him to fail and on the other hand because its a decent, flawed record being released under the microscope of tremendous hype and expectation). So its not a clasic, big deal. Its a still a fun record underneath it all like you pointed out.

And finally, I am totally conflicted about whether I need to bow down with utter respect or throw a severely dirty look at your way for starting a review with the following: "I've fucked to Dummy. I had also fucked to Kid A the same night, but that's inconsequential" Tremendous intro eitherway.