A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Music best-of, 2008 edition

I'll be the first to admit that although my music consumption remained high in 2008, most of the stuff I listened to was from the '70s. Tons of massively good roots reggae offerings from that golden age of yesteryear (Keith Hudson, Ijahman, Fred Locks, Burning Spear, Big Youth, Yabby You, Willi Williams, Hugh Mundell, and many many more); a bunch of handspun gems from the likes of D. Crosby, Zevon, Fleetwood Mac (they ARE really good, at least insofar as Tusk and Rumors are concerned), and Bob Seger, to name-drop a few; delicious soul classics from Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, and Curtis Mayfield, not to mention the funkgeist of Funkadelic; and of course the unstoppable funk from the likes of The Meters, Allen Toussaint, and Professor Longhair.

But shiiiiiiiiiiiit, this is the oh-eight era, and that's what concerns us now. The doo-doo hit the proverbial fan in that I finally lost my zeal for the mass-marketed indie that sounded like tired retreads of half-hearted efforts from 2005 (see Of Montreal, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, and surely others). Portishead's offering, which should have been right in my wheelhouse, really didn't move me at all. I still can't stomach Craig Finn's voice from The Hold Steady, and honestly their anthems feel like they're going through the motions. And although a few made my list, there is a disconcerting trend towards the wavering falsetto this year.

With those caveats, I give you the best stuff I heard in 2008. NB: I haven't yet checked out TV on the Radio's new one (their other stuff was meh to me) nor Drive-By Trucker's new one (I am guessing that would definitely make the list, as I really enjoy their oeuvre).

1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Far and away my favorite of this year. A haunting, plaintive eulogy of lost-love that sounds timeless and true. This one does fit into the "wavering falsetto" camp that I harped on earlier, so listener beware. Nonetheless, it has held up to repeated listens and comes closest to catharsis of anything I heard over the past 12 months.


2. Black Mountain - The Future

Already I'm second guessing this choice--probably could sit here or anywhere as low as 5. It's a groovin' affair, to be sure, all cocksure and swagger with excellent guitar work and a nice propulsion to it all. I know some are dissuaded by the vocalist, but I'm OK with the juxtaposition. Definitely a '70s dirty rock vibe, which, oddly enough, still sounds fresh and alive to these ears.


3. Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash

Yes, THAT Stephen Malkmus from Pavement. This one is full of epic, proggy guitar solo goodness. I think I appreciate the space in this record--a sense of choice and improvisation that I enjoy. And I don't really even like prog!


4. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

I've only streamed this a few times online, and a copy is forthcoming in the mail, but from what I heard I really was blown away by the textures and beauty of it all. Again falling into the falsetto camp, I still thought this a gorgeous outpouring of harmonies and originality.


5. Beach House - Devotion

This is very different--slow, melodic, and the very definition of dream pop. It's one that, at first blush, I was completely enamored with. But honestly, I have not felt the need to listen to it again after my initial enjoyment. Still, I think it is a well-crafted, unique record and one that merits a look-see.


6. Sun Kil Moon - April

Here's another that I was REALLY looking forward to hearing--Mark Kozelek really has a gift for melancholy steeped ennui. I have enjoyed listening to this, but, it wasn't quite what I hoped for--which is not unexpected, given the greatness that is his previous effort, Ghosts of the Great Highway.


And that's it my friends. I do plan to give a chance (perhaps second ones) to Portishead, TV on the Radio, DBT, maybe a few others.

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Blogger steve said...

I would have preferred it if you had simply put Fleetwood's rumours as your album of the year.

1:11 PM

Blogger Omar said...

Excellent list. I wasn't familiar with Sun Kil Moon, but the clips were fucking outstanding. Great, great stuff. Let me know what you think of the new TV On the Radio when you get a chance.

2:54 PM

Blogger Jefe said...

Omar, if you like Sun Kil Moon, check out Mark Kozelek's solo stuff, before he formed SKM. Depressing, but pretty exquisite.

9:15 AM

Blogger Jefe said...

Stephen, I actually like "Tusk" better than "Rumours." Maybe I'll do a "best stuff I heard in 2008" list, that is older stuff. Cuz that is really where it's at.

9:17 AM


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