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The Best Music of 2008

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2008 was a pretty good year for new music.

The Best albums released in 2008 (Album –  Artist):

  1. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark –  Drive-By Truckers
  2. The Evening Descends –  Evangelicals
  3. The Chemistry of Common Life –  F**ked Up
  4. At Mount Zoomer –  Wolf Parade
  5. HLLLYH –  The Mae Shi
  6. Hold On Now, Youngster… –  Los Campesinos!
  7. Liver! Lung! FR! –  Frightened Rabbit
  8. Ice Cream Spiritual –  Ponytail
  9. Jim –  Jamie Lidell
  10. Heretic Pride –  The Mountain Goats

“You! Me! Dancing!” by Los Campesinos!, from their debut album, Hold On Now, Youngster… (also found on the 2007 EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets)

The rest of the best (in no particular order):

  • 808s & Heartbreak –  Kanye West
  • Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  • Third –  Portishead
  • We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed –  Los Campesinos!
  • Vivian Girls –  Vivian Girls
  • In The Future –  Black Mountain
  • Distortion – The Magnetic Fields
  • Ferndorf –  Hauschka
  • Life…The Best Game in Town –  Harvey Milk
  • Cities of Glass –  AIDS Wolf
  • Microcastle –  Deerhunter
  • The Odd Couple –  Gnarls Barkley
  • Skeleton –  Abe Vigoda
  • The Midnight Organ Fight –  Frightened Rabbit
  • The Twilight Sad Killed My Parents and Hit the Road –  The Twilight Sad
  • Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea – Silver Jews
  • Methods: (EP) –  Imperial China
  • Sing Along (EP)  –  Caverns
  • Kittens! (EP)  –  Caverns
  • Music Needs You –  Ryan Blotnick
  • Red, Yellow & Blue –  Born Ruffians
  • A Certain Feeling –  Bodies of Water
  • Nouns –  No Age
  • Smile –  Boris
  • Pop-Up –  Yelle
  • Made In The Dark –  Hot Chip
  • Lost and Found –  The Dexateens
  • Long Gone And Nearly There –  Julie Ocean
  • Litany of Echoes –  James Blackshaw
  • Arm’s Way –  Islands
  • Magnificent Fiend –  Howlin’ Rain
  • High Places –  High Places
  • Flight Of The Conchords –  Flight Of The Conchords
  • Christmas On Mars (Soundtrack)  –  The Flaming Lips
  • Street Horrrsing –  F**k Buttons
  • Visiter –  The Dodos
  • Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us –  Death Vessel
  • Drippers and  Bonus Drippers –  Black Moth Super Rainbow
  • Rip It Off –  Times New Viking

Best Re-issue of 2008:

  1. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul –  Otis Redding

– R.H.

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The Best Albums of 2008 :

1. Is it the Sea – Bonnie Prince Billy : Our favorite melancountry superstar delivers a live album that reminds one of his greatness while examining it in a whole new light.

2. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady : Working class is not a label that readily describes Craig Finn and co but their tales of townies and misguided teenagers are just as funny, touching and perfect in their own scrappy way as ever. The world’s best bar music as interpreted by indie elitists.

3. Glasvegas – Glasvegas : Melodic catharsis in spades delivered by four Glasgowians. This young band is not infallible as a whispered poem over Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata suffers in comparison to the original but they got spirit, energy and stories of absent fathers, wounded teens and overall angst that really should not work as well as they do.

4. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed – Los Campesinos : Cheeky and clever but much more than that. Nihilists on the outside but pop craftsmen at heart, their ruminations on youth’s assured end in dejected failure are all good fun until you stop and realize they’re telling you the party’s going to be over and there’s nothing you can do.

5. Microcastle – Deerhunter : There’s something ethereal about this band and especially this album. Playing with avant garde ideas without sacrificing listenability, these ambassadors of indie keep winning.

6. You and Me – The Walkmen : The Bob Dylan comparisons become ever more pronounced especially with frontman Hamilton Leithauser affecting nasally intonations. Still, their chief appeal is heartfelt, esoteric storytelling, aged and cackling.

7. Skeletal Lamping – Of Montreal : The hype machine finally broke down and Kevin Barnes began to tumble critically while selling out shows. The music, however, is just as inventive and grand as it ever was. Though lacking the darkness of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Barnes’ latest is rife with the new ideas he keeps discovering and surely will stand more prominently in the cannon once the sobering influence of time takes hold.

8. Modern Guilt – Beck : The dream team of Beck and The Gray Album mastermind Dangermouse creates surprisingly ignored quality tunes. Beck is still haunted by his demons from Sea Change but he still finds time to offer Dangermouse jubilant, sampled pop ditties to wash down the depression.

9. Saturnalia – The Gutter Twins : An album that abounds with apocalypse throughout as two musical legends push each other to the limits of their sensibilities, one high the other low.

10.That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson : A musical legend who seems to be experimenting with the harmonies and arrangements that have fascinated him throughout his career not for the audience’s benefit but his own. The results are as reliably stunning as ever.

Honorable Mention: 808s and Hearbreak – Kanye West, Untitled – Nas, A Larum – Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, The ’59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem

– Vman

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Review: ‘Liver! Lung! FR!’ by Frightened Rabbit

Live albums can be a tired product, devoid of any real valid excuse for existence. But when you get a hold of a good one, a really good one, you cannot help but to be excited.

That’s how you should feel listening to Frightened Rabbit’s first live disc, Liver! Lung! FR! Not only is it a wonderful collection of wonderful songs but the Scottish band’s live sound is worthy enough to capture and promote as a separate entity from their studio albums.

That last statement is especially notable when you register the fact that this live album is being released in the same year as Frightened Rabbit’s critically acclaimed second album, The Midnight Organ Fight (April), and the two releases share the exact same tracklist (save for two short songs ones from Organ Fight: “Bright Pink Bookmark” and “Extrasupervery”).

Recorded in July in a Glasgow (home to a great number of exciting acts) venue, Liver! Lung! FR! expands upon Organ Fights’ already adored songs by giving extra room to lead singer Scott

Hutchinson’s voice and the band’s concentrated playing. The tracks include heart-warming and swelling choruses followed by an innumerable number of “Cheers” said by the band, in addition to the applause from the enthusiastic crowd.

The songs, of course, are the greatest part of Liver! Lung! FR! (okay, maybe the album title is the greatest part). The album is filled with FR’s (as the band is affectionately known by fans and lazy music critics) earnest songs about relationships (love, sex, heartbreak, the whole shebang).

In Organ Fight single “Fast Blood,” Scott humbly sings, “And now I tremble/because this fumble/has become biblical.” Heavy stuff.

This live album is also justified by the fact that the record keeps intact some of the between song banter. Probably not all of the banter from the show is included (nor the songs, considering they probably played material from their first album, the also great Sing the Greys), but just enough is included to give us a taste of the band’s personality, in addition to a few laughs.

When frontman Scott invites fairly well-known (in those parts) Glasgow singer-songwriter Ross Clark onstage to help them perform “Old Old Fashioned,” it seems as though Clark stumbles in picking up his instrument. A verbal exchange results in the search’s conclusion: “A mandolin from Ross’ arse!”

The harmonies are more immediate and touching live, stripped of the studio’s hug (and this is not a claim against the record. The record is great and the harmonies on it are great, too.).

Songs like “Old Old Fashioned” take on an exciting and revitalized feeling when played live. The track goes from a “let-me-tell-you” type song to an anthem begging for the revival of the good things we seem to have left behind with our ever-consuming electronics biting at our feet: “I turn off the TV/It’s killing us/We never speak.”

And seeing them live is a whole other experience. Drummer Grant Hutchinson (brother of Scott) pounds on his kit with the intensity of a crazed industrial percussionist. You might even stop and wonder if that grimace on his face is healthy.

His drumming shines in the live sound too. Much like his performance and facial expressions in-person, his agile pounding propels the strong and, well, intense beats that come your way through the stereo.

Another valid excuse to have a live album: capturing something unique to the show. Along with the Ross Clark contribution, we’re treated to the beautiful voice of James Graham on the straightforward “Keep Yourself Warm” (sample lyric: “It takes more than f**king someone you don’t know to keep yourself warm”).

Graham is the lead singer of another Scottish band: the great Twilight Sad, who happen to be some FR’s best friends.

Graham’s emotive howl is a staple of the Twilight Sad’s songs, but taking on “Keep Yourself Warm,” he takes his voice to a falsetto fans have never heard before (perhaps we will hear more? The band goes into the studio to record their second album this January).

To repeat a common and well-informed sentiment: FR!

– R.H.

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