The Albums of the Year 2008 according to… Me
Despite being much maligned, I love end of year lists, and I think we all do. Here is mine – I hope your opinions are riled and I hope you find something in it that you like – that is what I love most about this time of year…
1. Jolie Holland – The Living and The Dead
This is the record that I most often sing along to in my car – always a good sign that it should come at the top of the list. These are country-tinged wistful collaborations with artists such as M. Ward and all the way through them Jolie Holland’s beautiful American drawl tears at the heartstrings. The folk-inspired lyrics recount love stories, regrets and heartaches.
Best songs: Mexico City, Palmyra, Love Henry
Best line “What’s that black smoke rising, Jack / is the world on fire?” (Mexico City)
2. The Acorn – Glory Hope Mountain
On Glory Hope Mountain, Canadian Rolf Klausener recounts the life story of his mother in a very fine concept album. Wonderful arrangements and a mix of ambiguous and direct lyrics makes for the best oddball indie album since Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois.
Best songs: Hold Your Breath, Flood Pt. 1 and Crooked Legs
Best line: “The sunlight scatters pennies through the leaves” (Flood Pt. 1)
3. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
I’m pretty sure this appeared on everyone’s list this year, and probably should for the wonderful album title and the story behind the record alone. This is a fantastic and at times heartbreaking acoustic/folk album about a lost childhood love.
Best songs: Blindsided, re: Stacks, Skinny Love
Best line: “I toured the light; / so many foreign roads / for Emma / forever ago”
4. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire – Lost Wisdom
Mount Eerie (aka Phil Everum from the Microphones) produces some magnificent, simple, guitar and voice, poetic songs on this record – at times devastatingly bleak and at others devastatingly inspiring. The songs are moulded around the lyrics, which trace his existential dilemmas – the gorgeous harmonies ask that the album be listened to attentively, as if it were a poetry reading.
Best songs: Flaming Home, You Swan, Go On, Lost Wisdom
Best line: “The house that I walk home to is in flames / the wind is getting stronger / the emptiness shows” (Flaming House)
5. James Yorkston – When The Haar Rolls In
I saw James Yorkston live last month, and the way he delivers his folk songs is mesmerising. His lyrical prowess makes up for his lack of originality – there is nothing hugely new to our overfilled singer-songwriter charts here. However, he is definitely at the peak of my version of that chart.
Best songs: When The Haar Rolls In, Queen of Spain, Midnight Feast
Best line: “I put you in a song / I wrapped you up with cotton wool / I cast you as an angel battling my demons. / A North London Hogmany the year my faith was shattered” (When The Haar Rolls In)
6. Clinic – Do It!
This was the fifth LP from Clinic, and, like their long career, hardly caused any stir in the music world. It was another fantastic noise-thump-indie release from Domino with guitars going slightly out of tune, a Pavement-like attitude to singing and a general two-fingers to popular music.
Best songs: Tomorrow, The Witch, Corpus Christi
7. The Accidental –There Were Wolves
I was surprised that this didn’t get more attention. The side project from the one half of the singer/song-writing duo in Tunng, this was a similar but less electronic release. Simple but good upbeat folk songs.
Best songs: Wolves, Jaws Of A Whale, Dream For Me
Best line: “She’s still spinning in a scarlet dress / and though the music stops / and though the echoes die” (Wolves)
8. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
I only recently appreciated this album fully. A soaring, nostalgic prog record, it combines elements of Mew and Kate Bush, creating a perfect blend when mixed with the wistfulness for a youthful past, as its title suggests. This is a haunting record that allows you into the beautiful world of M83.
Best songs: Graveyard Girl, Too Late, Kim & Jessie
9. Roots Manuva –Slime and Reason
Not as good as his previous albums, but with no Burial/Dizzee Rascal-like releases to give me something a bit different this year, I turned back to trusty Rodney Smith and Slime and Reason to provide some insightful/witty rhymes and decent beats.
Best songs: Let the Spirit, It’s Me Oh Lord, The Show Must Go On
Best line: “Reinventing the wheel was never part of my remit / Hilton Smith I remix myself and come back / blacker than most would dare to be / African son now they scared of me / bought and sold how many years ago / and now they still trying to sell my arse” (It’s Me Oh Lord)
10. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
This is the other record on everyone’s lips this year. Taking gospel and country influences and making a closely harmonised, cold, beautiful pieces of music, Fleet Foxes captured many hearts and minds. The first half is sheer brilliance, but the standard drops rather towards the end, and at time the poor faux-poetic lyrical pretention is unbearable (Meadowlark).
Best songs: White Winter Hymnal, Your Protector, Blue Ridge Mountains
Bonnie Prince Billy: Lie Down In The Light
Abe Vigoda: Skeleton
Rozi Plain: Inside Over Here
TV on the Radio: Dear Science
Amadou & Mariam: Welcome to Mali