N.E.R.D. – Seeing Sounds
two producers have dominated the mainstream with inventive sounds and constant reinvention over the last five+ years – Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. and while West’s ‘808’s and Heartbreak’ has appeared on many year-end ‘best of’ lists, I’ve gotta go with the third album by William’s N.E.R.D.
collective in the battle of the superproducers. Williams + co. always cross many genre boundaries in their work, and ‘Seeing Sounds’ is no different – some hip hop, some electronic flourishes, and always some rocknroll. plus seeing them live (opening for West no less) helped seal this deal – Williams got blown full on in the face by a smoke machine and lost his voice, but went on to finish his set by yelling the lyrics instead of singing. now that’s dedication.
Machines Don’t Care – S/T
this one is a no brainer. take a gaggle of world’s foremost electronic producers, have them collaborate on a full-length album, and the result is Machines Don’t Care
. the brainchild of Herve, MDC includes Fake Blood, Sinden, Drop The Lime, Detboi, Trevor Lovelys, Affie Yusuf, and Toddla T. that’s basically a who’s who of inventive club music – not to mention these all producers were plenty prolific this year on their own as well! old school rave, jungle, drum ‘n bass, ragga – it was all there with a new bass-centric twist. fail-safe club music without question.
Machines Don’t Care – Jugs
M83 – Saturdays = Youth
beautiful and touching, soaring and emotional, Anthony Gonzales (M83
) gave us a classic record with ‘Saturdays = Youth.’ true to it’s title, the LP has an authentic 80’s teen feel through its instrumentation, with the vocals/lyrics to match. one of the only albums this year that core indie fans and techno kids could universally agree on, M83 is a cross-genre smash. when am I going to start hearing these songs in commercials and movies? probably all-too soon..
Hercules and Love Affair – S/T
the disco resurgence of 2008 was propelled initially by the DFA family and ended up making stars out of now critical darlings Hercules and Love Affair
. even though I’ve listened to this record so many times at work + home that i need a serious break, I’m positive that this will be one I’ll come back to for years to come (plus it sounds incredible on vinyl). every song is pleasurable and welcoming – just try to not sing along with the chorus of the song below.
Empire of the Sun – Walking On a Dream
the Australian duo of Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore (of PNAU fame) absolutely killed it for me with ‘Walking On a Dream’ – nasal vocals ala the Beach Boys, pure sugary pop hooks and bouncy rhythms made this an untouchable headphones record for walking or transiting. not a pure indie band by any means, Empire of the Sun
show their dance roots throughout the record – and the remixes of the title track were universally awesome.
Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
while I may have a hard time ranking #’s 2 – 10, this is definitely my favorite album of 2008 (and my favorite concert). Cut Copy managed to follow up their classic debut record ‘Bright Like Neon Love’ with this sweeping sophomore LP, a tough task considering the hype surrounding the band – add in the 10 or so epic remixes they produced this year, and the Cutters are undoubtedly the artists of ’08, period.
Bison b.c. – Quiet Earth
it took me until the fall of ’08 to get back to one of my first loves, bad ass double kick hoarse screaming heavy breakdown thrash metal. and no one is doing it better at present than East Van’s Bison b.c.
– shredder riffs, gang choruses and crazy storylines make ‘Quiet Earth’ an 8-song metal epic, and I can’t wait to see them live in January.
Van She – V
if not for Cut Copy, this easily would have been my favorite album by an Aussie group in 08. primarily known in the past as remixers, Van She
stepped in to their own as a band this year by releasing yet another winner on the Modular label. and while hit single ‘Kelly’ got a (in my opinion) downgraded rework for the album, the other tracks came through in all the right ways, mixing glossy synths and vocal harmonies together for an engaging LP experience.
Glass Candy – B/E/A/T/B/O/X
yes, it came out in Dec 07, but Glass Candy
might have actually been the band that impressed me most in 08. based out of Portland, Oregon and part of the phenomenal Italians Do It Better family, GC have that authentic sound of a past/future hybrid that is impossible to fake and easy to love. another band that indie rawkers and electro kids could bond over, ‘B/E/A/T/B/O/X’ sounds great on vinyl and amazing on a club system. can’t wait to see what they do in 09.
so there it is – let the debate begin! I wonder what will be the big sounds will be in 2009.. but regardless of what comes to the forefront, I’m sure it will be another exciting year to be a music fan and a club-goer. thanks to all the producers, bands, labels, and promoters who brought the music to the people in 08, and, as always, try to support good music whenever you can by buying a record from a store, an MP3 from somewhere online, or a t-shirt from an artist or label. merry christmas and a happy new year!