The Best of 2008 : The Rundown

Well here it is : The annual round up of the best things music to come in the year 2008 (excluding December). I expect that the annual February update will shake things up a bit (you always forget an album or 2 and discover some band later on so…). But this is the list for now.
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First off , the honorable mentions. They tried but came up short or simply weren’t worthy of a top 20 mention (in a word, they scored more than 50% but didn’t make the 20 cut).

Black Sheep WallI Am God Songs (sludge/hardcore)
Probably the loudest and hardest album all year. A nice combination of sludge and hardcore done right.
Not for everyone I suppose (may make your head explode…)

Final – Fade Away
(ambient)
Everyone who knows me (not really) knows I’m a J.K. Broadrick fan boy, so you will see plenty of his releases in my list. Starting with this Final digital only release. Great ambient stuff as usual from the man himself. But not as good as his other release under the “Final” moniker (see below)

Nadja – Trinity (drone/ambient)
Everyone who knows me (not really) knows I’m an Aidan Baker fan boy, so you will see plenty of his releases on my list. Funny huh. Anyway, the last cut on “Trinity” sees the duo at its best. But they topped themselves with a different release, look below to find out which one .

Longwave – Secrets Are Sinister (indy)
Yes it is true, I am turning mellow. If ever I listed “mainstream” music this is it. But it’s so damn catchy. Plus, the 90’ies shoegazer influences are present. Expect to hear this on your local radio station soon…

The Bug – London Zoo
(dubstep)
Kevin Martin is as relevant as ever. As mentioned above I’m a JKB fan boy, so I’ve also been following this guy since “Techno Animal”. And now about 10 years later he has released another dance floor cracker. Too bad the entire album is not as consistent as the singles. Otherwise this would have surely made the top 20.

THE TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2008

#20 : Blackfilm – Blackfilm
Talk about a debut album. This is the most cinematic album to strike my ears in a long time. Though its foundations are ambient, the parts with beats are actually the albums finest. “Sonar” is already a downtempo classic as far as I’m concerned. Add to that the grim atmosphere the ambient pieces create and you have a varied album that could act as the soundtrack to some movie about the Cold War…
(ambient/downtempo) 75%

#19 : Witchman – Innasylum
“Witchman” also produces downtempo albums but compared to the aforementioned “Blackfilm” he uses the bass a lot less sparingly resulting in very danceable tunes. But he also manages to create some more refined moments on the album. Listen to “Sleepwalking the Apocalypse” to find out more about that. Good all round effort.
(Downtempo) 75%

#18 : Final – Afar
As far as ambient music is concerned, J.K. Broadrick is and has been the cream of the crop for years. With this vinyl only release (actually it’s available digitally since November!) he proves just that. Great loops, manipulations and compositions that create an eerie atmosphere.
(Ambient) 76%

#17 : Deerhunter – Microcastle
Indy rock bands are finding their inspiration in the most remote places (black metal etc.) but fortunately “Deerhunter” don’t venture that far. They go back to the nineties where bands like “My Bloody Valentine” & “Slowdive” produced some of the best melodic music in history. Even though I don’t particularly like “Indy” as a genre, I’m a sucker for shoegaze and with influences like that you just can’t go wrong.
(Indy/Shoegaze) 76%

#16 : Cult Of Luna – Eternal Kingdom
To find this album so low on my list was a shock even to myself. It’s a “Cult of Luna” album, it’s genre defining, it’s intelligent. It has crushing parts, it has melodic parts, it has everything a post metal record needs. But the previous record (“Somewhere Along the Highway”, 2006) was just so good that this pales in comparison. This didn’t reach my expectations, simple as that. I’ll put on “Somewhere…” any time over this.
(Post Metal) 76%

#15 : Ital Tek – Cyclical
I wish more dubstep artists would create full albums rather than dubplates & 12″”. “Ital Tek” prives more into the new style of dubstep (using elements from Minimal Techno, Ambient etc.) but still manages to up the bass level occasionally and even puts in some d&b elements. 2 or 3 songs that are gorgeous but the overall quality is what made this one score so high.
(dubstep) 77%

#14 : Russian Circles – Station
I always reward progress. And “Russian Circles” have made plenty of that. Their last effort, though technically perfect, lacked variation and inspiration. They added more dynamics to this album while maintaining a perfect technique. And live they are as good as ever.
(post metal) 78%

#13 : Jesu & Battle of Mice – Split EP
“Jesu” is the best band in existence. That is my opinion. So any of their releases should make the yearlist, regardless of their quality. That being said, this isn’t their (or should I say His as this is a JKB solo release) best effort to date. In fact, one might argue that this is the weakest thing since “Sun Down / Sun Rise”. It has one “Silver” era like song  (“Clear Stream”) which is awesome. But the other cut is endless & boring. I don’t like “Battle of Mice” so their side of the split doesn’t do anything for me.
(post metal) 78%

#12: Torche – Meanderthal
Critically acclaimed (I believe Decibel magazine has this as #1) and with good reason. Stoner the way it should be : good fun, heavy and amazing live (preferably stoned…). I just can’t put it on at any given occasion. But the quality and mentality of this band is a rare feat in these days.
(stoner) 80%

#11 : Skream – Skreamizm vol. 5
“Skream” helped create/launch the dubstep genre. He has a slew of essential releases under his belt and this dude is like my age. Much respect. With his 5th edition of “Skreamizm” he proves that he is still more than relevant. This is the best edition yet in this series. It has the usual dance floor crackers (and I mean BWOOOM) but where this edition shines is the two garage cuts. A very nostalgic lookback at the early 2000 state of the scene without losing any danceability. Dubstep varied and at it’s best.
(dubstep) 82%

TOP 10 RECORDS OF 2008


#10 : Envy – Abyssal EP
“Envy” have slowly traded in their hardcore/screamo side for a more gentle post rock approach. Still, they are at their best combining the two. “A Road of winds the water Built” is the best song they have made yet. Period. And needless to say it opens this 4 song EP. The rest of the EP is good as well but that one song was enough for me to put this at #9.
(post rock/Hardcore) 82%

#09: Jesu – Why Are we Not Perfect? CDEP
50% of this EP was released in 2007, the other 50% of this release are remixes OF that 2007 release. So you can hardly call this a new album. I’m doing Jesu a favor by even adding this to my list. It’s good but theoretically this is 2007 material. The remixes are interesting but only “Farewell” can compete with it’s original version. Good for people who don’t have a record player (2007 was a vinyl only release.)
(Post metal/Electronica) 83%

#08 : Fennesz – Black Sea
If a supernova had audio to match the graphic spectacle, this is what it would sound like. Mr. Fennesz is a genious when it comes to creating soundscapes. Very noizy and loud but the melody is there to be found. Aural masterpiece and best ambient release of 2008.
(ambient) 85%

#07 : Boris – Smile (Japanese Version)
I’ve had a weak spot for this Japanese trio for a long time (well, actually just for Wata-san  ^^). Though “Pink” and I had it’s differences, I embraced it in the end and the same can be said for this album. The first half is a bit bland and “done before” but the second half is refreshing! The bonus tracks are marvellous. Noizy rock with Japanese vocals! Yeah Wata shreds (check the solo on the live bonus track “Rainbow”).
(noize rock) 85%

#06 : Have A Nice Life – Deathconciousness
With Jesu not releasing a full length in 2008, I was sure this one was going to top my list. They fill up the void just perfectly. Heavy on the bass & noize, as melancholic as humanly possible and an interesting concept worked out around the two disc album. They really outdid themselves. But a few months later, I find myself skipping 50% of the content, while the other 50% remains gorgeous. That’s a shame and I guess personal preference. Still, this album has some of the most touching moments of 2008.
(Post Metal) 87%

#05 : AmenRa – Mass IIII
The best band in Belgium just barely misses out on the top 3. And thats because they failed to deliver on their live performance! This is Neurosis, this is early Isis this is whatever you wanna call it. It’s tearing me apart. Raw emotion and from my own country. What is not to like?
(Post Metal) 88%

#04 : Nadja – Desire In Uneasiness
I’m a fan boy I know. But this release almost made me cry. It is just Nadja at its best since 2005’s “Truth Becomes Death”. The production is not as clean as other recent work but this suits the release. If only Aidan Baker added some vocals (like on 2007’s “Touched”).
(drone/ambient) 88%

#03 : Transitional – Nothing Real, Nothing Absent
Dave Cochrane…need I say more. I loved this guy on the Jesu s/t record. And what he does on the bass on this record is just as phenomal. A layered onlslaught. But my favorite piece on the record is the final ambient like cut with an imense subbass. Dark & moody progressive metal.
(post metal) 88%

#02 : Scuba – A Mutual Antipathy
It seems that for every Jesu record I put on #1 for the last 3 years, I needed an electronic #2 to even things out. Well, this year is no different. This album came out early 2008 but hasn’t lost any of its charm yet. “Scuba” fills in the absence of “Burial” . The formula is quite the same. Rather minimalistic and chaotic but beautifully melodic.  The big difference though is mood. This is rather uplifting (listen to “Tell Her” or “Stolen”) compared to the grim urban enviroments which “Burial” creates. This also gets the award for best cover art.
‘dubstep) 88%

#01 : Jesu & Envy – Split EP
Now why did  I pick this as a number one. Looking at my original list , I had Scuba there. “A Mutual Antipathy” is good album but not good enough to top a list. Jesu topped my list in 2004,2005 & 2007 so it felt kinda strange not having Jesu atleast in the top 3. This is the only Jesu material that was also actually recorded in 2008. It’s the most electronic release to date (an evolution I didn’t want). But in the end, it’s the best Jesu release this year (excluding the various remixes mentioned below). The Envy side of the split is not bad either but doesn’t match the “Abyssal” EP. But I guess the combination of both artists and the fact that this came out late on the year (vinyl only) convinced me to put this at number one.  It doesn’t feel right , it’s not a masterpiece. But it’s the best thing in a rather meager year I suppose.

INDIVIDUAL TRACKS

They are all equally impressive so there’s no order. Tracks marked * do not appear on any of the above releases :

Nadja – Alien in My Own Skin*
Jesu – The Funeral Party* (Originally by The Cure)
Jesu – Chapter 24* (Originally by Syd Barret)
AmenRa – Terziele
Have A Nice Life – I Don’t Love
Boris – Bonus Track
Fennesz – Saffron Revolution
Envy – A Road of Winds the Water Built
Transitional – Abandonment
Russian Circles – Verses

Dubstep : 12″ etc. :
Babylon System – Loaded / Dancing Shoes
Babylon System & Noah D & SPL – Examination of Time / Shevil
Cardopusher – Mutant Dubstep Vol. 2
Darkstar – Need You / Squeeze my Lime
Ikonika – Please / Simulacrum
Joker – Gully Brook Lane / Holly Brook Park
Peverlist – Infinity is Now / Junktion
Rusco – Babylon Vol. I
Scuba – Mutual Antipathy Remixes
Skream – Hedd Banger / Percression
Stenchman – Distress Signal / Fat Bloated Idiot
Sukh Knight – Born Invincible
Wolfman & Obeah – The Kraken / Kiss

By the way, in the big mans absence, I recorded a tribute mix to Burial containing 12 songs mixed in just under 25 minutes. Needless to say they are all Burial tracks or remixes by Burial.
You can  find the artwork here.  When the final version is done I’ll share the music as well. I think it captured the Burial atmosphere quite well. It’s mainly newer & ambient stuff…

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2 Responses to “The Best of 2008 : The Rundown”

  1. Stuart Dootson Says:

    Nice list (I would say that – several of those are in my top #10 or 20 for last year. Just one point – the soloing on the Boris/Smile bonus track (Rainbow) is likely by Michio Kurihara, who Boris originally recorded the track with (on the album also titled Rainbow). He and the various bands he’s part of (White Heaven, The Stars, Ghost) are well worth investigating, IMO.

  2. joeki2000 Says:

    thanks for the comment/note on Boris . I just saw Wata performing it Live once.

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