Hello & welcome to our very special Best Albums of 2008 post, or as we like to call it, the Most Awesomest Tsururific Albums of 2008!!! Man o’ man, what a year it’s been musically, eh? It’s funny, every year, around this time, we (“we” as in all us music geeks) start to read the lists that appear and we all start to revel or grumble about what that blog or that magazine had to say about the year that was, who was number one, how the hell did THAT album beat that OTHER album, what the fuck? Oh such fun!
But then there’s the few folks who wake up in December, apparently a little extra grump in their hump, and proclaim the year as “weak”, “subpar”, or “not nearly as good as last year”. Ah yes, as timely as the fucking groundhog, they poke their heads up, see their shadow and scurry back into their hole, I assume to wait for the next year, where they will poke their head out again, and the tradition will continue… We should wrap a little festival around it, get a little Shakin’ Lemonade, Funnel Cake, a few vendors selling their wares, a band or two, and call it a good time.
But, I’ve learned something running this humble little web log of good times & sweet lovins, a year of music is only as good as you let it be. If you spend your time only listening to what’s being all hyped up, you’ll walk away from the year thinking Vampire Weekend, Britney Spears (seriously, y’all?), and Kanye West (aww…. look at Kanye, he found the auto-tune machine, isn’t that adorable!) defined the year! As much as like Vampire Weekend, the thought of THAT being the holy trinity of ’08 would depress me as well. Sure, you’d come across Bon Iver, but you’d probably be uber-sick of him come the end of the year as some guy like me post “Skinny Love” one last time… Or maybe it’s something as simple as getting tired of seeing the letters M, G, M, & T lined up next to each other again and wondering again if it stands for “management” because you keep forgetting to look it up, and now you really don’t care, yet… there’s the question again. Maybe it’s just that they got so absorbed in one good album, they forgot all the rest? Or. Maybe it’s a front? Maybe those grouches say the year sucked, but in reality are playing Coldplay’s Livin’ La Vida Loca for the 1,023,611th time (someone is, it’s been scrobbled like a dirty whore in a back alley on last.fm this year) holding back tears when Martin hits those luscious tender notes on the ballads?
But here’s the thing, as Stan would say, I’ve learned something today, every year is a good year, and each new year is potentially better as music become more and more readily available, the number of amazing albums by amazing bands only increases, you just have to find them! Look, if you’d had told me last year that a band called “Begushkin” was going to make my top 18, or that I’d be cringing when I had to cut a band called “Meursalt” from the best of list because it didn’t fit on the mixtape, well, I’d call you a horrible puss-faced liar-liar. Yet….. here we are.
And here we are indeed… just like last year (zip file re-uploaded just for you! Who’s a sweetie-pants? Me!) our best of length is completely dependent on the mixtape produced from it, the music rules the roost, not some pre-defined list it creates, dammit! So, let’s get to it shall we as (I promise, I’ll keep the jibber-jabber as brief as possible)…
TSURURADIO Proudly Presents….
The 18 Most Awesomest Tsururific Albums of 2008 with Accompanying Mixtape
First up, King’s Curse! Quirky, proggy, and a bit creepy, Begushkin’s gem recorded in a couple days after some serious sleep depravation (damn Law & Order marathons) held on and fought hard to stay on the list. Fantastic overlooked album!
Bouncing back and forth from straight pop to what I consider to be Hindi-inspired waves of strings and vocals, I was surprised how often I wanted to listen to this while we drove around! I’m still amazed at how much my work trip to India earlier this year has effect me…. for the better (now, where’s my tikka masala!).
Speaking of India, Seattle’s Pica Beats and their loverly sitar enhanced timeless quirky pop strolled right on in my best of and never left! Everytime I listen, I’m transported back to the smells of curry and the sound of traffic due to a cow sleeping in the middle of the road (seriously, I want some tikka masala!).
Our boy Stipe is pissed and letting everyone know! Not a return to form, as they need no such thing, but just the latest in their evolution, an album with ridiculous sense of urgency… Urgency in sound AND words. Sit up and listen, mother bitches!
You ready for a classic magazine write up? Mr. Malkmus channels Jimi Hendrix and channels his way right onto number fourteen on our best of 2008! Not bad, eh? But seriously, Malkmus and his Jicks kick it up with full-on psychedelic jams and random lyrics. Early on in the year was in my top two, but we all knew it was too early to make those kinda lists. Right?
Our first super-hyped band on the list. The first thing you ask when listening is “it it worth the hype”? Probably not for general mass consumption, but apparently it is for blog-fodder and good for them! Whatever the reason they became a super-blogged band, I’m thankful. The album takes you to the snow peaks of some mountain god only knows where (I like to pretend it’s in Canada, but that’s just how I am). A timeless album from a different world, one long forgotten.
To any of you who dismiss this band as Canada’s answer to Sufjan, well…. shame on you, your prejudice blinded you to one of the most beautiful albums of the year. Quiet, intricate, and sublime…….
No. 11 Ezra Furman & The Harpoons – Inside The Human Body
Quite the opposite from our Canadian wooded pigeons of is Ezra Furman and his blessed Harpoons, while his voice conjures Gordon Gano, the music comes right at you, punching your ugly ass mug in the face with it’s intensity and honesty, only to then hoist you up to share a beer with you. And no, I don’t even think they are Irish.
No. 10 The Features – Some Kind Of Salvation
Ah, number 10, so begins, as 80’s hair metal band Europe once said, “the final countdown”. And I couldn’t think of a better album to reach our top ten than The Features self-released Some Kind Of Salvation, which it must indeed be some kind of salvation, that after being dumped from their label for not covering a Beatles song for commercial (integrity, wonderful isn’t, hey Of Montreal, you listening? Obviously not) they release this amazing album. And it’s an album in the purest sense, from mood setting intro to finale. Just wonderful.
No. 9 She & Him – Volume One
I’d imagine the inclusion of Volume One by indie-film cutie Zooey DesChanel and her music partner in crime Matthew Ward on a top-something list either warms your cold dead heart or grinds you to the bone. For us, it’s the former (or latter, whichever one means the tender option). First, this is hands down the best film-person-to-music album ever, not that necessarily says anything about how good the album is. But, sweet & simple girl-group, pop, & country/western written & sung with Zooey’s perfectly quirky voice (and occasional laughter), spent a ridiculous amount of time on our stereos and iPods. I honestly can’t begin to count how many times this album was the soundtrack to a long drive or a beautiful Sunday around the house.
Animal, Not Animal, which is right? Which is better? Well, both are amazing, but only Animal was the album the band (i.e., ergo, the artist) wanted to release, so it’s the only one I considered. Simply emotional orchestral pop, that swings and sways, eliciting emotions and imagery, and owning the number eight spot on our top ten…
I think working with AC Newman for a few years now has really sparked something in Dan Bejar. Yes, Destroyer is still weird, yes they still don’t follow the standard pop song structure (starkly contrasting his super-pop hero New Pornographer band mate) and yes, his voice still over-fluctuates over-dramatically, but eventhough Rubies was amazing, with Trouble In Dreams, Destroyer took it a notch up, into a whirlwind fantasy of guitar and poetry with a slightly better grip to the ground, that was sometimes my favourite album of the year!
No. 6 Portugal, The Man – Censored Colors
Not sure how to talk about this one. When we last talked about it, it was a challenge then to find the right photo, the right words, to explain what’s going on in this album. It’s all over the place, yet plays almost like a concept rock opera! Crazy, I know, but it’s really a thing of beauty and I’m not going to try to butcher this album again with another half-assed description. Just go listen to it and see why it landed so high on our list.
Ah, Feel Good Ghosts, for a while there, you were my number one album of the year. You spun your way on my iPod countless times. Even now, you take top spot in my head on certain days, in certain moods. The album is a whirlwind (sorry, had to do one more tornado like reference) of their wide-eyed brand of modern hippy whatever, blending bouncing pop songs together with a sadness of loss and an appreciation of life.
Oh man, coming out of nowhere (literally, Alberta’s not that inhabited) this album literally floored me. Even now after way too many listens (please don’t burn this out) in such a short amount of time, I’m still amazed at how concise and perfect this little album is. My only wish, was that it was a little longer, but that’s being selfish on my part. It’s exactly as long as it needs to be, like reading a good book, you really don’t want it to end, you want one more twist, one more chapter, one more song. But you know it will, you look ahead, see the small collection of pages left, so you slow down and savour it. This is one to savour over and over (and over and over) again.
No. 3 Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer (Kissing The Beehive)
Number 3? Not number one or two? No, after a long battle for the number one spot in my heart, Wolf Parade settled in, resigned, at number 2. But then something happened, obviously. We’ll get to that in a second…. but first Kissing The Beehive, er, I mean, At Mount Zoomer, technically perfect indie-prog bouncing back and forth between Dan & Spencer, like an epic game of Pong, leading up to the masterpiece finale, “Kissing The Beehive”. I’ve shared most of this album since it came out, via the original post, the leaks, and about half my mixtapes, and now one more below in our accompanyin’, and it’s for good reason… this album took blog-darling Apologies, chucked it inthe trash, and created something as otherworldly as the cover of the album. Ballsy and simply brilliant.
No. 2 Noah And The Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
Say what? Noah & The Whale? This album beat Wolf Parade? This album with whistling, ukeleles, and cute sing-alongs beat epic indie-prog? Yep. I’ll try to explain, but will probably fail miserably. The past few weeks, I’ve been reloading all my favourite 2008 albums on to ye ol’ iPod (my new 120g classic, whee!), and relistening, reabsorbing, etc. I kept a scratch sheet of all the albums I really really liked in the society, a cheat sheet if you will, as I really didn’t want to forget anyone.
So, I reload Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down for a ride home and just let it go. Suddenly, it’s perfectly light yet melancholy pop songs of love, loss, and life refill my ears, as if it was brand new, all over again. The songs bounce, they drive, they trickle, they pulled so many little feelings out of me, happiness and sadness, I was dancing around (well, as well as I could doing 20mph on my bicycle, in the cold, in the dark, while watching traffic) like an idiot and it felt… well, very complete & full, and never over-reaching. That may be the one thing that pushed it over At Mount Zoomer, yeah, AMZ is technically better, but it’s a bit clinical compared to Noah, it’s missing it’s, heart & charm, it’s “juno say twa” as the French say. Music is an emotional connection and Noah & The Whale’s Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down connected just that tiny bit more…
Satisfied with that explanation? Problably not, but I hope it helps the pain.
Movin’ on and finally….
Our best of the year, our numero uno, our top dawg, top props, the king o’ the castle goes to…
What can I say… From it’s opening, building harmonies of “The Arm” to the never-ending epic “Vertigo (If It’s A Crime)” Arm’s Way grabbed me by the balls and never let go. I loved Return to Sea, but it was a little sporatic and disjointed, Arm’s Way took the ideas of Return To Sea, the genre-hopping, and focused it better, building huge, dark, sweeping, and often creepy songs about intruders, jail, crime, death, and abominable snowman. The album is a whopping 8-course meal and when it’s finally over, there ain’t no room for Jell-o (hell, the idea would make you throw-up). Through out the year, as more gems popped out, nothing could knock the king of it’s throne. It has been our soundtrack for road trips, bike rides, work, near-everything. Well, it IS number one after all.
Cheesy cliches about meals aside… obviously, I love this album. I didn’t have high hopes or expectation about it, but as I listened over and over again, it just took over. It’s so big and heavy, I think it probably suffocated most people. To the rest of us, we just devoured it and (okay, one more cheesy food cliche) enjoyed every bite.
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Wow, eh? Just wow…. Man, I really loved 2008. But we ain’t done yet, laddy! Next came the hard part, building the accompanying mixtape. Please note, these are not necessarily the best songs on each album, or the most representative of the album, what follows is the best mixtape I could create using the best albums of the year as my source of music, so I hope you enjoy! I’ve talked so much… it’s really time to let the music do the talking, so, without further adeiu…
01 Begushkin – Convict’s Lament
02 Cloud Cult – Hurricane And Fire Survival Guide
03 Noah And The Whale – Shape Of My Heart
04 The Rural Alberta Advantage – Four Night Rider
05 Woodpigeon – In The Battle Of Sun Vs. Curtains, The Sun Loses, And We Sleep Until Noon
06 She And Him – I Was Made For You
07 The Pica Beats – Poor Old Ra
08 Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks – Cold Son
09 The Features – All I Ask
10 R.E.M. – Man-Sized Wreath
11 Ezra Furman And The Harpoons – Take Off Your Sunglasses
12 Martha Wainwright – Jesus And Mary
13 Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
14 Portugal, The Man – And I
15 Margot And The Nuclear So And So’s – Cold, Kind, And Lemon Eyes
16 Wolf Parade – An Animal In Your Care
17 Destroyer – Introducing Angels
18 Islands – Vertigo (If It’s A Crime)
Load it up, push “play” and “repeat all”, sit back and enjoy! Thank you so much for an amazing year, thank you for being one of our beloved readers, perusers, enjoyers, and supporting our odd little web log. I know we are a little different here, but I think you appreciate it.
Here’s to a phenomenal 2009! It’s already
started off with a bang (original link removed… wow, already had to remove the Bird song “Anonanimal”, but apparently Pitchfork is the only place allowed to steam anything, in this case “Oh No”. Well, it’s Bird, so go appreciate, but man, that sucks)….
Peace, love, & LPs,