Ho ho ho, yet another top ten of the year that no-one cares about! Nevermind the numbers, these ten albums are a combination of what has amazed me, and what sums up what the year has brought us. Looking at my original reviews, it’s funny to see how my appreciation for certain albums has developed over the year, proving just how fickle and delicate such a thing as a review can be. I could have made a longer list, and certainly haven’t heard everything that 2008 offered, so maybe in about five years time I can come to some proper conclusions…in the meantime, have a look at what I liked, and then tell me what you liked.
1. A Silver Mt. Zion –13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
Without a doubt, an absolutely stunning record. From its noisy, anti-iPod frequencies introduction to the very final chant of “some hearts are true” this album has been played when I’ve been elated and when I’ve been despondent and whatever mood I’m in it never fails to have the same uplifting and powerful effect upon me. It’s the culmination of everything the vocal aspect of ASMZ promised, with a timeless sound that I will happily listen to forever.
2. These Arms Are Snakes – Tail, Swallower and Dove
I never understood the fuss over These Arms Are Snakes, until I heard this. ‘Tail…’ is a relentless record from start to finish, and there isn’t a moment when I’m not caught up in the sheer epic ecstasy of it all. Some of the tracks bubble with such fervent emotion that it almost overspills into a nightmare of contorted screams and feedback, but the magnificent production keeps everything at bay without sacrificing the sheer energy inherent in the band’s musicianship.
3. Russian Circles – Station
When I first heard this album I was struck with concern for how long it would be before I grew bored of the record. As it turns out, Station has blossomed into a deep and meaningful collection of solid tracks that continually fascinate me. Dave Turncrantz’s commanding drum sound never ceases to amaze me, and ‘Harper Lewis’ dark and threatening opening are just a few of the highlights. ‘Youngblood’ is bouncy and sharp, and it’s all balanced out with the patient and reserved ‘Verses’ that adds a hint of experimentalism. Intricate and smart, Station is another cracker from the Chicagoans.
4. Torche – Meanderthal
Coming out of nowhere, and an album I picked up just because I liked the colourful cover (yeah, I’m pretty easily sold like that) Meanderthal rocked by balls off and then some. Much like the funky artwork, the Miami band blaze through a rollercoaster of noise, and the short, sharp pace of the album means that the band’s live energy is never lost. Tight guitar loops swirl around rumbling drums, and it all adds up to one of the most fun stoner metal albums I’ve heard in a long time. And I can’t fucking believe I just used that term.
5. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
I’ve got no concerns of bandwagon jumping with this choice – I called The Seldom Seen Kid way before the Mercury Music Prize victory meant everyone and their fucking mother started worshipping the band. But credit where credit is due, The Seldom Seen Kid enticed me with whiskey driven, bottle smashing single ‘Grounds for Divorce’ and then swallowed me up with a collection of tracks that sounds fresh and inspiring, all pinned down with Guy Garvey’s husky and gruff tones. Let’s hope the success doesn’t swallow them up next year.
6. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath
Although nowhere near recapturing the magic of the band’s first two albums, I simply have to give TMV a place here because of their determination to evolve and explore. Ridiculous album concept aside, The Bedlam in Goliath has got some of the best songs of the year on it – find anyone that says ‘Goliath’ is anything but a ludicrous audio tour de force that pushes the senses and you’ve just met a madman. Despite being let down by a few filler tracks, TMV remain the kind of band that you have to keep an eye on, just to find out what they’re going to do next.
7. Zozobra – Bird of Prey
Their first album was interesting, yet I never really felt it was an enjoyable result of the talents pooled together. But on Zozobra’s second album, the promise finally reveal itself fully. Bird of Prey is a crushingly brilliant album, sounding like a totem pole being thrown into your face, and if you like it heavy it’s got to be one of the best albums this year has spawned.
8. Harvey Milk – Life…the Best Game in Town
Initially terrifying, Life… became one of those little nuggets that you put on every now and again just to try and understand it that little bit more. It’s helped by the somehow catchy chorus of it’s opener ‘Death Goes to the Winner’ but later tracks such as the ‘Barn Burner’ bring down the roof in a slightly more easy to manage way. A strong return for Harvey Milk then, and hopefully there’s a bit more where that came from.
9. Mothlite – The Flax of the Reverie
When I received this I can’t say I was particularly enthused. The press release was almost as ludicrous as the pompous, self loving attitude the CD seemed to present, but there’s no arguing about it – the moment I played this, I fell in love. Lush melodies soaked in a bleak atmosphere, with an evergrowing threat of heavy dischord, the album grabs you in and drags you into it’s dark, dank world.
10. Austrian Death Machine – Total Brutal
Nevermind As I Lay Dying – Total Brutal is the best thing Tim Lambesis has ever done, even though it seems to have split opinion straight down the middle. Punchy and to the point, like Arnold’s acting skills, the album is just short enough so that the novelty doesn’t wear thin, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of hearing “Get to da choppar!” screamed over a basic but fucking heavy hardcore riff. It’s a joke album sure, but it hits it’s target much better than the overrated, overpaid and overseen tykes of Tenacious D.