The method to my madness was simple, or so it would seem. I proceeded to gather every "Best Albums of 2008" list that I could find to make myself aware of releases that had slipped through the cracks of my listening repertoire. Then, I compiled a comprehensive list that represents the diversity of the music released throughout the year. Today I am posting the first part of this list starting with #11-20. I hope you enjoy this list and discover some new music.
11) Juana Molina- Un Dia and Quien(suite)
From: Un Dia [Domino, 2008]
I'm not real familiar with her earlier records but this one instantly grabbed my attention with its intoxicating mix of multi-layered vocals laid over complex polyrhythms. The first time I heard the opening track "Un dia", my jaw instantly hit the floor and I was in a state of euphoria. As the undulating bass rhythms interweave with Juana's seductive vocals, the listener is taken to a higher plane of consiousness. Every time I listen to this album I hear something fresh and exciting.
12) Au- Verbs- Are Animals and rr vs. d
From: Verbs [Aagoo Records, 2008]
My first exposure to AU was at MusicFest NW this year, and Mark Kaylor from Hammer Of Hathor was lending a hand on drumming duties. It was a fantastic feast for the ears, as the one-man-band stylings of Luke Wyland were captured in a live context. As I listen to the second track on the record, "Are Animals", I can't get over the pristine sound of the instruments and voices. It's as if Luke and his compadres plugged their microphones and amplifiers directly into the cilia of my ear to achieve a seamless symphony of sound. Au manage to retain the whimsical nature of Animal Collective while still forging its own path within the freak-folk tribe.
13) Ponytail- Beg Waves and G Shock
From: Ice Cream Spiritual [WE ARE FREE, 2008]
Ponytail were on a lot of the experimental blogs, and they were even on the Pitchfork Top 50, so I had no idea what to expect. The lead singer coos, howls, screams and shrieks at the top of her lungs while the rest of the band plays with a reckless abandon that sounds like a band falling down the stairs while standing up straight. Check out the first two tracks on the record if that description didn't make any sense.
14)Capillary Action- Badlands and Self Released
From: So Embarrassing [Pangaea Recordings, 2008]
I've already raved about this band being one of the best progressive avant-metal tropicalia bands out there, so what else do you need to know? Oh yeah! They rock with crazy time signatures that would make Damon Che from Don Caballero consider retiring his drumsticks.
15)Cicada Omega- Last Night and Ring Like Gold
From: These Bones [Self-released, 2008]
I featured an in-depth history of Cicada Omega back in June when their first full length album These Bones was released. Even though it was recorded using an Apple Computer program, the sounds on These Bones come across as live and vibrant, perfectly capturing Cicada's gritty, gut-bucket blues sound. Standouts include the opener "Four Horsemen" where lead singer Reverend Barry D. Winfield channels the fiery spirit of a preacher walking on hot coals and the audacious interpretation of John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen' entitled "The Boogie". Cicada Omega is taking the world by storm and will make you get up out ya chair to boogie like you don't care.
16) Bonnie Prince Billy- For Every Field There's a Mole and Lie Down In the Light
From: Lie Down In the Light [Drag City, 2008]
I honestly haven't heard this album yet, but I've liked almost every record from Bonnie Prince Billy aside from the collaboration they did with Tortoise a couple years back. So, I am adding this to the list based on his excellent track record. If I am wrong about this one, you can hold me personally responsible. For those of you looking for other recommendations, you should check out Master and Everyone, I See a Darkness and Superwolf.
17) No Age- Impossible Bouquet and Ripped Knees
From: Nouns [Sub Pop, 2008]
One of the Sub Pop bands that continues to live up to the hype that surrounds them. This duo cranks up the noise quotient on the majority of the record but has the sense to mellow things out with ambient white-noise instrumentals that evoke classic Music For Airports-era BrianEno. If you like Nouns, make sure to pick up their first record Wierdo Rippers. You will not be disappointed!
18) Matmos- Rainbow Flag and Mister Mouth
From: Supreme Balloon [Matador, 2008]
I remember first hearing Matmos's A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure playing on the overhead speakers at Music Millennium. I didn't really know what I was hearing at the time, but the resident electronic music guru informed me that Matmos took field recordings of sounds from hospital operating rooms and juxtaposed them with electronic beats and rhythms. Supreme Balloon retains the adventurous spirit of this record while moving forward with an innovative sound that can most aptly be described as electro-prog. One listen to the prog-funk groove of the opening track "Rainbow Flag" is all it will take to keep you coming back for more.
19) Holly Golightly Bottom Below and Indeed You Do
From: Dirt Don't Hurt [Transdreamer, 2008]
Holly Golightly's latest record cements her reputation as a spunky femme fatale who could drink her man and his cronies under the table while taking their money in a high-stakes game of Texas hold-em poker. What I mean by this is that she takes no prisoners. The smoky backwoods noir country sound of past records is present, but there is definitely more of a gritty rockabilly sound on here that is tastefully infused with country blues and jump blues. After a few introductory spins, this one was put into heavy rotation in my CD changer.
20) Times New Viking- Mean God and End of All Things
From: Rip It Off [Matador, 2008]
This year there has been an undeniable resurgence of lo-fi bands recalling the heyday of the ever prolific Guided By Voices, Sebadoh and Beat Happening. Times New Viking are the progenitors of the current lo-fi movement along with Eat Skull, Sic Alps and No Age. At first listen the sound is very abrasive, but tucked nicely underneath the sheets of noise are tuneful, hummable melodies. Every time I hear someone say that this is just noise, I tell them to listen closer. So, listen closer, and then let me know what you think.