Best Albums of 2008- Part Two

I can hardly believe that I managed to squeeze my hundredth post in just before the new year. Even though it took me over two years to reach this milestone, it doesn't take away from the fact that I have shared lots of great music with you all. So here's to a hundred more or even thousand posts on Eclectic Grooves in the coming years. I hope to keep this blog going for awhile, so I hope you'll come along for the ride.

This portion of the list took a little longer due to the breadth of music that I have been listening to over the past week. It was really difficult to narrow this list down, especially when I got it down to about fifteen albums. I wanted to keep them all because they whole-heartedly deserve to be on this list, but some of them were unfortunately knocked off the final list. I have placed an "Honorable Mentions" section at the bottom of this post for the artists that were cut from my final list.

As you can see from the selection of artists that I have chosen for the top ten, the list is largely made up of experimental artists with a couple international artists, and the rest falling under the umbrella of indie rock. Sadly, there is no hip-hop, soul, blues or country on this list, but this is primarily because I believe that there was a serious decline in the quality of work produced within these genres in 2008. I plan on featuring more from each of these genres in the future to clearly delineate the cream-of-the-crop artists from the mainstream radio fixtures.

Without further ado, I present to you my top ten list for the best albums of 2008. I hope you guys find something on here that gets you excited, and I am curious to see what some of your lists look like. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and personal lists for 2008.

10) Portishead- Hunter and Small
From: Third [Mercury, 2008]

Every once in awhile an album come along that confounds all expectations and completely shatters any pre-conceived notions that you might have about what it should sound like. Gone are the film-noir influences and trip-hop textures of past albums. In fact, this album is so different from Dummy and Portishead that I had to check the cover to make sure I was listening to the same band that produced these albums. While the slow, moody textures of "Hunter" are reminiscent of the older Portishead, the abrupt transitions of electro-noise scattered throughout the track help forge new pathways into exciting worlds. After listening to tracks such as the kraut-rock meets industrial clang of"We Carry On" or the haunting, psychedelic tones of "Small", it will take awhile for you to come back from your trip.

9) Kasai All-Stars-
Mukuba and Mpombu Yetu

This is the third installment from the Congotronics series on Crammed records which introduced the world to the transcendental, psychedelic sound of Konono No.1. Like Konono No.1, the Kasai AllStars employ distorted thumb pianos alongside polyrhythmic percussion and trance-inducing guitar patterns. My ears struggled to keep up with the complexity of this wondrous music as the drums, guitars and thumb pianos created an enveloping rush of sound. Those of you who like Konono No.1 should not sleep on this one.

8) Benoit Pioulard- A Woolgathering Exodus and Hesperus
From: Temper [Kranky, 2008]

You might think from the name that Benoit is a French aristocrat who creates pretentious music that appeals to the masses, but you would be dead wrong. The name is actually a made-up moniker for Tom Meluch, a Portland transplant from Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is the second album by Benoit, but I have yet to hear his first record, Precis. As I listen to Temper, the harsh, weathered sounds evoke the cold bleakness of winter, while the delicate, hushed vocals are reminsicent of the morning rays of sunshine on an early spring day. The intentionally washed out production and muffled vocals add to the listening experience by lending an air of mystery to the subject matter in the lyrics. After spending some time with this disc, you are sure to be drawn into Benoit's unique sound world.

7) Nisennenmondai-Pop Group and Ikkkyokume
From: Neji/Tori [Smalltown Supersound, 2008]

Nisennenmondai are an incredibly talented trio of Japanes female musicians with a predilection towards naming their songs after their influences. The examples of bands that get the nod include Pop Group and This Heat, which speaks volumes about the sound of this power trio. Sheets of noise are interspersed with funky, gyrating rhythms and no-wave intensity. Get ready to have your eardrums assaulted with these tight, rhythmic noise sculptures.

6) Matana Roberts Trio- Thrills and Birdhouse 3
From: The Chicago Project [Central Control, 2008]

Little did I know that Matana happened to be the woman featured on the cover of this record, and she would easily hold her own against other alto saxophone giants like Ornette Coleman and Cannonball Adderly throughout the duration of the record. When I first heard The Chicago Project, I was immediately taken in by the free-flowing eclecticism of "Thrills". It starts off with with an intoxicating saxophone melody that cascades up and down the scale, sliding in and out of a sultry tempo, until the middle section of the song where the track moves into a more agressive free-jazz vein. Matana is a pioneering female alto saxophonist and clarinetist who is undoubtedly paving the way for other female musicians in the world of jazz. Put this record in your pile of records to listen to when you want to be truly inspired by a creative musician at the height of her powers.

5) Singer- Please, Tell The Justices We're Fine and Mauvais Sang
From: Unhistories [Drag City, 2008]

Since my computer is acting up, and it pauses every time I type a letter, I'm going to attempt to make these shorter. There aren't many words I can use to describe Singer that will do them justice. All you need to know is that it features two members of US Maple and the lead singer from Lichens and 90 Day Men. This album is agressive, ugly, pretty, cacophonous and enthralling at the same time. The ending cymbal solo at the end of "Mauvais Sang" is the most intensely perfect moment I've heard on an album in quite some time. Fans of US Maple will undoubtedly find something here to tide them over until the US Maple DVD is released.

4) The Breeders- German Studies and Here No More
From: Mountain Battles [4AD, 2008]

Only The Breeders can manage to release a brilliant record every four years that simultaenously smacks their fans in the face and leaves them grinning from ear to ear. Mountain Battles is the type of album that sneaks up on you when you aren't looking and delivers a K-O punch to your sternum. While it is decidely broad in scope, it is also simplistic in execution. Name another band that has the ability to make a catchy song that revolves around a one line chorus complete with ooh's and ahh's. The Breeders are skilled at capturing the simplistic and mimimal moments of life while filtering it through their fuzzy lens. Absolutely essential!

3) Mary Halvorson Trio- Old Nine Two Six Four Two Dies (No. 10) and Scant Frame (No.2)
From: Dragon's Head [Firehouse 12 Records]

Last year I featured People's Misbegotten Man as one of my favorite albums from 2007. People featured Mary Halvorson on guitar and vocals with drummer Kevin Shea, but this recording is entirely instrumental. Halvorson is ably backed by bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith from Trevor Dunn's Trio Convulsant. On "Old Nine Two Six Four Two" Hebert's slow, loping basslines are contrasted with the slash-and burn catharsis of Mary's complex guitar playing. As I listened intently to the tracks on this record, it became abundantly clear that Halvorson was in a league of her own in the world of jazz guitar improvisation. This one's a mind-bending thrill-ride that doesn't stop until the final seconds fade.

2) Deerhoof- Fresh Born and Numina O
From: Offend Maggie [ Kill Rock Stars, 2008]

Ironically, I have a lot less energy as I reach the end of my list, so I won't write an extensive description of Offend Maggie. Throughout the album, Deerhoof meld their offbeat experimentation with catchy melodies and classic rock riffs that will leave you wondering where you heard it before. Monstrous drums, cutesy Japanese vocals and bombastic riffing all in one package. The part in "Numina O" when the cascading guitars sound like sharp crystals piercing through your skull is one of the defining moments of 2008 for me.

1)Deerhunter- Saved By Old Times and and Vox Celeste
From: Microcastle/Weird Era Continued [Kranky, 2008]

Deerhunter have managed to craft a stunning double album that captures the confusion and emotional intensity of being a teenager, yet doesn't exclude anyone from the club. With two separate albums clocking in at around the eighty-three minute mark, this is a lot of music to digest in one sitting. So, I suggest that you let yourself slowly sink into the hazy, psychedelic tones of this double album and thank God that Deerhunter idolizes My Bloody Valentine. This is the defining artistic statement of 2008 from a band who continues to improve themselves on each record.

Since not every record made the list, I wanted to let you know the albums that just barely missed being included on this year's list.

Medeski Martin Wood- Zaebos- Book of Angels Vol.11
Atlas Sound- Let the Blind Lead Those Who See But Cannot Feel
Fred Frith- To Sail To Sail
Sic Alps- US EZ
L'ocelle Mare- S/T
Grouper- Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill
Giant Sand- Provisions
Lau Nau- Nukkuu
Eat Skull- Sick to Death
Flying Lotus- Los Angeles

I hope you guys enjoyed the list. Now it's on to a new year with promising new albums from Alela Diane, Neko Case, Animal Collective and Sonic Youth. Hope you had a great 2008!


Anonymous said…
Nice list, especially your number 1 pick... Atlanta GA represent!
Anonymous said…
hola amigos, por razones ajenas .El Camaleon cambia la url.

anotar la nueva url por favor .

si te interesa, podemos intercambiar enlaces

un abrazo a todos

hello friends, for reasons beyond .El Camaleon change the url.

note the new url please.

if you're interested, we can trade urls

a hug to all
Likedeeler said…
I am sorry to say that the Kasai All-Stars record is crap. Otherwise: keep it up!

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