Monday, December 8, 2008

2008 End-of-Year Celebrations: The Good, The Bad & The James Blunt

Carrying on from last year's awards, I've decided to make them an annual occurrence and added in some new categories to suit this year's music. The idea behind these awards is to recognise the more interesting aspects of 2008's releases that would otherwise go unnoticed in a usual 'best albums of the year' list. Also it's the only way i can let rip a little with the new "James Blunt Turkey of the Year" award for the most disappointing and unloved album of 2008.

So without further ado...

Martha Wainwright - I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too

It's exactly the kind of snarky title you'd expect from chanteuse Martha Wainwright
but also reflects the albums themes of lost love and biting social commentary.
Runner-Up: M83 - Saturdays=Youth
Steel Attack -
Carpe DiEnd
You can always rely on Metal bands to offer up some silly over-the-top titles, but Sweden metal band Steel Attack have gone above and beyond the call and duty with this one.
Runner-Up: Lenny Kravitz - It Is Time For A Love Revolution
Flight of The Conchords -
Besides being the soundtrack to the HBO series of the same name, New Zealand's Flight of the Conchords' first full length is actually a listenable comedy record in its own right with precise lampooning and catchy genre-hopping.
Runner-Up: Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood Original Soundtrack
Fleet Foxes -
Sun Giant EP
Fleet Foxes' debut would have been an impressive opening on its own accord, but it was preceded by a small batch of songs that made up this EP, showing all the wonderful characteristics of the album proper - tight harmonies, folk mood and excellent songwriting - in a concise package.
Runner-Up: Coldplay - Prospekt's March

Sigur Ros -
1st Aug @ Festival Hall
The Icelandic quartet had visited our shores previously, playing upper-class venues like The Palais and even Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre, but to suit the more accessible, poppier sounds of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust they elected to play the grungier Festival Hall. It did nothing to diminish the grandeur of their sound and as balloons and confetti opened up in the sky during inevitable closer Gobbledigook their status as one of Australia's best loved bands was sealed
Runner-Up: Porcupine Tree - 25th April @ The Metro
Yes, a greatest hits compilation of Radiohead goes against everything they stand for, but when it contains music from the greatest band in the world, it's hard to argue against its quality. And when have i passed up an excuse to plug them?
Runner-Up: Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (... and 21 Other Pretty Cool songs)
Something For Kate -
Live @ The Corner
Offered mere moments after the band had exited the stage, it captures SFK (Melbourne's Best Band ⓒ2008) during the high point of their career doling out radio hits, fan favourites and an obscure cover of Ship Of Fools to top it all off. Excellent.
Runner-Up: Muse - H.A.A.R.P.
Muse -
Muse continue to push the boundaries of the live rock show, even though they were pipped to the post by George Michael as the first act to headline the re-opened Wembley Stadium; they offered a far more eventful show. An elaborate stage set-up of vast video screens and satellites, the band's usual showboating... even floating ballerinas, and this DVD captured it in all its bombastic glory.
Runner-Up: Joy Division - Joy Division
Kent -
Box 1991-2008
Kent are Sweden's equivalent to U2, their huge national sales matched by their own ambitions, bolstering the attitude and large-scale shows with wonderfully crafted and produced songs. This box set contains all of their recorded work: 7 studio albums, a 2 disc B-sides compilation, an EP and all manner of demos and rarities. Sure it's all sung in Swedish, but when the music's this good it's a moot point.
Runner-Up: Death Cab For Cutie - Something About Airplanes 10th Anniversary
Kings of Leon
- Sex on Fire & Use Somebody
The double-barreled assault of these twin singles was heard everywhere in 2008, coming out of cars with the windows rolled down, on shop work CDs, on music video and live shows, and of course they were plastered all over commercial radio. But of course they were, Sex on Fire was a concise statement of their appeal while Use Somebody was representative of their new direction as producers of polished anthems.
Runner Up: MGMT - Kids
The four-piece led by the vocals of James Allen hail from Glasgow, and boy don't they let you know it. Glasvegas' debut album is a winning blend of emotional rock backed by Phil Spector style wall-of-sound guitar with Allen's refreshingly strong accent. Though at times it risks dipping into comedic 'och me wee lass' jargon, more often than not it lends the songs the emotional honesty and rawness that makes them so powerful, such as on Daddy's Gone
Scarlett Johansson -
Wherever I Lay My Head
An album of Tom Waits covers sung by one of Hollywood's 'it' girls, produced by TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek with backing vocals from Bowie. That pretty much takes the cake for weirdest album, or coolest. Who would have thought that Scarlett Johansson would be the one to buck the trend for 'actress makes terrible stab at singing career.'
Kanye West -
808's and Heartbreak
No contest really, this was easily this year's biggest disappointment, rap superstar Kanye West limits his music palette to the 808 drum machine and auto-tuned singing. Which may have been a brave or intriguing statement if the songs weren't all monotonous or unlikeable whining about a girl who's done Kanye wrong. Now don't get me wrong, i'm not some hater who's used this new album as further fuel to the fire, i actually really liked West's previous albums, but 808's and Heartbreak is the point at which he has been swallowed by his own ego and at risk of a sharp nosedive if something isn't done soon. Just listen to RoboCop and tell me it's not the sound of someone losing their mind.

There we have it 2008 in its warts-and-all wrap-up. Please let me know your thoughts, do comment below

However, as those old Demtel commercials go, 'Wait! There's More!' Oh yes, the big drum roll should be sounding soon as i raise the curtain on my coveted (well by me anyway) Top 15 Albums of the Year list in handy 5 part segments. Who's going to make the list? well all i can hint at is that it's none of those who have already scooped awards here, for further clues take a look at last year's list, it's a good starting point.

Watch this space.
James Blunt: NOT the greatest artist in the world today

1 comment:

  1. I love the category for James Blunt as the most suckness album.

    808's and a Heartbreak was awesome. Streetlights is a great song and Love Lockdown's structural simplicity is emotionally potent, the soft melodic moments juxtaposed aginst the African rhythms (as if jumping in between subconscious inner rage and acting calm for social circumstances). It's a big step for hip-hop, infusing its rhythms into a pop / soft rock format. The melodies are very rudimentary and are akin to that of Albarn's Gorillaz. Clearly Kanye's listening tastes is highly eclectic, from the alternative samples on mixtape "Ego" with Thom Yorke's The Eraser and using the help of John Mayer on a number of occasions, and really wants to be developed. I suppose it's so hard to break out of the hip-hop stereotype, where writing melodies is seen as selling out and from an indie / alternative perspective an intrusive invasion by an artist from a genre with beats and rhythms forming the basis of its foundations.

    Not much hip-hop or funk in the top 15?