Confusion continues to reign in MONDOmusic as we present to you Part Two of kind-of-maybe-something-like-the-best-of-2008.
Cameron Kowalchuk’s Top Eight, Plus (Unordered)
Borko – Celebrating Life (Morr)
An act after my heart, Borko seamlessly layers acoustic guitars, dreamy synths, and vocal flourishes to fabricate the best indie-shoegaze-electronic-folk album of the year. The smatterings of instruments such as harmonicas, trumpets, and bells give it a true organic feel that’s strangely intimate in nature.
Chequerboard – Penny Black (Lazybird)
Setting the dank synths aside for his acoustic guitar, every strum and pluck captivates as Chequerboard lays down some of the most heartbreaking music I’ve ever heard. There’s still an unsettling electronic presence, but the glitch is there to set the tone and pace rather than take away the acoustic focus.
Dokkemand – HONS! (Other Electricities)
Taking the “quirky” crown on this list, it’s great to see artists successfully meshing familiar noises with the musical equivalent of brain farts, unafraid of sounding like a smorgasbord of anything and everything. A bizarre, cute, scary, ADD-inspired pop record.
Dom Mino’ – Time Lapse (Schole)
This record makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s perfect curl-up-with-a-book-on-a-rainy-day music, all pretty bells and whistles and chirps and smiles. It’s sort of post-rocky, ambient, folky, and minimalist in spots, but it’s consistently gorgeous and inspires introspection.
Lineland – Logos For Lovers (Audio Dregs) While explicitly electronic, this album draws from a painstakingly wide selection of styles, as if it’s an attempt to emulate music history in its entirety. Imagine an African rain dance, a 1960s bubblegum pop record, and an obscure jazz pioneer in a vintage Easy-Bake oven and you’re halfway there.
Rumpistol – Dynamo (Rump)
Rumpistol’s previous work has been easily definable: based in funk, but edgy enough to be IDM. Dynamo is a risky and impressive evolution for the Dane, delving into darker, loop-based grooves and teetering close to *gasp* dubstep, while maintaining his trademark warm, curious melodies.
Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
I have massive respect for Why?’s storytelling skills. This wordy, oddball pop piece, like a sex addict’s loosely adapted memoirs, paints a picture as vivid as anything but is oh-so-sparse musically, which makes me want to say it’s mathematically efficient.
Winter Gloves – About A Girl (Paper Bag)
A trying-too-hard, faux-passionate Julian Casablancas stand-in for a lead singer? Check. On a label repping enough local indie darlings to keep CanCon happy for months? Check. More plaid threads and stray facial hairs than a Value Village shopping spree? Check. Why do I love this generic scenester dreck? Because it’s catchy as fuck and completely self-aware.
Gouseion’s Anhedonia EP (RunRiot): Pure, unapologetic “me too” electro, with an dirty 8-bit slant. Sweaty nostalgia all over the dancefloor.
Four Tet’s Ringer EP (Domino): After a disappointing fourth full-length and a string of lacklustre cash-ins, it only took four songs to rekindle my man-crush on everyone’s favorite fro-wearing Folktronicist.
Brent Wilson’s Top Five
1. Johnny Dowd – A Drunkard’s Masterpiece (Munich Records)
It’s easiest to think of this as a slightly twisted sequel to the soundtrack Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle made for One from the Heart, Francis Ford Coppola’s attempt at a small personal movie. It’s about a couple’s marriage falling apart in Las Vegas, to which Waits and Gayle provide a bit of a Greek chorus. Of course the couple reconcile at the end of the movie, but imagine them now: they’ve left Vegas for some bumfuck Southern town, they’ve started cheating on each other again, and, rather than make up, they’ve decided to get as far away from each other as they can. Dowd and his usual vocal partner, Kim Sherwood-Caso, take on the Waits and Gayle roles, filling us in on the thought processes during the dismantling of the relationship. This “sequel” will never get made, but the quasi-soundtrack is good enough to fill that void. It’s the most ambitious album Dowd’s made to date, throwing meditations on family (“Easy Money”), his high self-opinion (“Johnny’s Got the Mic”), and his lady’s fine rear end (“Caboose”) into a trio of Southern Gothic opuses all peppered with Dowd’s surreal, dry wit.
2. James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes (Tompkins Square)
3. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
4. Matt Elliott – Howling Songs (Ici D’Ailleurs)
5. volcano! – Paperwork (Leaf)
Miles Baker’s Top Five
I used to be with “it.” But then they changed what “it” was. Now what I’m with isn’t “it,” and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me. — Abe Simpson
1. David Bowie - Hunky Dory (Virgin, 1971)
Look out you rock and rollers, this album is awesome. It’s naked and intimate, and it features amazing songs like “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and “Life on Mars?”
2. Tom Waits – Blood Money (Anti, 2002)
Waits’ record about the shittiness of humanity is addictive. I routinely hurt my throat trying to sound like him.
3. Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers (Superego, 2008)
I heart Aimee Mann hard. Her newest record continues the tradition of intelligent lyrics with strong songwriting.
4. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (Virgin, 1973)
Two years later, the moxie from Hunky Dory is harnessed to be sexier and better produced.
5. Mother Mother – O My Heart (Last Gang, 2008)
Vancouver’s Mother Mother improved their already polished and unique sound on this record. They remind me of The Pixies in every good way possible, god bless them.
Allana Mayer’s Top One, Plus
1. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
I won’t lie: I feel less of an authority than ever right now. It’s pretty tempting to put Bowerbirds’ Hymns For A Dark Horse as my number one again, on the technicality of it being a re-release and all. But I wouldn’t do that to you. The truth of the matter is that I was so bowled over by the brilliance of Alopecia, and so totally underwhelmed by everything else that came out this year, that I can’t help but leave the rest vacant. Take that.
How I felt when I reviewed Alopecia back in the spring hasn’t changed, which is the surprising part. Usually albums take their time to grow on me (which is, I hope, the case with most 2008 releases that haven’t won me over yet) and then lose their places in my heart as other stuff comes out. Not this time. I still know all the words.
Yann Tiersen – Tabarly (EMI France); National Bank – Come On Over To The Other Side (Universal Norway); Helvetia – The Acrobats (The Static Cult); Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost (Light In The Attic)
The Other Things I Listened To A Lot This Year:
1. Supersilent – “6.1″ (from 6, 2004)
2. Couch – Figur 5 (2006) and Profane (2001)
3. Sybarite – “Identity #2″(from Placement Issues, 2001)
4. The Dirty Projectors – The Getty Address (2005)
5. Field Music – Tones Of Town (2007)
6. King Cobb Steelie – Junior Relaxer (1997)