I know we all spent the year RickRolling each other and reliving A-Ha nostalgia. Believe it or not, some people released some albums this year, too. But most of us found ourselves reliving past interests, researching long-gone releases, and feeling positively old. Thus, Part One of the semi-sort-of-not-really-best-of-2008, as disagreed upon by your friends at MONDOmusic.
Jake Shenker’s Top Five
1. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todo Mundo)
In 1981, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and acclaimed producer Brian Eno teamed up to produce the electroacoustic, tape-loop-driven My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The record was a complete departure from Byrne’s Talking Heads style, lacking conventional vocals and built upon samples of voices and loops. In 2006, while working on the re-release of that record, Byrne and Eno decided to collaborate again, producing this year’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. This time, the duo took a more conventional approach, producing catchy pop songs with just a tinge of eclecticism. Byrne’s recognizable voice soars as dexterously as it did 25 years ago, and his songs are still top-notch; Eno’s production adds an electronic vibe to Byrne’s organic style, accenting acoustic folk songs with strange percussive hits and often unrecognizable instrumentation. The result is a record that is immediately digestible and appealing, but with enough bizarre nuance to produce something unique.
2. 340ml – Sorry For the Delay (Sheer Sound)
3. Hey Rosetta! – Into Your Lungs (Sonic)
4. Hawksley Workman – Los Manlicious (Universal)
5. Zaki Ibrahim – Eclectica (Sony)
Natalie Sylvie Plourde’s Top Five, Plus
1. Fleet Foxes -Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
I found this year to be quite slow compared to years past; in the rough, however, there were a few gleaming diamonds. New indie darlings Fleet Foxes have received much love from the music elite: Pitchfork and Mojo both recently named Fleet Foxes the best album of 2008. This lovely record will soothe your soul with its enchanting melodies and soft but sometimes complex acoustic guitar. The warm four-part harmonies used in many tracks contrast with the haunting vocals of Robin Pecknold, disputably the lead singer. Though it needs a bit of patience for the first listen, it grows on its listener with every play. It isn’t an album that will grab anyone by the face and shout “We rule!” but, really, it’s damn beautiful.
2. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Sony/Columbia)
3. Vampire Weekend -Vampire Weekend (XL)
4. Girl Talk- Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
5. Portishead – Third (Island)
TI – Paper Trail (Atlantic); Lil Wayne – The Carter III (Universal); Kings of Leon – Only by the Night (RCA)
Leo Moncel’s Top Five
1. CBC Radio 1
From the friendly, quick-witted Matt Galloway of Here and Now to the hard-edged, focused manner of The Current’s Anna-Maria Tremonti, you know CBC Radio kept it engaging, entertaining, and educational. In the kitchen or the car, I know they got you hooked on the daily.
2. Teach Yourself Korean recordings
From Berlitz’s practically-oriented series of handy phrases and short dialogues, to the more comprehensive Mastering Korean, I was bumpin’ the elementary Hangukmal this fall. Hottest track from M.K. has to be “Dialogue A” where Mr. James meets Ms. Kim and they introduce themselves formally! But I won’t front like Berlitz didn’t put it down with their dialogue on reserving a table at a restaurant.
3. Old Leonard Cohen MP3s I borrowed from York University’s library
This shit had my speakers blazin’! From the sombre, condemnatory growl of “Avalanche” to the frustrated, self-loathing cries of “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” Cohen had it locked. If it’s dark and profound you’re after, Leonard Cohen’s your man.
4. Q-Tip – The Renaissance (Universal Motown), if I’d heard it
Yeah, Q-Tip emerging at long last with another release! If you’re a Tribe fan (that is, anyone with a pulse who can hear), then I know you were psyched about this one. I was, too. I heard from Facebook that it was excellent. I almost went and bought it. Then I kinda waffled and forgot about it. If I had heard this album, I probably would have loved it enough to give it my number four slot.
5. Nas – Untitled (Def Jam/Columbia)
Nas is, to my mind, the greatest rapper there is, period. I know why others don’t share my opinion when he keeps dropping albums that are just “fairly good.” Like this one. It is good. It even has something to say. It didn’t put my jaw on the floor, but it has the distinction of being the only real album on this list.
Jan Streekstra’s Top Five
1. Larkin Grimm – Parplar (Young God)
2. The Dodos – Visiter (French Kiss)
I’ve been mocked a lot in my life. And I’ve mocked a lot. A lot of writers — a lot of people — feel out their poignancies using the arts. I look at mockery and wonder how I can be so hypocritical as to tolerate this situation: like every childhood, mine was stained with taunts that caused me to cry almost before I knew what had happened. Yet I cannot abandon it — I would not feel safe abandoning it. While I have no pretensions that mockery serves as my first psychological guard, I do it and enjoy it.
I’ve realized that true mockery, spontaneous and free-reined, is fed in part by malice. Malice breeds in the wake of revealingly powerful apprehensions about your place in the state of the world. Mocking uses conviction, and conviction is the seat of conscious identity: mockery brings us a flavour of truth, an addictively direct, effective, and precise way to be clear about what we’re thinking.
Parplar and Visiter cap off the list and get nods because they mocked me directly, lyrically; I was lucky enough that their self-critical dementias spoke to mine. They pointed me out, and laughed at me, and in turn I learned from them. The rest are brilliant works, and relentlessly mocked me with their images of my history, teaching me that my tastes are predictable even when I’m firm in my belief that I have found something new. I don’t think this is the same as eternal recurrence, but it is equally discomforting.
3. Small Sur – We Live In Houses Made Of Wood (Tender Loving Empire)
4. Menahan Street Band – Make The Road By Walking (Dunham)
5. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)