Music of 2008: #25–#11

At the end of every year I write a post ranking my favourite music releases of the year. But for 2008 I was very busy, and I had other things I wanted to write about more. Now that it’s February, I think I’d really better get on with it. I know not many people will still be in the mood for looking back on 2008, but for those who are interested in what I was listening to, here we go.

25. Flying Lotus — Los Angeles

Los Angeles artwork
I used to look forward to any new electronic music that came out, but I find myself becoming increasingly jaded by the scene. Los Angeles is the perfect example. There is nothing particularly offensive or wrong about it. But it just doesn’t sound original or interesting enough to justify many repeated listens. I bought this on the basis of the strong reviews, but I would say this album is not much better than average. Maybe I’m just getting old…

24. Hot Chip — Made in the Dark

Made in the Dark artwork
Shark jump! Not as good as The Warning, which in turn wasn’t as good as Coming on Strong, Made in the Dark shows that Hot Chip need to have a rethink before they descend into mere self-parody. Having said that, there are a couple of good songs here (most notably the lead single ‘Ready for the Floor’), but overall this album is pretty weak.

23. TV On The Radio — Dear Science

Dear Science artwork
It was difficult to ignore this album, mostly because it received such great reviews — seemingly unanimously. The way people acted, you’d think this was the most important rock album since OK Computer. Sadly I must disagree. Even though there are some good songs on Dear Science, for the most part I find it bland and uneventful. It’s not a patch on their previous album, Return to Cookie Mountain. Although this is a good album, the hype leaves me scratching my head.

22. Harmonic 313 — EP1

Here is a fun EP from Mark Pritchard. The first track, ‘Word Problems’, sets the scene, led by vocals from a Speak & Spell inviting you to solve the problem. The tracklisting isn’t supplied conventionally. Instead you have to crack the code using the decoder on the spine of the record sleeve. A bonus MP3 is available if you can solve all the problems on the website. A great piece of fun electronic music.

21. Kelpe — Ex-Aquarium

Ex-Aquarium artwork
I rather like Kelpe. But although the music is pleasant enough, I don’t think it is original enough to merit a higher position. The style sits somewhere between Four Tet, Freeform and Boards of Canada. But in some tracks the Boards of Canada influence is a bit too obvious, and he doesn’t quite manage to nail the sound correctly which makes the album slightly unsatisfying.

20. Four Tet — Ringer

Ringer artwork
This four track EP exhibits a different kind of Four Tet. The new direction is slightly more minimalist and repetitive, but no less enjoyable for it. This really only appears so far down the list because it is so short. I hope Four Tet releases more material like this in the future. I am getting rather impatient for a new Four Tet album!

19. The Future Sound of London — Environments

Environments cover
FSOL have continued the purge of their archives this year, with the long-awaited Environments coming out on CD for the first time in 2008. Originally slated for release in 1994, the original Environments was scrapped. I’m afraid to say, though, that this hasn’t quite grabbed me in the way other FSOL releases have. It needs a few more listens until I can be absolutely sure though.

18. Sigur Rós — Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust artwork
A disappointing album. The first track, ‘Gobbledigook’, was released in advance as a digital download. It is an excellent track — madcap, almost with an Animal Collective vibe, and certainly unlike anything I’d heard from Sigur Rós before. It raised expectations. But unfortunately, the rest of the album, while rather pleasant, is disappointingly insipid. You’d hardly think this same band created the stunningly beautiful Ágætis Byrjun.

17. Sébastien Tellier – Sexuality

Sexuality artwork
French hero of the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 Sébastien Tellier released this delightfully eccentric album of unmistakably French sexy electronic music. This is hardly the most technically excellent release of the year, but a highly enjoyable listen nonetheless.

16. Autechre — Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae

Autechre spoiled its fans this year, releasing almost five hours’ worth of material in 2008. Unfortunately, much of it sounded the same and by the time you reached the end of Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae, itself a two-and-a-half hour marathon, you couldn’t help but wonder if you were having the piss taken out of you. There is no doubt that these fleshed-out versions of tracks from the original Quaristice are very good, by the time this came out all the various versions were starting to merge in the mind as one, and it doesn’t feel like the most value-for-money purchase. And considering not much happens during it, did ‘Perlence subrange 36-6’ really have to be almost an hour long?!

15. Clark — Turning Dragon

Turning Dragon artwork
Turning Dragon represents a refreshing change in direction for Clark, much more fast-paced and plastic-sounding than his previous material. Relentlessly fast-paced and dense, this is a captivating listen. Yet, as always, the lack of originality is Clark’s downfall. The Aphex Twin influence is still painfully evident, and the new style definitely owes a lot to the fashionable world of Flying Lotus and French acts like Justice and Jackson and His Computer Band. Nonetheless, this album represents an impressive diversion in Clark’s career.

14. Red Snapper — A Pale Blue Dot

A Pale Blue Dot artwork
Comeback of the year! I am delighted that Red Snapper are back together, and their first EP back demonstrates that they haven’t lost it since they went their separate ways back in 2002. The new incarnation has more of a live feel than previous Red Snapper releases, but it still maintains the electronic elements and groovy jazzy feel has been enhanced. Opening track ‘Brickred’ is amazing. Full marks also for the packaging, which is a plain white digipack with swing tags attached — interesting.

13. Justice — A Cross the Universe

A Cross the Universe
Justice’s was one of my favourite albums of 2007, so I was always going to like A Cross the Universe, the live CD and DVD documentary which follows the band on their US tour. Sometimes the live interpretations are not as strong as the album versions, so for me the CD doesn’t quite have the punch it might have done — though it’s a great listen nonetheless. The documentary is odd and scary. I read someone comparing it to the Borat film, because the events depicted are so bizarre.

12. Claro Intelecto — Metanarrative

Metanarrative artwork
I had heard a lot about Claro Intelecto over the years, but this is the first time I have actually bitten the bullet and bought a CD. And how glad I am that I did! There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about it, but there is no denying that the music is wonderful. It is somehow nostalgic-sounding without being retro in the slightest. I particularly love ‘Harsh Reality’. Beautiful melody with a gently driving beat. A fine album.

11. The Future Sound of London — From the Archives Vol. 4

From the Archives Vol. 4 artwork
I rate the From the Archives series very highly. Volumes 1–3 collectively reached number 3 in my 2007 chart. The quality of volume 4 is not perceptibly lower (although it is rather shorter than the previous volumes), but I have not ranked it so highly simply because I have just about had my fill of archived FSOL material over the past couple of years. Still great music though.

I will post my top 10 tomorrow.

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