Monday, December 22, 2008

A Year of Sound Pt. 2

So here are my end-of-year lists. There are three: one for albums, one for cds that have not really been albums, and one for singles and eps. I've written a motivation for each entry, which should make it more interesting to read (especially for the bands!). I started out with a first attempt in the November DDOMD minizine, so this is part two. The albums then:

1. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls (Mauled By Tigers/In the Red)
I knew it'd be no. 1 when I heard it in April. A perfectly consistent album where every track is brilliant. It also captures their live act very well, I've found. And the LP is on 45 rpm!

2. The Airfields - Up All Night (Humblebee)
This came out early in the year, but has kept its place at the top. A spectacular improvement on the Laneways 10", with glistening guitars and hushed vocals. A classic indiepop album comparable to any of The Field Mice's records.

3. The Autumn Leaves - Long Lost Friend
The third Autumn Leaves album had been a long time coming, and again this came out very early. The songwriting matches that of their brilliant debut and the production is a notch better. The titletrack and "Lighthouse" are spotless compositions, and some effectful covers are to be found here as well. A perfect farewell from a forgotten band that will be sorely missed by at least one person.

4. Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night
Their first couple of releases earlier this year promised a lot, and the album that followed hot on their heels proved that all it needed was some remastering. Cause this record is all about the sound and the atmosphere. The songs have grown immensely and really reward repeated listening like few other records. It also promises a lot for the future where other albums in this list seem hard to build on.

5. The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
Dumb music and clever lyrics proved a winning concept and made for a near-addiction to this album in the spring. Check out the singles from the album as well! Tattersall has a unique voice and a way with words paralleled by few. If I'd heard this at 18 it would be my Breaking God's Heart.

6. The Lodger - Life Is Sweet
Another Indietracks favourite! They were the most competent band on the bill and managed to reproduce the perfectly produced pop on their second album quite well. The abundance of classic (and dance-friendly) pop songs on here only makes its meagre praises all the more confounding.

7. Je Suis Animal - Self-Taught Magic From a Book (Perfect Pop/Angular/Lost & Lonesome)
This album must've climbed considerably since I first heard it, especially after seeing them live in Glasgow. Perhaps it takes a Norwegian band to infuse pop with mystery and early Stereolab soundscapes once again. Probably the most unique release of the year.

8. Finally Punk - Finally Punk (self-released)
The Carrots released two entertaining eps this year, but it's the girls' noise/punk alter ego Finally Punk that has won out in the end. I love this as much as Mika Miko, and like their records I can listen to this on repeat for hours. Too bad I was too late to get my hands on a copy!

9. Pas/cal - I Was Raised On Matthew, Mark, Luke & Laura (Le Grand Magistery)
This is is one of the most complex and multi-layered pop records ever. Half the songs clock in at over four minutes and contain so many different parts it's impossible to predict how they're going to end. But like on their two old eps, they pull this off without ever losing the pop edge. And I still haven't got into the lyrics, that will make for at least as much enjoyment from future listens.

10. Bubblegum Lemonade - Doubleplusgood (Matinée)
I was wondering how Laz's jangly pop hits would work in an album format, but he's put together a well-crafted longplayer that intersperse the sugar rushes with more introspective moments. With the usual high-quality production from Bubblegum Towers and the inclusion of old favourite "My Dreams of You" this just had to be on the list.

11. Minisnap - Bounce Around (Pocket Music/Lost & Lonesome)
What The Bats really needed was for Robert Scott to take a backseat for a while. As good as their latest album At the National Grid was, Kaye Woodwards songs have garnered the Minisnap album more press than any of The Bats' records. Simple, snappy and melodious, with a tinge of the Flying Nun sound. Hope to see them in Auckland!

12. Ballboy - I Worked On the Ships (Pony Proof)
I wasn't expecting a new Ballboy album at all, so it was a happy surprise to see it in the merch stall at Indietracks. I got to see him play both with the band and just on his own, and either it reminded of how much I used to love Ballboy or this is simply their best record so far.

13. Twig - Life After Ridge (Plastilina)
I've been waiting for ages for an album from Twig, who have existed intermittently since 2002, I think. January's "Ciao Ciao Bomb" single and the Rip It Up performance showed that they're on better form than ever, and Life After Ridge rightly turned out to be one of best Swedish pop albums so far.

14. Times New Viking - Rip It Off (Matador)
The band's first 'major' label release surprisingly sounds even better than their first two albums. Mastered to deafen ears and played to put blisters on your feet. Unfortunately they have yet to play in Sweden, but when they do I'll be sure to bring my earplugs and my most comfortable dancing shoes.

15. Eat Skull - Sick to Death (Siltbreeze)
There's been much deliberation over this last entry - was I to include the Would-Be-Goods album, the new Ponies In the Surf record, Beach House or something else? Then a few weeks ago I heard Eat Skull's first lp that came out early in the summer. Since it's probably the best lo-fi pop-punk since that Moldy Peaches album, it was suddenly an easy choice.