Monday, December 01, 2008

Top Ten of the Year 2008
First of all, here's the good news: This end-of-the-year post is huge! Epic! Plenty of "online content" for you to chew on, lots of record-buying recommendations and even a few free MP3 downloads, for those of you who make it to the end. My twin commitments to (a) typing this blog as hastily as possible and (b) proofreading it not one bit know no bounds.

Now, here's the bad news: This will be the last ever post on The Blogglebum Cage. I'm sure this will be heartbreaking news for the (statistically-proven) two dozen people who visit the blog every day but I need time to work on other - dare I say more important - projects. I was laid off from work a couple of weeks ago so, in the short term, in need time and energy to devote towards job hunting. In the long term, I also want to spend more of my computer time making music and less writing about music.

Talking of music, here's the more bad news: It's been another generally sucky year for new music. You may notice that I spend a considerable amount of this post telling you what I don't like about my favourite Albums of the Year. That can't be a good sign.

The real problem for me this year has been the lack of surprises. Most of my top records of the year came from favourite artists, doing what they do very well, resolutely refusing to raise the stakes. Maybe it's a bit unreasonable to expect the shock of the new in 2008 but I still want to be challenged, confounded and amazed.

So, for what it's worth, here is the final Blogglebum Cage end-of-year list, plus a few of the usual bonus features. Take a good look at these Michael because it's the last time. (Actually, I may return to blogging in 2010 but who knows if there'll even be such a thing as blogs that far in the future!)

Before I get started, a few things about the format of this year's list should be made clear:
  1. The Top Ten Albums of the Year list and the Bubbling Under lists are in rough order of preference
  2. The Other Notable Releases list is in alphabetical order
  3. The format that I've noted for each release is the format I happen to have it in - some of the CDs I list are or will be available on vinyl
  4. I've tried to stick strictly to 2008 releases but if you notice some stuff from last year creeping in there... well, fuck you, I don't care!
  5. I haven't done a Songs of the Year list but I have flagged up a few particular favourites along the way
  6. I haven't includes my own brilliant 2008 album (connect_icut, They Showed Me the Secret Beaches) in the list as I naturally assume it will be at the top of all the other end-of-year lists I read

Now, without further ado...

Top Ten Albums of the Year

Fennesz - Black Sea LP and CD (Touch)
(also, Transition 7")

Did I just say "favourite artists, doing what they do very well, resolutely refusing to raise the stakes"? Well, this is exactly what I'm talking about. After almost five years of waiting, what do we get from Christian Fennesz's new solo album? We get a really, really great Fennesz album. We get the Album of the Year. And we get nothing!

You might imagine the fact that Black Sea is simultaneously my Album of the Year and A Slight Disappointment is a function of unreasonable expectations. Fennesz is a certifiable genius and he hasn't released a solo album since Venice in early 2004, so - as a long-time fan - I was expecting something pretty mind-blowing.

In fact, on these terms, Black Sea isn't disappointing at all. It's a large-scale triumph: monumentally beautiful, massively brilliant. It's the work of an incredibly talented and original musician at the absolute top of his game. It's the best damn album that anyone has put out this year. So, what's the problem?

Well, for an artist who speaks a pretty abstract musical language, Fennesz has a remarkably high public profile. Since "Transit", his collaboration with David Sylvian on Venice, not to mention the distinct pop leanings of his masterwork Endless Summer, Fennesz has seemed poised to tighten up his act and make a crossover album that would introduce a whole swathe of the music-listening public to an entirely new world of sonic wonders.

It probably seems perverse for me to wish this kind of crossover success on Fennesz. But I'm still stuck on an idea the British music press drummed into me as a teenager: that to be relevant, "alternative" music has to raid the over-ground and change the world, at least a little. In the post-grunge Internet age, this kind of thinking is pretty much redundant. That's a fact but I can't help feeling it's by no means an inevitable fact or that it describes an entirely desirable state of affairs.

In any case, Fennesz has not spent the last half-decade crafting a world-changing avant pop masterpiece. Instead, he's simply been trying to make the best damn Fennesz album he can. And while Black Sea is unlikely to add anything substantially new to Fennesz's body of work or indeed his fan-base, it is going to give his existing fans an enormous amount of pleasure.

It's a remarkably focused encapsulation of all that he has achieved since his 1995 debut EP Instrument. It's a series of long-form pieces that marry the most reflective elements of the last two Fennesz albums to the more abrasive abstraction of his earlier releases. If I had to flag a single track up as a representative standout, I'd point you in the direction of the gorgeous "Perfume for Winter".

So anyway, while Fennesz isn't trying to take on the mainstream, it would be ridiculous to say that Black Sea isn't ambitious and it would be an outrage to argue that Fennesz's ambitions are modest. This is a Big Album, in absolutely the best sense.

The Transition 7" is more of the same and an essential companion to this most essential of albums. I haven't heard the new one-sided LP on Table of the Elements yet but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it's probably pretty good.

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent LP (Universal)
Last year's Reformation Post TLC is widely considered to be the Worst Fall Album Evar and while it's no Are You Are Missing Winner it's certainly a hard record to defend. Seems like Mark E Smith has now strayed so far off the rails (witness his unreadable autobiography) that any album attempting to catch him in the raw is doomed to be a more-or-less un-listenable shambles.

Thank goodness, then, that Imperial Wax Solvent is a distinctly digital studio construction. Smith needs someone to tie up his loose ends more than ever these days and - even then - things can still go horribly awry (witness his unreadable, ghost-written autobiography called Renegade for fuck's sake - must have taken them seconds to come up with that title).

Luckily, the various producers and engineers (including Grant Showbiz and Andi Toma from Mouse on Mars) assisting Smith on Imperial Wax Solvent have done a wonderful job, crafting a tight set of quintessentially Fall avant rockers. This is probably the best Fall album since The Unutterable and it's probably no coincidence that it's also the most electronic-sounding Fall album since that particular late-period classic. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who though that Smith's underrated collaboration with Toma in Von Sudenfed represented the only valid way forward for the great man.

Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna LP (The Social Registry)
Like Fennesz, Gang Gang Dance have roots in experimental abstraction and a potentially bright future introducing mainstream listeners to the roller-coaster thrills of the avant garde. Saint Dymphna comes much closer than Black Sea to being the perfect storm of pop and pandemonium that I've been craving but it still sounds rather hesitant or - at least - a little too content to simply do its thing.

Much of Saint Dymphna is taken up with twinkly digital synth jams that add nicely to the overall flow of the album but just don't kick ass like they should. When Gang Gang get punchy, though, they pretty much lay waste to the competition. "Princes" - featuring grime MC Tinchy Stryder - and the Kate Bush-esque "House Jam" both deserve a mention in any reasonable Songs of the Year list.

Portishead - Third 2LP (Universal)
This was a good year for long-awaited returns. My Blood Valentine's return to the live arena was undoubtedly the most significant musical event of the 21st century (so far). It would have been pretty hard to top that but the arrival of a new Portishead album also represented a pretty significant event for those of us who came of age in the '90s.

Third - it has been said - is Portishead's Kid A. That may be a rather trite thing to say about a 1990s alt-fave releasing their most experimental album to date but it's really not too wide of the mark. Like Kid A, this album sees a popular act taking on a range of left-field influences whilst simultaneously boiling their own unique musical language down to its bare essentials. For sheer audacity alone, the Spartan "Machine Gun" would have to be high up in my Singles of the Year list.

alva noto - Unitxt 2X12" (Raster Noton)
Not long ago, post-Oval computer music seemed like the most embarrassingly uncool musical thing imaginable. But the efforts of a few diehards kept the flame alive during those lean times and 2008 became the year that glitch returned to okay-to-like status. The fact that this all happened remarkably quickly is extremely validating for those of us who kept the faith. On the other hand, it might just be a reflection of the fact that today's listeners want to dabble in a little of everything, without committing themselves to anything for too long.

Whatever... The fact that people are paying attention to Carsten Nicolai again is cause for celebration. The really exciting thing, though, is the fact that Nicolai - aka alva noto - is producing some of his most compelling work to date. On Unitxt, noto funnels the sound of raw digital data into viciously clinical grooves. Heard on the beautifully cut vinyl edition, this is a pretty-much perfect mix of the digital uncanny and good old-fashioned physicality.

Astral Social Club - Model Town in Field of Mud LP (Textile)
Have I mentioned that I put an album out this year? Oh yeah, it was the fourth connect_icut album, it was called They Showed Me the Secret Beaches, it had a really cool cover, it was critically acclaimed and - of course - nobody bought it. I couldn't be more proud of Secret Beaches but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to top it and - in any case - the fiscal effects of putting out deluxe LPs that don't sell are becoming a bit too brutal for me to stomach.

Luckily, there's always Astral Social Club. Model Town in Field of Mud is the sound of the post-Sun City Girls free-rock underground rising to the challenge of digital technology. It's a joyful riot of noise and melody, chaos and structure. It sounds kind of like my stuff and I like it a lot.

Beequeen - Sandancing CD (Important)
(also Sandancing Demos 10")
The ongoing transformation of Beequeen from sub-:zoviet*france: dark ambient industrialists to shadowy craftsmen of finely-wrought nocturnal song-scapes is one of the most marvellously confounding stories in recent musical history. Like Ownliness and The Body Shop before it, this album mixes post-rock, glitch, jazz, pop and folk to genuinely sexy effect.

The Sandancing Demos 10" makes a worthwhile appendix, presenting the finely crafted tunes of the album as a set of beguilingly off-the-cuff lo-fi sketches.

Restiform Bodies - TV Loves You Back CD (Anticon)
If hip-hop is redundant in 2008, doesn’t that make post-rap beyond redundant? Honestly, there are dozens of reasons to hate TV Loves You Back: the over-convoluted rhyming; the “ironic” '80s pop sounds; the token splashes of smarty-pants electronica; the lapses into dumb-as-fuck puerility; the unforgivable misogyny; the constant harping on about the evils of mass-media consumerism; the "zany" photo shoots...

And yet I keep coming back to it. How could something so hard to like be so hard not to love? More than likely, it's just a beautiful mystery but if I had to hypothesize a couple of scientific explanations, I'd go with: (a) complicity and (b) realization.

Complicity, then. The fact that TV Loves You Back constitutes an unrelenting 45-minute attack on the corrosive influence of TV and consumer culture could - and to some extent does - make it bit of a wearing listen. The thing that makes it bearable is that it's a story told from the outside moving in. Structured as a true concept album, it starts with third-person hectoring and moves inexorably towards first-person despair. The impression one is left with is that Restiform Bodies genuinely love TV - it's themselves they can't stand. I couldn't disagree more with the PopMatters review of this album - there's no distance here; no judgement. There's complicity.

Then, realization. Restiform Bodies have been waaayyy off the radar for years, so they've had plenty of time to craft a tight set of songs. And holy crap have they ever succeeded! The lyrics are incredibly dense with horrifically vivid imagery, the tunes are insanely catchy and the songs are all ingenious multi-part constructions. Nothing is meaningless here and nothing is left to chance. "Opulent Soul" is the Song of the Year and "Interactive Halloween Bear" isn't far behind.

In fact, this might have been in the running for Album of the Year if it wasn't for all that stuff that I just can't forgive - not least the icky (ironic?) misogyny of "A Pimp-Like God". If these guys could stop thinking with their dicks, they'd probably take over the world.

Rafael Toral - Space Elements Vol. 1 LP (TAIGA)
The Space Programme is surely the most conceptually ambitious thing going in experimental music right now. As a man who made his name in the '90s purveying ear-pleasing guitar abstraction, Rafael Toral would be forgiven for wanting a piece of the post-Fennesz pie. Instead, he's simultaneously burrowing into the roots of electronic music and launching his considerable imagination into the cosmos.

Toral's Space albums meditate upon the sonic absences that link John Cage, modern jazz and outer space itself, mixing hot-wired electronics with free improvisation in the context of a very specific High Modernist aesthetic. Toral is fiercely serious about this stuff and while the results may initially sound like your dad's idea of experimental music, attentive listening reveals a fundamentally new music characterized by an ornate, otherworldly beauty.

Space Elements Vol. 1 is the Space Programme's most ambitious mission so far, almost orchestral in its large-scale realisation, totally admirable in every way and a great listen to boot.

Russell Haswell - Second Live Salvage 2LP (Editions Mego)
Like the alva noto album, this is a beautifully cut two-record set that adds a distinct physicality to that most virtual of genres - computer music. Russell Haswell is a bona fide sound artist - his work mostly consists of site-specific installations and performances and is not really designed for home listening. Haswell's Live Salvage albums compound this fact by presenting documentary-style live recordings as his most high-profile commercially available releases.

From a purely sonic standpoint, it's an approach that works wonders. Like his sometime collaborator Florian Hecker, Haswell is a hardcore proponent of academic-grade music software. Again like Hecker, he uses this definitively cerebral sound source to unleash an astonishingly visceral sound, the elemental power of which is truly transcendent. It makes sense that, to facilitate the transformation from bits-and-bytes to true, air-shaking sonic chaos, Haswell has to situate his music in a room. Heard on headphones, straight from the hard-drive of Haswell's laptop, this stuff wouldn't have half the force it does.

Second Live Salvage is sourced entirely from audience recordings of Haswell performances. The sound quality is variable but none of the recordings take the edge off Haswell's raw power - quite the opposite, one suspects. This is the sound of computer music getting out of the ether and bringing the house down.

Bubbling Under

Can't - Private Time Two LP (Weird Forest)
Jessica Rylan - aka Can't - has more than a little in common with Russell Haswell: both artists seem to command a great deal of respect in the legitimate art world; both deal in an unusually nuanced version of harsh noise/power electronics; and both released albums with really awesome cover art this year.

There are differences too. If anything, Rylan's noise is even more visceral than Haswell's, particularly on this album. And whereas his work is presented as an imposingly cerebral/Apollonian version of extreme music, hers is more openly personal and cathartic. This is mirrored in the fact that whereas Haswell's music is produced by high-level software applications, Rylan primarily uses her own voice, run through an array of homemade synthesizers.

Rylan's 2005 album New Secret (which mistakenly found its way into my 2006 top ten) cloaked confessional lyrics in a suffocating blanket of modulated distortion. Private Time Two, by contrast, is sharp and shocking. Kris, who has remarkable tolerance for harsh noise, openly proclaimed it to be "a bit much".

In any case, it's hard to deny the uniqueness of Rylan's artistic voice, the clarity of her execution or her remarkable range. Private Time Two encompasses ornate noise sculptures, Jandek-style bummer folk, twisted cabaret numbers and no-holds-barred primal scream therapy. It's one of those albums you won't listen to every day but when you're in the mood for it, nothing else will hit the mark.

The Bug - London Zoo CD (Ninja Tune)
(also King Midas Sound - "Cool Out" 12")
Not quite the mind-bomb I was hoping Kevin Martin would drop this year and insanely expensive on vinyl, this nevertheless featured some of the fiercest beats of 2008. "Fuckaz" featuring the spaceape is among my Songs of the Year.

If London Zoo represents a partially successful attempt to add some light and space to Martin's signature aesthetic, including "Cool Out" - released on Hyperdub under his King Midas Sound moniker - would definitely have upped the hit-rate. Roger Robinson's ambiguously heavenly vocal provides the perfect foil for Martin's heavyweight beats - just as Paul St. Hilaire's has done on past projects – making “Cool Out” one of the essential Singles of the Year.

High Places - 03.07 - 09.07 and High Places CDs (Thrill Jockey)
Okay, so this Brooklyn duo may be the poor person's Gang Gang Dance but that's not such a bad thing to be in 2008. It's hard to choose between the two album's they released this year: The singles collection 03.07 - 09.07 has better tunes but the self-titled album proper has quite a bit more oomph in the sonics.

Various Artists - Spire Live: Fundamentalis LP (Touch)
(also Fennesz/Jeck/Matthews - Amoroso 7")

This collection of live recordings documenting the Touch label's Spire series of church organ concerts presents a remarkably coherent aesthetic statement, which is as beautiful as it is imposingly monolithic. The 7" provides a nice addition, although it doesn't catch Fennesz on top form.

Lawrence English - Kiri no Oto CD (Touch)
Another Touch release from what turned out to be a fantastic year for the veteran UK label. This one presents heavyweight digital drone from the Australian fellow behind Room40 recordings. "Allay", in particular is an absolutely stunning piece of minimalist impressionism, worthy of the great Ekkehard Ehlers.

Other Notable Releases

Aerosol Constellations/Born Without Bones - split one-sided LP
Aerosol Constellations are the duo of Vancouver weird punks behind the already-legendary Fake Jazz events. They trade in :zoviet*france:-style drift and they may just be the best band out of Vancouver right now. Most of their output comes in the form of hand-packaged CDRs but - for those of you who just have to have some wax - they've also put out this splendid and highly desirable item.

Oren Ambarchi - Destinationless Desire 7" and A Final Kiss on Poisoned Lips one-sided LP
Ambarchi continued to go from strength to strength this year, with these two releases featuring some of his best work to date. The 7" is more-than-usually electronic-sounding and samples Fairport Convention. The one-sided LP includes part of his stunning 2007 show at the Vancouver New Music Festival.

Basic Channel - BCD2 CD
Of course, I have all the 12"s but this CD represents a considerably more affordable way to learn about how Basic Channel came to define the sound of minimal techno. The 17 minutes and 45 seconds of "Inversion" are worth the asking price alone.

James Devane - James Devane free download
This probably became a bit redundant the moment an actual Fennesz album got released but if you can't get enough guitar'n'granular drift then this is well worth the no asking price. Get it from Bremsstrahlung Recordings.

Empty Love and Les Beyond - Wedding cassette
Slightly biased here, as Empty Love is the fellow who put out the first connect_icut CD. Still, it's hard to deny that there's something special in this marriage of EL's deliberately stark and cold analogue drones to Les Beyond's US post-rock-style guitar chimes. I put it down to the fact that the two elements come just close enough to gelling, without ever become too cosy. An uneasy wedded bliss.

Kellarissa - Flamingo CD
One of two great 2008 albums featuring ex-members of P:ano, my all-time second favourite Vancouver indie rock act (after The Beans). An undeniably unique mix of synth pop, Finnish folk, Juana Molina-style live-looping and dub FX.

kode 9 - "Konfusion" 12"
“Konfusion" is pretty much business as usual, which is no bad thing coming from kode 9. Shackleton may be ahead of him in the avant dubstep sweepstakes but this should give kode 9's fans nothing to complain about. In fact, "Konfusion" is probably the best single track he's given us since "Backwards".

Machinefabriek - Huiswerk 7"
It's more-or-less impossible to keep up with the prodigious output of post-Fennesz computer musician Rutger Zuyderveldt aka Machinefabriek. Still, everything I've heard by him this year has been... worth hearing, at the very least. For a bite-size sampler, you could do much worse than this 7" on Vancouver's very excellent Ketchup Cavern label.

Stephan Mathieu - Radioland CD
Radioland is collection of heavenly music from one of the true glitch gods; shortwave radio transmissions channelled through an array of Max/MSP delays in a manner that recalls Keith Fullerton Whitman's masterful Playthroughs. Mathieu saves the best for last here - the album's final track "Prolog i Himmel" starts with a landslide of granular detritus before settling into a gorgeous plainsong-like chant, leaving vapour trails of drone in its wake.

Daniel Menche - Body Melt LP
While most this Portland artist's work seems to fit easily with the West Coast “posinoise” sound defined by the likes of Yellow Swans and John Wiese, Body Melt is something of a departure, being based around analogue synth drones and Native American percussion. There's far less distortion here than you might expect but this is a primal and intense sound experience nonetheless. Imagine a post-punk version of early Popol Vuh.

No Kids - Come Into My House LP
The other great post-P:ano album of the year. This time, a smarty-pants pop confection, sure to delight fans of Arthur Russell and Scritti Politti.

Popol Vuh - "Nachts: Schnee (Mika Vainio Remix)"/"Aguirre 1 (Haswell and Hecker Remix)" 12"
What with the Daniel Mench album and all, this was clearly the year that purveyors of abrasive electronica discovered the charms of Florian Fricke's new age krautrock ensemble Popol Vuh. The fact that this 12" came out on Editions Mego (not to mention red vinyl) meant that it was probably the 2008 release that was most accurately niche-marketed to me personally. Is there any chance of getting a whole album of this stuff?

Arthur Russell - Love is Overtaking Me CD
While this is a collection of highly obscure rarities, it actually combines some of Arthur Russell's most conventional songs. As such, it's not all gold - there's some sub-Van Morrison blue-eyed soul that is decidedly disposable. Still, when the tracks concentrate on integrating ideas from folk, electro-pop and the avant garde, the results are often stunning. "Eli" is droning song about a dog and it's worthy of Russell's classic World of Echo. His orchestrated version of the traditional "Goodbye Old Paint" beats Van Dyke Parks at his own game.

Shackleton/Mordant Music - "El Din"/"Olde Wobbly" 10"
This is an absolutely stunning split single of haunted dancehall numbers. Showcasing Shackleton's world-beating avant dubstep and Mordant's hauntological techno at their very best, this certainly ranks as one of the Singles of the Year.

Sick Buildings - Mains Frequency Flicker 3" CDR
This Vancouver noise artist is moving ever closer to pure conceptual sound art. Mains Frequency Flicker provides a marvellously concise encapsulation of the Sick Buildings concept.

Chris T-T - Capital CD
T-T is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves. As expected, Capital is a mixed bag of shear brilliance and really bad artistic decisions but the best moments are very, very good indeed. Much better than anything Billy Bragg's done in about two decades, anyway.

Various Artists - Emergency Room Vol. 1 LP (Grotesque Modern/Nominal)
This is a great overview of Vancouver's world-renowned "weird punk" scene. While it focuses on the scene's more conventional no wave-influenced band's - including my personal favourite, Twin Crystals - this is a record that finds room for the abstract sounds of the aforementioned Sick Buildings.

Two New Mixes

Not Me: The Acid Folk Remix Project
Here's my extra-special Christmas gift to you. Okay, so the final tracklisting is not ready at the time of publishing but the Soundcloud players below will grow organically as new songs are added throughout December. This is the place to check for Acid Folk Remix Project updates. Email me if you want a CDR copy of the finished product.

Side A:
1. Chris Mastheim - "Winter is Blue" (Vashti Bunyan cover)
2. Anne Briggs - "Living by the Water (Not Me Extended Remix by connect_icut)"
3. Comus - "The Bite (Not Me Remix by Esperik Glare)"
4. connect_icut - "Cruel" (based on "Cruel Sister" by The Pentangle and "The Cruel Mother" by Shirley Collins)

Side B:
1. Skullfucker - "Evil Island Home" (Kevin Coyne cover) [Added December 19th]
2. The Luminaries - "I Would Not Let You Drown" (based on "Sweet Child" by The Pentangle)
3. Steeleye Span - "Rogues in a Nation (Not Me Extended Remix by connect_icut)"
4. The Watersons - "Christmas is Now Drawing Near Drawing Near at Hand (Not Me Remix by Gunshae)" [Added December 17th]

Sam's Mix for Winter 2008/9
Available only as a hard-copy CDR for friends and family. Email me if you want a copy (I haven't actually burned any yet but I will, prob'ly). Here's what you'll get:

1. The Fall - "Tommy Shooter"
2. Twin Crystals - "No Clinics"
3. Kellarissa - "Flamingo"
4. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - "Flaming Home"
5. Machinefabriek with Soccer Committee - "Di-o-day"
6. High Places - "
The Storm"
7. Gang Gang Dance with Tinchy Stryder - "Princes"
8. Restiform Bodies - "Opulent Soul"
9. The Bug with the spaceape - "Fuckaz"
10. Shackleton - "The Rope Tightens"
11. Ricardo Villalobos - "Minimoonstar"
alva noto - "U_08-1"
13. Fennesz - "Perfume for Winter"
14. Lawrence English - "Allay"
15. Stephan Mathieu - "Prolog i Himmel"

Alright then, that's yer lot - bringing another epic Top Ten post (and five years of The Blogglebum Cage) to a close.

Additions: 23rd December
In the last few days, I’ve added two new tracks to the Acid Folk Remix Project play-lists:
  1. The Watersons – “Christmas is Now Drawing Near at Hand (Not Me Remix by Gunshae)” [Incredible re-imagining from Vancouver’s ambient masters Gunshae]
  2. Skullfucker – “Evil Island Home” [Hair-raising lo-fi outsider folk reading of the Kevin Coyne classic, coutesy of the mysterious Skullfucker]
Looks to me like volume one of The Project is now finished. Look out for volume two in December 2009.

Also, over the last couple of weeks I have discovered the following (excellent) 2008 releases:
• Fennesz- June
Fennesz/Dafeldecker/Brandlmyr – ‘Til the World’s Blown Up…
• Flight of the Conchords - s/t
• Lau Nau - Nukkuu
Peter Rehberg – Songs for GV
• Shackleton - Soundboy's Suicide Note
• Tape - Luminarium
• Noriko Tujiko – Trust
• Noriko Tujiko/Lawrence English/John Chantler – U
• James Yorkston – When the Haar Rolls In

Some other lists worth viewing:
Tower of Sleep
The Decibel Tolls
Raven Sings the Blues
And You May Find Yourself
Jon Dale

One thing I've noticed: A lot of album's that received tepid reviews upon their releases have been showing up in tons of lists (Gang Gang Dance and The Bug spring to mind).

(Small, informal) party at my place, New Year's Day! Email for details.

RIP Davy Graham.


Anonymous said...

Biggie Samuels - we hardly knew ye. Haste ye back.

I'm looking at that list (and starting to think about mine) and reckoning that 2008 hasn't been as awful as you make it out to be. Especially for Touch, who really are going from strength to strength.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you on Black Sea. When the Saffron single dropped, I kinda knew what was coming. When it got out that the album was more "orchestral" compared to the song-based structures of Endless Summer and Venice, I got a little suspicious. And you're right, it's a phenomenal album, and yet it's a slight disappointment. Expectations...

Gonna look up Astral Social Club and Russell Haswell before I get on with my own list for 2008. Hope to see you back in action soon, though. Take care.

Anonymous said...

This is a very informative and novel year end list-full of nice surprises. I will go back and relisten and let you know what I think.

Biggie Samuels said...

Firstly, thanks for the kind words y’all. While this really is the end of The Blogglebum Cage, I’m already beginning to wonder how long I’ll be able to hold out before starting another blog - hopefully one with a much better name.

Now to address a couple of your specific points…

”I'm looking at that list (and starting to think about mine) and reckoning that 2008 hasn't been as awful as you make it out to be.”

Most likely, I was just apologizing for my own choices being so obvious. The top ten’s mostly just a bunch of old codgers refining their chops. It’s not like I haven’t been lending my ear to younger, less well-established artists in 2008. It’s just that most of what I’ve heard has seemed either tame or outright lame. There must be some iconoclastic young musicians out there, doing something brilliant and truly original. Goodness knows where they’re hiding though.

”Agree with you on Black Sea. When the Saffron single dropped, I kinda knew what was coming.”

I was not that bowled over by “Saffron Revolution”. In retrospect, I think it was an odd choice for the single. That gurgling toilet noise really bugs me. Wouldn’t “Perfume for Winter” or “Grey Scale” have been a better choice? My guess is that Touch wanted to leak something that was representative of the album overall.

charlie m. said...

some good choices..I can shamefully say that I haven't bought much music that actually was released this year though. The marriage tape is indeed good! Have you heard Grouper's "Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill" from this year? I think Brad would second my recommendation of it

Biggie Samuels said...

Yeah, Grouper's alright but I feel sorry for the deer.

Anonymous said...

you seem to have decent taste in music. although, i really think you need to stop taking this stuff so seriously. just enjoy it. post what you like, and if you don't like it, don't bother with it. isn't picking it apart even if you like it kind of pointless?

Biggie Samuels said...

No. I don't see music as just another product to be consumed. I see it as a magical force that can stop wars and stuff. I take music very, very seriously indeed and I'm not embarrassed to admit it, whereas you don’t even have the courage to sign your name to a blog comment.

Mark E. Rich said...

Aren't you gonna miss all those anonymous blog comments? Or all those hipster dipshits dissing you because your local scene analysis is "overwrought" (Re: thoughtful)? I could see why you would give up on the blogging world. Funny pictures of kittehs and naked ladies just cannot compete with personal music critiques of thee Blogglebum Cage.

Anyways, the top ten looks pretty good, though I feel like I could've told you what it was gonna be 6 months ago.

Still haven't heard the Fennesz, and probably won't for some time due to the rampant Nazism (re: iTunesification) of the Zulu stereo.

Good to see that we had at least one similar choice, namely, Menche's Body Melt, which I put in my Zulu top 10. Nothing like a good 500 run, drone-bliss LP to get you through the rainy season in Vancouver.

Your post Rocktoberfest will be sorely missed, I assure you. You're welcome to rejoin to blogging world anytime you like.

Send requests for hip-hop Fridays anytime you like.

Biggie Samuels said...

Hip-hop Fridays over at Expressway to My Skull is the most exciting thing happening right now, music blog-wise. Essential reading/downloading.

I can't believe you wouldn't be allowed to play the Fennesz at Zulu. Easy on the ear + popular = ka-ching! Surely?

Nice to see some of my picks making it into Zulu top tens. Especially good to see alva noto and Fennesz on the lists.

Brady Cranfield! said...

fuck anonymous. i read your blog exactly because you take music seriously. you'll be missed. thanks, buddy.

Biggie Samuels said...

I mean, who compliments someone on their taste in cerebral electronic music, then tells them they shouldn’t take it all so seriously? Who does that?

Biggie Samuels said...

Did my final record buying for the year today (I have literally 46 cents left in my annual budget, so unless someone can hip me to a record store with a wicked-ass 25 cent bin…) I got that one-sided Fennesz 12” (on marbled orange vinyl!) Played it three times, thinking “man this is great but boy is it ever dark” before realizing that it plays at 45, not 33. It’s even better at 45, though not quite as dark. Also picked up the “Soundboy’s Suicide Note” EP by Shackleton, which reinforces all of the good things I’ve already said about him in this post. Add to that the fact that it’s Hip-Hop Friday again over at Expressway and that an actual CD of Black Sea just arrived in the mail (sounds waaay better than the MP3s I stole from teh intertubes) and you get a pretty rad end to the week.

Biggie Samuels said...

Oh and it turns out that Jonathan Richman put out a single this year called "You've Got a Cell Phone, That's Okay but Not for Me". I don't even need to hear that to tell you it's single of the year!

Paul said...

Nice TV Loves You Back review even so the misogyny comment isn't really accurate... Anyway bad feedback is good feedback right ? : )

—Unofficial RB's blog

Biggie Samuels said...

Nice to hear from someone in the Restiform body, so to speak. Thanks for being good sports about this, RB's! I'd still like a little explanation of why "the misogyny comment isn't really accurate."

In other news, the vinyl of "Black Sea" just turned up in the mail and I'm going to listen to it right now. Turns out working from home can be fun.

Anonymous said...

I keep returning to this list. Talk about going out with a bang... I'd sure like on of those CDR-mixes, if you got any. Looked for your album when I was in New York a while ago, but you know, as a first-timer in that city, finding the actual record stores turned out to be a major hassle (I went by a list of places that Maya of Double Leopards/Religious Knives had scribbled on a note for me). Merry Christmas!

Biggie Samuels said...

Good to see someone is tracking some of this stuff down. Check the bottom of the post regularly for some latecomer additions (being underemployed, I have a lot of time to download and listen to new music).

The best way to buy the connect_icut album is via mail order. If you're in North America, try Scratch Records. If you're in Europe, try Rough Trade.

But David, if you email me your postal address, I'll send you a free copy of the album plus the mix CD and a bunch of other stuff.