My Top 40 Albums of 2008: Numbers 16 Through 9

So, we’ve come to the second last installment of my Top 40 Albums of 2008. Before plunging into the fray once more, I will attempt to remind you of what music the summer of 2008 brought with it. July kicked off with releases by Beck, The Black Ghosts, Ratatat, The Hold Steady, and an excellent Kitsune remix album by Digitalism. The month ended with albums from post-punk veterans Wire, CSS, Bodies of Water, Little Ones, Friendly Fires, The Black Kids, and The Great Northwest. Of course there was also a rather disappointing new album from Primal Scream and the debut from Ida Maria, whose song Better When You’re Naked has drilled a painful hole into the back of my skull.

The latter half of summer, namely August, saw records from Vanilla Swingers, The Faint, Noah and the Whale, Late of the Pier, The Stills, Ra Ra Riot, and Pop Levi. There were also records that have already appeared in this countdown, including those from Van She, The Deer Tracks, and Duchess Says. August also brought the solo debut by Conor Oberst, which I confess confused me since I figured he essentially was Bright Eyes, and The Airbourne Toxic Event released their debut album, culminating in pointless, unwinnable wars with Pitchfork. And there was the seemingly inevitable comeback album from The Verve that I frankly didn’t need.

Almost there…

16. We Just Are – The Japanese Popstars

Though this debut from Irish electronic outfit The Japanese Popstars is yet to release in North America, I’m still counting its release as in 2008. It is everything I’ve been waiting for in an electronic record after the excitement over Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, Boys Noize, and Digitalism last year. There are mind-shattering moments of violent electronics balanced with gentle percolation of synth sound and flashes of laser. In essence, there’s a sophistication to the gritty power of the beats – it’s a bit like being bloodily taken out by a hitman in a very nice suit.

Sample Whore – The Japanese Popstars

Delboys Revenge – The Japanese Popstars

15. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

I’m not an expert on Nick Cave – I only own some Birthday Party and his From Her to Eternity album. But I like to think I know a fantastic album when I hear one and the latest from Cave and his Bad Seeds is just that. After his Grinderman project, Cave appears to have returned to his older group in fine form with dark, vivid storytelling and his haunting habit of weaving a spell on par with mysterious religions; Cave’s rich, raspy voice is that of a worldly preacher who has already seen plenty of fire and brimstone here on Earth, but who has also encountered the ridiculous in humanity’s flaws and had a good, smoke-rattled laugh about it. I already included the excellent single that shares its title with the album in a previous mix, but that gives me an opportunity to showcase some of the other great tracks on a record which takes you on a journey through raw rock soundscapes and dusty midnights the colour of loneliness. If anyone can commune with the recently raised from the dead and show them a good time, it’s Nick Cave.

Night of the Lotus Eaters – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

More News From Nowhere – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

14. Do You Like Rock Music? – British Sea Power

British Sea Power’s third album seemed to crash through the barricades at the start of this year, raising the Brighton-based band’s profile around the world. This record fuses the band’s trademark arcane wit with heart-fluttering songs that recall the spiritual intensity of artists like The Arcade Fire. Songs like No Lucifer and Waving Flags took unlikely subject matter of impending apocalypses and immigration and created anthems of inspiring beauty, and then songs like Lights Out For Darkier Skies, Atom, and Down on the Ground justified the record’s title a thousand times over. A light aura seems to permeate the entire album with a gentle glow that works its way into your blood until every cell in your body is singing.

Waving Flags – British Sea Power

Atom – British Sea Power

13. Limbo, Panto – Wild Beasts

This record was unexpected in that it completely marches to its own drummer. And the drummer is a fey public school boy with a multiple personality disorder and a touch of satyriasis. The Klaus Nomi-inflected vocals with Finn Andrews-like anguished growls paired with the quirky patchwork of musical styles and equally offbeat, though literate, lyrics made for an endlessly interesting listen. Some may hate this album, but I love it. And I suppose, in the end, it’s one of those kind of records.

Vigil For a Fuddy Duddy – Wild Beasts

Woebegone Wanderers – Wild Beasts

12. Surreal Auteur – Allegories

While I may not listen to all that much ambient music on a regular basis, Canadian duo Allegories transcends this particular genre, and all other genres for that matter. The intricate tapestry of this debut album is composed of three major movements that wash over you with unknowable yet familiar sounds, connecting with parts of you that you didn’t know existed until its gauzy web tapped into your nervous system. This record reaches inside you and plants roots, ensuring your imagination will blossom with your own narratives.

Grass Toboggan – Allegories

Acro(nym) – Allegories

11. Everything/Everything – Simon Bookish

This album defines the current Information Age where everything comes at you all of the time, and classically-trained songwriter/musician Simon Bookish (real name: Leo Chadburn) has the skills to communicate the hubbub and overload via music perfectly. The jumble of musical styles and tempos convey urgency and apathy in equal turns as it bounds from brass clarion calls to vaudeville chamber pop to electronic whizzbangs. Bookish’s hushed baritone is the voice of our times as he ruminates from what sounds like a fortress designed by Roald Dahl.

The Flood – Simon Bookish

Victorinox – Simon Bookish

10. Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke

And so the parade from Modular continues – their A&R people deserve many an accolade. Ladyhawke AKA Pip Brown had been skipping about my radar a long time before her debut album actually released. She has managed to glean and utilize all that was good about 80s electronic music without sounding passé or ironic. The high drama of Magic mingles with the streetwise cool of Manipulating Woman, the disco inferno of Paris is Burning and the driving shimmer of Back of the Van. Her voice has just the right amount of laidback distance and husky attitude and her music is like the solidification of all your favourite, but ephemeral, musical memories.

Magic – Ladyhawke

Professional Suicide – Ladyhawke

9. Velocifero – Ladytron

Another lady, so to speak. This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and thankfully, it delivered brilliantly. It will always be difficult to top Destroy Everything You Touch, but this record battles towards that territory with self-assured, measured steps. The fuzzy beats, crisp drum machines and austere synthesizers circle each other in an emotionally taut dance. Highlights include the glam stomp and celtic chant of Ghosts, the clipped rhythm and haughty chords of Deep Blue, and the incessant pulse and infectious groove of Runaway. Named after a stylish Italian scooter, this album projects an atmosphere of clandestine meetings and daring escape. Absolutely mesmerizing.

Ghosts – Ladytron

Deep Blue – Ladytron

The honourable mention this time is the self-titled album from Eugene McGuinness (perhaps I should have made this a countdown of my top albums from slightly eccentric wordy people). This album is full of gleeful jabs of repartee and impish rapiers of drollery while also including melodies bristling with energy and invention. I first became aware of McGuinness via my friend, Lisa, who found a music video on YouTube; his songs about being down a rabbit hole define both of our lives most of the time, so it figures she’s the one who found him first. Life is strange and so is this album, which suits me fine.

Moscow State Circus – Eugene McGuinness

Next week the upper echelons of my countdown will be revealed – from what I can tell, I’m not really converging too well with anyone else’s list, but you probably already noticed that. Considering there haven’t been any more comments for this series one way or another, I will take the silence as agreement, or at the very least, tolerance. Or perhaps indifference. No matter. This weekend also brings the second part of my weekly mix year-end round-up.

3 Responses to “My Top 40 Albums of 2008: Numbers 16 Through 9”

  1. 1 Rol
    December 22, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    It reassures me that the further down your list you go, the more I know! I’m a big Nick Cave fan, but a few stand-out tracks aside, I just couldn’t get into Dig!!, though I appreciate his return to ROCK.

  2. 2 JC
    December 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Great list….looking forward to its conclusion.

    And if you read this Rol….its one of those albums where the songs sound far better played live…..

  3. 3 JC
    December 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Re the lack of comments…..its just the way things go at this time of the year. Fewer hits and fewer comments (put it down to the regular audience not being at work/college etc and when they are at home they have no time to themselves…)

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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave


So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun


Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head


Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away


Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners


Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away


You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender


I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding


You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black


Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side


Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb


Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape


Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah


And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love


We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's


Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south


Running on


As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different


LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell


Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't


So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need


The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest


Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know


No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more


All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids


Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome

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