The best of 2008


OK

It’s that time of year again. The wrap. After a great deal of deliberation I have arrived at my Albums of the year and my best of 2008 CD.

You’ll not be surprised to see my usual heavy inclusion of female singer songwriters, although in percentage terms they are rather lower than usual – only about 25%. There’s more Rock ‘n ‘roll than previous years. Don’t know why. Just a good year for rock I suppose.

In no particular order my albums of the year were.

Dig Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Reviewed here. A total classic that is full of cracking and totally unique songs. I absolutely adore this record.

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Third by Portishead. Ten years in gestation it was worth every second of the wait. Eerie, disconcerting. Unique. I reviewed it here.

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22 Dreams by Paul Weller. I’m not a fan usually, but this record is wonderful. Reviewed here.

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The Very Best of Ethiopiques by various artists. What a wonderful discovery. In a classic year for world music, in particular african stuff this blew me away as I explained here.

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Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam. Just in. Just Wonderful. This Malian couple make stunning fresh pop music. Not had time to review it yet.

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The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow. Deserved winners of The Mercury Prize. This album came from nowhere and was a hot contender for my album of the year. I reviewed it here.

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Only by the Night by Kings of Leon. They just keep getting better. This is a fine record with great grinding melodies.

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Stay Positive by The Hold Steady. What a wonderful, opoetic record. The other big contender for album of the year. Reviewed here.

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Glasvegas by Glasvegas. Yikes. Scotland’s best this year. Huge sound great lyrics and Geraldine is a gem of a song. Reviewed here.

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A Piece of What You Need by Teddy Thomson. This is a great underground folky, rocky album by the son of Richard and Linda Thomson that has been on heavy rotation this year. I suspect Jeana would have it as her album of the year. Very good. Reviewed here.

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Juno Soundtrack by Various Artists. One of the movies of the year and a cracking soundtrack to go with it. Another one that received heavy rotation in the spring and summer. Reviewed here.

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Aman Iwan by Tinariwen. Last but certainly not least it was actually released in 2007 but it only came to my attention this year. The third of my much loved African albums on the list. Reviewed here.

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I have to say in conclusion that Dig Lazarus Dig!!! wins my overall album of the year.

And so, to my best of the year CD…

As usual, if you want a copy you need only ask.

Probably the hardest decision of all was to leave off One day Like This by Elbow in favour of Starlings, but my rules only allow one song per artist.

Overall I thought 2008 was a vintage year and I think this might be my best ‘best of’ yet…

Here’s how it pans out.

1. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
2. That’s not my name by The Ting Tings
3. Cler Achel by Tinariwen
4. The Rip by Portishead
5. Come On Over (Turn Me On) by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
6. Have You Made Up Your Mind by Paul Weller
7. Freeway by Aimee Mann
8. Family Tree by TV On The Radio
9. Lights Out by Santogold
10. In My Arms by Teddy Thompson
11. You Cheated Me by Martha Wainwright
12. Geraldine by Glasvegas
13. Starlings by Elbow
14. Daydreamer by Adele
15. The Age Of The Understatement by The Last Shadow Puppets
16. Crawl by Kings Of Leon
17. Lord, I’m Discouraged by The Hold Steady
18. 5 Years Time by Noah And The Whale
19. Sabali by Amadou and Mariam

So good was this year’s stock that I’m strongly considering a ‘B sides best of”.

What do you think?

The aforementioned One Day Like This would feature, as would a couple of tracks from the Very Best Of Ethiopiques, and a great Karine Polwart song called Sorry are among the contenders…

recent listening


This is a bit different. A modern take on folk as a kind of folk supergroup. They could have called themselves Sky Ba’tat!

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Led by Martin and Eliza Carthy and featuring Sheila Chandra, Benjamin Zephania, Paul Weller, Trans-Global Underground, Billy Bragg, The Copper Family and Tuung it maybe shouldn’t work, but it does.

However, even though it’s a new take on folk if you don’t like folk you won’t like this. If you’re ambivalent it might just swing it for you.

They are The Imagined Village. What’s most interesting is when they meld olde English Folk with ‘World Rythms’ so that the percussion can be really interesting and exciting, particularly on the song “Cold Haily Rainy Night.”

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The other thing that’s heavily rotating on the car stereo is the soundtrack from Juno featuring a bunch of quirky off-beat stuff. “A bit kooky” would, I suppose, sum it up and no better demo of that is the Velvet Underground’s “I’m sticking with you” which is, for those of you that know it, is not typical Velvets.

In addition it features Dearest by Buddy Hololy which is really rather good and A Well Respected Man by The Kinks, thereafter you’re into Belle and Sebastian territory with a couple of contributions (Expectations and Piazza. New York Catcher). But the real backbone of the album is a bunch of college bands from the US that I’ve never heard of but would like to find out more, principally Kimya Dawson, but also Barry Louis Polisar, Antsy Pants and The Moldy Peaches.

Here’s some Kimya…

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It’s all good fun, feelgood stuff.

Well worth a tenner.

Juno – oh yes!


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Gosh.

I’ve just seen back to back breathtakingly good movies (No country for old men and this) and I’ve got “There will be blood” to come.  This is a vintage movie year, make no mistake. There will be no embarrasement like “Crash” in 2008’s Oscars (The Scottish remake is “Pish”)

It was really interesting that every award at the BAFTAs last week seemed justified and yet Atonement’s first award of the night was “Best Film”.

Made sense to me.

They say it’s all in the writing; and of course it is.  Of course it is – because that’s where the ideas lie.

Juno is quite extraordinarily written by this year’s original screenplay Oscar winner (if not I will eat my hat) Diablo Cody – great name by the way: well written.

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The script apparently has a bit of an autobiographical streak to it but who cares really because this script hums, zings, kerpows, shocks, amazes.

It is the best written movie I can remember.   I don’t buy that old school Casablanca was genius approach – because I think the writing was wooden – hence the acting.

The Coen’s movie from last week (which is brilliantly directed and acted) is largely lifted from McCarthy’s novel, so that maybe doesn’t compete as a “script”.

Juno, the film and the character, is ascerbic in the extreme, but that is where the film’s second great quality kicks in – Ellen Page.

In the hands of a lesser actress this would have turned into a vitriolic, acidic, bitchlike performance.  Instead it is funny, charming and endearing.  She too has a chance of an Oscar (I’ve not seen Julie Christie, so can’t comment, and as much as I loved Keira Knightley’s Atonement performance I do believe this is superior.)

This film is much funnier than I expected and when I say funny I don’t just mean “funny”, I mean “Dad, shut up you’re the loudest person in the cinema.” funny. (Said Tom.)  In a completely different way it is as funny as Borat.

And that’s funny.

I laughed out loud 20 times.  That makes good value for money in my book.

But it is also poignant, beautiful, well observed and has the kick-assest soundtrack you could ever conjure up from the fey fraternity, led by the likes of Belle and Sebastian who feature twice.  I will (sadly) buy the soundtrack (as will Kenneth Fowler).

Sorry to be so unoriginal but it really is another 9 out of 10 movie.

It really is.