Saturday, 13 December 2008

Best of 2008: Albums Part 3

This is the final part of the Keep/Pop/Loud album countdown, chronicling the best releases of 2008. However, before the countdown of the TOP 10 there’s one album that we’ve enjoyed too much to merely mention in the honourable mentions list, but didn’t think was actually good enough to feature in the TOP 20.

x) Kaiser ChiefsOff With Their Heads

We love Kaiser Chiefs here, and have done since they first came about. However this album, whilst being about 2/3 fantastic is also about 1/3 laughably awful. Take the single ‘Never Miss A Beat’, which has epic choruses and fantastic instrumentation yet manages to pack in some of the worst lyrics in pop music (“What do you want for tea? / I want crisps”). Such is the album, we have brilliance like ‘You Want History’ but shite like ‘Good Days, Bad Days’. Whilst we thing Mark Ronson did a good job in production it feels somewhat rushed overall, with ideas half-baked. Had the band spent more time ironing out early misfires they could have had a record of the year here, it makes it the more sad that they didn’t.

10) Los Campesinos!We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Los Campesinos! have definitely turned out to be the band of the year here. With two phenomenal releases under their belt and being one of very few acts who seem to have an innate understanding of just what ‘indie’ and independence means. Their second album is very much the sound of a band who know exactly what they’re doing, the song writing is incredible and the instrumentation can even be described as skilled.

9) Alphabeat This Is Alphabeat

The best straight up pop album of the year. Yes, it may be heavily indebted to some of the worst music of the 1980’s, but with this set of songs on offer we couldn’t resist. This originally came out in Denmark a while back, but having found out what worked and what didn’t, Alphabeat ditched the chaff, recorded new stuff to replace it and then went ahead and re-recorded some of the good songs too. As a consequence it feels a little like a compilation. But an awesome compilation of great pop singles.

8) GuillemotsRed

For some it seems that Red was something of a disappointment, especially after 2006s Through The Windowpane. However, whilst we do think that Guillemots debut was superior, we think that there’s much to love about this record. It’s a highly ambitious collection of pop songs, there’s tonnes of exotic sounds and influences going on, from the harsh clashes of synthesised strings on ‘Kriss Kross’ to the Chinese influenced ‘Clarion’ via the ‘80s pop of ‘Big Dog’. There’s a lot going on but rarely is it messy, and shows the incredible talent of Fyfe, MC Lord Magrão,
Aristazabal and Greig.

7) Pete & The PiratesLittle Death

It came out quiet early in the year but we’ve not forgotten about Pete And The Pirates. We were lured in by the irresistible scruffy indie of ‘Come On Feet’ and ‘Knots’, but on Little Death we found some of the most heartfelt little pop gems of the year. This is quiet simply a beautiful record, that creates its own little world that anyone can relate to. It’s a crying shame that this has been ignored by the record buying public in favour of rubbish like The Courteeners.

6) The Long Blondes“Couples”

We wont lie here, we don’t think that this is a patch on their debut. However it was the sound of a band taking strides in a different direction. There was more of an electronic influence, and the lyrics sung by Kate Jackson (who was on very fine form here) were slightly more abstract than the kitchen sink of what we were used to. Now, whilst ‘Round The Hairpin’ was overlong and slightly naff, there was still The Long Blondes ever-present glamour here and ‘Guilt’, ‘I Liked The Boys’ and ‘Century’ are examples of a fantastic band on top form. We’re very sad that they split up because of guitarist Dorian Cox’s stroke as this isn’t the sound of a band who are anywhere near finished. Maybe too arty at times but this here is pop, will all the elements we crave: glamour, brains, sex appeal, art, talent and brilliant songs.

5) Young KnivesSuperabundance

“Wow” is really the only way to sum up this record. After the stripped down angular post-punk of their debut we really wasn’t expecting such an epic record. There’s an orchestra providing the backing track to many of the albums high points (such as song of the year ‘Turn Tail) whilst at other times they go back to the indie dancefloor anthem of ‘Terra Firma’. This is apocalyptic in the same was as Muse (see ‘Current Of The River’), whilst retaining the humour of Britpop. A tripumph in every way.

4) dan le sac Vs. Scroobious PipAngles

On paper this doesn’t sound too good. It’s a mixture of spoken word and electronic music, following a novelty hit of a couple of years ago (‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’). The reality is that these two disparate characters have bought all manner of influences to the table to create an eclectic yet cohesive pop album. There’s a couple of tracks of filler but that doesn’t detract from the album as a whole: there’s big pop songs like ‘Look For The Woman’, hip-hop in the form of ‘Fixed’, and the Radiohead sampling ‘Letter From God To Man’. Mainly tackling the themes of death, love and loss, this is a chronicle of modern life.

3) SupergrassDiamond Hoo Ha

They’re our favourite band here at KPL so it’s no real surprise to find Supergrass somewhere at the top of our list. There’s not much we can say other than this is a brilliant rock band fully on form and going back to their glange (grunge/glam) roots and writing an album with not one duff song on it. Superb

2) Los Campesnios!Hold On Now, Youngster…

Debut of the year from the band of the year. There’s not much to add to what we said about WAB, WAD, other than whilst this is not as well recorded this album has the songs by the bucket load: ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’, ‘You! Me! Dancing!’, ‘Knee Deep At ATP’ and ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ could all have ended up on our end of year best of tape. Again, this is the DIY side of what Keep/Pop/Loud is about.

1) British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?

So, how come a POP blog has named a self declared rock album it’s album of the year? Well, because it’s thoroughly brilliant, that’s why. This is romantic, intelligent and intricate. Rock music that appeals to the heart and to the brain. It makes us want to learn about the things British Sea Power sing about. This to us is what rock music should be in the 21st century – not the regressive macho rubbish that Guns and Roses are peddling, but six minute long riff based tracks about light pollution. Whilst doom is hinted at on DYLRM? it’s never shown to be the course we’re stuck on. Basically, this album gives us hope, and makes us feel. So, we may be a Pop blog but we do like Rock Music, the raw power of it that makes us feel we can achieve anything. And whilst BSP have a more epic sound that traditional rock n roll, they manage to sum it up perfectly whilst making it so very contemporary.

That’s part of the reason why Do You Like Rock Music? by British Sea Power is our album of the year, and easily one of the best albums of the decade.


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