Tuesday, 9 February 2010

2009: A Year in Music [Part 4: Re-evaluation of 2008 list]

Time to re-evaluate my top 5 albums of 2008, just over a year later.

This was my top 5 list as published in that post:

1. Brian Wilson - That lucky old sun
2. Al Green - Lay it down
3. Elbow - The seldom-seen kid
4. Augie March - Watch me disappear
5. Oasis - Dig out your soul

Recent 2008 purchases

I'll now talk about the 2008 albums which I have purchased since making that list.

Nick Cave – Dig, Lazarus, dig!!
This is a very solid late-period Nick Cave album. It finds a nice balance between his late-career rockier material (We call upon the author, Lie down here) and his trademark balladry (Hold on to yourself, Jesus of the moon). All up, it's pretty much Nick Cave by numbers; there's nothing particularly new or innovative here, but it's still an enjoyable album.

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
This album has received rave reviews since it was released. Did it live up to the hype? It's definitely a remarkably solid album influenced by The Beach Boys, Love and many other late-60s/early-70s bands who knew how to use harmonies to great effect. Is it innovative? Not particularly; they are definitely a sum of their influences. But there is no denying that there are some fantastic songs on this album -- stand-outs for me include White winter hymnal, Ragged wood, Tiger mountain peasant song and He doesn't know why (make sure you check out the awesome video clip for this one).

Pete Molinari – A virtual landslide
Your opinion on this album will come down to whether you like Pete Molinari's voice. He's got that early Bob Dylan whiny nasal folk voice down perfectly, and in an alternate universe this album would have been pretty big in 1962. It took me a few listens to warm to this album, mainly due to his voice, but eventually the gems started coming out of the woodwork.

People certainly don't write or record songs like this anymore, and that alone makes it worth investigating. My favourite songs include the gorgeous One stolen moment, catchy Look what I made, longing Sweet Louise and the stunning Dylan-esque protest song closer Lest we forget.

My Morning Jacket – Evil urges
I'm a big fan of My Morning Jacket (you may recall I saw them in concert a year ago). I got into their discography backwards, starting with the breakthrough album Z, and working back through the amazing It still moves, career highlight At dawn and debut album The Tennessee fire.

I wasn't in a hurry to pick up Evil urges when it was released, mainly because the reviews from critics and friends weren't that great. I finally got it, and I would call it a minor disappointment. There's some nice songs on here, but it's a bit all over the shop musically; it sounds like they threw all of their influences into a blender and poured the result on to CD.

There are definitely stand-out moments: Touch me I'm going to scream (Parts 1 & 2), I'm amazed, Sec walkin and Librarian are all decent songs, but they don't gel into a cohesive whole. And what's the deal with Highly suspicious? What were they thinking?

The Notwist – The devil, you + me
An album only let down by its remarkably talented older brother (Neon golden from 2002), this album had pretty big shoes to fill to be in the same league as that stupendous album. Of course it wasn't as good, but saying that is doing this album a disservice. All said and done, this is a beautifully produced and performed album from this highly underrated German band.

While Neon golden was an album of individual moments which combined together into an amazing whole, this album is less about individual stand-outs and more about sustaining a mood over a 45-minute album. I struggle to remember which songs I like from this one by the titles alone, but Boneless is a beautiful number.

The Walkmen – You & me
This album hasn't had a chance to grow on me properly, but it sounds very promising. I already had their debut Everyone who pretended to like me is gone (which never hit me as being amazing). I am also a huge fan of rock monster The rat from their 2nd album Bows & arrows. This is a very subdued effort overall, and it has a great late-night vibe to it. Highlights from initial spins are On the water, In the new year, Canadian girl, The blue route and the stunning I lose you.

Paul Weller – 22 dreams
Many critics raved about this album. Like the Walkmen album, the jury is still out on this one. It's a very long listen (70 minutes) where Weller mixes and matches heaps of genres and musical styles ranging from rock, soul, jazz, blues, spoken-word and pop. You could say it's his "White album", if you want to borrow a reviewer cliché. While not all of it works, it hangs together quite nicely; you have to admire his ambition here. I'm suspecting that this album will grow on me more over time.

Updated top 5 list

With all of the recent purchases in mind, this would be my updated top 5 albums of 2008:

1. Brian Wilson - That lucky old sun
2. Elbow - The seldom-seen kid
3. Al Green - Lay it down
4. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
5. Augie March - Watch me disappear

In summary:
  • Elbow moved up to 2nd position (it really is a fantastic album)
  • Al Green moved down to 3rd position (still great, but it was elbowed-out...sorry)
  • Fleet Foxes snuck in at 4th position
  • Augie March got pushed down to 5th position (it hasn't aged for me as well as their first 2 albums)
  • Oasis finally got given the boot (it wasn't really that good; it was just filler on the previous list because I hadn't purchased enough albums)
I hope you have enjoyed my musical summary of 2009. A belated happy new year!


  1. Is the Brian Wilson album the one with the oranges, or some such citrus on the cover?

    I saw that really cheap in a music shop the other day.

    How would you describe the music? and yes, I am aware that I should just go back to your post last year which probably answers my questions, but I am being lazy.

    and I liked the elbow line!

  2. The Brian Wilson album is typical Beach Boys fare, but his voice has obviously aged a lot.

    I really dig the album, but would understand that it's not for everyone. It can get quite cheesy in places, but it's just such a great pop album with a few beautiful ballads thrown in.


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