Tag Archives: franz ferdinand

Another by-product of my reading Nick Kent’s 1970s memoir, Apathy For The Devil, was my being nudged into digging out Roxy Music‘s Country Life album, which Kent really digs. Bryan Ferry was, in Kent’s eyes, a bit of a hero of social mobility (whereas Kent was pretty much its anti-hero). More importantly, Country Life is—I now realise—a truly influential album in the progression of British art rock and glam. You can here those music-hall and oompah flourishes weaving their way into Parklife-era Blur; similarly, Ferry’s voice must have been a major reference point for Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos.

Country Life opens with “The Thrill Of It All”, an unexpectedly rousing, gutsy song from the ordinarily-louche band. There are car-chase strings, double-kicks on the bass drum, and nimble-fingered bass-work from John Gustafson. In a nod to the football-terrace anthems of the future, there’s also a good deal of wordless chanting. If only Bryan Ferry knew his handiwork would someday inspire this.

Advertisements

Songs of 2009 – Out of the limelight.

I’m not going to do a list of my favourite songs of 2009 because that would be boring and unoriginal, and chances are you’ve probably read about the exact same songs in a million other places. Instead, here’s my playlist containing fifteen album tracks, none of which were released as singles, which I notched up on my bedpost as having loved dearly over the course of the year. When you’ve read through it all, you can also feel their brilliance as nature intended, by hopping over to the superconnected playlist I’ve made over on Spotify (though the Tortoise track will be absent because their oeuvre is not yet available). Continue reading Songs of 2009 – Out of the limelight.

Liquid Mercury

I think it’s been a pretty good year for British music, so far. While it’s certainly true that there have been fewer knock-out juggernauts emerging from these shores than from the US, the 12 month period beginning last July has seen a decent crop of albums bearing influences as diverse as chugging hardcore, electro-funk and krautrock. While we can’t win on quantity, the British albums that I’ve enjoyed this year have been of a very high quality, displaying a continued interest in the album format, and a willingness to break free from prior expectations and defy preconceptions.

Monday (I think!) sees the release of this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist, and it’s inevitable that despite my wishes to the contrary, there will be some examples of female electro-pop albums not authored by Bat For Lashes. While I’m not at all averse to empowerment of such artists – and it’s definitely more welcome to my ears than last year’s trend towards female soul-singers – I do truly believe that very few of these artists have created consistently rewarding albums, and such should not merit a place on the shortlist. I would be naïve to think, however, that they would be ignored by the judges. Music industry pressure being what it is, the judges would be loath to omit a token nomination from the Florence-Roux-Boots brigade.

Here, then, is my predicted list of nominations, in solely alphabetical order. You’ll note that I’ve only suggested ten albums, which is two shy of the actual number – this is because I can’t claim to be any kind of authority in the jazz universe, and there’s also always an unpredictable wild-card for some long-haired middle-aged folk artist who lives in a hippy commune, communicates with the outside world by morse code, and creates music combining the sound of crashing waves with an unpronounceable wind instrument from Switzerland. I can’t begin to imagine who will occupy this spot this time round.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns. Natasha Khan came close in 2007 with Fur & Gold, and I’m willing to bet that this year’s sophomore effort, with its retro-glossy production and further inventive arrangements, is a dead cert for the shortlist. Not to mention the fact that the songs themselves bear evidence of improved writing talent from Ms. Khan. Whether she’s wailing from behind a piano, or bashing exotic percussion whilst plucking an autoharp, the quality of the songs on Two Suns never lets up, and the album is unified by an intriguing conceptual theme that explores the outer reaches of duality and difficult romance.

Doves – Kingdom Of Rust. A lot has been said of Doves being this year’s Elbow – perennially under-appreciated Manchester auteurs finally receiving the attention they deserve. Much of this is utter nonsense, because most of Doves’ albums have occupied hallowed ground at the top of the charts, and also because the two bands inhabit very different musical territory. But what does connect with me is that with their fourth album, like Elbow, Doves have crafted their most consistent, unerringly enjoyable beast. While the band themselves describe Kingdom Of Rust as “schizophrenic”, there’s a pleasing undercurrent of commitment to lush production and a kind of nostalgic romanticism that flows right through the album. They do arena-rock anthems far better with Coldplay, and with considerably more meaning and spirit, yet when they push out to more experimental ground, as on “Compulsion” and “The Outsiders”, they reveal just as much songwriting prowess, as well as a natural gift for musicianship that no-one ever doubted.

Florence & The Machine – Lungs. I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve listened to this album in full, but Michael has already expressed some admiration for it and, having seen her live, opening for Blur at Hyde Park, I got the impression that she’s a kind of cut-price Bat For Lashes, all crazy costumes and mad gesticulating arm-waving. As for her music, I understand that it’s getting a fair bit of airplay on the radio, and from what I’ve heard of it, she clearly has a playful ear for interesting textures. Whether the songs themselves successfully underpin the production is up for debate, but I can definitely see her fitting into the judges’ mindset.

Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires. Dating back from last year, this debut album from St. Albans three-piece has been a slow-burning success on the charts, but I think it’s unashamed pop music at its best. Taking more than a hint of Talking Heads-style funk (check out the additional percussion on “Jump In The Pool”!) and combining it with the kind of new-romantic emoting fashionable in the 80s, the band is tight in its instrumentation, and Ed MacFarlane has constructed a well-fitting collection of catchy pop songs that are unafraid of letting rip with a beautiful palette of shimmering and groaning guitar sounds. I loved every minute of this concise, exhilarating album (perhaps one criticism is that the pace never lets up, lending it a slightly frantic feel), and this could be the unexpected dark horse that romps to victory.

Future Of The Left – Travels With Myself And Another. Something of a wildcard prediction, in that most people haven’t even heard of this Welsh supergroup-of-sorts, and their witty, militantly angry breed of rock. Back in 2007, their debut, Curses, set out their stall pretty effectively: brutal guitars, battering keyboards, a rhythm section that’s tighter than a London parking space, and this year’s follow up confirms their talent with twelve songs that pound harder, scream louder, crack more jokes, and, crucially, show a step up in songwriting. Songs like “Arming Eritrea” take unexpected twists and turns; songs like “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You” take one great idea and pummel it into your brain for just the right length of time. People will probably be surprised that I like this sort of thing, but it’s only one step further than the kind of minimalist hardcore I adored in Shellac and Fugazi.

The Horrors – Primary Colours. Talk about confounding expectations! When Strange House landed a couple of years ago, padded out with a mountain of NME hype, no one was surprised that it was jolly awful. But lurking beneath that cringe-worthy goth aesthetic was a band full of surprises, with exceptional taste in music. The question was, could they translate their intellectualism into actual good music? This question is answered, and then some, on Primary Colours, which shows off a predilection for shoegaze, krautrock and psychedelia, set within a set of compositions that are earnest, hopelessly romantic (in a failed romance kind of way), and surprisingly affecting. Along with Friendly Fires, this would be my other dark horse prediction to take the win. Some of the songs may stretch a single idea for a tad too long, as on the never-ending, slightly plodding “I Only Think Of You”, but their intentions are clearly well-meaning, and the quality of the remainder of the album more than makes up for these minor gripes. Songs like the opener, “Mirror’s Image”, are perfectly constructed, sonically wondrous, and far too enjoyable given the depressing nature of their aesthetic forebears. Meanwhile, the closer, “Sea Within A Sea”, is ideally placed, with nigh-on eight minutes of loping krautrock ending the album on an ideal note. Throughout, Faris Badwan has found his true voice in a gloriously tragic timbre that is part Robert Smith, part Ian Curtis, and hopelessly mournful always.

Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications. The first of two Steve Albini-engineered albums on this list. I didn’t actually think Jarvis’s debut solo album was all that great – its primary emotion was pretty downbeat; it was musically pretty lacklustre; it lacked that special sense of humour that made Pulp so great. Which is why it’s so refreshing to hear Jarvis re-discovering his musical mojo on what must surely be called a break-up album. Re-invigorated by the cut-and-thrust, no-nonsense set-up of Albini’s production style, Further Complications is an almost brawling set of songs, where guitars sound like double-barrelled shotguns, the rhythm section is locked-in like a homing missile, and the lyrics fire out puns and asides like a machine-gun. Then, just when the barrage of entertainment threatens to get out of hand, Jarvis pulls off a masterstroke, with a closing brace that is lush and awash with romance, rivalling the closing pair on Pulp’s final album, We Love Life, for emotional charge. I think it’s pretty fantastic.

La Roux – La Roux. I said before that it’s inevitable that this year’s shortlist would contain at least one chart-friendly female electro-pop artist, and I reckon La Roux will gain the upper hand on Little Boots because their (for this is a duo we are dealing with) album is a slightly edgier, less poppy affair. La Roux is definitely in thrall to the synth pop of the 80s, and Elly Jackson matches the new romantics for complex and audibly breakdown-inducing lyrics. Without falling head-over-heels in love with it, I enjoyed the album, and felt it was the best representation of its genre, much in the same way that Klaxons’ Myths Of The Near Future was a cut above most of its nu-rave ilk. It’s catchy; it’s very lucrative, and I hope it gets a nod ahead of Little Boots’ more school-disco friendly Hands.

Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers. Just like with Jarvis Cocker, the assistance of Steve Albini has breathed new life into the Manics, which is ironic, given that the other primary addition to the band on this album is the lyrics of the deceased, Richey Edwards. Taking a step back from the arena-friendly alt-rock of recent albums, Journal For Plague Lovers is an aggressive, propulsive creation that spits venom with its lyrics, and breathes a kind of icy fire with its music. This could well be the swansong for the band, given that I don’t think Edwards had any other lyrics floating around in a folder, so it would be rather appropriate to nominate this thought-provoking, energetic album.

Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor. For all the months of brewing anticipation, which have seen Patrick Wolf toying with novel, record-company defying financing methods, and dipping into harsh, experimental forms of music, The Bachelor is an unashamed stab at an album of dark pop. If The Magic Position was a slightly disingenuous attempt at skewed, weird, happy, pop music, its follow-up is rather more violent and digital, with Wolf adding layer upon layer of synths, drum machines, strings and vocal chants over his bewilderingly beautiful vocals. He is clearly a prolific songwriter – this album is long, and feels long too, and it’s only the first half of a preconceived double album – but somewhere along the line, this album feels a little low on instant classics. Which is not to say that it’s a bad album – if it was, then it wouldn’t be on this list – just that it’s not his magnum opus. But I really do hope it gets a nomination, which would make up for the absence of recognition for all his previous albums, and would also salute the brazen experimentation that Wolf moulds into his soaring odes to romance and morality and goodness knows what else is lurking in his crazy-genius mind.

So that’s my prediction. Feel free to add your own suggestions, omissions and corrections, and bear in mind that many of the albums I thought were foregone conclusions (Kala, Third) for the shortlist last year didn’t get a mention at all.

Find me in the matinée!

Just a quick prelude before the meat of the matter a bit later on. I’ve literally just walked in from having gone to see Franz Ferdinand at the Hammersmith Apollo (now inexplicably re-christened the HMV Apollo). It were brilliant! The band were, unsurprisingly, very tight, and enjoyed a great rapport with the crowd. Songs new and old received a warm reception, the new ones in particular benefiting from the energy of the live environment. My goodness do they have a mighty rhythm section, capable of buoying those killer hooks for mass crowd singalongs.

Because I never wonder, how the girl feels

 

Back in 2004, I walked into HMV and was faced with the choice of buying either The Killers’ Hot Fuss or Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut. Thank goodness I endorsed the latter. While their contemporaries have meandered through the wilderness of Americana before pandering to their love of 80s guilty pleasures, Franz Ferdinand’s career to date has been elusive, concise and, most importantly, of a consistently high quality. To those who feel hoodwinked by 2005’s sophomore effort, You Could Have It So Much Better, I would proffer that while their debut was considerably sleeker and tauter, the second release was of comparable quality, only brasher, grittier and angrier. It was recorded in a hurry – often seen as a curse – but I would maintain that its more developed song structures showed greater depth to the band’s abilities.

Step into 2009 and, against a backdrop of mediocre indie and attractive female electro-popsters, how does the Scottish quartet’s latest effort fare? Much has been said of the intervening years, in which the band experimented with creaky synths, Afrobeat grooves and shiny pop producers, but has any of this actually surfaced in Tonight: Franz Ferdinand? One thing that can safely be said is that Tonight… is a considerably leaner beast than the last; more focused on the dancefloor than society’s ills. Tracks like No You Girls and the opener, Ulysses, ride on football terrace choruses and hooks while successfully navigating the waters of synthesiser experimentation. When the band deal a heavier hand, as in the case of What She Came For and Twilight Omens, the songs have a pleasing blend of retro glam and roadhouse eruptions. Treated piano gives way to well-produced rhythm-led stomps that are attractive and memorable, if not instantly history-rewriting.

Conceptually, frontman Alex Kapranos reckons Tonight is a depiction of a typical lads’ night out, from the discovery of a new drug (Ulysses), through the naïvety of first love (No You Girls), to the euphoria of the dancefloor (Live Alone, which channels Blondie and Abba through a Glaswegian burr). In this respect, the album is bang on the money: far from being a discrete set of radio-ready singles, the group are clever enough to know the benefits of pacing and narrative arc, thus the album unfolds true to Kapranos’ cheeky and insightful lyrics. The climax of this night on the tiles arrives halfway through undoubted centrepiece Lucid Dreams, which, isolated from the context of the album, sounds wildly experimental and strangely lurching. In context, this eight-minute marathon represents the transformation from innocence into hedonism, as a krautrock groove makes way for four minutes of Moroder-esque acid-house freakout.

After the peak must come the comedown, surely, and the album delivers here, too. The loping, sideways Dream Again is reminiscent of Tom Waits at his addled best, while closer Katherine Kiss Me is a partial reprise of No You Girls, re-imagined as a acoustic troubadour’s farewell. On paper, these varied genres sound wildly disparate, but the cohesion of an album can come from lyrical themes too, as shown in this instance. By allowing the events of the night to take hold of the album, Kapranos delivers a resounding finger to those who would doubt their breadth in songwriting skills. Tonight may lack the instant appeal of the band’s debut, and the songs may not stand the test of time in the same way, but it offers an intriguing insight into their less obvious influences – a key example being Send Him Away, which apes Vampire Weekend in its pursuit of African poly-rhythms and psych-funk grooves.

Do Franz Ferdinand remain relevant in the aftermath of the scene they helped to revive? Not really, but I would argue that that scene has gone stale to such a degree that no band with any artistic integrity would even want to. From here on, the band could go in myriad directions, provided they can keep on delivering the hooks and lyrical invention and wit that have kept them a cut above the rest of the pack thus far. Long may Nick McCarthy’s Moogs and Korgs fart and groan!

First Impressions…

… are good. I’ll post a review of both Tonight: Franz Ferdinand and Merriweather Post Pavilion a bit later but, for the moment, here are some initial thoughts.

Tonight is crisply produced and comes with the right kind of aesthetic that Franz Ferdinand have been hinting at, but they only ever plunge head-first into one of these new directions on one track, the 8-minute Moroder-aping “Lucid Dreams”, which features an extended synth workout. The rest of the album is solidly written, with characteristically catchy hooks and typically insightful, witty lyrics. What will probably strike me to a greater extent on further listens is the pacing and structure of the album. Certainly, it appears to run on a continual upward slope, heading towards the peak of a night out, which occurs during the aforementioned “Lucid Dreams”. The final two tracks definitely represent the post-night comedown, their being much more blissful and hungover, and also more sincere. Beyond that, I’ve yet to gauge a true understanding of the structure during the first half, except that “Ulysses” is an invented drug, and that “No You Girls” cleverly inverts the naïvety of first love halfway through the song.

Merriweather Post Pavilion has absolutely astonishing production. Far from the murkiness I was beginning to associate with Animal Collective, the album fizzes and sparkles and, most importantly, sends thunderous quakes of bass through my subwoofer. That’s important, because it appears to accentuate the more dance-orientated direction the band have taken. It’s not necessarily music to dance to, just music that bears more than a passing resemblance to dance-music forefathers. The songs themselves are complex in structure, with a myriad of samples and synths that somehow don’t ever get lost in a fog of meandering. Though this is their longest proper album yet, the songs appear more focused and rooted, though they don’t observe conventional pop song structures. Lyrically too, the album sees AC mature the themes first evoked on Strawberry Jam – those of childhood innocence; the simple love of others; and the essential mysterious wonderment of being alive. They’re well-expressed through not overly catchy lyrics, with minimal sonic meddling, and the whole combination of music and voice coalesces best of all on “My Girls” and the closer, “Brother Sport”.

More to follow, definitely.

Epilepsy Is Dancing!

Antony Hegarty inspires a surprising amount of dislike. Well, alright, it’s not that surprising: with a voice somewhere between Nina Simone and Rufus Wainwright, and an aesthetic that inspires some alarm in more conservative music-listeners, he’s hardly mainstream entertainment. However, what has always attracted me to his work is the combination of grim terror at mortality and beautiful melodrama that invades every minute of it. Back in 2005 I thought they were spot-on to award him the Mercury Prize for I Am A Bird Now; only last year I thought he was the star performer on Hercules And Love Affair, lending his soaring tones to a selection of the year’s finest dance tracks. Interestingly, removed from his usual environment of sombre piano and fluttering orchestral arrangements, Antony sounded far more assertive; more of a diva, and it suited him rather well. It’s not his fault he was born to contemplate man’s fragile existence on earth, and on H&LA the extent of his invigoration imbibes the songs with an alluring mix of hedonistic abandon and tragic nostalgia, particularly on the highlight, “Blind”.

And now, at last, he’s back with his regular troupe Antony and the Johnsons, with this year’s The Crying Light. Regrettably, I’ve yet to hear the album from start to finish – you only come to this blog for quality music journalism! – but the two tracks I have heard do indeed push his voice into uncharted musical territory, which is refreshing and wonderful. The video above is of the album’s lead single, “Epilepsy Is Dancing”. As Alexis Petridis noted in his review of the album, the song

doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs on paper, and indeed, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs on record

but I would add that it has a charming folksy lilt to it, with light jazz guitar, feathery strings, an almost-invisible oboe, and surprisingly sweet piano. Though the chorus sees Antony singing

Cut me in quadrants
Leave me in the corner

which initially sounds rather chilling, he continues

Oh now it’s passing
Oh now I’m dancing

which suggests an uplifting caveat to what is an otherwise typically grim subject. Indeed, I would not hesitate to alight upon another central aspect of Hegarty’s work: rather than playing up to the victimised portrayal of gender confused artists, he has empowered a lot of people to stand up for their sexuality by singing about tough subjects in a resolved manner. His songs continually reference cases of extreme sadness and tragedy, but he is never prepared to lie down without a fight; always determined to look for the quirky joy that his life brings.

The second song I’ve heard, “Aeon”, sees Hegarty singing about love over delightfully Lou Reed-esque guitar arpeggios. It sounds a bit like “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”, but for a man, instead of a city. A lot of critics have mentioned the rather ostentatious climax of the song, which sees Antony literally screaming

Hold that man I love SO MUCH!

but I must confess that I rather like it.

IN OTHER NEWS

  • Pitchfork gave Tonight: Franz Ferdinand a respectable score of 7.3, but it’s the words in the review to which you’ll want to divert your eyes. The reviewer is mightily impressed by what he sees as the band’s evolutionary stage, where they have explored a range of genres and styles, with equal aplomb. I can’t wait for Amazon to deliver me the goods.
  • I got into Spoon far too late, but if you want a gem of a song that is practically perfect, check out “Don’t You Evah”, which is their cover version of an unheard-of band’s song, and which appears on their 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It’s ace, and it features some humorous dialogue between singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno at the beginning, as they sit in the studio laying down the tracks. The melody; the vocals; the drums – it’s all there. I just wish it was written by them in the first place. Though I’m willing to bet the original song isn’t actually as good as the cover.
  • Finally, if you go to this website, you can hear a new song from The National, entitled “So Far Around The Bend”. It’s a bit more jolly than the stuff from their masterpiece of an album, 2007’s Boxer, and it contains orchestral arrangements from Nico Muhly, who did the arrangements on The Crying Light, mentioned earlier in the post. The compilation itself, Dark Was The Night, is a charity thing, put together by The National, and features songs from a selection of awesome artists and bands, including Arcade Fire, David Byrne, Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket and so forth. I’m sure it’ll be worth getting.

A Utopia For You To Live In

As Michael points out, I’ve so far refused the temptation of listening to the preview of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand on their MyFaceSpaceBook, and I think my reasons are pretty justified. For one thing, my pre-ordered 2-disc edition of the album has already been dispatched from Amazon (along with Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion). This immediately impressed me – I don’t think I’ve ever pre-ordered an album on Amazon before; if I do want to buy an album as soon as it’s released, I usually prefer to visit my local HMV (other record stores are available!) – because I should hopefully receive the album not too long after tomorrow, which is probably sooner than I could have hoped to visit a record store, judging by my packed schedule for the next few days.

I’ve been anticipating Franz Ferdinand’s third album for a very long time: in fact, pretty much as soon as I had finished listening to their second album, and I’m really hoping it’s been worth the lengthy gestation. Experience tells me that, when my expectations are so high, there is no better way of releasing all the suspense than to wait until I have the physical embodiment of the album in my hands, ready to be played in super stereo, the way it was intended, as opposed to the low bitrate/dodgy ethics of a MySpace listening party or a BitTorrent leak. My case in point is Muse’s Black Holes And Revelations, which was probably my most eagerly-awaited album of 2006. Though I did end up bussing it to HMV on the day of its release – and then promptly heading off to school – by that point, I had already heard it from half a dozen different sources and, in many ways, it wasn’t the best preparation. I had heard it so much, and heard so much about it, that when I actually listened to the thing properly, there were no surprises. I already knew the synthesiser trickery employed in several songs; I was already aware of the conspiracy theories referenced in the lyrics. It wasn’t actually that much fun, and so that’s why I’ve decided that abstinence is the best preparation this time round.

Having written all that, I must confess that, by some indistinct means, I have heard the album-version of “Lucid Dreams”, which is already being referred to as the highlight of the album, and clear proof that the band can take their music-to-make-girls-dance in a faithful electronic direction. Personally, I think it’s a tremendous piece of music, initially swaggering, then mind-boggling, finally hip-shaking and dancefloor-quaking. It’s not a million miles away from the works of Moroder and the like, but it’s still refreshing to hear an updating of the synth-tastic dance music of the 70s from a band who really do know their stuff. Judging by the reviews though, the rest of the album doesn’t entirely live up to the heady heights of “Lucid Dreams”, but I’m still hopeful.

AND IN OTHER NEWS

May I recommend Wilco’s “Impossible Germany”, taken from last year’s Sky Blue Sky album. The band’s sixth studio album was a much mellower affair than usual, taking much more inspiration from more traditional country music. It was critically panned, but one of the highlights in many reviewers’ eyes was “Impossible Germany”. It’s utterly gorgeous, and really shows off the lilting guitar work of Nels Cline. However, to gauge a true impression of Wilco’s more experimental, adventurous work, you can’t do better than getting a copy of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which was released in 2002 after various sagas between the band and their former record label. It’s extraordinary.

Enjoy!

Backtracking

Historically, I’ve been pretty shoddy with blogs. I create them and I obsess over them and I pour my soul into them and then I forget all about them and they vanish into the ether. Sometimes, along the way, some of my posts get unusually high levels of exposure, but then, as time wears on, they too fade away into obscurity. It’s a perennial problem that I’m hoping to dispel with this blog. Part of the reason for this wholesale new year’s resolution is the constant collaboration of Michael, who’s going to be manning the blog on an equal footing, which will hopefully up the stakes of competition and force me into being responsible about the upkeep of the blog, and my own article-count.

In the downtime since I forgot all about my previous blog, Interstellar Overdrive, I’ve occasionally been posting music-related ramblings and links on my Facebook profile, chief among them my Top 18 Albums of 2008 (because 18 is such an auspicious number). In the interests of giving my writings some sort of recent context, here, then, is a verbatim copy of that list:

  1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
  2. TV On The Radio – Dear Science,
  3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  4. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair
  5. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  6. Deerhunter – Microcastle 
  7. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
  8. Portishead – Third
  9. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
  10. Calexico – Carried To Dust
  11. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
  12. Johnny Greenwood – There Will Be Blood
  13. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
  14. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
  15. Hot Chip – Made In The Dark
  16. Foals – Antidotes
  17. Santogold – Santogold

Honourable Mention: The Week That Was – The Week That Was

Now I realise that 17/18 is not really a typical number for such lists, but I actually think there was something of a paucity of good albums in 2008 – certainly not a vintage year like 2007. The albums listed are those that I rate not only for the quality of the songs, but also for the structure and composition of the album. For me, the year was characterised by several high-profile duds and one-hit wonders, without really delivering a large quantity of really special albums. That said, there are a few more albums given high praise by music reviewers which I have yet to hear, so I’m willing to accept that this list is far from definitive. Certainly at the tail end of my list, the albums become a little bit flawed, particularly Hot Chip, Foals and Santogold.
Finally, The Week That Was is the quasi-solo project from a member of one of favourite unheard-of bands, Field Music, who are currently on some sort of untruthful hiatus. Their 2007 album, Tones Of Town, really struck a chord with me, and I can’t think why they’ve never achieved the fame of their close friends Maxïmo Park and the Futureheads. Please have a listen to their material; it’s beautiful and uplifting.

As a little tack-on piece, here are the albums I’m most looking forward to in 2009:
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light
The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love
Patrick Wolf – Battle (now with added Tilda Swinton!)
Unnamed James Murphy side-project
Possible new Arctic Monkeys album

I’m sure there’s plenty more in store, but that’s all for now.

UPDATE: In the interests of not appearing to be a smug idiot, I have now included the Bon Iver record. In actual fact, it was first released in 2007 (as evidenced by its appearance on the Top 50 Albums of 2007 on Pitchfork) but I’m willing to accept that virtually everyone else, myself included, only heard it in 2008. So in it goes at number 11.

P.S. In the interests of competition, I would love for Michael to post his possible list of Top Albums from last year.