This year has been a surprising one for music. After last year I thought to myself, "How could this year possibly be better than last year for music?" And you know what? Album after album I was shocked, no musical lull in sight. Nothing but quality as far as the eye could see. Well, quality in terms of the albums I was looking for. In particular, bands that released somewhat unimpressive sophomore albums came back this year with some intense and riveting releases. Bloc Party, The Stills, The Killers, and Longwave all regrouped and recalibrated to create releases that will please initial fans as well as fans of their new directions.
Without further ado I bring you the AZLTRON Top 10 Albums of 2008.
10. The Notwist - The Devil, You & Me
The Notwist released their first album since their 2002 stylistic breakthrough Neon Golden this year. This album features a more linear song structure, less blips and clicks, and it is all the better for it. The best songs are built off of acoustic guitar chords and Marc Acher's saccharine voice. Added into the mix occasionally are emotionally charged tremolo strings and minor key flourishes. A listen to the album from beginning to end runs a full emotional gamut from uncertainty, to sadness, to elation. The Notwist have done it again.
The Notwist - Gloomy Planets
The Notwist Myspace
9. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
M83 came back this year in a big way. Anthony Gonzalez continues to plug away after the departure of Nicolas Fromageau and the towering sound of M83 has never been more accessible. Emotionally charged piano instrumentals to full on 80's pop songs surge and percolate throughout the entire album. If there is a director out there trying to ellicit intense emotion from viewers using only music, there's not an album out there that can reduce a listener to tears and then convert those tears to joy by the end of the album.
8. Boo Hoo - Hypermarché
Boohoo has crafted an album that combines two of my favorite genres, delicate indie pop as well as touching electro pop. Normally you'd think that bleeps and blips next to glockenspiel and acoustic guitar and heavenly melodies wouldn't normally work. Normally, you'd be right. Boohoo combines them together in such a way where it makes sense somehow that solo acoustic guitar song should come right after an electro twee jam. It's a further testament to the album that the topics of the songs revolve around television shows, tabloid magazines, and of course grocery stores. Fans of Peter Bjorn & John and Jens Lekman will find a lot to love here.
Boo Hoo - Gokutensoku
Boo Hoo Myspace
7. The Killers - Day & Age
The Killers hung up their Vegas suits and synths and grew moustaches. Their music morphed into christian country tinged post punk imitations of Bruce Springsteen in an attempt to prove that they weren't a one trick pony at the new wave revival ranch. They accomplished this mission with their sophomore release Sam's Town and even unleashed an epic single to rival anything they've done in When You Were Young. But where were the sleek synths and dance rhythms that drew so many people into their music in 2004? They were present, but with about a pound of sawdust draped over them. On Day & Age, they haven't abandoned their new found dusty direction, but they've enhanced it with everything that they know they do well with a pinch of a spicy something new. Now, not only huge guitars, smooth synths, and dancebeats mark the album but saxophone and steel drums make an appearance as well. The Killers have reabsorbed their best influences and show of some new influences to make an album that is undoubtedly all killer and no filler.
The Killers Myspace
6. Mason Proper - Olly Olly Oxen Free
Mason Proper had a busy year this year; releasing not only their Shorthand EP, Jonathan Visger's North South EP, but also a brand new full length entitled Olly Olly Oxen Free. The first song The Fog is a great rallying point for the rest of the album because it seems as if all the musical elements in this release are floating around in the atmosphere as a phosphorescent gas that they've somehow managed to capture and contain in a magical cauldron of musical goodness. Every element in their songs seems buoyant somehow, guitar riffs ring in the air and the vocals increase the precarious altitude of each song like helium in an untied balloon. Like riding in a glass elevator, Olly Olly Oxen Free is meticulous, utilitarian and spine tingling. Look down all you like.
Mason Proper - Point A to Point B
Mason Proper Myspace
5. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Where else are you going to find two artists who are not only veterans of popular music but legends in thier own right, who continue to redefine the boundaries of what their music entails? Nowhere. David Byrne and Brian Eno have crafted a masterpiece here. Christening this new work as electric gospel. The term fits perfectly, the work here is largely uplifting major chords and David Byrne somehow manages to create an uplifting message out of lyrics like "I heard the sound of someone laughing, I saw my neighbor's car explode". Rife with bass percolation, soothing harmonies, and clever lyrics, you'll be hard pressed to find an album this diverse that can please so many people.
Everything that Happens Will Happen Today Official Site
4. Walter Meego - Voyager
Walter Meego's Voyager is a cornucopia of electronic pop goodness. The first track Forever acts as the guy who starts the wave at a big stadium concert. It makes a big feel good splash that carries through till the end of the album. Justin Sconza's helium tinged vocals accent perfectly the heavily phased bass processed synths. This album feels good to listen to. This isn't just a feel good party starter, undoubtedly if you're looking to get a party started you won't find a better primer than Walter meego but, just as much attention is paid to the atmosphere and melodies as it is to beats. I'll leave you with this: listen to Keyhole, it will blow your mind.
Walter Meego - Keyhole
Walter Meego Myspace
3. Longwave - Secrets Are Sinister
Longwave came back in a big way this year. Longwave was previously dropped from RCA after the departure of two of their band members. Even when they were unsigned and the future of the band was uncertain, Steve Schiltz and company strove to continue recording and playing. The Indie Label Original Signal
intelligently picked up Longwave and put out their latest album Secrets are Sinister which is such an incredible return to form you have to hear it to believe it. All the shoegaze elements from The Strangest Things are not only present, they are turned up to eleven. The guitars soar, the bass grinds with foundation shaking ferocity and Schiltz's uplifting lyrics in the face of certain doom and gloom makes this one of the best releases of 2008.
Longwave - Satellites
2. Thieves Like Us - Play Music
Few artists these days can transport you to other worlds through just a few notes. Thieves Like Us does just that. We as the listeners are transported, after just a few finely produced arpeggio notes, into a world of not only late night debauchery and good times but also a land of neon grids and nobility. There is a majesty to the way that the electronic elements combine here. The synths just don't play over the beats. They crash over them like waves on a rocky shore. The songs play out like an epic play. At times the beats kick in with reckless abandon, but the song after will masterfully describe the cost of living that way. The persistent bass throbs like a hangover after a heavy night of drinking or it pounds in your mind like a guilty conscience. It's the songs that come after the more heady dramatic ones that stand out though, the songs of reconciliation, of coming to terms with what has transpired and making the best of it. These songs make Play Music an intensely emotional album and a collection of songs that I would be proud to have score the soundtrack of my life.
Theives Like Us - Miss You
Thieves Like Us Myspace
1. The Faint - Fasciinatiion
It's been four long years since The Faint released a new full length album. But, luckily as soon as the bass on Get Seduced kicks in, you know the Faint are back and we are in for a treat. Todd Fink's astute observational lyricism is this time directed at all kinds of sociological structures. From tabloids to religion, to the origin of the universe, to arguments with others and even arguments within yourself. Whenever I describe The Faint to people who have no idea what electronic/indie/punk is, I always say that their songs are very direct, very confrontational but also extremely intelligent, and Fasciinatiion has undoubtedly solidified that notion inside my skull. The Faint pick up right where they left off with Wet From Birth and without warning surge into uncharted territory like the rap-esque Fulcrum And Lever, to the razor sharp ballad Fish in a Womb. Every note of Fasciinatiion has been looked over, every effect finely tuned after endless tweaking. The album is wrapped in a warm blanket of sonic experimentation that will make it a gem for decades to come.
The Faint - Machine in the Ghost
The Faint Myspace
All mp3's posted on this site are for promotion purposes only. The mp3's posted here are to encourage people to listen to and buy excellent music. If you enjoy any songs, please support the artist by buying their music. If you are the owner of the track and don't want it posted, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be removed. Please do not have Blogspot remove the entire post. Just like the artists work hard on their music, I work hard on my posts. I take considerable time to give my articulate analysis of music as well as to contribute original artwork because I want my blog to look it's very best. Therefore it is frustrating when my posts are eliminated for just one mp3. If you alert me, I will take down the offending mp3 as soon as possible. Thank You.
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If you are a promoter and would like me to review an album, song, or band I would be more than willing to, just send me an e-mail at azltron @ yahoo.com.
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