Look back: 2008 in Music
THIS HAS BEEN a fantastic year in music, plenty of strong albums from all walks of music and to suit all tastes. You might not find Leona Lewis’s offering or Kanye’s latest release mentioned but these are my personal highlights from this year that should be added to any music lovers shopping list.
List by Seb Payne
Every R.E.M. release that comes out is claimed as a return to form but Accelerate might have turned the band’s fortunes around. After loosing founding drummer Bill Berry in 1997, the band haven’t produced anything as hard rocking or compressed in years. Recorded in only a few months, you won’t find anything like Loosing My Religion here but songs such as Supernatural Superserious, Sing For The Submarine and the title track make up for this with fast paced overdriven riffs that remind us R.E.M. are still as important and independent as ever.
Last Shadow Puppets: The Age of the Understated
Full of edgy indie rock music with symphonic twist, the combination of Miles Kane (of The Rascals) and Alex Turner (of the Arctic Monkeys) has produced one of the most popular albums of the year. Lots of influences from both bands and numerous James Bond soundtracks make this a youthful yet killer album, right for any mood of the day. Highlights include the title track, Calm Like You and In My Room.
Coldplay: Viva La Vida
Talk of Coldplay loosing their edge was completely unfounded. Taking a new edge with a more experimental nature but with the pop sound you know and love from their previous work.
The input of super producer Brain Eno managed to let the guys expand their sonic map. Highlights include the anthemic Viva La Vida, the thumpy movements of Violet Hill and the foot stomping Lost!.
Although Chris Martin says Coldplay will disband in the near future, you haven’t seen the last of them just yet, with the recently released Prospekt March and a round of stadium gigs coming up next September.
Oasis: Dig Out Your Soul
It has been several weeks and more listening time from my initial review and my opinion has not changed in the slightest, this is their strongest offering in years and the 60s hard rock influences have worked and the translation to live performances has been made successfully, according to YouTube at least. Take a look at the current single I’m Outta Time and Bag It Up to get a taste of where Gallagher and company are headed with the latest reason.
Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid
Rivalling Coldplay with several stadium gigs in 2009, it is good to have Britain’s favourite Britpop band back in action.
The more I listen to Elbow’s back catalogue, I wonder why they have not been heard of before now. Their music is so unique and they’ve been kicking around since 1990 apparently, missing out on Britpop, becoming critics choice before hitting it big time and winning the Mercury Prize this year. Grounds For Divorce has become the most popular song with continual build ups and break downs with yet another stomping beat. On Day Like This has traces of U2 but with a less commercial sound and simply down to earth. Elbow are heading out to the academies next year so catch them live if you can, the rumour goes they are phenomenal.
AC/DC: Black Ice
AC/DC are like comfort food for listeners, providing reassuring and consistent hard rock and Black Ice is no different. Stomping rock with a modern production makes this an album of bliss for any music lover. Brian Johnson’s singing may not be as high pitched as in the past but it’s lost none of its passion and Angus Young brings out those solos as viciously as ever. A short tour of UK arenas next year has sold out, too quickly for this reviewer.
Randy Newman: Harps and Angles
Most will recognise the odd voice from the soundtrack of Toy Story. Growing up to the sounds of You’ve Got A Friend In Me often makes people forget Newman is a real artist who was writing songs 20 years before the release of the ground-breaking Disney-Pixar film. Musically out of tune with the times (and only reaching #48 on the UK charts), the album is based around rather old school beats and piano heard in New Orleans records of the past, like those of Fats Domino.
Potholes discusses the inevitable memory lapses of old age while A Few Words In The Defense Of Our Country reassures the rest of the world that some Americans dislike their government too. For something totally different to everything else this year, try this.
The Verve: Forth
Far surpassing anything Richard Ashcroft has done since Urban Hymns, Fourth shows the band have made a triumphant return, firing on all cylinders with their mix of rock with sampling and acoustic ballads.
A headlining performance at Glastonbury brought them back to household name status, and showed they have lost none of their magic.
No doubt you will have heard first single Love Is Noise, but looking at Valium Skies and Sit And Wonder shows you just how flexible they can still be.
Kings of Leon: Only by the Night
The UK’s favourite import from across the seas (apart from Kopparberg of course) have solidified their sound into plain old sound rock with their southern indie edge. Adding to their string of popular albums, the Kings are no doubt en route to the heights of super stardom over the next few years. They might have lost some of their experimentalism since the previous album, but have filled in for this with better tunes and inspiring lyrics. A testament to this is how much Use Somebody is still being played weeks later. Don’t forget the hit single Sex on Fire too.
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
The underwhelming live experience with this band have not tainted how wonderful the album is – strong songwriting, catchy riffs and music that would not be out of place in 1975, MGMT have hit the music scene in the face and remind everyone not to take the world too seriously. Time To Pretend has been an anthem for our generation while Kids and Electric Feel have provided bouncing fun songs that everyone can enjoy. Where they can go from here is anyone’s guess, but enjoying this music is certainly not hard. Their dream producer of Barack Obama may yet happen.
David Byrne and Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Their first collaboration in over 20 years is an album in tune with the times – featuring plenty of crazy sound effects, acoustic strumming and precise singing – everything you would expect from the ex-Talking Heads man and the super-producer, who gets a second mention here.
Apparently, it has gospel and electronic stylings, but you’ll have to judge this for yourself. Not getting a physical release, you can stream the album free from everythingthathappens.com to hear one of the best collaborations of the year, and one of the strongest albums Byrne has produced in a while.
Maybe the best thing from the album is the Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno tour that is crisscrossing around the world as we speak, hitting the Sage, Gateshead next year. It is unfortunately without Eno, but features modern dancers and setlists ranging the 30 year career of Byrne, making it one not one to be missed
Honourable Mentions must go Duffy for Rockferry, with some of the years biggest singles from Wales’ newest hero, The Killers for another strong offering with Day & Age, The Feeling for producing more Queen-Supertramp infused pop with Join With Us and Guns’n’Roses for finally releasing Chinese Democracy, layered with guitar solos, each one out-doing the last. Over the Christmas break, why not indulge in what this year has offered in music? Happy listening!