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Kingblind.com Top 15 albums of 2008 (Part 3 of 3)

Well folks here it is… Our final top 15 albums of 2008. From writers in 8 countries we have tallied all the votes, crunched the numbers and POW… this is it… broken down into 3 groups (15 to 11. – 10 to 6. then 5 to 1.) Here is our list for the year. ENJOY! Now for the top of the heap, Number 5 to 1!!

Hope you enjoy our selections, See you in January!

1 Tv On the Radio: Dear Science
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4nBwwUufWE&hl=en&fs=1]
(Halfway Home- Video)

New York’s TV On the Radio used to make difficult music that was easier to admire than to like. However, their fourth album seems to answer the conundrum of how to make experimental music popular. Led by guitarist/production wizkid David Sitek, Dear Science comes laden with awkward drums, avant jazz squawks, the hum of electric pylons and what at one point sounds like the whirr of a recorded hedge trimmer. However, the noises inhabit tunes that are never less than singable. With influences as diverse as The The, afrobeat and the funky guitar sound favoured by Chic and Haircut 100, Dear Science is both visceral and cerebral. Tunde Adebimpe sings everything from pop critique (“Angry young mannequin, American apparently”) to old-fashioned sauce (“I’m gonna shake you, I’m gonna make you come”). The driving Spector-Numanesque Halfway Home may be album opener of the year, while the spectacularly lovely Family Tree is, implausibly, an art rock ballad. Career-defining stuff. And our album of the year.

2 White Denim: Exposion
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eYwkkujr5Y&hl=en&fs=1]
(Shake Shake Shake- Video)

Right off the bat on Exposion, it’s hard to pin White Denim down. The first riff could be one jagged and broken guitar line. Or it could be a breakneck, two-guitar interplay. Or it could be samples of guitar notes cobbled together to make a fractured riff. It’s broken down and crackled enough to be made of busted parts, but based on a string of notes so quick and infectious that it is the perfect hook to pull you into the album. It also sets up an album where things that appear broken or backwards are actually the driving forces. On “Transparency”, you can hear the dry ruffle of the guitarist’s hard strumming almost as clearly as you can hear the chords coming out of the amplifier. “Migration Wind” opens with a cacophony of battling guitar notes and deep-underwater bass lines. “Shake Shake Shake” is almost too fast for its own good, the guitars so full of treble they sound like they might crack. But nothing ever does crack on Exposion. It always manages to just barely hold together. Not only does it keep its jagged pieces knotted together to make a whole, it meshes different sounds throughout the record. The frenetic energy on every track works against the album’s bluesy intentions in a very interesting way, making the emotion on these songs sound more exasperated and desperate than beaten down and sad. The vocals, even at their quietest, are full-throated howls of want and not keening wails of melancholy. And our baying hawkers—the whole band shouts in the background throughout the record—lead us through a rough and beautiful freak show of sounds. There’s the psychedelic pop of “Ieieie”. The atmospheric southern rock of “You Can’t Say”. The pastoral folk into sawdust power-pop of “Heart from All of Us”. From song to song, the band surprises the listener with a new take on a sound that is all theirs. Even when they take a break from the rough speed of most of their songs, they don’t lose any of their boundless energy. “WDA” has the laidback jazzy feel of mid-career Sea and Cake, while “All Truckers Roll” is all country road feel, but both break away from their starts in their own way. The former gets crunchier as it goes, while the latter crumbles from its sweet beginnings into the scratch and fizzle of cymbals and distortion squeaks.
From beginning to end, Exposion threatens chaos, but White Denim know the value of pushing to the edge without going over. The pop sensibility behind all this sprawling, sweaty R&B, mixed with a heavy dose of the roadrunner speed and snarl of garage punk, is what drives the haphazard beauty of this album. At its most out of control, this album exudes an impressive amount of focus, and in the end, White Denim gets to have it both ways. They’re as catchy as any pop band going, but they also handle strange sounds, texture, and off-kilter compositions as well as your favorite noise experimenter. No matter what music you’re into, Exposion probably has something for you.

3 Tabacco: Fucked up Friends
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mFyC0ZrTPc&hl=en&fs=1]
(Backwoods Alter- Video)

Solo debut from the main constituent behind Black Moth Super Rainbow. Features vocals from Aesop Rock. Early version of Fucked Up Friends’ audio was featured on Tobacco’s limited DVD collaboration with visual artist Beta Carnage. Follows up Black Moth Super Rainbow’s 2007 smash hit, Dandelion Gum. On his first solo album, Tobacco explores a darker, starker, and altogether more badass dimension of his complex vision. With his group, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco distinguishes himself as a master of jagged beats, glowing melodies, and pronounced tension. This time, he works alone, in rural Pennsylvania, away from conventions and interference. And the results? They are magnificent.

4 Calexico: Carried to Dust
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCA0_bNXAao&hl=en&fs=1]
(Two Silver Trees- Video)

It’s impossible to experience any undue tension or stress while listening to Calexico. Despite time spent in Los Angeles, where they met, founders Joey Burns (vocals, guitar) and John Convertino (drums) produce sounds more reflective of their sun-blasted Tucson environs. Since spinning off Howe Gelb’s indomitable Giant Sand and forming their own collective, their songs have always been too hushed, too much like lullabies not to soothe the most savage breast, and Carried to Dust marks their most relaxed and confident effort to date. Burns and Convertino pursue such a mellow, yet expansive muse that they blur the lines between indie rock, imaginary soundtracks, and ethnographic explorations. As with the work of Douglas McCombs (Tortoise) and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), who contribute to their sixth long-player, this isn’t such a bad thing (the duo previously collaborated with Beam on 2005’s In the Reins). What they lack in edge or, God forbid, trendiness, the band makes up for in beauty and creativity. Note, for instance, the cascading keyboard figures of “Two Silver Trees” or the way toy piano and chimes entwine on lovely closer “Contention City.” Calexico don’t make music to get the party started, but to bring it to a warm and satisfying conclusion.

5 Deerhunter- Microcastle
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1JHdSBibO8&hl=en&fs=1]
(Nothing Ever Happened- Video)

Deerhunter wants to stay put. To be locked in windowless rooms. To never age. To sleep. To be dead. In a way, it’s ironic that the Atlanta band gets tagged as punk, even when it’s attached to prefixes like “psych,” “ambient,” or “art”: Punk music agitates for upheaval, but Deerhunter seeks only stasis. “I had a dream no longer to be free,” goes “Agoraphobia,” and the line summarizes Microcastle: Deerhunter’s latest is a complete
fantasy, a shimmering depiction of what it’s like to wish fervently for calm, but know it’s not coming. The harsh, ambient darkness of 2007’s Cryptograms is mostly absent on Microcastle, replaced by blazing gold and orange hues, warmly whirring guitar solos, pepped-up drumming, pop hooks, and gauzy echoes of Motown and krautrock. The bolder sound signals that Deerhunter is now less concerned with the scarring effects of loss, conflict, and the passage of time, and more concerned with the ways to escape those things—even if that escape is fleeting. On “Little Kids,” a group of drunken youths symbolically reject aging by lighting an old man on fire. But as the flames rise, so does the sumptuous shoegaze squall and Bradford Cox’s soft insistence that those kids will “get older still.” Freedom from hurt: Deerhunter realizes it’s impossible, but Microcastle shows it’s a beautiful idea all the same.