Favourite Music of 2008

As usual (for those who used to read the old gig guide emails) this is music new to me in 2008 rather than new releases. Not in any particular order and put into some rather ad hoc groupings to make the whole thing a bit more manageable.
Old Favourites
There were a number of great releases from perennial favourites, these artists mostly make my end of year list every time they put out a new release.

  • Autechre – Quaristice
    As usual, a new Autechre album takes a while to get your head around, but it worth the effort.
  • Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Lie Down in the Light
  • Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy with Alex Neilson and Harem Scarem – Is It the Sea?
    Two great releases from Will Oldham, I’d have trouble picking a favourite between them. Hopefully we’ll seem him back in Adelaide this year.
  • Ed Kuepper – The Prince Melon Bootleg Series Vol. 2
  • Ed Kuepper – Live at the Judith Wright Centre
    There were three editions in the Prince Melon Bootleg Series, all great, but I’ve picked Vol2 due it featuring a lineup that I didn’t get to see live. The opening track, a piano driven version of “By The Way” is a standout. The JWC one is a download from the Prince Melon Myspace page and is from around the time of the launch of Jean Lee & The Yellow Dog (my favourite album from a couple of years ago). There is a horn section which allows Ed to bring out a few rarely played classics, plus some great versions of material from Jean Lee, particularly “Real To Me”
  • Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash
    Has Mr Malkmus forgotten Australia? This could well be the best of his solo albums, but why so long since we’ve seen him down under?
  • Mouse on Mars – Live 04
    Finally got hold of this and it just made me wish I’d had the chance to see Mouse On Mars play live. Essential for all MoM fans (and if you’re not a MoM fan it’s time to have a long hard look at yourself … and your record collection)
  • Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
    There are two bands whose albums I look forward to more than any other and they both start with Silver. As usual David Berman did not dissapoint. Once again I’m left asking – where is the Australian tour? I really got my hopes up with this being released in Australia by Spunk.
  • Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
    This is the other silver band. Didn’t blow me away like “Horses in the Sky” (my favourite album of 2005) but still very good. An amazing band, I think better than Godspeed You Black Emperor (who they sort of grew out of) but never seem to get as much attention.
  • Stereolab – Chemical Chords
    It’s probably a long time since Stereolab would have featured in one these lists (maybe 1997?) but I’ve really been getting into their recent stuff and find myself eagerly awaiting their appearance at Laneway next month.

Live Highlights
I buy a lot of music based on gigs that I like, here are a bunch of things I got at or soon after great gigs and went on to be amongst my favourites last year

  • Guy Blackman – Adult Baby
    Saw him at Rocket Bar, unfortunately not many other people did. Great songwriter, have listened to this album a lot.
  • The Devastations – Yes U
    For ages I’d been hearing that I’d like these guys, never got a chance to see them until Laneway. I’d found quite a few of the bigger acts to be not so much to my liking, so seeing these guys last saved the day to some extent. Bought this album soon afterwards.
  • Robert Forster – The Evangelist
    I was a pretty late convert to The Go-Betweens, and had not gotten as far as solo albums. When Robert Forster played one of the shows of the year at the Gov I realised my mistake and got started with this, his latest album.
  • ii – Landlakes
    Hadn’t heard of these guys until they played a gig at Felt Space (the first time there was a gig there). I was very impressed, and bought this album off them.
  • Philip Jeck – Sand
    I’ve been a fan of Philip Jeck for years but don’t come across his albums very often. Not only did I get to see a great live performance at the Jade, it also gave me a chance to get this, his latest album (also #2 in The Wire’s 50 albums of the year)
  • Machine Translations – Seven Seven
    I was very fortunate to catch MT in Melbourne, where they played one of the best shows of theirs that I’ve seen. The new lineup is great, I was expecting a tour to Adelaide but it never happened. It’s a shame because this album is as good as anything they’ve done and deserves more promotion.
  • Pimmon – Your Drone’s Got a Little Machine
    As with Philip Jeck, I’d been listening to one or two Pimmon recordings for years, with no opportunity to see him live, and few opportunities to buy more cds, so I was very happy to get the chance to see him twice and to buy a number of cds off him including this one, which comes in beautiful packaging, with each copy featuring a different design.
  • Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    As featured in the previous post. I hadn’t got around to buying this album before so I went out the day after the gig to get it.

Last year I was getting into more and more folk artists from the 60’s & 70’s, the highlights were

  • John Fahey – Red Cross
    While he made his name in the 60’s, this is actually his final album from the early 00’s. Not exactly folk either, but seems to fit in together with fellow guitarists like Jansch and Graham. I plan to dig into his older stuff when I get the chance.
  • Davey Graham – Folk, Blues & Beyond
    The title describes it, a groundbreaking clash of folk, blues, jazz, world … with the sensational guitar playing of Graham.
  • Shirley Collins & Davey Graham – Folk Roots, New Routes
    Here Graham teams up with Shirley Collins, another big name in adventurous 60’s folk.
  • Bert Jansch – Jack Orion
    I’ve been looking out for this one for years, only just came across it recently. The epic title track is a particular highlight.
  • Various – Early Morning Hush
    Excellent psych-folk compilation.

New Weird America / Free Folk
Also continuing to catch up with the newer folk influenced stuff coming out of America

  • Christina Carter – Electrice
    Solo album by member of Charalambides. I really like the guitar style which reminds me of some of the stuff I used to do a long time ago.
  • Charalambides – Likeness
    I saw some reviews that didn’t compare this latest album favourably with their early stuff. Being fairly new to the band’s music I wouldn’t know too much about that, but I thought this sounded great.
  • Josephine Foster – This Coming Gladness
    I saw Foster play live a couple of years ago, but this is the first time I’ve heard her on record. It’s an excellent album that is hard to describe in simple terms – a very distinctive sound.
  • MV & EE with Bummer Road – Green Blues
    Finally caught up with MV & EE who I’ve read a lot about. This leaves me keen for more of their stuff.

This year imports from the USA tended to be better value than those from the UK so I slowed down a bit on dubstep (particularly vinyl), but did still get into a few things

  • Burial – Untrue
    One from many 2007 lists, Burial continues to push in new directions beyond the basic dubstep template.
  • Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
    Not exactly dubstep, to me it sounds somewhere between Burial and Amon Tobin. I’m very disappointed that I won’t be able to see him in Adelaide this weekend as I’ll be at ATP.
  • Pinch – Underwater Dancehall
    Before hearing this I knew the track “Qawwali” which was one of my dubstep favourites. It turns up again here as “Brighter Day” complete with vocals which was a bit of a surprise but I’ve really warmed to this version. Both vocal and instrumental versions are included anyway, so you can choose either. Lots of other great stuff as well, including the closing track “Lazarus”.
  • Skream – Skreamizm Vol 4
    Excellent 6 track EP from Skream (despite my copy getting a bit warped after I accidentally left it in my pannier  overnight). Includes “2D” where Skream moves in the direction of Autechre-style electronica.
  • Various – Mary Anne Hobbs presents Evangeline
    I’m still yet to come across the highly rated “Warrior Dubs” compilation, but this follow up seems to be more widely available. A survey of the current UK electronic scene taking in dubtep, grime and similar sounds. Former Adelaidean Ben Frost turns up as well.

I feel like I’ve seen a bit less of local bands this year, but there were a few releases that I enjoyed (all with excellent album launch gigs too)

  • Hit the Jackpot – Soul Money, Gang Vibe
    This is HtJ’s best release yet, sadly I seem to have missed all of their gigs since the launch as I always seem to be otherwise occupied or out of town. That probably goes for their upcoming BDO appearance too since it clashes with TV on the Radio. Oh well, just as well they put out this cd then. For some reason there was a brief period when I always had “King of the Pool” in my head at the supermarket. Rather a good thing considering the crap that gets played over the stereos in supermarkets actually, but I don’t imagine it was conceived as grocery shopping theme music!
  • Satan’s Cheerleaders – Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea
    Simon “The Talented Mr” Ridley and co. finally put out their long-time-in-the-making album. Definitive versions of all the old favourites for those of us who’ve been going to their gigs for the past few years. Huge album launch, but I think a later gig with a smaller crowd at the Rhino Room was even more fun.
  • Sea Thieves – Hiding in the Shade
    It seemed to take ages for this to come out, I imagine that Zac got quite sick of me asking when it would be released every time I went to the Jade Monkey for about 6 months. After attending many of their gigs (even if they aren’t too often) I had most of the songs in my head already, but great to get them on cd as well! Only slight disappointment was to realise that “Eve of Acid Rain” was already put out on an earlier disc that I don’t have – but there was consolation in the form of it being dedicated for me at one of their gigs.

Jazz / Improv
Reading The Wire continues to help me to explore the huge world of Jazz & Improv. I’m getting into a lot more contemporary stuff rather than the 60’s recordings that used to dominate my jazz favourites lists.

  • Charles/Grydland/Wallumrød/Zach – Dans Les Arbres
    This recent improv release is part of the massive ECM catalogue which I’ve never got into before. Given that this is one of the best improv discs I’ve heard it’s probably about time that changed.
  • Philip Clemo – Ambiguous Dialogues
    Don’t know much about Clemo or this release (yes, I know about google – sometimes a bit of mystery is good though). It came out a few years ago now, features an unusual mix of 70’s Miles Davis fusion and string compositions and is rather brilliant.
  • Flower and Corsano Duo – The Radiant Mirror
    I saw Chris Corsano play a stunning solo set at the Jade Monkey back in January 2008, but this is a little different, with his drumming accompanying Mick Flowers’ “Japan Banjo” – an instrument about which I know nothing. Damn good and rather fiery set.
  • Sun Ra – The Magic City
    The sole representative of the original wave of avant garde jazz from the 60’s on this year’s list.. A large ensemble set that’s up there with the classics of the genre like Trane’s Ascension and Alan Silva’s Seasons.
  • Supersilent – 4
  • Supersilent – 8
    I’ve been getting into this Norwegian improv quartet in a big way. Fascinating and original music. I especially like the bits that sound like the BBC Radiophonic workshop!
  • David S. Ware Quartet – Renunciation
    Ware’s quartet had very quickly become my favourite contemporary jazz group in recent years so it’s rather sad that this is their farewell – but on the good side it’s a fantastic album showing them off at their best. I’m sure there’ll still be plenty more releases by the members of the quartet to listen to in the future anyway (to start with there’s Matthew Shipp’s Piano Vortex which I bought in Brisbane but haven’t listened to properly yet).


  • Burning Star Core – Challenger
    I’ve been hearing about BSC for some time (as any fellow Wire reader would as well) but this is the first time I’ve heard anything and it’s really blown me away. Not just me, this is well up, if not at the top, of many end of year lists. I think this post on the noisenoisenoise blog sums it up pretty well – It’s drone, it’s noise, it’s ambient but it’s not, it’s modern composition, it’s fucking amazing.
  • The Dead C – Future Artists
    The Dead C are well known for some of their early 90’s work, particularly Harsh 70’s Reality, this recent release (they’ve released a newer album I don’t have yet) shows that they are still going strong and showing the newer generation of noise artists how it’s done.
  • Earth – Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method
    I’ve been looking out for this for years but never see it in stock anywhere – at least until I happened to wander past Brisbane’s Rockinghorse records and couldn’t help having a bit of a look inside. They are known for being one of the originators of the sludgy, drone metal sound that’s developed into it’s own genre of late, but by this album had moved on to produce a sense of doom with a much sparser sound palette. The soundtrack to the darkest, bleakest Western you can imagine.
  • Stars of the Lid – The Tired Sounds Of …
    Another group I’ve been meaning to listen to for ages. They produce achingly beautiful drone soundscapes – the opening Requiem for Dying Mothers alone is good enough for me to recommend the purchase of this double cd.

Miscellaneous Others

  • Bracken – We Know About the Need
    Haven’t caught up with the Anticon label much lately, but this solo project from one of the members of Hood which they put out a few years back is a real winner. Certainly essential for Hood fans.
  • Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
    This has some sort of link with Warp band Grizzly Bear – actually, I like Department of Eagles even better. A very old fashioned sound (reminds me of the likes of Mercury Rev or M Ward in the incorporation of pre-rock’n’roll influences) which is very distinctive. I think this one will be a bit of a grower and might still get more attention than it has so far.
  • Four Tet – Ringer
    A kind of back to basics 4 track ep from Kieran Hebden with fairly minimal krautrock-y beats. I always liked the concise nature of the EP format, it’s very successful here as he develops some ideas that might have outstayed their welcome over a full album.
  • Harmonia – Live 1974
    Speaking of krautrock, this recently recovered live recording is incredible. Maybe I’m particularly interested because it reminds me of music myself and Nick used to make back before I ever knew what krautrock was. I’ll be experiencing Harmonia Live 2009 in a couple of days and can’t wait.
  • Seefeel – Quique
    A fairly recent reissue (maybe in 2006?) of a 90’s classic that I missed out on back in the day. Shoegazing meets Artificial Intelligence. If you like Slowdive & Aphex Twin then give Seefeel a listen if you haven’t already.

I may get around to posting a best gigs of 2008 list but given how huge this one was I have to admit that I probably won’t get around to it. If you’re hungry for more 2008 lists check out Utility Fog, Syscrusher and noisenoisenoise.

6 replies on “Favourite Music of 2008”

  1. Mark says:

    Great list Stu!

    I second the recommendations for Stars of the Lid and Seefeel both of which I bought in 2007 I think. However, I’ve only got “And their refinement of the decline” which is gorgeous. “Humectez La Mouture” is a beautiful song to start with.

    Regarding ambient/drone stuff, if you haven’t checked out Loscil (especially his “First Narrows”) then I urge you to make it top of your list for 2009. Easily the best ambient stuff I’ve heard in ages.

    I’ve only heard a few tracks by the Silver Jews but what I’ve heard I’ve liked.

    Other highlights for me this year include: Venetian Snares’ “Rossz Csillag Allat Született”, Ratatat, Battles, the new The Notwist, Josh Pyke, Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective with MIA, Girl Talk and MGMT thrown in for some trashy fun.

  2. Dave says:

    Hey Stu,

    Great list. BSC made the best record last year bar none. Check out sissy spacek’s French record. Mr Yeh makes an appearance there as well. I’m with you on Supersilent. In fact I’m pretty sure it was you who told me to check them out. Skylab, Ultralyd and Humcrush are also worth checking out (particularly Ultralyd).


  3. Stu says:

    Mark – thanks for the comments. I was thinking of you yesterday when watching Michael Gira since you were the one to introduce me to his music vie Soundtracks for the Blind all those years ago. He was just brilliant live. I’ll get around to posting lots on ATP later, right now I’m a bit tired after travelling back from Mt Buller.
    That Stars of the Lid album is definitely on my list of things to check out, I hadn’t heard of Loscil though. I’ll look out for it.
    As for you other highlights – haven’t got that Venetian Snares one yet, but I’ve noticed that it tends to be rated as his best. I did get “Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding” fairly recently, it has lots of Autechre-type sounds so you might be keen (if you haven’t already heard it). I only just heard Fleet Foxes on the way to ATP on Thursday night (in fact, while listening to it an actual fleet fox managed to only just avoid getting run over by us!). I’ve been hearing Girl Talk at parties recently – will see him at Laneway in Feb.

  4. Stu says:

    Dave – thanks for your comments to. I will check out your further recommendations if I get the chance. I notice that you have Yellow Swans “Deterioration” high on your list as well – I’ve got this but it’s kind of gotten lost in the cd collection, I’ll have to dig it out and listen to it properly! Lately I’ve been doing too much of my listening either on the computer at work or on ipod – noise stuff really requires sitting down and listening to it properly on a stereo.
    Glad you like Supersilent. I’ve got 4,6,8 and they are all excellent.

  5. J says:

    Your ‘best new for this year’ list is probably longer than my ‘listened to new all year in total’ list. I am made slightly sheepish and inspired in equal measures… Time to go shopping.

  6. […] I was saddened to read tonight that Davy Graham died last month. I had only just discovered his music last year, as featured on my list of favourite music for the year, I guess I missed hearing about his passing as I was traveling around New Zealand at the time and wasn’t keeping up with music news. […]

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