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Albums to Kill for from 2008

1 | TV ON THE RADIO | Dear Science | Interscope-4AD

Dear Science is a rare thing circa 2008: a headphone record in the age of iPods and decreased engagement with music. This is a band that’s on top of its game: The members of TV on the Radio have done a middling debut and an excellent art-rock heavy follow-up, and now they’ve proved they can make an exhilarating album with great songs from front to back. Dear Science is another highlight from a band whose career has essentially been an extended one.” – Prefix Mag

The songs are brighter, more vital, as energized and beautiful as they are portentous. It’s as if the band, poised at the precipice, on a dying planet crawling with ignorant citizens, surrounded by warfare and soulless machines and a precious bit of love, figured it may as well try to lasso the pageant of life. Violins and trumpets are everywhere, replacing distortion with graceful, majestic textures that feel no less forceful than a squalling electric guitar. And the warmth and sparkle make sense on an album so explicitly designed to connect with people.” – Boston Globe

maikaʻi aʻe mele
crying | golden age | love dog | dlz

Video for ‘Golden Age’ :

 

2 | EL GUINCHO | Alegranza! | Beggars-XL

“El Guincho’s debut album Alegranza is as bright as the feathers of the parrot, as sparkly as the fireworks, and as warm as the palm trees that adorn the cover. The music flows like melted butter, twists and turns like a mountain highway, and shimmers like the sun on a scorching summer day. The Spanish producer/singer throws a whole mess of ingredients into the mix, including various strains of world music (like Afro-pop, tango, Spanish folk music), indie pop, techno, and post-rock and sends it spinning into a blurred, whirling rush of sound that never falters.”All Music Guide

“It’s fun and light, and even though for all I know he could be singing about the destruction of mankind, it is bursting with joy and happiness. And for once, you can actually dance to a dance record.”Lost At Sea

“Born in the Canary Islands, Mr. Díaz-Reixa makes joyful music from an international assortment of loops and drumbeats — African, South Asian, Caribbean, Brazilian — and vocals, with free-associative lyrics in Spanish, that sound like a bunch of guys in a bar celebrating to endless three-chord refrains full of la-las. The repetition of the loops turns from mechanical to hypnotic to hallucinatory to ecstatic as the songs barrel along.”New York Times

“The 24-year-old’s debut is a tropical soundclash of spiralling steel drums, looped, gnarled local songs and untrammelled joy.”The Observer

maikaʻi aʻe mele
antillas | cuando maavilla fui | fata morgana | kalise

Video for ‘Palmitos Park’ :

 

3 | AMY WINEHOUSE | Back to Black | Republic Records

(This album came out in 2007, but I didnt hear it until this year, thus is makes the 2008 list.)

“Back To Black has a hook as simple as it is irresistible. Winehouse’s boozy, brawling, self-destructive ‘tude is hip-hop and contemporary, but her unashamedly retro sound hearkens giddily back to Motown and girl groups of the ’50s and ’60s. Winehouse might sing about sketchy acquaintances smoking too much of her weed, or a beau who made her miss a Slick Rick concert, but the songcraft is as lush as anything Phil Spector has cooked up.”The Onion AV Club

“At first the songs on Amy Winehouse’s second album, “Back to Black,” could almost be unknown soul oldies from the 1950s and 1960s. The drums, strings and horns have a vintage production style, and Ms. Winehouse’s tart voice and sly, sultry phrasing sound largely unprocessed. Then the anachronisms kick in, from current slang and beats that hint at hip-hop to four-letter words and blunt references to sex and drugs. A 23-year-old English songwriter, Ms. Winehouse is decades too young for ’60s nostalgia, but she has come up with a wonderfully time-twisted batch of songs.”New York Times

maikaʻi aʻe mele
he can only hold her | love is a losing game | tears dry on their own | back to black

Video for ‘Back to Black’ :

 

4 | M83 | Saturdays=Youth | Mute Records

“With guitars gliding across translucent synth lines, the songs are big statements rendered in cold neon. The dazzling thing about M83 maestro Anthony Gonzalez’s fifth effort is his uncanny success at recapturing the heart-leaping whirl of his generation’s ’80s touchstones. An admitted John Hughes tribute, “Graveyard Girl” collides Ride and the Cocteau Twins in an Encino arcade while “We Own the Sky” is heady digital shoegaze for a fog-filled ice bar.”Paste Magazine

“The liner notes feature a sun-saturated photo shoot of a gang of sharp-dressed teens that could have been torn from a 1985 issue of Sassy. It’s hard to tell whether they’re the cool kids or the outcasts — but really, it doesn’t matter: romanticized confusion is the heart of Saturdays’ æsthetic. You can marvel at the ringer for Molly Ringwald on the cover while listening to the shoegazy “Graveyard Girl” (an homage to Pretty in Pink); you can take a lonely suburban summer drive to the electro anthem “We Own the Sky”; and “Kim & Jessie” is equally suited to moping or making out in your parents’ basement. This is an album steeped in a generation’s worth of nostalgia, but unlike most rehashed coming-of-age exercises, Saturdays = Youth manages, in its own small way, to offer something entirely new.”Boston Phoenix

maikaʻi aʻe mele
kim & jessie | couleurs | we own the sky | graveyard girl

‘Kim & Jessie’ video :

 

5 | SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS | Alpinisms | Ghostly International

…squarely within the domain of late ’80s/early ’90s dream-pop in terms of inspiration, (these songs) are relatively individualist, going well beyond the lucid psychedelia and discreet flickers of Afro-beat and contemporary pop.” – All Music Guide

Spacey, ambient, and vaguely tribal, Alpinisms creates a landscape to get lost in. Alpinisms is a sensory experience, like downing a few tumblers of foreign liquor: too much will leave you lightheaded. Then again, everything is a better with a buzz.” – Lost At Sea

maikaʻi aʻe mele
half asleep | wired for light | connjur | prince of peace

Trailer for ‘Alpinisms’ :

 

6 | BROKER/DEALER | Soft Sell EP | Spectral



“80’s italo and disco infected uptempo house tracks from San Francisco’s Broker/Dealer with the excellent ‘Soft Sell’. The Italo/disco influences are subtle but apparent, with a long playing house track pushed by a perky bassline roll and luxuriant synthlines.
” – Boomkat

“From the first crack of the kick drum until the very end, Broker/Dealer’s “Soft Sell” is the kind of soulful techno you want to gorge yourself on over and over again. The full analog bass stabs provide a perfect counterpart to the sharp arpeggios and marshmallow synth horn, which plays a sublime midnight melody.” – Urlaubshits

maikaʻi aʻe mele
soft sell | save it for later

Video for ‘Opening Night’ :

 

7 | THE RAVEONETTES | Lust Lust Lust | Vice Records

“Awash in heavy reverb and in-the-red treble, and drawing heavily from ’60s surf-pop, Lust Lust Lust, the duo’s fourth album, shakes and wriggles within a self-defined aesthetic that’s perfectly suited to tales of the dirtiest of the deadly sins. These songs don’t sound like love songs because they aren’t love songs. That the Raveonettes understand why that’s an important distinction makes Lust Lust Lust a sleazy pop masterpiece.”Slant Magazine

“The Raveonettes’ fourth CD crackles like a transmission from some spectral AM radio station — one playing tunes from the supergroup that, in an alternate universe, the Ronettes, My Bloody Valentine, and the Velvet Underground formed on a lost weekend. Laced with languid two-part harmonies, fuzz-addled feedback, and bittersweet Spector melodics, Lust Lust Lust is a gauze-wrapped cocoon of an album.”Entertainment Weekly

maikaʻi aʻe mele
aly, walk with me | hallucinations | blush | sad transmission

Video for ‘Dead Sound’ :

 

8 | SANTOGOLD | Santogold | Downtown Records

“You’d have to go back to Grace Jones in the early ’80s to find an African-American woman who comes on this strong with avant-garde club funk and weird rock shit. Combining new wave, ska, dub, grime, Baltimore club, and hip-hop in an ear-warping wash of 21st-century psychedelia, Santogold takes listeners on a trip to a hidden black America, where Santi White (aka Santogold) acts as tour guide through the alleyways of her mind and undoubtedly excellent iPod.”Spin

“Severe, sumptuous beatbox dub, punky reggae and black-lit new wave. Santogold bursts with the arrogance of a world-beating hip-hop debut while thriving on vulnerability.”Blender

maikaʻi aʻe mele
you’ll find a way | shove it | say aha | lights out | creator | starstruck

Video for ‘Lights Out’ :

 

9 | COLDPLAY | Viva La Vida | Capitol Records

“Gone are Chris Martin’s piano recitals and gone are the washes of meticulously majestic guitar, replaced by orchestrations of sound, sometimes literally consisting of strings but usually a tapestry of synthesizers, percussion, organs, electronics, and guitars that avoid playing riffs. Gone too are simpering schoolboy ballads like “Fix You,” and along with them the soaring melodies designed to fill arenas. In fact, there are no insistent hooks to be found anywhere on Viva la Vida, and there are no clear singles in this collection of insinuatingly ingratiating songs. This reliance on elliptical melodies isn’t off-putting — alienation is alien to Coldplay — and this is where Eno’s guidance pays off, as he helps sculpt Viva la Vida to work as a musical whole.”All Music Guide

“‘Viva…’ truly goes stratospheric: on the magnificent orchestral pop title track, where Martin imagines himself as a deposed French king reduced to sweeping the streets; on the bruised ‘Yes’, like Dandy Warhols and Depeche Mode lost in a desert duststorm; on the Satanic blues hymnal of single ‘Violet Hill’. As the record rounds up with the thumping ceilidh of ‘Strawberry Swing’ and the disjointed Elbow-ish crescendo of ‘Death And All His Friends’ you can only applaud Coldplay’s daring within their Big Music remit. ‘Viva…’, like those revolutionary French peasants at the palace gates, is steeped in traditionalism (Irish folk, Deep South country and blues, churchy classicism) but striving for something greater, grander, better. And with mainstream success guaranteed, by over-reaching themselves Coldplay are perfectly placed to decree the shape of the new rock order with album five. King Bono is dead; long live the kings.”NME

maikaʻi aʻe mele
life in technicolor | cemetaries of london | lost! | lovers in japan | strawberry swing

Video for ‘Lost!’ :

 

10 | MADONNA | Hard Candy | Warner Bros.

“Madonna hasn’t delivered this many vapid floor fillers on one disc since her debut, and maybe not even then. Aside from a little careerism on the dance floor, there are few confessions here—nothing political, nothing too spiritual, no talk of fame, war, or the media. It’s just what America ordered.”Slant Magazine

“On Hard Candy, she’s like an aging master thief sneaking into the temple of pop goodies for one last big score. Album 11 is good-naturedly smutty, not confrontationally nasty, but it’s a veritable filth bath compared to the C-SPAN sermons and confessional strumming of 2003’s dreadful American Life or the woozily self-actualized club trance of 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor. But respect for her originality won out, and (the producers) invoke the bubbly electro synths of early Madonna and the squishy grooves of early -’80s Prince/Rick James funk to invent slinky, playful music with undercurrents of adorable psychosexual intrigue.”Blender

maikaʻi aʻe mele
heartbeat | incredible | beat goes on | dance 2night | devil wouldn’t recognize you

Video for ‘Give it 2 Me’ :

 

11 | BARRY ADAMSON | Back to the Cat | Central Control

“Things get mighty murky on Back to the Cat, which finds Adamson lurking halfway between the gutter and the neon. It’s a shirk away from the sick caricatures in search of a soundtrack aesthetic played out on many of his past albums. If Wayne Newton is playing at the Stardust, Adamson is across town at the dive bar with all the down-and-out losers just cashing out on their way to a cheap motel after pawning away their hopes and dreams. It’s probably safe to assume that somewhere in Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s fictional universe of Sin City, the collected works of Barry Adamson are constantly playing. Beneath his cartoon martini lounge jazz-pop lies an openly repressed depravity. His icy exteriors are so slick and cynically confident that you can picture them inhabited by a world rendered only in black and white, eternally clouded by the smoking embers of a seemingly endless supply of discarded cigarette butts.”Pop Matters

“If there’s a common thread to what Barry Adamson has brought to music over the last 30 years, it’s a sense of drama. Stylistically, he’s all over the place – Back to the Cat, like the last few, ranges between jazzy IDM and ornate pop productions. He can’t resist adding layers, be it a layer of sound, a shade of meaning or a musical reference. That’s the conundrum of his work – he makes background music that demands close listening. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t gotten more work doing actual Hollywood soundtracks. Naturally, David Lynch has taken advantage of his work. The two share a knack for making sunshine as unnerving as the shadows.”Dusted Magazine

maikaʻi aʻe mele
straight ’til sunrise | spend a little time | walk on fire | psycho_sexual

Video for ‘Straight ’til Sunrise’ :

 

12 | NEON NEON | Stainless Style | Lex Records

“Strap yourselves in, close the gullwing doors, and prepare for the ride of a lifetime. For this is Neon Neon and their concept album telling the story of John DeLorean and his motor car – a tale of speed, drugs, sex, glamour and financial ruin. And now the narrative has music to suit it, as Welshmen Gruff Rhys and his partner in time travel Boom Bip go back to the future in their search for one of Detroit’s most flamboyant sons. Rhys may not be a petrol head but Hollon clearly is, and dresses up his music to reflect that. The music could hardly evoke the 1980s more strongly. As a document of its time, Stainless Style is remarkably successful. Taken on the base level of being an enjoyable pop album, it also triumphs handsomely. An indulgence not to be passed over or taken guiltily.”musicOMH

“Car visionary DeLorean created the iconic DMC-12 featured in Back to the Future, and here Rhys plays the story-telling Marty to Hollon’s synth-bothering Doc, with Yo Majesty, Fatlip and Spank Rock’s Naeem Juwan jumping on board for the ride. Like its subjects’ career, the album’s highs are heady. Songs about hot girls and fast cars, assembly-line porn and Michael Douglas are wrapped in kitschy, itchy Italo disco softened by Welsh whimsy. I Told Her On Alderaan is a Thompson Twins-meets-the Cars fantasy, while the soulless electro of I Lust You perfectly mirrors the values of DeLorean’s decade. Detours into hip-hop and rap slow down the fast-paced action, but Neon Neon have poured as much love and attention to detail in this prototype as their hero put into his.”The Guardian

maikaʻi aʻe mele
i told her on alderaan | michael douglas | dream cars | steel your girl | sweat shop | belfast | luxury pool

‘I Told Her on Alderaan’ live on BBC2’s Culture Show :

 

13 | AIR FRANCE | No Way Down EP | Sincerely Yours Sweden

“Gothenburg, located on the west coast of Sweden, averages highs in the upper 60s in June; in recent years, however, the city has produced some of the sunniest music in the world. Tropical rhythms and warm-weather themes color releases by Jens Lekman, the Tough Alliance, Studio, and the Embassy. Signed to Sincerely Yours, Air France invited listeners to their “Beach Party” with last year’s too-good-to-be-true On Trade Winds EP. Air France’s latest, the 23-minute No Way Down EP, is better. If No Way Down is about a place that doesn’t exist, it’s a place where fairy tales are true and where old pop culture ephemera can– in Air France’s fertile musical imagination, at least– live happily ever after.”Pitchfork Media

“Air France are yet another product of this brilliant Scandinavian conveyor belt. Their debut EP – 2006’s On Trade Winds- was a cacophonous masterpiece brushed by Tropicalia and flighty, cloud-bursting grooves. Follow-up EP No Way Down (is) equally lush; flooded in Casiotoned symphonies and cut-paste-splatter samples that left the palate whetting, desperate for more.”Spins and Needles

maikaʻi aʻe mele
june evenings | collapsing at your doorstep | no excuses | no way down

Video for ‘Collapsing At Your Doorstep’ :

……………..

VERY HONORABLE MENTION

Adele : 19
The Black Seeds : Into the Dojo
Bloc Party : Intimacy
Bohren & der Club of Gore : Dolores
The Breeders : Mountain Battles
Scarlett Johansson : Anywhere I Lay My Head
Minotaur Shock : Amateur Dramatics
Oasis : Dig Out Your Soul
Thievery Corporation : Radio Retaliation
Ting Tings : We Started Nothing
Tricky : Knowle West Boy
Windsurf : Coastlines

……………..

SOME GREAT TRACKS, BUT JUST A FEW

Chairlift : Does You Inspire You
Cranes : Cranes
The Dandy Warhols : Earth to the Dandy Warhols
Sigur Ros : með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
The Verve : Forth

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