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Our favourite albums of 2008

As I was looking through the 106 reviews contributed and written for this site throughout the year I started thinking to myself "daaaaaaaamn 2008 was a dope ass year for music". I mean, even though there wasn't a single release that rose above all as a clear standout there was still an absolute shitload of fantastic music released. The best thing about it all as well is the fact that a large amount of our musical highlights came from Australian artists.

With 2008 just about to die from an overdose of NYE bright-coloured jello shots it's time to collate our highlights of the past twelve months into something that resembles a 'best-of' list. It's the internet. It's kind of 'the law'.

So without further ado, here are the albums released in 2008 that made us thankful that we had been born with ears...

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A few months back I started thinking we had maybe overdone our initial praise of The Horse, The Rat and The Swan. Then I listened to the album again. Nothing else in 2008 was as frightening, haunting and mind-blowingly original. So we stick by our original lusting. This was by far our favourite local release of the year.

Although not without it's own flashes of brilliance, Snowman's self-titled debut sounds disjointed and undernourished when placed alongside the epic compositions that make up this album. Gone are the attempts to create anything that even remotely sounds like a radio-friendly package and in it's place is an album that is overflowing with real depth and substance. The giant leap forward - and the speed at which the band has transformed their approach, from this record to their previous work - is quite remarkable.

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No Age found some melodies and even though they still buried them with their distinct thick layer of noise, crafted an unbelievably great, sloppy punk record.

There is still the occasional wandering artsy moments that littered Weirdo Rippers, but the band is clearly focused on putting their best foot forward. Their ability to create structure from noise, catchiness from feedback-driven chaos and emotion from dreary half-assed vocals is amazing and ultimately what makes Nouns such an addictive record.

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Their career defined opus. I can't remember the last time such an anticipated release exceeded all expectations by so much.

Every track is a standout. Third is a perfect balance between sonic noise, electric and acoustic sounds. Portishead have accomplished what every band searches for: consistency in tone. The whole album just drips of atmosphere. Acoustic guitars replace synthesizers, drums echo in cavernous reverbs and Gibbons' vocals are never far from distortion or a slap delay.

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From the sickening thrust of energy at the twenty eight second mark of the opening track, Before I Weigh, it's clear that this record is gonna kick ass, take names and then kick the shit out of the piece of paper on which it was written down the names. It's relentless and enjoyably punishing. It's dirty, perfectly under produced and topped with an unpredictable explosion of sound hidden behind every nook and cranny. This is beautiful messy stuff.

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The album where everything came together just perfectly.

While on the surface The Drones' signature sound seems most comfortable lying naked in the dark woods, suffering under haunting tales of regret and self-pity, at other moments the music partners up with a drunken, confident swagger, beckoning challengers to try and be tougher than it. The way in which this two-headed beast wrestles it's way through the ten tracks of Havilah is not only the core factor that makes it such an enjoyable record, but also the key reason why The Drones are such an important Australian band.

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An absolutely brutal and unbelievably engaging slab of music.

It's doubtful the band realise it, but this album is part of a much larger picture - an emerging, gutter dwelling sub-genre of Australian music where Dead China Doll find themselves as the Sydney representatives. Much like Witch Hats, Spider Vomit and Snowman, Dead China Doll paint a dark picture with scattered moments of brightness creating a fantastic antithesis of ideas and sounds. This isn't the smoothest journey, but it's definitely rewarding and worthy of your time. I can't imagine any other Sydney group releasing such an engrossing and unbelievably powerful record this year.

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I wasn't really too big of a fan of Further before this album BUT they really nailed it this time around. Every song on Tactics is about 2 minutes shorter than it should be which means you are always longing for more of the previous track while the next one is kicking your ass.

At times it's garage rock at it's finest. At other times it's new age punk delivered with a thick dose of passion and emotion. Each song has it's place and purpose. For the most part that purpose is to rip you apart with it's sheer awesomeness.

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The winner of our inaugural (and diamond encrusted) Person Of The Year award delivered an album that was a mature step forward yet still laced with his great comical style.

Dead

SPOD's unique ability to blend the many sides of his style - the sexy alter-ego, the tongue-in-cheek rapper and the cheesy poptronica maestro - into different formats is primarily what makes Superfrenz such an enjoyable listen. Whether it's the highly addictive chorus of Dead, the g-funk inspired instrumental brilliance of Blubberponies or the electronic party punk style of Nitefallz it all fits into the overall formula of the album without any of the songs sounding too much alike.

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Krug and Boeckner go head to head for eight rounds before joining forces on the epic ten minute closer. Although not as amazing as their debut, At Mount Zoomer is a much more controlled and consistent single body of work.

I am absolutely certain that this is one of the better records I've heard in the last 3 years. Such is the calibre of the artists involved - the supporting cast contributing just as many intangibles as the two all-stars - that they can make a piece of music nothing short of masterful and still leave one wanting more. It's the little things that bring it down a notch: a little too much synth in the chorus of Language City; the all-together confusing first half of An Animal In Your Care. On the whole, however, this is an album any other band on the planet would sell they're souls to be able to make.

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This album nicely filled the gaps between seeing this amazing band perform. Hopefully, the rumours of the band breaking up next year turn out to be false.

There isn't a single wasted note across the eight tracks and, although their distinct core sound has remained intact, the overall execution this time around is almost faultless.

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This record is incredibly hard to summarise into words. Yesayer have a fantastic depth to their sound which throughout 2008 I pleasantly got lost in on a countless number of occasions.

Yeasayer's musical strength exists in their delicate fusion of obvious Middle Eastern influences and thick slabs of overpowering harmonies. The resulting sound is beautifully psychotic and completely engaging. The occasional dark edges to their sound, such as the haunting Wait For The Wintertime, which sees the trademark choir of voices morph into a more forceful presence, are contrasted by the lighter side, such as with 2080, which explodes with optimism and hope. For the most part this is how the album chooses to play, sticking it's head out into the warmth of the sunshine, but still happy to stay partly in the colder shadows.

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Even after the 'what the fuck' initial reaction wore off I found myself repeatedly coming back to this album throughout the year.

The blank canvas approach that Fuck Buttons take to their music is enlightening and oozes creative freedom. This is one of the most refreshingly original and surprisingly engaging records to touch my ears this year. It's not the smoothest ride and not a journey that everyone will find rewarding, but if you enjoy confronting music with a sharper, chaotic edge then you will find Street Horrrsing a pleasurable trek and music certainly worthy of your time.

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An amazing album from a local band who are criminally underrated.

None of these songs will knock you over with their aggressiveness, nor will they pull slowly at your heart strings until you are completely immersed in their world. The way in which they tip-toe between falling on either side of this fence is not only one of the most interesting areas of the album, but also provokes a great mixture of emotions from the listener.

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While on occasions the group dive head first into instrumental pieces that could easily be used as soundtracks for funeral parades, they are at their best when vocalist Matt Blackman guides the music with his effortless delivery and endlessly quotable lyrics. The distant, occasionally pain-laced vocals are often brought forward as the sole light within the dark musical arrangements, while at other times settle themselves alongside the music, walking hand-in-hand through a more uptempo composition.

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So there you have it - our faves for another year. In the can. Done. Of course, these are just our opinions so feel free to discuss, disagree and/or dissect in the comments or add your own list of musical highlights of the past year into this thread.

Filed Under
Articles
Snowman
No Age
Portishead
Witch Hats
The Drones
Dead China Doll
Further
SPOD
Wolf Parade
Ohana
Yeasayer
Fuck Buttons
Peabody

 

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