Lists of the year are lame, everyone knows it and yet everyone loves reading and writing them. Given that there is very little else to right about at this time of year it makes sense to take the time to take stock.
2008 has been, without doubt, a vintage year for music. The number of fantastic albums released within the first few months is testament to that, especially when the pace didn't let up all year.
This is the first of four separate lists - generally BlackPlastic concerns itself with electronic music but there have been some fantastic releases outside of this area. Here are the five best non-electronic albums from 2008:
5. Dear Science - TV On The Radio
BlackPlastic is still not sure this trumps Return To Cookie Mountain but what is does do is snap, crackle and pop with sheer verve and ambition. Cookie Mountain may win out on emotional depth and angsty retribution but Dear Science is a sign of the times bill board for a generation's confusion at the state of the world. This is a celebration of our times - the problems may seem insurmountable but our achievements also seem to be getting greater every day.
4. Stay Positive - The Hold Steady
Like a rowdy night on the sauce The Hold Steady's 2008 release is an exciting and heady rush that feels like you just don't care any more. Never less than thoroughly charming Stay Positive is like the badly behaved friend that everyone seems to find too endearing to ever get offended by. This record is an absolute ball with the emotional journey of a buddy-movie-road-trip. Grab yourself some ice 'n' bourbon and slam this on the jukebox.
3. Falling Off The Lavender Bridge -Lightspeed Champion
Fresh out of the energetic yet nihilistic Test Icicles, Dev Hynes was left directionless and drifting. Lavender Bridge is the sound of recovery and growth. A fantastically timeless record that mixes a mature-yet-contemporary country sound with lyrics that reference crunk. A record to be hung-over and to feel sorry for yourself to.
2. Twenty One - Mystery Jets
Destined to top this list right up until the last month or so when the actual number one won over BlackPlastic's heart, Twenty One is still a fantastic record. From the opening air-raid siren of Hideaway to the closing piano refrain of the ghost track (the source of the album's title) and its Joy Division referencing lyrics ("even Love Will Tear Us Apart don't ease the pain" - what a line) there is never a dull moment.
Already criminally overlooked in most end of year lists this album has it all - whether the emotional gravitas of 'Flakes' or the sheer pop ambition (not to mention the best use of a saxophone in years) of 'Two Doors Down', Twenty One is a glorious record that is destined to age like fine wine. A proof not just of producer Erol Alkan's ability but also that Mystery Jets are one of this country's finest.
1. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
One of those records that it was all too easy to miss at the time it is now getting some of the attention it deserves. The basic facts everyone seems to love to repeat:
- The band name would mean 'good winter' in french if it was spelt correctly.
- This is actually a chap called Justin Vernon.
- The album is the result of Vernon's break-up with the eponymous Emma and his previous band.
- The sound that ensues is what happened following this breakdown, a bout of sickness and a winter in a log cabin in Wisconsin.
Now that the above is out of the way, here is what is important: This record is absurdly beautiful, in a 'clinging to the edge of this spinning chunk of rock as we hurtle through space' type way - just listen to the thrum that builds in 'Creature Fear', it sounds like life itself.
It's difficult to do the songs on this short little record justice because the sound of this album transcends anything that can be put into words - For Emma, Forever Ago is all the longing and regret that gets pushed down in our daily lives erupting like rainbow coloured magma on a background of snow and ice. It is the perfect soundtrack to winter days. It is the soundtrack to nights on the bourbon with the fire raging. It is the words BlackPlastic would never be able to find to convey what goes on behind these eyes.
This is probably not just the best record this year, but one of the best records this decade.