Putting together these lists is always exceedingly difficult. Usually just remembering every record of note from a year is a challenge in itself but to pick just a handful and bestow some sort of special honour on those is practically impossible, this year more than most. For this year has seen some utterly fantastic records. 2007 was a great year due to a few select releases whereas 2008 had a massive breadth of fantastic releases.
A few that deserve mention that fail to make our list: The sophistication of Morgan Geist (and Junior Boy's Greenspan's) sophisticated Double Night Time. Midnight Juggernauts' Dystopia, which successfully paints another chapter in mixing rock music with dance. Metronomy's beautifully wonky Nights Out, a criminally overlooked pop re-birth. Gang Gang Dance's Saint Dymphna didn't even get a BlackPlastic review (we struggle to catch them all) but trust us - it barely misses out getting in our top five, as do the similarly unreviewed Third by Portishead and Los Angeles by Flying Lotus. The Presets grew to be more than just an also ran with Apocalypso - showing a new level of emotion that was missing off of their debut. M83's ode to Donnie Darko teenage kicks, Saturdays = Youth was another terrific addition to Anthony Gonzalez' cannon - it may lack Before The Dawn Heals Us' more ecstatic moments but it did demonstrate an growing level of focus and a refinement of the overall sound. Hercules & Love Affair's eponymous album has been credited with the rebirth of disco - BlackPlastic isn't sure that has actually happened but that's nothing to do with the quality of this album, which has a level of maturity and sophistication that should ensure it a place in your collection next to Morgan Geist's 2008 album. Hot Chip failed to make the list, possibly purely due to their own desire for experimentation - in places Made In The Dark matches anything the group have previously released, it just suffered for being unfocused (but hey, focusing IS difficult in the dark).
So here is what DID make the list:
5. Hlllyh - The Mae Shi
Not a perfect record by any stretch, but that is the point in the Mae Shi. Much to the bemusement of his companions BlackPlastic had the luck to catch them live earlier in the year and it was an unfocused, chaotic mess. And it was fantastic. Hlllyh is a record that does everything at once and just about makes it work and for that it deserves applause and love. It's a rambunctious, noisy, angry-punk-pop-hippie-love-in and it gets a big hug from us.
4. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
As BlackPlastic suspected back when it was reviewed, Crystal Castles' debut was an album that gets better with repeat listens. Lonely, cold and yet never anything other than totally, uncompromisingly experimental, Crystal Castles have pushed the envelope for all those within the chiptune genre.
3. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
A record that is already seemingly suffering from the "Oh I'm slightly embarrassed I got so excited about that one" treatment for some journalists: Fact magazine's songs of the year list contained a snide comment about this album's failure to 'save indie dance'.
BlackPlastic loves Fact but to that we say a big "fuck you" because this album is so platinum-five-stars it's not even funny. If it has failed to set the world alight it is the failure of Fact, BlackPlastic, music publications everywhere and the general public at large for choosing some talent-less twat off X-Factor EVERY SINGLE TIME. It certainly is not a reflection of the ten gloriously produced punk-funk house-jams hear: this is a record to skip a heart beat too.
2. Fantasy Black Channel - Late of the Pier
Like waking up from a 70s slasher porn flick nightmare Fantasy Black Channel sounds like Bowies' imagined future. The sound is far more cutting edge than the Klaxons managed on their debut and yet it is filtered through a glorious haze of thick chunky basslines from the aforementioned decade that just make it sound sexier than their contemporaries. By the album's close, Fantasy Black Channel should have you on your knees with a lighter in the air.
1. In Ghost Colours - Cut Copy
If, for some reason, you are in any doubt as to what makes Cut Copy one of the best acts of our time go and grab their superb So Cosmic mix (alternative link) and, if you can't wait, scan forward to 29:30, where they mix Fleetwood Mac's 'Never Forget' with Lifelike's 'So Electric' and create a hands-in-the-air-tears-in-my-eyes anthem that deserves it's own release, the warm electronic waves of Lifelike's tracks gradually surrounding Stevie Nicks' vocals in a beautiful swell. It is this mixture of old and new that makes Cut Copy so utterly charming, their ability to combine seemingly disparate sounds into one fantastic piece of music, and in the hands of the DFA's Tim Goldsworthy this ability truly shined. Just check the glorious combination of the shoe-gazing guitar line of 'So Haunted' with the floating-in-space chorus and the final New Order-esque outro.
What's more, In Ghost Colours is a beautifully sequenced album. Ditch the bonus track bundled with the UK CD version and you have a record that fits together just perfectly, tracks bridged with a series of not-inconsequential interludes.
Cut Copy's debut, Bright Like Neon Love, was a fantastic record. That In Ghost Colours represents a complete step change in everyone's perceptions of their abilities is a testament to the record: You won't hear a better collection of electronic pop songs from 2008.