Monday, December 29

Shout And Twist's Albums Of 2008 - No. 12 to No. 1

12. The Envy Corps 'Dwell' (Vertigo)
When I saw this lot last summer at the Water Rats in London I figured they were good, had some strong singles, but would never climb too high in my musical mind of greatness. 'Dwell' however, enables such. Some strong singles? Every track on here could be, stocked by means of shear soulful and atmospheric sensibility. Like Modest Mouse with Doves as a backing band. What happened between last summer and now I don't know, but they've certainly found the right tools in order to produce the goods, such as with 'Keys To Good Living', 'Before The Gold Rush', 'Rooftop' and 'Baby Teeth'. The Envy Corps are here to gladly remind us of the difference between The Feeling and Keane, exhibiting that good old indie flag like few others.

11. Elbow 'The Seldom Seen Kid' (Polydor)
These have been around for ages. 'The Seldom Seen Kid' is in fact their fourth album, and there's not many bands out there who better themselves record after record. Elbow haven't done that, because the one before the last one, 'Cast of Thousands', was better than the last one, 'Leaders of the Free World'. So, discounting the last one, Elbow have very much bettered themselves record after record, and this is by far the best thing they've ever done. The world has only just gotten over 'In Rainbows', is waiting impatiently for 'Viva la Vida Or Death and All His Friends', and then Elbow go and throw this at us. Aside from the really unnecessary 'The Fix' which features Richard Hawley probably just for the hell of it, 'Starling', 'Grounds For Divorce', 'Weather to Fly', 'The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver', 'Some Riot' and 'Friend of Ours' are faultless to the bone. The most pleasant of surprises.

10. The Walkmen 'You & Me' (Gigantic)It's kinda interesting how some bands get tied down by their one-hit wonders. Especially when they're relatively talented. Think of The Walkmen, you think of 'The Rat'. And on that first album there was at least four-worthy singles, it's just strange how they never quite shooted up with the likes of The Strokes or BRMC. 'You & Me' is further evidence of their talent, almost every track a kind of Pogues-bitten nugget with a catchy chorus. 'On The Water', 'In The New Year', 'Long Time Ahead Of Us', 'New Country', 'If Only It Were True' - All of these could've caught the UK's attention of released as a single, with a bit of promo. Maybe the band don't want the success, after what happened last time.

9. Vampire Weekend 'Vampire Weekend' (XL)
With reference to 'Oxford Comma', if it wasn’t for Columbia Uni’s ‘Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma’ society and accompanying Facebook group, Ezra and the gang may never have sculptured one of this century’s finest slabs of afro-pop. Such defence of the ever- disputable punctuation mark was what initially roused New York’s most bookish to think up ‘Oxford Comma’, and in due course make their first foray into the UK Top 40 Singles Chart (at No. 38). But it’s the bourgeoisie-poking queries of “Why would you lie about how much coal you have? Why would you lie about something dumb like that?” plus sweet-guitar-glazed pipe organ breakdown that verifies this song a bona fide gem. Now somebody go tell Ezra about Cambridge’s ‘Annual Rally for the Protection of the Solidus’. And the album's fucking brilliant too.

8. Cajun Dance Party 'The Colourful Life' (XL)
The music press have been way too harsh on these with their debut. NME couldn't get over the fact they're all below the age of 20, and Drowned In Sound figured they were just too posh. I, however, think this is one of the best albums shelved out to us all this year thus far. Minus their ages and minus their background, 'The Colourful Life' is a brilliant debut, overflowing with herds of pop nuggets as body-tingling as watching Gavin and Stacey for the first time (Season 2, that is). It couldn't start more perfectly with the carefree flow of its title track, all before new single 'The Race' hits you via the finest outtro since, er, White Lies' 'Death' or something.'The Next Untouchable' and 'Amylase' aside, 'No Joanna', 'Buttercups' and 'The Hill, The View & The Lights' too ride the right side of bright and shiny pop. This is the album I hoped they would make.

7. Bon Iver 'For Emma, Forever Ago' (4AD)
I am ashamed. So, so ashamed. Utters of the name 'Bon Iver' were thrown my way months back, but I never caught on enough to venture out in to the world external of Noah & The Whale, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons to figure, "Hey, wait a minute, Wisconsin seem to be pretty good at this whole alt.folk thing too." Not only the setting of relatively funny American TV sitcom 'That 70s Show', and also Watford FC centre back Jay DeMerit, Wisconsin USA is the place the creator of one of this year's best albums calls home too. Bon Iver himself calls it 'neo-soul'. Shout And Twist totally agree, whilst too getting a little teary eyed-causing lo-fi tranquil acoustic Iron & Wine-but-better cogency from 'For Emma, Forever Ago' as well. If there's one more record you plan to lose yourself in this year, make sure it's this one. God I sound like HMV.

6. British Sea Power 'Do You Like Rock Music?' (Rough Trade)
The thing with the first British Sea Power record is that for every rock-powering classic like 'Remember Me', 'Carrion' and 'Blackout', there was just as much flaff like 'Something Wicked', 'The Lonely' and 'Apologies To Insect Life'. The second one wasn't that much of a progression, apart from single 'Please Stand Up'. But 'Do You Like Rock Music?' is no question their best album to date, which is something reflected even by it's Top 10 chart entry. In a time when bands simply have to release the best flipping debut they can, BSP have finally produced what they always dared to three albums in. 'All In It' is the perfect way to begin, 'The Great Skua' is the best thing Sigur Ros have never made, and 'No Need To Cry' is the greatest song BSP have ever created. DYLRM? is exceptional, and the Arcade Fire comparisons are unfair. Unfair on Arcade Fire that is.

5. Pete and the Pirates 'Little Death' (Stolen)
There's a reason this lot were in my Top 5 'Next Big Things' at the beginning of the year. They are simply magnifico. In a musical sphere currently over-stocked on Korg-keys, guitar grime and folk cats, the straight up strings and pretty jangle of what has packed 'Little Death' to the brim is genuinely refreshing. Made evident by the already noted 'Come On Feet', 'Knots' and 'Mr Understanding', it turns out P&TP only know how to make good guitar pop songs, and nothing else. 'Ill Love', 'Lost In The Woods', 'Moving', 'Humming', and 'Bright Lights' are too evident of such pretty, witty talent. Nation domination may not be on their list of things-to-do but judging by this debut that'll be just one of the many spin-offs.

4. Bloc Party 'Intimacy' (Wichita)
'Rush-release.' That is the term being endlessly flung around in attachment to the description of this album. Thing is though, I have an inkling this was by no means a rush-release whatsoever, especially as far as Bloc Party were concerned. It is kinda revolutionary (and probably typical of this lot) how they simply chucked up some news on their site just days before it came out, while their coevals from the 04 art-rock shift are either in the middle pages of the music press trying to solve an identity crisis (See under The Killers), following all else by releasing two records in one year (See under Kaiser Chiefs), or taking flipping ages perfecting their third album in the backwaters of Scotland (See under Franz). Though the essence of what 'Infinity' endeavors to put across is much less thought-provoking than the previous two, here they've plainly reveled in their own euphonic class. They are no longer the Gang Of Four-fanatics that once earned them the cover of NME. They are the band who'll clutch you and I into an unknown sweep of sonic blares we'd otherwise dare scope out. And I don't want anyone else to take me there. Bloc Party: The New Radiohead.

3. Glasvegas 'Glasvegas' (Columbia)
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but for about fifteen minutes in late June this year I was holed up in a radio studio with the four members of Glasvegas. All year I'd heard nonstop superlatives slapping them as 'The most exciting British prospect since the Arctic Monkeys', or 'The most important debut record since 'Definitely Maybe', not forgetting 'The best band to come out of Scotland. Ever.' It seemed that hype hadn't got so heated since Turner and co blasted off three years ago. Then it happened. The moment in which I too jumped on the bandwagon of hysteria to claim Glasvegas as something a little more than just special. It came after the band played 'Daddy's Gone', and band leader James Allan trodded over to the corner of the studio, held his head in his hands, and took a few moments to clear his head before he could take off again. The effect the words had on him, the passion that evoked from his voice afterward, and just the shear tenacity of emotion songs like that can have - it was all so mesmerising. There's not one or two highlights from 'Glasvegas'. The whole thing is spectacular.

2. Coldplay 'Viva La Viva or Death And All His Friends' (Parlophone)
“Everyone might not like this. We’re into it at the moment, so let’s just get it done,” declared soft rock’s most self-deprecating during the everlasting Viva sessions, shepherd by Brian Eno of all ambient daddies. Luckily for Chris Martin and his hypersensitive psyche, no such Coldplay counterblast went down, and the band’s fourth effort, which is in all likelihood the only record of 2008 to be fashioned in a one-time bakery, managed to fetch platinum disks the planet over. The Eno backdrops and less-is-more credo plainly shimmered through, but it’s still an album for the masses, and unmistakably Coldplay at heart. Martin may doubt his band’s supermassive stature yet it’s his compulsive desires that’ve resulted in their gutsiest record to date, and one of this year’s most complete.

1. Noah and the Whale 'Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down' (Young & Lost Club)
No matter how many a time '5 Years Time' gets spun to death on stations and channels nationwide, 'Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down' is undoubtedly the best debut album released this year. Harmony for harmony, horn for horn, heart-rending bowed violin string for heart-rending bowed violin string; there's just not a second-rate strain on here. Leader Charlie Fink's eggshell tones are spell-bounding, firstly laid out in the ever-intensifying '2 Atoms In A Molecule'. "If love is just a game, how come I've never won?" he appeals, pretty much gauging the temper of the next ten tracks. Best of all is 'Do What You Do', a poignant merge of stirring strings and Fink's call to just be yourself. Dark and intense wordplay seated above quite the opposite in soft and charming acoustic pop is what Noah and the Whale do best, and this record is everything early admirers could've hoped for. Long-time friend Laura Marling and her own awe-inspiring notes are evident throughout, though shine more than ever on 'Mary'. If this truly is the age of folk then Noah and the Whale are the absolute kings.