Thursday, 11 December 2008

Drowned in Sound’s 50 albums of 2008

Let's face it, 2008 hasn't been a great year for popular music. Whilst sales don't equate to great music, compiling this list we found little of merit with a platinum/gold/silver disc to its name. After years of bands from 'our world' breaking through (Arctic Monkeys, Franz, Outkast, Strokes, Bloc Party, Gnarls, Arcade Fire, etc...), it was a stark but healthy reminder just how clogged up the current mainstream is with the derivative and the unexceptional. We made a rather gargantuan list and tripled checked it but there was no undeniably brilliant pop to be found, bar singular glory for MGMT and Vampire Weekend, both of whom managed to credibly crawl out of nowhere and turned the world of TV-friendly pop on its chubby head for a moment or two. Perhaps these past few years the notion of what it means to be a succesful underground act from'our world' has been elevated somehwhat by the achievements of the Artic Monkeys etc. 2008 saw the independently-minded likes of Foals, Santogold and Friendly Fires also gain some footing on the crossover ladder and make a notable splash in the mainstream

What we did notice, especially when we went peaking at other publications' year-end lists, was the music business and mainstream media's continued obsession with new-new-NEW (doesn't seem to matter if it's all-that) which has led to a cul-de-sac overflowing with throwaway and less-than-great new music. Many end o' year lists are riddled with beardies who, sitting atop greying dinosaurs, strut off into the horizon, too rich, stubborn and/or boring-in-the-first-place to have made an exceptional album, despite the huge amounts of money and time at their disposal.

For the sake of balance, 2008 slung its saddle on unhealthily young shoulders. Development (read also: co-writes) have ensured 'credible' hit singles to keep radio execs and shareholders happy(ish), whilst the full-lengths paled in comparison, with influences and reference points clunkily clanging all over the place. The result of this short-sighted buzz-chasing has left little in the way of phenomena, nor music which will involve, inspire and excite those without the time to investigate and explore. A lot of great records have been overshadowed or in many cases overlooked in favour of some demo-waving drama school rejects or half-arsed side-projects, which is a sad and sorry state of affairs for an industry desperately seeking 'something'.

However, it would be impossible to say that 2008 has been a terrible year for music. Inventive, life-affirming and more-likely-than-not independently released music has had a triumphant twelve months, following years of technology helping expand the tastebuds of a generation. Combine that rich palette of musical understanding with an unending enthusiasm fed by the web and you soon realise that 2008 was less about them big everyone-has-a-pub-stool-opinion-on-'em records or mass moments of historical hysteria but more about the need for the inclination and ability to rummage in the very depths of every niche, to find your own personal favourites. When compiling this list, it was fascinating to spot how the internet - this ultra-modern mongrel of love and exploration - has helped many of these acts to find their audience via mediums which didn't exist in the previous decade (and in some cases weren't even in beta technologies three years ago).

We decree that 2008 belonged to the lone, computer-toting musician and a few good (guitar-wielding) people. It may not have been as much about era-defining renegades of potent pop as years gone by but rejoice, safe in the knowledge that the promised land, with its never-ending maze of great music to discover, explore, share and cherish, is here. It's ours and for as long as we respect and remunerate it in some form, it will live on.

So, without further ado, here are our top fifty albums. These are the records which we (writers and regular readers alike, which were triangulated by the site's editor) spent the last twelve months lost within. These are the albums we found ourselves coming back to again and again ...

These are Drowned in Sound's 50 albums of 2008 - CLICK HERE

Monday, 1 December 2008

Oh twit, twoo! Don't be such a twit. OR My top 10 twitterers

Today, my twitter went a little bit crazy, or at least my inbox alerts about new followers did. It felt a smidgeon like an invasion to my little niche clique, where, like when I was originally on the internet (er, 14 years ago - which is totally, like, seeing the Rolling Stones play a mediocre show to 10 people), I swapped links and blabbered whatever, whenever, knowing only a thimble-full of like-minded peoplez were reading. Twitter - like Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, LiveJournal and many more before and in-between - is a little like geeks anonymous, only you don't need to hide anything, you can be fully 'out' of the laboratory, wearing your scruffy anorak and sipping a slim soya cappuccino with a sprinkle of nutmeg and only brown sugar, plz.

The great thing about being an early'ish adopter on social networking sites is that you get to 'hang' with other early adopters, who are not only are first on that 'platform' but they're the pioneers of technologies, the first to try out new restaurants, the people who know where the best coffee shops are. These are the people who can already tell you what band will matter to you next year. They know what Google and Obama are upto before newspaper editors do. These are the kids growing up trying to find the next 'hit', in both senses of the word. I know this because I'm one of them.

Now, as the web grows and things shift so quick, I still fear - despite the fact I'm using stuff most people (i.e. the mass, the hive, whatever...) might use five years from now, or more likely never - that I'm no longer hip, no longer a trailblazer running around like a loon in freshly cut grass, leaving nothing but footprints. That was the joy of Napster before it was outed as being evil and then, er, a decade later the industry held up its grubby hands having hung its salvation. Those rushes of exploring things which didn't quite work yet and the fuzz of sharing in something which only a few people are/were using but something which in years from now might be the new phonograph, gramophone or BBC, was special. Just thinking about it makes me gooey and strangely nostalgic for a not-too-distant past. I can't wait to discover what might be over the next hump, and I have a few inklings but R2D2 style phone projectors and the music industry ripping itself up and starting again, still seems some way off.

Thankfully it doesn't seem like my mum will be joining Twitter to poke me like she does, and school 'friends' that I hoped never to speak to again do, on Facebook. No, no, Twitter will remain a mini-blog clique and link-sharing, viral snowball fight of the proudly geeky for quite some time. I feel a little safer knowing the reason for the flurry of new followers was this post about the top 10 music industry types to follow .

So seeing as it seems to be all the rage to blog your top 10 (ten) people to follow on Twitter, here're my suggestions, in no particular order...

The Blog Queen: Ultragrrrl
I've known Sarah since running my first email blog a decade ago. She's since become a renown blogger, dj, label boss and now tv host. She 'tweets' alsorts of stuff about songs, bands, boys and Starbucks coupons.

The King of MP3 Blogs: Fascinated
Anthony is the man, mind and frustrated-but-liberated music fan behind the Hype Machine, which has revolutionized the way people consume and understand music blogs. He's often travelling to conferences and sharing insights from the tech, music and general tourist world.

The Legend: StephenFry
If you're on Twitter you're bound to be following his constantly entertaining adventures across the world and his journeys through technology and tidbits about anything. Last week I learnt that he's a fan of Explosions in the Sky, am not sure whether my surprise says more about my lack of expectations for older people to know about good modern music or whether it says more about his constant striving to find greatness in all fields.

The News: BBCbreaking
Is great for delivering just the big headlines, most of which I miss or don't realise are bigger than everything else in the unmanageable muddle of RSS feeds that is my Google Reader.

Music News: theDailySwarm
Their site is great for filtering out the best news stories and like DrownedinSound's twitter they have a feed set-up of their news headlines. DiS uses twitterfeed to do this for our site, which was really simple to do.

The Upstart: CatherineAD
Life-affirming new musician documenting her rise, rants, listening addictions and various news.

Food Guide: FoodbyMark
By day he's booking agent for the likes of Panic at the Disco and Falloutboy but my night (and lunch and breakfast) he's a roaming food critic, exploring and devouring his way from meeting to meeting to pre-gig, all around the globe (but mostly London).

Indie Label Legend: SlimMoon
He started Kill Rock Stars and has been involved in assorted moments of amazing music.

Useful to know: FakeSensations employee, musician and reformed music journalist, who's often posting links to interesting music, tech and comedy stuff, as well as projects he's working on.

The Start-Up / Keynote: IanCR
He's the man behind TopSpin who're the people behind various pioneering album release methods, like the Dandy Warhols club and David Byrne and Brian Eno giveaways. Often posts useful links.

That's 10. Who / what do you suggest I should be following? Do you find Twitter creepy? Should I have moved over to Tumblr already or is there something even better out there?
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