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

1 comment:

FullFathomFive said...

How f*cking beautiful & strange to see Diamanda Galas at no.49! Have I strayed into a parallel dimension where the indie fraternity is opening its arms to avant garde operatic gothicism? Hallelujah and long may this continue.

Thanks for a thoughtful round-up of 2008 Sean. Although I cannot personally see why TV On The Radio attract such critical compassion, it would be unjust to exclude them on my behalf alone [wink].

I agree wholeheartedly re Santogold who has some serious electricity about her, though Friendly Fired leave me cold. Crystal Castles deserve to grow & grow.

Keep on Drowning (in the best possible way), your content is always worth reading.

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