I’m up on the eleventh floor / And I’m watching the cruisers below

tijuana-front-500x500.jpg (the above has noth­ing to with anything.…I just want­ed to use it some­where)

I guess you know when it’s the end of anoth­er year. I’ve had a few now and they roll around rather more quick­ly than they used to. It may sneak up on you (and it always does for me – the sil­ly red hats always come as a WTF moment) but the major point­er for me is the lists. We all love lists and of course I love lists (this blog has had a few over the years) and the end of any year pro­vides a flood of these. Some are utter­ly vac­u­ous (prob­a­bly the best sort), some take them­selves far too seri­ous­ly, some pro­voke a ‘says who?’ response, some are just ego rants (maybe that’s me), and some, most notably the who-died vari­ety, pro­vide me with a ‘shit I didn’t know that’ moment or two. Time Mag has a

We all love lists –  of course, I love lists (this blog has had a few over the years) and the end of any year pro­vides a flood of these. Some are utter­ly vac­u­ous (prob­a­bly the best sort), some take them­selves far too seri­ous­ly, some pro­voke a ‘says who?’ response, some are just ego rants (maybe that’s me), and some, most notably the annu­al who-died vari­ety, pro­vide me with a ‘I didn’t know that’ moment or two. Time Mag has a best inven­tions list which includes such use­ful inven­tions as the Hadron Col­lid­er, which some con­sid­er may bring the end of the world as we know it, as we are all sucked into a man-made black hole. Hap­pi­ly, per­haps, it broke.

Then there is The Times (why do Amer­i­cans insist on call­ing the one of the world’s old­est news­pa­pers ‘The Lon­don Times’?) with their Worst Movies of 2008 – all 100 of them. I have to admit I’ve seen two of these, but one, Get Smart, I saw in a shock­ing Den­pasar fleapit (@80c each mind) and I’m hap­py I did, if only for the expe­ri­ence of try­ing to watch a movie with a giant, big­ger and brighter than the screen, neon No Smok­ing sign (com­plete­ly ignored of course) direct­ly in one’s line of sight (you need­ed to look up a bit for the actu­al screen, which left me with a very strange headache).

I could scour the web for odd lists and no doubt will when I have a moment spare from the intense wor­ry­ing over Indonesia’s implod­ing econ­o­my, moral con­fu­sion and bizarre dri­ving habits, but in the inter­im, I’ll note that The Times also has a Best Albums of 2008 list up already. So, yes it’s quite exten­sive and I own one or two albums on it, which I may get to in a moment.

The fun­ny thing about these sorts of album lists is first, they are so bloody defin­i­tive, or at least they think they are. But real­ly, who in their rea­son­able mind could name one album #1, or anoth­er #2, even tak­ing into account jour­nal­is­tic polling. It is so obvi­ous­ly very, very sil­ly. A bunch of albums or records tagged as very good is ok (and If I don’t ram­ble too much, I may add mine lat­er in this post), but list­ing these in order is just bogus. The sec­ond thing about these lists is that some are so pre­dictable – the real­ly dull ones like Q, or Mojo, or the strug­gling Amer­i­can rawk mags – and this year is no dif­fer­ent. But the oth­er thing worth not­ing, and you can blame the inter­net for this in a num­ber ways, is that there are now so many com­plete­ly diverse lists. When I was a lad you got the same 20 records in every bloody list, be it NME or The Auck­land Star or Rolling Stone (ok, the Amer­i­cans usu­al­ly missed the real­ly inter­est­ing 20% the rest of the world picked up on, but that aside there was uni­for­mi­ty). It was all so nar­row, which made it all very dull.

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Now, of course, there are lit­er­al­ly hun­dreds, maybe thou­sands of records which make the lists and you get a list like Fact Mag­a­zine (a pret­ty good list which I’m think­ing I’m most­ly con­cur­ring with) which has vir­tu­al­ly no crossover with the Hot­press list, or the var­i­ous lists at Pop Mat­ters.

Fact head their list with Gang Gang Dance and I’m not real­ly one to argue with that. It’s a won­der­ful indie pop / elec­tron­ic mash and for me, the post-punk (how many decades can we keep on using that phrase?) bits and pieces have proved to be amongst the things I’ve played most. Aside from the afore­said GGD, I liked Glass Can­dy, with their engag­ing­ly cute take on Kraftwerk’s Com­put­er Love and toy­town elec­tron­i­ca which is less Blondie and more Lori & The Chameleons; the, just the right side of twee, pure and con­cise pop-lite of Cut Copy; The LEDs, whose sec­ond album was a slight­ly edgi­er ver­sion of their first but just as addic­tive (although sad­ly they suf­fered from the hip last week syn­drome that plagues pop­u­lar music and were ignored by those who once raved) and, had only three tracks over three min­utes – bang, bang, bang per­fec­tion; and, but very much not least, the wigged out Not­wave col­lec­tion from Rong/DFA which includ­ed, amongst its moments, Non Stops’ blis­ter­ing gui­tar acid-funk. Hydra­tion Explo­sion.

I found many of the much-laud­ed albums of the year a lit­tle dull. I tried with the much rat­ed Bon Iver but found myself drift­ing off, too fer­al wannabe Neil Young . It wasn’t me. And at first, nei­ther was Fleet Fox­esagain, too fer­al, although it grew and I went through a brief phase when I was able to ignore the yee-ha-ness of much of it and enjoy the, often, gor­geous songs – but that too passed and now I’m fair­ly neu­tral. A huge crit­ics fave how­ev­er and there is some­thing odd about these British urban scribes latch­ing onto all this faux cow­boy folk.

I don’t trust young musi­cians with beards.

benga.jpgI’m as much of an elec­tron­ic kid as I am an Indie noise fan and there were lit­er­al­ly dozens of sin­gles, most­ly Eng­lish or Euro­pean that I banged about on the iPod to, far too many to list here and chang­ing dai­ly (as I type the new Pinch is the track of the moment, but that will change with­in a few hours I guess. Yes­ter­day it was Hen­rik Schwarz’ mix of Ane Brun). But if I had to pick one this year, Ricar­do Vil­lalo­bos’ Min­i­moon­star, in all its forms, would get the nod.

There were only three albums you could real­ly tag as ‘house’ that got much play around the pool but each got a lot. Real­ly ear­ly in the year Pro­sumer & Murat Tepeli’s Seren­i­ty struck a warm Chica­go styled chord and has con­tin­ued to do so all year, even if some of the tracks are three or more years old. Toby Tobias’ jaw-drop­ping­ly love­ly album on Rekids got a fair amount of mid-year play. I’m a suck­er for dub­by dis­co infused house, but only if it’s inven­tive rather than loop­ing sad old ideas into some sort of big room kid­die anthem. This was.

The oth­er one that got stuck for so long in the car that Brigid plead­ed with me to take it out, was the Luciano Fab­ric mix, which I’m told was full of over­played tracks, but being as they’re not over­played in down­town Bali, it was fine with me.

What else? Well I loved and still do, the Carl Craig & Moritz Von Oswald fid­dle-with-Ravel-&-Mussorsky on Deutsch Gram­mophon. I’m very wary of these sorts of things. Most of the Verve rework­ings of Jazz standards/classics are, with the odd excep­tion, a waste of space.

But this worked, par­tial­ly, says Carl, because these orig­i­nals are fun­da­men­tal­ly com­ing from the same place as tech­no – loop­ing rhythms and lay­er­ing melodies over the top. Util­is­ing pri­mar­i­ly ana­logue equip­ment, Recom­posed is a thing of great beau­ty and quite mes­meris­ing, but I sus­pect is a boy record.

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Also in Jan­u­ary came the com­pi­la­tion of my year, the thing known var­i­ous­ly as Ses­sions and Clear and Present, but in any form, was a pret­ty good over­sight of the work of Carl Craig (and we could argue about the gaps for­ev­er – Ango­la?), and, since we’re talk­ing forms, in the dig­i­tal, for a bar­gain price you got not only the mixed tracks as found on the CD, but the full 12” length, often quite hard to find, orig­i­nals. And an exten­sive dig­i­tal book. Make it desir­able and peo­ple will buy it, and they did in this case in huge num­bers I believe. I think I have just about every 12” here but, hell, $15 bucks is worth pay­ing for a nice clear dig­i­tal copy of the 15-minute mix of Throw alone.

On Carl Craig’s label, Ken­ny Larkin’s Keys, Strings, Tam­bourines was thor­ough­ly clas­sic, warm dense­ly melod­ic Detroit tech­no from one of the genre’s leg­endary fig­ures. I liked a lot.

Jose James’ The Dream­er, a moment of clas­sic John­ny Hart­mann inspired vocal jazz, made me shiv­er, and there were killer mix­es of the key tracks on sin­gle just to add to the allure.

I liked lots of what they call dub­step and grime, and it’s fusion with min­i­mal tech­no, most­ly just sin­gles or tracks but the Ben­ga album was a killer in a wide-rang­ing genre that pro­vides a fair­ly strong argu­ment against the oft-said notion by grummpy old peo­ple that music is dying.

What else? Well the old boys, Paul Weller and, most espe­cial­ly, Elvis Costel­lo, both released their best albums for yonks and it’s encour­ag­ing and nos­tal­gi­cal­ly heart­warm­ing, to see one’s (very late) teen heroes still hold­ing their heads up 30 years on. larkin.jpg

Out of left field, the Serge Gains­bourg (I guess it was a boot­leg) col­lec­tion, Les Annees Psy­che­delics was utter­ly fan­tas­tic and I’ll keep on play­ing it for­ev­er; and even more from the left, an album from some­body called Plush, who I’d nev­er heard before, released orig­i­nal­ly in Japan in 2002, crept through and became one of my most lis­tened to records of the year. I’m old enough to realise that I’m gonna be a suck­er for any album that sounds like it’s chock­er full of sounda­likes of those gor­geous post-Lennon-ist tunes that Todd Rund­gren used to sprin­kle through his ear­ly albums. With a lit­tle bit of Hunky Dory era Bowie tossed in for effect…

Oh, and one more: The Clash Live at Shea I’ve rant­ed on about it of recent so I don’t think I need to go there again.

Looks like I’ve done a list again.….

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