Late December Update:
Unfortunately, after months of fighting with the RIAA amongst others, Mixwit, the site that I used to embed the below playlist, has had to close down. This means that the below playlist is no longer operating, but you can still read about the bands and follow the links to their individual posts below that. Sorry about that, but hopefully Mixwit will be back up and running someday. When I have a chance, I’ll look into using another program to embed the playlist again…
Yes, it’s that time of the year… the dreaded “lists month”. And, even though I’m sure you’ve had roughly a gajillion of them to read through, here at Burgo’s Blog I’ll be adding to the clutter with one of my own.
A few asides, first:
- As I’ve said before, any time I put together a list post: Any list like this is subjective, where personal choice rules as king with an iron fist. I don’t dare presume to have heard every album put out this year, and obviously there will be some choices/omissions here that you don’t agree with. For that reason, I’ve restricted this list to songs that I’ve actually featured on this blog in the last year… it’s a retrospective look at songs posted on Burgo’s Blog over 2008 (with one or two additions that I just haven’t got around to posting in December)
- Heading this argument off before it gets started: despite Jagjaguwar rereleasing Bon Iver‘s “For Emma, Forever Ago…” this year, it’s actually a 2007 release, and as such doesn’t feature on this list. Don’t complain.
- I’ve tried to be ruthless and keep this selection down to songs/artists that I featured on the blog in 2008, that were released in 2008. This means that some of my favourite songs from 2008 posts, such as BARR’s “Untitled” don’t feature below, simply because I was too late in picking it up. That said, one or two might have slipped through. But only one or two.
Anyway, enough justification… I’ve embedded the playlist below. Click on the tape to begin playing. Below the tape, I’ve listed the tracks, with a word or two about each. I’ve linked through the artists names to the relevant posts, where applicable.
Listen. Love. Support.
1. Alex Dezen and Angela Dezen – Like it Is
It’s no secret: Alex Dezen and The Damnwells are probably my favourite band of the last two years, so an inclusion from them was a no-brainer. In the end though, I ended up plumping for this track… a youtube release, featuring Alex and his wife Angela performing a song with, quite frankly, heart-breaking beauty. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve replayed this video (which I’ve also included below)
2. Death Cab For Cutie – Cath…
2008 saw Death Cab For Cutie release “Narrow Stairs”, which I discussed in more depth here. This song, “Cath…” is one of my favourite off the album, and one which I was lucky enough to see live.
3. Flobots – We Are Winning
The Flobots release, “Fight With Tools”, was one of those albums that seemed to stick with me throughout the year. Even though they excited me when I first heard them, I have to admit, I didn’t expect this album to have the staying power it did for me. This track, “We Are Winning” captures that excitement.
4. Frightened Rabbit – Heads Roll Off
Unquestionably one of my favourite albums of the year, Frightened Rabbit’s “The Midnight Organ Fight” spawned many killer tracks. This is just one of them.
5. The Gaslight Anthem – Great Expectations
Undeniably fun, The Gaslight Anthem kicked ass in 2008. The ’59 Sound was one of those albums that you could pop on and instantly get jiving. This track was the opening track from that album; one of my most played of the year.
6. Joe Pug – Hymn #101
It’s no secret… if there’s one artist that I wanted to help crack it in 2008, that artist was Joe Pug. The guy simply deserves to be heard. His “Nation of Heat” EP was my top EP of the year, and this track, Hymn #101 one of my favourite tunes. A bit of Dylan, a bit of Prine, and a dash of Whitmore = a whole lot of awesome.
7. The Sand Band – The Secret Chord
As I said back in my original post, “A wistful, world-weary tone permeates David McDonnell’s lyrics in this EP, which is washed over by spacey echoes, pedal steel guitar and an acceptance that comes to us all.” If that wasn’t clear enough… listen to this track.
8. Motel Motel – Coffee
Heh. Looking back at my past post about these guys, I described their tune, “Mexico” as
“… dirt-covered folk at its best. It’s a shot of Jack Daniels and well worn denim.“. I like that, looking back.
This song, Coffee, highlights their effortless bar-room swagger; surprising to hear from a band that only formed in 2006.
9. Joseph Arthur – Temporary People
The song that restored my faith in Joseph Arthur. Thank god it came along.
10. Matt Bauer – Don’t Let Me Out
An ominous, weary beauty that unfolds its dark shadows into your soul, this track from Bauer’s release, “The Island Moved in the Storm“, deals with an unsolved murder. “I killed you and thought that was that…” starts off Bauer, and then leads you on a tale loosely based on his childhood area. Chilling.
11. Let It Be Me – Ray Lamontagne
From the moment that you hear that breath at the beginning of the song, you know that “Let It Be Me” is going to be something special from the always impressive Ray Lamontagne.
And it is. Smoke-filled, seductive, and soulful… it’s Ray.
12. Yeasayer – 2080
I have to admit, it was really seeing this “Yeasayer Takeaway Show” that finally sold me on Yeasayer.This song largely makes it into this list based on that live performance.
13. Langhorne Slim – Restless
Langhorne Slim’s sophomore self-titled disc came out at a time when I was feeling really.. .well down, about the music output of 2008. Thank god it did, as the entire album was filled with such raw, unbridled passion that it kicked my ass into gear again. This song was a large part of that.
14. Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos – Childrens’ Crusade on Acid (live)
This is a live performance of a track from Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos “Animal” album… and it’s a stonker.
15. The New York Fund – Going To New York
Although most of the New York Fund’s songs throw dirty, vintage-soaked guitars and bar-room swagger at you (and, don’t get me wrong, they do that oh-so-well), this track has the London town band sounding reminiscent of The Damnwells. Wistful, and with one of the catchiest choruses this side of… well, this side of anything, those handclaps tipped this one onto the list for me.
16. The Old Romantic Killer Band – Lovers Pass
Catchy, and hooky as all hell, this song, “Lovers Pass“ finds The Old Romantic Killer Band at their dirty blues/folk/punk best.
17. Destroyer – Foam Hands
Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer, puts out one of his more accessible tracks… and knocks it out of the park.
18. The Republic Tigers – Buildings and Mountains
This track, “Buildings and Mountains” is taken from the Republic Tigers’ debut album, “Keep Colour”. It still completely blows my mind that such an accomplished sound could come from a band’s debut album. One of my top singles of the year.
19. Tin Bangs – Your Sky Is Falling
When I first wrote about Tin Bangs and their track, “Your Sky Is Falling”, I wrote the following:
“There’s something about this track, “Your Sky Is Falling“. The sense of urgency that Tin Bangs convey is certainly undeniable. In fact, I’ve heard it described as a sense of “god damn urgency”. That said, there’s something else hiding behind that urgency, to me. It’s not only urgent; it’s a sense of desperation. A sense of clutching at straws. A sense that this is our last chance. And the ultimate question… what have we done with it?“
Phil from the band was nice enough to stop by with a comment that confirmed this for me:
“You nailed it – feeling chased, trapped, desperate, frantic… foreboding, and ultimately floating by belly up for all to see, bloated and cold from the long soak.”
Damned if that isn’t powerful.
20. David Vandervelde – Nothin’ No
I think this might be one of the ones that slipped through the “2008” criteria here, as I suspect this track actually came out in 2007… but it’s a damn rollicking tune, so I’m including it anyway. My top played track of January 2008.
21. War on Drugs – Arms Like Boulders
Just scraping in to the 2008 category, Secretly Canadian released the “War On Drugs” EP “Barrel of Batteries” in January of 2008. This track from the EP, “Arms Like Boulders” sold me on the band. There’s a raw abandon to their tunes, and that makes me love them all the more.
22. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Modern Mystery
“Finely crafted vocal harmonies, and tunes that seem somewhat reminiscent of a lighter Rogue Wave = great times…This tune from that album [Pershing], “Modern Mystery“, has them at their jangly-guitar best.“
23. Mystery Jets – Flakes
You know, Mystery Jets are in Australia at the moment (I think), but they left Brisbane off their list of stops. Next time, come to Brisbane, ‘eh lads? This track, “Flakes”, is the track that initially interested me in the band.
As I said back then, “The below song, “Flakes“, is a great introduction to them for those who haven’t heard them before. There’s something about lead singer Blaine Harrison’s vocals here… they seem to recall early shades of Mark Mulcahy (and come on; when isn’t that a great thing? Miracle Legion and Polaris… we miss you!). And then when that choral chorus of “oohs” kicks in? Man… killer.“
24. The Heavenly States – The Race
One of those tunes that just gets into your head, “The Race” from The Heavenly States really excited me. The hummable, angst-laden, and extremely catchy hooks of singer/guitarist Ted Nesseth’s lyrics, and violinist Genevieve Gargon’s complementary, darting chords. In short, it’s pop-rock perfection.
25. Matt Pond PA – Amazing Life
This is one of those tracks that I haven’t managed to find time to post about in December, but consider this a micro-post. Matt Pond PA recently released a free EP, entitled “The Freeep” (get it?) which you can download for free on their site. 9 tracks in all (6 full songs and 3 instrumentals), it’s all dreamy, wishful tunes that are perfect for an end of year reflection time, and I’m loving it more with each listen. In other words, go get it. Ok?
This track, “Amazing life”, is just a taste of the wonder that Freeep is.
26. Cost of Comfort – Golden Bones
I didn’t really post about this track so much as point you towards another post, but Cost of Comfort’s “Golden Bones” was a track that steadily grew on me over time. The repeat button was well-worn on this one.
27. The Enright House – Scattering the Sun Like Gunshot (acoustic)
Another song that I haven’t managed to post about, this acoustic rendition of The Enright House’s “Scattering the Sun Like Gunshot” is simply beautiful. Largely an instrumental piece, it’s that kind of heart-breaking beauty that makes a song stay with you for days after you’ve heard it. From what I gather, The Enright House don’t normally put out much acoustic work, but based on the strength of this track, I really wish they would. You can download the rest of their EP, “6 Acoustic Renditions” on their site.
28. Questpoetics – Tonight
A bit of a guilty pleasure here, this track from Questpoetics “A Sound Campaign” shows the versatility of Questpoetics’ music. There’s actually a bit of a roundabout story to my discovery of this album. I was on the Youtube, surfing Ryan Adams videos, when I came across some Ryan Adams guitar lessons. I was so impressed with the quality of those lessons, that I ended up surfing around to see what other guitar lessons were on the tube. Long story short, I eventually came across some guitar lessons videos posted by Randy from Questpoetics, and from there found their tunes. And it turns out good things do come when you least expect it. A mixture of hip-hop/acoustic/reggae, I’m surprised I haven’t heard more of a buzz about these guys. They deserve more exposure.
29. Ben Nichols – The Kid
Stripped-down, dusty guitars and a plaintive, world-weary, yearning voice? Yeah, I’m sold. Listen to this. ‘Nuff said.
30. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Fix It (live on Letterman)
So Cardinology was released this year, and there were some mixed reactions. Despite what you think of the album, however, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Ryan Adams fan who didn’t love “Fix It”, the lead single from that album. And, for my money, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better version of that song then this one, taken from The Cardinals performance live on Letterman. Filled with passion, I think it’s everything Ryan Adams fans were hoping we’d one day see from Ryan again. I’ve included the video below. If you don’t get excited by the emotion you see at the 1:35 mark… well, I salute you as our robot overlords.
31. William Fitzsimmons – You Still Hurt Me
As I wrote recently, “William Fitzsimmon’s music has that heart-string-tugging, ever so fragile quality to it that makes for the best of tunes. When you hear his voice, there’s almost a caution there; as if you exhale too loudly, you might frighten this wonder away.” If you listen to this track from Fitzsimmon’s “The Sparrow & The Crow” album, entitled “You Still Hurt Me”, you’ll be able to see what I mean.
32. a King – Safe as Houses
A song that so excited me about South African music, I instantly proclaimed them “South Africa’s Next Big Thing”. Do I regret making such a hyperbolic claim? Not on your life, buddy.
33. Peasant – Impeccable Manners
Man, another one I haven’t managed to post about in the past month. Shows how busy things have been around here. But Peasant‘s release, “On The Ground” is nonetheless a striking release. Recalling hints of Elliott Smith and Iron and Wine, the guy simply is a master story-teller. I’ve had a few emails from Peasant’s publicity team, but somehow let a post slip through the cracks (sorry Bryan!).
Anyway, in the meantime, I see that Daytrotter have put up a post, so I don’t see much point in putting my own rehash out there. I’ll just point you there, and quote their lines of “What becomes so beautifully clear in listening to Derose sing – in that clear mountain stream, weepy-voiced way of his – is that none of his characters and none of us are ever rid of any of the people that we’ve shared the dark or a kiss with.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. “Impeccable Manners”, the song I’ve included in this mix, is just one of the great tracks off of Peasant’s release.
34. The Tallest Man On Earth – It Will Follow The Rain
I think this one might have slipped through the cracks from the 2007 releases, but I think I’ve done fairly well containing this list to 2008 releases, so a slip-up here and there can be overlooked. As I said about The Tallest Man On Earth (aka Swede Kristian Matsson) when I first posted about him:
“… is exactly that sound that I love… scratchy and warm. It honestly feels as if Matsson is performing these songs live in your kitchen, with every breath and every crack is his warm rich voice present. There’s nothing forced here. It’s natural, and tumbles from The Tallest Man On Earth in a way that’s impossible to resist.“
35. Elvis Perkins – Weeping Pilgrim
Quoting myself, talking about the track “Weeping Pilgrim” from Elvis Perkins, “What do you need to know about it? Not much… save for the fact that it’s a cracking tune of longing and struggle, that is everything music should be. Seriously. There’s an indomitable spirit to this song that simply cannot be beaten down. Listen to this and love it.“
36. Samamidon – Saro
And so we come to the end of this mix. And what to say about this final song, “Saro” by Samamidon? Well…
“Saro, like the majority of the songs on Samamidon’s upcoming new album, “All Is Well”, is actually a retelling of a traditional folk song, “Pretty Saro”. There are countless covers of this song, performed by such great names and Judy Collins, Bert Jansch, and Doc Watson, among others; Samamidon’s version is the most haunting and beautiful I have heard… There truly is nothing else to say, except that Samamidon is on the cusp of greatness. Without question, his will be the definitive version of this song“.
So if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’d like to thank you for sitting through another “Best of 2008” round up. On a related note:
I really want to thank all the readers of this blog. Honestly, at times it’s not easy to keep running this thing (what with other commitments, running costs etc)… but every time one of you leaves a comment, or drops me an email, it reminds me why I do this thing. So, my very best thing of 2008? Why… it’s you, of course. Yes you. No need to look around.
Be lucky all. Here’s to a great 2009.