Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Top 10 albums of 2008 so far

2008 has so far been the Year of the Mouse, the Danger Mouse that is. The American producer and Gnarls Barkley mastermind (who has previously worked with Gorillaz, MF Doom and The Good, The Bad And The Queen) has had a hand in creating four of our top 10 LPs of the year so far. Read on to find out which ones and discover what else has tickled our ears in 2K8.

10) Santogold - Santogold (Warner)
It is of little surprise that someone who used to work in A&R could produce an album that sounds so achingly now. Santogold's debut strikes a perfect note somewhere between New York punk, Jamaican dub and UK electronica – all overlayed with MIA-meets-Karen O vocals. Great stuff.

9) The Black Keys - Attack & Release (V2)
The blues/rock duo from Ohio have been in danger of running out of creative juice for a while now so the introduction of producer Danger Mouse for their fifth album was inspired. Tracks like Psychotic Girl and Strange Times mean this is their best LP since 2003's Thick Freakness.

8) Beck - Modern Guilt (XL)
This guy must sprinkle creativity on his Shreddies. Listening to a new Beck LP can be an anxious experience, you never quite know what you're going to get, but Modern Guilt delivers. From the Caribou-sounding, washed-out Chemtrails to the world-weary urbanity of Volcano, it demands your attention from start to finish.

7) Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple (Warner)
No one else does songs about mental illness and depression quite like this. No one else scores so high on sheer danceability. No one else takes retro influences and makes them seem so cutting edge. Drums, meaningful lyrics, a great soul voice and a bonus disc on the vinyl LP which plays the whole album backwards. What more do you want?

6) DeVotchka - A Mad And Faithful Telling (Anti)
No matter what else you say, it does sound like Arcade Fire and Beirut went out into the desert and had a baby. And the baby's name was DeVotchka. But in our book that can only be a good thing. The "Denver Beatles" have made an album that fuses a lot of different styles but, more importantly, has a lot of genuine emotion and beautiful compositions.

5) The Roots - Rising Down (Def Jam)
It's fair to say that 2008 has hardly been a vintage year for hip-hop albums, but you can always rely on Philadelphia's The Roots to turn in a quality performance. Rising Down is a tough, pissed-off-sounding album that features one of Beat Poetry's favourite tracks of the year: Get Busy.

4) The Shortwave Set - Replica Sun Machine (Wall of Sound)
The highest placed of the four Danger Mouse-produced albums to make our list and it is arguably the one where his input is least audible. Deptford's Shortwave Set have channeled the spirit of the Beta Band (RIP) and produced the catchiest most melodic alt-pop record of the year so far.

3) Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (Different)
As the indie-disco boom continues, there's a lot of crap out there purporting to innovate while just delivering the same Daft Punk/Talking Heads rip-offs. But Crystal Castles is one of the few albums that delivers something both new and challenging. If you haven't seen them live yet do yourself a favour, just don't wear your brand new white trainers.

2) MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (Sony BMG)
Ostensibly a pop record and hyped to the hilt, Brooklyn's psychedelic duo took odd castaway/pirate stylings with Bowie vocals and bright, quirky production and made songs you couldn't get out of your head (in a good way). Time To Pretend and Kids already feel like classics; if anything sums up the sound of 2008, it's this.

1) Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (4AD)
A funny choice for No1, perhaps, from a blog mainly about beat-based music, but Bon Iver's beguiling acoustica - powered by his heart-breaking voice - is far and away the best LP we've heard this year. How he managed to produce such a rich, powerful album while shacked up in a mountain hut is beyond us.

Download: The Black Keys - Psychotic Girl

NB: Notable mentions also go to The Raconteurs, Fleet Foxes, Hercules & Love Affair, Ida Maria, Vampire Weekend and Pete Molinari.

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