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.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Diplo and Santogold clash

Download Guns Of Brooklyn - Santogold and Diplo
The hottest female star of the year teams up with one of the hottest DJ/producers around to cover a Clash classic and flip it from London to New York. Santogold and Diplo take Guns Of Brixton (which was last year covered by Arcade Fire live in London) and dub it out to the max. It features on the pair's new mixtape, Top Ranking, which is available at your favourite independent record retailer from this week. The mix includes exclusive tracks by both artists as well classics from Aretha Franklin, Desmond Dekker and Devo.

Buy Top Ranking from Phonica or Rough Trade


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Dr. Dog - Fate

I have to admit i don't know that much about Dr. Dog, in fact, i only recently discovered them through their cover of Architecture In Helsinki's 'Heart It Races' but this week i've been listening to their new album Fate and am mightily impressed. Psychadelic pop songs with a country, bluesy instrumentation, almost like listening to Band of Horses playing The White Album...with Dan Auerbach singing...and just the slightest dash of Animal Collective. I've really got to stop these complicated, artist-hybrid descriptions.

The best track is Hang On but i'm posting this one as I prefer the title.

Dr Dog - The Rabbit, The Bat & The Reindeer

Pre-order the album from Amazon here.

Monday, 14 July 2008


Download Lying In The Sun by Koushik

Wow, this is my new favourite song in the world. Canadian beatsmith Koushik has distilled the summer into MP3 format. Lovely loud drums, horns, swirling electronics and a psychedelic vocal - someone hand me a beer quick.
Just to fill you in on the back story, Koushik is signed to Californian alt-hip-hop super-label Stones Throw and will release his second album Out My Window in September. He first came to my attention when he released a single on Beat Poetry hero Four Tet's record label Text.
Here's hoping the rest of the LP is as good as this track.


Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Drums and other instruments

Hey I made you a tape. A muxtape to be precise. If you don't know what that is, a muxtape is an online compilation of songs that anyone can put together and send to all their friends. Remember in the old days how you would slavishly tape your new fave tunes off the top40 countdown on the radio and give it to your mate/girlfriend/some chick you didn't have a hope in hell with? Well, now you can do it all electronically. So instead of your target audience having to listen to it on a shoddy Aiwa walkman their nan got them for Christmas, they can now marvel at your superior music taste while they sit at their office computer mindlessly doing their skull-crushingly dull job. Ah progress. Technology is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, here is my effort:

Kid Koala - Slew Test 2
Incredible Bongo Band - Bongo Rock
The Roots - Meltin' Pot (live)
Sam And Dave - Hold On, I'm Coming
Turbulence - Notorious (Wabenzi Vocal Version)
Eek-A-Mouse - Ganja Smuggling
SeaSick Steve - Cut My Wings
The Black Keys - Same Old Thing
Ellen McIlwaine - Can't Find My Way Home
Cold War Kids - Electioneering
The Teenagers - Homecoming (Gentlemen Drivers Rave Mix)
Nine Inch Nails - Discipline