One of those ‘end of year’ posts which everyone seems to be doing which includes all my ‘best music bits’ and half arsed reasons to back them up…

If my life was a bottle of wine (and they do indeed have quite the impact on my being as it stands so it’s only fair I use them in this simile) then 2008 will be remembered as a vintage year for various reasons (can you get vintage Blue Nun?). Without coming across as schizophrenic my family life, work life, love life, social life and any other lives that I lead have all been rather enjoyable these last twelve months for various reasons and they’ve had quite the sound track to accompany them.

So I’m going to have a look at my favourite things from the past three hundred odd days…

Song of 2008

One Day Like This – Elbow

This was a toss up between Manchester’s Elbow and Deep South dwellers Kings of Leon’s and their track Sex on Fire but ultimately this will be the song that will put a smile on my face for potentially the rest of my humble time on this earth. As mentioned in this post back in the summer I was never an Elbow fan until I caved into recommendations from friends, fellow music bloggers and music industry press alike and acquired ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’. After a few listens I fell in love with the album (I purposely mention the ‘few’ listens as it wasn’t an instantly obvious great album and it took a good several spins to convert me from the cynic to the now fan who’ll dedicate a good few paragraphs of this post to the band) and this was the track that stood out as brilliantly beautiful, or should that be beautifully brilliant?

Anyhow; gorgeous strings, gorgeous lyrics, gorgeous sing-a-long ending and two gorgeous renditions at Liverpool Uni and The Latitude festival means this song wins the much coveted kudos inducing title of sP’s song of 2008*

(*This title is nor coveted or kudos inducing)

Runners Up

Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon

The first time I heard this record I was in the car with a friend of mine who works in A&R and we were driving down to V festival where the Kings were to be playing the following day. He made a rather good point:

Him: “Imagine being the guy who signed these”
Me: “Yeah he’s done alright hasn’t he? Made some decent cash no doubt”
Him: “No, as in imagine waiting to hear the demo’s of this next album. You’d just be thinking “how the hell can they top that?” [Because of the Times – KoL’s third and arguably best album] but then they come in with this tune and you think “…” [at this point he either swore or just left a dramatic silence for me to contemplate that role play in my head, I can’t remember so I’ll let you decide]”
Me: “Good point. I might mention that in the blog”

Louise – Tony Christie

I was lucky enough to be meeting someone at Yellow Arch Studios in my hometown of Sheffield where Mr Christie was recording his superb ‘Made In Sheffield’ album when the man himself popped in to pay 20p for a cup of tea he made himself earlier on. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the studio employee square in the eye; “you charge TONY CHRISTIE for cups of tea?! He’s a local legend!” you should also bear in mind this happened even before I heard the album he was recording and I had no idea about the genius happening in the next room. If this had taken place after hearing the LP I may have very well just head butted the studio employee and given Tony his 20p back.

I’ve digressed again haven’t I? Apologies; this is a re-working of the Human League 1984 single and it’s simply beautiful. I’ve bought it for my nan as a present and I genuinely can’t wait to hear her thoughts on it.

Time To Pretend – MGMT

People have gone utter nuts over MGMT this year and you may have seen they have been topping poles of this ilk all over the place for both this track and the album Oracular Spectacular, but for me they’re completely overhyped. When you think something is good and good alone yet you have a whole gallimaufry of people telling you it’s utterly superb it always leaves you a bit disillusioned in my opinion which is quite the contradictory thing for me to say as I’m well aware I can rightly be accused of hyperbole in this post alone, but after seeing a rather underwhelming performance by them when they supported Radiohead in Manchester they were forever deemed into the “Meh, they’re alright” department of my musical taste.
Despite saying that I’ve always enjoyed this track due to its insanely catchy hook and fantastic lyrics about the clichéd rock star life. Now dance.

Untouched – The Veronica’s

Someone rather dear to me came back after travelling around Australia for a month, CD in hand and massive grin on face informing me that I just had to listen to this track and how right she was. This is pop at its utter most joyous: dual female vocals, huge synth strings, distorted chunky guitar and lyrics about sex. Now dance even more.

American Boy – Estelle

I’ve heard this track hundreds of times now (mainly thanks to my flatmate) and I’m still not bored of it. That’s the true sign of a quality pop record.

Sequestered In MemphisThe Hold Steady

Any song that contains the lyric “In bar light, she looked alright, in day light, she looked desperate” deserves recognition.

Carolina Drama – The Raconteurs

Jack White has quite the knack of telling stories through his songs and this is probably the best example I can think of. A dark sordid tale of murder which also includes a lovely sing-a-long “La la la la” bit at the end.

Honourable mentions

The Thirst – Sail Away
Grammatics – Shadow Committee
Sound of Guns – The Architects
XX Teens – Darlin’
The Subways – Girls and Boys
Florence and the Machine – Kiss With A Fist
Tom Jones – If He Should Ever Leave You
Two Door Cinema Club – Undercover Martyn
Mystery Jets – Two Doors Down
Riff Raff – Cross My Heart

Album of 2008

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

A bit of me didn’t want to put this down as my record of the year as I didn’t want to the post to become so Elbow centric so I won’t mention too much about it as you’ve heard it all before. The one thing that gets me are his lyrics; “You are the only thing in any room you’re ever in” (Starlings), “We kiss like we invented it” (Mirror ball) and “I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds For Divorce” (Grounds for Divorce) are just three examples Guy Garvey’s blatant talent. Andi over at gigreviewsandnews.com wrote this fantastic paragraph about his song writing and delivery which sums it up it better than I ever could:

“[about his lyrics] Familiar without being clichéd, tight but not trite, they sit well on the page and simply fly in the songs. It helps that Guy Garvey’s voice is suffused with a smoky wistfulness, enabling him to avoid the cheap bombast or faux-snarl of so many of his contemporaries. Listening to him whisper “Darling, is this love?” packs more emotional heft than a million Chris Martins could ever hope to wail into an echoing stadium.

I would love to say that’s enough of Elbow but they are going to receive one final mention!

Runners Up

Only By The Night – Kings of Leon

A brilliant album that didn’t win not only because The Seldom Seen Kid is superior but because I honestly believe it could have been an even better album. When KoL announced they were to release Only By The Night a brief 19 months after their incredible third album Because of the Times I was honestly left pondering why. They’d gained a rather large and loyal fanbase due to BotT (especially in Blighty) so why rush? Take some time off, have a beer (or not), let the songs write themselves etc but alas, Caleb and Co were insistent in feeding us more audible pleasure. The album starts of brilliantly with the first four tracks standing out above all others and although the rest of the album is very strong, I can’t help having an inkling in the back of my tiny mind that with a bit more time it could have been stronger.  Let’s hope they take some time out before the difficult fifth eh?

Tony Christie – Made In Sheffield

What do you do when you’re fanbase is slowly but surely dying and any that will be left within the next five years have about as much chance of purchasing and working an iPod as I do writing a cover story for the Rolling Stone? You ask a hometown buddy who is incredibly respected by artists and industry alike to help you out. Richard Hawley then suggests a concept album (two words that usually make me as excited as the prospect of Christmas dinner with Hard-Fi) performing songs that have solely been written by songwriters hailing from the Steel City of Sheffield. The result is a brilliant album that’s sure to attract a new breed and generation of fans thanks to its inclusion of songs by Alex Turner, Jarvis Cocker and the man Richard Hawley himself. The other highlight of the album being Christie’s version of Pulp’s rather epic ‘Born To Cry’ which is a dark ditty that showcases his rather fantastic and evidently timeless singing voice.

The Raconteurs – Consolers for the Lonely

The Raconteurs first LP passed me by somewhat so the announcement of their follow up release hadn’t got me giddy in the slightest, but after hearing the debut single which borrows the albums title I decided to investigate deeper and for my troubles I found an album full of rather fantastic songs. The only negative I’d say of this album is that it is a tad too long and a couple of tracks could have easily been culled in order to keep the listeners attention.

The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

A great pop album that deserves recognition if only for its downright catchiness. That’s Not My Name, Fruit Machine and Be The One are all so radio friendly it makes Jo Whiley actually appear to know what she’s talking about.

Dan Le Sac VS Scroobius Pip – Angles

A quality little album that I expected a little bit more from if I’m honest (as you can read here) but even so there are a couple of blinders on this album which secures its inclusion in this list. ‘Beat That My Heart Skips’ is utterly brilliant and the albums finale ‘Waiting for the Beat to Kick in’ should be in every decent persons MP3 library.

Gigs of the year

Elbow @ Latitude Festival & Liverpool Uni

Last mention. Honest. Bloody superb live.

Kings of Leon @ V Festival, Liverpool Arena & Wembley Arena

As above. Last mention. Equally as superb live.

Bruce Springsteen @ Old Trafford

Expect nothing short of a three hour musical extravaganza when you witness Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen live and also expect nothing less than a masterclass in live performance. Bruce and the E Street Band were easily one of my gigging highlights of the year and apart from the inexcusable exclusion of Thunder Road they transformed the predominantly middle aged crowd into a pack of predominantly middle aged people who were a bit pissed and really enjoying themselves. May not sound too impressive but when you’ve been to a Def Leppard gig and observed the majority of the crowd remain anchored to their seat for the whole performance you realise it’s not as easy as it looks. Bruce is rumoured to be playing Glasto in 09 which would be a stroke of genius from Eavis and one which may very well get me to the festival myself.

The Raconteurs @ Liverpool Academy

I was lucky enough to witness one of the only two non-festival dates the Raconteurs performed in the UK this year and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. There is a great dynamism between Jack White and Brendan Benson which comes across on stage far more obviously than on record. The live show is more bluesy, brash and cacophonic than when played through your humble MP3 player with elongated guitar solos, mid song breaks and the odd cover being thrown in here and there. Jack White is also effortlessly cool on stage and a surprisingly accomplished guitar virtuoso, oozing rhythm and blues with apparent ease. It’ll be interesting to discover if the Raconteurs will produce a third LP… I bloody well hope so.

Kids In Glass Houses @ Liverpool Acadamy

It’s rare that I feel old as I still like to think of myself as quite the whippersnapper, but there are a few things guaranteed to make me feel so; realising that people born in 1990 can now legally drink, the office work experience kid not knowing what Challenge Annika was and attending a Kids in Glass Houses gig. I never knew foetuses could dance in such a way! In all fairness it was the youth that made this gig so enjoyable, that coupled with the group’s impressive repertoire of radio friendly tunes. If you like a good bit of powerpop then check out their album ‘Smart Casual’; it didn’t get the recognition it deserved when it was released earlier in the year.

Muse @ V Festival

Had to fit these in really didn’t I?! The first time I’d witnessed them since their Wembley shows and as expected they didn’t disappoint whatsoever. Hopefully they’ll be releasing new material in the new year with rumours doing that rounds that they might scrap the traditional LP format and just release a series of mini EP’s instead. Lets hope not.

Florence and the Machine @ Leeds Festival

Being tipped as one of next year’s big thing FatM were easily one of the highlights of my festival attending season this year with a cracking set at the Leeds festival. A natural performer with a cracking voice she holds the crowd’s attention effortlessly and the rousing rendition of Kiss with a Fist was enough to lift anyone’s spirits despite the fact they hadn’t showered for nearly 4 days.

Rage Against The Machine @ Rock IM Park & Leeds Festival

I had waited a long time to see these guys and it was truly worth it. SO many songs. SO many riffs. SO many angry political rants. SO many pogo-worthy moments. SO many happy people in one place. SO good. I can now put a big tick next to ‘see Killing In The Name Of be performed live’ on my ‘to do list of life’.

Sound of Guns @ Zanzibar

Those who’ve attended the Zanzibar in Liverpool will well be aware of two things; firstly stay away from the draft lagers and stick to cans and secondly when it’s full it makes for a cracking little music venue. Sound of Guns had the placed packed for a hometown gig which saw the lads secure their ‘ones to watch in 09’ status for me.

Journey @ Manchester Apollo

Walk into my family home and sing the immortal opening lyric “Just a small town girl…” And you’ll receive in return a wall of out-of-key, semi falsetto noise that although maybe a tad harsh on the ears is delivered with both vigour and enthusiasm. I was informed by my father that they were a simply essential band to see live so I did. And they were. Currently with a tiny Pilipino gent who looks extremely out of place but has potentially the finest rock voice I’ve ever heard on lead vocal the American old schoolers played a hit fuelled set to such a high standard that I’ll now openly call myself a fan rather than just enjoying them as a guilty pleasure.

Honourable mentions

Grammatics @ Manchester Academy
Queens of the Stone Age @ Rock IM Park & Leeds Festival
Incubus @ Rock IM Park
Does It Offend You? Yeah @ Liverpool Academy
Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip @ Liverpool Academy
Foo Fighters @ Manchester City Stadium
Detroit Social Club @ Camden Barfly
Coldplay @ Liverpool Arena
Maximo Park @ V Festival
Clipe Sexo Amador @ Bumper
Quartershade @ Metropolitan

So there you go. Busy year.

What I’m listening to this week: The ‘best of 08’ playlist I made whilst writing this.

What I’m reading this week: Found

And other ‘best of 08’ lists:

Drowned In Sound, Ear Farm, Gorilla vs Bear, The Music Slut and Pitchfork

Stay tuned

sP

~ by Sentric on December 24, 2008.

2 Responses to “One of those ‘end of year’ posts which everyone seems to be doing which includes all my ‘best music bits’ and half arsed reasons to back them up…”

  1. […] I Want To Win – Elbow – Please read here and here for my thoughts on this breathtakingly good […]

  2. Interesting blog, has some pretty useful information.

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