We’ve presented you with our Essential Dozen albums of 2008 so far – click here for part one (Foals, Mystery Jets, Portishead, British Sea Power), here for part two (Why?, No Age, Cut Copy, Bon Iver) and here for part three (Times New Viking, Wild Beasts, Atlas Sound, The Ruby Suns) – and now we’ve some of those recommended acts’ own selections, their favourite acts and records of the year to date.
Ryan McPhun, The Ruby Suns
I can't really say I've discovered too much music lately. Other than finding a new appreciation for Genesis' album Invisible Touch, I'd say that (pictured top)* El Guincho's album _Alegranza_ (DiS review) has been my fave album that I got hold of this year. It was released last year in Spain and is only getting released in September '08 elsewhere. It's great, start to finish. Also, his new stuff is sounding amazing too! Another recent favourite would be *Esau Mwamwaya. He's just recorded an album with the Radioclit dudes. The songs I've heard from it are amazing. Can't wait to hear the whole thing. Another person that I'm constantly amazed by is Signer, aka Bevan Smith from Wellington, NZ. He's got two albums on Carpark in the US, but it's his newer stuff that blows me away the most. I was lucky enough to play some shows with him at the best festival in NZ, Camp a Low Hum, and I couldn't believe the music that I was singing on top of. That sounds strange, but I hadn't heard the music before we jammed. I was just doing improv vocal stuff at the shows. It was amazing anyhow. Can't wait to hear recordings of those tracks. That's all I can think of right now. Thanks!
Yannis Philippakis, Foals
Portishead’s Third (DiS review): this is my favourite record of the year, because the way it is worked makes it sound like something precious and cold, much like an ice sculpture. It’s just a great album.
Bradford Cox, Atlas Sound
Here are four major jams:
Stereolab’s Chemical Chords is a return to Detroit via stereo condenser on vibraphone and Wurlitzer spray.
Animal Collective’s ‘Water Curses’ (DiS review) – my favourites.
The Breeder’s Mountain Battles (DiS review) – a challenging basement-type one long tracking shot; less energy more soul.
No Age’s Nouns (DiS review) – pink gravel with occasional dandelions scattered.
*Wild Beasts *
We're burnt by the industrial kraut stuff swimming around on Portishead's new one (DiS review). We'd lost interest and got sucked back in. Heavy 808 stuff, beautiful; an instant hit in our bus. The slow sorrowful melodies unravel in such a way as to be instantly understandable and strangely catchy. A victory.
*Dean Spunt, No Age *
My favourite album this year so far has been by LA's Infinite Body (White Hymn; MySpace). It is a loud ambient attack that goes and goes through different waves and shatters your skull ever so kindly. No rules, it is a punk and noise onslaught but ever so simple, just sounds and sounds that help your eyes close and expand together. All business created by one dude named Kyle Parker, named like a super hero and sounds like a super sick record AND he put the CD out himself on his own label. Another piece of extraordinary music and, again from LA, is the 45 single from E.S.P.S. (MySpace). The single has two songs,_ ‘(Standing in the) Teller's Line’ and ‘Dream of the Rarebit Friend’. Sort of like a psychedelic Squeeze, tight songs with amazing hooks that sound a little blown and tripped out. Both of these LA _GEMS are like finding the shoe with a perfect fit. I encourage you to hunt them down, hook line and sinker styles.
Kai Fish, Mystery Jets
My favourite album of the year so far is Santogold’s self-titled (DiS review). I'd heard bits and pieces a few months ago, but after seeing her twice at the Dot To Dot festival I was smitten. I hadn't witnessed such a feeling of excitement or expectation from a crowd since touring with Arctic Monkeys in early 2006.
I bought her album at the first available opportunity, and it's still number one listening material on my iPod and my house hi-fi. But what is it that's so irresistible? What makes it so easily accessible and yet reveals something new on each listen?
Santogold's found what so many pilgrims on the path of perfect pop are searching for, yet so often miss the mark. While never being tied to her influences, she brings together instantly recognisable themes, whether current of past, and then swaggers through each track with a killer pop vocal. The album can loosely be divided into two camps. The guitary, angular, and sometimes Police-esque live/band sounding tracks (‘L.E.S. Artistes’, ‘You'll find A Way’, ‘Say Aha’, ‘Lights Out’, ‘I'm a Lady’). You can hear strains of Bloc Party, echoes of American pop-punk, and production that is reminiscent of Paul Epworth circa 2005. In the other camp there're the more electro, hip-hop, ragga/dancehall vibe tracks (‘Shove It’, ‘Creator’, ‘My Superman’, ‘Starstruck’, ‘Unstoppable’, ‘Anne’).
It feels like Santogold's approached the album with a sense of mischief and free abandon; and this penetrates the music with a freshness and excitement. What makes this album so important is that she's managed to seamlessly merge an array of influences, while still sounding like her. She's managed what so many have tried and failed to do: she's found a balance between accessibility and musical credibility, that so may of her peers dream of.
Tomorrow: a selection of our tracks of the year to date, and also the forthcoming albums we're most excited about.