Eight Staff Mixtapes For '08
DiS asked eight contributors to put together a ten track mix of favourite songs from 2008. Being awful nerds, they did so almost immediately...
Bloc Party – 'Mercury' This got panned all over the shop but as a paean to the empty world of drinking, meeting, fucking and doing it all over again, it works rather well, thankyouverymuch...
TV On The Radio - 'DLZ' The darkest recess of the year's best album, the frantic closing passages are the sound of a band at their peak beating their chests with language as the rest of the world flounders around them...
Roots Manuva – 'Buff Nuff' Bashment bigness from Mr Roddington Smythe, a video with ice cream mentalism and a big guffaw in the face of everybody who's suggested Roots Manuva is a little, y'know, crrrazy...
Oxford Collapse – 'B-Roll' Certain notes in Oxford Collapse's awesome album Bits are more fit for cycling through endless sunny childhood days; its top track, however, is a heavy-hearted sigh in musical form...
Jaguar Love – 'Vagabond Ballroom' Elliptical genius from the first properly out the blocks in the race to continue The Blood Brothers' shouty legacy, with Johnny Whitney's esoteric lyricism painted all over the place...
The Mae Shi – 'Run To Your Grave' Indie-rock terrace choruses ahoy, fun times...
Anni Rossi – 'Machine' A lovely beguiling cut from the woman custom made for people who would love Joanna Newsom if only her voice didn't make you want to claw your own eardrums out...
Racebannon – 'Awaken' Metal's most underrated band tear your facial skin off with a harsh'n'heavy blast from this year's Acid Or Blood LP...
Volcano! – 'Africa Just Wants To Have Fun' Potentially questionable title aside, this is the moment Volcano! went from vaguely interesting to totally compelling...
Portishead – 'Machine Gun' The summit of 2008's greatest comeback, which sounds like Aphex Twin getting his hands on trip-hop and then killing it with a pneumatic drill...
Portishead – 'Machine Gun' If you're going to take over a decade to write a song at least make it your best yet... like this.
Exit Calm – 'We’re On Our Own' Guitars big enough to fill a whole continent and a soaring chorus that takes a disparate tangent in the last third when you least expect it to. Simply magnificent.
Model Morning – 'This Town' Swooping guitars and pounding drums disguise this quite poignant vignette about the perils of inner city life.
The Domino State – 'What’s The Question' Keeping with the theme of soaring guitars and anthemic choruses, this London five-piece make the other pretenders to the throne of Bono seem fake on this three-minute gem.
We Were Promised Jetpacks – 'Quiet Little Voices' Continuing with Scotland's seemingly never ending production line of exceptionally talented musical ensembles come Edinburgh-raised and now Glasgow-based We Were Promised Jetpacks, and this simply rocks.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – 'Come Saturday' Happy-go-lucky that puts the 'pop' back in 'indie' and is guaranteed to put a smile on any face and a spring in many a step.
The Wave Pictures – 'I Love You Like A Madman' One of the stand out tracks from possibly the most underrated album released this year.
Vampire Weekend – 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' Again, a difficult choice as any one of about half a dozen songs off their impressive debut could have made the cut here, but this one just sneaks through thanks to it soundtracking many a drunken night.
Chairlift - 'Bruises' While this didn't make me want to go out and buy the latest i-product, it did make me want to check out their album instead. Result!
Wooden Shjips – 'Losin’ Time' Infectious psychedelia that mixes Hawkwind-style wig outs with Loop's more simplistic chord progressions that was never off my CD player from the minute it landed there at the start of this year.
The Hold Steady - 'Constructive Summer' One of the great opening songs. I defy you not to spill your Bud with joy when Craig Finn yelps, "me and my friends are like / the drums off 'Lust For Life". Forget Obama, this is pure empowerment.
The Wave Pictures - 'Instant Coffee Baby' Dave Tatersall is easily the best lyricist in the country, and the title track from The Wave Picture's first 'proper' album shows why. A rambling, inchoate love letter that rocks'n'rolls to a giddy climax, Tattersall screaming to his muse, "you got cystitis, didn't you?"
Grouper - 'I'd Rather Be Sleeping/Heavy Water' By far the most beautiful track of the year, on any album. Sad, layered vocals ride waves of reverbing guitar, words drifting in and out of earshot. At one point the line "love is enormous / it's stitching me up" emerges. Just ridiculously good.
Sleeping States – 'A Trip To NYC' From their first Bella Union release, the Old vs. New EP. This re-working of an old track perfectly captures the band’s live groove, channelling the ghost of Electrelane’s verve, sonic intelligence and lyrical honesty to the full.
Mount Eerie - 'Who?' Ok, so there was nothing particularly revelatory about the release of Lost Wisdom this year, packed as it was with those Phil Elverum trademarks - deep, rumbling guitars, desolate natural imagery, sparse arrangements. Yet it was still a great record, in no small part due to Julie Doiron's contribution. Here her soft, almost slurred delivery brings out the best in Elvrum's music, making it sound even more poignant and lonesome.
Times New Viking - 'Faces On Fire' There was no more exhilerating record released this year than Rip It Off, a fireball of screeching treble and art-rock passion. This is them at their best - intelligent, bloodshot and powerful, like a gloriously alkaline Guided By Voices.
Lil' Wayne - 'A Milli' One of those wonderful moments when musical genius fuses with pop perfection. That growling bassline, the stuttering hi-hat; and, above it all, Lil' Wayne explaining, "I'd rather be pushing flowers / Than be in the pen sharing showers".
T.I. – 'Swagger Like Us' If 2008 was very much the year of autotune, this track is pure autotune joy: impersonal braggadocio and mindless pomp.
Arthur Russell – 'Close My Eyes' Arthur Russell was undoubtedly a genius; this year’s Love Is Overtaking Me just showed he had mastered another genre – folk and country – alongside the others he had already defined.
Kimya Dawson – 'Happy Home (Keep On Writing)' Ok, so Alphabutt might not have been everyone’s cup of tea – particularly if you happen to be older than two – but there were some lovely songs on there, and none more so than this. This is Dawson at her best, spilling out word after word, unabashedly confessional and full to brim with truisms.
Kap Bambino – ‘Save’ Imagine if Crystal Castles were actual nutjobs, rather than surly poseurs. Now imagine they were French. Terrifying, huh?
Santogold – ‘L.E.S. Artistes (XXXchange mix)’ In which the pop song of the year is stripped down and rebuilt with slow, euphoric trundles of synth and a gleaming choral shell.
Ted & Francis – ‘I Wish I Was A Polar Bear (Arctic Urgency Edit)’ Don’t really know that much about this Aussie duo, beyond the fact this sad/silly electropop sigh was my personal highlight of this year’s reliably awesome Kitsuné Maison 6 compilation
Of Montreal – ‘Gallery Piece (Minitel Rose remix)’ The creepiest track off my album of the year, reworked into absurdly fun 80s-kissed disco, stalkerish lyrics fully intact.
Salem – ‘Redlights’ This Michigan duo’s mutant electro-punk/dubstep is, quite frankly, fucking terrifying, but this is the (sort of) exception that (sort of) proves the rule, kind of like a choir of demons singing a disturbingly pretty lullaby.
Atlas Sound – ‘Quick Canal’ Yeah, yeah, this is slightly naughty, but given Atlas Sound’s leaked Logos may never get an official release, fans should at least consider tracking down its 13-minute-long stand out track, a chic, swooshing motorik snowstorm.
Bruce Springsteen – ‘Dream Baby Dream’ The Boss’s much-remarked upon Suicide-cover is genuinely magical: a misty cloud of gruffly romantic vocals and wheezing pump organ, looped into a hazy infinity.
The Organ – ‘Oh What A Feeling’ The last we’ll ever hear from the frosty Vancouverites, but what a song, Katie Sketch’s cold, lonely voice finally finding some succour in a heavenly choral swell.
Nat Baldwin – ‘Black Square’ Double bass and pliant vocal sing and circle each other with equal mystery in the standout track from the former Dirty Projector’s unanimously overlooked MVP album.
The Hot Puppies – ‘Clarinet Town’ The indie smash that never was – a ballsy, brassy, dynamic singalong – track it down and find out what you’ve been missing, you fool.
Hercules & Love Affair – ‘Blind’ Antony Hegarty’s vocal doesn’t make this track; it’d still be great without it. But would it be this great?
Death Vessel – ‘Fences Around Field’ One of the high points from Joel Thibodeau’s frankly wonderful second album as Death Vessel, this is a gentle, banjo-led number of subtle beauty. Easing you in, like.
Portishead – ‘The Rip’ …rips.
Okkervil River – ‘On Tour With Zylos’ A palpable melancholy is present on this cut from the glorious latest full-length, offset by the warm brass and humane lyrics of the ever-eloquent Will Sheff. Check those silky horns!
Why? – ‘Fatalist Palmistry’ On an album heavily preoccupied with mortality, the presence of lines as unabashedly romantic as “I’m lucky to be under the same sky that held / The exhale from your first breath” sound all the better, really.
The War On Drugs – ‘Arms Like Boulders’ An obvious choice from the record perhaps, but this widescreen slice of noisy Americana boasted the finest refrain this side of California. Or something. Ace.
Cut Copy – ‘Feel The Love’ “All the clouds have silver linings,” indeed: an evocative, kaleidoscopic, beautiful neon rush… a mournful, happy, straight-up awesome pop song and one that will forever remind me of a certain, happy period.
Amadou & Mariam – ‘Sabali’ Synthesizers and contrasting vocal takes combine to extraordinary effect on this wholly exuberant, Damon Albarn-produced lead-track and highlight of the Welcome To Mali album.
Kyte – ‘Eyes Lose Their Fire’ Shimmering, ambitious, enveloping post-rock from the Leicestershire quintet, where glockenspiel, brass, strings and a whispered vocal coalesce magnificently.
Conor Oberst – ‘Breezy’ This gorgeous ballad can be found Oberst’s tour-only Gentlemen’s Pact EP, and for my money beats anything off his latest, self-titled effort. Considered, poetic imagery and gently tinkled ivories see him at his engaging best.
Volcano! - 'Africa Just Wants To Have Fun' If not the song of the year, then very possibly the video of the year. The plan was to include more dogs, but I don't think there's many ways this song or video could be bettered.
Abe Vigoda - ‘Dead City/Waste Wilderness’ Makes you want to jump around with limbs flailing, gurning like a complete twat.
Why? – 'These Few Presidents' Quite simply the best song off the best album of the year. It's such a tough call to pick just one from Alopecia, but this shades it, just.
Tim Ten Yen – 'Sea Anemone' Once you've heard this, it worms its way into your conscious and subconscious for an indefinite amount of time. You'll probably still feel a little guilty for loving this song so much.
Stars and Sons – 'In The Ocean' If you don't like this song, you're not human.
Errors – 'Pump' A fantastic fuzz-driven electronic epic, I don't even think 7 minutes 21 seconds is long enough.
Parts and Labor - 'Satellites' All kinds of awesome. A big, big sound from a band which deserve to be as equally big.
Thee Silver Mt Zion Orchestra – 'Blindblindblind' Listening to this on record isn't quite as good as hearing it for the first time in a converted church, but it comes pretty close. Heart-rending post-rock.
Fuck Buttons – 'Sweet Love For Planet Earth' Almost annoyingly slow to get going, but when it does, my word! Chuck in the bizarre simian babblings atop an incessant fuzz-drone and you're onto a winner.
Shit And Shine – 'Toilet Door Tits' Y'know how Hot Chip do that song about the "monkey with the miniature cymbal"? Well, imagine that monkey scaled up to an angry gorilla of King Kong proportions and bashing the shit out of a giant fuck-off drum. In the jungle. With jumbo-jets for drumsticks. Utter musical brutality.
Avoiding eclecticism generally, instrumentals specifically (dubstep, post-rock, or noise), and the problem of picking album tracks from Shearwater and Wolf Parade, this is a collection themed around the adolescent joy of dramatizing misery.
Sigur Ros - ‘Ara Batur’ After the chirpy Animal Collective opening of the new album, it was epic / transcendent / life-affirming business as usual; this is a nine-minute hymn, with the Choristers of the London Oratory School.
Frightened Rabbit - ‘Heads Roll Off’ When they’re not pairing organ riffs with swooping harmonies, Arcade Fire-style, F Rabbit lay down soaring Idlewild guitars to back up sentiments like: “when it’s all gone / something carries on / and it’s not morbid talk / just when nature’s had enough / when my blood stops / someone else’s will not”
Retribution Gospel Choir - ‘Breaker’ You may not be able to explain why ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ is the definitive rock song, against which all else should be measured, but after 15 years fronting Low, Alan Sparhawk may have written the new benchmark for his hard-rock side-project.
Marnie Stern, ‘The Crippled Jazzer’ If only this didn’t sound like a groin-related injury... still, this is where Marnie shows she can RAWK, as well as shred.
Chris Morris - ‘Motherbanger’ You’ve heard ‘Uzi Lover’ by Fur Q, and ‘Panty Smile’ by Nirvana; you know this re-write of The Pixies’ 'Tame' is going to make you squeal, if it all gets too serious. Taken from this year’s highly recommended On The Hour - Series 2 boxed set.
Effi Briest - ‘Mirror Rim’ Basically, Electrelane crossed with The Raincoats; is it okay to call an all-female, nature-loving band “witches” if I once dated someone raised by witches, and – you know – witches are awesome?
The National - ‘Blank Slate’ Gotta get The National in somehow, seeing as Boxer was my album of 2007, and this year’s The Virginia EP of offcuts was criminally under-rated for being shackled to a lame tour movie; every track here could sit among the best on the previous albums, but the only explanation for omitting this heroic and auto-phallicizing ode must be that it lost a coin-toss.
Sun Kil Moon - ‘Tonight the Sky’ Still going strong after 15 years, Mark Kozelek rivals his greatest song (‘Carry me Ohio’) with a ten-minute lament for lost love, and all of it blown up to mythic proportions (“sometimes we roared like lions…”)
Nadja - ‘Deterritorialization’ Granted, this doom-metal duo sound like a vaguely melodic hairdryer much of the time, but the twin bass attack of this 20-minute track has a pulse in it like a whale’s heart.
Super XX Man - 'Crazy People' Lovingly written by a worker at a psychiatric institution, this was the year's best song that made me cry, with its chorus about "crazy people who / get more from life than me", including (in one verse) a girl who plays guitar until her fingers bleed
Compiling a mixtape is usually an arduous task, but not for me this year, because I'm making my criteria very specific: these are the kinds of things I've been playing at the DiScover nights in Sheffield and Manchester (JAG!). Naturally, they're all tracks that have successfully proved themselves in other situations, but this is primarily a mixtape that is ready, that is ready for the floor - particularly the latter half...
Chairlift - 'Planet Health' Starting things off slowly but lusciously, then, are that Brooklyn band who everybody questioned the substance of following that iPod advert. Songs like this proved them all wrong.
Fleet Foxes – 'Mykonos' Their self-titled debut didn't do all that much for these ears, but this fantastically choral track from their prior Sun Giant EP really, really did.
Maps & Atlases – 'Witch' Another EP track from an ace and - relatively - unDiScovered new band. These guys are guitar-wielding virtuosos who also know how to write decent tunes.
M83 - 'Kim & Jessie' Ethereal, haunting, amazing... probably the highlight from this great, great record.
TV On The Radio - 'Golden Age' The single that kind of prepared us for how jaw-droppingly brilliant Dear Science was going to be. What's not to like about a track that sounds like Prince fisting Talking Heads?
Gang Gang Dance - 'House Jam' This sounds like how I always imagined dance music could and should. So many different textures, layers and sounds but underpinned by a beat that's impossible to deny.
Friendly Fires – 'Paris' A truly life affirming slice of shoe-rave. Yes, I said shoe-rave. Deal with it.
Cut Copy - 'Hearts On Fire' Arguably my track of the year, at least DJing wise. When this beast kicks in, you'd need to be in something like the deepest of K holes to resist.
Late Of The Pier - 'Bathroom Gurgle' The bassline says it all really: filthy.
MGMT – 'Kids' Remember what I said about Cut Copy? Scratch that. 'Kids' is my song of the year hands down and if that makes me a sucker for mainstream electro-pop, then so be it. And if you think UK audiences love MGMT a bit too much, just try dropping it at a festival in Spain...
DiScuss: What's on your 2008 mixtape?
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- DiS meets Kele Okereke