Some records slip below nearly every radar. These brilliant albums end up not only missing out on end of year plaudits but throughout the year these records failed to procure the reams of verbiage they deserved. These are the outsiders, the records which people weren't brave enough crank out on their airwaves nor fill a page or two of their publications with. These are the records so special that our writers sent death threats to our offices for not including in DiS' 50 albums of 2008.
So without further ado, these are the eight that you (and we) should have been celebrating, had they not been frustratingly lost, for whatever reason.
The Wave Pictures
What I love about Herman Dune at their best is the situationalism of their lyrics, some of their best songs are little more than delicately drawn snapshots of scenes – trying to remember the code to a girlfriend’s flat, or watching a DVD with a prospective lover. There’s something touching about hearing so much care put into the small things, the details of life. Although it’s often remarked that The Wave Pictures are the closest musical equivalent us Brits have to Herman Dune, it’s really in this respect that they most closely resemble the Parisian folk-poppers. Whereas other English bands languish in non-specifics, making abstract statements about abstract events, Dave Tattersall’s songs feel lived-in, rather than purely cranial.
Indeed, whereas many of 2008’s indie frontmen peddled a line in obscurantism - a brand of ‘mathletics’ that reduced lyricism to a bit part parade of images within the music - on Instant Coffee Baby (The Wave Pictures’s first ‘proper’ album) Tattersall openly casts himself in the role of wordsmith; album opener ‘Leave This Scene Behind’ seeing him describe himself as one of ‘the best writers’ of ‘the modern school of urban fantasy’. Of course, statements like these should be taken with a healthy dose of salt - words come and go on Instant Coffee Baby like so many espresso shots, different images and scenes running through the narrative like a sugar-rush slide-show.
On ‘I Love You Like A Madman’ Tattersall instructs his betrothed to "throw the backdoor open / let me see your breath." It’s this attention to detail that makes Instant Coffee Baby stand apart, the title track itself a mad exemplar of Tattersall’s way with words, a strange rambling epic that namechecks Simon and Garfunkel alongside the Blackpool tower, before going on to discuss "your Italian ex-boyfriend’s coffee machine which I stole when he left for Bologna," and finally exclaiming "you got cystitis, didn’t you?" Youthful misadventure hasn’t sounded so sordidly enchanting since Belle and Sebastian sang about railings and a dose of trush.
‘Strange Fruit or David’s’ central refrain is "a sculpture is a sculpture / marmalade is marmalade / and a sculpture of marmalade is a sculpture but it isn’t marmalade." Any other band might try to layer this kind of garbled imagery in irony or cynicism; here, Tattersall sings it straight, in painful earnest. Yet again he tells us that he "was a young man / starving and drinking / and trying to become a writer" – it’s this self-awareness that makes Instant Coffee Baby such a rewarding record. You feel like Tattersall is singing with you rather than at you; the album’s closer, ‘Cassius Clay’ (co-written with David Herman Dune), chimes ‘it’s fantastic to feel beautiful again’, and at such moments it’s a pleasure to sing along.