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.
Parts & Labor
As an internet-deprived teenager attempting to negotiate the sucking musical void that was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, I always found it easier to look backwards for musical heroes, most often to the nascent college rock scene of the early to mid-80s. R.E.M., Hüsker Dü, Throwing Muses; they maybe weren’t musical pioneers in a strict technical sense, but all of them combined absolute sincerity with total mystique to carve indelible cuts on that decade and every one since. Furthermore they were all outrageously prolific, managing an album and an international tour every year, plus their music evolved at freakishly fast rates – Hüsker Dü’s entire six-record studio career and R.E.M.’s journey from Murmur to Document happened between 1983 and 1987.
Okay, being prolific and changing your sound is hardly rare, but those bands undeniably had something, and plonked in front of The Chart Show, casting a grim eye over The Supernaturals’ latest, I wished somebody in 1998 could have it too. Well, they didn’t, but a decade on and Parts & Labor really, really do, and having put out four albums of increasing stridency, purpose and rabble-rousing fire in the same number of years (and certainly unafraid of conjuring the spirit of Hüsker Dü in particular), they should be well on their way to The Big Crossover, right?
Obviously not: despite being trailed by the absurdly anthemic (if grammatically troubling) 'Nowheres Nigh' (above), Parts & Labor’s Receivers went pretty much the way of its predecessors: a pat on the head from the indie press and mild disbelief from fans that the Brooklynites’ punchy, noise pop hadn’t taken over the world... yet.
Actually for all ‘Nowheres Nigh’s Springseen-esque velocity (that last chorus will put hair on your chest) Receivers is for the main a lyrically dark, expansive-verging-on-sprawling noise folk record, marked by new guitarist Sarah Lipstate’s droney textures and the hundreds of fan-sent samples woven into its tapestry. So maybe it wasn’t the ideal record to take them over the top – that would have been last year’s Mapmaker – but there’s still not a song on Receivers that doesn’t wend its way to the type of climax that makes you want to peg it over the Atlantic and give the Statue Of Liberty a high five. Like those classic college rock bands, they balance questing, arty leanings with a belief that a song isn’t a song unless you can sing along.
With Luke Slater’s very fine review barely over a month old then the point here isn’t a reappraisal of Receivers; nor is it even a grumble that it didn’t make more of a splash – the band probably couldn’t care less. It’s just to simply state the fact that Parts & Labor put out another magnificent album this year, and it slipped out relatively unnoticed, once again. They’ll probably put out another next year, and maybe that’ll be the breakthrough; if not the one the year after that or the year after that. It’s going to happen. But for now it's not too late to stop 2008 being another year you let a Parts & Labor album pass you by, as trust me - don't get it now and a day will come when you’ll feel like a right tit.