Listener Discretion is Advised

Despite the rumors and innuendo that persist, year after year, about the dearth of good, new music or the death of good, old rock n' roll, 2008 proved to me that both presumptions are as far off-base as they could possibly be. So here, in the spirit of providing an alternate take on the year's musical accomplishments, I present to you my favorite albums and artists of This Foul Year of Our Lord, 2008.

Max Tundra - Parallax Error Beheads You

It's been more than six years since UK's DJ extraordinaire Max Tundra's last release, Mastered by Guy at the Exchange showed us the future hybridization of glitch, IDM and sickly-sweet pop. Parallax Error Beheads You more than lives up to the promise and hype that last release created, with pop hooks and falsettos discussing a lively variety of everyday topics at times as endearingly banal as meeting a girl on Myspace over clicky, gappy electronics as complicated as they come. If nothing else, 2008 will be remembered by me as the year everyone stopped fearing pop music and embraced catchiness; Max Tundra caught on to this years ago, and is back to reap the rewards.

Kurt Vile - Constant Hitmaker

Taking up the tradition of lo-fi, one-man pop auteur started by R. Stevie Moore and kept alive by Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile's first full length for a label (indie imprint Gulcher) has given me some of the most satisfying musical moments of the year. Partly satisfying because after the first time you hear the album's opener "Freeway," nothing else can quite scratch that itch again. Partly satisfying in a nebulously nostalgic way; reminds me of being a very young child and the first songs that really got me then, in the car with my parents, when the actual words were obscured by primitive radio technology and youthfully limited vocabulary. The muddy recording quality that dominated many of my favorite records of the year is present here, in dreamy soundscape wash rather than abrasive wall-of-sound, and the vocal inflection's rise and fall will stick in your head well before and after any of the lyrics you manage to decipher.

Sic Alps - Long Way to a Short Cut

A compilation of all extant 12", 7" and cassette releases by ultra-prolific, ultra-primitive San Francisco duo, this release shows them in their best sixties form. From the grimy, early Beatles bop of "Message from the Law" ending with "nothing but crack, crack, crack, crack," and then, harmonized: "sales-mennnn" to the "Kids Are Alright" Who primitive of "Hey Sofia!" the Sic Alps are, to me, the leading figures in the sixties-primitive revival that's making its presence known more with each passing month. Long live analog recording!

Tune in next week for part 2 of my year's best list; too much good stuff came out over the course of the past twelve months to let it go at just three. Next week: the Barbaras, Deerhunter, Why? and, oh I don't know, maybe the Ohsees.


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