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azzief’s insufferably trendy list of his favourite ten albums from 2008

I’m not one of those people who are on the cutting-edge of music, so I won’t be putting together a large or at all comprehensive list. There are probably lots of albums released this year that would be on this list if I’d listened to them, but oh well. Perhaps I’ll end up making an addendum to this list somewhere down the line…

But enough of that. On with the show!

In no particular order, my top ten (pardon the crappy mini-reviews, I felt like writing):

Thursday / Envy – Split [Temporary Residence Limited]

One of the surprises of the year as far as I’m concerned (alongside, you guessed it, Metallica’s Death Magnetic), this split is a wonderful document of a band at their peak (Envy) and a band that may just reach theirs if they continue down the path shown on this split (Thursday). Thursday’s songs here are some of their best yet, and Envy don’t let the side down either with a solid, typically-Envy set of three songs.

Prurient – And Still, Wanting [No Fun Productions]

What can I say about Prurient that hasn’t already been said? Quite possibly the posterboy for modern American noise (and, perhaps, for good reason), Prurient simply outdid himself on this release, crafting what has to rank as not only one of his, but also of the noise genre itself’s, best albums. Essential listening if one is at all into noise.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago [4AD]

Yes, I know that it was originally released in 2007 but, since it was only released on a major(-ish) label this year, I decided that it’d be okay to include this album in “the list.” It’s also a bloody good album. Really, really good. It’s melodic, heartfelt and laced with emotion; catchy yet not exactly happy; it captures the sense and feeling of isolation without delving into despair… et al et al. There’s a reason it’s on so many “best of ’08” lists, folks.

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing [ATP Recordings]

Neu! meets Merzbow meets the Boredoms meets shitloads of awesome. Ethreal keyboard washes sharing a cramped apartment with layers of pulsating, grinding noise and synths. Also includes what must be the world’s first (and only?) dance-noise-shoegaze-pop track in “Bright Tomorrow.”

Kylie Minoise – Kylie Minoise Fucking Loves You! / Kylie Minoise Fucking Hates You! [Kovorox Sound]

Kylie Minoise has quickly become one of my favourite noise artists, and listening to these two releases will definitely clue you into the reasons why. Well-crafted, ear-tickling, pretty bloody harsh noise that will definitely plaster a grin on the faces of anyone even remotely interested in noise. These are two separate CDs, yes, but for the purposes of list-compiling I’m treating them as one album. They might as well be.

Nadja – Bliss Torn from Emptiness reissue [Profound Lore Records]

Yes, this is a reissue/remaster of something previously released in ’04, but it’s longer, now divided into three tracks and actually sounds substantially different when compared to the original, which, I feel, qualifies it to be treated almost akin to a new release. And what a release it is. Massive, mind-expanding soundscapes of beauty and incredible heaviness abound. Absorb, don’t listen. Absorb.

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles [Last Gang Records]

There’s something oddly charming to Crystal Castles’ electronics that I really, really like. They’re not the most original act out there, and neither are they the best at what they do, but I can’t help but like this album a lot. Buoyed by a handful of brilliant tracks (“Alice Practice”, “Black Panther”, “Crimewave”, “Air War”, “Vanished”, among others) and remaining consistently good (and respectably varied) throughout, it’s one of the better “conventional” electronic albums I’ve listened to in a while.

Hair Police – Certainty of Swarms [No Fun Productions]

Hair Police are like the musical equivalent of a mondo film director. It’s not enough just implying someone’s just had his arm cut off, oh no: what they have to do is show the act in all it’s g(l)ory, dragged out in slow motion and with as much gore as possible. That’s what Hair Police do. This doesn’t tickle the ear like the aforementioned Kylie Minoise releases; rather, it engulfs the listener in an unholy sludge of noise and doesn’t let up until its 40-minute running time comes to an end. Quite possibly one of their best albums, and a glorious culmination of all of their previous work.

Jason Crumer – Ottoman Black [Hospital Productions]

Jason Crumer’s brilliantly crafted soundscapes not only manage to assault the listener with harsh noise workouts, but also many quieter moments which somehow seem just as painful as the noisy ones. While many noise artists are content to blast the listener with harsh walls of noise for the entire duration of an album (a practice which isn’t actually wrong, mind you), this album finds Jason Crumer frequently pulling back and letting silence do its thing too, with devastatingly good results.

Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker – Fantasma Parastasie [Alien8 Recordings]

A true collaborative effort between these two modern-day legends, with both collaborating in real time (as opposed to the ever-popular e-mail/Internet-based collaborations), this album is a perfect balance of both melody and noise that befits the reputations of both individuals involved in its creation. Noisy without being overpowering, beautiful without being overly so and melodic without relying on conventional melodic lines, this album is wonderful in many, many ways.

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