January 1, 2009


...could be looked back on as the Crystal Year, because it was the year we saw fabulous debuts from the Crystal bands: the abrasive underground techno-punk of Crystal Castles, the Phil Spector does kraut-damaged surf-rock of Crystal Stilts, and the ballistic acid-fried proto-psych of Crystal Antlers. However, despite the tastiness of all three acts, only the latter made it into my playlist of the best music of 2008. It was also crystalline in its clarity last year that THINGS MUST CHANGE. Otherwise I'm leavin' this dirtball planet BEHIND, and headed for SPACE! Join me?

This New Year's installment features songs from the very best releases of 2008, and as usual it's the least spacerock, per se, of any set. The motto is, after all, "not ALL spacerock, and not all the time". That said, it's got loads of heavy-deavy, freaky-deaky material for those connoisseurs of such, as well as some diverse and even poppy tracks from fairly well-known and plenty of lesser-known artists. Also, bein' a little less spacerock results in less-lengthy songs so you've got, count 'em, 27 of 'em!

First, a video from THE band of the year:

A snapshot of 2008: we start with Indian Jewelry, of course - their neoprimitive agit-prop shoegaze absolutely SLAYS me. TV On The Radio can seemingly do no wrong, and this album's their most soulful, if least spacey. Icelandic eccentric Mugison continues to refine his unabashed Bolan/Lennon worship. Two "sunny" songs, one from Glasgow's mighty postrockers Mogwai with their best release in a decade and one from Long Beach's acid-punkers Crystal Antlers from their eponymous debut EP (can't wait for a full-length!). Boris put out their most accessible album yet (relatively speaking) with two very different versions in Japan and the US, but both seriously RAWK! LA's prog-punk duo No Age continue to amaze while the Raveonettes offer more of their exquisite gauzy Phil Spector meets Jesus & Mary Chain ditties. The Dears were more concise, hard-edged, and slightly less melodramatic than usual, and Beck (?!?!?) was pretty much par for the course, great-sounding and fun yet slight, but this track's kinda psychedelic - me likey. Deerhunter put out their most cohesive effort yet while Portishead made a comeback bar none - their best record EVER, and one of the top ten albums of the year. M83 sweetened up their analog synth excursions with a nostalgic wistfulness, while Au captured the ecstatic joy of their live collaborative chant-a-longs. Abe Vigoda, Gang Gang Dance and Marnie Stern shared New York City's current obsession with African polyrhythms (and phenomenal guitar playing), while Collections of Colonies of Bees brought transcendence to elaborate and oblique postjazz/rock. Black Mountain return with a fresh-cut slab of their monolithic psych, and White Hills appear with a squall of frenzied acid-kraut, Ulann Khol take us on a fuzzed-out journey through the soul and The Black Angels into a psilocybic pit of hell. Jucifer managed to make a 21-song tribute to Marie Antoinette rock by careening from hardcore punk to sludge metal to acid-tinged balladry, and Nick Cave proved his continued relevance with a textured and varied work worthy of all his past output with elements of both his Birthday Party and Grinderman forays into artpunk angst. Sun City Girls returned with another installment of their spazz-rocking "ethno-forgeries" (to paraphrase Can), their best since Torch of the Mystics, probably because it contains outtakes from those very sessions, the prolific Grails put out two amazing albums and this track is from their very best yet, and Fuck Buttons manage to make utter noise seem beautiful, a catharsis for bright new year. ENJOY!

The following tracks should appear in the player below:

Swans - Indian Jewelry - Free Gold!
Halfway Home - TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Mugiboogie - Mugison - Mugiboogie
The Sun Smells Too Loud - Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling
Until the Sun Dies - Crystal Antlers - s/t ep
Buzz-In - Boris - Smile (Japanese Version)
Cappo - No Age - Nouns
Hallucinations - The Raveonettes - Lust, Lust, Lust
Disclaimer - The Dears - Missiles
Chemtrails - Beck - Modern Guilt
Nothing Ever Happened - Deerhunter - Microcastle
Silence - Portishead - Third
Highway of Endless Dreams - M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Are Animals - Au - Verbs
Skeleton - Abe Vigoda - Skeleton
First Communion - Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
Transformer - Marnie Stern - This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That
Flocks I - Collections of Colonies of Bees - Birds
Stormy High - Black Mountain - In The Future
Radiate - White Hills - Heads on Fire
Track 7 - Ulaan Khol - 1
Doves - The Black Angels - Directions to See a Ghost
L'Autrichienne - Jucifer - L'Autrichienne
We Call upon the Author - Nick Cave - Dig Lazarus Dig!
Souvenirs from Jangare - Sun City Girls - You're Never Alone with a Cigarette
Predestination Blues - Grails - Doomsdayer's Holiday
Bright Tomorrow - Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing