So now that we're into the second month of the new year here is my "best of" list. What a disgrace I am. I had some hindrances but it's still pretty pisspoor journalistic activity. Anyway, for anyone who finds this to be still relevant, I hope you dig this in all its mostly-written-in-December-but-posted-in-February glory...
Last year I was too burnt out (and not a big enough fan of "best of" lists to compensate for it) to make a list, but had I, I probably woulda said the best record of the year would be Kevin Shields' The Death of Patience or The Cherry Blossoms' LP with best track going to the Yellow Swans' side of their split 7inch with The Goslings. For some reason I feel a bit more up to doing one of these things and maybe it'll be lame but I'll never know if I don't try it out. I didn't want to do a hierarchal "Top 20" or anything but the first section are the records that just blew me away the most this year, while the second section is bunch of other great records I listened to a lot. All are worth hearing, and if I hadn't gotten sick of writing this there'd be a shit ton more records listed here.
Gang Wizard God-Time-Man Universal Continuum Calibration Disc (LP) [Green Tape/Lost Treasures of the Underworld/olfactory/Tanzprocesz]
What an album. This thing is a total monstrosity. Each of the three tracks here are brilliant but I can't not listen to this as a whole. It just doesn't feel complete otherwise. I don't know how it happened, but it feels like there some's divine hand guiding all the mayhem here. Whether intentional or not this sounds like the most meticulously constructed record I've heard all year. It's just perfect.
Night of Pleasure Night of Pleasure (7") [Columbus Discount]
So technically this came out last year but I didn't hear it until this year so... I don't give a shit, it is going on this list. This record can't be more than 6 or 7 minutes in total but I listened to these three songs (especially the b-side "Bitch Pitch") possibly more than any of other group of songs this year. I have a huge soft spot for basement scuzz rock and this 7inch is kind of a distillation of what's great about that style. It doesn't hurt that records has HOOKS (note the capitalization). It was still in print last time I checked and super cheap. Strongly recommended.
Blank Dogs Untitled (7") [Daggerman]
Probably could have put any of Blank Dogs output from this year on this list so I'll save some space by just putting my favorite. "In a Web" is an instant classic worth a million plays with it's euphoric detuned central riff and ominous baritone vocals. "They Said" and "Stuck Inside the World" aren't too shabby either. All hail 2008's darkest pop sorcerer.
Mudboy MUDMUX Vol. 1 (7") [DNT]
This 7inch is amazing on all fronts, great artwork, clear blue vinyl and most of all two equally sensational (but different) sides. Mudboy takes on two songs here and remuxes them, still not quite sure what that entails, but the final product is an absolute beauty, whether its the eerie, impossibly groovy jam on the first side or plaintive accordion ballad on backside. Just a phenomal single. When the hell do I get to hear Vol. 2 already??
Ducktails Untitled (7") [Breaking World]/Ducktails/Mudboy Summer of Saucers [DNT]
Maybe more than any other artist this, Ducktails has made waves in the underground and rightly so. These two pieces of the Ducktails saga seem the most essential to my ears. The 7inch features the supergroovy, sunshinin' cosmitropic Ducktails sound with four (or is it three) songs and the tape dials down the rhythmic factor creating a gorgeous 13 minute free floating, adventure through space that moves though a handful of movements concluding with a lonely but still smilin' acoustic guitar.
The Hospitals Hairdryer Peace (LP) [No Label]
I remember reading somewhere an enthusiastic listener calling this album "the best record of the past two years!" Now, I wouldn't go that far but it's probably one of them. Like that Gang Wizard LP this record really feels like an album. There are a couple songs here that are great by themselves ("Animals Act Natural"; "Dream Damage") but the 14 songs here sound their best within the context of the album. Complete with its recurring, national anthemic riff, this album absorbs you into its world; listening is almost like a trek through a noisy jungle. The Hospitals find total sonic synergy in this messy, ragged collision of cacophony and rock songs. I can imagine in the future, having kids and putting this one on the turntable and saying "take a seat, we're going to listen to a great album." It feels like one of those albums you don't forget.
Caldera Lakes Caldera Lakes (CD-r) [Sentient Recognition Archive]
Man oh man, I was not prepared for how good this Caldera Lakes shit is. Obviously, I knew it would be (or at least should be) because Eva Aguila is one of the most consistent artists around but Caldera Lakes (which is Aguila and Brittany Gould of Married in Berdichev) have unlocked a section of the sound spectrum no one new existed. All their releases deliver the same sublime, harsh/soothing beauty but this release in particular I really connected with maybe only because it was the first I heard. Though I will assert that "Tornado" is the finest kernel of sound they have yet produced: a mess of feedback, siren-like vocals and an amazing construction of loops. Whatever release it is, you need Caldera Lakes in your life.
Oneohtrix Point Never Ruined Lives (CS) [Young Tapes]
So when I initially noticed this project I read the name as "Oh-nee-oh-tricks", then "One-oh-tricks" and now I'm pretty sure it's "One-oh-tree" a little like Tweety Bird saying "103". If anyone has information on this matter don't hesitate to get in touch. Regardless of the pronunciation this may be the most stunning, beautiful tape I've heard this year and I'm really kicking myself I didn't jump on this guy's stuff earlier in the year. I respect the approach taken here because it's dreamy but not because it's drenched in reverb or obscured in any way. Instead, a cosmic new age palette is employed to it's fullest extent. The thing is though, even the great stuff from the cosmic new age style still has a quaint cheesiness to it and this tape is so genuine and moving that there is nothing quaint or cheesy about it. It's simply a lovely, brooding, lonely score to an imaginary space age romance. Or so my mind hears it. As soon as it ends, I flip it over and immediately play it again. Space has never sounded so lush.
Black Pus/Foot Village Split (LP) [Deathbomb Arc/DNT]
Brian Chippendale has outdone himself with his side here. Some of it was released awhile back as part of the DBA tape club but I never heard it then so it's all new to me. "Floatzilla" was my election night theme song as I have mentioned before. Relentlessly groovy, relentlessly great. Oozing with positive vibes and posessing your body with dance movements you never thought possible. "The Black Whole" is also brilliant synth only stuff that has a different feel than all other synth jammers I've heard. Synth dudes take note. The flipside contains Foot Village at their most furious and hilarious, worth hearing as well.
Ex-Cocaine/Yellow Swans Split (LP) [Not Not Fun]
I don't know what kinda stuff the DYSwans have in the vault but their side of this LP may as well be their swansong (pun realized but not intended). 15 minutes of hulking majestic blackened beauty. A perfect outro for the one of the greatest bands in history and the best live performers I've ever witnessed. Ex-Cocaine also contributes the best shit they've ever made including an awesome Meat Puppets cover.
Maths Balance Volumes Information is Pain (CS) [Taped Sounds]
Don't know much (read: anything) about these two(?) dudes(?) other then they live somewhere out in Minnesota. This tape, from what I think is the latest carnation of Lieven Marten's Belgian Bread & Animals label, is a potentially addictive substance. An unknowable combo of stewed tapes, guitar blues and slurred vocals--that's my guess anyway. Catchy and creepy; they do their thing like no one else.
Angel Snake/Monopoly Child Star Searchers Split (CS) [New Age Cassettes/Pacific City]
Of the thousands of Ferraro/Clark projects that come out every year, I guess it seems logical some would get lost in the shuffle but it's a bummer this one seemed to be. It's the first instance I've heard of Ferraro on one side and Clark on the other and I think works out great. The first part of Side A is one of my favorite things to come from Ferraro's brain or even the Skaters' collective brain. On the B-side contains the strongest overall Star Searchers release in my opinion; same style as the other releases but just done better for some reason. Typically zonked fold out full-sized paper cover.
Little Women Teeth (LP one-sided) [Gilgongo]
A supreme twenty minute scorcher with plenty of moments of beauty and plenty of anguish emanating from guitar, drums and dueling saxophones. This is virtuosity matched with inspiration. Not much more to say.
Du Hexen Hase Under the Clouds of Sleep (3" CD-r) [No Label]
This little disc is an anomaly to me because it's a pretty long piece at 17ish minutes and relatively little changes throughout its course but it's one of the most listenable, affecting pieces of music I've heard all year. Total bleakness but with an ever present glimmer of hope. If you weren't one of the lucky 47 to score a copy of this, I heard a rumor that it may be reissued as a split LP with Blue Sabbath Black Cheer which would be totally boss. Say your prayers for that.
Bulbs Light Ships (CD) [Freedom to Spend]
Unlike just about everything else that made it onto this favorites of 08 list, this album didn't get on here because I couldn't stop listening to it. I've listened to it a fair amount, sure, but this isn't quite ear candy in the way that most other stuff here is. Don't get the impression I don't like this, cause I do very much, but this is a record I really respect. One that challenges and amazes me every time I pull it out. It contains too many mysteries, and surprises that never fail to surprise, to not hear it. Very much worth the listening investment.
Vapor Gourds Dagger Magic (CS) [Yeay! Cassettes]
This tape has been trapped in my walkman since I got basically. I've always wanted to hear something like this, even trying and failing to create it myself. Lucky for me Vapor Gourds has succeeded. 30 minutes of short beats of all types, though the best are the ones with the hip hop stylee in my opinion. This tape makes me want to record some rhymes over it Grey Album-style (well Grey Album in reverse anyway). The finale is just impeccably classic too. Yeay! did a great job matching the the audio magic with visual magic, 4 or 5 color screenprinted cover and screenprinted tapes in a ghettofab/cartoonish font. Peep it and absorb it.
Radiant Husk Beyond the Endless Swale (CS) [Bezoar Formations]
Dudes, check this tape out. Even the casual reader probably knows how much I love the sax but the thing is it always seems kinda typecast despite being great (like Brian Cox). Enter Matthew Erickson's (Sudden Oak, Anenome Lodge) solo project Radiant Husk. The guy takes a saxophone (along a bit of electronics and keyboards and whatnot) and just paints the sky beautiful, ominous, static-y colors with it. Unique and transcendent and all sorts of synonyms for rad. I guess its kinda noisy and droney and psychedlic but none of those tags seem to capture it. Everytime I roll tape I'm continually amazed. Well worth the meager 5 bucks Bezoar is asking for. Bonus: acid trout collage on the back of the j-card.
Other pieces of the puzzle:
The Skaters Physicalities of the Sensibilites of Ingrediential Strairways (LP) [Eclipse]
Some people seemed to be down on this record, but I dig it. It's another solid platter of the sound only the Skaters can create.
Cheveu Cheveu (LP) [S-S]
Brilliant lo-fi French electro-punk from the sweetly pummeling "Superhero" to the utterly creepy but still kinda beautiful "Happiness"
Girl Talk Feed the Animals (CD) [Illegal Art]
Not the impeccably crafted masterwork that Night Ripper was but still a great pop record. I'm a sucker for this guy's stuff.
Nice Face Can I Fuck It (CS) [Jerkwave]
Don't know anything about this Nice Face guy other than he knows how to write a song. Check "Way it's Gotta Be" for proof. Fuzzed to the nuts (did I just write that?) with more hooks than a pirate ship. (wait did I just write that??) Extra points for putting this gem out on cassette rather than vinyl as most of his contemporaries do.
Nobunny Love Visions (LP) [Bubbledum]
Now that Nobunny has released this LP millions of people can throw away their anti-depressants and just put on "I am a Girlfriend" when they're feeling blue. It is literally impossible for me to listen to that song without getting up and dancing and loving life. The rest of the record is great too which is a total bonus cause it'd be worth having for that song alone.
The Pope Do You Wanna Boogie? (CS) [DNT]
Riotous, feedback stained shit rock. Totally great and so totally necessary to hear it on tape. Supposedly their last release (lame) R.I.P. the Pope
Black Orphan Circuits [UFO Dictator]/Black Orphan Video Kids [Hozac]
Don't know what it is about the midwest but it seems more, often than not, the best songs from this year came from there. "XX Spectrum" and "Video Kids" are utterly fantastic.
Traum Ecke Traum Ecke (CS) [Goaty Tapes]
I think this duo is guitar and keyboard and may have just been a one-off since I haven't seen anything else by them around. The first side is really ambient magic crystal drone stuff and the flip retains the floatiness with a nice subtle groove. Excellent packaging from Goaty as well with bitchingly bright yellow tapes.
Caldera Lakes Caldera Lakes (CS) [905 Tapes; Blackest Rainbow; Deathbomb Arc]
Each of these Caldera Lakes tapes is pretty evenly matched so I'm just putting all three on here. As mentioned before Caldera Lakes just have an amazing sound and any of these tapes will give you glimpse of it. I just happen to be extra nuts about that sound so I picked up every Caldera Lakes release I could find this year and I'm not even one of those completist types. The Blackest Rainbow one features fantastic artwork by Jake Blanchard too.
Kevin Shields/Droughter Split (CS) [Heavy Psych]
Probably most people that read this are aware by now how much I love Eva Aguila's Kevin Shields project so obviously I picked up this tape. To my surprise, and while the KS side is solid, I was really impressed with the B-side. Droughter brings it for 17 straight minutes never letting up and, here's the important part, never getting boring. One of the finest long form noise tracks I've heard this year.
Locrian Burying the Carnival/Exhuming the Carnival (CS) [No Label]/Locrian Rhetoric of Surfaces (CD) [Bloodlust!]
It seems like these guys have been around for a while and some how I missed 'em. Too bad for me. I remember hearing "Burying a Carnival" for the first time and thinking "Shit, how did I not know about these guys". Fantastic blackened noise/drone stuff that's up there with the greats of the genre.
Super Minerals The Piss (CS) [DNT]/Super Minerals The Thaw (CS) [Not Not Fun]
This duo is my personal favorite from the Magic Lantern web. I dig how The Piss sounds like it was recorded in some dank air pocket ten feet below the earth's surface. Never heard drones so dry and moldy before. The Thaw meanwhile has got to be biggest bang for your buck of the year, a c120 of the greatest hits of SM's own private stock.
Tricorn & Queue Tapestry Head Ban [Housecraft]
I'm sucker for a brilliant drone stuff which is why this is on the list. The first
piece, oh man, it's just beautiful as hell.
Do Tell Sewn to the Current [Housecraft]
I'm a sucker for brilliant drone pt. 2... The mastermind behind this 90 minute double cassette somehow manages to keep you floating for its whole duration.
Mincemeat or Tenspeed All Critters (LP) [Big Monies Tapes/Deathbomb Arc/Malleable]
So no computers, samplers, musical instruments... dude, what then??! Somehow this was created without any of those things, and fuck, what an impressive record it is. Gnarly techno-surf shit. Check it out.
Gay Beast Disrobics (LP) [DNT]
Gay Beast was actually supposed to be here on the 31st of Dec but sadly it appears to have fallen through but at least I have this LP to get me through. GB have a great sound visceral, angular and mathematically complex/precise which somehow makes it seem even more raw. Solid album and "Cock" and "Good Government" are two of the finest songs of '08
Lateral Hyetography Some Girlzzz (CS) [Really Coastal]
Not much to say about this cassingle other than it's a wonderfully epic pop number and I can't wait for more.
John Thill The Sluts (CS) [JK Tapes]
I can rarely understand a word this guy is singing when I do it's usually a bit creepy but this tape is the best folk/songwriter release I've heard this year I think. Dude, knows how to write a pretty song and a hilarious review.
Night of Pleasure/Day Creeper Split (7") [No Label]
Great self-released split from Columbus crews, Night of Pleasure and Day Creeper. More great messy NoP stuff is matched the more pop stylings of Day Creeper featuring the especially great bedroom bombast of "My Blue Screen".
Fag Cop Psychic Sickness (7") [Milk N Herpes]
My friend said that Fag Cop is scuzz rock. The more I think about it I'm inclined to agree. All songs are great but "Automatic Kansas" is the best of the gnarly, gnarled bunch. I may have found a reason to go to Kansas.
AFCGT AFCGT (10") [Dirty Knobby]
Local legends A Frames and Climax Golden Twins unite and make history. See them live, they will rattle your brain loose.
I also want to give a special mention to DNT records. I know I didn't hear everything that was released by every label last year but, for my money, DNT put on a better show than anyone else. Every release ranged from good to fucking classic, the artwork was always great etc. etc. and prices are CHEAP. I was impressed to no end and it looks like DNT has plans to top itself next year--look at the upcoming release schedule, it's stacked!