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2008 Year End Best Of

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2008 seemed like an excellent year for music. There were more CDs to enjoy than time that could be spent enjoying them, and quite frankly i welcome being overwhelmed. It sure beats struggling to find something decent to listen to…

       PostLibyan's Favorite Albums of 2008  
  1. Pleamar by Resplandor. The best shoegaze record i have heard in years: layers of guitar haze with buried vocals, all bearing that unmistakable Robin Guthrie touch. Magnificent.

  2. High Places by High Places. This band is totally unique: primitive, primal dance music made with heavy electronics and delicate vocals. If you haven't heard it yet, you need to.

  3. The Weather Clock by July Skies. An achingly delicate album of pastoral calm

  4. Do You Like Rock Music? by British Sea Power. Why yes, yes i do in fact like rock music. This album, in particular, rocks, and does so quite well.

  5. Microcastle by Deerhunter. A great album from these locals. I am glad to see the band continuing to grow. Bradford Cox's solo album as Atlas Sound is also worth checking out.

  6. Begin Civil Twilight by Auburn Lull. Another fine outing from a personal favorite act.

  7. 3:19 by Robin Guthrie. Soundtrack music done right.

  8. Dear Science by TV On The Radio. This is an epic album, full of big songs with loud, thundering choruses. This band continues to grow, and continues to impress.

  9. Songs in A & E by Spiritualized. Another stunning record from J. Spaceman.

  10. The Slip by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor continues his recent personal renaissance to great effect. This one is more sonically diverse than previous NIN discs, but he makes it work.

  11. Saturdays = Youth by M83. Ah, the 80s.

  12. Eyes Like Brontide by Lights Out Asia. Deeply moving and compelling disc from this electronic post-rock act.
       Albums that were better than i had any reason to expect they would be  
  1. Chinese Democracy by Guns and Roses. Can you believe that there is finally a new Guns and Roses album? Yes, it's finally out. And you know what -- Axl Rose can write a damned fine pop song. Sure, the album is over-produced at times, but after 12 years in the studio, that is unsurprising. And yet, at times that old GNR magic still shines through. Not a masterpiece, but worth hearing nonetheless.

  2. Funplex by The B52s. Okay, so in the pictures of the band on this CD, there is a lot of botox showing. But they still make a fun, goofy record, dammit.

  3. Hey Ma by James. I always liked this band. And now they are back after a long hiatus, and they can still make a fun tune.

  4. Ghosts I - IV by Nine Inch Nails. When i heard that NIN were releasing an instrumental collection, i have to admit that i was very skeptical. And yet, there are some real gems here. They managed to pull it off. Impressive.


       PostLibyan's Favorite Live Events of 2008  
  1. South By Southwest 2008 - Day 2 (featuring Ravens and Chimes, Scouting for Girls, Cadence Weapon, Billy Bragg, The Hunnies, Jukebox the Ghost, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Peel, My Education, Our Lunar Activities, Melissa St. Pierre, High Places, and The English Beat.) This was the perfect day for music: it had a little mayhem, some random wandering around, Billy Bragg waxing nostalgic about The Clash, some pleasant pop music in an almost empty bar, lovely post-rock (without, sadly, PowerPoint, which just would have made the whole day perfect!), a surprisingly great totally unknown band seen by accident, and then ended with some sweaty skanking to the English Beat. I had Save It For Later stuck in my head for weeks!

  2. The Faint on Thu 14 Aug at The Variety Playhouse. The middle act this night sucked eggs so bad, but the Faint played the hell out of their set. 3.

  3. Spiritualized on Wed 23 Jul at The Variety Playhouse. J Spaceman played at one side of the stage, with the rest of the band set up at the other. He watched them, they watched him, and when some fool in the audience yelled something at him, Spaceman stopped and waited until he had quiet again. And yet, even though he ignored the crowd, the set was beautiful. Noisy psychedelia with soul and gospel elements thrown in – simply wonderful. I hope that i don’t have to wait 5 years to see this band again!

  4. Explosions in the Sky w/ Lichens on Sun 13 Apr at The Variety Playhouse. Lichens were a welcome surprise, and EX in the Sky tore the house down. A brilliant set from the best of the loud instrumental post-rock bands out there today.

  5. Wire on Sun 12 Oct at The Variety Playhouse. What can i say? I love Wire. When they hit the long, instrumental jam at the end of Boiling Boy, the music simply soared.

  6. Deerhunter Album Release on Fri 31 Oct at The Variety Playhouse. Bradford Cox's aunt in the seats ahead of us had a couple of glasses of wine while Pylon were playing (and playing and playing ... they seem to go on forever!), and then told everyone how she was so proud of her nephew for doing something creative. Then Deerhunter came out and played an amazing set. The band is tight, yet the music still seems to wander in an organic way. This was the perfect way to spend Halloween Night.

  7. Early Day Miners Sat 16 Feb at Star Bar . The middle band in a mediocre night, this Indiana shoegaze/dreampop act has slowly become a favorite. I bought some vinyl from them, and tracked down some releases on blogs (see below), and all of the their music is interesting and worth hearing.

  8. Holy Fuck w/ A Place to Bury Strangers and All the Saints at The Drunken Unicorn on Mon 17 Mar. The day after i got back from SxSW, i decided that my hearing wasn't totally shot, so i went to see some very loud music at the Unicorn. Locals All the Saints kept the spirit of Spaceman 3 alive, while APTBS played distorted gothic rock at ear splitting levels. Then Holy Fuck came out and played a really fun set of crazy, energetic, instrumental music to half of the crowd who had watched APTBS. I guess the trendy kids were only here for that one buzz band, but they really missed out.

  9. A Silver Mt. Zion on Sun 25 Mat at The Drunken Unicorn. I think i sweated off three pounds during this sauna session, but the music was utterly lovely.

  10. The Autumns as the last set at SxSW. I have enjoyed these guys for years, and that long version of The Mirror Pool that they started their set off with was a perfect 15 minutes of guitar bliss. Now, why don’t they tour more often?

  11. For Against on Sat 8 Nov at The EARL. For a relatively obscure band, For Against brought out some diehard fans, and they played well enough to demonstrate why they are still at it after all these years.

  12. M83 w/ School of Seven Bells on Tue 11 Nov at The EARL. I had no idea what to expect going in to this show, but M83 played a really enjoyable set. School of 7 Bells were unexpectedly fun as well.

  13. Polvo on Fri 5 Dec at The EARL. I saw Polvo play at The Point back in the 1990s, and tonight they exceeded every half-remembered expectation. Chanting along to Every Holy Shroud ("Celebrate the new dark age with me…") was a highpoint of the year.

  14. Beach House w/ Papercuts on Sat 1 Mar at The EARL. Fun and mellow show. Beach House were much more exciting live than they are on record, and that is saying something.

  15. Someone Still Loves Your Boris Yeltsin on Sun 27 Apr at The EARL. I really enjoyed seeing 10 minutes of them at SxSW (see number 1 in this list), but they werer even better in a whole set, and the simply joyful pop that they play came across really well.

  16. Naked Raygun and Dub Trio at SXSW day 1. Great Dub, and old school punk. Fun.
       PostLibyan's Favorite Films of 2008  

I am not a movie person. I just never think about going out to see movies. That said, there were actually three that i saw in the theater this year. I went out of my way to see them too, so it wasn't just as if i went along on some group activity. Ranked in order that i liked them:

  1. Mongol. Personally, i am fascinated by the historical Temujin, and i really wanted to see this film. A friend of mine had already seen it, and she described it as "The tender coming of age" part of the scheduled trilogy. He doesn't actually burn China to the ground until movie two, i guess. Still, this has awesome scenery, interesting costumes, a compelling story, epic battle scenes, and an interesting historical take on things. Well worth seeing, in my opinion.

  2. Cloverfield. I grew up watching monster movies on The Super Host Show, out of Cleveland. This was one of the more interesting monster movies in recent years in that it was really a cheesy love story that just happened to be taking place while some monster was trashing New York. I liked this film a lot.

  3. The Dark Knight. A lifelong Batman fan, i found myself slightly disappointed here. Basically, there were two interesting characters: The Joker and Alfred. All of the rest of the characters were wooden and poorly developed. I mean, how can you make Luscious Fox seem dull, much less a one played by the ever-likeable Morgan Freeman? I don’t know how they did it, but halfway through the movie i was actually hoping that Alfred would decide everyone else was a yutz and just go join the Joker on a killing spree. Maybe in the next film.
       PostLibyan Recommendations for Blogs to Download Music  

Not to say that i am some sort of anti-RIAA pirate, but i have really gotten into downloading tunes via blogs this year. No, i am not downloading the current hits. If i want an album, i search for it in stores. But with a lot of the stuff that a diehard geek like me is interested in, i can never find the records. Let me give one small example:

In 1994, i saw a band called Moose open for Cocteau Twins. They put on a great show, and indeed blew CT off the stage (not hard during that tour, but still). I made note of them, and had to search for a few months before finding a copy of their CD Honey Bee, which was new at the time. It's a great record, and i knew that Moose had more releases, but to this day i have _never_ seen any other Moose CD. Period. Not at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Not even when i went record shopping in London during the fall of 1999. I had only heard rumors of their other releases, and had a few songs on some mix tapes here and there.

However, in 2008 while scouring various blogs, i was able to download a mostly complete catalog by this band. And you know what? They were a really great pop act, and it is a crime that their CDs are almost unheard of. I am glad that i finally got to hear these "releases".

So, basically, these blogs feature obscurities and deep cuts. They are likely to feature an article on some shoegaze act that released a few records back in 1997, but will not feature a download of the latest Radiohead disc. These are blogs run by collector geeks, for collector geeks. That said, there is a lot of great stuff out there, so check it out.

  1. Shoegazer Alive at http://shoegazeralive2.blogspot.com/ and http://shoegazeralive4.blogspot.com/
    These twin blogs take you on a whirlwind tour of the noisy guitar drenched past, while also occasionally spotlighting some obscure up-and-comer. For example – did you know that Indonesia has a big Shoegazer scene? Really – and i found out about it here.

  2. SirensSound at http://www.thesirenssound.com/
    Dreampop, post-rock, and metal all blur together here, but again this blog is great at pointing out what is happening in the rest of the world, whether it be dreampop acts in Hong Kong, or post rock-ish prog in Moscow. Expand your horizons.

  3. YChorus at http://ychorus.blogspot.com/ and http://www.cocteautwinse.blogspot.com/
    This blog is in Turkish, so i have no idea what they are talking about. But they like the same obscure 80s and 90s music i like, so that's cool enough.

  4. The Post-Punk Progressive Pop Party at http://thep5.blogspot.com/
    Basically a day by day history lesson in punk and post-punk. Always worth reading.

  5. Southern Shelter at http://www.southernshelter.com/
    Unlike the others on this list, this is a bunch of bootleggers in Athens who tape shows and post them. They do great work, and there are several shows that we have reviewed posted on there for your downloading pleassure. A word of warning -- the qusality of bootleg live recordings varies widely, and some shows sound better than others...

  6. Willfully Obscure at http://wilfullyobscure.blogspot.com/
    More mining of the depths, although here the emphasis is on early indie rock. Lots of great, obscure 7" records here.
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