microphones glow II

The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2

&yet&yet

Do Make Say Think – & Yet & Yet

immer_michael_mayer

Michael Mayer – Immer

Interpol - Turn on the bright lights

Interpol – Turn On the Bright Lights

you-forgot-it-in-people

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People

michigan-stevens

Sufjan Stevens – Greetings from Michigan

multiples

Keith Fullerton Whitman – Multiples

JoannaNewsom-Ys

Joanna Newsom – Ys

PersonPitch

Panda Bear – Person Pitch

merriweather

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

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heaven-or-las-vegas-cocteau-twins

Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

LaughingStock

Talk Talk – Laughing Stock

crooked rain

Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain

richard d james album

Aphex Twin – The Richard D. James Album

radiohead-ok_computer

Radiohead – OK Computer

Bjork Homogenic

Bjork – Homogenic

Built+To+Spill - Perfect From Now On

Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On

lonesome crowded west

Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West

neutralmilkhotel in the aeroplane over the sea

Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane over the Sea

IseeaDarkness

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – I See a Darkness

Remain in Light

Talking Heads – Remain in Light

Big-Science

Laurie Anderson – Big Science

tom-waits_swordfishtrombones

Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

I'm Your Man

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man

TheQueenIsDead

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

talk_talk-spirit_of_eden

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden

graceland

Paul Simon – Graceland

sonicyouthsister

Sonic Youth – Sister

surfer rosa

Pixies – Surfer Rosa

technique

New Order – Technique

the_velvet_underground-loaded

The Velvet Underground – Loaded

neu

Neu! – Neu!

rock bottom2

Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom

Blood on the Tracks

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

Brian_Eno-Another_Green_World

Brian Eno – Another Green World

onthebeach

Neil Young – On the Beach

Bowie-low

David Bowie – Low

after the heat

Eno Moebius Roedelius – After the Heat

television-marquee-moon

Television – Marquee Moon

fearofmusic

Talking Heads – Fear of Music

highway61

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

beach_boys-pet_sounds

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

The_Piper_at_the_Gates_of_Dawn-1a

Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

sgt peppers

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

songs-of-leonard-cohen

Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen

Velvet_Underground

The Velvet Underground & Nico

caetano veloso

Caetano Veloso – s/t

doors_h

The Doors – s/t

love-forever_changes

Love – Forever Changes

everybodyknowsthisisnowhere

Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.

Sentinel soul,
Let us whisper the confession
Of the night full of nothingness
And the day on fire.

From humain approbation,
From common urges
You diverge here
And fly off as you may.

Since from you alone,
Satiny embers,
Duty breathes
Without anyone saying: at last.

Here is no hope,
No orietur.
Knowledge and fortitude,
Torture is certain.

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.

May 1872

As translated by Oliver Bernard: Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962).

Top 20 films of the year

therewillbeblood

1. There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson
The most complete experience for the imagination last year, this was a Great American Film in the tradition of the Great American Novel, but totally cinematic. Shame on anyone who said this was all about Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance.

flight-of-red-balloon

2. Le Voyage de ballon rouge (The Flight of the Red Balloon) – Hou Hsiao–Hsien
A sinfully underrated ode to Paris and childhood, this is exquisitely directed by the great Taiwanese filmmaker and exudes warmth and wisdom.

mywinnipeg

3. My Winnipeg – Guy Maddin
An inspired visual poem about Winnipeg and Maddin’s childhood memories of it – a wintry, weird and hilarious gem.

timeandwinds

4. Times and Winds – Reha Erdem
A visually stunning and stylish Turkish movie set in a remote shepherding community, filmed with some of the best Steadicam shots since The Shining.

colossalyouth

5. Juventude em marcha (Colossal Youth) – Pedro Costa
Something new and startling, this slowburner set in a Portuguese housing project makes little attempt to ingratiate itself but remains branded on my brain months after I saw it.

summerhours1

6. L’Heure d’été (Summer Hours) – Olivier Assayas
A profound and oh-so-French family drama about the emotional weight of belongings, which ends as a hurrah for life going on.

4months

7. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – Cristian Mungiu
As good as everyone said it was, this is a gripping real-life thriller masquerading as a Romanian arthouse film.

hunger

8. Hunger – Steve McQueen
The most exciting British debut in a long, long time, Steve McQueen’s feature has you hanging on every shot.

astrea-et-celadon

9. Les Amours d’Astrée et Celadon (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon) – Eric Rohmer
A wonderfully left-field, fresh-as-a-meadow pastoral romance from the octogenarian New Waver.

still_life

10. Still Life – Jia Zhangke
A haunting, naturalistic lament for a community soon to be flooded for the Yangtze Three Rivers Dam project.

lust_caution

11. Lust, Caution – Ang Lee
An underrated update of Hitchcock’s Notorious, with some of the best production design of the year and some real seat-edge moments.

no-country-for-old-men

12. No Country for Old Men – Joel Coen
A bit bloodthirsty and nihilistic, I didn’t like this as much as some people, but it still ranks highly among the Coens’ work in particular and recent US cinema in general.

manfromlondon

13. The Man from London – Béla Tarr
Another syrup-slow arthouse film that feels stuck in my head (in a good way) forever – this was like watching an old Marcel Carné dockside noir in slow motion.

you-living

14. Du levande (You, the Living) – Roy Andersson
A very bizarre Scandinavian, sketch-based film that plays like Ingmar Bergman directing an episode of Monty Python.

silence-lorna

15. Le Silence de Lorna (The Silence of Lorna) – Jean–Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Off-peak Dardenne brothers everyone agrees, but for my money nearly as gripping as 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.

unrelated

16. Unrelated – Joanna Hogg
Another highly promising British debut: an engrossing, well-written drama about middle-class Brits on holiday in Italy.

alexandra

17. Alexandra – Aleksandr Sokurov
Dreamlike evocation of frontline barracks during an endless war, which reminded me of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail in its tender observation of ritualistic army life.

rr

18. RR – James Benning
A lovely paean to America’s railways and wide open spaces, Benning’s latest puts an accessible face on structural film. Long lines of train carriages disappearing over the horizon neatly mirrored frames of celluloid passing through a projector.

import_export

19. Import Export – Ulrich Seidl
A grim but blackly humorous state-of-Europe treatise, gruelling and funny in equal measure.

donkey_punch

20. Donkey Punch – Oliver Blackburn
A guilty pleasure that goes a bit bonkers in the second half, but this was a compulsively scuzzy youth movie, as stylish as Danny Boyle but considerably nastier.

10 runners–up: Battle for Haditha (Nick Broomfield); Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (Hana Makhmalbaf); Funny Games U.S. (Michael Haneke); Ghost Town (David Koepp); Gomorra (Matteo Garrone); Happy–Go–Lucky (Mike Leigh); In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Alex Holdridge); Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach); OSS-117: Le Caire nid d’espions (OSS-117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (Michel Hazanavicius); Une vieille maîtresse (The Last Mistress) (Catherine Breillat)

***

Top 20 records of 2008…

microcastle1

1. Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont (Kranky)
Easily the release I listened to most listened last year, this is more fuzzed-out pop from Bradford Cox that delivers on the promise of 2007’s ‘Cryptograms.’ ‘Little Kids’ and ‘Saved by Old Times’ have been on repeat.

pronsato

2. Bruno Pronsato – Why Can’t We Be like Us (Hello? Repeat)
An early favourite in a year that didn’t really deliver the goods for techno. It’s wears the Villalobos influence on its sleeve, stretching tracks out for 10 minutes at a time, but the production is hypnotic.

Saint Dymphna

3. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna (The Social Registry)
I heard this one late in the year, but it slid close to the top of the list. A major improvement on the erratic ‘God’s Money’, this jumbles 80s pop, freak folk and dubstep into an almighty brew.

Mothertongue

4. Nico Muhly – Mothertongue (Bedroom Community)
A hugely ambitious, neo-minimalist treat, this is let down by some overwrought moments. But the four-part title track rivals Different Trains.

Treny

5. Jacaszek – Treny (Miasmah)
A serenely beautiful, glitched out classical release from Poland that reminds me of Murcof’s first record – but probably surpasses it.

lawenglish

6. Lawrence English – Kiri No Oto (Touch)
Dense drone that emits a nautical pea-souper into any room it’s played in – this was a perfect, powerful accompaniment for reading ‘Moby-Dick’.

born-ruffians
7. Born Ruffians – Red, Yellow & Blue (Warp)
A very late listen, this is a tremendously fun release from a Canadian band that’s part Animal Collective, part Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and a little bit Violent Femmes.

portishead

8. Portishead – Third (Mercury)
A bit of a heavy listen as a whole, which veers between sounding a little bit 90s and then aggressively futurist. But this is a comeback and a half, with ‘The Rip’ and ‘Machine Gun’ among the songs of the year.

Atlas Sound

9. Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel (Kranky)
Bedroom laptop music at its most immersive, this dreamy wash of sound is Bradford Cox’s inspired side-project to Deerhunter.

uproot
10. DJ/rupture – Uproot (The Agriculture)
Preferable to the amazing if slightly overbearing Minesweeper Suite, DJ/rupture proves an ear for delicacy here – though there’s still a speaker workout herein.

ruby

11. The Ruby Suns – Sea Lion (Memphis Industries)
A really fun indie album, with this year’s all-pervasive African influence – this had a dreamy, more chaotic aspect which I preferred to Vampire Weekend.

fbuttons

12. Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing (ATP Recordings)
Balancing noise and prettiness, Fuck Buttons – a rare British band that’s pushing boundaries – sounded like a bestial rave in a jungle.

Antidotes

13. Foals – Antidotes (Transgressive)
Took a while to get past the shoutiness here, but the intricate mathy guitar workouts  and a terrific set at Field Day soon won me over.

black-sea

14. Fennesz – Black Sea (Touch)
More of the same from Fennesz, perhaps, but more than a couple of tracks on this were transcendent – notably ‘Glide’ and ‘Saffron Revolution.’

The Versailles Sessions

15. Murcof – The Versailles Sessions (Leaf)
A change of pace for Mexican electronica artist Murcof, The Versailles Sessions takes Louis XIV period instruments and tests what they would sound like playing in a black hole.

paavoharju

16. Paavoharju – Laulu Laakson Kukista (Fonal)
A charming, strange, moss-encrusted Finnish release that keeps taking off-kilter directions; another record that suggests weird parties going on in forests.

vampire

17. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (XL Recordings)
Huge fun live and on disc, this much-vaunted band reclothed Paul Simon’s African excursions in preppy, Ivy League attire.

fleet

18. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Bella Union)
A trifle overrated and musty sounding to these ears, though some of the songs on this and the EP are undeniably special.

beehive

19. Move D and Benjamin Brunn – Songs from the Beehive (Smallville)
Another one that took a while to get, as its minimalist repetition was almost too eventless, but then I started hearing it as an ambient release and it took on new, celestial life.

titanic

20. Gavin Bryars/Philip Jeck/Alter Ego – The Sinking of the Titanic (Touch)
A better recording of Bryars’ classic piece than the Point Records one, I love the hauntological layers that Jeck brings to these deep, sinking-ship waves of mournful sound.

10 runners–up: Broken Social Scene presents Brendan Canning – Something for All of Us (Arts & Crafts); Department of Eagles – In Ear Park (4AD); Dodos – Visiter (French Kiss); Dosh – Wolves and Wishes (Anticon); Eero Johannes – Eero Johannes (Planet Mu); Elephant 9 – Dodovoodoo (Rune Grammofon); Fallen Arches – Sunken Foal (Planet Mu); Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (Illegal Art); Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill (Type); James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes (Tompkins Square)

***

And a lone book…
The Rest Is Noise
The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross (Fourth Estate)
Every book I read in 2008 was long published, except for Alex Ross’ impassioned and magnificent history of 20th century classical music, from Strauss and Mahler to Reich and Adams. This was life-changing in the genuine sense that it encouraged a months-long plunge into modern classical during which I hardly listened to anything else. Writing accessibly, and with intelligence and almost boundless enthusiasm, Ross is the best possible ambassador for the strange sounds of the classical avant-garde.

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