In this review of the music I listened to in 2008 I look back on bands who released their debut or second album last year, or were completely new to me.
The Ting Tings had a huge hit with That's Not My Name, drawing a trememdous buzz for the duo. For a new band to gain so much attention so quickly normally means that there is a lot of hype surrounding them and I tend to avoid music based on hype alone. I couldn't help but like the single, though, and despite the large amount of airplay it received I found I was enjoying it more with each listen. Hoping that they weren't a one-hit wonder I bought the album, We Started Nothing, and I wasn't disappointed. There is much to like on the album and even though there hasn't been a second song that has caught the public's—or marketers'—attention the whole album is melodic and catchy and well worth picking up.
I was surprised when I received Kyte's eponymous debut album, as it came in unusual cardboard packaging and was a hand-numbered limited release, if only because I wasn't expecting the release to be so small. My lingering impression of the album is one of slight disappointment, yet when I revisit it I find the first track to be an entirely agreeable experience, with guitars gently sprinkled on top of a smooth synth and gentle bass, with the vocals being airy enough to lift you out of your chair. I then expect the rest of the album to be too similar to itself, hence my feeling of disappointment, but the next few songs are most distinct and only serve to make me wonder I haven't played the ablum more. Even so, by the end of the album I do indeed feel like I've had enough, although I can't find much to be at fault. Maybe it is just a matter of having too much of a good thing.
I wrote about White Hinterland after I picked up the album Phylactery Factory last year, being swept away by Casey Dienel's vocals and the beautiful music. I still listen to the album fairly regularly, enjoying the delightful and bittersweet songs. After discovering White Hinterland I found out that Casey Dienel had released a previous album, Wind-up Canary, which I bought soon after. Dienel's voice is as amazing as in the later album, but with sparser musical accompaniment the album seems somewhat less substantial. This view is only from having listened to the second and more developed album a considerable amount before buying the first, with repeated plays of Wind-up Canary revealing its own charm to be present in abundance. Not only is there a wonderful collection of songs on both albums but there is a natural progression that can be followed across the two. It would be more disappointing to have two nearly identical releases.
Writing of two nearly identical releases brings me nicely on to Fujiya & Miyagi. Lightbulbs follows the faux-Japanese electronic/Krautrock band's previous release, Transparent Things, but follows it in more than chronology. Transparent Things is a great collection of cheerful beats and nonsenical lyrics and I was hoping for more of the same with their new release. I should have been more careful what I wished for, because 'more of the same' was exactly what I got. This isn't to say that Lightbulbs is bad, it's more that there is no sense of the band's progression when everything else has moved on. It's worth picking up Lightbulbs if you like Fujiya & Miyagi's earlier work but it may be a good idea to play it back-to-back with Transparent Things and pretend it is only one album. It also may have been a good idea not to name the final song on the album One Trick Pony.
The Problem of Knowledge by Holton's Opulent Oog adds to my growing collection of alternative folk music, as my musical taste seems to be veering towards more artistic pleasures than loud guitars and distorted lyrics. Whilst there is nothing particularly outstanding in this album it is consistently pleasing, making it an excellent example of the genre and certainly worth listening to.
And just to show that I'm still young at heart, Times New Viking piqued my interest with a tale of theirs I read in the NME. It seems that they sent their tapes off to be mastered and the studio sent them back claiming that they had been corrupted with amazing amounts of distortion in transit. Times New Viking replied that their music is supposed to sound like that. This happens to them often, it seems. Curiosity overwhelmed me and I bought their current album, Rip it Off. What an incredible lo-fi assault on the senses! Times New Viking have turned everything up to eleven before running it through a fuzzbox just because they could, and yet they have produced a strong, colourful sound that even has recognisable tunes. You may need to put your amplifier on minimum to listen to it without annoying your (international) neighbours but Rip it Off is definitely worth the bleeding eardrums.