Music of 2008: all the rest

18th February 2009 – 11.03 am

In my final look back at the music I bought and listened to in 2008 I review everything left over after considering new bands and established acts.

In the case of Best of... albums it rarely makes a difference what year they are bought, as they are essentially nuggets of nostalgia that collect the most notable works of bands in to a handy package that means you don't need to buy several back-catalogue albums just to hear your favourite tunes. Such as it was that when I was in a music shop and Sunday Girl by Blondie was playing I was reminded that I like a lot of their singles but had never got around to buying a collection, which I rectified then and there. As can only be expected from a Best of... album there are plenty of excellent songs to enjoy, including Heart of Glass, Atomic and Denis, but it is a curious artefact of singles collections that the album seems to get weaker by the end. It could be that this type of album is generally twice as long as normal albums and it is too much to process in one sitting, or it could be that bands tend not to burn out but fade away, leaving a trail of lesser-known songs in the wake of their career. Even so, there is generally enough good material, or downright pop classics, to make singles collections worthwhile purchases, as certainly is the case with Blondie.

Much the same commentary can be made about All Over the World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra. My mum played ELO quite a lot when I was growing up and despite it not appealing to me back then the music I heard during that time clearly has ingrained itself in to me, which also explains why I have some Neil Diamond in my collection and get an occasional urge to buy some Boney M. As with Blondie, the most recognisable tracks for me are the earliest singles and as the album is presented in a chronological order this again means that I enjoy the first half of the album before it trails off in to unfamiliar territory. It's still great to listen to Mr. Blue Sky, Don't Bring Me Down and Livin' Thing, to name a few.

It isn't just compilations that I bought belatedly last year. More often than I care to consider I find that I simply end up failing to buy an album of an artist I like when it is released, somehow seeing my faith in the band's talent spiralling in to a state of uncertainty, just not being able to convince myself to buy the album. Sometimes this means I never get the album, other times I buy it a year or fifteen later. I thought De La Soul were incredible with their first few releases but for some reason didn't manage to gel with 3 Feet High and Rising. It was only years later that I found an appreciation for its interstitial skits and informal recording style. And even though I also bought their second album it was only last year when I finally got around to getting the third, Buhloone Mind State, and I am glad I did. De La Soul do not let their musical taste stand still, instead allowing it to morph with themselves and the times, whilst still managing escape easy genrefication. There are quintessential De La Soul songs present in Buhloone Mind State, whilst a jazz motif draws the listener from start to finish, holding the album together to form a more coherent whole without coming across as repetitive. It's a work of art.

Losing Something Good for Something Better by I Was a King was released back in 2007 but my order was delayed and I had all but forgotten about it until the album turned up six months later, which put it nicely in to 2008 for me. I am glad to report that it was definitely worth the wait. The vocals have a quality reminiscent of the sixties that combine with the overdriven guitars to create a wonderful, if brief, album of alternative pop music.

Looking in to 2009, I already have the delightfully all-French EP by White Hinterland, some screeching but interesting noise to get used to by Rolo Tomassi, Slow Club may turn out to be my new favourite band, the excellent A-Punk by Vampire Weekend convinced me to buy their debut album, and despite not being a big fan of Elbow the resurgence of the gloriously uplifting One Day Like This is pushing me towards getting their current album. I may also convince myself to get the follow-up albums by both I Am Kloot and Cold War Kids, both bands where I have enjoyed their previous works immensely but have failed to buy their latest offerings for reasons I cannot fathom.

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