2008's Finest Five - Hazel Robinson
And now it's Hazel's turn - Fraser
This year, my life has seen some huge changes. I accidentally became an adult, spent a total of about 70 million years on the phone to various customer services departments and enjoyed a lot of the year face down in my keyboard, dribbling lightly into something mysterious called 'mydissertation.doc.' Somewhere in the middle of all this, I found time to send some really late reviews and listen to post-rock. And here's what was really, really good this year, in my world:
Cyndi Lauper - 'Into The Nightlife'
Firstly, a song from an album by a lady who, to me, is basically roughly equivalent to God. You know people who go on and on and on about how only Morrissey / Paul Weller / David Bowie understands them? I sometimes do that with Cyndi Lauper. She is the most awesome lady ever and deserves constant adulation, not least because this late in her career she's released 'Bring Ya To The Brink,' an album full of edgy electropop and beautiful, blissy anthems.
This single, 'Into The Nightlife' perfectly summarises the album; all tough bloops and bassline seguing into shimmering synths and so much in love with sound.
Burial - 'Ghost Hardware'
Secondly, a song by a man who should have won the Mercury (sorry Fraser!) and whose album kept me sane during some of the aforementioned keyboard-dribbling hours. There's been a lot of blogging frenzy in some circles over the haunting, decayed nature of Burial's work but what appeals to me is its use of unconventional sounds (traintracks, the flick of zippo lighters) and muted vocals to weave comforting blankets of noise.
This was the first track I heard from his new self-titled album and the effect was one of instant mesmerisation. The way the synth noises draw you in and smooth the journey through the gentle funkiness of travelling beats gives me the kind of tingles in my stomach that say everything will be OK now.
Although the album is, in places, deeply mournful it's a sort of gothic mournfulness that mostly talks about hope. Especially this track.
McFly - 'One For The Radio'
I'll admit I'm a sucker for sticking it to the man. Where 'the man' is generally embodied by 'NME readers', and really, there aren't many people who stick it to them harder than McFly: still hated, still rejected by the sectors of the music press who think that music with guitars in is such srs bsns that you should never, ever make it look fun and certainly never have it liked by ~wimmins omg they only luv hair and you know what? Still there. Which feels a damn sight more defiant and punky than the View throwing a plaice around.
This is their overt 'song for the hataz' and it made me respect Tom Fletcher more than I ever thought I could. All too often, it seems the band just take the criticism and swallow and say "never mind, we have fans" but then "we all look the same in the dark" and well, detractors to the left.
This isn't only an awesome middle-fingers-in-the-air anthem for anyone who's ever had it ripped out of them for their music taste, though, it's also a damned good song and a blissfully wonderful bit of instrumentation, from the opening guitars-as-car-alarms to the histrionic classic rock of the middle eight and Harry really seeming to come into himself as a drummer.
So yes: we don't care and it's a damned fun kind of apathy.
H "two" O ft. Platnum - 'What's It Gonna Be?'
This just about managed to skive its way out of my last year's lists by being released very early into 2008 but what's important to remember is that this is the most joyful, uncontrollable headfirst crush song to be number one this year, the video is absolutely amazing and the bit that goes "youreyes yourthighs yourlips makemethinkofthingsiwannadooo" makes my heart explode.
And I don't care if you think this is music for kids on the bus, kids on the bus are still excited by sound, still willing to unashamedly appreciate music without the self-consciousness of worrying if anyone will think its uncool. This is tough, melodic and above all completely and totally gleeful. I'm sour enough at most times but there's something about bassline as a genre and this song in particular that shows that a lack of pandering to indie snobs does not in any way reduce one's songwriting ability.
Oh and really, the video is amazing (but perhaps a smidge pervy for younger ChartBlog readers).
This Will Destroy You - 'A Three-Legged Workhorse'
And now for something completely different. Where 'What's It Gonna Be' is a two and a half minute explosion, this is a nine and a half minute ascent. Beautiful, captivating, epic and sparse, this sets the tone for This Will Destroy You's self-titled album perfectly, from the first few minutes of feverish strings brushing against each other to the final, redemptive build. A song that even at close to ten minutes, never feels too long or as though any sound is made unnecessarily.
In fact, it feels minimalist, beats and tones used sparingly to create a beautiful pencil sketch, rather than a weighty oil painting and the deep sadness (or perhaps awe, an emotion post-rock tends to deal with more than other genres; those moments for which you have no words) of the strings in particular, underneath the clicking beats (like cogs whirring) is exquisite. A stunning composition and utterly beautiful pop song.