Yer Mam!'s Top 50 Albums Of 2008: 50-46
The austere cover is no red herring, what lies inside is stark and forbidding. It's also one of the most thoroughly listenable 'head music' albums of the year. Dave Huismans doesn't take us for an easy ride through Aerial's ten tracks, but it's as enjoyable as it is bumpy. Huismans' heady debut full-length appropriates Rhythm & Sound's dub techno ('Redux'), skippy Seiji-like broken beat ('Enforcers') and the unrefined bass pressure of Pinch ('Techno Dread') to make for an intoxicating, suffocating listen.
If it frequently comes off as scrappy, jumping from one stylistic quirk to the next from track to track, that's part of the charm. Huismans is really trying something here and Aerial's been integral to the dubstep genre's forward motion this past year. It's a cavernous, surprising record that manages to be both texturally harsh and inviting in its make-up.
2562 - Morvern (mp3)
2562 - Greyscale (mp3)
Bonus: Pattie Blingh And The Akebulan 5 - Brother: The Point (2562 Remix) (mp3)
Anyone expecting the southern rap version of a candlelit vigil for Bun's late UGK counterpart, Pimp C will be disappointed by the fiery II Trill. Maybe it's because he's missing Pimp's clownish flow as a counterpoint, but Bun B has never sounded as filled with ire as he does here, due in part to the ear-buzzing, coked-up production from the likes of CHOPS, J. Rotem, Scott Storch and Mr Lee, amongst others, that sets Bun's stentorian bark in a suitably forthright context, but mostly because of B's clear anger at his sidekick's passing.
The guest list is massively impressive, with most of Southern Rap's major players popping up throughout. Lil' Wayne makes his obligatory guest spot on the superb 'Damn I'm Cold' and serves as a remarkably able Pimp C replacement, whilst David Banner puts in a verse better than anything on The Greatest Story Ever Told on elegy to the South, 'You're Everything'. Lupe Fiasco also proves himself a perfect fit to the Southern style on 'Swang On 'Em', while Chamillionaire actually doesn't sound too bad on 'Underground Thang'. Overall though, it's Bun B himself who shines through and it's a great start to his death-enforced solo career.
It's absolutely futile reviewing a Girl Talk album, when the only real way to experience them is first-hand, where you're bombarded at first by the sheer outrageousness of the samples. The more you listen, the more difficult it becomes to separate these songs that you've known for so long from the new context that Greg Gillis sets them in. Hearing 'Paranoid Android' now, for instance, you can't help but think of Jay-Z spitting 'Roc Boys' over the top and, for me at least, Faith No More's 'Epic' will forever be twinned with 'Drop And Gimme 50'.
Feed The Animals is more proof of just how smart Gillis is. He's got a magnificent ear for the best bits of pop songs, but the joy of the album doesn't just lie in the thrill of acknowledgement, it's in the way Gillis constructs new perfect pop songs entirely from old ones. Each track here has a life of its own outside of the mix-y nature of the album. That said, Feed The Animals is best served whole, preferably at a party and that's what's really great about it.
Girl Talk - What It's All About (mp3)
Girl Talk - In Step (mp3)
I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to pair The Kills with producer, Armani XXXchange, but thank the gods they did, as the Spank Rock-er injects the primal boogie of VV and Hotel's previous albums with a renewed rhythmic focus and an ear for odd percussive noises. Midnight Boom is all about the rhythm and bounce of great pop music, but it's never at the expense of a good hook. The Kills' latest has memorability by the pound and some of their best songs to date.
'Cheap and Cheerful' is all bubblegum, brain-dead sexuality and all the better for it, the metronomic kraut-pop of 'What New York Used To Be' sounds both vacant and heartfelt in equal measure, whilst 'Tape Song' smoulders and struts better than anything on their previous two full-lengths. The real highlight though is the stunning 'Last Day Of Magic', one of the best rock songs of the year. Midnight Boom is a stylistic leap-forward from a band that needed it most. More please.
The Kills - What New York Used To Be (mp3)
The Kills - M.E.X.I.C.O. (mp3)
Amidst all the backlash against Vampire Weekend, a lot of people forgot what made them sit up and take notice in the first place. VW are a pretty great pop band, despite the vaguely trustafarian air about them and their none-more-white appropriation of African highlife music. Nobody sniffed, however, when Talking Heads did it. Not that I'm comparing Vampire Weekend to that band in the slightest, but you can't ignore David Byrne's influence on this almost pitch-perfect, breezy indie-world-pop record that never outstays its welcome and always tickles the ear in ways that very few other high profile debuts did this year.
Familiarity may have bred a little contempt, as tracks like 'A-Punk', 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' and 'I Stand Corrected' were damned inescapable this past summer, but Vampire Weekend still stands up as a brilliant pop record in a sea of mediocrity. That's all albums like this need to be really and this was the best of its kind in 2008.
Vampire Weekend - M79 (mp3)
Vampire Weekend - Walcott (mp3)
Bonus: 'Oxford Comma' live at this year's Glastonbury.