5. Deadbeat - Roots and Wire
This was a nice little surprise for me, courtesy of Mike Treffehn. I'd never even heard of Deadbeat, and went about downloading everything I could find. I'd have to say that his output in 2008 was quite stellar and the best of his entire catalog. His album release, Roots and Wire, is the next thing you should check out if you were into the new DJ/Rupture mix this year. It crosses over genres effortlessly, which highlights just how close certain types of music actually are to one another. You could call this a dubstep record, but that's ignoring the techno, the reggae, and other sounds that play a huge role. The tracks themselves are chock full of wonderful beats, and the way songs featuring Paul St. Hilaire bookend the album, everything feels like a tightly controlled package. It could be considered a blemish how precise everything is, but that's more a matter of personal taste than anything. I certainly can't find flaw here.
4. Minilogue - Animals
It's difficult to say where to start talking about Minilogue's debut album as it takes a lot of time to fully process. I mean that literally as well; we're talking 2 discs totalling over 2 hours of music here. The first disc is the "dance" half, while the second is the "ambient" half. This is for the most part true, but both do deviate a little into the other from time to time (i.e. the 2nd disc brings in beats a few songs in). Oh, both are also fully mixed from start to finish. So yeah, this is a really boring way to talk about one of the most exciting techno acts right now. This is kind of the Isolee's We Are Monster of this year in terms of tone and background. Unlike that record though, Minilogue sticks more to the trademark techno beats. The thing is, for an album that (on the 1st disc) remains in this structure, it's the most organic, amoebic sound I've heard in techno music in a long time. There's always a sound you haven't really heard around the corner at an interval that you might not have expected. Things flow quite easily, and the second disc is like a total dream. Ambient-phobics need not fear that they're in for 5 keys of Casio synth washes on repeat, it retains it's mesmerizing pace and its sense of mystery throughout.
3. Lindstrom - Where You Go I Go Too
I found out this year that my lineage actually traces more back to Sweden than it does Norway, which means I pick up being able to say I'm possibly distant cousins with Studio, The Field, Air France, and The Tough Alliance, but I lose Lindstrom. This is made all the more depressing by the fact that he put his smiling, friendly face on the cover of his debut album. I'm sorry Hans-Peter, it's not my fault! Luckily, with this album I feel like the two of us are spending plenty of quality time together. In an effort that trumps everything Nike could have come up with for a running nix, Lindstrom puts "the journey" in musical form. Take equal amounts of epic buildups, heavy breathing, synth stabs, crashing waves, and disco beats and there you go. You'll forget all about how Lindstrom has said he's not doing any more remixes, because maybe he's working on a follow-up to this, which is something that (despite how great his remixes are) I would definitely prefer if I had to choose.
2. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
The new album from M83 was definitely my most hotly anticipated album of the year, and though I was not disappointed, I was surprised. When I first heard "Couleurs" I thought I had my song and probably album of the year already set. Once I finally got my hands on the album, I had to take a step back and say, "Ok, this is different, I need to get over that it's different because I think it's really good." So I did, and it is. I have read just about every review of this album from every decently notable music site, and have to say that I disagree wholeheartedly with the negative criticism they offer of this album. My favorite part, other than the transition into the last track which then lingers for over ten minutes, is the reading of the poem/diary entry in "Graveyard Girl." It's everything this album is about, and so much what M83 seems to have been aspiring to since Before The Dawn Heals Us. So, yes, it's different (though all the elements from past records are still here in some form), but it's more than a worthy entry in the M83 catalog. Worth noting perhaps that the past 2 M83 albums have been my favorite albums of the year when they were released, and so, maybe I still like them a little more by comparison (maybe not), but this still feels like the most fully formed M83 vision to date. Also, I love when my favorite artists evolve in interesting directions.
1. Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair
Far and away my worst musical addiction this year was "Blind." I listened to it on freaking repeat sometimes, and the video is absolutely perfect as well. Herc was easily the most interesting development in dance music this year. Even though so many elements on the album are borrowed from older funk/disco records (for "You Belong" see Inner City's "Good Life" for example), but everything is made anew with pitch-perfect production and vocal performances. This was competing with M83 since their releases all year, and nothing else even came close. The lyrics are heartwrenching, the beats are infinitely danceable, and the melodies are sweeping. One element that may be underrated with this album is it's diversity of midtempo offerings. Nothing sounds like a template had been used for multiple tracks. Only "You Belong" has obvious club potential, and the rest are content to quietly compel you move rather than shouting "this is dance music!" Thus the vibe of the album is friendly and inviting, which makes Antony's singing all the more empathetic (also, it's Antony). The result is something that's dancey, intimate, fun, and endlessly listenable. Plus it's the best new thing you could have put in your ears in 2008.