50 Albums That Made The Decade – 2008
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (January 28th 2008, XL Recordings)
Vampire Weekend is really not an immediate album. It requires patience, especially for those who normally come out in hives at the sight or smell of anything vaguely preppy. OK, so the band are rather too much in love with 4/4 time, and Koenig may well eschew the primal vocal howl for measured, warm, self-satisfied vocals, but A-Punk’s instantly jolly refrain and Mansard Roof’s pompous opening parps eventually win your ears over with an unbridled sense of joy. They can even be forgiven for trying to give the harpsichord a new lease of life on M79.
Best track – Walcott
Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim (February 4th 2008, Virgin Records)
A haunting debut offering from one of the most talented singer-songwriters this country has ever produced. Showing a maturity and depth which, as has all too often been pointed out, belied her tender age, Alas, I Cannot Swim was one of two very different timeless British debuts released in 2008 (the other, Fantasy Black Channel by Late of the Pier, gets an honourable mention below). Ghosts is a gorgeous ode to love gone wrong, Night Terror is suitably claustrophobic and chilling, and the album’s title track, hidden away at the end of the record, is a good old-fashioned singalong. Marling’s familiar air and unpretentious vocal delivery make this album a must-have.
Best track – Night Terror
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid (March 17th 2008, Universal/Fiction Records)
The Seldom Seen Kid, like many truly great albums, was a long time coming. It’s like a more optimistic cousin to 2001's darker Asleep In The Back – cut from the same heartfelt cloth, but with an altogether brighter outlook on life and love. An album which sounds even better live, Guy Garvey’s natural storytelling ability enjoys some of its finest moments here – whether it’s Starlings’ musical love letter, Some Riot’s plaintive plea to a friend in need or the Ealing comedy-style, er, stylings of The Fix, some of the finest contributions to British music and lyrics can be found right here on this record.
Best track – Some Riot
Late Of The Pier – Fantasy Black Channel (July 30th 2008, Parlophone)
Late Of The Pier’s early single offerings were good enough, but did little to give away just how well their debut album, lovingly presided over by Erol Alkan, would work as a complete piece. Whereas the vast majority of electronic acts sound totally out of place outside a sweaty club or dark and dingy warehouse when they place their wares on record, Fantasy Black Channel sounds fresh and relevant any time of the day or night. Like Since I Left You by The Avalanches further up the list, you just know that this eccentric, oddly British collection of tracks will still sound fresh and relevant years from now.
Best track – The Enemy Are The Future
Noah and the Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down (August 11th 2008, Mercury Records/Vertigo)
Amidst an ocean of imitators, Noah and the Whale have got the indie-folk crossover genre trapped under their furiously stomping feet. More joyful than this year’s The First Days Of Spring, the band’s major label debut is like Disney Sing Along Songs for grown-ups, with myriad catchy choruses and upbeat, major key refrains aplenty. The closing chorus on Jocasta proves infectious, as does Rocks and Daggers’ jaunty hoedown. But there’s time for reflection, too, as exemplified by the album’s last three songs – particularly the title track.
Best track – Give A Little Love
James Yuill – Turning Down Water For Air (October 13th 2008, Moshi Moshi Records)
2008 Review of the Year star James Yuill lulls you into a false sense of security at the start of his debut album. The plaintive acoustic melodies of You Always Do soon dissipate into the sound of Yuill’s other love – speaker-shaking electronica (case in point – the monumental No Pins Allowed). It’s a truly adventurous debut album that’s lent a distinctive, homely edge by Yuill’s earthy, soothing voice – there’s an air of a world-weary Alexis Taylor about his delivery on Left-Handed Girl’s refrain.
Best track – No Pins Allowed
words: Kate Goodacre