Music: My top 40 of 2008 (1)

I didn’t write about my favourite albums of 2007. Whenever I think about end-of-year lists I become obsessed with listening to everything, feeling that I can’t possibly judge unless I've spent enough time with every record I've bought over the year. This usually has one of two outcomes: either I become obsessed for about a month, make myself iTunes playlists of unplayed songs and do my homework, or I give up in despair and do nothing at all.

This year, in a victory for common sense, I’ve decided that the handful of readers of this blog are not looking to me to provide the definitive assessment of music in 2008 but, at best, may be a little curious about what I’ve been listening to. So I’ve made two lists of 20. One, containing my favourite albums of 2008, is coming in a later post. The other, which follows, contains all the other stuff: albums I would have spent more time listening to if I’d become obsessed with making the perfect list, albums that were a disappointment and those that came out this year that I still haven’t heard.

Five albums I think I’d like if I listened to them a bit more
1. Gabriel Kahane, Gabriel Kahane A singer-songwriter-ish album with touches of jazz and classical music from this New York-based musician.
2. Ladytron, Velocifero Just a couple of the songs here have really got under my skin - Ghosts and Runaway - but I like them a lot. This is pleasant electronic pop but only further listening will tell whether it’s a little too pleasant.
3. Paavoharju, Laulu Laakson Kukista Slightly odd Finnish electro-folk. I think I’m really going to like this once I get my head around it.
4. Madlib, WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip Madlib’s a brilliant producer and I love just about everything he does but somehow, despite buying this in October, I’ve barely listened to it.
5. John Matthias, Stories from the Watercooler Matthias has worked with two of my favourites - Radiohead and Matthew Herbert - which is a pretty good CV. This album is folky and political.

Five disappointments
1. Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours Lots of people raved about this, the second album from Aussie dance act Cut Copy but, for reasons I can’t put my finger on, it just left me cold.
2. Lyrics Born, Everywhere at Once This isn’t a bad album but I liked its predecessor, Later That Day, a lot and this doesn’t live up to it. Lyrics Born has an amazing voice but it’s wasted on too many ordinary tracks.
3. Matthew Herbert Big Band, There’s You and There’s Me As mentioned above, I’m a big fan of Matthew Herbert and I thought his first “big band” outing was close to a masterpiece. However, too many songs on this one sound like showtunes - and not in a good way.
4. REM, Accelerate I know I should probably give up waiting for another great REM album but I can’t help it. New Adventures in HiFi (1996) was the last one. This is mediocre in comparison.
5. Portishead, Third Another one from everybody else’s end-of-year lists but not mine. This album sounds amazing and the group’s sound has evolved thrillingly but Beth Gibbons’ voice hasn’t. I thought she sounded out-of-place and dated here and stopped this album being jaw-droppingly good.

Five albums I think I’d like but still haven’t heard
1. Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak
2. Lykke Li, Youth Novels
3. Hercules & Love Affair, Hercules & Love Affair
4. Sigur Ros, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Enderlast
5. Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound

My top five most-listened-to tracks from 2008, according to Last.fm
1. Lykke Li, Little Bit
2. Vampire Weekend, Oxford Comma
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig
4. Okkervil River, Pop Lie
5. Portishead, The Rip