December 24, 2008

2008: Best This'n'That

Ten Reasons Sia Furler is XO's Fave Pop Star of 2008: 1) She did it the old-school music biz method: this album is a grower and she promoted it that way, building the buzz over time, 2) her voice, 3) her voice, 4) her songs - holy shit!, 5) her clever videos on a low budget, 6) her voice, 7) the fact that she is inspirational - the lyrics are words to live by. 8) She is an Aussie and The "Royal We" love Aussies and New Zealanders, 9) her sign language skills and 10) Her performance on Letterman and her clear joy at the end.

Musical Moment of The Year: Is there a question here? Minute 4:50 on Girls Aloud's prog-pop epic, Untouchable: "Whenever you're gone gone, they wait at the door / And everything's hurting like before / Without any meaning, we're just skin and bone / Like beautiful robots dancing alone." Thank you for your pain, Cheryl Tweedy Cole. You nailed it.

Favorite Group: Tie. Girls Aloud, for being 40 stories tall. A pop music dream brought to life. Year after year, they keep nailing it because they know that there is strength in unity. Goldfrapp, for proving that growth occurs through change. Their left-turn album, Seventh Tree, is an example of fearless artistic integrity (FAI?). Bravo to their label for releasing and promoting it.

Favorite Female Solo Artist: Tie. Sia Furler and Pip (who is Ladyhawke)

Favorite Male Solo Artist: FrankMusik

Singing Voice(s) Of The Year: Sia Furler, Vincent Frank (FrankMusik) and Jody Gadsden of The Gadsdens

Favorite New Artists: Ladyhawke, FrankMusik, and Adele

Album Cover(s) Of The Year: see here (note: I added two more since the original post)

Most Unlikely Favorite Music: Alanis Morissette's Flavors Of Entanglement. Seriously, I've never liked her, bar 5 or so songs, and this album and its b-sides blew me away. The other record that shocked me was Solange Knowle's hazy epic Sol-Angel and The Hadley St. Dreams. Musically, it was light years ahead of anything her sister, The WalMart Of Pop Divas, did this year.

Debut Album Of The Year: Ladyhawke Ladyhawke

Favorite Instrumental Movie Music: Jean Felix Lalanne El Noi De La Mare (from Vicky Christina Barcelona) and BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Fantasy-Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Op. 66: Always Summer (from Brideshead Revisited)

Favorite Non-Pop Music of 2008: Reuben Butchart's lush album Golden Boy, with great songs like Come & Play, Golden Boy and All There Is To Tell, an delicate duet with Antony Hegarty. If you like Antony, Rufus or Tori or Fiona Apple, get this on iTunes.

Favorite New BritPop Bands: This should be a major category and this year there were NONE. The British music industry is in dire freefall.

Cover Of The Year. Easy peasy. Sugababes' acoustic cover of Keane's Spiraling. I love Keane's woooh! version but I think the Babes revealed what a beautiful song lurks underneath the Bowie flash. The melody on Spiraling IS one of Keane's finest.

Top B-sides or One-off Songs Of The Year: The best was Alanis Morissette It’s A Bitch To Grow Up, Kylie Minogue Carried Away, Captain Bakersfield, Killers Tidal Wave, Donna Summer It's Only Love, Rufus Wainwright Albatross, Frankmusik's beautiful Run Away From Trouble, Sara Bareilles Winter Song (with Ingrid Michaelson), Madonna Triggering Your Senses.

Top Unreleased Songs: Lorraine Tell It All, Solange & Q-Tip Wanna Go Back, Annie Songs Remind Me Of You, Antigone Promiscuity, The Gadsdens Heartbreaker.

Top Remixes Of The Year (many in '08): Michelle Williams We Break The Dawn (Karmatronic Mix), Madonna Like A Prayer/Feels Like Home Mashup (S&S Tour), Alphabeat Boyfriend (Pete Hammond Mix), Goldfrapp A&E (Gui Baretto Mix), Robyn Be Mine (Verschwende Deine Jugend Remix), Donna Summer I'm A Fire (Matty's Soulflower Club Mix), Madonna 4 Minutes (Junkie XL Mix), Robyn Handle Me (Voodoo and Serano Mix), Sia Day Too Soon (Soulseekerz Mix), Ladyhawke Paris Is Burning (Cut Copy Mix), Fleetwood Mac Never Forget (Cut Copy Lifelike Mix), Rihanna Disturbia (Craig C's Master Mix), NeYo Closer (Stonebridge Radio Edit), Kylie The One (Freemasons Vocal Club Mix), Solange Knowles Sandcastle Disco (Freemasons Mix), Robyn & Christian Falke Dream On (Moto Blanco Mix), and Sam Taylor Wood I'm In Love With A German Film Star (PSB Symphonic Mix)

Oldies Of The Year: Most of these lost gems came from other bloggers/friends - thank you! Amanda Lear Alphabet, Kim Carnes You Make My Heart Beat Faster, Pat Benatar Le Bel Age, Grace Jones Unlimited Capacity For Love, October Project Bury My Lovely, Diana Ross Pieces Of Ice (12" Version), Frazier Chorus Sloppy Heart, Phil Lynott A Child's Lullaby, Craig David Booty Man.

Best Old Album I Returned To: Nicky Holland's debut. Esp Ladykiller, On The Stairs and Face Of The Moon. Circa 1991. It's on iTunes and it's worthy.

Artists I Tired Of Too Fast: Sam Sparro (album was half solid, half shite) and Duffy (once liked, now an object of ridicule).

Artists Who Deserved Better in 2008, Meaning Their Albums Should Have Been Released: Annie, Captain and Antigone Foster.

Guilty Pleasure: Mariah Carey's grammatically challenged I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time, and the Josh Groban/Brian McKnight (!) cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Best Song Title: Tie between Madonna's 4 Minutes To Save The World (I think she dropped the To Save.. part from the official title) and Marit Larsen's If A Song Could Get Me You

Best Comeback(s): Cyndi Lauper, who took the imaginary advice of pop music bloggers and recorded a dance record in Sweden and DC. It didn't light up the charts, but it was high quality and not pandering (hello Madge). Cyndi is much loved for the effort. Donna Summer also updated her sound with the help of Greg Kurstin. Solid record. All it lacked was one orchestral disco number. Just one! Tony Christie, the British crooner of yore, recorded with Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker, among others. Super record with a perfect Arctic Monkeys cover. UPDATE: How did I forget Grace Jones? Phenomenal record, imagery, etc. Best of all were the crazy-ass intevriews she did to promote it.

I-Could-Not-Care-Less-Award: Lady Gaga/Blah Blah (sorry to all who sailed in her) and Katy Perry.

Albums That Most Disappointed Me
: What did NOT disappoint me? I could have done a HUGE post just on this topic. Here are some I remember: Morton Harket's tedious solo record (cheekbones still in place), Lykki Li’s Youth Novels (which will probably be on indie Best Of lists), The Kooks lifeless Konk, REM's Accelerate (let it go, let it go, let it go), Jem's Down To Earth (shockingly cheap sounding), Travis (what was the name of it?), Sharleen Spiteri's DOA Melody, ripping off Duffy and Amy Winehouse, Supergrass' Diamond Hoo Ha (has one perfect song, When I Needed You), Pretenders crap new album (again, will end up on old white men's Best Of lists), and of course, Janet Jackson's third strike, Discipline. Her next album will be a Jam and Lewis reunion, mark my words. Alesha Dixon's much-hyped album. Pink's record was not a disaster, but seemed forced compared to her previous CD. And the worst album of 2008? Razorlight's Slipway Fires – truly a career-killer. Buhbye Johnny. It seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind. Finally Keane's Perfect Symmetry had a few great tunes, but was ultimately a clusterfuck of noise. Not terrible by any means, but it did not soar, so it was a letdown. Same with the Queen of Desperation, Madonna.

Finally, and importantly:

RIP the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street and Zavvi. Please read Peter Robinson's comments on the death of British music retailers. This WILL affect how music is produced and released. Pay for the music you love and if you have an independent store near you, buy stuff there. DO IT. Pay more if you have to.

What am I forgetting on this list? I'm sure I'll amend this over the next few weeks. I'll be back after Christmas with a few more lists.


Aaron said...

Great List!!!

Adem With An E said...

I am really, really so happy to see THAT line from "Untouchable" made your Musical Moment of The Year. How strong is that lyric? I was worried you'd gone off the girls for a while there I must admit, but I'm happy to see them tied with G'frapp as your Favourite Group of the year.

What IS going on with the Antigone album? I had really hoped for "Promiscuity" to be a single sooner rather than later. She's playing some gigs here in Australia over the New Years period but, unfortunately for me, they're all in Sydney and I'm closest to Melbourne. :( And gosh, poor Annie. I hope she does get to salvage some of the songs from Don't Stop; there are some seriously stunning gems on it that need to see the light of day.

Agreed wholeheartedly on the Sam Sparro and Duffy remark. Sparro really needs to up his game for album #2, and as for Duffy, I think my biggest issue with her was not releasing "Distant Dreamer." That song is incredibly EPIC.

I understand the could-not-care-less winners, even though I have fallen head-over-heels for GaGa. The thing is though; I can see why people DON'T like her. As for Perry; I tried to hate her even amidst KILLING "Hot 'N Cold" on the iPod, and then I heard her album and was, unfortunately, quite taken by it.

I hope you're right about Janet. There is no room for error on the next record Miss Damita Jo; we need you back to your old form.

And as you bring up Madonna, I am curious to know whether she even has an idea of what direction she'll go in for what will no doubt be her 2010 follow up to Hard Mandy. I'd like some more rock-leanings, perhaps a return to working with Price, Leonard, Bray or, better yet, find someone with a unique talent that many haven't heard of like she used to do. I am still quite for the Hard Mandy project and support it to this day, but I do think that, after all her troubles of late (especially with the marriage break-up), it's time to give us an album as outstanding as "Like A Prayer." I'd like to think she has it in her and, as sad as it may be to say, I feel it might be something as strong as divorce that will give us what we want from her. Again; just listen to Like A Prayer.

Wow, that was a long comment.

John said...

So much to say, and yet "yeah...what you said" seems to fit. I've got one or two differences of opinion, but for the most part I'm right there with you. Glad to see Alanis on the list, as I think it was sadly overlooked.

DanProject76 said...

"The British music industry is in dire freefall"???

Frankmusik, Girls Aloud, Goldfrapp, Adele, Kylie (as good as British), Annie (ditto), Captain... just from your blog post!


Britpop has had its day. There was so much great British music this year!

And have you been to Zavvi on Oxford Street? It's bloody awful! Virgin was poor by the end of its reign there too. It's so hard to make a good successful record shop (Try Fopp if you're in London) Those Oxford Street retns didn't help (oh don't get me started about those. Happy memories!)

Ho ho ho Merry Christmas!

xolondon said...

Annie and Captain were dropped! Adele is a success, but there was BIG money behind her - same with Duffy. My reference is really about the business end, but I think quality will suffer. The new bands this year (One Night Only, Cajun Dance Party) either sucked or didn't suck but still failed.

I think the music industry as a whole (US too) is in freefall. I stand by that comment - it's not a criticism of the Brits at all. It's the state of the world. Labels are probably not taking chances in the next year due to the economic downturn and that will hurt the development of new bands.

Captain will need to find a smaller label and Annie, who knows.

I love GA, but I don't want or need imitations of them (The Satrudays). I want something NEW and cool. Frankmusik is my pick for 2009, but there is no evidence yet that he will sell. Let's hope! He just needs one killer song for people to take notice. I mentioned him in Record Of The Day's picks for 2009.

countpopula said...

You had so many good things to say here--where to begin?

I see what you mean about Britpop--we are definitely not in the era of Pulp, Suede, Blur, and Oasis. That being said, there are some hopefuls on the horizon for 09, and some that have yet to break in the US (like Glasvegas). But is it possible for them to break in this economic climate? That remains to be seen. Of course, Coldplay is arguably the biggest band in the world. I quite liked the Whip in 08, but found other good stuff coming from the US and Australia that were possibly inspired by what the Brits have done (Cut Copy, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Santogold, etc.) Don't know if Annie really fits in as she is Norwegian, but lets hope Norway has a better 09 if she can get an actual release, and Royksopp is on the horizon.

I don't know the actual sales figures, but Adele & Duffy were definitely selling a little at my US indie store during the holidays. I have gone back & forth on Duffy, now realizing I like her when she's doing epic ballads, and not so much when doing retro R&B. Adele is better with the more structured material than made up less than half of her album; the rest sounding more like B-Sides than album tracks. That being said, Winehouse mania may be over with her wreck of a life.

I love GA but dislike the Saturdays as well--too similar I guess. I also love Ladyhawke, but Lady Gaga not so much. I see what she is trying to do, but it seems too contrived, and the quality of the songs tend to sound cheap. It is also a bit trashy, and in a Playboy's "Girls Next Door" sort of way, not in a good Goldfrapp's "Black Cherry" way.

We'll see if Katy Perry has any longevity--remember she was singing Christian rock songs just a few years ago. With Kelly Clarkson on the rebound soon, who will need Katy Perry? Anyone remember KT Tunstall? How about Corinne Bailey Rae?

Janet=DOA. Three strikes, you're out. I think it may be over. Go back to acting NOW.

Madonna needs new blood in the producer's chair next time. Even working with Mirwais again might have been more interesting than Timba. Speaking of which, where is he?

Remixes--I used to love them, and now I find them rather unintersting, bar a couple you mentioned. Maybe my attitude is attached to the death of physical singles?

I agree with ALL your disappointments (excepting possibly Keane and REM), and would add Fratellis, Long Blondes, Louis XIV, Moby, the Feeling, and Guillemots (who had one of my favorite albums of 2006--Red was generally lame).

Your comments on purchasing of music are generally well meant. People need to realize that, although Zavvi may not be the best illustration, indie stores tend to be places where people who actually care about music and delivering quality tunes to the public work. The internet is fairly scattered on the whole, and can be difficult to navigate concerning some of the best new music. In other words, find a store where the employees love music, and you may discover something you didn't know about. Let's hope it does not become an Il Divo world.

Extra kudos for nice words about Lauper & Solange (can't believe she's Beyonce's little sister). They took risks that, while they may not have sold millions, produced some pretty enjoyable music. Even though I found Sia's record a bit Starbucks, her talent shines through. Nice mention.

I can't wait for all your Patrick Wolf posts in 09.

Sorry for the length!

xolondon said...

ww-adh left a comment on another post that really goes here. He said, "Did you go to the Zavvi on Oxford Street? I was there in October (thankfully I'd just learned it had replaced the Virgin Megastore--a surprise like that in person would have really pissed me off). It was such a pale imitation of how great Virgin Mega had been. Too bad it's in trouble, but it really wasn't that great. "

My answer: The last time I was at the Oxford St Virgin, it was already not as good due to the demise of the single. It's heyday, for me was between 1995 and 2000. Esp the late 90's when they would release double singles on Monday.

El MarvelOso said...

I did enjoy the Sia.

Girls Aloud and Goldfrapp - yes

Nicky Holland! Wow.

You liked the Mariah?!

I forgot to put Sharleen Spiteri's on my dud list too.

Overall, very nice!