Sunday, 1 February 2009

THE BLUE IN THE AIR 2008 ALBUMS: NUMBERS 30-21




30. KATHLEEN EDWARDS: Asking For Flowers

The underdog returns to conquer, not that conquering anything was on her mind; fierce, foul-mouthed, self-determined – Edwards is going in HARD (as Tim would say). She has mercy for the lost, the dead, the desperate, and contempt for those who really should know better. The spaces and distances, close and far, never stop her spirit, as indomitable as the weather, and as fundamentally friendly.

29. BLACK MOUNTAIN : In The Future

And speaking of hard…you don’t wanna mess with this dudes. Rock lives in Canada . This is well known to some, news to others. Nothing new, and yet so much better than…you know…This is freedom rock and WE ARE turning it up. Yes (Note to Canadian readers: no, we haven’t forgotten Matthew Good’s Massey Hall album. Will someone plz send that to us? Thanks)! OMG This So Rocks (goes off to bang head)

28. ROBIN THICKE: Something Else

Half-Canadian (yes…) Thicke has a tender voice, a box full of sparkly and sensual wonders and cannot be stopped. Soul Weekenders, closet soulboys, people in need of THAT song…and his love extends to encompass not just the bedroom or his own life but also the heart of an entire city ( New Orleans ). THAT is magic.

27. THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS: Doll Domination

Bloody British reticence. Would Girls Aloud sing of wanting their own groupies? Unlikely, since getting to the point is not a specialty of their usual lyricist. But the PCDs on the Christmas Day edition of Top Of The Pops knocked them out so effortlessly that GA might as well have been an abbreviation for general anaesthetic. Their peaks towered over wet Anglian flatlands: they want to take over the world rather than Dannii Minogue’s chair on the panel. Scrolls of manna erasing powdered ration books (Oh, and this should have been the Spice Girls’ comeback album). On their way to taking over pop’s world, but they’re gentle, really, these cats, if you stroke them well, and nicely.

=26. COMMON: Universal Mind Control
=26. THE JONAS BROTHERS: A Little Bit Longer


Many in 2008 wanted a party, and it turned out that they were right to do so. Common was very clear about wishing to make a get-down party album, but for all the locker room Bambaataa zings and flicking of towels, his record demonstrated a tendency common (ahem) within this year's outstanding hip hop albums; fun succeeded by increasingly sober meditations on the world and our place in it, consideration of the profound changes that by the time of this record's release had already come to pass - see "Changes" for the blues in the Air.

Also attending the party (and for much the same ultimate purpose, though they most certainly don't want to get too...physical) are the Jonas Brothers. The Innocence to Common's Experience, they have a lot to learn, but not even their purity rings nor Disney can shield them from the delights of fame (more GIRLS) or the pitfalls (ditto). Girls are all they want, need, all they ever sing about, which is only right. Breezy and beachy at first, even a little...odd, they seem to be maturing right before your ears. And of course it's the coolest straight-up rock record made by teenagers this year, maybe in part because they need to party to distract themselves? Nah. They just wanna ROCK. YAY!

25. SLOAN: Parallel Play

In which Sloan (or as you may chant their name SLLOOOAAAN) decide - all together, all of a part - to realise that as much fun as it is being a rock band, they aren't kids anymore and have to deal with the world, as cold and Harper-rationalist as it is. Put it next to #72 and a whole picture of a neighbourhood, a mood, is there, Sloan being the yang to Shepherd's yin. Patrock, Murph, Jay and Mandrew are thoughtful, snarky, abstract but never off point. And they would be even higher in this list if even greater music out of Toronto (centre of the universe) didn't appear this year...

24. KARDINAL OFFSHALL: Not 4 Sale

...but it did. Kardinal has been patiently OH SO patiently waiting and working in the T-Dot for this worldwide breakthrough and his ferocity - he is a one-man army of getting your shit together (not to mention doing the best ever version of "The Tide Is High" thrown in just because he can). Another hero of 2008, Akon, is to be credited with helping Kardi, but real hip hop fans knew about him anyway. Integrity can be sold, but never bought.

23. JAZMINE SULLIVAN: Fearless

Returning briefly back to #94 - because Jazmine in several senses reminds us of TashBed - we again arrive at the virtue of patience, and in particular the degree of patience required to overcome fear, to learn not to fear what one sings, not to be scared to make the music one wants to make; Jazmine sprung up, or was made to spring up, a few years ago, and the coil was unsatisfactory, so she waited and now she springs up by her own will, and hers is a will, not to power, but simply to be heard. And you can't avoid hearing her, because she needs to tell us all of her tale so badly, and yet so brilliantly.

22. GEENEUS: Volumes I

The brilliant and far from finished tale of funky House, and this was effectively the first "artist" funky House album, with the most patient spaces and expansive beats this edge of Luomo's The Present Lover; its organisms were fertile, and did we detect a shiny yellow-ness as Geeneus was busy popping his new corn? Plus a bonus CD, if you're quick (31 tracks in 60 minutes, so you have to be), telling the fuller tale which led up to this one. A history culminating in "Bongo Jam"; is that yummy enough?

21. BRITNEY SPEARS: Circus

Fun, unrestrained, or regulated fun, parent controlled, strictly zoned into areas of anti-self limitation? Yet the paternal chains somewhow managed to push her a little further out; those ballads crept back into her web, but the outre was not confined, and "If U Seek Amy" broke through the parade drums to sneak Weill back into Pepperland. Relativity sweet.

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