Arts Desk

Testing the Threshold: My Top 10 Records from 2008

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Another year, another "Best Of" list topped by another band of noise-punks from San Francisco. I gave the #1 slot to Thee Ohsees' Sucks Blood last year — an incredibly charming, yet off-kilter record of hazy garage pop. I was floored by The Hospitals early in 2008, a group that Ohsees guitarist John Dwyer used to play in, oddly enough (that's him in the video above, smashing his guitar over that poor man's head). Maybe it exposes my obsession with the current sound of West Coast psychedelia filtered through four-tracks and trash rock a bit too gratuitously, but hey — you like what you like, right? Regardless, the obliterated genius of Hairdryer Peace cannot be denied, even if its components are a bit too jagged for mass consumption.

I listened to other things too, though: A lot of electronic music — dubstep, techno, and their various offshoots; loads of world-music compilations from stellar labels like Mississippi, Soundway, Vampisoul, Stern's and Analog Africa; gritty cassettes and CD-Rs from labels like Fuck It Tapes, Hanson, and Digitalis; more psychedelic slow jams a la Earth and Brightblack (see below); and a whole heap of Top 40 hip hop. C'mon, that Young Jeezy record is downright enjoyable, admit it. And it's named The Recession, for chrissakes; it doesn't get much more relevant than that.

Enough rambling: Below the jump are my ten favorite albums of 2008, each with MP3 samples for reference. Stay tuned here on Black Plastic Bag in the coming days — there's plenty more geekin' out to do about 2008. And be on the lookout for our Music (& Arts) Year-in-Review issue, which hits the streets next Thursday.

1. Hairdryer Peace, Hospitals (self-released)

It may sound like an utter trainwreck, but Adam Stonehouse and the Hospitals created one of the most bizarre, liberating releases in quite some time. Hairdryer Peace is a glorious mess, one that redefines San Francisco garage in abrasive, imaginative ways ­— the new benchmark for psychedelic dementia.

The Hospitals – "Animals Act Natural"

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2. Margins Music, Dusk & Blackdown (Keysound)

Reanchoring dubstep to its London roots, Margins Music caputred the city’s modern, multicultural sound, transmitted through subsonic bass and Bollywood breaks. By far dubstep’s most structurally-solid long-player—a landmark for the genre that has mutated far past the city that spawned it.

Dusk + Blackdown – "Kuri Pataka (The Firecracker Girl)"

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3. The Recession, Young Jeezy (Def Jam)

Hear me out. No, Jeezy doesn’t particularly push hip-hop’s boundaries on this one—he even reinforces some of its more tiresome cliches. What he does provide is an intense, twisted perspective of 2008’s recession-era America, flaunting one of Nov. 4th’s more ridiculous anthems, “My President,” and tackling economic crisis from the ground up. “The realest shit you’ll ever quote,” indeed.

Young Jeezy – "My President"

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4. “All I Have Is Memories / Suburbia,” Martyn (Apple Pips)

If Dusk & Blackdown's output highlighted dubstep's London ties, then the strength of Holland-born Martyn's buoyant garage/2-step/techno/dub/house amalgam best exemplified how the genre has mutated internationally. Martyn's recent move to the D.C. area is an exciting addition for the city's already bubbling electronic dance music scene, and his debut full-length is sure to explode in '09.

Martyn – "Suburbia"

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5. Imaginational Anthem Vols. 1-3 (Tompkins Square)

With a title inspired from the track recorded by Annapolis native Max Ochs in the late ‘60s, the Imaginational Anthem series is an incredible document of American Primitive acoustics past and present, drawing links from Takoma’s John Fahey to the new crop of pickers far and wide.

The MP3 below features Greg Davis' track off of Volume 3, which was released individually in April. FYI: Davis will also be performing in the duo Sun Circle tomorrow night, Dec. 18th, at the Lighthouse.

Greg Davis – "Sleep Architecture"

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6. The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, Earth (Southern Lord)

Earth – "Rise To Glory"

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7. The Set Up, Fat Ray & Black Milk (Fat Beats)

Fat Ray & Black Milk – "Lookout"

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8. Guitar Boy Superstar: 1970-1976, Sir Victor Uwaifo (Soundway)

Sir Victor Uwaifo – "Agho"

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9. Solar Bridge, Emeralds (Hanson)

Emeralds – "The Quaking Mess"

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10. Motion to Rejoin, Brightblack Morning Light (Matador)

Brightblack Morning Light – "Gathered Years"

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