Let me be the first to impose upon you a best of's 2008 list. I know these generally wait until later in the month but I feel the need to get this off my chest right now.
1. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
Definitely the find of the year. It took me about 6 months after first reading about them to get round to buying this but within another month I'd bought the 2 previous albums and seen one of the best live show's I've seen in years.
The original article I read about them in Uncut described them as "reminiscent of the Velvets, Modern Lovers and Neutral Milk Hotel" (whoever the hell Neutral Milk Hotel are !). I can see where they were coming from but they're much more than that. I'd put them in a similar space to Wilco and the Drive-By Truckers. I guess this is what is known as Americana.
The songs are very instant particularly the single "Loast Coastlines" and "Calling And Not Calling My Ex". The centrepiece of the record is the epic "Blue Tulip", now there's a man pouring his soul into a song. You can hear previews of the songs at Amazon at the link above, do yourself a favour.
2. Paul Weller - 22 Dreams
How many times has Weller produced a real return to form according to various critics ? Well this isn't a return to form, it is in many places something completely new!
Spoken word poetry pieces, instrumentals, wailing along in the verse like a demented David Bowie on "Push It Along", Weller really made an effort with this record, and it shows. Now if he'd just ditch the annoying guitar player from Ocean Duller Scene all would be well.
3. Damien Dempsey - The Rocky Road
Damo makes the record I suspect he has wanted to make for a very long time. This is a collection of traditional Irish songs along with some more contemporary things (The Pogues "A Rainy Night In Soho").
It's was worth it for me to have a recording of Damo singing "The Rocky Road To Dublin" which I've heard him play live many times.
I do understand that the mighty Damo is something of an acquired taste, one I have enthsiastically acquired and one which I evangelically recommend to all.
4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig !!! Lazarus Dig !!!
I've been going through a bit of a Nick Cave phase over the past year. I've gone from owning 2 or 3 of his albums to all of them (that count currently stands at 16). So I guess that's something more than a phase !
He's very good at what he does and keeps on doing it, which to some puts them off what he does. But when you do something as well as this why take a detour. He did that with Grinderman which to my mind was a little lacking.
The title track, "More News From Nowhere" and "We Call Upon The Author" are as good as anything from the previous 15 Bad Seeds albums.
5. Amsterdam - Arm In Arm
Ian Prowse could probably pass wind and it would be worth hearing. Saying the man has a way with a tune is like saying Pele was quite good at football or that Einstein guy was a bit clever, get my drift. Hey! He wrote John Peel's second favourite song so there's something going on here.
"Arm In Arm" is another collection of fabulous songs that was recently voted the 14th best album released by a Liverpool band...ever, by the readers of Liverpool.com magazine. And when you consider the competition up there that's pretty impressive stuff.
Prowsey's favourite here is the title track, mine is "Lonely Boy". If you admire melody and great songs you really can't go wrong here.
(A special mention for The Blessing's album "All Is Yes" which came in at a very close number 6)
As for books, movies etc.
Movies...I don't really have the attention span but here's what I recall.
Batman: The Dark Knight - The best Batman movie yet. If Heath Ledger doesn't get a posthumous Oscar for his performance as the Joker then I don't know who should ever get an Oscar.
Control - I was really looking forward to seeing this but came away feeling like I'd just watched a 2 hour episode of Coronation Street in black & white. Dissapointed doesn't even get close.
Books...I've spent the year re-reading a lot of things I've read before (Emmett Grogan's "Ringolevio: A Life Played For Keeps", Orwell's "1984" etc) but I can heartily recommend John Robb's "Punk Rock: An Oral History", something like a UK "Please Kill Me".
Errr....that's it really
6 hours ago