Tag: Cloud Cult
Fidel Castro resigns, leaving Mick Jagger as the longest running and leatheriest megalomaniac around. Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft to concentrate on philanthropy, proving that it’s the company rather than the man that may be evil. Iceland goes bankrupt. Sigur Ros cry. Some other guy is elected president of the USA. 2008 was also the International Year of the Potato and the International Year of Sanitation, apparently. Was there honestly nothing better we could celebrate? Also, after a couple of bum years in music, 2008 gave us many great albums.
10. Coldplay – Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends
One of the things a lot of indie rock snobs are loathe to admit is that a lot of the buzz bands and the truly innovative musical performers are, in fact, completely unlistenable. It’s so easy to vilify the popular and the mainstream, but maybe people need to get off their high horse sometimes and just wave a bloody lighter around and sing inane lyrics at the top of their lungs. The simple fact of the matter is that Coldplay write some fine songs, made up of great melodies and insipidly inspirational words. As somebody who pays little attention to (most) lyrics, I am fine with this arrangement. Viva la Vida was billed as their ‘edgy’ record, which is a lie. It’s a bit more adventurous than previous efforts, but they maintained their strong grip on hooks and beauty, and just dressed it up in a snazzier package. Hey, if it ain’t broke…
9. Elliott Brood – Mountain Meadows
I think they describe their music as ‘cowpunk’, and I’m not sure whether that’s cool or annoying. It is, I must admit, fairly apt, as they blend bluegrass instruments with the attack of punk music. Their debut album, Ambassador, was a little darker and rougher, but Mountain Meadows took it widescreen and introduced a bit of euphoria to their approach. This feeling of joy was surprising, given the album was a reference to the Mountain Meadows massacre, where a bunch of Arkansas emigrants were massacred by a local Mormon militia in Utah in 1857. Damn catchy massacre, I say.
8. White Denim – Workout Holiday
Soulful vocals, crunchy guitars and rhythms that turn on a dime come together to form an oddly likeable and quite different take on music. From the surprising cultural hotbed of Austin, TX, White Denim first came to notice at the South by Southwest festival there. This year’s Fits was equally great.
7. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
The MGMT album was one of those come-from-nowhere hits of the year, and its poppy dance rock deserved the attention it got. ‘Kids’ was used to soundtrack every ‘youth at risk’ program for the next six months. Pedantic side note #2 – This album was released digitally in 2007, but not physically released until 2008.
6. Sons & Daughters – This Gift
On this release, the Scottish duo expanded their hard-edged folk rock sounds to include some scuzzy pop rock. There’s something really sexy about a woman singing in a harsh Scottish burr.
5. The Kills – Midnight Boom
Like Sons & Daughters, The Kills also moved towards a poppier (but still rocky) sound, but this band came from a gutter blues direction. Lead singer Alison Mosshart was busy with Jack White and the Dead Weather this year. That was alright, but I want her to get back to the Kills and produce more music like this. This album provided the lyric of the year too: ‘I’m bored of cheap and cheerful. I want expensive sadness.’
4. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
This album made me want to sail into the sunset, looking for a new world and adventure and – even better – made me feel like this was a normal thing to aspire to. Covering topics as diverse as historical floods (Canvey Island) and immigration (Waving Flags), the album felt like a real journey, in the best possible sense. Anthemic and real, British Sea Power make you feel alive. Lapse into hyperbole and cliché now over.
3. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
This is an album that creeps up on you unexpectedly, barely registering before it becomes your favourite comfort. I’m usually a bit moronic when it comes to embracing new bands, and so it was with Bon Iver. I heard it and found it boring, but the switch came when I saw them live, opening for Iron & Wine. Live, it was almost Sigur Ros-like, as Justin Vernon and his mates created a hypnotic drone to back up Vernon’s lyrics of loss. The CD sounds more simple but is surprisingly layered, with new things revealed after every listen. I don’t know where Bon Iver will go next. This year’s EP, Blood Bank, was half great (like the title track) and half too experimental (Woods), but I hope he’s able to make another album with the lonely power of For Emma.
2. Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)
The most moving and glorious music often comes from tragedy and rebirth, and that proves true with Cloud Cult. Lead Cultist Craig Minowa (and his wife/band member Connie) lost a son at the age of two, and this greatly affected the music they produced. While some artists might (understandably) turn such a dark situation into equally dark music, Minowa and company crafted a beautiful and amazingly uplifting tribute to their son and life in general. It was not a rose-coloured portrait and acknowledged the darkness, but it left room for healing and moving on, but not forgetting. The best – and most heartbreaking – example of this is ‘When Water Comes to Life’, which turns an autopsy into a metaphor for rebirth and symbiosis with the world. Apparently, the Minowas have a new baby in their life, so I wish them all the best.
1. The Gaslight Anthem – The ‘59 Sound
They wear their Springsteen influences on their sleeves, and they’re fine with it (and so too, it should be noted, is the Boss, who performed with them at Glastonbury). The thing that vaults this band above other Springsteen-alikes is the sheer verve and energy they bring to their sound. This is a band that loves to make music, and loves to make music with a heart. The songs are permeated with nostalgia for simpler times and a recognition that we can’t go back to those, and all the happiness and sadness associated with having and losing something that special.