Pocahaunted: Island Diamonds
The first time I listened to this record I fell into a semi-conscious dream state. I dreamed that I was being fucked in a lake late at night by a mystery man in some sort of hallucinogenic state; I looked back at the shore and realized there were dark hooded figures watching from the beach. A pleasant dream turned [strangely] erotic nightmare. This album sounds like the soundtrack of a David Lynch film.
Top Track: Gehetto Ballet. Eerily reminiscent of the music from The Shining. This brings me great joy (...and fright. The two co-exist for me).
Read with: H.P.Lovecraft for fun times. It'll make his stories more frightening and prose more tolerable.
Grouper: Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
Predictably bleak, multi-faceted, melancholic, textured. Whenever I listen to Grouper, I imagine floating alone in a warm ocean. Perhaps my extreme love of this record reveals a subconscious desire to return to the womb!! Oh, Freud, you bastard. This is a record of isolation and consolation.
Top Track: Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping.
Read with: Don’t read, just sleep and smoke.
Atlas Sound: Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Succinctly expresses all the usual anxiety, depression and angst appropriate to artists, coupled with the fatigue that sets in when we stop romanticizing it. Simultaneously: heavily nostalgic, paralyzing, soothing and unsettling. Music for passive aggressive sadomasochists who stay indoors a lot and write poetry inspired by fragmented memories of childhood (aka: me on a bad day).
Top Track: Quarantined. “I am waiting to be changed.”
Read with: Embarrassingly naïve journal entries from early adolescence.
Valet: Naked Acid
My favourite addition to the neo-psych (bullshit?) genre. J’adore music that meanders. Look at how beautiful that picture is. I can almost feel it.
Top track: Fire
Read with: Virginia Woolf. This album is pretty much the musical equivalent of Woolf’s prose.
Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire: Lost Wisdom
Phil Elvrum. Is. [a] God. This record is incredibly short and painfully beautiful and extremely bittersweet. This, along with former Microphones release The Glow Pt.2, is a perfect break-up record. Almost on par with Elliott Smith in terms of melancholy. Sob sob. This picture is actually the cover art for Mount Eerie Pts. 6 & 7, and I love it. The photo and the record.
Top Track: You Swan Go On
Read With: Michael Ondaatje’s “The Cinnamon Peeler” or Ted Hughes’ “Birthday Letters.” Or [insert volume of poetry that deals predominantly with themes of regret, loss and nostalgia].
My introduction to neo-classical composers who create music that is minimal, delicate and incredibly beautiful.
Read With: Borges. There is a parallel structure going on. A complexity and surface minimalism coupled with a playful attitude.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the releases I loved of 2008. "Best-of" lists are bullshit. Perhaps the others will come later.