From The Sunday Business Post, 21st December
It may be the age of instant, one-song downloads, but 2008 was chock-full of truly excellent and artfully-crafted long-players. Glasgow’s Sons & Daughters got the year off to a fine start with the glossy, girl-group pop of This Gift, while soulful compatriots Glasvegas rose above the hype with their self-titled debut. Travis may have seemed unlikely to return with a cracking album, yet their new effort, Ode To J Smith, was just that.
In England, Elbow were worthy winners of the Mercury Prize with The Seldom Seen Kid, while Brighton’s Blood Red Shoes proved that a duo of drums, guitar and vocals could be greater than the sum of its parts with their debut, Box of Secrets. The Duke Spirit made up for a patchy debut with their sumptuous follow-up, Neptune, while Mancunian retro-futurist Jim Noir gave us his thus-far tragically overlooked self-titled album, which brimmed pop perfection. Foals‘ debut, Antidotes, also came highly recommended.
From the States, we had Fleet Foxes‘ eponymous harmonic masterpiece, while the virtually critic-proof TV on the Radio excelled with their fourth release, Dear Science. An unexpected highlight came from Austin band Shearwater,whose ornithology-obsessed fifth album, Rook, was filled with sweeping arrangements, swooping choruses and impeccable attention to musical detail. Meanwhile, Canada’s The Dears returned with a slimmed-down lineup but packed no less of a punch with their incendiary Missiles.
Further afield, New Zealand’s Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, released the pop album of the year with her eponymous collection of joyful, danceable, ’80s-retro nuggets, while from Africa, Amadou & Mariam released the equally jubilant, and thoroughly excellent, Welcome To Mali.
In Ireland, it was a pretty good year, too. We had excellent albums from Jape, Saville, Halfset and the much-anticipated, rollocking debut from Fight Like Apes with their Mystery of the Golden Medallion. But top billing has to go to Richie Murphy’s Michael Knight, whose flamboyant and meticulously-arranged second album, I’m Not Entirely Clear How I Ended Up Like This, should be sought by anyone with a penchant for Neil Hannon, or even Noel Coward. Wonderful stuff.