LWE’s Top 10 Albums of 2008


Every time the album format is declared dead for dance music a slew of great full lengths arrive to attest to the contrary. In this regard 2008 was no different, offering bountiful evidence that the extended format is a great canvas for electronic music of all stripes, from treated avant-garde to finely textured techno experimentalism, fathoms deep house music to expansive dub techno, and many styles in between. Here are LWE’s top 10 albums of 2008 as selected by our staff, each one a nail in the coffin of the phrase “the album is dead.”


10. Francesco Tristano, Auricle/Bio/On
[Infiné] (buy)

Tristano may be a Juliard-trained classical musician, but his first few releases have shown clearly he has bigger, bolder things in mind. “Enchanted” by one Moritz von Oswald, Auricle/Bio/On takes Tristano’s improvised piano rumblings into altogether uncharted territories, as all manner of distortions and filters are deployed, growing, wilting, and growing again over the course of the two long tracks–”Destroying in order to create… creating in order to destroy,” indeed. Fusing the organic and the digital to create a crazed dub-techno-avant-noise orgy, Tristano and von Oswald manage to create something truly original here. (Todd Hutlock)


09. Osborne, Osborne
[Spectral Sound] (buy)

Osborne’s self-titled album might not have gotten the attention it deserved. I’m to blame for at least some of that — I dismissed it early on for revealing most of the highlights on earlier singles (“Afrika”, “Outta Sight”, “Ruling”). But looking back, Osborne has some of the best melodies and timing of any electronic album this year. From the stirring rub-the-sleep-out-of-your-eyes opening of “16th Stage” to the chants of “Afrika,” a four-year-old track that has never sounded more relevant, Osborne deserved accolades and more. (Nate DeYoung)


08. Ricardo Villalobos, Vasco
[Perlon] (buy)

For one of the world’s most acclaimed house DJs, Ricardo Villalobos’ music works surprisingly well in the living room. Much as Thé Au Harem D’Archimèd did in 2004, Vasco comprises songs that would seem virtually unclubbable, were it not for Villalobos’ own DJ sets. Each of its four parts are vivid, sprawling, and best taken late at night, be it on a seedy dance floor or with tea and a good book.
(Will Lynch)


07. Lee Jones, Electronic Frank
[Aus Music] (buy)

If Electronic Frank had just featured variations on Lee Jones’ glorious “Aria,” one of 2008′s most beautiful tracks, everyone would have been happy: that it’s nowhere near that territory yet several times better is more than we deserve. For his debut solo album, Lee Jones slipped in underneath the radar with some of the loveliest, most intricate work he’d yet done. Though it’s deftly produced, there’s still something charmingly D.I.Y. about Electronic Frank, and the way he threads together samples into abstruse tapestries makes me think of the arts and crafts movement as much as it does a low-key Todd Edwards. And the heart-in-mouth explosion that is the closing “MDMAmazing” is the pay-off you didn’t even realize you needed. (Jon Dale)


06. The Mole, As High As the Sky
[Wagon Repair] (buy)

Surfacing after years of immaculate singles and remixes with his debut long player, Canadian Colin de la Plante hoisted high a sizzling melange of disco house and skewed minimalism that waved another victory flag for Wagon Repair’s standout 2008. Sounding like Daft Punk being held captive in a German bunker after the release of “Homework” and force-fed a steady diet of stripped back techno, As High As The Sky crafted pointed, austere techno and android disco dripping with funk. (Per Bojsen-Moller)


05. Move D & Benjamin Brunn, Songs From the Beehive [Smallville Records] (buy)
Songs From the Beehive is so good not because it provides simple formulas to trigger dopamine to gush eagerly into the brain, but because it explores the felicities of frustration. The joy here is akin to watching a jazz soloist find the melody again after an impossibly extended breakdown, or to realizing an ambient album’s gentle permutations have distracted completely from one’s previous thoughts. The greatest pleasure of all, though, is in knowing that nothing else gives pleasure in quite the same way that Move D and Benjamin Brunn’s collaboration does here. (Colin Shields)


04. Deadbeat, Roots and Wire
[Wagon Repair] (buy)

One of a fistful of albums this year that addressed the mutual appreciation of techno and dubstep, Roots And Wire patched the two together through a mighty echo chamber housed in Berlin. Paying homage to the cavernous warmth and compressed hiss of Maurizio through tracks like “Xberg Ghosts” and collaborating with long time Rhythm & Sound vocalist Paul St. Hilaire to open and close the album, Deadbeat makes Roots And Wire an album of incredible depth filled with a sublime, unhurried ease. (Per Bojsen-Moller)


03. DJ Sprinkles, Midtown 120 Blues
[Mule Musiq] (buy)

Midtown 120 Blues shares with the rest of Terre Thaemlitz’s productions a strange combination of polemical intent and intellectual resignation: Thaemlitz understands how hopeless things are, but can’t stop articulating exactly why everything’s so fucked. Like his earlier electro-acoustic project Love For Sale: Taking Stock In Our Pride, Midtown is about the co-optation of queer, the way public figures like Madonna strip community-based movements of their localized empowerment, neutering their political potency through trite, universalizing statements. This time, though, Thaemlitz drags the issues up in gorgeous house productions that shift from the hypnotic threnody of the title track, through the rhapsodic “Ball’r (Madonna Free Zone),” and on into the album’s centerpiece, the Jesse Jackson-sampling “Sisters, I Don’t Know What This World Is Coming To.” Both Public Enemy and Thomas Brinkmann used the same sample for different purposes -– the former as firebrand politic, the latter as abstracted soul signifier. For Thaemlitz, it’s both and neither, and those confusions are what makes Midtown 120 Blues one of this year’s most thrilling, beguiling records -– the deeper you dig, the more uncomfortable it gets. (Jon Dale)


02. Bruno Pronsato, Why Can’t We Be Like Us
[Hello? Repeat] (buy)

Why Can’t We Be Like Us is a classic example of what one might call a “grower.” It sounds a bit dry and pretentious at first, but nonetheless you feel strangely drawn to it. Over time, its few melodic moments gather more and more weight, and its surreal, amber-tinted imagery grows increasingly alluring. Almost a year since it’s release, Why Can’t We Be Like Us is still a reliable late night companion, and surely one of the best albums of the year. (Will Lynch)


01. Shed, Shedding the Past
[Ostgut Tonträger] (buy)

At first I found hubris in Shed’s mid-album “time capsule” assertion that his music represented a new and “true” form of techno music. And then it hit me: Rene Pawlowitz, one of this year’s breakout artists, had indeed shed the past for his own vision of electronic dance music. It was there in the scrapes, friction and heat of his rhythms, in the essentialist restraint of his pure melodies. Shedding the Past was one of the rare, transcendent moments some failed to believe existed this year, and it’s a way forward I hope Shed fully explores in years to come. (Steve Mizek)

Check out individual staff lists after the jump.

Staff lists:

Per Bojsen-Moller
01. Headhunter, Nomad [Tempa]
02. Deadbeat, Roots and Wire [Wagon Repair]
03. Claro Intelecto, Metanarrative [Modern Love]
04. Kenny Larkin, Keys, Strings & Tambourines [Planet E]
05. The Mole, As High As The Sky [Wagon Repair]
06. Sascha Funke, Mango [BPitch Control]
07. Loco Dice, 7 Dunham Place [Desolat]
08. Morgan Geist, Double Night Time [Environ]
09. Scuba, A Mutual Antipathy [Hotflush Recordings]
10. Prosumer & Murat Tepeli, Serenity [Ostgut Tonträger]

Jon Dale
01. DJ Sprinkles, Midtown 120 Blues [Mule Musiq]
02. Lee Jones, Electronic Frank [Aus Music]
03. .snd, 4, 5, 6 [.snd]
04. Move D & Benjamin Brunn, Songs From The Beehive [Smallville Records]
05. Shed, Shedding The Past [Ostgut Tonträger]
06. Ricardo Villalobos, Vasco [Perlon]
07. Theo Parrish, Sound Sculptures Vol. 1 [Sound Signature]
08. Ezekiel Honig, Surfaces Of A Broken Marching Band [Anticipate]
09. Quantec, Unusual Signals [Echochord]
10. Sten, The Essence [Dial]

Nate DeYoung
01. Bruno Pronsato, Why Can’t We Be Like Us? [Hello? Repeat]
02. Move D & Benjamin Brunn, Songs from the Beehive [Smallville Records]
03. Lindstrøm, Where You Go I Go Too [Smalltown Supersound]
04. Osborne, Osborne [Spectral Sound]
05. Francesco Tristano, Auricle/Bio/On [Infiné]
06. The Mole, As High as the Sky [Wagon Repair]
07. Kelly Polar, I Need You When the Sky is Falling [Environ]
08. Luomo, Convivial [Huume]
09. Shed, Shedding the Past [Ostgut Tonträger]
10. Hercules & Love Affair, Hercules & Love Affair [DFA]

Todd Hutlock
01. Francesco Tristano, Auricle/Bio/On [Infiné]
02. Deadbeat, Roots And Wire [Wagon Repair]
03. Minilogue, Animals [Cocoon]
04. The Mole, As High As The Sky [Wagon Repair]
05. Marcin Czubala, Chronicles Of Never [Mobilee]
06. Shed, Shedding The Past [Ostgut Tonträger]
07. Lindstrøm, Where You Go I Go Too [Smalltown Supersound]
08. Mike Shannon, Memory Tree [Plus 8 Records]
09. Loco Dice, 7 Dunham Place [Desolat]
10. Kenny Larkin, Keys, Strings, & Tambourines [Planet E]

Will Lynch
01. Bruno Pronsato, Why Can’t We Be Like Us? [Hello? Repeat]
02. Flying Lotus, Los Angeles [Warp]
03. Shed, Shedding the Past [Ostgut Tonträger]
04. Ricardo Villalobos, Vasco [Perlon]
05. DJ Sprinkles, Midtown 120 Blues [Mule Musiq]
06. Various, Prime Numbers [Prime Numbers]
07. Lee Jones, Electric Frank [Aus Music]
08. Ø, Oleva [Sähkö Recordings]
09. Model 500, Starlight [echospace [detroit]]
10. Quiet Village, Silent Movie [Studio !K7]

Steve Mizek
01. Shed, Shedding the Past [Ostgut Tonträger]
02. DJ Sprinkles, Midtown 120 Blues [Mule Musiq]
03. Bruno Pronsato, Why Can’t We Be Like Us [Hello? Repeat]
04. Prosumer & Murat Tepeli, Serenity [Ostgut Tonträger]
05. Osborne, Osborne [Spectral Sound]
06. Deadbeat, Roots and Wire [Wagon Repair]
07. Hercules & Love Affair, Hercules & Love Affair [DFA]
08. Lee Jones, Electronic Frank [Aus Music]
09. Ricardo Villalobos, Vasco [Perlon]
10. The Mole, As High As the Sky [Wagon Repair]

Colin Shields
01. Move D & Benjamin Brunn, Songs From The Beehive [Smallville Records]
02. Shed, Shedding The Past [Ostgut Tonträger]
03. Andy Stott, Unknown Exception [Modern Love]
04. The Fun Years, Baby, It’s Cold Inside [Barge Recordings]
05. The Matthew Herbert Big Band, There’s Me and There’s You [Studio !K7]
06. Various Production, Various Versus [Various Production]
07. Toby Tobias, Space Shuffle [REKIDS]
08. Lee Jones, Electronic Frank [Aus Music]
09. The Diaphanoids, Astral Weekends [Bear Funk]
10. Carl Craig & Moritz Von Oswald, ReComposed [Deutsche Grammophon]

ABW  on December 26, 2008 at 12:18 PM

Serenity should be in that top 10. Thanks for the Midtown 120 Blues tip last week. What a record.

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 26, 2008 at 12:20 PM

“Serenity” was definitely a big one for me, too, but my vote was overwhelmed.

Limbic  on December 27, 2008 at 3:08 AM

nice… but Lee Jones “electronic frank” was for me the greatest!
he is a genius. like “hefner” also was ..
cheers people! have a nice one..
Limbic from austria

fred  on December 30, 2008 at 12:34 AM

not a single vote for brinkmann? wha?
good list i guess

fred  on December 30, 2008 at 11:10 AM

to comment further:
-glad to see roots and wire get the love it deserves
-would have been cool to see bruno on top, especially considering shed already took RA’s poll, but i’m not complaining

james kartsaklis  on December 30, 2008 at 2:37 PM

Pocahaunted, Chains

beingboring  on December 30, 2008 at 3:14 PM

finally a best-of-2008-list which features “Midtown 120 Blues” !!! :-)

Will Lynch  on January 2, 2009 at 2:48 PM

@Fred: Pronsato was on top for me personally

Trackbacks

Metropolis  on January 2, 2009 at 11:08 PM

[...] music news (Beatportal) – 2008 Technology Top 10 (Beatportal) – Top Discos 2008 (Jenesaispop) – Top 10 Albums of 2008 (Little White Earbuds) – Top 20 Singles of 2008 (Little White Earbuds) – The 50 Best Albums of 2008 (Pitchfork Media) – [...]

Little White Earbuds » LWE Podcast 14: DJ Sprinkles  on February 13, 2009 at 1:15 AM

[...] together, recontextualizing house music to the tune of sumptuous deep-house (easily nabbing the #3 spot in our top albums of 2008 list). So we’re very pleased to have Thaemlitz curating LWE’s 14th podcast, which is [...]

Little White Earbuds » podcast » LWE Podcast 14: DJ Sprinkles « DEEPGOA’s Electronic Sessions  on February 13, 2009 at 4:39 AM

[...] together, recontextualizing house music to the tune of sumptuous deep-house (easily nabbing the #3 spot in our top albums of 2008 list). So we’re very pleased to have Thaemlitz curating LWE’s 14th podcast, which is actually a live [...]

ikz.hu » Blog Archive » LWE Podcast 14: DJ Sprinkles  on February 16, 2009 at 3:31 AM

[...] together, recontextualizing house music to the tune of sumptuous deep-house (easily nabbing the #3 spot in our top albums of 2008 list). So we’re very pleased to have Thaemlitz curating LWE’s 14th podcast, which is actually a live [...]

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