by: Rita Gennawey
KUCI proudly presents our top albums of 2008…
Host of Things That Are Square
10. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash [Matador]
THE indie rock poster boy takes another step towards his inner classic rock guitar god, but his heart is still into stuffing hook after hook into every tune he pens. Granted, every Malkmus solo album is the methadone shot that we take to help us ween off of the pure heroin kick of Pavement, but it's still a good high. Put the album on and let the classic slacker rock and deceptively nonsensical words bubble over you while guitar lick after guitar lick brings you to some sort of musical climax (was that too graphic?).
9. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual [We Are Free]
An album of mainlined, nerdy, guitar spaz. Not spaz in the angular/noise sense, but spaz in the "youthfully overexuberant" sense. In the "mom - I - want - you - to - see - my - new- Pokémons - and - I - can't - really - breath - until - I - make - sure - you - know - all - about - them" sense. And while the twin guitar assault envelopes the ears of the listener, in an energetic but trance-inducing riff-off, vocalist (but not "singer") Molly Siegel coos and yelps and squels with glee all over the tracks in words that occasionally seem to approach what the average person knows as English. It's not Björk-ish or Yoko Ono-like, her voice is just another instrument blending into the joyful maelstrom this band creates.
8. The Mae Shi - Hlllyh [Team Shi]
The absolute best avant-pop-electro-punk album loosely based on Christianity released this year (the title is read "Hell Yeah," by the way). Videogame bleeps team up with anthemic shout-alongs and powerchords to create an album that's catchy, fun, and energetic, all done with a strong sense of "not taking themselves seriously." Exhibit A: The 12 minute jock-jam megamix of the entire album that they dropped 2/3 of the way through the LP. These guys bring a ridiculous amount of energy to their music and live shows, and when you have a band that will get so many people from the crowd crammed on stage with them that it begins to outnumber the audience, you're creating a very exciting, communal musical event that becomes something very memorable. (Bonus points for their being locally-based, too).
7. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster... [Arts & Crafts]
A septet of be-cardiganed Welsh kids released an album that launched a thousand AIM away messages. Lyrics pulled straight from an especially witty LiveJournal, mixed with a deeply-held adoration of Belle and Sebastian, and wrapped in a cathartic pop assault complete with shout-alongs and glockenspiels. The naked youth of this album should make it a bit of a guilty pleasure, as I should have grown out of such bald-faced emotive displays long ago, but this level of honesty and youthful fire and situations so specific you can't help but relate (when paired with such fun music) is somthing I feel I'll always be a sucker for. The track "You! Me! Dancing!" is an absolute monolith of pop perfection (and when combined with the band name has a grand total of four exclamation points for those keeping score). After a minute and a half of tension building you rarely hear outside of Godspeed albums, the kick drum starts followed by a purposeful guitar line. If you're not already wiggling your hips, this album will do nothing for you (also you are a jerk).
6. King Khan and The Shrines - The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines [Vice]
Two extremely energetic flavors of music, garage rock and soul, have been fused together into a delicious aural treat. Horns and guitars provide the support for King Khan to perform his sweatiest James Brown impression for just under an hour. They work in a couple slow jams that work with all the sexual whisper of the nastiest closing time suggestion, throw in a couple 1950s prom doo-wop numbers, and a wealth of bone-shaking blasts of high-octane fire. This fire is what makes the album such a worthwhile musical document. Like pornography, fire is difficult to define but easy to recognize. And this album's got it (and wants to give it to you).
5. The Lucksmiths - First Frost [Matinée]
For fifteen years, this band of absolute sweethearts from Australia have released perfect pop music that warms the heart with the heat of summer. Now they've put out a bit of a winter album, a tad more reserved and a tiny bit cooler. Though, it's "First Frost," so it's not a desolate snowscape yet. It's the tail end of the season of scarves and light gloves (read: still adorable and fun). It's got light melancholy, clever lyrics, catchy hooks, lovely voices, beautiful turns of phrase, songs about breaking into pools, Spiritualized-like shoegaze experiments, songs about songs about California, and so on. The Lucksmiths make cozy music for romantics, and if previous albums were the aural equivalent of riding bikes together on a Spring day, this one's cuddling up on a couch with cups of cocoa and a DVD of "The Princess Bride."
4. Earthless - Live at Roadburn [Tee Pee]
The three Earthless albums I own, including this double disk behemoth, amounts to seven tracks total. That is because Earthless writes songs in the style of "mind-destroyingly awesome and long, guitar-centric psychedelic explosions." This album consists of two 45-minute long tracks that document the Earthless live experience, which, I've gathered, consists of the San Diego-based trio taking the stage, politely explaining how excited they are to be there, and then proceeding to ceaselessly blow every mind in a mile square area for an hour and a half. And fear not, this isn't the often inaccessible noise-psych of bands like Acid Mothers Temple. Earthless's music is extremely listenable. Imagine Comets on Fire if they didn't have vocals and their songs were 4 times as long. I hesitate to make any reference to jam-bands, knowing the type of bile that usually brings into people's throats, but these guys just rock the f* out for huge extended periods of time, and it stays engaging (and completely awesome).
3. Why? - Alopecia [Anticon]
Growing up on hiphop, Why?'s Yoni Wolf has a sturdy base in rhythm and lyrics. Though, the music he creates is more than happy to incorporate record collections full of the Beach Boys and the Beatles as well as Eric B & Rakim. "Alopecia" continues Wolf's avant-hip-pop string of amazing albums that are as harmonic and catchy as they are rhythmically interesting and lyrically astounding. Wolf's verses are honest and personal, and are shown through a lens that makes tried-and-true bedroom pop topics fresh and poetic. Songs about love and loss have been done for as long as humankind has understood music, but tracks like "Fatalist Palmistry," and their lyrics "I tug at my groin like tides trying to pull moon towards them, and I can't ignore them" and "God put a song on my palm that you can't read, and I'll be embalmed with it long before you'll see" illustrate such a hidden part of the self that it has to resound in your most personal experiences. Why?'s lyrics make enough Ulysses-like veiled references to masturbation that you know he's probably not hiding much else. It's all out in the music for you.
2. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals [Illegal Art]
So, it was a pretty weak year for music, so an album as unapologetically fun and party-friendly can handedly float to the top of the pile. Sure it's just a mashup album, but the fact that it made it into my stereo about three times more than anything else that came out this year is why it's so high on my list. "Feed the Animals" is far from high art, but it's fun, and amazing to dance to. And because the sample sources are so varied, there's going to be something on this album you are familiar with. And every time a song bubbles to the surface that you listened to when you were in 8th grade, you get this beautiful little jolt of nostalgia, and a tiny smirk on your face (Temple of the Dog, Ace of Base). But it also mixes in the zenith's of modern music, as well (Afrika Bambaataa, Velvet Underground, Nirvana, the Beach Boys). While a lot of mashups are content to make an entire track of two songs smashed together, the novelty/cleverness wears off about a minute and a half into the track (if you're lucky). Girl Talk makes sure you never get sick of it by never giving you more than thirty seconds of any particular tune, keeping the entire mix fresh and propulsive, with the listener (or club) always looking for the next turn.
1. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire - Lost Wisdom [P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd]
About four years ago, I went to the Che Cafe down in San Diego to see Mount Eerie play live. If you've not been there, the Che is a wooden, cabin-like building on the campus of UCSD, surrounded by pine trees. It very much gives the impression that you are at camp. When Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum took the stage, he asked that all the lights be turned off, and the audience sat on the floor of this cabin, listening to him strum his acoustic guitar and sing his songs of love and nature in his unique sense of melody. He played a song called "Voice in Headphones" (finally released on this album) that consisted of a lyric from Björk's "Undo" sung by the audience. Because the lights were off, no one was self-conscious about singing their hearts out. So we all sat together with no light but the moon filtering through pine trees while we all raised our voices together in this beautiful moment where you felt you were part of the universe and deeply excited about how great life can be. I will treasure that experienceforever. That's kind of what this album is like.
Host of Take a Run at the Sun
10. Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night
Just a neat album. Like the tracks #s3-6 but mingled with a heavy dose of Joy Division.
9. Da Bears - The World Famous Da Bears
Visited UCI courtesy of Acrobatics Everyday. This San Diego outfit is everything I want in a band: fun to listen to, fun to dance to, and genre-blending as all hell. If you want to hear surf riffs leading in to a gentle whine, backed up by wicked bass and whatnot, then listen up. These guys rule (and are also incredibly nice in person).
8. Bird Names - Open Relationship
Also visited UCI thanks to Acrobatics Everyday. When I first heard this Chicago outfit, I was like, "Yeah, yeah, I get it -- it's Animal Collective 2.0." And truthfully, it's more like Animal Collective JR. But after listening to their album a few times, I got it; they may be heavily influenced by the modern indie scene, but they've got a few tricks of their own that make their album really enjoyable.
7. Looptroop Rockers - Good Things
Awesome Icelandic hip-hop! These white, full-bearded gentlemen lay down such eloquent rhymes, along with mad party beats, that you'll wonder why you've never partied with them before.
6. Department of Eagles - Ear Park
5. What Laura Says - Thinks and Feels
4. Little Joy - Little Joy
3. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
All of the above fit into a neat little sub-genre that i feature a lot on my show: "60s-influenced California-dreamin' syrupy-sweet nostalgia rock." And all four excel, in their unique little ways. (Trust me. There are a lottt of bands out there that try to pull this trick; it's special when they succeed.)
2. Hermigervill - Lausnin
More awesome Icelandic hip-hop? Is that even possible? Well it IS! I’m not sure if KUCI even has this album, but they should. This Icelandic hip-hop duo offered their latest album for free on their website. It’s got lush production, and the sickest beats I’ve ever heard. Forget "808s and Heartbreak": this is THE hip-hop album of the year (with very little rapping, it should be said).
1. Mt. Eerie - Lost Wisdom
If a child asked you, "what's melancholy?" you would play this album. I say this because this album is equal parts innocence and remorse. And it's a beautiful conconction.
Bonus: Pas/cal's LP would also be included here, but I kinda feel like it would be cheating, since it's just made up of the EPs that I’ve loved for years.
DJ “Intern” Sam
Host of Naked Comedy
Top 10 Comedy Albums of 2008:
10. Jimmy Pardo & Scott Aukerman - Never Not Christmas
9. Neil Hamburger - Sings Country Winners
8. Tim and Eric - Tim and Eric Awesome Album, Great Songs
7. Todd Barry - From Heaven
6. Lewis Black - Anticipation
5. Andy Daly - Nine Sweaters
4. Mitch Hedberg - Do you Believe in Gosh
3. R.O. Manse - The Best of R.O. Manse
2. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
1. Doug Benson - Professional Humoredian
Bonus: Top 5 Comedy Web Series You NEED To See:
5. Jonah Ray - Jonah Ray's BBQuay
4. DJ Douggpound - The Poundcast
3. Zach Galifianakis - Between Two Ferns
2. The Sklar Bros - Back on Topps
1. Derek Waters - Drunk History
10. Grouper - Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
9. Why? – Alopecia
8. Growing - All The Way
7. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
6. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls
5. Lucky Dragons - Dream Island Laughing Language
4. Pwrfl Power - Pwrfl Power
3. High Places - High Places
2. No Age - Nouns
1. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual
Host of Disturbing the Peace
Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
Crazy P - Stop Space Return
Santogold - Santogold
DJ Rupture - Uproot
Playhouse - Famous When Dead
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig! Lazarus! Dig!
Voxtrot - Voxtrot
Harvey and Thomas Bullock - Map of Africa
Spiritualized - Songs in A&E
Spacemen 3 - DJ Tones
Host of The Sound Session
The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Warpaint – S/T
Vivian Girls – S/T
Crystal Stilts – Alight the Night
Various Artists – Perfect as Cats: a Tribute to the Cure
Japanese Motors – S/T
The Kills – Midnight Boom
Love Is All – A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night
Deerhunter - Microcastle
Darker My Love – 2
DJ J. Pulaski
Host of Innamissions
10. M83 - Saturdays = Youth - Mute
9. Flying Lotus - Los Angeles - Warp
8. V/A - Obsession - Bully
7. Nomo – Ghost Rock - Ubiquity
6. King Khan & The Shrines – Supreme Genius of King Khan - Vice
5. Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior - Tempa
4. Heliocentrics - Out There - Now Again
3. V/A - Nigeria Special (Vol.1-3) - Soundway
2. Nobody Presents Blank Blue - Western Water Music Vol.2 - Ubiquity
1. Portishead - Third - Island
Host of Disco, For Your Health
Hercules & Love Affair - S/T
Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
The Black Ghosts - S/T
The Rapture - !K7 Tapes
Empire of the Sun - Walking On A Dream
The Whip - X Marks Destination
TV On The Radio - Dear Science,
Jamie Lidell - Jim
Wallpaper - T REX EP
Services - Eat Prey Love
Host of How Goes?
10. Antn Hrkwk - Mutually Assured
9. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls
8. The Dutchess and the Duke - She's The Dutchess, He’s The Duke
7. Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
6. Devotchka - A Mad & Faithful Telling
5. French Kicks - Swimming
4. Deerhunter - Microcastle
3. Okay - Huggable Dust
2. The Kills - Midnight Boom
1. Department Of Eagles - In Ear Park
DJ Jeff Scott
Host of The Blues Disease
Top 10 Blues Albums of 2008:
10. Eli “Paperboy” Reed & the True Loves - Roll With You
9. R.J. Mischo - King Of A Mighty Good Time
8. San Pedro Slim - Barhoppin'
7. The Mannish Boys - Lowdown Feelin'
6. Sean Costello - We Can Get Together
5. Harmonica Sam - Rocker No. 1
4. B.B. & the Blues Shacks - Unique Taste
3. The Bluebirds - Blast From the Past
2. Norbert Schneider's R&B Caravan - Fresh Cuts
1. James Hunter - The Hard Way
Host of Scene and Heard
10. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire: Lost Wisdom
Alone in nature
accompanied by forlorn
9. Friendly Fires: S/T
Heartbreak, love, and lust
Over Ed's yelp-y vocals
make for sexy tunes.
8. The Dodos: Visiter
guitar with staccato drums
over rushed vocals.
7. Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours
Sexy and sleek dance
music made by Aussies for
the D.F.A. crowd.
6. Los Campesinos!: Hold On Now, Youngster...
Loud, abrupt, shout-y
vocals in a seven part band
with heavy accents.
5. Vivian Girls: S/T
60's style girl
vocals mixes with hazy
4. Deerhunter: Microcastle
The dudes trade shoegaze
for bigger sounding guitars
and clever wordplay.
3. Metronomy: Nights Out
Falsettos and synth
make for good, awkward dancing
in dingy nightclubs.
2. Fleet Foxes: S/T
four-part harmonies over
lush folksy guitars.
1. Beach Houses: Devotion
Dreamy, warm organs
with spacey, twangy guitars,
Host of Mysterious Rainbow
My list is dominated by noisy music without words that you can usually dance to. I sort of made it based on what I simply listened to the most. Pretty reasonable, right?
10. Duchess Says - Anthologie Des 3 Perchoirs [Alien8]
9. Muslims - Muslims 08 
8. Adventure - Adventure [Carpark]
7. Antn Hrkwk - Mutually Assured [Recycling]
6. Why? - Alopecia [Anticon]
5. Thank You - Terrible Twos [Thrill Jockey]
4. Mahjongg - Kontpab [K]
3. The Mae Shi - HLLLYH [Team Shi]
2. F*ck Buttons - Street Horrrsing [ATP]
1. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual [We Are Free]
Host of Mysterious Rainbow
10. Giraffes? Giraffes! - More Skin With Milk Mouth
9. Dosh - Wolves and Wishes
8. Pwrfl Power - Pwrfl Power
7. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
6. Jaguar Love - Tame Me to the Sea
5. The Dead Science - Villainaire
4. Sun Kil Moon - April
3. Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum
2. Antn Hrkwk - Mutually Assured
1. Mount Eerie - The Dawn