Friday, December 26, 2008

who gives a f**k about an oxford comma?

Top 10 Albums of 2008

6. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (Swiss Toni)

As a grammar pedant, there was always going to be something attractive about Vampire Weekend. Other people talk about their ‘Upper West Side Soweto’ and the way that they reference both Congolese soukous and classical music. Me? I just liked the way they referenced an arcane grammatical rule in such a catchy manner. Who does give a fuck about a comma used before a grammatical conjunction? Well, curiously enough, although we may not care much for its use in British English, it’s actually the recommended method in American English, and so the song takes on a new level of meaning in the USA that is entirely lost in England.

But I digress. At its heart, this is sunny, uplifting pop music, and so it was entirely appropriate that singer Ezra Koenig wore sunglasses throughout their Glastonbury performance in distinctly gloomy conditions. By the end of their set, the sun came out, as if unable to resist the magic for a moment longer. Paul Simon may have got to those rhythms first, but few bands have used them better.

Key Track - Oxford Comma

6. Man In The Machine - Royworld (LB)

Royworld are a really interesting band, actually. Although their second single Dust spent three weeks inside the top Forty they remain broadly unknown and the cancellation of their autumn tour denied the public the opportunity to see them close up.

After the first couple of listens, I was pretty unconvinced. Sounding like a cross between Coldplay and the Buggles (yes, such a thing is possible) I had a suspicion that some initial promise was going to fade, much as it had done with a similar band – the Ghosts – the year before.

When I saw they had been added to the Glastonbury line-up, I gave Man in the Machine another spin and found myself warning to it somewhat. Their performance on the John Peel stage on the Sunday morning endeared me to them further and from that point onwards I have found myself falling for this record more and more.

It’s difficult to pigeonhole, really – they are a traditional four piece with guitar and keyboards but they do incorporate some retro sounds, and singer adds really good, distinctive vocals. Singles Dust and Man In The Machine are lively enough but it is on the more reflective songs like the superb Brakes that they really begin to show what they can do.

I would heartily recommend this record and I really hope that with the right publicity and support they could end up being pretty successful. If not, they’ll just end up being a curious footnote to 2008 with one superb album and a well-received festival performance to show for their efforts.

Favourite Track - Man In The Machine (or Brakes)

6. Shine - Estelle (bedshaped)

Beginning with a funky choone that would have the likes of Mark Ronson creaming in his jeans, this album just doesn’t dampen down. Estelle’s voice rides through ballads, dance numbers, disco jumpers, reggae flavours, old skool numbers and R’n’ B songs with ease. There’s a wonderful fullness to her voice. Rich and creamy.

Great arrangements are to be applauded here, showing the likes of Mr Ronson (not wanting to pick on him or anything, but hey, what can you do....) how to put together a great sounding album, touching on the retro nerve, without having to overlay so much and giving that fucking horn section a much deserved rest.

The single American Boy was an inspirational move. That dirty keyboard hook through the chorus must have ear-wormed it’s evil way on pretty much anybody who came within a sniff of it. And it’s the abundance of killer hooks like that throughout this album that dig in and just wont let go.

A really great album by a very underrated Estelle.

Favourite Track - Come Over

1 Discussions:

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3:19 AM  

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