Arguably, it could’ve been a better reviewed year for Webcuts, but nascent sites do have their ups and downs…
2008 was without a doubt an exceptional year for music. Without revealing too much from our list below, there were outstanding sophomore efforts by Beach House and Long Blondes, debut albums by a stunning array of new acts like Crystal Castles, Glasvegas and Fleet Foxes, and albums from iconic acts like TV On The Radio and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds that cemented their standing in modern music.
There was some belief that since so many of Webcuts favoured acts had released albums in 2007, that 2008 was going to be something of a layover year, but even a few months in as the new releases begin to flood our desks we knew we were in for a treat. Now here for your reading pleasure is Webcuts class of 2008.
An album of unexpected pure pop delights, She & Him was a collaboration between the delicious actress Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter Matt Ward. This collection of 60s inspired tunes written by Deschanel were sugar sweet and lushly rendered. Traces of the Beatles and the Beach Boys were caught lurking beneath Ward’s arrangements and the strength of Deschanel’s voice only added weight to the credibility of this project. This wasn’t just another Hollywood actress trying her luck as singer. Their duet on Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold On Me” was only one of many highlights. We can only hope for an expedited Volume 2 in the near future. (Craig)
Brooklyn’s Santi “Santogold” White had the kind of year most artists only dream about, as a decade of working in the music business, the savvy utilisation of MySpace and the support of bloggers bore prodigious fruit. Her debut album Santogold impressed with its myriad styles — from Ska and Dub to 80s new wave — themes of empowerment and good old fashion boasting. (Caleb) Full review.
The darkly titled Oceans Will Rise did much to address the balance between The Stills of Logic Will Break Your Heart with The Stills of its disappointing follow-up, Without Feathers. From the menacing beauty of the gold-painted skull on the album sleeve to the buoyant melodies that weave through the songs in waves, there was much more to this album than met the eye. The Eastern European feel of “Snakecharming the Masses” built around a tribal-sounding rhythm that paired with the subtle swell of Fletcher’s vocals found The Stills in the grip of self-discovery and invention. (Craig) Full review.
Truth be told The Kills’ — transatlantic duo Alison “VV” Mosshart and Jamie “Hotel” Hince — third album was an uneven affair. For every perfectly formed relationship drama e.g. “Last Day of Magic” or chilling tale of letting go such as “Black Balloon” there was the dirge-like “M.E.X.I.C.O” or throwaway “Sour Cherry” – but when the dirty drum machine beats, bluesy garage rock and Mosshart’s channelling of Polly Harvey and Karen O gelled it was well worth the price of admission. (Caleb)
Evil Urges is an awesomely confounding record. It’s not quite Kiss Unmasked, but songwriter Jim James without his cloak of reverb, pushing out a falsetto vocal was an altogether unexpected moment. Even with the reassuring knowledge that this was the new My Morning Jacket album, it was one that leapt styles and influences in a way no previous album had. The electro-dance touches of “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream” offered more evidence that My Morning Jacket were breaking away from convention with Evil Urges being their most outward attempt to gain wider recognition and distance themselves from the staid Skynyrd Southern Rock pigeon-holing. (Craig) Full review.
I’m From Barcelona’s first album enraptured many its sing-a-long anthems and cheery demeanor which helped to dispel the notion they were merely a novelty act, but it was one so full of sugary twee pop you could almost feel the calories piling on. Who Killed Harry Houdini? was the sugar rush comedown, an album with soft focus production and an air of detached melancholy. While the elements that made us fall in love with I’m from Barcelona remained – sweet melodies, multi-backed choruses and varied instrumentation – the downbeat tempo combined with vastly improved lyrics full of detailed character vignettes to create a work of greater sustenance. (Caleb)
When viewed next to their debut, “Couples” is of a different class and from a different age. The Long Blondes always seemed hemmed in by their own aspirations and you can only go so far with pop culture knowledge and a keen sense of wardrobe. They had advanced beyond expectation and fashioned an artistic statement that is more than just a magnifying glass on our lives but a cultural and historical commentary wrapped up in one. It was inventive, intelligent and exciting. A rare case of pop music with brains, presented with a conviction that is almost unbeatable. Unfortunately, a paralysing stroke which befell guitarist/songwriter Dorian Cox would sadly bring an premature end to this great Sheffield band before the year was out. (Craig) Full review.