Tiina, you’ve inspired me. I was going to write something mopey about how this time of year makes me feel like a sailboat caught in the doldrums, no wind in sight (though come to think of it, when is wind ever in sight? Whoaaa), facing the prospect of a long and dreary paddle, and how all I can bear to listen to is stoner drone from Baltimore. But then I read your Top 10 list and thought, yes! There are things to celebrate! So without further ado, here is Picks from Planet Venus’s top albums by female artists or bands from 2008. Again, totally biased, personal, and undemocratic, and in no particular order.
1) Valet - Naked Acid
2) Yo Majesty - Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid
3) Gang Gang Dance - St. Dymphna
4) Duchess Says - Anthologie Des 3 Perchoirs
5) Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
6) Black Mountain - In The Future
7) Wet NOSE Hero - Congratulations Ha Ha Ha
8) Laura Barrett - Earth Sciences
9) various - Bearded Ladies
10) Marnie Stern - This Is It…
Details after the cut!
1) Valet – Naked Acid (Kranky)
Stunningly beautiful album from Honey Owens, who plays under the name Valet. The only reason I haven’t chosen this album as one of my Picks earlier this year is that enjoying it requires a certain patience, a certain devotion, a certain appreciation for songs made with space and slowness rather than melody and hooks that can be hard to communicate over the internet. It might not translate well in a YouTube video or a Myspace sample, but over headphones on a long bus ride or in your bedroom late at night this album will send you to another dimension. Apparently she’s even more incredible live, a notion which kind of makes me afraid for my brain.
2) Yo Majesty - Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid (Domino)
From my original post:
Yo Majesty, Florida’s electro-crunk rap ladies, have just released their first full-length album, called Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid. They’ve been tearing up dancehalls and The Internet for years now, but this is the first time you can have a full sixty-ish minutes of gay feminist hip-hop that’s also super dirty and catchy all to yourself. You will dance. You will blush. You will smash misogyny.
3) Gang Gang Dance - St. Dymphna (Warp)
Admittedly it’s not quite up to the standards set by their 2005 release God’s Money, but then they set the bar pretty freaking high with one of the most innovative, intriguing and original noise albums I’ve heard. But St. Dymphna (named for the patron saint of mental illness, apparently) is still a force to be reckoned with. It’s like a punked-out dance-noise arrow aimed straight at your guts.
4) Duchess Says - Anthologie Des 3 Perchoirs (Alien8)
Finally, a full-length release from Montreal’s favourite freak-punk-rockers. It’s everything I love about 1970s and 80s European punk (Kleenex/LiLiPut, The Au Pairs, The Raincoats) – frenetic, heartfelt, and more than a little bizarre – plus it’s Quebecois! And frontwoman A-Claude has some of the most mesmerizing dance moves I’ve witnessed – she’s a bit like an airline stewardess demonstrating how to perform surgery on a frozen mammoth. You know? Not to be missed live, but the album is a decent stand-in, and you can listen to it here.
One reviewer described it (somewhat derisively) as “like being high on LSD and playing an old school video game”, a description with which I concur (but without the derision. Acid and Supermario, yeah). But it goes beyond gimmick - in particular, I like how they mostly reject standard song structures and, heck, lyrics in general, with singer Alice Glass warbling what sounds like a made-up language - much like some of my other favorite bands, Gang Gang Dance and Les Georges Leningrad.
7) Wet NOSE Hero - Congratulations Ha Ha Ha
MAN this is a great album. I can’t say enough about it. Melodic, angry, touching, joyous, pick yr adjective. Underappreciated album of the year.
What I said already:
Imagine you’re watching a string quartet. I don’t know enough about classical music to tell you the shape and colour of their skill, but I can tell you they are drawing sweet and urgent strains from their instruments. Standing in front of the string quartet is The Little Prince. She is wearing a sailor hat and holding a ukulele that is barely bigger than a toy. (Maybe you remember that, like Peter Pan, The Little Prince is always played by a young woman.) She bounces up and down on the balls of her feet and yells into the microphone like she’s enormously frustrated. Then she’s singing in a voice that’s startling clear and melodic. She’s singing about construction sites and bad ideas and how her mom taught her to write love letters.
8) Laura Barrett - Earth Sciences (Paper Bag)
Technically this album isn’t from 2008 – Barrett released it herself a few years earlier. But it gets on this list anyway because in 2008 Paper Bag Records got a clue and re-released what I think is one of the more original singer-songwriter albums out there. Laura Barrett doesn’t really seem to give a care about trends, she’s just floating in a strange dreamworld of effed up Christmas gifts and failed science experiments.
What I said already:
Barrett has a way of slipping her weirdness just under your radar, so you’re barely conscious of it before it’s gone again and you’re left wondering if she really did say something about eating plastic bags like lettuce. Also, she plays the kalimba (also known as the thumb piano) beautifully, which alone sets her apart from, well, most non-African musicians.
9) Various - Bearded Ladies Vol. I (Finders Keepers)
A great comp from Finders Keepers. Freak-folk, psych-folk, protest-folk, and friendly folk from all over the map, geographically and musically. What I said already:
What’s nice about this comp is that it seems to have no driving theme other than the unusual and the awesome - the songs date from the 1970s to last year, and the artists are from the USA, France, Turkey, and elsewhere. All the songs could be roughly categorized as folk(ish), but they all decidedly push the boundaries of what can be done with a guitar and a single voice.
I don’t need to tell you she’s hot. But I will anyway. She can shred. Good LORD can she shred. She could probably make coleslaw with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back.
Whew. That’s it for now. I guess all in all it’s been a pretty good year… here’s hoping for even more in 2009!