Helen Clarke takes us on a musical journey through time, to rediscover the best live shows, albums and singles of 2008. Enjoy!
Pictures by Matt Grayson
TOP FIVE SHOWS
Carbon/Silicon Inn On The Green, Ladbroke Grove, January-February
Punk legends Mick Jones (The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite) and Tony James (Generation X, Sigue Sigue Sputnik) and their band Carbon/Silicon took over Ladbroke Grove’s Inn On The Green for an incredible six week Friday night residency back in January.
True to their roots, tickets cost a measly £10 on the door, with no advance sales, and the tiny pub’s location – under the Westway – couldn’t have been more perfect for the misty eyed, nostalgic punk gathering.
Clash drummer Topper Headon took to the sticks for a few songs throughout the residency, and the Informer spotted characters from Clash
history, including Pete Wylie, Don Letts, Glen Matlock, Johnny Green, Robin Banks and Chris Salewicz, knocking back a few in support of
their old pal.
A great set, with a few golden oldies thrown in (highlights being Stay Free and E=MC2, for which Mick’s daughter Lauren took guest vocals). It
wouldn’t win new fans for Carbon/Silicon, but it was a punk rock dream come true.
Kid Harpoon Dingwalls, Camden, March 13
Camden kids and Shoreditch scenesters came together for the first live airing of Kid Harpoon’s second EP, and the moustached ragamuffin showed how it’s really done.
An exhilarating, whisky drenched show, he spent a good percentage of the show crowd surfing, holding his acoustic guitar just above the rabble
to carry on playing. His live set is reminiscent of The Pogues. The introspective, emotional songs of his records become a different beast – they’re drinking songs with venom and bite, which our photographer Matt Grayson discovered, as he mopped the beer out of his camera in the pub afterwards.
Bon Iver Shepherds Bush Empire, Shepherds Bush, September 11
Bon Iver – aka Justin Vernon – played three storming shows in the capital this year. The first being in front of a tiny audience at the beautiful
St Giles Church, but weirdly it wasthe third show, at Shepherds Bush Empire, that felt the most intimate.
His lo-fi, country/folk sound filled the room with blankets of percussion and his falsetto vocals brought tears to the stoniest of hearts. His three piece band trawled through most of his debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, and the undoubted highlight was the audience participation during Wolves. Spine tingling stuff.
Chatham County Line Luminaire, Kilburn, November 18
The word of mouth success of American bluegrass band Chatham County Line picked up significantly after their appearance on Later With Jools
Holland. Their gig at Kilburn’s Luminaire, back in May, was a near sell out, but this time around they had to add a second date – and both
were sell outs.
High on their new found popularity, they were noticeably more confident and ever so slightly bewildered.
Their traditional open mic (with mandolin, double bass, banjo and guitar) acoustic set entranced the audience of old time bluegrass fans
and curious musos, and while they had to drop their tradition of playing their last song in the audience, it was worth going along just to listen
to singer Dave Wilson’s Jools impression.
Duffy Brixton Academy, Brixton, December 8
Welsh songstress Duffy rounded off a near perfect debut year with two shows at Brixton Academy. Her album, Rockferry, is the biggest selling
long player of the year, and her much anticipated live show kicked the likes of Adele, Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash in to touch.
With a little help from a four piece string orchestra, break dancers and mini-Duffy backing singers, she had the audience wrapped around her
little finger within minutes. Her retro-pop sound and new found confidence brought the album to life, and if her new songs are anything to go by, 2009 is going to be an equally exciting year.
TOP FIVE ALBUMS
The Week That Was , The Week That Was
Field Music’s Peter Brewis followed in his band mate and brother David’s footsteps by releasing his very own album this year under the moniker The Week That Was – and surprised us all.
Written in one week after Brewis threw out his TV and stopped reading newspapers, it’s a dark, eerie look at the impact of popular culture and
the media. 32 minutes of pop noir that were transformed into a startling live show, for which he was joined by the rest of Field Music. It
was a hugely ambitious record – the perfect antidote to the electro-pop that dominated this year,
British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?
Until January British Sea Power had been the long-standing underdogs of indie – but the release of their third album changed all that. Packed
with huge, stadium anthems, it also managed to stay true to their geeky, kooky roots, with plenty to keep fans happy.
It felt like their make or break album – they poured their all into it and luckily, the world finally took notice and they even scored a Mercury
nomination. Tracks like the chant-along No Lucifer and romantic ode to immigration Waving Flags have become indie disco classics.
Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
Art-rockers Vampire Weekend released their much-anticipated debut back in January.
A brilliant mash up of afro-pop, indie and chamber music, it
broke the mould – chorus heavy but clever and intricate. Odes to architecture, bus routes and grammar made them one of the year’s most
prolific singles bands, with the likes of A Punk, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa become radio playlist staples.
2008 was the year of electro, and anyone who was anyone was name checking MGMT, Metronomy and Late Of The Pier, but it was Foals who
kick-started the indie-dance craze.
An icy cool debut, it was effortlessly chaotic. Part Devo, part Gang Of Four, the band became the soundtrack to the Skins generation, and Balloons, French Open and Two Steps Twice echoed around Shoreditch for most of the year.
Jenny Lewis Acid Tongue
Jenny Lewis had a lot of live up to with the follow up to her first solo record, Rabbit Fur Coat. A sharp diversion from the college rock sound
of her former band Rilo Kiley, she submerged herself in country and Americana and the result was an accomplished, if slightly schizophrenic record.
Highlights include Carpetbagger, a Krauss/Plant-esque duet with Elvis Costello, the stomping country ho-down of The Next Messiah and
campfire tear-jerker Acid Tongue.
TOP FIVE SINGLES
MIA Paper Planes
Paper Planes had two releases this year. The first, back in February was low-key, and established it as an underground classic reworking of the
Clash’s Straight To Hell. The second, in October, saw it catapulted into the public conscious – it became a worldwide hit, an anthem for
Its chilling gunshot/cash register bass lines scored the dancefloor princess her biggest hit to date – one of the most memorable, cross-over
tracks of the year.
Hot Chip Ready For The Floor
It was a great year for Hot Chip – they graduated from club band to headlining the likes of Brixton Academy, and this single was the one
that sealed the deal.
Reportedly turned down by Kylie, it became a disco classic. Vulnerable, spooked vocals with sophisticated, but accessible blips and bleeps
electro, it was hard not to fall in love with.
Tindersticks Hungry Saw
Tindersticks have never been a singles band. Their creeping, unsettling sound plays to much better effect over an album, but this, their
first new track for five years, changed all that.
Despite the ever morbid subject matter, it was more immediate than their previous work - percussion-heavy and, for Tindersticks, positively jaunty. It might not have pleased fans, but it was a glimpse of a poppier Tindersticks that sadly wasn’t followed up with their album of the same name, also released this year.
The Long Blondes Century
Midas man of pop, Erol Alkan gave The Long Blondes’ second album a sprinkling of glittery, disco magic. The noughties answer to Kenickie, it was a pop masterpiece and the first single taken from it announced their comeback, loud and proud.
Singer Kate Jackson did her best Blondie impression, and it felt far less self-conscious than their first record. Good, throwaway pop fun.
Edwyn Collins Home Again
Before he suffered a massive brain haemorrhage three years ago, the former Orange Juice front man wrote this eerily prophetic song. A
beautiful ballad that reduced most of the crowd at his Shepherds Bush Empire gig to tears, it’s further proof that while his sudden illness
may have effected his speech and movement, nothing will take away the edgy, distinctive voice of the 80s indie scene.
A celebration of his continual recovery, it shows Collins at the top of his game.