It's been a pretty good year for music according to my ears, and I've struggled to prioritise my top 5. The fifth place provided the most struggle and I narrowed it down to two albums I've overplayed and am currently on hiatus from - TV On The Radio and Vampire Weekend. I suspect they will both remain firm favourites, but song for song I'm going to have to bump Vampire Weekend into 6th place. Other notable mentions go to No Age (fuzzed up easy listening), Silver Jews (these guys finally clicked for me), Tapes and Tapes (an uncut diamond marred by shoddy production), Tindersticks (a comeback I would have betted against), The Wedding Present (it's all fours) and White Denim (lo-fi grandeur).
5. TV On The Radio - Dear, Science
Building on all the promise of their previous records, this one delivered a pretty flawless set of songs, all building of each other and rising to a great finale.
4. Ladyhawk - Shots
"Ladyhawke is in the toilet, she'll be here in a minute" joked band leader Duffy Driediger, as the original Ladyhawk launched into an awesome show at the Borderline - cementing beer-swilling, hard-rocking second-album Shots into a place in my list. No frills rock, with a lot of personality.
3. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
On paper, this record had to stink. Who wants to listen to the same gags over and over again? In reality, every song provides a remarkable understanding of music history, picking just the right sounds to serve the story - with so many jokes you hear a new one every time. Never, ever fails to light up Chimp HQ on a dreary day.
2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Another one that may have been temporarily overplayed, but this 70's throwback has been a pretty remarkable debut. Almost slipping unnoticed when it arrived in the office, it has been a solid player all year and I can't help but feel like it's greatness will soon be overshadowed by an even better follow-up. Unless they crack under the pressure.
1. Black Mountain - In The Future
Since it arrived on my desk in December 2007, In The Future has held the top spot for the year - and it still shows no sign of slipping. After a debut and a few side projects that paved the way, this was somehow exactly the record I expected and it never fails to impress me. Every note, every riff, every drum fill is just when and where I want it.
Some musical clangers for 2008: MMJ - Evil Urges (so disappointing), Weezer - Red Album, Breeders - Mountain Battles (only a semi-clanger), Kings of Leon - Only By The Night.
Best Songs: Portishead - The Rip, Port O'Brien - Close The Lid, Catfish Haven - Set In Stone, Fleet Foxes - Your Protector (for keeping BW running, if nothing else).
Best Gigs: Black Mountain rocked hard (again) at The Scala, Davin Berman's Silver Jews thoroughly proved their worth at ULU, Ladyhawk + The Dudes led the Canadian invasion at The Borderline, Oxford Collapse went under-appreciated at The Windmill and Jim James brightly shone a small light for the future of MMJ.
Live Clangers: Ween were truly disappointing.
Best Movies: In Bruges was a must-see despite an awful trailer, Iron Man andThe Dark Knight proved pretty solid superhero action, while This Is England and Dead Man's Shoes proved to be overlooked gems. Perhaps the biggest shock was the fact that the Sex And The City movie didn't totally suck - and in fact addressed the TV shows many shortcomings to make for a great movie.
Movie Clangers: Indiana Jones was as forgettable as you hoped it wouldn't be, while Somerstown didn't follow it's siblings in quality. There Will Be Blood did follow it's predecessors, with style over substance.
TV: The Wire came to a fantastic finale, Entourage continued to provide lifestyle envy, Breaking Bad took an original direction, Mad Men provided some slow-burning drama, while Summer Heights High provided some simple laughs. Undeclared and Freaks & Geeks finally caught my attention this year, wishing I'd caught both much earlier.
TV Clangers: Heroes just gets more and more contrived.
As a final note, headline of the year goes to chimpovich, regarding Men Called Him Mister's support slot for Foals in Madrid: "Band of Small Horses"