Features

2008 Critics Poll Part 2

In this final installment of the ‘Mess+Noise’ annual critics poll, we reveal the top five albums of 2008. Drum roll, please …


5. ii
Landlakes
(Feral Media)

I don’t understand this sort of music. I don’t even know what to call it, categorically-speaking. One friend suggested the phrase ?experimental?. Another suggested ?ambient?. The word ?electronica? was used there somewhere as well. I don’t know which to use or ignore, or if all or none apply. I don’t really care. Landlakes is, quite simply, a beautiful album of beautiful music, regardless of classification. This is lucky, because I still can’t find the right words to explain it, more than a year after I was handed an unmastered copy with the title scrawled in black on a disc without a case, and told nothing of what to expect.

It’s not at all surprising that ii have made their way into this list. At times melting quietly into the background, to the point that it’s almost forgotten, at others, sneaking to the fore with sweet near-melodies, Landlakes is a glorious release, and one that still has me perplexed. I wish I could write something so much better to describe this album – a point-by-point analysis of every song, every emotion it prompts – but perhaps it’s best that I can’t. It could just be my own limitations, but I like to think that this wordlessness says so much more than something arranged in size 14 Georgia ever could. These aren’t songs – this is just music. And I still don’t have the words for it. – A.H. Cayley


4. Eddy Current Suppression Ring
Primary Colours
(Aarght! Records)

When asked how Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s sophomore record Primary Colours* differed from their adored debut, guitarist Mikey Young offered this pragmatic response: ?More ?82 than ?76.? While there are no gated drums or new wave textures here, there is certainly evidence of a band broadening its palette. The slow-building stadium rock of *Colour Television, the nod to Neu! on ?I Admit My Faults?, the pop playfulness of ?We’ll Be Turned On?, the poignancy of ?Wrapped Up? where Brendan Suppression actually ?sings?.
When most expected more of the same garage-rock (and quite frankly, we would’ve been grateful for it), Eddy Current showed their range, releasing an album of 10 diverse cuts, each as good as the next. Heck, it was even acknowledged by those irrelevant, out-of-touch industry types at ARIA. – Darren Levin


3. Beaches
Beaches
(Mistletone)

Beaches started 2008 as very much an unknown quantity, but ended it on a high, with a widely-lauded album and a slot on the main stage at Meredith, in advance of their appearance at next year’s Big Day Out.

Their self-titled album is densely layered but crystal clear. The heavier guitar jams collide nicely with tunes featuring sweetly voiced nature-based lyrics sung over a fluid instrumental base. This is music to get lost in, not tied down by. The fact that it was being made by a pool of women moonlighting from other bands seemed to throw some folks, however, and this aspect filled valuable column inches that could have been better used to discuss the music itself – Trevor Block


2. The Drones
Havilah
(All Tomorrow’s Parties)

We still love The Drones, despite their mouthing-off about [“useless”](http://www.messandnoise.com/news/3404868) music critics this year. Perhaps the Melbourne four-piece are getting a bit frustrated by their status as the country’s biggest underground band – a curious honour that translates to roughly sweet fuck-all in monetary terms – while obnoxious Idol stars question [why anybody would bother playing pub gigs at all](http://www.messandnoise.com/news/3409773).

The group’s fourth album Havilah* is hardly going to change any of that, but, well … that’s kind of the point. It’s another brilliant album of splintered rock’n?roll and morbid country ballads that is as likely to thrust the band into the mainstream as I am to rush out and watch *High School Musical 3*. It is music for people who want pop songs to make them wonder and cry and lash out instead of sending them to sleep. In many ways *Havilah* is as vital as its predecessor *Gala Mill*, the record that topped the *Mess+Noise Critics Poll in 2006 – ferocious, beautiful and challenging. – Andrew Ramadge.


1. Snowman
The Horse, The Rat and The Swan
(Dot Dash)

Snowman’s second album, The Horse, The Rat and The Swan*, may owe little sonic debt to *Rumours* and *16 Lover’s Lane, but it’s imbued with the same combustible energy of a band on the verge of falling apart. Such was the all-consuming nature of writing these songs, that Snowman actually split up while recording them, only to reform, finish it up and relocate from Perth to London.

Written collaboratively in the band’s inner-city share house, The Horse, The Rat and The Swan* saw the band shake off comparisons to The Cramps and their brand of spooky swamp-rock. Brutal, paranoid, intense, ethereal – this was a sound wholly their own. There are moments on *The Horse, The Rat and The Swan that threaten to swallow you whole. The last 45 seconds of ?The Gods of the Upperhouse?, for example, where ?We are machines!? is repeated like a mantra over clanging mechanical noise.

In a year that saw environmental concerns subsumed by economic chaos, Snowman’s ominous vision never rang so true. If this is what the end of the world sounds like: apocalypse now. – Darren Levin

Snowman’s [response to the result](/articles/3449422): ?These sorts of things will keep us going.?

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####Compiled from the votes of: Adam D Mills, Matt Giles, Trevor Block, Patrick Emery, Dom Alessio, Tim Scott, Daniel Herborn, Carl Dixon, Ben Gook, Lawson Fletcher, Darren Levin, A.H. Cayley, Danny Bos, Andrew Ramadge, Rene Schaefer.