Top 20 Albums of the Year, 2008

In an attempt to branch out and diversify my blog, I thought it would be worthwhile recapping the year gone by and the best Indie/Rock albums released in my humble opinion, starting with:

1. Frank Turner – Love, Ire & Song
A mature, diverse record from the cult hero who is fast becoming the defining songwriter of our generation.
Download: Love, Ire & Song; A Love Worth Keeping and To Take You Home.
2. Fighting With Wire – Man Vs Monster
Snarling, energetic punk-rock from Northern Ireland that makes you feel 16 again – Fighting With Wire finally released the sizzling debut album they had been threatening for 3 years.
Download: The Quiet; Cut The Transmission; All For Nothing.
3. City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love
Alexisonfire guitarist, Dallas Green continues to grow in his own right with this touching acoustic album. I’m still kicking myself that I missed his show at Islington Union Chapel.
Download: As Much As I Ever Could; The Girl; Forgive Me.
4. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
Richly lyrical, ponderous and observational, this record is the beginning of a new era for the man formerly known as Bright Eyes.
Download: Eagle On A Pole; Souled Out!!!; Cape Canaveral.
5. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
A cracking album, packed full of tunes, provided you love, rather than loathe, Caleb Followill’s voice.
Download: Sex On Fire; Crawl; I Want You.
6. Funeral for a Friend – Memory and Humanity
Welsh rockers return to what they do best after a year in the wilderness singing about deep sea fishing, for some reason. Expect riffery and screamage aplenty.
Download: Constant Illuminations; Rules and Games; Waterfront Dance Club
7. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. – Searching For the Hows and Whys
Sam Duckworth’s sophomore effort is overflowing with new ideas and orchestral flourishes, but somehow lacks the earnest charm of his debut.
Download: Moving Forward; Find The Time; Postcards From Cataluña.
8. We Are Scientists – Brain Thrust Mastery
America’s wittiest export, Keith and Chris’ latest album is instantly loveable.
Download: Lethal Enforcer; After Hours; Let’s See It.
9. Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Chris Martin’s voice and lyrics remain charming as ever, as Coldplay’s sound reaches epic proportions. (Disclaimer: may contain stolen Joe Satriani riffs…)
Download: Cemeteries Of London; Death And All His Friends; Lovers In Japan.
10. This Town Needs Guns – Animals
The most technically inspired album I’ve heard in a long time. I can only assume that the guitarist in this Oxford-based quartet has seven fingers on each hand.
Download: Pig; Baboon; Chinchilla.

11. Travis – Ode to J. Smith
12. Thrice – The Alchemy Index, Vols III & IV: Air and Earth
13. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
14. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age of the Understatement
15. The Music – Strength in Numbers
16. Jim Lockey – I’ll Be Neon
17. Senses Fail – Life is not a Waiting Room
18. Weezer – Red Album
19. Bloc Party – Intimacy
20. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

So, it’s been a very acoustic year for me, with four of my top 20 being mostly non-electric. Kerrang! Magazine went with Metallica’s Death Magnetic as their album of the year, but what do they know?!
Now, what can we look forward to in 2009?
The elusive fifth album from Muse is in the pipeline and Idlewild have already entered the studio for a new album. Hundred Reasons are well overdue a return to form, while Biffy Clyro are recording new material. Lostprophets say they will unveil their long awaited fourth record in “April or May”, perhaps we’ll even see some new material from Rage Against The Machine? We can but dream…

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It’s The Planes, Stupid!

We’re all in favour of saving the planet nowadays, just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of our lifestyle.

Beautiful, but unnatural
Beautiful, but unnatural

Recycling and Hybrid cars are all the rage, but who wants to give up flying? … anyone?
This is not a widely publicised way of cutting our carbon footprint, mainly because it’s so damn unpopular. Almost as unpopular as population capping. No-one wants to limit their horizons, we all want to see the world, but cutting back on short-haul flights is seen by many as the single most significant thing we can do to save the environment.
According to my tutor Bibi van der Zee, you could live in a mud hut, eating leaves for sustenance, and one flight a year would undermine all that good work. The melting polar-ice caps have led Bibi to contemplate giving up and accepting the inevitable demise of our fragile eco-system.
But one group that refuse to give up are Plane Stupid. This month they stepped up their protests by controversially breaking into Stansted Airport. Eight of the 49 protesters appeared in Harlow Magistrates’ Court today and, by a lucky co-incidence, I was there to see their case get passed on like a hot potato. The case will now go to Chelmsford Magistrates Court after the Harlow Magistrates refused to even deal with the simple criminal matter of trespassing. Clearly they were scared off by the estimated £2.5m in damages quoted by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Regardless of the outcome, you have to admire the audacity of Plane Stupid and their boldness to take action over what they believe in.
At this point, I feel obliged to play my hypocrite card and admit that I am flying to France next month. I love going snowboarding and don’t want to give it up. But, at the rate things are going I may have to start going further afield to find real snow…

De Menezes Déjà Vu

An innocent victim
An innocent victim

Killing an innocent man on a tube train is not illegal.

That much we have already learnt this week from Sir Michael Wright QC.

Today the jury in the Jean Charles De Menezes case returned an open verdict, but I can’t help but wonder if, given the chance, they would have plumped for a verdict of unlawful killing.

There has been considerable fallout from the Jean Charles De Menezes inquest, with pertinent details coming to light every day. Last year the BBC put together a great step-by-step reconstruction of the events of 22 July 2005, which really brings the story to life. You can map the movements of the officers right down to the final actions.  For example, a surveillance officer failed to identify De Menezes as he was leaving his flat, because the officer in question was ‘relieving himself’ as the BBC so tactfully puts it. But, the main question people have been asking is will this happen again?

Well, I don’t think it’s a great leap to argue that it already has. Last week.

The case of David Sycamore may not garner  quite as much sympathy as that of Jean Charles De Menezes. He cannot be described as innocent in the same way – he was armed (albeit with an imitation firearm) and he was mentally unstable. But several of the excuses that have been put forward by Cressida Dick in response to the De Menezes case do not apply. We are not directly reeling from a major terrorist attack anymore and David Sycamore was not a suspected suicide bomber.

In such circumstances, should there be a shoot to kill policy? Understandably Sycamore was identified as a dangerous suspect, but surely there are less fatal ways of neutralising the threat he posed to the public. Attack dogs or Tasers for example? Once again the suspect was allowed to travel through a public area before the police finally made their move. Again we have to ask – if he was so dangerous, why was he not dealt with sooner?

The final moments of David Sycamore’s life are tinged with irony – his family says that he used to go to Guildford Cathedral to find inner peace. The image of a man gunned down on Cathedral steps at 3pm on a Sunday can hardly do the Police’s image any favours.

Once again, the IPCC have been called in to investigate. Once they deliver their findings, it hope this horrific story will get the mainstream coverage it deserves. But at the end of the day, I would not be surprised no decisive action was taken. This is certainly one case I’ll be watching with a keen eye.