[sic] Magazine

Simon Higgs’ Top Ten Records of 2008

1. Retribution Gospel Choir- Self Titled (Aural Exploits)
I absolutely love Low, possibly in an unhealthy un-objective way so picking up the Alan Sparhawk side project release at a Low gig earlier in the year was unsurprising. Some of Alan’s previous side project guitar noodlings have left me pretty cold. This however was different. Basically Low with all of Mr. Sparhawk’s rage unbound rather than repressed.

2. De Kift – Hoofdkaas (Phantom Sound & Vision)
De Kift’s 20 year anniversary album emotionally celebrating food, drink, love and a little despair continued the seemingly relentless output this fantastic Dutch band. Impossible to pigeon hole musically and writers of some of the most wonderfully poetic lyrics you will ever hear, (if you speak Dutch or at least have a handy translation), the De Kit family, (and indeed they are all related…even elderly dad playing the trumpet and mum doing the merchandise at gigs), make staggeringly wonderful music. If you have any sort of musical soul I dare you not to appreciate the De Kift phenomena at some level.

NB Look out the series of 7 inch split releases with Calexico, Franz Ferdinand, (love and destroy), Zita Swoon, Monofocus and De Rondos.

3. Peter Broderick- Float (Type)
The more I listen to the Efterklang collaborators second solo outing the more it got under my skin. Beautifully understated music for cold weather.

4. Murcof – Versaille Sessions (Leaf)
Once again, after being hypnotised by Murcof live in 2008 and loving the fantastic ‘Cosmos’, Fernando Corona continues to push the boundaries with his stunning soundscapes. Beautiful and sometimes terrifying, headphones on, volume up and prepare to be taken to another place and time if you have one speck of imagination.

5. Melt Banana- Bambi’s Dilemma (A-Zap Records)
Ok, a 2007 release but I purchased this rather late so…… Those of you who know me at least a little will be aware of my fascination with Japanese hardcore and particularly Melt Banana. After a gap of four years since the more accessible ‘Cellscape’ this now 15 year old outfit returned with something which I’m guessing may have been a bit of a compromise to appease the fans of earlier, more aggressive material and the new fanbase generated by Cellscape. So a bit of a mix between the two and damn enjoyable it is too.

6. Rivulets – You are my Home (O Rosa)
Yndi Halda’s James Vella and his O’Rosa record label had some serious manufacture and distribution problems this year, (or was that just me!), so my copy of this came after seeing Nathan Amundson play to a near empty venue in Brighton in November, (thanks again to the wonderful Monica for putting the show on though). Maybe it’s easy to simply pigeonhole Nathan among the plethora of singer/songwriters putting out similar material but I think he is a cut above. The musical subtleties buried in this record and the lovely contributions from the likes of Christian Fredrickson from Rachel’s and Bob Weston from Shellac, make it worth repeated listens. Heart melting stuff. All power to James for putting this and some other stunning music out there in 2008.

7. Bon Iver – For Emma Ago (4AD)
In two minds whether to include this here. I have to admit that I did not like this record at all at first. A friend recommended it to me before the hype really hit and on first listen I was slightly irritated. As is often the case with me a live outing completely changed my feelings about Bon Iver, hence its appearance here.

8. A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band –
Thirteen Blues for Thirteen Moons (Constellation)

What I thought was more evidence of a slight moving away from the expected ASMZ formulae, (how arrogant of me), but this did the trick for me. I like the fact that Efrim is increasingly vocalising his mistrust of the world and the notion of individual responsibility. This record just reinforces my feeling that ASMZ are as punk rock as anything I listened to in the late seventies.

“Sometimes there’s abandoned baby who claims to help. Powers the province of impotent pricks. There ain’t no arguing. But sometimes there are policemen in parallel lines”

From the stunning final track, ‘Some Hearts Are True’

9. Lazarus Clamp – Death to Technicians (Cleverlegs)
Keeping going for fifteen years while largely being ignored by the press, labels promoters etc etc can’t be easy. Still this Midlands genre hopping band with various lineups still for me has huge appeal. Shifting gear through irascible math-rock, haunting country, quirky pop, ferocious post-punk and folky lo-fi this is not everyone’s cup of tea but has been played a lot in my house. It also contains a couple of the most biting relationship songs I’ve heard so if you’ve just suffered an acrimonious breakup this one is for you.

10. I’m sorry but I’m not going to put a number 10. Instead there need to be a few honourable mentions in the 10 slot.

– The wonderful Calvin Party , (album Goddards Girlfriend), a nineties favourite of mine who came back into my life. One of Manchester’s finest and bloody entertaining band live.

Stephen Burch aka The Great Park , the friendliest singer songwriter in the Southern hemisphere and his self released EP The Hills Are Alive (Woodland Recordings)

– Once again a Great Park/Woodland connected artist Birdengine who on a couple of occasions this year had me feeling slightly strange. Beautifully unique stuff.

(NB Thanks to both of them for putting up with the shitty Chichester audience!)

– The fact that I’ve not put Bonnie Prince Billy in the list despite three releases this year all of which I quite like.

– Being mesmerised by Scotland’s Gareth Dickson’s guitar playing both live and on his EP “Spruce Goose”

– The London based band Instruments (make music) who put the fun back into math rock for me with their 08 EP on Unlabel (long may they continue) and made me smile a lot during a live performance at IAMJOY

A Genuine Freakshow for demonstrating that the whole vocal/strings post rock thing could still be done beautifully well and enjoyed- evening a Chichester pub.

Get your free CD and watch out for a 2009 release and book them if you have a place to do so.