Saturday, December 6, 2008

The (very) Best of 2008 Pt. 1

Hardcore For Nerds: The Best of 2008 Mixtape, Part 1

Total: 29.9 mins


1. Shooting at Unarmed Men - '------------' ('Peristalsis') - 3:38

2. Ham Sandwich - 'click... click... BOOM!!!' - 3:21

3. ...Who Calls So Loud - 'What I Learned in the C.O.U.M.' - 9:38

4. Vampire Weekend - 'The Kids Don't Stand a Chance' - 4:03

5. Grails - 'The Natural Man' - 4:41

6. Human Bell - 'Ephaphatha (Be Opened)' - 4:40

Hello and welcome to the successor to Hardcore for Nerd's first end of year mix, Zeitgeist: The Mixtape (2007). These are the top six records from the provisional best of 2008 list in the last post. Each one is assigned to a category, some of which categories repeat themselves here or in the other half of the top 12, and some of which are slightly frivolous.

'Runners Up' for each category are included to give some depth to the list, and because it is rather early and I'm working from a provisional end cut, I've included a few extra releases I just discovered from Zen and the Art of Face Punching's new 'Stuff To Get Into' which lays out several excellent punk/hardcore records that had passed me by.

I've discussed all of these records at length in previous posts, so rather than repeating myself as to the descriptions, explanations, exhortations and justifications relating to the albums as a whole I will stick to the particular track at hand. (None of which, by the way, have been repeated from previous mixes) This carefully selected mix, which comes in at just under thirty minutes in length and thus one half of a cassette tape, has - if I do say so myself - a very good flow and sense of coherence, despite its variety of sounds and styles. So do enjoy the second part of the Zeitgeist series, from Hardcore for Nerds...

1. Shooting at Unarmed Men, 'Peristalsis' from Triptych.

(Category: Album of the Year Pt. 1; Contemporary Punk Rock Album of the Year - Runners Up, Fucked Up - Chemistry of Common Life, Failures - s/t, and (if you're in the US) Future of the Left - Curses)

"Your Dear John letter/had grammatical errors/

and failed to mention that you're a cunt

Your Dear John letter/had grammatical errors/

and your spelling was atrocious"

And so begins the third and final disc of Triptych. A heavy, raging song lyrically resonant of Mclusky ('Gareth Brown Says' from Mclusky Do Dallas - "all your friends are cunts/your mother is a ball point pen thief" - though the swearing is mostly a cultural British thing, and not evidence [necessarily] that all Welshmen are misogynists) but still several steps removed musically. As with the rest of the album, it's avant-garde, ironic hardcore; a faster, punker version of Young Widows. And the closing couplet to the song? "It's called peristalsis/ ...fuck off!"

2. Ham Sandwich, 'click... click... BOOM!!!' from Carry the Meek.

(Category: Album of the Year Pt. 2; Irish Album of the Year Pt. 1 - Runners Up, Fight Like Apes - Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion, Jape - Ritual)

It's difficult to follow up the preceding fury without it being something less harsh, but here's the track with the hardest edge from Carry the Meek, anyway. The review in the end-of-year roundup of State wrote of the album, which came in at 24 of 50, that it arrived as fully-formed singles collection. All the songs are stand-out tracks, which is a prime reason for why I think this album is so good. 'click... click.. BOOM!!!' combines in stereo sound deep bass, crushing distortion and a lighter melody, female and male vocals, into a great dynamic pop song. Three justified guitars and great songwriting make for punk-pop, pop-rock, whatever, with real weight.

3. ...Who Calls So Loud, 'What I Learned in C.O.U.M.' from ...Who Calls So Loud.

(Category: 'Real' Screamo Record of the Year - Runners Up, Sinaloa - Oceans and Islands, Loma Prieta - Last City, Suis La Lune - Heir, La Quiete - s/t 7")

A nine-and-a-half minute long screamo song? Yep, that's what defines one of the greatest releases of the year. The true sound of screamo - blurred with some very pedantic and unnecessary descriptions, but having very recognisable and salient features - has been around, and evolving at a reasonable pace, for at least a decade at this stage. Building on the epic mode of preceding band Funeral Diner, ...Who Calls So Loud's debut album is a roller-coaster ride of barely-restrained emotion and technical proficiency, of which 'What I Learned in the C.O.U.M.' is the effective apex, as well as possibly the greatest excesss. As noted just above, there are numerous good screamo releases this year, from across the US and Europe, but this is still my definite favourite. Previously I've oscillated between the US vein of hardcore and 'Euro screamo', searching for the right balance between emotion, melody, speed and technical skill. This year, I think I've found it.

4. Vampire Weekend, 'The Kids Don't Stand a Chance' from Vampire Weekend.

(Category: Indie Album of the Year Pt. 1 - Runners Up, whatever else the cool kids are listening to these days - s/t)

And how to segue between screamo and Vampire Weekend? It's a difficult task, and one I've already attempted; but in this case, I chose a particularly appropriate, somewhat atypical track from everyone's favourite over-hyped indie debut. Seguing from the closing ambient streetsounds of ...Who Calls So Loud', it's the opening, solo rhythm of Vampire Weekend's last song on their album. 'The Kids Don't Stand a Chance' has a softer, looser feel to it than the other tracks, almost as if it's been produced differently from the rest of the album (it hasn't, as far as I know). Lyrically and compositionally, it is in reality just as archly indie - itself a perfectly acceptable quality - as the rest of Vampire Weekend, but to me it gives a certain warm feeling of, say, a Clash record. If you've seen singer Ezra Koenig's very competent appearance as guest vocalist for Fucked Up, you'll know there is an extra dimension to this band. But even the more obvious ones are more than remarkable enough.

5. Grails, 'The Natural Man' from Doomsdayer's Holiday.

(Category: Post-Rock/[un]Conventional Style Album of the Year - Runners Up, Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling, God Is An Astronaut - s/t, The Jimmy Cake - Spectre and Crown)

For this band I have, as in the case of the previous mix, eschewed the typically heavier, more forthright songs from the album, such as 'Reincarnation Blues' and 'Predestination Blues', despite the fact that, on the surface, they are probably closer to the album's intended 'sound' overall. And right from the start, 'Doomsdayer's Holiday' makes it clear that Grails are in take-no-prisoners post-rock mode; ramping it up exponentially from equivalent rockers like 'Silk Rd.' from 2007's Burning Off Impurities. Likewise, I saw an Irish commenter named Void describe the album as "giving post-rock a much-need Gothic metal kick up the arse" which strikes me as an excellent description for Doomsdayer's Holiday. Still, it is in the spaces between noises that I have learned to enjoy Grails - a sort of Zen-like self-abnegation, anticipating the heaviest of riffs in the most minimal of sounds, and finally creating the 'post' somewhat apart from the 'rock', while also merging them together in an extraordinary level of cultural complexity. There's no spoon, either.

6. Human Bell, 'Ephaphatha (Be Opened)' from Human Bell.

(Category: Post-Rock/Post-Hardcore Variation Album of the Year - Runners Up, Zomes - s/t, Have A Nice Life - Deathconsciousness, Young Widows - Old Wounds)

With this album I've taken the opposite approach to Grails, and selected the shortest, brashest track from Human Bell's exquisitely crafted LP of minimalist, instrumental post-rock, a coming together of Andy Heumann (Arboretuem) and Nathan Bell (Lungfish). 'Hanging from the Rafters', from the original mix in April, is probably more representative of the full record. Here, the rhythmic composition of guitars, which defines the whole album, is here swathed in simultaneously ethereal and abrasive trumpet sounds. For fans of the Boom or Abilene - you'll like this.


red said...

Really looking forward to checking
out your mixtape. Thanks for putting it together

gabbagabbahey said...

thank you. hope you enjoy it!