Best Of 2008: Hidden Treasures

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PETER ADAMS
I Woke With Planets In My Face [Subcircle]
rec_peter-adamsThe second straight bedroom-recording masterpiece by DIY wunderkind Peter Adams consists of psychedelic pop channeled through layers of orchestration. It may seem a ridiculous overstatement, but perhaps the best analogue for Adams’ talent is Paul McCartney circa Ram: a guy brave enough to celebrate both small pleasures and big melodies. [peteradamsmusic.com]

“Ziggurat”

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COBRA VERDE
Haven’t Slept All Year
[Scat]
cobraverdesay_3Most MAGNET readers are familiar with Cobra Verde, the Cleveland glam-rock outfit that served under Guided By Voices headmaster Robert Pollard on 1997’s Mag Earwhig!. A casualty of its November release date, Haven’t Slept All Year is half party animal (featuring Dirtbombs-like garage-rock stomps), half heart-on-sleeve pop (the album title refers to frontman John Petkovic’s insomnia brought on by family tragedy). [cobraverde.com]

“Something About The Bedroom”

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THE DONKEYS
Living On The Other Side [Dead Oceans]
donkeys-1On first listen, you’ll be thinking that the world doesn’t need another Beachwood Sparks. Like their Nudie-suited L.A. forebears, the San Diego-based Donkeys get their cosmic-country kicks from knocking off the Byrds and Neil Young. Even if the Donkeys aren’t reinventing this particular wagon wheel, singer/drummer Sam Sprague has a better voice—higher, lonesomer and prettier than the sun setting over the chaparral—than any of those guys. [myspace.com/thedonkeys]

“Gone Gone Gone”

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18TH DYE
Amorine Queen [Crunchy Frog]
18thdyeThis Danish/German trio is mainly known in the U.S. as a footnote in the Matador Records catalog (two albums and an EP from 1994-95) and a doppelgänger of former labelmates Yo La Tengo. So while 18th Dye’s return after a 12-year hiatus wasn’t headline news, Amorine Queen is capable of turning heads. The album is far more lively and anthemic than the band’s ’90s output; its extra-crunchy guitars and guy/girl vocals occasionally recall the brilliance of Last Splash-era Breeders. [myspace.com/18thdye]

“Go ’N’ Go”

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EL TEN ELEVEN
These Promises Are Being Videotaped [Fake Record Label]
elten2Instrumental dance rock doesn’t begin and end with studio rats Ratatat. Los Angeles duo El Ten Eleven has also discovered the joy of looping wanky guitar riffs that could’ve been lifted from Polvo or Van Halen and whipping them into a disco frenzy. These Promises Are Being Videotaped’s darkwave version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” should’ve been included on the WALL•E soundtrack. [elteneleven.com]

“Jumping Frenchmen Of Maine”

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THE GANG
Zero Hits [Absolutely Kosher]
gang-250pxThe members of Brooklyn-based jangle-prog outfit the Gang don’t so much play their instruments as they do crash them into one another. The resulting frenzy sounds like the Feelies covering Graceland: an overcaffeinated shout-along exercise with terrifically mangled song structures. Possibly the worst-sounding recording of 2008, Zero Hits is a shit-fi masterpiece. [absolutelykosher.com]

“Sea So”

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HOT LAVA
Lavalogy
[Bar/None]
hotlava115bApropos of this Richmond, Va., quintet’s name, debut album Lavalogy sounds like it’s melting. From behind a fuzz-saturated wall of surf-rock guitar, toy instruments, Casio-grade drum beats and gimmicky b-movie sound effects, Allison Apperson comes across like a fourth member of famously wobbly sounding ’60s girl group the Shaggs as she sings about mummies and computer graphics. [bar-none.com]

“Mummy Beach”

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LOVE AS LAUGHTER
Holy
[Epic]
lal100How can a major-label release be considered a hidden treasure? When the label seemingly only issued the record as a favor to Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock. Holy is like a Stephen Malkmus album minus the overwrought guitar solos and lyrics; you’re only left with a laconic weed-rock vibe that gets ever more trenchant under the blacklight glow from frontman Sam Jayne’s slow-burning electric-folk epics. [loveaslaughter.net]

“Crosseyed Beautiful Youngunz”

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SHIBBOLETH
Experiment In Error
[Idol]
shibboleth-experror-340pxLike Calexico’s goofy cousins, Dallas instrumental band Shibboleth repeatedly raids the Tex-Mex and spaghetti Western genres. There’s no pretense of Cormac McCarthy desert-noir cool here, however, and Shibboleth has fun by crossing many more musical borders. Sometimes veering into calliope and easy listening, Experiment In Error is space-age bachelor-pad music that won’t get you laid. [goshibbolethgo.com]

“The 1912 Horsey Rebellion”

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SLEEPING IN THE AVIARY
Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel
[Science Of Sound]
rec_averyBeating on pawn-shop acoustic guitars and trashcan lids while whooping it up about all the joys and pains of being young, dumb and awkward, this ramshackle four-piece takes its cue from fellow Wisconsin misfits the Violent Femmes on its sophomore album. At times, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel‘s lo-fi shittiness is so raw it sounds like the band is busking in a high-school bathroom, but somehow the wheels stay on this mess of charming melodies and mischievous wit. [sleepingintheaviary.com]

“Write On”

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