10. Malcolm Middleton – Sleight Of Heart
Quite why the former Arab Strap man’s fourth solo album slipped under most people’s radar is a bit of mystery to us. Unlike A Brighter Beat, which came out in 2007, Sleight Of Heart is very much a stripped back affair. With acoustic guitar the predominant instrument of choice, Middleton’s black-humour lyrics – by far his most recognisable trait – get a welcome place in the spotlight.
4 Follow Robin Down
9. The Cave Singers – Invitation Songs
We defy you to listen to opening track Seeds Of Night and not be utterly beguiled. The first thing that hits you is Pete Quirk’s earthy voice, yearning and aching with character. The Cave Singers may be from Seattle but their bluegrass-rock sound is steeped in romantic, rural Americana. Invitation Songs is one of those appropriately obscure but accessible albums you’ll put on at social gatherings to impress the music know-it-alls.
4 Seeds Of Night
8. Jack’s Mannequin – The Glass Passenger
Seeing as Jack’s Mannequin’s 2005 debut album Everything In Transit is a work of perfection, its much-anticipated successor could never be good enough for us. Band leader Andrew McMahon opted to subtly change direction with more of an even split between piano and guitar-based rock, although The Glass Passenger is slightly too long at 14 tracks. But when it hits the mark (Crashing, Drop Out – The So Unknown, Caves, Miss California) it’s simply irresistible.
4 Crashing and Miss California in The Best Songs of 2008
7. Pete & The Pirates – Little Death
Given that we had absolutely no expectations of Reading quintet Pete & The Pirates, their debut album Little Death probably counts as the most surprising record to have found its way into our top 10. Imagine the Pixies gone pop, or the thrill of the first time you heard Franz Ferdinand, and stir in a gallon of hooks, melodies and an endearing lack of pretension.
4 Knots6. Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends
It’s a long, long time since it was last cool to like Coldplay, but that will never stop us giving credit where due. Like every Coldplay record it had the odd weak moment – namely Lost! and Yes – but you need only look at the heavyweights who released disappointing albums this year (The Killers, Snow Patrol, Razorlight, REM, Travis) to realise that form is temporary and class is permanent when it comes to songcraft.
4 Lovers In Japan and Death And All His Friends in The Best Songs of 2008
5. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
The recordings don’t come close to capturing the energy of the Vampire Weekend live sound but how could you deny this album is anything other than pure, unbridled fun. If the New Yorkers didn’t become as huge as they did this year we’d probably have given up on The Pop Cop and found a new hobby. Thankfully humankind appreciates Vampire Weekend every bit as much as we thought they ought to.
4 Mansard Roof
4. Hello Saferide – More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide
When we founded the Music Alliance Pact we were hoping our Swedish counterparts would introduce the incredible genius of Hello Saferide to the world. We’re still waiting. Thankfully, Annika Norlin’s second album gives us the perfect opportunity to let you know what you’re missing out on – heavenly melodies, songwriting of rare wit and charm and three-minute pop classics. In short, the greatest music from Scandinavia since ABBA.
4 Travelling With HS
3. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
Anyone who claims they saw this coming is a liar. The New Jersey rock group barely caused a ripple with their debut album Sink Or Swim, so the fact they returned just 15 months later with The ’59 Sound makes their story even more incredible. It’s the sort of record that begs the use of adjectives like classic and timeless. OK, so pretty much everybody these days is ripping off Bruce Springsteen, but even The Boss would be proud to have made an album as good as The ’59 Sound.
4 The ’59 Sound in The Best Songs of 2008
2. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
Nope, your eyes don’t deceive you, it’s not our No.1. But trust us, there wasn’t much in it. The Midnight Organ Fight races the pulse and stirs emotions in ways that only the greatest pop music can. The album is just as much about growing up as it is about breaking up. From rough diamonds on the Glasgow circuit, Selkirk’s Frightened Rabbit suddenly became the band everybody wanted to root for – and rightfully so. It was way back in August 2007 that Frightened Rabbit gave their first interview about the landmark album to The Pop Cop, before frontman Scott Hutchison revisited The Midnight Organ Fight in depth in February ahead of its release. Having Frightened Rabbit in our lives has made it immeasurably better.
4 I Feel Better and Fast Blood in The Best Songs of 2008
1. Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Let’s put into perspective just what Sigur Rós did here. They conjured up their most inventive, fascinating album after a career spanning 14 years and four previous studio records. Despite singing almost entirely in their native Icelandic tongue their words still manage to transcend the barriers of language, every syllable of emotion intact. Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust transports you to an enchanting, extraordinary place in a way that the best books and films do. It captures the sound of euphoria, the innocence of youth, the magic of dreams.
4 Við Spilum Endalaust and Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur in The Best Songs of 2008
Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust is a worthy successor to The National’s Boxer as our best album of the year. Sigur Rós are notoriously media-shy but Jón Birgisson (vocals and guitar), Orri Páll Dýrason (drums), Georg Hólm (bass) and Kjartan Sveinsson (keyboards) were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to accept The Pop Cop’s award for 2008 and have a brief chat with us.
THE POP COP: Hello Sigur Rós. We’ve picked Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust as our Best Album of 2008. Here’s your award.
JÓN: It’s really nice! Thank-you.
[Jón shows plaque to Orri, Georg and Kjartan, who all make excited noises to each other in Icelandic]
JÓN: What’s the new Mogwai album like? I haven’t heard it yet.
THE POP COP: It’s rubbish.
[Band agree to pose for a photo before Georg leaves the room to make a call on his mobile]
THE POP COP: You’ve made our favourite album of the year. Is it your favourite Sigur Rós album?
KJARTAN: We don’t really have a favourite. You just work on the album you’re working on.
THE POP COP: Do you like getting awards?
KJARTAN: Yes, of course. It’s nice for what we do to be appreciated.
THE POP COP: Do you read blogs or take an interest in what people write about you?
THE POP COP: Has the Icelandic financial crisis affected Sigur Rós directly?
KJARTAN: It affects everybody in a way.
ORRI: Not directly.
[This prompts a burst of debate among the band, possibly about somebody they know who has indeed been affected directly. They’re speaking to each other in Icelandic… they could be talking about the Jonas Brothers for all we know]
THE POP COP: What are your thoughts on playing gigs in Scotland?
JÓN: There’s good people, a good energy.
KJARTAN: We really liked the Connect festival.
THE POP COP: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
JÓN: Good luck with your blog.