My top five musical miscellanea of 2008
Every year, as I finish up my mandatory end-of-year lists I'm struck by the fact that each year, some of my most interesting, influential and important musical experiences find themselves homeless, unlisted and unknown. Everyone wants to know the top releases of the year, top shows and similar, obvious categories. But what about the other stuff? The stuff that weighed heavily in my musical mind, yet don't fit into any of these neat, familiar categories? Well, thanks to the power of blog, where space is unlimited and talk is cheap, this year I bring you my top five list of musical miscellanea, a list of stuff that fits no other lists.
- Synthesizer driven movie scores - I was really, really into horror movies this year, and the minimalist, synthesizer driven scores that many of them sport definitely influenced my musical tastes. I particularly loved the score for Lucio Fulci's Zombie and various works by John Carpenter.
- Chiptunes - My love of video games and raw, electronic timbres combined with childhood nostalgia to add fuel to the fire sparked by several excellent chiptunes-related releases. The result was I spent a lot of time this year listening to, reading about, thinking about and obsessing over the stuff. Not sure what the hell a chiptune even is? Try visiting Blipfest for a primer.
- Sweden - What is it about this little Scandinavian country that allows them to produce so much cool music? Right before my Swedish buddy Andre left the U.S. to return home, he gave me a handful of releases of his favorite homeland bands, including stuff that's made it here, like Jose Gonzalez (how is that a Swedish guy's name?) and stuff that hasn't, like the very cool Swedish band Kent, who sound a bit like OK Computer era Radiohead, only all in Swedish. I spent a lot of time this year going through the stuff he left me and bugging him for more recommendations.
- Record Production Month - This year was the second annual Record Production Month Challenge, a challenge to musicians to write and record an album in just one month. Like many music writers, I dabble in music myself, so three friends joined me and we wrote, recorded and submitted an album to the challenge. The constrained timeframe was really quite useful, as it was the first time any of us had ever managed to actually produce something like a finished product, and it gave me a lot of insight into the pressures that real, working musicians must face on a regular basis, albeit on a much smaller scale. Getting four guys together to collaborate and record, then agreeing on the final mixes, plus all the ephemera like track names, song order and the like is quite a process. I salute those who deal with it on a regular basis.
- Old music - Judging by the depth of these year-end lists, you'd think music writers only ever listen to the newest stuff. And honestly, sometimes it feels that way. But I made a point this year to take time to enjoy stuff from the past, such as going on a two-week Bauhaus kick, or the '80s synthpop revivial I staged in response to all the love Cut Copy was getting, to see if it was as good or better than the original issue (it's not, not by a long shot), or even the fact that my favorite record of this year was actually one I somehow overlooked last year, Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals. The nature of these lists precludes paying homage to the stuff from years past, but the truth is, I spent at least as much time with old music as this year's releases.
So that's it for me. How about you? What non-list-friendly items were important to you musically this year? The comments section awaits your contributions. -- Cory Casciato
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