Best gigs and albums of 2008

Time Out London's music critics look back at the best albums, gigs and tracks of 2008

  • Best gigs and albums of 2008

    Leonard Cohen's show was one of this year's great events

  • Rock and pop albums

    1. Elbow

    The Seldom Seen Kid

    FictionIt’s about time Elbow got the recognition, status and free ice creams they deserve. Although, to be honest, even we’re surprised that this came out top of the tops in our poll. 2. Vampire Weekend

    Vampire Weekend

    XLThe preppy Brooklyn Afrobeat-indie-pop-‘Gracelands’-tribute outfit’s debut remains a stereo favourite. 3. Fucked Up

    The Chemistry of Modern Life

    MatadorHardcore punk is reinvented once again, and takes a culturally relevant, viscerally exciting new shape. 4. Fuck Buttons

    Street Horrrsing

    ATPObscene names obviously give you an in-built advantage at Time Out Mansions, although these post-rock-electro-types couldn’t be more different to their sweary competition.

    5. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

    Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!

    MuteAnother slab of goth-blues brilliance, this time injected with a dose of post-Grinderman libidinousness. 6. Portishead


    UniversalThe idle Bristolians’ unexpected comeback didn’t try too hard to show that the band had ‘taken a journey’ – and was all the sweeter for it. 7. Hot Chip

    Made in the Dark

    EMIMelancholy acid-pop masterpiece from the perennially exploratory outfit. 8. Radiohead

    In Rainbows

    Self-releasedIt was free! It introduced the phrase ‘doing a Radiohead’ into popular culture! And, best of all, the songs were their finest since ‘OK Computer’. Actually, best of all, it was free. Until this year, that is. Stupid 2008.9. Wildbirds And Peacedrum


    The Leaf LabelLeftfield, folk-pop twosome for fans of Feist, Fiery Furnaces and flipping good music generally. 10. TV On The Radio

    Dear Science

    4ADAdding a welcome smattering of tunes you can whistle to their renowned pop-skronk was a good idea.

    Jazz, roots and folk albums

    1. EST


    ActEsbjörn Svensson’s posthumously released psychedelic skronk jam was a patchy affair, but contained some of the celebrated pianist’s greatest flights of fantasy. 2. Kasai All-Stars

    In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy by Magic

    Crammed DiscsMillion-piece Congotronic ensemble coined the album title of the year, and the music more than lives up to its enticing promise. 3. Aaron Parks

    Invisible Cinema

    Blue NoteParks rivals Robert Glasper for conjuring exciting new rhythms, as well as melodies, from the old Joanna. 4. Amadou & Mariam

    Welcome to Mali

    BecauseThe loveable Malian duo release more irrepressibly infectious romps across the genre divides.
    5. Matana Roberts

    The Chicago Project

    Central ControlThe most impressive release yet from Magazine man Barry Adamson’s label/collective/movement.


    1. My Bloody Valentine

    Roundhouse, June 21

    Opinion is divided on whether this was a triumph despite or because of the Gitmo-standard noise levels. But the reformed and revitalised shoegaze icons utterly justified their legendary reputation.2. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

    Hammersmith Apollo, May 7

    The worst thing you can say about Cave’s shows are that they’re slightly predictable in their consistent aceness. 3. Leonard Cohen

    Royal Albert Hall, November 17

    Cohen’s O2 residency was one of the year’s great events, but this relatively intimate show framed Len in fittingly elegant surroundings. 4. The Final Terror/TrioVD/Led Bib

    Vortex, August 1

    All right, so this was one of our own gigs (part of the On The Up Festival, to be precise), but it was really, really good. Particularly stunning was TFT’s jazz-noise assault on P-Funk. 5. Stevie Wonder

    O2 Arena, September 11

    Even ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ sounded good. Actually, maybe there was a gas leak.


    1. Ladyhawke

    Dusk til Dawn

    IslandAnother sleeper hit – although as we’ve been spanking the single all year, that may be a lack of foresight on our part. =2. Grace Jones

    Williams' Blood

    Wall Of SoundLeave it to ultimate diva Jones to pull off a career-high single at the age of 60. Our favourite is the Aeroplane mix (now officially available on all formats). =2. Santogold

    LES Artistes

    WarnerOne of the year’s most talked-about acts, and rightly so for once. This was a welcome addition to radio playlists. 3. MGMT

    Time To Pretend

    SonyBMGWill go down as one of the iconic tracks of 2008. Mind you, an older mix was released in 2007 and it’s coming out again in 2009, so maybe not. 4. Estelle

    Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)

    AtlanticEstelle’s abstinence anthem didn’t catch the same heat as ‘American Boy’, but it’s arguably the more memorable tune. 5. The Pity Party

    Yours, That Works

    Self-releasedA tense, febrile and ultimately ecstatic psych-drone classic which won the LA two-piece a lot of fans. None of whom work for record companies. 6. Estelle

    American Boy

    AtlanticThe feelgood hit of the summer announced the breakthrough of a (hopefully) enduring London talent. 7. Ben Allison And Man-Size Safe

    Little Things Run the World

    PalmettoExistentialist double-bass odyssey from the inventive US jazzman.8. Keane


    Universal/IslandOnce upon a time, the appearance of Keane in our annual ‘best-of’ would be a portent on a par with the ravens abandoning the Tower of London. But this single’s really good. 9. MGMT


    SonyBMGA shock double entry for Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarde, with arguably the popular choice for anthem of the year. 10. Florence And The Machine

    Kiss with a Fist

    Moshi MoshiDisproves Andy Capp’s thesis that domestic violence is never entertaining.

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