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The 2008 Tulley Awards - International Mixtape Project
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The 2008 Tulley Awards

With seemingly millions of year-end music round-ups floating around the blogosphere, you are probably asking yourself, "Why should I listen to this dude?" Well, let me give you a small glimpse into my mixtape world: my Drobo array storage drive currently contains 28,144 mp3 files. For those keeping score at home, that amounts to about 85 days of music—I could set my music collection to random on Thanksgiving and play it non-stop without hearing a single repeat until after Valentine's Day. Like everyone else, I use iTunes to track my collection. However, I'm a true obsessive mixtaper, so the standard software presets don't satisfy my need for control. For instance, I overrode Apple's traditional five-star rating system with my own JavaScript files so I can finetune my ratings to the half-star. I can, with the touch of a button at any given moment, play my favorite songs of the last six months.

Unfortunately for me, I probably take organizing and rating my music collection more seriously than I take my day job. Fortunately for you, I'm happy to share my findings with friends and strangers alike, and the International Mixtape Project is the perfect place to build my audience…I mean network. Despite what many other reviewers have said, 2008 was a fantastic year for music fans. So, without further ado, here are this superfan's year-end awards: the 2008 Tullies!

Easiest Album to Underestimate
Electric Six - Flashy

At first blush, Detroit's Electric Six seem easy to dismiss as just a gimmick band a la Bloodhound Gang (not that there's anything wrong with that). But on their 2008 album, they champion the grand pop 'n' roll tradition of party rock by effectively adding electronics and dance elements to the mix. "Making Progress" was an unexpected and very welcome surprise.

Album I Liked Despite My Best Efforts
Ladytron - Velocifero

Over the past few years, I've tired of bands usually described as 'in the tradition of' classic bands. To me, Ladytron don't simply sound influenced by the British electro-pop bands of the 1980s, they sound perfectly derivative of New Order and their ilk. Once I gave them a chance, though, I found their fuzzy dream pop sound a valuable addition to my mixes. Moreover, their dual female vocals proved to be both novel and enduring. Not many albums can overcome the kind of prejudices and preconceptions typical of a superfan.

Album I Tried the Most to Like Without Success
Eagles of Death Metal - Heart On

I adore these guys, and wanted with all my heart to like this album. I even put a photo of singer Jesse Hughes in his tighty whities on my wall for good luck, but it just didn't work. The grimy sleaze-rock is still there, but, other than standout track "High Voltage," their newest album sounded like it was recorded on autopilot.

Biggest Surprise
Negativeland - Thigmotactic

This is a band whose name I had heard many times over the years, but to whom I had never found the time to listened. For some reason, I had them logged in my brain as a noise band in the Einsturzende Neubaten mold, although their sound is much closer to the freewheeling genre workouts of Ween. I promise you won't get bored of this album anytime soon.

Biggest Disappointment
Megapuss - Surfing

After I heard the first song, I was ready for the best album of the decade. Sorry, didn't happen.

Album I Would Have Liked 10 Times Better 10 Years Ago
Cute Lepers - Can't Stand Modern Music

The Cute Lepers make the kind of solid, catchy pop-punk that would have been like a second soundtrack to my daily hours of playing Mario Kart 64 and drinking (perhaps too many) Whaler's Rum and Cokes back in the late-1990s.

Most Surprising Entry in Numerous Top 10 Lists
Times New Viking - Rip it Off

Not that this is a bad album, but it just sounds like one of those b-side and early demos compilations that get released after a band is established. I'd love to kinda laugh and say, "Boy, Times New Viking sure have come a long way since playing in their mom's garage!" but I'm afraid this is the best it gets. This sounds more like a Matador also-ran than the next saviors of rock 'n' roll. Not exactly something I had slated for my top 10.

Most Egregiously Mislabeled Album
Alias - Resurgam

Normally I don't get into genre nit-picking. It feels to me like a waste of brain power to try to determine if something is electro-dance-clash or deep-tech-house. But, for some reason, I just can't get over the fact that Allmusic has this listed as Underground Rap/Left Field Hip-Hop. Alias's Resurgam sounds like straight-up electronic music to me. I've had similar complaints about DJ Shadow, Prefuse 93, and Flying Lotus albums' classifications in the past, but this one bothers me the most by far. How can an album be labeled rap/hip-hop if it doesn't even have vocals? For me, this album duked it out with Crystal Castles for electronic album of the year.

Most Curious Critical Acclaim
Stereolab - Chemical Chords

I just don't get it. For some reason critics love these guys, but all their music ranges from forgettable to annoying to my ears. The way every one of their albums gets such praise from year to year leads me to believe Stereolab have compromising photos of every music reviewer in North America and Europe!

An extremely close runner up for this award was She & Him, which is a nice enough album, but by no means a year's best, particularly in light of M. Ward's superior solo work. To me, ranking this album #1 would be like Major League Baseball awarding the Red Sox's slap-hitting second baseman the Most Valuable Player. OK, so that's a bad example, but the point is, this is a pretty good album that will hardly be remembered in 2009.

2008 Albums That I May Like More in 2010
Rafter - Sex Death Cassette
Tilly and the Wall - O
Cheap Time - Cheap Time
Apollo Sunshine - Shall Noise Upon
Deerhunter - Microcastle

-- Tulley Rafferty, 01/07/2009


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