This week French shoegazy dreampop act M83 released their sixth album, the two disc Hurry Up We're Dreaming, prompting the impeccable Dan Cairns (Sunday Times) to compare it to their previous, Saturdays=Youth, "the twin peak - with Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours - of 2008 electro". The comparison seems to be made a little unfavourably, though exactly how much so would have been easier to gauge had not the ST sadly, recently, discontinued its out-of-five star ratings.
Fussy genre definitions thus loosened, the comparison elicits the above question. Chiefly because Dan is always right. He has technical and theoretical musical knowledge, setting him apart from most so-called music critics. He knows, and will show you on a stave, exactly why the songwriting of Charlotte Hatherley must be cherished. Two weeks ago, he declared Lana Del Rey's Video Games the song of the year, with disregard to the currents of hype and other irrelevancies engulfing that artist. Declared it as scientific fact; Dan does not equivocate, nor trade mere opinion.
So yeah, he's right too about the eminence of both acts in the twin peak quote. But which of their songs are the true, 80s-retro royalty of 2008? And what other acts and tracks deserve inclusion beside these?
Oddly enough, M83 were not named after the south/east section of Glasgow's M8 junction 25, between the Clyde Tunnel Expressway and the South-Link Motorway. In fact no UK road has ever received that designation, which only ever appeared on that one Corporation / Fairclough gantry and local route sign drawing. So they chose instead to be named after the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, a barred spiral in Hydra.
They released a prolific four singles in 2008, all from the haunting Saturdays=Youth. The second of the four, Graveyard Girl, is naturally the most haunted - even without its haunty spoken section:
I'm 15 years old
and I feel it's already too late to live
Now let's get the second half of the twin peak quickly out of the way: Cut Copy. Nobody, not even Jeff Lynne himself, ever channeled ELO better than the Aussies' So Haunted. However, my vote goes to track one, for the Melbourne electro outfit's funky 80s retrocapture tech, first displayed here at 1:17:
The production work lavished on MGMT's fairly ordinary ditties by Mercury Rev / Flaming Lips producer Dave Friddman elevated Oracular Spectacular to electro royalty, and 2008 saw a total of four singles released from it, from Time To Pretend through Kids. I won't pretend to choose between those two.
Ladytron continued to innovate with their fourth album Velocifero in 2008, and particularly with a change of direction in their first single Ghosts. This might have given them their worst UK chart performance of the millennium to date, but the more typically daytronic Runaway laughingly made up for that with a breakthrough at #30 in the US dance chart:
Finally a confession: this isn't actually my top 5 electro from 2008. A well-thumbed TSM Radio review from May 2008 fondly recalls Epic New Song by the now tragically defunct Futuristic Retro Champions. Now, I honestly don't know whether this is my favourite FRC, since I once tried in vain to grade them all for a playlist, ending up with a total of twelve songs scoring 10/10. So my sixth and final, thank you, goodnight and safe home selection, is a sampling (the full collection Love And Lemonade is available at iTunes) of the most emotronic happy hardcore ever committed to disc ... in or around 2008.
Epic New Song - Futuristic Retro Champions by everythingflows
Jenna - Futuristic Retro Champions by everythingflows
Told Ya - Futuristic Retro Champions by everythingflows
Your mileage may vary. Hey, I'm no Dan Cairns.
Image credits: M83 road sign, Messier 83, all via Wikipedia.