Sunday, February 1, 2009

Album Review - Counter Culture '08

Various Artists - Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture '08 (2009)

I'm sorry I couldn't find a picture - or at least on I could use legally.

After many years of denying it, I will grudgingly admit that I am am a hipster. Nothing gets me fired up than listening to new bands, especially ones that hit the big time, or grow out of their cult audience. In fact just to double check myself I went to wikipedia and looked up the definition.

A Hipster is a slang term which appeared in the late 1990's and 2000's, the term is used to describe young, urban middle class and upper class adults with interests in non-mainstream fashion and culture, particularly alternative music, independent rock, independent film, magazines like Vice, Clash and Adbusters, and websites like Pitchfork Media.[1] In some contexts, hipsters are also referred to as scenesters.

I am 30 years old - is that young?
I am a Librarian - I assume that's a middle class profession.
I like alt and indie films.
Mag-wise I read Plan B.
I visit p-fork everyday.

I guess I qualify.

One ritual that I have which makes me on the top of my game is my annual purchase of the annual Rough Trade Compilation, punningly called Counter Culture. I have started buying these compilations when the first one was released back in 2003 and I have looked forward to this quintessential double compilation. Rough Trade Shops have been tastemakers and genre predictors since it's inception 33 years ago and it still continues that tradition today. Trust me if you want to listen to what will be in vogue in two years time do invest in this. If you like to to challenge your ears and change your view of music, well then come on in for the ride. You will get tracks released from album released in the previous year but Rough Trade, being who they are focus on the tinier releases in their shops while occaisonally mixing in some big names in the process.

However as these compilations represent the current musical climate, it usually suffers when there is a poor year. Luckily 2008 was very good music-wise so the standard of the compilation is quite high.

Disc One, is dedicated to the quieter side of music. The whole tone of the album is set with Department of Eagles woozy 'Calssical Records' and there onwards it's more folk ( Bon Iver, Festival) indie pop (Vivian Girls, The School, The High Places) and then some spacey electronica (Zombie Zombie). Well sequenced and beautifully flowing, it is the sightly better disc of the album and has more upfront tunes.

Things take a different turn on disc two as the more experimental and loud songs dominate. This year it seems that dubstep has taken over as the latter half of the disc has a spattering of tracks. Elsewhere thare's hip hop (Yo majesty, Tobacco) the droney Indian Jewelry and some brash guitar pop in the form of Correcto and The Pains of Being Pure of Heart. There are tons of highlights but it's The Shitty Limits track which I cannot stop listening to.

I can't help heaping praising upon this compilation. As with the rest it's a sterling effort and despite being a sampling of a year, it is timeless.

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