I’m looking for the Hats of 2008

Hats by The Blue Nile is a perfect album, in some ways. The description “mournful city soundscape” only sounds generic until you hear how well it fits the bill. Every track immerses you in this atmospheric world of twilight blue, city lights, and melancholy.

The album was released in 1989, and the clean, atmospheric sound palette is a flawless retrospective distillation of the decade’s synthy pop aesthetic. It’s a prime example of genre decadence, sitting at the end of an era, where the expressive tools of the medium have been dialectically honed to a mirror sheen.

Album art for Hats by The Blue Nile

It’s more of a gut feeling, but I also think Hats is pointing forward to the 90s in some ways. For some reason, I would the urban theming of it feels more of the 90s than the 80s. The drum machine and production also feel more early 90s to me.

In any case, I like to think about the unique vibes of particular years or spans of time like this, and the main perfection of Hats to me is how well it captures this edge of decades between the 80s and 90s.

Recently, I’ve been feeling like there is a late 2000s vibe on the wind. I somehow have the feeling that this summer will have a lot in common with the summer of 2007, maybe 2008, maybe 2009 (still narrowing it down). I happened to recently stumble across a haiku by Kyoshi Takahama, a Shōwa era poet, which I think perfectly describes the feeling:*

Something like a stick
That goes through
Last year and this year

I think there’s something like a stick poking through the late 2000s and the current/coming moment.

I’ve been going back through old Pitchfork reviews from 2007 and 2008 and listening to the most highly recommended music, trying to hone in on that feeling. It’s been a lot of fun, discovering new music at an even faster rate than I normally do, probably closer to my brother’s pace.

Throughout this process, it finally dawned on me: I think what I want to find is the Hats of 2008. An album that perfectly captures the feeling of the time. It doesn’t need to be mournful and atmospheric, necessarily, but I do get the feeling it should have an urban theme, perhaps.

So consider this me officially putting out a bounty. If you know anything that came out in the period of 2007–09 that seems like it does a perfect job capturing the vibe of the times, please send me a lead! There’s not actually a reward, but I’ll really appreciate the gesture, and probably follow up with a shoutout thanking you. As always, I can be reached at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​ctrl-c.club.

* English translation by Katsuya Hiromoto