Best Albums 2008: 8 – The Slip

After Radiohead chose to loudly break the normal distribution mold last year with In Rainbows, the music media finally took notice of the failing model. The use of giant record companies was choking many great artists, and the varied delivery forms offered via the internet revealed this gap in systematic usefulness. Quite simply – free or individualized releases became extremely high-profile this year. More than any other band, Nine Inch Nails took hold of this freedom from the industry and released two free albums this year. The first (Ghosts) involved the release of the one of four disks full of instrumental material. But the real winner was The Slip, a complete, “regular” release on par with the best of the NIN catalogue.

The experience is well-structured from the outset with an intriguing entrance instrumental that segues into the excellent “1,000,000.” The guitar and drum attack match the excellent heights of their past output, and the production effects reflect the mechanical nature that the industrial group has always upheld. “Letting You” quickens the pulse as it drives through a very powerful set of rhythm and distortion that are unrivaled by any band today. Showing a touch of humanity, Nine Inch Nails also includes the stunning “Lights in the Sky,” a very sparse piano piece that tugs at the soul and inspires the mind.

As if pandering directly to fans of “Head Like a Hole,” Nine Inch Nails throws an excellent single in the mix. “Discipline” is really a highlight of the year, offering a tight tempo that is accompanied by interesting piano work and a dominating vocal delivery. Even more impressive, this song doesn’t feel like a random addition thrown into the mix late; instead, the song fits with the rest of the album. It is this fact that is most impressive – Nine Inch Nails have really crafted an excellent group of songs that work well as an album. This is best evidenced in the latter half of the release as “Lights in the Sky” blends into the instrumental “Corona Radiata.” This combination really boosts the release over many others this year, and works to demand respect.

Free things are great. Amazingly well-crafted free albums from a great band are simply unheard of. The Slip is a real winner.