11.26.2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

As much new music as I listen to, narrowing all of each year's albums down to a list of just my ten favorites is no easy task. There were bands that I thought would make this list, due to my enjoyment of past releases, that didn't make the cut (Death Cab For Cutie, Ladytron, Sigur Ros). There were albums that I have just recently started to listen to that might have been here, were I to post this a month from now (Wilderness, Wye Oak, Magnetic Morning, Speedmarket Avenue). And there were a whole slew of albums that have been recommended, either by people or reviews, that I haven't even heard yet. What you see here is a list of the ten albums that I listened to the most this year. They aren't necessarily the best releases of the year, just the best releases of the year to me. As you can see, I chose a 10a and 10b. The reason is given below. While I'm sure that many will disagree with my choices, I feel comfortable recommending each of these albums.


21kgGxksEYL._SL500_AA280_
1. Anthem In - s/t
I'm not sure if this record actually came out. Maybe somebody is playing a trick on me and some guys in town recorded a bunch of songs, slapped a band name on a disc, and mailed it to my apartment. Honestly, this would be the only excuse for why I haven't seen this, my favorite album of the year, on even one other list. This Brooklyn band recalls some of the more upbeat moments in Death Cab for Cutie's catalog as well as Pinback and Modern Memory. Even the first time that you listen to Anthem In's self-titled first release you feel like you've heard every song before. But don't get me wrong, it isn't because these songs are copycat or unoriginal. It's because the hooks and choruses are so immediately memorable that you're already singing along to every song by the final verse. In a perfect world, all thirteen of these songs would be chart-topping singles.

To listen, click here.
Purchase the album here.
__________________________________________________________________

arton691
2. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
My prediction is that this album will be next year's For Emma, Forever Ago (Bon Iver), aka, a self-released album that flew under most people's radars, that will get picked up by a label, be more widely released, and end up on a ton of 2009 best-of lists. This Toronto group plays well-crafted, mid-tempo, indie-pop, and their out-of-this-world drummer would take any band to the next level. Buy immediately and prepare to brag about your foresight to all of your friends next year.

To listen and purchase this album, click here.
__________________________________________________________________

41IXePKXLzL._SL500_AA280_
3. Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
This is one of the best indie-pop releases of the year. Ra Ra Riot, whose name I have a hard time saying without cringing, should please fans of bands such as Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, and Ladybug Transistor. They don't really sound like dead ringers for any of those bands, but the bittersweet, autumnal tone and liberal use of strings immediately evokes the same feelings one gets when listening to the aforementioned. Brew a kettle of tea, light a few candles, cuddle up under an afghan, press play, and let The Rhumb Line envelope you in its warmth.

To listen, click here.
Purchase the album here.
__________________________________________________________________

51cIVHjOHIL._SL500_AA280_

4. Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night
While there were a plethora of bands, the Vivian Girls amongst them, who put out similar sounding releases this year, Crystal Stilts was the only one with songs good enough that, months after first hearing them, I'm still listening to them nearly every day. They play ramshackle, muddy, garage pop with a bit of a surf-guitar vibe (especially on the eponymous album standout "Crystal Stilts"). The most obvious influences are bands such as Black Tambourine, The Shop Assistants, and The Pastels. But the quality of the tracks on display here make the Stilts immediate equals rather than just two-decades-late wannabes.

Listen here.
Buy the album here.
__________________________________________________________________

41qqsDKrRTL._SL500_AA280_
5. Nada Surf - Lucky
Nada Surf just gets better and better with every album. This band is a far cry from the one that brought you the, admittedly catchy but still novel, "Popular" in the 90s. For a few albums now, they have been turning out some of the most outstanding pop songs that I've heard so far this decade. Their knack for catchy stay-in-your-head-for-days hooks and melodies has been recently matched only by the likes of The Shins and New Pornographers. Lucky is solid throughout, but the real gems are "See These Bones," "Whose Authority," and "I Like What You Say."

Listen here.
Purchase here.
__________________________________________________________________

41LQ7S3KC0L._SL500_AA280_
6. For Against - Shade Side Sunny Side
Nebraska's For Against has to be the most criminally underrated band in existence. On this, their first release in six years, they continue to peddle in the atmospherics of Comsat Angels, the raw intensity of Joy Division, and the melancholic tones of a host of other early-80s Brit postpunk bands. These guys are no pretenders though. They've been around nearly since that time. And, despite all of those familiar touchstones, their sound is all their own and possibly darker here than ever before (which, in this case, is a good thing). I recommend Shady Side Sunny Side along with all of their other releases, most of which have been put back into circulation within the last five or six years.

Listen here.
Purchase here.
__________________________________________________________________

51qdYa1E41L._SL500_AA280_

7. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One
I've been a Badu fan since day one. She's had such a smooth, soulful voice, sometimes recalling Billie Holiday, that it's been hard not to fall under her spell. However, she conjures something totally new on this record. Drawing on the influences of J Dilla, quality funk, and all of the best underground hip-hop, Badu has created a hip-hop influenced, neo-soul masterpiece, the best album of this type since D'Angelo's Voodoo. Track breaks are hardly necessary as this beat-filled album transitions so smoothly that you forget where one song ended and the next began. Rumor has it that she already has three albums worth of follow-up material in the can. If they are all done at this level, she can expect me to have a spot reserved for her on this list for years to come.

Listen here.
Purchase here.
__________________________________________________________________

516Eu+UUmIL._SL500_AA280_

8. TV On the Radio - Dear Science,
TV On the Radio is one of those rare bands that has a wide appeal while never just playing it safe and, all the while, sounding only like themselves. There are not other bands making music like them right now and there weren't before either. This is a solid collection of songs from the band that I expected to be at the top of my list before I'd even heard a single note of this album. Why aren't they there? This album feels choppier than past TVOTR releases, which have always felt very cohesive and created one mood that lasted from beginning to end. That said, all tracks are still of the highest quality and leave me already eagerly anticipating their next release.

Listen here.
Purchase here.
__________________________________________________________________

51QbVs33OrL._SL500_AA280_

9. The Coast - Expatriate
The ten songs that make up Expatriate manage to work quite well together despite the fact that they run the gamut from standard pop, to slightly twangy countrified rock, to shoegaze influenced, guitar driven anthems. The Coast have a propensity to aim for a certain epic grandeur in their song-writing that most reminds me of Ambulance Ltd. but also at times, The Editors. On the surface, there is nothing groundbreaking or remarkably unique about these songs. However, and despite that, I was compelled to play this album over and over again for months. Plain and simple, these songs just work for me.

Listen here.
Purchase here.
__________________________________________________________________

61eKFhkc1fL._SL500_AA280_
10a. Jay Reatard - Matador Singles '08
Since venturing out on his own a few years ago, Jay Reatard has yet to put out a piece of music that is not absolutely essential. This release, a collection of Reatard's Matador singles from this year (as the observant reader might have already inferred from the title), is no exception. This guy has more energy than anybody making music right now and he packs every bit of it into each pop-inflected punk gem. However, he also proves on this release that he is capable of turning out the same high level of song in a more subdued acoustic format. The only reason that this album isn't higher on the list is because I'm not sure that I really consider a singles collection a proper album.

Listen here.
Purchase here.
__________________________________________________________________

61heS455RLL._SL500_AA280_

10b. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
This album is only last on the list because it technically came out last year. Were that not the case, this folky beauty would be at number one. I probably went to sleep listening to this record about 100 nights this year. This is no insult though. The songs on this album are so comforting, melodic, and relaxing that they are like grown-up lullabies. Close your eyes and you are in the remote cabin in Wisconsin where these songs were written and recorded.

Listen here.
Purchase here.
Share/Save/Bookmark

8 comments:

  1. This is one of the best "top 10" blog posts I've seen on the net personally. Well done Chris! The only thing I would have changed personally is swap out Nada Surf with Jeremy Jay's Airwalker Bonus Release.

    Some seriously good posting here.

    -Cory

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cory, thanks for the kind words. I liked Jeremy Jay a lot as well. Had I done a Top-20 or an honorable mention list, he definitely would have made it. However, I love this Nada Surf album (and all of their albums actually) and it isn't going anywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would have really enjoyed a wild card. Maybe Tape's Lumiarium 2008. Since we're both Minimal Lo-Fi folks.

    Or maybe Wild Beasts - Limbo Panto. but maybe i'm just high.
    Enjoy the week chris. Really enjoy reading these blogs.
    -Cory

    ReplyDelete
  4. There are some things here, like Ra Ra Riot and TV On The Radio, that I've been hemming and hawing about buying. Seeing you have those two in the company of a lot cool stuff that I really dig, I think I'll have to take the plunge on both.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mike-
    Thanks for stopping by and checking me out. I appreciate it, as I've been reading your reviews for years, and respect your opinion (knew of them by way of Big Takeover Yahoo list).

    As far as the two albums you mentioned, I would say that you will probably like Ra Ra Riot. The one complaint that I've heard from some friends who are into this sort of music is that it is too overproduced. It doesn't really bother me. But, if that is something that gets on your nerves, just be aware. Start with "Dying Is Fine" and "Can You Tell." If you like those, proceed. If not, this probably isn't the album for you.

    This TV On the Radio, as I said in the review, is probably their weakest. So, I would forewarn that if you didn't like their past releases (or if you haven't listened to them before) I wouldn't go with this album. I'd definitely still vouch for it though.

    However, I will also mention that I am biased, as 2006's Return To Cookie Mountain was my favorite release of that year and their first, Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes, wasn't much lower than that the year that it was released.

    Let me know what you think if you do decide to take the dive on either of these.

    -ChrisD

    ReplyDelete
  6. That Jay Reatard collection is absolutely fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Chris, I would have liked to see Ass - My Get Up and Go Just Got Up and Went on this list. Maybe a Modeselektor album in place of Erykah.. but thats just me.

    Don't forget to pick up Bon Iver's new EP "Blood Bank"

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sorry Vogelhaus, but the vote is in, the polls are closed, and the request line has been disconnected. All decisions are final. Ass is good though!

    ReplyDelete