What follows is an (admittedly, somewhat belated) list of my personal favorite albums of 2008. I of course can’t claim to have listened to every single piece of new music in the previous year (Sorry!), so make of it what you will. In any case, it’s all good.
As far as any trends go, the only one I can really cite (at least personally) is that of surprise. A lot of artists did a lot of really cool, new things this year, things that were unexpected and in the end well received. To put it lightly, I was listening to far more eclectic batch of artists at the end of 2008 then 2007. But anyway, enjoy:
10. Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls
It’s hard to say why I like these three feisty ladies from Brooklyn so very much. They make surf rock (or something like it) more then palatable, and do it with an air of irony that’s impossible to hate. The sort of low-fi, gentle rocking of electric guitars that this record is steeped in would in most cases lead me to boredom and distraction, but the Vivian Girls make it straight up relaxing and fun.
9. Robyn – Robyn
Yes, she’s a little silly (if not outright ridiculous), but it’s hard to argue with a girl this Swedish who has this much street cred. I can’t reasonably argue that she’s some incredible artist (though, I would), but when your pulling those tights on getting ready for a night out on the town, you know your listening to “Cobrastyle”. Just saying.
8. The Wombats – A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation
They’re British, they’re angsty, and they’re catchy as all hell– and damn it, I’m just a little obsessed with these three fellows, stereotypical brit-rock or not. Bonus points for the “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” music video. Was that them standing in a little choral arrangement holding a stuffed wombat? Yes, yes it was.
7. Firewater – The Golden Hour
One of my all time favorite bands, and one that manages to reinvent themselves with every new release. Tod A spent a year or two traveling throughout India, Pakistan, Israel and elsewhere before he made this record, and while the flair such experiences (apparently) inspired in his music may come dangerously close to tragically hippie-ish world music, for me it’s just funky enough to work. And the always inspired (in the deliriously alcoholic way) songwriting just sweetens the deal.
6. The Dodos – Visiter
This is one of those records that just keeps growing on me. The Dodos have a style somewhere between The Eels, Oasis, and Kind of Like Spitting– and the weird part is that they make it work. At times this album is tad on the ambitious side and it definitely still has a little bit of fat that needs to be trimmed, but all in all, I still can’t shake it.
5. No Age – Nouns
This is not the sort of music I listen to very much (nor, I think, does anyone after about the freshman year of High School). And that’s exactly what makes No Age so damn good. The first time you listen to this album, it’s easy to dismiss it as just some sort of generic noise rock, but then you give it another chance, and it latches onto your brain. The rising and falling distortion, Spunt’s tortured voice, the sheer indefatigable force of it all– it’s overwhelming. And enthralling.
4. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Everyone who’s said anything about this album seems to think it’s either absolutely fabulous or obscenely overrated. I tend to fall into the former camp. No, it isn’t an earth shaking record by any measurement, but it is of an overarching quality hard to find among the other albums of the year. I would try and say that “DLZ” or “Family Tree” or “Love Dog” or “Golden Age” was my favorite track off of the record, but the truth of the matter is that this is one of those rare records: just plain excellent, tight, and lacking any soft, vulnerable underbelly.
3. Meiko – Meiko
When I imagine the perfect women, she sounds like Meiko. And when I imagine my life, it sounds like Meiko. She’s brutal, she’s hopeful, she’s heartbreaking, she’s effervescent. And I adore it all. For whatever reason, this record hits me in the proverbial “right there” spot, and I can’t say much about it aside from that.
(Sorry for the less then ideal quality, but she doesn’t have any actual music videos. Apparently)
2. Portishead – Third
It would have been so easy for this record to blow. Just absolutely suck out loud.But what Beth Gibbons et. all have done here is surpass and retrofit everything that came before, to make an album that not only transforms they’re body of work but of the entire genre of electronica. So yes, this album is “important” (whatever that means to you). But more then that, it’s just a fabulous piece to listen to. It’s smooth and rough, sweet and sour, and everything in between. And if songs like “Machine Gun” don’t absolutely rock you to your core– well, why are you even reading this?
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Oh, Fleet Foxes, where will the accolades end? This band came out of nowhere last year, rising out of some pastoral woodland clearing (aka Seattle, but let’s just pretend) with a polished, vibrant, and yes, bucolic sound that carries you aloft and away. These guys are not fucking around. Every bar, every stanza just works. Nothing is forced, nothing is overwhelming, nothing is unappealing. It’s not that this record asks you to love it, or even wants you to, but when you listen to it, the possibility of not falling head over heals never even comes up. This record is rhapsodic, and if there was any album on this list that I can be sure I’ll be listening to in 20 years, it is this one.