I wanted to get this done BEFORE 2009, but it is New Years day so...close enough. After weeks of thoughtful review, I give you my annual list of my Top Ten Albums of 2008!
10. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Bon Iver (real name: Justin Vernon) recorded this album while spending a couple months alone in a log cabin in the Wisconsin wilderness. How very Henry David Thoreau. What follows is a remarkable record that is beautiful and simple, lonely and haunting. I was intrigued at first by the raw emotion of the song "Skinny Love", but wasn't immediately taken with the rest of the album. A couple of listens later, and the songs really got under my skin.
Recommeded Tracks: Skinny Love, Lump Sum, The Wolves (Act 1 & 2)
9. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
M83 is the musical project of Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez and his latest offering, Saturdays = Youth sounds like the lost soundtrack of a John Hughes movie, if John Hughes perhaps made a movie right now. It's full of lush synch-laden orchestrations and other such ethereal sounds. It's gorgeous and sounds both retro and very modern at the same time.
Recommended Tracks: Kim and Jessie, Graveyard Girl
8. Adele - 19
This is nowhere near a perfect album, but it's a fitting debut for new British songstress Adele. It perfectly showcases her rich, powerful, bluesy voice, a voice that makes her sound much older than she is (I think she's 20 now). And, you know, with Amy Winehouse constantly being in rehab or whatever, we have a new need for that retro bluesy pop music. It's a breath of fresh air and hopefully a sign of even better things to come.
Recommended Tracks: Daydreamer, Hometown Glory, To Make You Feel My Love
7. TV On The Radio - Dear Science
Again, this is an album that took awhile to grow on me. After 2006's Return to Cookie Mountain (which topped many a critics "Best Of" list that year), it just didn't seem as...well...awesome. It was a little bit too funky for my test, less complex, less rockin'. However, I stuck with it, and with each subsequent listen I began to notice new things and pick up on new things that I loved. This album proves that TVOTR is still one of the best bands out there.
Recommended Tracks: Golden Age, Family Tree, Lover's Day
6. Robyn - Robyn
This album by new favorite Swedish pop mistress was release overseas awhile back, but didn't get an official U.S. release until this year. This album makes me wish that all pop music could be this good (as in, actually good and not just ironically good or mindlessly catchy). I think Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly describes it best:
An adorable blond pixie who bleaches her eyebrows white, worships the Wu-Tang Clan, and covers Prince's ''J--- U Off'' in a voice that sounds like a Smurf on poppers? Sweden doesn't make its pop stars quite like we do. Gone is the demure teen who hit the U.S. top 10 in the late '90s with hits like ''Show Me Love''; in her place is an autonomous, thrillingly eccentric dance diva capable of both wrenching techno ballads — yes, Virginia, it's possible! — and saucy, whip-smart kiss-offs.
Her music videos are always really cool too, so you should check out the links.
Recommended Tracks: Konichiwa Bitches, Handle Me, With Every Heartbeat, Be Mine!
5. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
This album feels like a relaxing drive through some back country road in the middle of fall or winter. It is both folksy and simple, in a Simon and Garfunkel sort of way, or old spiritual hymns, and yet very lush and orchestral in many places. The melodies evoke a peculiar sense of nostalgia, only nostalgia for a place you've never experienced, if that makes any sense.
Recommended Tracks: White Winter Hymnal (a cool video), Sun It Rises, Ragged Wood
4. She & Him - Volume One
Zooey Deschanel has always been a favorite actress of mine, but she's also an exceptionally awesome singer. Her voice reminds me of a weird hybrid between Karen Carpenter and Loretta Lynn or something. This album of musical stylings with her and M. Ward (the she and him, respectively) evoke 60s/70s AM radio nostalgia to magical effect. Hopefully the success of this album is a sign that Deschanel and Ward will collaborate more in the future.
Recommended Tracks: Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? , Sentimental Heart, You Really Got A Hold On Me
3. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster...
Cutesy Welsh septet Los Campesinos! had the distinction of releasing not just one, but two really excellant albums this year (the other is the slightly more recent We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed). Ultimately, this was the one I had to pick, because it was the one that made me fall in love with them and it is slightly better (but only slightly). Los Campesinos! are easily my new favorite band this year. Their brand of self proclaimed "twee-core" punk rock is a fun, loud, sarcastic, rebellious, witty, energetic mix that'll have you jumping around like a rabbit on speed. If there was any new band I'd recommende this year, it would probably be Los Campesinos!
Recommended Tracks: Death to Los Campesinos!, My Year In Lists, You! Me! Dancing! (another really cool video)
2. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
A perfectly composed Brit-rock affair, that effortlessly spans between soaring, orchestral numbers like the album opener, "Starlings" and the dank, rockin' drinking dirge "Grounds For Divorce". You could compare them with some of their contemporaries, like Coldplay, but they're nowhere near as mediocre or pandering (that being said, I still consider Coldplay a guilty pleasure). I'm also terribly in love with lead singer Guy Garvey's voice, which makes him sound like a rougher-edged Peter Gabriel.
Recommended Tracks: Grounds For Divorce, The Bones of You, One Day Like This, An Audience With The Pope
1. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
Duh. This long-anticipated (at least by me) collaboration between Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan certainly did not disappoint. The combination between Dulli's sexy, cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof yowl and Lanegan's cigarette-and-whiskey drenched growls and grumbles is just too perfect for words. This is some of the purest, darkest rock you're ever going to hear.
Recommended Tracks: Circle the Fringes, Idle Hands, God's Children, I Was In Love With You
Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sundays At Devil Dirt
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
The Killers - Day and Age
The Streets - Everything is Borrowed