It's my annual kicking off point for the year-end lists. Here I highlight the best albums seeing their U.S. debut in 2008 that were released elsewhere (or self-released) prior to that. It's a good way to both narrow down my real 2008 list while still highlighting more at the same time. It's called having your cake and eat it too. The top five this year are especially good, and all would make #1 on this list most years.
Playlist: Best Albums From 2008 (That Were Really From 2007)
1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Bound to be on many 2008 lists, this siren call from the woods of Wisconsin was self-released in 2007. In what was essentially a outpouring of a broken man on the mend, Justin Vernon recorded For Emma Forever Ago over three frozen months in a remote cabin. "Skinny Love" is the track that most have heard, either via live performance or on TV shows like Chuck, and it's one of the songs of the year. Hearing how the song has evolved in live performances over 2008 is as fascinating as the album itself.
Download: "Skinny Love" [mp3]
2. Radiohead - In Rainbows
Here's one that's almost the inverse of the intention of this yearly post. In Rainbows was only digitally available in 2007, yet it reached a wide enough audience that it made nearly every 2007 year end list (#2 on ours). This welcome (slight) return to more 'classic' Radiohead, is on very few lists this year as a result, which is good... it wold be embarrassing otherwise.
Video: "Body Snatchers"
3. Delta Spirit - Ode to Sunshine
Excerpt from previous review:
Delta Spirit fits nicely in your alphabetically ordered CD collection between Cold War Kids and Dr. Dog, as Ode To Sunshine seems to take what I like about both those bands. It's the kind of album I wish Cold War Kids would've made, full of strong melodies and focused energy. Or it's like Dr. Dog both cleaned and woke up, still weaving classic pop sounds of the past, but utilizing better production and... well... a bit more energy.
(review August 27, 2008)
4. Wye Oak - If Children
If 2008 taught us anything, it's that the 90's are back, but Wye Oak probably knew that in 2007. If Children captures much of what was great (Yo La Tengo dream folk pop and of course shoegaze) and matches it with lyrics that match the dry wit and spitfire of Jenny Lewis. The Baltimore duo's 2007 release was picked up by Merge earlier this year, and there's ample anticipation for whatever they come up with next.
(review April 8, 2008)
Download: "Warning" [mp3]
5. Robyn - Robyn
Excerpt from review:
Robyn was released in Sweden in 2005 to rave reviews, and slowly found it's way to the ears of music fans here in the U.S. via import and illegal download. Even though it's three years removed, the album still sounds as fresh as ever (aside from the Teddybears cover "Cobrastyle," as the original is now in the 'tired' column).
(preview April 28, 2008)
6. Feral Children - Second To The Last Frontier
Local product (originally from Maple Valley, South of Seattle) is the amalgamation of indie rock, psyche folk and noise rock. They drink from the same Seattle suburb angst well that fueled Modest Mouse, but with a bit more primal chaos and, for lack of a better word, 'thump.'
Download: "Spy/Glass House" [mp3]
6. The Heavy - Great Vengeance and Furious Fire
The Heavy, I have to confess, are right in my sweet spot. That spot being soul-rich falsetto vocals over funky rhythms and grunged-up guitars, complete with some vinyl-scratch atmospherics. Sure, there's points in the album where the formula strays, bringing it down from masterpiece to good, but it's still some sticky sounds that will remain with you when you try and put it down. Maybe you'll have better luck than me at putting it down.... I can't stop. Oh yeah, they managed to make it on Chuck as well.
Video for "That Kind of Man"
7. Throw Me the Statue - Moonbeams
(on a ferry)
8. Wolfkin - Brand New Pants
(The Great Dane Invasion)
9. Basia Bulat - Oh, My Darling
(review February 6, 2008)