Monday, January 05, 2009

Best Albums From 2008

Getting snowed in and extending myself writing other projects helped contribute to this list's delinquency, but it can also be said that I dreaded this post a bit due to a slight dip in quality this year. In the past, this list would run up over 100 in length, but not this go 'round. I was not as excited by the depth of releases this year -- quite a few releases impressed, but on the whole, I found it to be a down year. Also, 2009 has come earlier than in the past (hello new releases from Animal Collective, Andrew Bird, Antony & the Johnsons, A.C. Newman and Robert Pollard) and since I'm about to head to Mexico for a week, this will be incredibly brief.

Playlist: Best Albums From 2008

1. TV on the Radio - Dear Science

TV on the Radio - Dear ScienceThe most focused and consistently great album that TVOTR has released yet, which is saying a lot. And it's funky. Dear Science opens like an extension of Cookie Mountain (best album from 2006) and eventually ends with an ode to sex that sounds like it Sufjan Stevens orchestrated the song's final few minutes. Breathtaking.

Review, September 18, 2008)

2. No Age - Nouns

The first of Sub Pop's near dominance in 2008, and also the first example of how the late 80's/early 90's is coming in style. Even though the LA punk duo is by all estimations still getting it's bearings, Nouns seems to hit a sweet spot that's been missing... sloppy DIY punk delivered via My Bloody Valentine guitar swirls, all encased with a tape-loop hiss that all together sounds far more accessible than you'd think it would.

Review, May 6, 2008)
Download: "Eraser" [mp3]

3. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

More love for Sub Pop. Between the reverb and the incredible vocal harmonies, it's hard to not play the Pet Sounds card, but the folky guitar strums send us in the direction of CSN&Y.

Review, June 3, 2008
Download: "White Winter Hymnal" [mp3]

4. Deerhunter - Microcastle

Latest relies more on pop conventions than past releases. There's still plenty of noise and artful moments here to be sure, but the swing to convention is concrete to the ears, and the sound is thrilling.

(Review, November 4, 2008)

5. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair

DJ Andrew Butler may be the man behind the beats, but the star here is really Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnstons,) who's expressive voice sounds possibly even more at home in this updated disco setting than the band he fronts.

(Review, June 25, 2008)

6. Q-Tip - The Renaissance

The third album QT has recorded since Amplified (1999) while just the first to get an actual physical release. Welcome back QT, and welcome back A Tribe Called Quest-like grooves.

(Review, November 4, 2008)

7. The Hold Steady - Stay Posiive

Craig Finn actually singing more than speaking? Rock riff nods to Led Zep and Thin Lizzy? Relax... it's still Hold Steady at the core of these tales of good kids reaching for something big, falling hard and getting back up again.

Review, July 16, 2008

8. Blitzen Trapper - Furr

Yet more love Sub Pop. Still present is the restless mixtapery of Wild Mountain Nation, but a bit more focus. Lots of 70's pop and rock mishmashed together in a manner that's quite pleasing to the ears (and mind).

Review September 25, 2008
Download: "Furr" [mp3]

9. Portishead - Third

Like Q-Tip, the Bristol trip-hop pioneers are another 90's comeback story. But their not content to just return to their sound, instead they push on to new uncharted territories. Dense and sinister, it's an aural onion waiting to be peeled.

Review April 30, 2008

10. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!

A refinement of Grinderman's midlife Christ-kick, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! is rock with Cave's wit on full display. "I say prolix! Prolix! Something a pair of scissors can fix."

Review April 8, 2008

11. Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak (review 11/24/08)
12. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
13. The Walkmen - You & Me
14. Shearwater - Rook (review 06/03/08)
15. M83 - Saturdays=Youth (review 04/15/08)
16. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer (review 06/18/08)
17. Santogold - Santogold
18. Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See or Cannot Feel (review 02/20/08)
19. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster
20. Man Man - Rabbit Habits (review 04/08/08)
21. The Week That Was - The Week That Was (review 08/27/08)
22. Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight
23. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (review 10/21/08)
24. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
25. Beach House - Devotion (review 02/27/08)
26. The Dodos - Visiter
27. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins (review, 09/09/08)
28. School of Language - Sea of Shore
29. Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali
30. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia (review 03/04/08)
31. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
32. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls
33. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
34. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (review 01/29/08)
35. Harvey Milk - Life...the Best Game in Town
36. Black Mountain - In the Future (review 01/23/08)
37. The Saturday Knights - Mingle (review 06/25/08)
38. Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark (review 01/15/08)
39. Foals - Antidotes (review 04/01/08)
40. Marnie Stern - This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
41. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges (review 06/10/08)
42. Sam Roberts - Love at the End of the World
43. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark (review 02/05/08)
44. Los Campesinos! - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (review 10/15/08)
45. Slumdog Millionaire - Music From the Motion Picture (review 12/01/08)
46. Eagles of Death Metal - Heart On
47. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie (review 10/07/08)
48. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams (03/19/08)
49. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
50. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
50. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (review 03/04/08)
50. Black Keys - Attack and Release (review 03/25/08)

Previously: Best Albums from 2007


Anonymous said...

How do you explain 2008 being a 'down year'...?

I agree; but what's your take, drake?

Shawn Anderson said...

I think there's a lull this year set off by economics, a better than average 2007, expectations for "new hope" in 2009, and a general feeling of artistic fatigue. By late 2007, it was no longer vogue to rail against our (and the UK's) administrations and the direction of Western culture in general.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some albums were delayed to avoid being associated with Bush's last days. Look at the releases that coincided with Obama's first day. A gluttony of excellence there!