2008: my favorite albums

It’s time to look back on what made 2008 special. the Katy Perry phenomenon. the resurrection of Britney Spears: the phoenix that rose from the ashes of insanity. the seemingly impending death of Amy Winehouse. (i might be insensitive, but at least i’m honest.) miley cyrus breaking thresholds of annoying that you never knew existed. Coldplay, Jack Johnson, Guns n Roses, and Ben Folds released highly anticipated studio albums that may or may not have fulfilled their fans’ expectations.

most importantly, though, it’s time to applaud the musicians that made the news for the right reasons in the past twelve months.

in no way do i claim that this is a list of the best albums of the year. just my favorites. however, you will find that many “experts” in the field will agree that at least 5 of my favorites really are among the best releases of 2008. (some of these are that undeniably good.) so without further ado, i present to you, my faithful readers, my 10 favorite albums of the year.

10. Saturdays=Youth- M83 : April 14, 2008

I’m not usually into electronica. Most of the time, it makes my head want to explode. I’m being very general, but alot of the genre consists of space-y noises (sometimes with an overbearing backbeat) and unintelligible voices. wait, did i just describe techno? anyway, I respect the talent of bands like Crystal Castles, but it’s just not for me.

M83 is not what I just described. In fact, take a look at the album art. I have never seen a picture that more accurately represents the music that is packaged inside. Yeah, there are some “umm what?” moments, particularly during random monologues by an eerie female character, but as a whole, the album is just so…innocent. (don’t know why i keep getting stuck on that word)

When a friend first told me about M83, I was skeptical. But now I’m a fan. I’m currently debating whether buying a ticket to see the Killers so I can see this band open. If you like Belle & Sebastian or the Bird and the Bee, I think you will like M83…not because they sound similar, but it could be the next step in the progression of sound.

I recommend: We Own the Sky (some guy turned this into a weird video, sorry), Kim & Jessie

 

 

9. For Emma, Forever Ago- Bon Iver : February 19, 2008

“Bon Iver” = a twist on the french “good winter”. album cover? check. music? yup. This is pretty great fireside music. I could definitely see this album being played (both through speakers or on actual instruments) in a cabin on a the side of a mountain in snowy Alaska…with smoke billowing out of the chimney. Or maybe the beavers’ house (dam?) in Narnia. Okay, the last part isn’t true. For Emma, Forever Ago is one of the most stripped down albums I have ever heard…it’s practically primitive. It’s very echo-y, but not in a French Revolution kind of way. (A Tale of Two Cities, what?!? Sorry, this post is everywhere.) Just a voice and a guitar, doin’ it riiiiiiight.

Wow, I just read on Wikipedia that this album was recorded in “three months in a remote cabin in Wisconsin.” To all of the elitists out there: I am aware of the fact that this album originally came out last year; however, it wasn’t released on a label until February of this year. It didn’t get the hype it deserved in ’07; let’s just pay our respects now, shall we?

I recommend: Lump Sum, Blindsided

8. Bring Me Your Love- City and Colour : February 12, 2008

For those unaware, Dallas Green is a member of a hardcore (gross, screamo), Canadian rock band called Alexisonfire (alexis on fire, not alex is on fire…well, it confused me). City and Colour is his solo project. Get it? Dallas Green. City and Colour. Ponder that for a sec.

This album is so typical me, if you are familiar with my musical tastes. Man + Acoustic Guitar = A Winning Combination. What’s unique about this one, though, is its poignancy. This guy’s ability to capture a feeling in verbiage is incredible. And he sings with this raw emotion…it really is moving. This is my favorite kind of music. The kind that doesn’t have to hide behind a synth or crazy stage antics because it stands so prominently on its own. Of course, this begs the question: Are all musicians capable of channelling their gift in such contrasting ways? Is that what constitutes a good musician? I don’t know…someone enlighten me. If this guy can fit into the whole acoustic, singer/songwriter genre while being in a screamo rock band, there must be others. Right?!?

I recommend: The Girl, Body in a Box

7. The Stand Ins- Okkervil River : September 9, 2008

Had to have an Austin band on here. Don’t worry though; this isn’t a sympathy inclusion. I wouldn’t really call this southern rock, but there is definitely an underlying southern influence here. Some of the songs on this album are kind of a throwback to the good ol’ Kings of Leon days when they were being heralded by all as “The Strokes of the South.”

I only own one of their previous albums, and I didn’t even like it that much. Imagine my surprise when after being entertained by their ACL set, I buy The Stand Ins, and it ends up being my seventh favorite album of the year! Must be Will Sheff’s scratchy (sex-ay!) voice…

I recommend: Lost Coastlines, Singer Songwriter

 

6. Cardinology- Ryan Adams & the Cardinals : October 28, 2008

 

My anticipation for this album alone vaulted it into my top 10. I really loved Easy Tiger so my expectations were high. I can’t say Cardinology exceeded them, but it will certainly keep me satisfied until dRA’s next release. What I like about this album is its variety; it’s not as devoted to a particular sound as Gold was to pop or  Heartbreaker was to country. Because of that, I think this is a good “get your feet wet” album for those that haven’t yet committed their lives to this amazing man.

Cardinology starts off very bold (think: heavy bass) and fades out to softer ballads. Some of it is very typical Ryan Adams and others are not. For example, “Magick”. It would definitely fit into the Rock ‘N Roll tracklist (translation: no bueno), but also contains hints of Billy Joel greatness. “Evergreen” is very Cold Roses.

This album isn’t his worst (yet a far cry from his best). You have to listen to the entire thing to really get it. Don’t make the mistake of getting too attached to the front half because you’ll miss out on the end.

I recommend: Born into a Light, Cobwebs

 

5.  Conor Oberst- Conor Oberst : August 5, 2008

closet bright eyes fans, rejoice! you can finally declare your love (publicly) for conor oberst without being immediately associated with whiny, emo music. bright eyes albums have played a huge role in wallowing and self-loathing during those years of raging hormones and first loves. (teenager girls have been fawning over him for years. we’ve all gone through that “i want a sensitive guy with feelings” phase. thankfully, mine is over.) this summer, separated from producer mike mogis and backed  by the mystic river valley band, conor released his first solo album. coupled with a sound that appeals to a broader audience than his past projects, the lyrics seem to be more of a documentation of destinations, as if inspired by the passing scenery of a road trip.

it was recorded in mexico, which explains the rustic feeling of the music. obviously, it still has the bright eyes vibe; after all, conor oberst has one of the most distinguishable voices most of us have ever heard. alot of you have some unexplicable vendetta toward the guy, similar to my issues with the killers. many of my guy friends have made it clear that they “can’t stand that dude from bright eyes.” well, get over yourselves because you’re missing out.

I recommend: “Souled Out!!!”, Sausalito

 

 

 

4. Oracular Spectacular- MGMT : January 22, 2008

I know, I know. This was released digitally in ’07. But most of you would have been more angry had I left this off my list. Plus, it rocked my world so I had to include it.

The greatest thing about Ben Goldwasser  and Andrew VanWyngarden (love of my life #3) is their creative vision and the fact that no one but them will ever understand what that really is. Most of their lyrics are mind-boggling, the concepts for their videos are reeeeeally strange, and they sure know how to make a fashion statement. See them live or listen to an interview. It’s pretty obvious that this duo is on a completely different wavelength than the rest of the world, but you can’t help but feel comforted that they know exactly what they are doing. It’s a very controlled and appropriately channeled, yet cryptic, form of expression. For me, this is the appeal. As long as they remain a mystery, I won’t lose interest. Alot of people in the music industry think MGMT is nothing new to the world of psychedelic rock that has been ruled by the likes of Of Montreal and The Flaming Lips. I have to disagree. Something about their sound (maybe it’s the vocals) is so distinctive, and their hooks are catching the attention of just about everyone around. (Don’t tell me you weren’t mesmerized by the opening credits of 21.)

Sidenote: If you loved Oracular Spectacular, I highly suggest you invest in their EPs. Time to Pretend, which was released in ’05 could be the soundtrack to a video game, and Metanoia is a single, tamer, 14-minute track that i like to call the “bohemian rhapsody” of the future.

I recommend: “Kids“, “The Handshake

3. Re-Arrange Us- Mates of State : May 12, 2008

I don’t understand. This album got slaughtered in reviews. I guess the critics are missing Kori’s electric organ that has been so prominent in the rest of their catalogue, and for that reason, are calling Re-Arrange Us “bare boned and sparse”, but COME ON. So what if they wanted to experiment a little? Quirky harmonies, upbeat tempos…it’s still the feel good music that the band is known for.

If I was in a band, I would want it to be exactly like Mates. I mean, they’re a husband and wife team with two kids. ADORABLE. In my book, this makes their love songs a little less cheesy and alot more legit. Their music is primarily composed of drums and keyboard. (How many bands do you know of these days that aren’t guitar-dominated?) It’s simple, pure, and catchy, all at the same time. If that doesn’t say indie pop to you, I don’t know what does.

I recommend: “My Only Offer“, “The Re-arranger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes : June 3, 2008

This one’s been at the top of everyone’s list this year. And rightfully so. If you’ve never heard Fleet Foxes, the only way I could describe them to you is…haunted choir? Polyphonic Spree with a folk twist? I couldn’t even tell you what genre this falls under. This album contains some of, if not the most, beautiful songs I have ever heard. The vocals sound so natural and old-fashioned…mesmerizing a cappella. Let’s play a little word association: when I think Fleet Foxes, I think blue skies, puffy clouds, and fields that go on forever. Also, goats braying in the background. And flannel. The members of this band might as well be shepherds. Or mountain men. Really. Soothing for the ears and downright good for the soul.

The My Morning Jacket similarities are there (Robin Pecknold and Jim James definitely have the same beard), but for those that prefer less electric guitar, this album will be worth your while. I mentioned that most magazines and music blogs have put Fleet Foxes in their top 5 albums of the year. Believe the buzz. We have been relying more and more on foreign music to satisfy our desires for something “unique.” (see: sigur ros, wolf parade, duffy, adele, dare I say…coldplay?!?) I don’t quite know how to put this, other than that there’s something distinctly American about Fleet Foxes. I believe in this album and this band. They’re going to change the way people in our country listen to music.

I recommend: “White Winter Hymnal“, Blue Ridge Mountains

 

 

 

 

1. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend : January 29, 2008

I know what you’re thinking, and I’ve heard it plenty of times too. Vampire Weekend has, time and time again, been named the most overrated band of the year. Everyone’s tired of defining “afro-pop” and seeing their spots on MTV. we’ve heard their songs in one out of every three movie trailers that came out this year. (the other 2/3 were backed by M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” however, this movie is my dream come true.) This album started circulating in 2007, so I won’t waste time talking about how unique their sound is or how their songs are prone to get stuck in your head for weeks (by the way, it is, and they do.) Instead, i give you this:

10 Reasons Why Ezra Koenig Might Be the Greatest Lyricist of This Generation

  1. mansard roof: what an eloquent way to describe just how screwed up our world is. also, could the first part be about mcdonalds?!?
  2. “first the window, then it’s to the wall; li’l jon, he always tells the truth.”
  3. johanna and his honor…are they lovers? is the ring metaphorical? who are the raincoats?
  4. “cape cod kwassa kwassa” = the ivy leaguer’s “sk8er boi”?
  5. which is it: “how am i supposed to pretend? i never want to see you again!” (hello, one night stand) or “how am i supposed to pretend i never want to see you again?” (an anthem of unrequited love) ?!?
  6. “walked to class, in front of ya…spilled kefir on your keffiyeh.” !!!!!!!!!!!! best. line. ever.
  7. “no kansas palm beetle could ever get close to that free!” in a love song.
  8. “oh, your collegiate grief has left you dowdy in sweatshirts. absolute horror!”
  9. walcott was the lead character in his screenplay about a vampire attack in cape cod. hence the “evil feasts on human lives; the holy roman empire roots for you.” the screenplay was called vampire weekend. ha.
  10. he kindly points out that the northeast oozes of class and historical elegance (mystic seaport, provincetown, wellfleet) while texans are blessed with places like lubbock that lie in “the panhandle.” whyyyyyy

every song just evokes that “what?!?” feeling. less “wow, you were really tripping on acid when you wrote that” and more “if i don’t wikipedia ‘dharamsala’, i’ll never understand this song.” every track is a lesson in history. or geography. or science. or english. or architecture. my only concern with this band is what happens when they can no longer maintain their young, prep school image; the longevity of their success remains uncertain. but hey, when the lead singer of genesis covers one of your songs, you’re probably in good shape…at least for awhile.

I recommend: everything. contrary to what people will probably tell you, the last half of the album does not suck.

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~ by CJL on December 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “2008: my favorite albums”

  1. […] on their life on the road with 2 toddler daughters. remember when i said i wanted to be them, and i named rearrange us as my 3rd favorite album of the year? (ha! as if you read through that mega post.) really interesting and cute. even if you aren’t […]

  2. […] be honest, i think 2008 was a much better year for music. not to discredit 2009 at all, but my top 10 of 2008 was surrounded with much more excitement than this year’s lists. in fact, i’m reeeeally […]

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