Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chris's 2008 Picks

After two years of absolutely amazing musical output, 2008 was a bit of a bummer. Although I listened to a bunch of releases, it felt like I had about a dozen albums from which to pick ten. So, without further ado, here are the ten albums from 2008* that I most thoroughly enjoyed.

10. Real Emotional Trash - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Whenever I needed some guitar, this was the album I turned to. It seems that the more elaborate and eccentric that indie music gets, the more the guitar gets lost in the mix. Sometimes all you need is vocals you can understand (not necesarily lyrics that make sense) and righteous riffs.

Highlights: Hopscotch Willie, Real Emotional Trash, Gardenia

9. Fate - Dr. Dog

It's always nice to have a new album that sounds like an album you've had for years. This year that distinction goes to Dr. Dog's Fate. The album isn't necesarliy amazing, but the familiarity is quite comforting.

Highlights: The Breeze, Hang On, The Rabbit the Bat & the Reindeer

8. Modern Guilt - Beck

While listening to the Gorillaz back in the summer of 2007, I knew (hoped) that a collaboration between Beck and Danger Mouse was inevitable. Although Modern Guilt is not what I had imagined, it works. Not a great Beck album (for that I had my #7 album), but a really solid album, none the less.

Highlights: Orphans, Gamma Ray, Modern Guilt

7. Oracular Spectacular* - MGMT

This album had an unheralded digital only release in late 2007, but the physical release and hype happened in 2008, so I am including the album on this list. I wildly strange and fun band and album ala The Flaming Lips.

Highlights: Time to Pretend, Electric Feel, The Handshake

6. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Just because hipsters dress like they're homeless doesn't mean they have any more chops than ivy leaguers in polos and boat shoes. The tunes are what matter, and these guys know how to write glorious pop songs.

Highlights: Oxford Comma, One (Blake's Got a New Face), Walcott

5. 808s and Hearbreak - Kanye West

Kanye finally made an album that I don't want to skip tracks on. Not every song is great, but there aren't any horrible songs either. With the release of Graduation, Kanye said that he wanted to make music that was universal and filled arenas, I think that 808s and Heartbreak has aligned him more closely with U2 than 50 Cent.

Highlights: Heartless, Love Lockdown, Robocop

4. At Mount Zoomer - Wolf Parade

This was my most highly anticipated album of the year, but unlike with Interpol's Our Love to Admire, I wasn't devastated when I heard it. At Mount Zoomer is definitely a departure from Wolf Parade's debut, but having listened to Sunset Rubdown the past two years, I'm neither surprised nor disappointed. I enjoy this album as a whole so much, that I'm always surprised when Kissing the Beehive breaks down into a dance frenzy, signifying the close of the album.

Highlights: Soldier's Grin, Bang Your Drum, California Dreamer
3. Visiter - The Dodos

Visiter may be the most interesting album I heard all year. The album sounds stripped down and yet super rich at the same time.

Highlights: Red and Purple, Park Song, The Season

2. Dear Science - TV on the Radio

Like my number two album of 2007, Dear Science was also a grower. I didn't understand the hype associated with TV on the Radio's 2006 release, and I was struggling to get into Dear Science, but Dancing Choose grabbed me from my first listen and thankfully that track kept me listening to the album until I wised up enough to realize that TV on the Radio is brilliant.

Highlights: Halfway Home, Dancing Choose, DLZ

1. Here's to Being Here - Jason Collett

The fact that this is my number one album is as much of a shock to me as it is to anyone. I'm not a huge Broken Social Scene fan and this album is quite twangy, but since I first heard this back in January it has been a constant in my rotation. I also really enjoy his super poppy EP from 2007.

Highlights: Roll on Oblivion, Out of Time, Not Over You

Extra Pix:
Album that should have made the list but didn't: Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
This album is probably on enough lists the way it is. The digital download that came with the vinyl release is quite flat, so I only ever found my self really hearing this album when I took the time to drop the needle and that wasn't very often since we were rarely at home.

Best EP: The Bake Sale - The Cool Kids
Like the Beastie Boys before they discovered Tibet. Fun rhymes and fresh beats.

Albums with too much of a good thing:
Chin Chin - Chin Chin, Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles, HEALTH//DISCO - Health
I'm not sure that any of these releases have a bad track, but as a whole the albums are a little too much to take.

Great songs on OK albums:

Yucatan Gold - Throw Me the Statue - Moonbeams
Shake a Fist
- Hot Chip - Made in the DarkHercules Theme - Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
Blackmail Blues
- Extra Life - Secular WorksI Will Possess Your Heart (full length) - Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Best Album Cover:Fate - Dr. Dog
I really like that the cover is quilted and on the back of the album you can see all of the stitches, too. With the detail, it is a cover stands up even in iTunes.Honorable Mention: The Stand Ins - Okkervil River
I enjoy how the cover completes the image from their 2007 release, The Stage Names. Unfortunately the music doesn't match that of The Stage Names.

Worst Album Cover:At Mount Zoomer - Wolf Parade

Best Album Goodie:
Modern Guilt (vinyl release) - Beck
Download code for 320-kbit/s MP3s direct from the master vinyl
You can actually here the needle drop on the first and sixth tracks, SubPop take note.

Best Complete Package:808s and Heartbreak (vinyl release) - Kanye West
Tri-Gatefold, Double LP + CD, doubled sided poster & credits/lyrics sheet