Since I already blogged about my favorite songs/artists that I heard for the first time in 2008, it seemed only right that I A) add some more that got left off the list, and B) give some credit (in blog form) to the best albums that came out in 2008, regardless of when I first heard of the artists. Once again, this list is incomplete, very subjective, and has changed the last 4 or 5 times I tried to narrow it down to 10 albums. So I guess this is more like "today's best albums of 2008 list" since I know I'll change my mind tomorrow.
And now, some reading material:
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
I already gave my friend Kate a shout-out in my other "best of 2008" post for introducing me to this band, but she deserves another one. This album showcases some of the best of what this band is capable of, namely intelligent lyrics, wonderful percussion, great multi-tracked vocals, and a wonderful instrumentation that manages to be both spare and lush at the same time. This song, "The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver," has almost the exact same tune in the background of the verses as Leonard Cohen's "Dress Rehearsal Rag." Coincidence? You decide.
Mother Mother - O My Heart
How could I have left this band off of my other list? It's a toss-up between this album and Los Campesinos! for "album Jordan listened to over and over again way too many times in 2008." This album has it all: pop hooks, syncopation, clever-but-somewhat-dadaist lyrics, bright shiny production, and incredibly catchy songs with nicely layered vocals. Like Los Campesionos!, Mother Mother makes great use of male & female vocalists for a fantastic sound reminiscent of the Pixies (some would replace "reminiscent" with "derivative," but whatever). I had a hard time choosing a favorite song off this album so I went with the one I found most often repeating itself in my head, "Ghosting." This one doesn't sound a lot like the rest of the album, actually, so it's kind of a terrible choice in terms of representing the whole thing, but it's still a great song, especially the lyrics. Musically it really gets going around 2 minutes in. EDIT: I couldn't pick just one song from this album, so please enjoy "Burning Pile" as well.
Plants and Animals - Parc Avenue
School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms
I didn't know what to expect when I heard that Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis had formed a new band. I guess I expected Secret Machines-lite, which is kind of what I got from the last couple of Secret Machines albums. Instead I got this riveting electro-dance-pop album [Editor's note: there's probably some real sub-genre that the hipsters are using for this sort of thing, but I don't know the name of it.] that really rewards repeated listenings. This track, "Connjur," is one of the lighter numbers on the album, but nicely showcases the vocal abilities of twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza as well as the general dancing-in-a-weird-80s-dream vibe of the whole album.
TV On The Radio - Dear Science
I didn't like this album the first several times I heard it. I wanted more horns, more bizarre vocal stunts, more a cappella, more of everything I loved about their first album. And then one day it just suddenly clicked for me, and I realized that this is a fine album by a band that's growing and trying different things. It's just that in TV On The Radio's case, they started out weirder and are getting (slightly) more normal, so progression for them is not what I'm used to hearing in terms of bands branching out and experimenting. But now I know they can make good, accessible songs and still showcase their unique talents, and I'm OK with that. I guess I'm growing, too. "Crying" could have been a Top 40 dance track in another era with a different singer.
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Ah, Vampire Weekend. For the longest time I told myself you were just a flash in the pan, a band of limited talents who stood on the shoulders of giants and put in just enough songcraft to get the job done and pull the wool over the eyes of today's youth. Then I realized that I had inadvertantly memorized every track on this album because they are all so damn catchy. Why fight it? This is a wonderful pop album with some great influences. I like "The Kids Don't Stand A Chance" both because it sounds different than most of the other songs on the album, and because I love the title's modern update of the Who's "The Kids Are Alright" - whether it was intended to be that, I couldn't say, so let's assume it was.
Why? - Alopecia
2005's Elephant Eyelash was such a great album, I had very high hopes for this follow-up. The sound is a lot fuller and richer, with more instrumentation and fleshed-out choruses, but that overarching sense of dread and loss remains, which makes for a great album from a band (well, a solo act, more or less) to watch. "Good Friday" doesn't feature the higher-pitched nasal sound that is Why's trademark, but it does contain a reference to Houdini's death by an unexpected punch and the line "sucking dick for drink tickets/at the free bar at my cousin's bat mitzvah," so it made the list.
Honorable Mention: M.I.A. - Kala
This album isn't consistent enough to make it into my official Top 10, but c'mon...Paper Planes! The Clash never sounded so good (with apologies to The Clash). Just to mix things up, I've included the "Scottie B. Remix" from Paper Planes: Homeland Security Remixes. For more on my love affair with this song, click here.
Well, that's my list. I've already changed my mind about it, but now it's written so I'm stuck with it. What were your favorite albums released in 2008? What are you looking forward to that's coming out in 2009? Tell me in the comments.