Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

2008 was another great year for music, and maybe the most diverse in my recent memory. Here are my top ten albums and honorable mentions:

(in order)

1. Girl Talk - "Feed the Animals"

The bottom line: you cannot listen to this entire album without falling completely in love with what Greg Gillis has done with the "mash-up" genre. This was my most anticipated album of 2008 and it delivered big time. The samples are much more focused than the 2006 release "Night Ripper" and the result is an amazing homage to pop/rock/hip-hop/electronica/etc. I listened to this album beginning to end about 150 times since it was released back in June...and it only gets better each time.

Favorite Tracks:

"Play Your Part (Pt. 1)"
"Play Your Part (Pt. 2)"

2. Kleerup - "Kleerup"

This is the "sleeper" of the year, maybe even the last three years. Swedish producer Andreas Kleerup released this amazing showcase of electronica meets guest vocals. I think Kleerup created what Moby attempted to create on this years "Last Night" and fell short of. The entire album feels like it was a musical re-creation of 1990...and that is a good thing.

Favorite Tracks:

"Until We Bleed (Feat. Lykke Li)"
"Thank You For Nothing"

3. Wolf Parade - "At Mount Zoomer"

The three year wait for their follow-up to "Apologies to Queen Mary" was not easy. My second most anticipated release of 2008 was met with wide eyes and open arms. Their sound had changed...and this wasn't a bad thing. I can't define how or why it changed, it just did. I think many critics/fans weren't ready for the new sound and prematurely shelved the record without a proper listen. I got to see most of the album performed live about a month ago. When they played the wall-of-noise guitar part of "Call It a Ritual", I closed my eyes and went somewhere else for about 11 seconds.

Favorite Tracks:

Animal In Your Care
Call It a Ritual

4. Kanye West - "808s & Heartbreak"

Very few artists understand the music industry like Kanye West does: re-invent yourself before it is necessary to. The 2007 release "Graduation" was one of the best hip-hop releases of the decade, let alone the year. Why not follow it up with another hit machine? The answer: life happened. Kanye's life fell apart as a result of the death of his mother, a break-up with his fiance and ulimately gaining the success he worked so hard to obtain. The result: two weeks spent in Hawaii creating what would become this album. Emotional pain tends to create great art and this is a shining example of that. Critics and fans can say whatever they want about this album, but in the end...this is an amazing record that isn't getting the praise it should because it doesn't play by the rules of the music industry.

Favorite Tracks:

"Street Lights"
"Amazing (Feat. Young Jeezy)"

5. The Walkmen - "You & Me"

Once the darlings of the indie/garage revival, the Walkmen returned to the praises of fans and critics alike with "You & Me". The entire album is an impressive display of infectious songs that all sound familiar, while somehow not sounding too familiar to each other. After three proper album releases, the Walkmen have put out their best and most focused work to date.

Favorite Tracks:

"Four Provinces"
"In the New Year"

6. M83 - "Saturdays = Youth"

The best description for this album is "rich in sonic textures". The entire album feels like 1987 all over again. Released in April, this became the album on which my entire spring/summer was based. I have been into M83 for the last three years and this album is their obvious progression towards more of an electronic pop sound and I have no complaints with their chosen direction.

Favorite Tracks:

"Kim & Jessie"
"We Own the Sky"

7. The Killers - "Day & Age"

Now don't get me wrong, there are some horrible musical moments within "Day & Age". However, the stunning and spine tingling moments created within these 10 tracks far outweighs the weak parts. The Killers followed up the 2006 release "Sam's Town" with equal parts Pet Shop Boys pop and early 70's David Bowie glam rock. Brandon Flowers proves once again that he is one of the best lyricist of the last ten years (maybe ever). I don't think this album is what critics or most fans expected/wanted but I think it is deserving of pure praise for its sensibilities of pop music and human emotion.

Favorite Tracks:

"A Dustland Fairytale"
"Neon Tiger"

8. Cut Copy - "In Ghost Colours"

This Melbourne, Australia group simply put, released one of the best electro-pop/dance-punk albums of the last couple years. 'In Ghost Colours' is an uptempo assault of mixed genres and "can't sit still" beats. Lead vocalist Dan Whitford has gone on the record as saying that the sound of 'In Ghost Colours' is the closest the band have come to the sound they're after. With influences ranging from the late 60's to early 90's, Cut Copy bang out 15 tracks of glowing dance party pop.

Favorite Tracks:

"Strangers in the Wind"
"Lights and Music"

9. Santogold - "Santogold"

2008 was the year of Santogold. You could not turn on the t.v. without hearing at least one of her songs on a commercial. Santogold's debut album is absolutely remarkable. Santogold's goal of the album was to "help break down boundaries and genre classifications" and she did just that. With a sound that could only flourish in the current world of internet driven press, Santogold proved that she was much more than a "flash in the pan".

Favorite Tracks:

"I'm a Lady"

10. Crystal Castles - "Crystal Castles"

I had a conversation in my kitchen in late 2007, and this served as my introduction Crystal Castles. I spoke with a friend who had just seen them live a week prior and had nothing but great things to say about them. Three months later their first full-length album was released. I've been hooked ever since. 18 tracks of Atari sounds + Karen O-esque vocals. Amazing.

Favorite Tracks:

"Courtship Dating"


Atlas Sound - "Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel"

Bradford Cox is not exactly fun to look at...but listening to, now that's a different story. This is one of those records that feels like an out-of-body experience. Pure ambient pop with layers of dark edges. The haunting sounds of Bradford Cox's voice echo throughout this album, which was recorded using a musical software program. Maybe even more interesting is that all of the lyrics on the album were created as they were being recorded on the first take.

Favorite Tracks:

"River Card"
"Winter Vacation"

Honorable Mentions:

(in no particular order)

Diplo/Santogold - "Top Ranking (Mixtape)"
Kings of Leon - "Only By The Night"
TV on the Radio - "Dear Science"
High Places - "03/07 - 09/07"
Animal Collective - "Water Curses EP"
Stars - "Sad Robot EP"
French Kicks - "Swimming"
Hot Chip - "Made in the Dark"
The Dodos - "Visiter"
Alaska in Winter - "Holiday"
Lil' Wayne - "The Carter III"
High Places - "High Places"
Deerhunter - "Microcastle/Weird Era Cont."
Fleet Foxes - "Fleet Foxes"
Damien Jurado - "Caught in the Trees"
Air France - "No Way Down EP"
T.I. - "Paper Trail"
Lykke Li - "Youth Novel"
Wilderness - "(k)no(w)here"
She & Him - "Volume 1"
The Game - "L.A.X."
Fuck Buttons - "Street Horrrsing"
Nas - "Untitled"
Hercules and Love Affair - "Hercules and Love Affair"
Lindstrøm - Where You Go I Go Too

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