Friday, January 30, 2009

Best Albums of 2008

I know this comes a bit late, but it's tradition. These are my top 10 picks for 2008 in no particular order:

Nicole and I got a chance to see Neil Halstead in New York when we were there. It was a fantastic show. I really like Mojave 3 but it's nice to have a fresh batch Neil's more mellow songs. It is a great sing-a-long album. You just have to get by a bit of sacrilege on the best song of the album called "Sometimes the Wheels" and all is well.

Not only does this album solidify TV On The Radio as one of the best new bands of the decade, it also makes you want to revisit their previous album, "Return to Cookie Mountain." There are many similarities between the two, but "Dear Science" has a much less pop feel to it. Almost like they recorded the very first thing that came to mind and, unrepentantly, ran with it. There are not as many catchy songs with memorable lyrics as their first album produced, but that makes it all the better to listen to again and again because you find something new each time you give it a spin.

I really liked this album for the reasons that most other Will Oldham fans may hate it. It has a much more friendly sound and much less references to things of a sexual nature. But more than anything, I am so glad that there wasn't a girl singing back up vocals on every single stinking song like on his previous record. I really enjoy his older work, but it is nice to see that he isn't reproducing the same things over and over, especially since he feels the need to release something new every 4 to 6 months.  

If you have never heard of these dudes, download one of their songs and close your eyes when you listen to it. You will probably picture something reminiscent of a bunch of long hair hippies wearing smocks and prancing around in a field holding hands and playing lutes and recorders. When I first heard their self titled album at Amoeba in L.A., I thought it was Jim James singing so it caught my attention. But it was much better than anything My Morning Jacket has put out in the last two years. I bought it right away. Later I purchased the "Sun Giant" EP which has my favorite song of the year, "Drops in the River." Their LP, I would have to say, is my favorite album this year.

If you are not listening to Dr. Dog yet, go buy this album. Everyone thinks Beatles when they hear them, and gets turned off instantly. You have to get over it and enjoy the fact that their songs are flawlessly composed. This album insinuates somewhat of a late 1800's theme and is filled with so many different types of sounds and instruments. Railroad noises can be heard along with ancient and out-of-tune pianos. A few songs get a little preachy in this album as did many albums this year. And the songs are most impressive collectively unlike their previous albums. But it is a great addition to their catalogue and to my collection.

This was the most pleasant surprise this year. I never thought these two guys would do another album, or at least not for a while. Calexico returned to their roots with this album, dialed up the Spanish lyrics and dropped a lot of the ambient sounds that they shoved into their previous album, "Garden Ruin". More classical guitar and mariachi sounds dominate this collection of songs. This is an album that both me and my Mexican friends from Columbia can enjoy whilst at work.

I have only listened to this album 3 or 4 times since I bought it, but I am very impressed with Justin Vernon's writing skills. I think the thing that impresses me the most about this album is that it is the type of music that I would want to write. It is mostly mellow and can easily fade into the background when you listen to it in your car or at work. But it gets my creative juices flowing. I took the time to listen to it in bed when my mind was on nothing else and it really blew my mind. You should try it.

I almost forgot about this album (which doesn't give it much credit for being in my top ten), but when I bought this early in the year, it was the only thing I listened to for weeks. And I spent a lot of time trying to promote it amongst friends. These dudes got a ton of recognition for their first album when they went on tour with Coldplay, but they ditched all of the fruitiness of that album and focused solely on their hard, classic rock sounds for this one. The girl dudes vocals can get a bit reminiscent of Grace Slick on a few of these songs. It fluctuates just enough between the heavy stuff and the slow paced stuff to keep you interested the entire time.

This is a great album from a fantastic two piece band. I appreciate the rawness of a band who wields limited members, but I also enjoy that they fill in their music with more than two instruments when they least they do for the most part. They have a bluesy vibe to them that doesn't get overshadowed in production, even for having DJ Shadow produce this album (there are a lot of puns in that sentence). I had not paid them much attention before this year, but I have purchased quite a few of their prior albums since this one came out and I am very impressed with their versatility on all of their records. 

This album is probably up here because it was so much better than their last sucky album "X&Y". I didn't think that this was going to be any good at all so my expectations we very low. And even though every song was not a winner to me, collectively it was simply a great collaboration of some of the most talented musicians around. The last two songs on this album are probably Coldplay's best two songs. And I will admit that the "Prospekts March" EP was icing on the cake which turned this 10 track album into a more complete collection. And I especially appreciated Jay-Z's additional lyrics on the song "Lost." 

Honorable Mention:

Ida - "Lovers Prayers" 
Sun Kil Moon - "April"
Mates of State - "Rearrange Us"

Not as good as advertised:

My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges"
Vampire Weekend - "Vampire Weekend"
M83 - "Saturdays=Youth"
Kanye West - "808's and Heartbreaks"
She and Him - "Volume One"
Guns N Roses - "Chinese Democracy"


amber buhrley said...

ok, Seriously could you get any cooler? We love neil halstead too! We heard him in LA. (another hook up of my Brother) You should also check out Mason Jennings. Heard of him? He is pretty cool too! We've kind of been into him lately.

Guy Incognito said...

I am pretty cool. But I think I can get a little cooler. I have heard a little about Mason Jennings. But I don't have any of his stuff. I will have to check it out. Do you listen to Ray Lamontange?