Five that didn’t quite make my list. Favorite songs will come tomorrow…
Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty (Downtown)
Probably should have made the top 50, but I inexplicably forgot to include it in my final list.
Black Kids – Partie Traumatic (Almost Gold/Columbia)
Pretty fun and danceable indie rock record.
Secret Machines – s/t (TSM)
Though I had thought they had broken up after their last album Ten Silver Drops (they actually just lost vocalist and guitaris Ben Curtis), the new incarnation of the band released an album this year. There is almost no noticeable difference to me between the two records, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Deerhoof – Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars)
I’ve cooled on Deerhoof over the past few years, but Offend Maggie is still a worthy effort.
Crooked Fingers – Forfeit/Fortune (CAI/Red Pig)
Another solid record from former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann, his fifth under the Crooked Fingers name.
Here it is, my (probably) unsurprising top ten albums of the year.
10. Deerhunter – Microcastle (Kranky)
Last year’s Cryptograms had its moments, but was a little too fragmented for me. Which is probably why I waited so long to hear Microcastle this year. While it retains some of that experimental nature, there are some great psych-pop songs hidden underneath the haze and drones.
9. The Walkmen – You & Me (Gigantic)
For me, the most cohesive Walkmen album I’ve heard. Every other album has great songs among some filler (notably their last album A Hundred Miles Off). The jangly guitars, organ swells and singer Hamilton Leithauser’s vocals in “In the New Year” are exactly why I am so high on this album.
8. Vampire Weekend – s/t (XL)
Eff the haters…nothing sounds better on a lazy summer day. As long as the songs are solid (“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Oxford Comma,” “Mansford Roof,” “Walcott,” “A-Punk”) then I can get past the preppy pretention and Wes Anderson aping.
7. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Red Ink/Columbia)
MGMT had me from the first of the gurgling synths in “Time to Pretend.” They made me stay with “Electric Feel,” “Weekend Wars,” “Kids,” and the David Fridmann production.
6. The New Year – s/t (Touch and Go)
The Kadane Brothers have always been a favorite of mine, even when I went back and explored their days as Bedhead in college. They are, however, less than prolific (this is their first album in four years). I more or less know what to expect from a New Year song: slow, quiet build to a barely less quiet climax (don’t think Explosions in the Sky). This time out, they have added piano to the overall sound (at times to the forefront), but it still retains the feel of a New Year record.
5. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges (Red)
I never thought a My Morning Jacket album would have to be a grower for me. It’s not that I hated Evil Urges on first listen, I just think I was confused at what I was hearing (“Highly Suspicious” anyone?). The more I listened to it, the more I was able to follow Jim James’ vision that Evil Urges continues in the direction the band started to take with Z. Also, seeing My Morning Jacket, one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, live a few months later didn’t hurt either.
4. The War on Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues (Secretly Canadian)
Described to me as a mixture of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and Bob Dylan. And it actually manages to not be a trainwreck. Adam Granduciel’s vocals do recall Bob Dylan, but the sticker for me are the shoegazer elements of the album.
3. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
The party album of the year, if your party guests aren’t my girlfriend.
2. The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead (Sub Pop)
A huge surprise for me, since I actively disliked their last album Love and Distance. Keep Your Eyes Ahead is a pretty eclectic album but for me, this band is at their best when they mix shoegazer and dreampop – “Lately,” “Can’t Say No,” “Hallelujah” and “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” as opposed to singer-songwriter – “Shed Your Love” and “Broken Afternoon.”
1. TV on the Radio – Dear Science (Interscope)
This should come as no surprise if you know me at all. When I heard that TVOTR were releasing a new album in 2008, I almost expected it to be my favorite album of the year. And it is. “Family Tree” is downright beautiful, Antibalas lend their horns to “Red Dress,” Tunde harkens back to the Desperate Youths days on “Love Dog,” “Shout Me Out” and “DLZ” have a furious energy to them and “Lover’s Day” is an R-rated love song with Celebration‘s Katrina Ford. And this is the last six songs, a murder’s row to end the album. The first half is great, but you simply can’t eff with the second half of this record. I expect even more great things with TVOTR‘s next album, and it’s officially the favorite for my top album of whatever year it ends up being released.
Continuing today with albums 20-11. The top 10 will be posted tomorrow.
20. Peter Broderick – Home (Hush)
The part-time Efterklang-er’st first album with vocals. Beautiful and haunting folk music.
19. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park (4AD)
This is really my first extended listen to any of the Grizzly Bear camp. A lush, different sounding album for me, though it does make a ton of sense being on 4AD.
18. The Death Set – Worldwide (Counter)
Bratty, abrasive punk. Which I think we all need every once in a while.
17. White Denim – Workout Holiday (Full Time Hobby)
A spastic debut from the Austin, TX trio which is kinda mathy, kinda punky, kinda post-punky, and kinda garage-y.
16. No Age – Nouns (Sub Pop)
Noise-punk with kind of a lo-fi bent.
15. Oxford Collapse – Bits (Sub Pop)
I usually group Oxford Collapse and No Age together because they are on Sub Pop and have a similar sound, albeit with Oxford Collapse being a little more pop. Of the two albums from 2008, I prefer Bits for this reason.
14. Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream (EMI)
Combining members of The Sleepy Jackson and PNAU, think of Empire of the Sun as sort of a more disco, Aussie version of MGMT. “Walking on a Dream” is probably my song of the year.
13. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL)
If Sigur Rós were content to continue making the same music they’ve been making for four albums, you wouldn’t hear a complaint from me. Instead, they mix it up on their latest album – “Gobbldigook” sounds like a lost Animal Collective track, “Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur” is a sunny song with a pounding beat, and on “All Alright” Jonsi actually sings in english. There are still moments of classic Sigur Rós beauty, but I’m also glad they continue to evolve.
12. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Vagrant)
Except for the questionable “Both Crosses,” Stay Positive is pretty much the perfect soundtrack for a summer cookout with cooked meat and cheap beer (say, “High Life”).
11. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
Bon Iver, at least on this album, sound like I always wished Iron & Wine would sound. For Emma, Forever Ago is an album of hushed, romantic folk music perfect for a rainy day. It’s also kind of cool to me that it was mixed in Raleigh, North Carolina.
My top 50 albums of 2008 continues today with 30-21. Albums 20-11 will come tomorrow.
30. Blitzen Trapper – Furr (Sub Pop)
Last year’s Wild Mountain Nation came out of nowhere and very nearly landed in my top 20. Now that I was more aware of Blitzen Trapper, I made sure I sought out their Sub Pop debut and have definitely enjoyed their brand of lo-fi Americana further. Probably could have used more listens, to be honest.
29. Pop Levi – Never Never Love (Counter)
Pop Levi makes pop music like nothing I’ve really heard before. Though maybe this is because I haven’t really listened to T-Rex or a lot of glam.
28. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)
The latest from the Truckers starts off strongly (notably “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife,” “3 Dimes Down,” and “The Righteous Path”) before it ends up dragging on a little too long at 19 tracks and nearly 70 minutes. Still, there are some great tracks here, and I just wish DBT had done a little self-editing (“Daddy Needs a Drink,” “Bob,” “You and Your Crystal Meth”).
27. Fleet Foxes – s/t (Sub Pop)
Initially, Fleet Foxes‘ self-titled debut seemed like My Morning Jacket lite or even Band of Horses lite (which I guess would kind of be My Morning Jacket zero). Repeated listens reveal that those similarities begin and mostly end with the voice of singer Robin Pecknold, and that the band takes more influence from folk and classic rock. Some of the prettiest indie rock you will hear all year (see “Winter White Hymnal”).
26. Langhorne Slim & the War Eagles – s/t (Kemado)
Folk singer Langhorne Slim‘s latest is in the vein of his last album (and only other of his that I’ve heard) When The Sun’s Gone Down. This one is a little more hit or miss for me than WTSGD, but still has some great songs – “Rebel Side of Heaven,” “Oh Honey” and “Tipping Point.”
25. Tapes N Tapes – Walk it Off (XL)
Initially I was turned off by the slick production of indie super producer David Fridmann, but the spirit of their lo-fi debut is still present here, just with a little more polish.
24. Murder By Death – Red of Tooth and Claw (Vagrant)
While still not harking back to their debut as Little Joe Gould, Red of Tooth and Claw is a step in the right direction after the spotty In Bocca Al Lupo and Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? in that its a more focused version of the gothic Americana they can (at times) do so well.
23. Malcolm Middleton – Sleight of Heart (Full Time Hobby)
The former Arab Strap-per’s latest album of plaintive, simple folk clocks in at around 30 minutes. “Love Comes in Waves” and “Hey You” end the album nicely.
22. Seagull – Goodbye Weather (Two Bright Lakes)
I randomly came across this album from the Australian folk-indie band Seagull on a music blog, and really just downloaded it because of the interesting album cover. It’s probably my find of the year, even though it didn’t quite make my top 20.
21. Santogold – s/t (Downtown)
You’ve probably heard Santi’s songs in commercials for iPod or Bud Light Lime, and she earns comparisons to M.I.A. because of her delivery at times and because producers Switch and Diplo worked on her album. The comparisons are somewhat valid, but neither that nor the awful album cover detracts in the least from Santogold‘s solid album of fun, danceable tunes.
Continuing with albums 40-31…
40. Retribution Gospel Choir – s/t (Caldo Verde)
The more straightforward rock side of Low‘s Alan Sparhawk (though the line between that side and the slowcore side was getting more and more blurred with each Low release before Drums & Guns).
39. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Lie Down in the Light (Spunk)
You know what you are getting with a Bonnie “Prince” Billy album. This is no different, except for maybe a little more more female vocals.
38. Ladyhawk – Shots (Jagjaguwar)
Not quite as strong an album as their self-titled debut, but it can fill a need for crunchy guitar rock when needed.
37. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours (Modular Interscope)
Cut Copy play danceable indie rock that might remind some of LCD Soundsystem, New Order or Daft Punk. Its a fun album that probably should have gotten more play from me during the summer months, “Hearts on Fire” especially.
36. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs (Atlantic)
DCFC mix up the formula a bit, with a little bit darker feel to many of the songs from the album. “I Will Possess Your Heart”‘s extended intro is almost unrecognizable to Death Cab for Cutie fans, and the lyrics to “You Can Do Better Than Me” and “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” is a bit more resigned than I’ve heard from Ben Gibbard in quite some time.
35. Man Man – Rabbit Habbits (Anti)
Rabbit Habbits is a little more accessible than Man Man‘s previous albums, but not to say thats it is an accessible album for everyone. It still retains an experimental feel overall, though it does have moments like “Doo Right” that are downright doo wop.
34. Mogwai – The Hawk Is Howling (Matador)
The latest album from the post-rock is equal parts Rock Action sunniness (“I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead,” “The Sun Smells Too Loud”) and Young Team post-metal (“Batcat”). The resulting album is arguably Mogwai’s strongest effort since 2001’s Rock Action.
33. Gregor Samsa – Rest (Kora)
Virginia post rock band Gregor Samsa tone it way, way down for their latest album, almost to a glacial pace.
32. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna (Social Registry)
This was another album I heard a little too late in the year, or else it would have had a chance to be much, much higher. A bizarre mix of electro-funk, trip hop, dubstep, grime, and possibly more.
31. Destroyer – Trouble in Dreams (Merge)
This album continues in the direction of 2006’s hyper-literate Destroyer’s Rubies, which was a good thing to me.
Going to do my top 50 albums countdown style this year, if I may be so bold. And here we go…
50. Constantines – Kensington Heights (Arts & Crafts)
This album was a bit of a letdown for me, as I was expecting it to kick my ass more along the lines of their album Shine A Light but it was full of midtempo, non-rocky songs. However, Constantines are still a live must-see for me if they ever make it down this way.
49. Spiritualized – Songs in A&E (Castle)
Songs in A&E may have been even more of a letdown than Kensington Heights for me, but there still manages to be some great moments on the record, namely “I Got A Fire.”
48. The Magnetic Fields – Distortion (Nonesuch)
This is a case where there is no hidden meaning to the album title, because the entire album is indeed filled with distortion and fuzz. The real gem on the album is the hilarious “Too Drunk to Dream” (opening lyrics, in chant: “Sober, life is a prison/Shitfaced, it is a blessing/Sober, nobody wants you/Shitfaced, they’re all undressing” ), but “Three-way” is a sunny Southern California pop song dressed up in fuzz and opens up the album nicely.
47. Brightblack Morning Light – Motion to Rejoin (Matador)
To me, this album sounds a lot like early, Pure Phase-era Spiritualized (noodly, drifting melodies) as opposed to the current sound of that band (fuzzed-out rock and/or stripped down gospel hymns), which is why it gets a few notches above an actual Spiritualized album.
46. Sebastien Grainger – Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains (Saddle Creek)
The former Death From Above 1979-er’s debut album is more or less the noisy rock you should expect, albeit with more hooks than DFA1979.
45. Glasvegas – s/t (Columbia)
Moments of this record from the Glasgow, Scotland band remind me of The Cure, which isn’t necesarily a bad thing. Had I not heard it so late in the year (partly because I am not a fan of the band name at all), it could have snuck into my top 20.
44. Calexico – Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)
Calexico‘s latest album isn’t all too dissimilar from their other albums I’ve heard so that means it has that distinctly southwestern sound, complete with mariachi horns.
43. Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City)
I was big on this record early on, but it may have suffered from some overplay on my part. Still, the usual great David Berman lyrics with some great humor on this album, particularly “San Francisco B.C.”
42. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)
The companion record to last years The Stage Names, and the record that I actually may prefer of the two. Okkervil River has been putting out consistently solid records the past few years, and The Stand Ins continues that streak.
41. Kings of Leon – Only By the Night (RCA)
Kings of Leon ditch their southern rock drawl for a more arena-friendly sound, continuing in the same direction as they took with Because of the Times. “Sex on Fire” is a contender for the jam of the year, and not just because it was featured prominently on an episode of Gossip Girl.