Best Albums of 2008
We talked about doing this asÂ a podcast, and several other ideas were floated, but in the end we decided just to post this discussion between some of us about the best albums of the year.Â Tell us about your own nominees or vote on the ones we mention.Â Read the full discussion (with some small edits for clarity and content by an authoritative editor) after the jump.Â Also relevant to this discussion are previous 2008 Â music posts located here, here and especially here:
Supergenius:Â I’ll start off the conversation with a couple of my favorites from
this year, with more to follow once you haters tear my picks apart.Â I
have to say that 2008 was not, overall, much of a landmark in terms of
music.Â [editor's note: SG doesn't really like music]
1.Â TV On The Radio: Dear Science.Â For a couple of my favorite bands,
2008 was when the band started to go mainstream; their first albums
were a bit wild and inconsistent, and 2008 showed a second album with
far more consistency if a bit mellowed.Â Dear Science is a bit like
that; TVOTR’s Return to Cookie Mountain was a big mess of crazy sounds
that really worked, while Dear Science is a big mess of not-as-crazy
sounds that still works pretty great.Â It isn’t edgy or
hard-to-listen-to like the former album.Â Instead this one lulls you
in with some great beats.
2.Â The Smiths: The Sound of the Smiths.Â Yes, it’s a best-of from a
band that has like a million best-ofs, but it has a lot of rare tracks
and a sweeping scope to its 2-cd set that I think for the first time
really shows how great Morrissey/Marr truly were.Â The more I think
about it, the more The Smiths seem like one of my all-time favorite
bands and definitely the kings of post-punk.
I have a couple of others to mention, but that should get the ball rolling.
My not-in-any-order favorites:
1. Jay Reatard: Matador Singles 08
2. Hank IV: Refuge in Genre
3. Times New Viking: Rip It Off
4. Deerhunter: Microcastes/Weird Era Cont.
5. Menahan Street Band: Make The Road By Walking
6. Ladyhawk: Shots
7. Dungen: 4
8. Greg Dulli: Live at Triple Door
9. Andrew Daly: Nine Sweaters
10. Black Mountain: In the Future
SG:Â I’ve heard great stuff about the Deerhunter album, but I’ve found them
a bit bleak.Â What’s Microcastle like?
Also, I’m sure Susan will now start gushing about Ladyhawk, but I don’t get it.
BTD Greg:Â I’ll go you one better.Â I’m sure Susan and others will start gushing about Kings of Leon, but I don’t get it.Â In fact, I heard “Sex on Fire” on the radio, and thought it was one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.
What?Â This isn’t where we complain about music we don’t like?
Oh, sorry.Â [editor's note: Greg isÂ very, very sorry indeed]
Brian V:Â I don’t find Deerhunter particularly bleak. Their touchpoints are
obvious (first 2 Roxy Music LPs and Eno solo stuff) and there’s some
50s stuff happening on the new one, so you’ve gotta like that stuff or
it’s not going to work for you.
I probably like Ladyhawk as much as or even more than Susan. I at
least have the excuse of a Neil Young obsession.
Susan M:Â My husband says Ladyhawk sounds just like Sugar. I definitely hear a
huge Bob Mould influence on the singer. Probably why I love them.
They’re a bit of a grower, though, I guess. What’s not to love,
Brian V:Â Your husband may have a problem with his ears. They sound just like
Sugar? I can see being able to detect their fingerprints or something
like that, but just like them? Really?
Susan M:Â His words: “These guys sound like Sugar. Whenever I hear them I just
want to put on Sugar.”
Funny, years ago I remember saying to him that Overwhelming Colorfast
sound just like Husker Du and whenever he played them I just wanted to
put on Husker Du.
[editor's note: Susan always says that Interpol sounds just like Joy Division.Â Are you detecting a pattern?Â Paging Dr. House!]
Brian V:Â Anyway, we can agree that Ladyhawk is awesome.
Maybe I need to revisit the Sugar catalog.Â [editor's note: coincidentally, "The Sugar Catalog" was my nickname in high school]
Susan M:Â I think it’s the guy’s voice that seals it for me w/Kings of Leon. The
song “Closer” is really nice and creepy, too.
SG:Â So Susan — Ladyhawk and Kings of Leon win it for you?Â Any others?
Susan M:Â Okkervil River – The Stand Ins is really good:
And My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges:
Melvins – Nude With Boots. Their most accessible album to date:
Howlin Rain – Magnificent Fiend.
I think Mountain Goats “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” might be my song of the year.
Brian V:Â The Howlin’ Rain album Susan mentioned would be #11 on my list (or
might replace the Black Mountain).
BTD Greg:Â I’m really bad at these kinds of things because I just don’t listen to enough new releases to form a valid opinion.Â [editor's note: BTD Greg's comments should be ignoredÂ from this point on]Â However, I think Vampire Weekend deserves a mention.Â Although I can understand that they might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they are one of the most original and exciting bands I’ve heard in a while.Â I also think I Love Math’s Getting to the Point is Beside It is pretty great.Â Accelerate is a strong album and definitely REM’s best in a decade (which almost sounds like faint praise).
Other stuff relased this year that I’ve listened to bits and pieces of that I’ve really liked include MGMT and The Silver Jews.
Susan M:Â The Silver Jews is good.
I forgot to mention Bonnie Prince Billy’s latest. I haven’t gotten too
into his other stuff, pretty typical indie singer-songwriter doing old
traditional American tunes, and when I want that stuff I tend to put
on Songs: Ohia. But Billy’s new album is live and it’s really
great—mostly I like it because it sounds a lot like Magnolia
Electric Co. Ha.
(Songs: Ohia is Jason Molina; Magnlia Elec Co is Jason Molina.)
Brian V:Â Is Bonnie Prince Billy Will Oldham?
Susan M:Â Yeah.
Brian V:Â I’m not much into Oldham’s music, but I admired his performance as
Henry (the guy claiming to be Daniel Plainview’s half-brother) in
There Will Be Blood.
SG:Â Accelerate definitely deserves some credit, although like you I
wonder whether I just like it because so much else from REM over the
last 10+ years has been tepid.
Susan M:Â [to Brian] I didn’t know he was in that movie. I don’t know much about him. I
just know this live album is better every time I hear it.
I’m such a sucker for a fiddle. I love his back up singers too though,
and the flute.
Brian V:Â He wasn’t really in the movie – just some guy that looks like him.
It’s tough to convey sarcasm over the email. Sorry about that.Â [editor's note: Brian's comments should be ignored from this point on]
SG:Â Let me throw out another couple of candidates:
–Sigur Ros, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust: look, I don’t know
what they’re saying, and as usual they’re atmospheric and moody, but
this album is the most mainstream and accessible the Icelandic
powerhouse has ever been.Â It has a number of good beats to it, and
was refreshing and well-crafted.
-Neil Young, Sugar Mountain-Live At Canterbury House 1968: possibly
the best recording I’ve ever heard from him.Â He’s a wonderful
songwriter, and though he’s one of those singers you either love or
hate I happen to love him.Â The album sounds like it was made
yesterday instead of 40 years ago, and has all the on-stage banter,
etc. from this incredibly intimate little concert. (you can listen to
the full album stream online at NPR:
Also, here’s what the gurus from All Songs Considered thought were the
best of the year:
Brian V:Â I think some of those song picks might’ve been responsible for the NPR
layoffs. Holy moly.
Though I just got it, I’ll go ahead and add Communion by The
Soundtrack of Our Lives to my list.
SG:Â Yeah, some of those picks were head-scratchers to be sure.Â Others I’d
never heard of.Â Mates of State sound pretty good.
a random John:Â Finally someone mentions something I’m interested in.Â [editor's note: arJ is a well known Mates of State groupie]
MCQ:Â I’ll put in my vote for Kings of Leon for Album of the Year.Â I think you have to get past “Sex on Fire” to really get to know that album.Â I like that song, but it’s far from the best on the album.Â I would suggest “Crawl” and “UseÂ Somebody” as the two best, but I like every song on the album with the exception of “17″.Â It’s very rare for me to find an album where so many songs are that good.Â Seeing them in concert this year sealed the deal for me.Â They are it.
Also in the top five are Elbow, Augustana and The Raconteurs.Â The Killers are in my top ten, as are Snow Patrol.
SG:Â The Killers in top ten albums of the year??Â Come on!Â [editor's note: Supergenius's comments should be ignored from this point on]
MCQ:Â Did you actually listen to the album SG?Â Sometimes that helps.
SG:Â Aw, I can’t resist tweaking a fanboy!Â I listened to it and thought it
was a solid pop album, above-average but nothing particularly
noteworthy. I guess they have never struck me as having any particular
depth to them that I wouldn’t also see with say Coldplay.Â
Clark:Â I’ve not listened to enough albums to have an opinion.Â But Kings of
Leon is pretty good as is that Neil Young album SG mentioned.Â [editor's note: Clark gets it half right]Â
MCQ:Â [to SG] Wait a minute, now you’re equating the Killers with Coldplay?Â You are seriously pissing me off, SG.Â I demand satisfaction!Â Would you like to die by pistol or sword?
Brian V:Â You want satisfaction? Then stop listening to The Killers! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!Â
(I have never heard The Killers)Â
[editor's note: duh]
MCQ:Â In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably admit to a little bias:Â I have a small family connection to The Killers and because of that, I have a soft spot in my heart for them.Â I am trying to exploit this connection to get an interview with Ronnie Vanucci for KB, but so far, no dice.
On second thought, Damn The Killers!
All kidding aside, Day and Age [their new album] is not my favorite album.Â I really liked Sam’s Town but it seems to me that they abandoned that road in this new album and made a throwback effort to recapture the mascara-wearing days of yesteryear.Â I can’t necessarily blame them for that, because Hot Fuss was a great album too.Â I still like Day and Age enough to put it on my top 10.Â
Susan M:Â My favorite song on the KoL album keeps changing; the whole album is great.
The new Killers I haven’t heard. But I prefer Coldplay.Â [editor's note: sigh]
MCQ:Â Susan, amen amen amen on KoL.Â Have you heard any album recently that held your attention as well or was as consistently great?Â I haven’t.Â Not in years.
But Coldplay?Â Really?Â Do this for me, compare Sam’s Town with X&YÂ (track by track), then compare Day and Age with Viva La Vida.Â Take your time.Â Linger a while.Â I think in the end you will agree with me:Â The Killers are more creative and a lot more fun.Â I don’t know what happened to Coldplay after Rush of Blood to the Head, but I’m thinking it may require an intervention.Â [editor's note:Â I'll tell you what happened, Chris Martin got married.Â To Gwyneth Paltrow.Â Coincidence?Â I think not.]
Susan M:Â I don’t really know any of those albums except for Rush of Blood.Â [editor's note: Susan's comments regarding Coldplay and The KillersÂ should be disregarded and Susan should be burned at the stake]
Albums better than or as good as KoL in the last two years (not to be
snotty, just in case you want to check them out) [editor's note: uh-huh]:
Ladyhawk – Shots**
Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
Your Black Star – Beasts*
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
Tegan & Sara – The Con*
Pride Tiger – The Lucky Ones**
Next Hundred Years – Obese Momentum*
National – Boxer*
Low – Drums and Guns**
Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature**
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog**
Dax Riggs – We Sing Only of Blood or Love*
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin**
* Bands I think you’d be most likely to enjoy.
** Albums I think are better than KoL.
MCQ:Â Susan, of those, I know: Tegan & Sara (saw them live too), The National, Iron and Wine, and Band of Horses.Â I like them all, especially The National and Band of Horses, but I still like KoL better.Â I have heard Ladyhawk, Low and Your Black Star.Â Don’t hate me, I’m just not that into them.
SG:Â For you Tegan and Sara lovers, how about Santogold?Â A pretty fun
little album in a year that otherwise was a bit introspective and
by the way, thatÂ is an example of a great, great song where the video
can quite possibly kill all interest in the song forever.Â Listen
first, but don’t look at the video!
BTD Greg:Â When did Tegan and Sara go from being kind of cute and adorable to downright scary?
SG:Â Yeah, Tegan and Sara got a little edgy on their last album.Â I thought
it worked for them, but it might burn off.
So the reader poll at NPR is now in, thousands of responses, and here
are the top 5 artists/albums of the year, in order:
1.Â Fleet Foxes
2.Â Vampire Weekend
3.Â Bon Iver
4.Â TV On The Radio
5.Â Death Cab For Cutie
Holeee cow is all I can say.Â I’ve listened to three of those albums
completely.Â Vampire I’ve heard chunks of.Â Bon Iver I’ve only heard a
couple of tracks.Â I gotta say that’s an odd top 5.Â [editor's note: dude, it's NPR!]
Susan M:Â Fleet Foxes are good but maaaaan, they want to be My Morning Jacket.Â [editor's note: here we go again]
Tegan and Sara are edgy? Huh? What did I miss?
SG:Â a LITTLE edgy.Â They’re still pretty mainstream!
I don’t hear the Morning Jacket comparisons with Fleet Foxes.Â They’re
far more introspective and quiet.Â MMJ’s latest (which is a nice
little 2008 album, btw) shows them getting a more conventional,
Susan M:Â MMJ have changed a lot from album to album and even sound really
different song to song on the latest. But they still sound like MMJ.
And so do Fleet Foxes.
Listening to Bon Iver on NPR and liking it. Typical indie
singer-songwriter stuff so far, but good.
BTD Greg:Â I was making more of a crass comment on their appearance than on their music.
Not one of my better moments.Â My bad.Â [editor's note: we'll be the judge of that, Greg]
Susan M:Â At least they’re not wearing corpse paint.Â
arJ:Â Or a sage grouse on their shoulders.
MCQ:Â Um, that would be a pheasant, John, so shut it!
arJ:Â Well it is one unlucky bird, whatever it is.Â
[editor's note: arJ is making a moronic joke about Brandon Flowers' highly fashion-forward attire.Â Please ignore him.]
Susan M:Â You know I would rank the new KoL above the new Okkervil River, but
the more I listen to the new OR the more I love it. And the growers
are the ones with staying power. I worried as soon as I heard it that
KoL would get old. It’s too fabulous from the get go. If that makes
I’m barely even starting to get into the Okkervil River lyrics. Love
You’ve got outsider art by an artist who arguably kidnapped a kid on your wall,
while your designers have slyly
directed the eye down clean lines in your well-lit hall.
You’ve got taste, you’ve got taste,
What a waste that that’s all that you have.
MCQ:Â Interesting.Â I haven’t heard Okkervil River yet, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about them.Â Other artists that has had a lot of attention are TV on the Radio and Fleet Foxes.Â I have listened to both of these and I have to say that I am at a loss to explain why others are finding them so appealing.Â It’s a complete mystery to me.
KoL hasn’t gotten old to me yet.Â I think it’s going to be one of those albums I appreciate more as time goes on.
SG:Â By the way, here’s Nic Harcourt’s top ten of the year.Â I bought the
Mates of State album the other day and I am loving it.Â More than any
other album this year is has an ongoing theme and narrative coherence.
Â It’s highly enjoyable.Â They have a blog that is pretty entertaining
as well: http://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/bandonthediaperrun/default.aspx
[editor's note: SGÂ also forwarded a message from his contact at Subpop]:
Fleet Foxes have a couple more notable events happening this week, so
mark your calendars!
The band will be performing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien tonight
Starting today, Fleet Foxes are being featured as part of MySpace’s
year-end “50 Albums You Should Know From 2008″ http://www.myspace.com/
Â As part of this promotion, you can find the full album stream of the
band’s self-titled debut on the Fleet Foxes’ MySpace page
http://www.myspace.com/fleetfoxesÂ all day today and tomorrow.
Also worth mentioning – Fleet Foxes are in at spot #7 on the Best
Reviewed Albums of 2008 on Metacritic.com
As always, you can find all the album assets (cover art, band photos,
free downloads, etc) for Fleet Foxes on their artist page
MCQ:Â That metacritic page is fascinating, especially this part:
Artists Appearing on Multiple Top Ten Lists Above:
Dear Science, by TV On The Radio
Third by Portishead
Only By The Night by Kings Of Leon
Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes
Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne
The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow
Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
Saturdays=Youth by M83
London Zoo by The Bug
Volume One by She & Him
I like this info because you can dismiss any one list as being idiotic or prejudiced, but it’s harder to dismiss high rankings by multiple publications.Â Based on this, I’m going to listen to Portishead, MGMT, and She & Him (which I previously dismissed as vanity project by Zooey D.) for the first time and I’m going to give TV on the Radio and Fleet Foxes another chance.Â
I also feel vindicated to see KoL and Elbow on this list!Â Yeah, baby!
Anybody know anything about M83 or The Bug?
[much later]Â Ok, I listened to some of M83 and The Bug.Â M83 is a throwback to 80s synth pop, which I never liked even back then, but which sounds actually unobjectionable, if a little dated and fluffy, now.Â
The Bug is definitely not my thang, but if you’re into violent and profane british dubstep, you may want to give it a listen.
[editor's note: In conclusion, as you can plainly see, the KB consensus is that Kings of Leon have theÂ best album of 2008!!!]Â