Dec 20, 2008

Best 50 Albums of 2008

That didn't take long. Did it? 2008 just seemed to fly by. Sometimes life seems too busy to fit everything in. Especially finding the time to listen to all the music produced in the world. But, it comes to this. A list, because we love making them, of my favourite albums of 2008. I just looked back at 2007 and I think 2008 didn't quite measure up in terms of overall quality. But, there was still plenty of quality out there and certainly enough to find a list containing 50 albums that I really enjoyed. Of course, this list is shaped by what I purchased and what I love. Somehow, I don't have have the time to listen to all of the music produced world wide. But, I try my best and these albums reflect my general taste in music. That is, songs with good structure, intelligent lyrics, a good melody, authentic and honest. Music that is hopefully original and also stands the test of time. So, to the list.

1. At Mount Zoomer-Wolf Parade
Yes, it was predictable. But for good reason. This band embodies everything I love in music. Great melodies, power charged guitars, soaring and heartfelt vocals and that 'It' factor. You know, that factor that just splits your atoms in half. Sometimes you can't explain it, but you just feel it. In your heart and your bones, shaken to the core. Spencer and Dan combine for glorious moment after glorious moment. Producing music that matters. This album seems to have been a bit overlooked for some reason. Were the expectations too high after a stunning debut? I don't know. But I know this. This album was my number one. Without a doubt. More please.
MP3: Language City

2. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson-Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
This new songwriter hit me between the eyes with an axe. From the moment I heard the opening bar of "Buriedfed" I was hooked. In a big, big, way. The songs on display here are so rich and worldly and just SO real. Nearly impossible not to fall under their considerable spell. The man has lived a life already, but he has emerged as a major force. A husky voice combined with heartfelt lyrics and driving rhythms make for a potent mix.
MP3: Buriedfed

3. Visiter-The Dodos
It's the drumming firstly. Then the guitars. Then it's the pure energy. The energy, the vitality, the sheer exuberance. This is music that is full of life and spirit. A seriously wonderful album that tumbles melodies like dice, rhythms that flow like rivers. The drumming is kinetic and precise, exploding with life. The guitars strident and free flowing. The vocals vociferous, yet reassuring. This is music that confirms life and blood.
MP3: Fools

4. You & Me-The Walkmen
If "A Hundred Miles Off" was a mild disappointment, then this album was a resounding success. Without doubt. I played this record non stop upon its release. I marveled at its style and substance. The playing is superb and Hamilton Leithauser has never sounded better. "You & Me" is so deep and meaningful. The songs resonate long after they finish. The guitars shimmer and shine and the drumming is exemplary. A band fully matured and ready to star on the world stage. This album will age like fine wine.
MP3: In The New Year

5. Lost Wisdom-Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire
Without doubt the most tender and gorgeous album of 2008. Phil Elverum once again shows he has few peers in creating quiet beauty. A short album, it has had incredible replay value at ONL. Songs of crushing beauty, delivered with utmost honesty and sincerity. Elverum sings of love and nature, the moon, the stars and the earth. Doiron's angelic voice is a perfect complement. Mount Eerie have also just released "Dawn". It might even be better.
MP3: Flaming Home

6. Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes
There is a very good reason this album is appearing on most year end lists. Because this is a truly great album. An outstanding debut, full of warmth and incredible inner beauty. The harmonies are flawless, the melodies rich and satisfying, it just makes your inner parts feel very well fed. Also, this album has no filler, no weak points. If flows from one stellar track into the next, then makes you want to hear it all over again. Quickly.
MP3: White Winter Hymnal

7. Trouble In Dreams-Destroyer
An album that seems to have become lost in the rush. But, for those that have fallen under the spell of Dan Bejar, it's another fine chapter in the catalogue of this remarkable Canadian singer. Bejar has few peers when it comes to complex and erudite lyrics. He combines the natural with the abstract in a package that is original and sometimes daring. He is also an excellent guitarist, who wraps wonderful melodies around his precious words.
MP3: Dark Leaves Form A Thread

8. Arm's Way-Islands
A release that seems to have had very mixed reactions. Well, I love it and I think it is an important work on many levels. "Return To The Sea" was a fantastic debut, but I think this epic work tops it. And it is epic. In every way. But ambition is a good thing and here it pays off for the most part. At times bombastic and theatrical, it is also magnificent and thoroughly ambitious. The melodies are truly great and the patient listener will be more then rewarded.
MP3: Pieces Of You

9. Stay Positive-The Hold Steady
Ladies and Gentlemen, this record rocks. Truly. The album of 2008 that makes me smile the most. It is bursting to the seams with life and adventure. Craig Finn writes mini anthems of everyday life. Drinking, driving, hanging out. Love won, love lost. He is a quite a songwriter and the band is stellar, delivering crunching guitars and exquisite keyboards with vim and vigour. This is music that celebrates life and is therefore essential.
MP3: Slapped Actress

10. Furr-Blitzen Trapper
A band of this age and any age. Drawing all the great influences of the American musical quilt and putting them into one very delectable piece of music. Truly entertaining, invigorating and special. Defines easy to listen to in the very best way. Country, folk, rock, pop. It's all there wrapped up in a very special package. Eric Earley's voice is so comforting and reassuring and the guitars twang in a way that is hard to resist.
MP3: Furr

11. The Midnight Organ Fight-Frightened Rabbit
Killer hooks combine with starkly honest lyrics to make an album that is truly enjoyable. Simple as that. In an era when most British bands are content to be Coldplay-lite, this Glasgow band play with heart, passion and downright joy. Scott Hutchison's plaintive Scottish drawl is a true thing of beauty. Combine that with great drumming, soaring guitars and knock out melodies and you have a sure winner on every single level.

12. Parc Avenue-Plants And Animals
This album came early in the year and I kept returning to it over and over. At first it didn't truly grab me, but when it did I was hooked. The songs are complex and truly beautiful. They draw on many styles, but somehow they mesh together quite beautifully. There is a languid and gentle quality that allows the songs to grow upon every listen.

13. Missiles-The Dears
The band that turned itself inside out managed to produce quite possibly their very best work. It contains the band's trademark sounds, but at a more leisurely and considered pace. Lightburn's songs still tackle the big subjects of life. Love, hate, death, life. But in a way that is truly poetic. The guitar work, as always, is quite exemplary.

14. For Emma, Forever Ago-Bon Iver
First released in 2007, this gorgeous album got a wider release in 2008. Seemingly universally loved and with good reason. Justin Vernon made a quiet acoustic album that spoke volumes. Full of heart and emotional depth, this album makes me feel very content.

15. Red, Yellow And Blue-Born Ruffians
It's not that easy to write pop songs with such wit and depth. Of course these songs are as catchy as hell, but there is an earnest and honest approach that definitely gives these songs great staying power. Songs that hum with pure joy.

16. Wagonwheel Blues-The War On Drugs
Expansive and classical songwriting on display here. Inventive and multidimensional, yet also earthy and authentic. Adam Granduciel's voice is one to treasure, backed up by driving melodies and swinging guitars. A great discovery of 2008.

17. Lie Down In The Light-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
The 'Prince' of songwriting releases yet another great album. Will Oldham is revered for what he is. A truly gifted songwriter capable of speaking about life with quite exquisite beauty. The very antithesis of modern pop music. Forever a true original. Build him a statue.

18. Langhorne Slim-Langhorne Slim
If your heart is sagging and in need of restitution, then this album could be for you. If your day is not working out as you intended, then this album is definitely for you. It just screams joy and happiness. Love and beauty. With Slim's trademark swing and harmony.

19. Hometowns-The Rural Alberta Advantage
This band needs a much bigger audience. Right now. This album reminded me of those classic Indie albums of the nineties. Rocking with a heart, giving us riffs that made us shout and scream. Lyrics of place and time, making your heart skip a beat. Find this album.

20. House With No Home-Horse Feathers
Quietness never sounded so good. This Portland band created music that was stunning in its execution. Subtle, tender, honest. Sometimes breathtaking.

21. Dear Science-TV On The Radio
The first two songs I heard had me worried. Too light? But the rest of the album delivered, with the closing three numbers truly stunning. Great in parts.

22. Microcastle-Deerhunter
This album has the potential to rise in years to come. Late to the party I was mightily impressed by this album's inventiveness and ear for fine melody.

23. Something For All Of Us...-Brendan Canning
Definitely an under rated album. Canning leads the crew into more guitar deliciousness and wizardry. Glowing moments abound here.

24. Heretic Pride-The Mountain Goats
An eclectic and diverse collection of songs from the American great. If not up with past releases, still a reminder of the potency of this band.

25. The Stand Ins-Okkervil River
The companion piece to "The Stage Names" does contain some filler. But there are also 5 or 6 true gems, leaving Sheff's reputation enhanced.

26. Your Anchor-Lackthereof
Atmospheric, haunting, quite original. This album was to the point and excellent in many ways. Seim has a real sense of rhythm and melody.

27. Soft Airplane-Chad VanGaalen
Hard to pin down, but very enjoyable to listen to. A melting pot of sounds make VanGaalen a musician of considerable depth and talent.

28. Don't Be A Stranger-The Moondoggies
Classic guitar music for the 21st century. This Seattle band delivered an album complete and thoroughly fun. Harmonies and riffs explode.

29. með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust-Sigur Ros
I believe this was their most accessible work yet. Erupts with elation and good humour at every point. Still contains those moments of beauty we love.

30. Rook-Shearwater
Some of the best lyrics you would have heard in 2008. Powerful, dense and at times uplifting. Has to be their most important work yet.

31. Street Horsssing-Fuck Buttons
This album still scares me to death. Sometimes impenetrable, but quite substantial. An album that was close to hypnotic. Archetypal.

32. Animal Kingdom-Baseball
Ferocious, mesmeric and downright exciting. Australia's most exciting band, I believe, produced an album to savour and explore, oh yes.

33. Shots-Ladyhawk
The sound of guitars falling in the forest. Woody, earthy and crammed with chunky guitars. Driediger's voice is one of the best out there.

34. Oh, Ramona-Hospital Ships
Jordan Geiger's project flew under the radar. Delightful and dark, pop gems with substance abound here. Find it and wrap yourself in it.

35. Swimming-French Kicks
Lazy, hazy songs swoon over shimmering guitars. This New York band escapes the glare these days, but they truly know how to write a good song.

36. Escaping Mankind-Charge Group
Sydney band makes good on promise. An emotion charged, at times stellar, collection of songs. Ethereal, yet robust and strong. Dynamic.

37. Migration-Takka Takka
Fresh and innovative sounds flourish on this very good album. A blend of musical styles and influences combine for eclectic resonances.

38. Attack & Release-The Black Keys
Dan and Patrick are consistent in the extreme. They still somehow manage to sound fresh after all these years. Yet again, pure and reliable.

39. Kensington Heights-Constantines
An album that was a bit up and down. But the ups were very high. Bryan Webb's voice is one of the best out there and this band has lost nothing.

40. Caught In The Trees-Damien Jurado
In the field of soft and tender songwriters, Jurado is one of the best. A lovely album of superb reflections on life. Delicate and endearing.

41. Alopecia-Why?
Hip-hop I can like? Why? Well, the lyrics for a start. Something to sink your teeth into. Plus, the music is inventive and very creative.

42. Loyalty To Loyalty-Cold War Kids
How to follow a stellar debut? Well, try to plough ahead and write good songs. Despite a couple of stumbles, there is plenty to like here.

43. Goodbye Weather-Seagull
An Australian gem. Deliberate, intelligent and forthright music. At times celestial and rarefied, this music was unique and multi layered.

44. The Living And The Dead-Jolie Holland
It's the voice firstly. That husky, whispery, feathery living thing. Then it's the delightful music and strong lyrics that complete the package.

45. Nouns-No Age
I think I still prefer their debut, but this album definitely had its moments. Abrasive and robust, I think I preferred the quieter moments.

46. Moody Motorcyle-Human Highway
Nick Thorburn appears again. This time it's pop with a country twang. Seemingly simple songs were at times immensely enjoyable.

47. Conor Oberst-Conor Oberst
An uneven collection of songs. But the best, like "Cape Canaveral" and "Milk Thistle" prove that Conor still has it. Where will he go next?

48. Consolers Of The Lonely-The Raconteurs
Sprung quickly on the public, it seems a rushed affair. But there is still a good helping of Jack White magic to keep us entertained.

49. Young Family Song-Last Of The Blacksmiths
Haunting and faithful to classic American traditions, this is a whisper quiet album full of soft and gentle moments. Delicate and handled with care.

50. Real Emotional Trash-Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
The legend still lives on. Long and guitar heavy, there is much jamming going on here. Some songs drag, but many soar and stun.


  • At December 22, 2008 , Anonymous james said...

    Wow Wayne - 50 albums! That's ambitious. Nice list - there's a lot on here I have to check out. Happy Holidays!

  • At December 22, 2008 , Anonymous James said...

    Nice lists yet again mate! Mine are coming New Year's Eve.

    No Black Mountain - In The Future though?

  • At December 22, 2008 , Anonymous Amanda said...

    Hm. I like that Blitzen Trapper song there, but I didn't get into their first record so I didn't seek this one out.

  • At December 22, 2008 , Blogger Wayne said...

    Thanks James and James.
    Black Mountain-do like the album, was just outside my list. Will see them in March when they tour.

    Amanda, I reckon you might really like their album. Try and listen to Black River Killer, it's a great song.

  • At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Rachel said...

    50 albums! Holy shit. I was tired after 10. Nice work Wayne!

    There are some here I have not heard of before, I will have to check them out. Thanks!

  • At December 23, 2008 , Anonymous Tim said...

    Great list, Wayne. Thanks for a great year of music recommendations! Loving that Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson track.

  • At December 26, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Bravo for going with 'At Mount Zoomer'; a somewhat, unfairly, ignored album that deserved far more cudos.

  • At January 07, 2009 , Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

    awesome list- there's so much i still haven't gotten to, and reading your list inspired me to check a lot of these out. i'm late to the party on a lot of these...


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