Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 Top 25 albums of the year

25) Caddywhompus - Caddywhompus EP
I first heard about this New Orleans based guitar-drums duo from the guys in The Calm Blue Sea after they finished a run of shows with the youths across the South earlier this year. Then one day I got an email with a link to download their free EP and I was instantly hooked. I'm honestly having some trouble describing their sound, it's sort of a No Age with some Marnie Stern-ish flourishes kind of thing. Eh, I dunno, I really like it. The EP is available for free on their website so no excuses to not check these guys out.

(M4a)
Caddywhompus - Fun Times at Whiskey Bay
(Get the album for free here)



24) Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling
Mogwai earned the live set of the year award from me with their phenomenal performance at Stubbs on the eve of Hurricane Ike. The Hawk Is Howling isn't the greatest album of these Scotsman's careers but it is still a strong effort and, honestly, who could expect them to outdo their back catalogue of amazing material at this point. Kudos to them for remaining relevant and fresh so many years after they began.


(MP3)
Mogwai - Batcat
(Buy album here)


23) Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
I love listening to this album on really good headphones. The songs evolve at a glacial pace, slowly building layer upon layer of noise to create wonderfully lavish sonic textures. You wouldn't think it upon first listen, but after a while this album can be very relaxing to listen to. Terrific debut.


(MP3)
Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love For Planet Earth
(Buy album here)


22) Beach House - Devotion
Devotion suffered a bit from having been released so early in the calendar year, but way back in February and March of this year, it was the best thing coming out of my speakers on a regular basis. I find Victoria Legrand's vocals incredibly relaxing and this Baltimore duo's dreamy pop songs often show me off to bed at the end of the day.


(MP3)
Beach House - Gila
(Buy album here)


21) Retribution Gospel Choir - Retribution Gospel Choir
I'm a huge Low fan, so I was obviously drawn to Retribution Gospel Choir because the band features Alan Sparhawk of the aforementioned Low. This band and this record are such perfect compliments to Low's catalogue, you could essentially say Retribution sounds like Low if Alan yelled and growled his vocals while beating on his guitar and laying the reverb and delay on thick. The results are fantastic and are not to be missed.

(MP3)
Retribution Gospel Choir - Breaker
(Buy album here)


20) David Vandervelde - Waiting For The Sunrise
I really enjoyed David Vandervelde's last record The Moonstation House Band but wasn't really sure what to expect from his second offering. What I got was an album true to the themes and sound of the first LP but much better versed in its predecessors and all the better for it. Vandervelde writes classic, catchy rock and roll songs that seem like they will stand the test of time.


(MP3)
David Vandervelde - Someone Like You
(Buy album here)


19) Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - Animal/Not-Animal
The label politics involved in the release of these two separate albums have been chronicled on this and other blogs in the past so I won't rehash any of that here, instead I'm going to simply stick to the quality of the songs within. It's difficult to figure out what's what with Animal and Not Animal. Both were recorded during the same time period, both contain some of the same songs, and overall, both sound similar. I find the best way to approach these albums, from a critical standpoint, is to just think of them as a big bunch of songs, maybe a deluxe reissue gone terribly astray. When you think of it this way, there is a whole lot of quality material here. Classics like "The Ocean" and "Broadripple Is Burning" sound great next to new classics "German Motor Car" and "Hello Vagina" (seriously, it's a damn good song). In summation, the music holds the ship upright.
(MP3)
Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - German Motor Car
(Buy album here)


18) TV On The Radio - Dear Science
I don't love Dear Science as much as a lot of folks seem to, but I do think that it is a distinctive album and proples the band the band further down the path towards a long, exciting and musically fruitful career. I was a huge fan of Return To Cookie Mountain and so was probably looking for a bit more of that sound on Dear Science. Over a couple of listens I really felt like I got past that and have since developed quite a penchant for this one.

(MP3)
TV On The Radio - Dancing Choose
(Buy album here)


17) The Walkmen - You & Me
Definitely The Walkmen's best effort since the stellar Bows and Arrows. Hamilton Leithauser is one of the finest and most emotive singers around right now and he shows it on You & Me. Like an old time crooner on a whiskey bender, Leithauser sings and shrieks his way through 14 tracks of the Walkmen's classic heartache, yelps, and toy piano sound. Glad to see these guys living up to the hype they deservedly garnered with Bows and Arrows a couple years back.


(MP3)
The Walkmen - In The New Year
(Buy album here)


16) Marnie Stern - This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
Oh man, how to describe this album. It's like an unabashed, exhuberant, arty, ADHD splatter paint of a record and holy fuck is it good. Marnie shows off plenty of her fleet fingered guitar wizardry and Hella's Zach Hill absolutely destroys the drum kit on this one. Listening to this album makes me feel the way it felt the first dozen times I listened to Battles' first full length. It's a bit of an exercise but oh so worth the effort.

(MP3)
Marnie Stern - Roads? Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads
(Buy album here)


15) Deerhunter - Microcastles
Cryptograms was an impressive, but inconsistent debut. It showed the amount of sonic space that this group of Georgia youths could cover but lacked the restraint necessary to grab a listener and keep them from hitting the skip button a few times. Microcastles fixes those complaints right out of the gate, offering a very focused, yet satisfyingly loose musical experience. "Nothing Ever Happened" is sweet fractured pop at its best and really showcases what Deerhunter are capable of.


(MP3)
Deerhunter - Nothing Ever Happened
(Buy album here)


14) The Black Keys - Attack & Release
The Black Keys turned in another of the years best performance at Stubbs the Sunday of ACL fest with the Black Keys (and fucking Roky Erickson!!) opening the show. As much as a I have always loved The Black Keys one-two, guitar-drums punch, I've always wondered what they would sound like with some more fleshed out instrumentation. In comes Danger Mouse and he does just that. The results speak for themselves. One of the best of the year.

(MP3)
The Black Keys - Strange Times
(Buy album here)


13) The Calm Blue Sea - The Calm Blue Sea
This is really the stand out local release of the year for me. I'm not completely sold on White Denim and though I definitely enjoyed the new Black Angels record, The Calm Blue Sea took the cake. From their always intense live shows to their fabulous sounding new LP that was recorded with local wunderkind producer Erik Wofford, 2008 has been a good year for The Calm Blue Sea and I expect many good things from them in 2009.


(MP3)

The Calm Blue Sea - Literal
(Buy album here)


12) Wolf Parade - At Mt. Zoomer
My A+, number 1, top of the mountain musical moment of 2008 was Wolf Parade closing their sold out La Zona Rosa show with "Kissing the Beehive". They fucking killed it, and I left 10x the fan that I walked in. At Mt. Zoomer is looser and more fluid than it's predecessor Apologies to The Queen Mary, and this fluidity allows the band to reach beyond their sound and explore some new territory. I love seeing bands fluctuate and grow and I'm glad that this record didn't end up being more of the same.


(MP3)
Wolf Parade - Kissing The Beehive
(Buy album here)


11) Tapes 'N Tapes - Walk It Off
I haven't seen Walk It Off on a lot of people's end of year lists and I really think that's a shame because this is a great record right here. The production is so raw, it sounds like the whole album was recorded through a distortion pedal. From the vocals, to the guitars, to the drums, everything sounds like it is chugging along on an engine that is loud and messy but reliable as hell and not intending to quit anytime soon. They seem like they've suffered from a bit of blog backlash, but I hope they just keep on doing what they're doing and continue to make great rock and roll records.


(MP3)
Tapes 'N Tapes - Time of Songs
(Buy album here)


10) Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Of all the albums on this list, this is the one that surprises me the most by its presence. I have never been much of an Elbow fan but picked this one up out of curiosity and have been infatuated with it ever since.
I feel like I'm in some sort of sexy spy movie from the 50s when I listen to this album. It's very slinky and all of the wonderful harmonies really help the album to soar. Apparently, I'm not the only one who was impressed by this one as I've seen it all over a bunch of lists.

(MP3)
Elbow - The Bones Of You
(Buy album here)


9) The Tallest Man On Earth - Shallow Grave
The Tallest Man On Earth is one Kristian Matsson, a young swede with a penchant for Bob Dylan and Skip James, and he has managed to create one of the most affecting albums I've heard in years. Upon my first listen to Shallow Grave I was immediately drawn to Matsson's undeniably Dylan-esque vocal style, yet I did not feel instantly repulsed, as is usually the case in such cases. Matsson takes the Dylan style of vocal delivery and uses it to wrap beautiful scenes and phrases around his versatile acoustic guitar playing, switching deftly between Arlo Guthrie strumming and Nick Drake finger picking. Shallow Grave is simply enchanting.


(MP3)
The Tallest Man On Earth - Honey Won't You Let Me In
(Buy album here)


8) School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms
When guitarist Ben Curtis left the Secret Machines a few years back, I was completely devastated. I figured that it would spell the end for the Machines, one of my favorite bands, and had no idea how well Ben would fare on his own. Cut to a couple years later and The Secret Machines are as vibrant as ever and I now have a second phenomenal band to listen to. Alpinisms does not sound like The Secret Machines, so don't expect that. Instead, expect flawless vocal harmonies between sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, lots of swirly keys and synths, and some very spacey ambient guitars that will pour out of your headphones.


(MP3)
School of Seven Bells - Connjur
(Buy album here)


7) Plants and Animals - Parc Avenue
Parc Avenue, Plants and Animals second full length release, was my first introduction to this Canadian trio. You're going to cover a lot of ground listening to this one. Influences abound from Neil Young to The Flaming Lips to a whole range of others. It all comes together in this delightful mess of sounds. The one thing that is consistent all the way through is the quality of the musicianship. No group of slouches here.

(MP3)
Plants and Animals - Faerie Dance
(Buy album here)


6) Dodos - Visiter
Visiter dominated the first half of my year. It was firmly entrenched at the top of my Last.fm lists as well and my Itunes most played lists well into the Summer. Guitarist/Singer/Yelper Meric Long and percussionist/foot stomper Logan Kroeber craft a record full of standouts, including the fantastic back to back girl songs Jodi, and Ashley. The album starts strong, is strong in the middle, and goddamn if it doesn't finish strong too. It seems like a high order nowadays for a band to craft a decent length album that really holds your attention from start to finish, Visiter accomplishes just that.


(MP3)
Dodos - Jodi
(Buy album here)


5) Grails - Doomsdayer's Holiday/Take Refuge In Clean Living
I have no fucking clue how to describe Grails to you if you have never heard them. I guess they could be characterized as a Post-Rock band since they have no vocals and feature guitars, bass and drums, but there is so much more going on here that I think it's an insult to them to lump them into a category like that. Grails make music, pure and simple. Long winding songs that cover continents, cultures, and styles seamlessly and without feeling the least bit pretentious. Oh yeah, and did I mention that they put out two fantastic albums this year, and another half dozen or so over the couple years before that? Yeah, prolific is thy name. I couldn't decide where to rank these albums seperately, and I thought that they both deserved equal recognition, so I lumped them together to save me some fuss. Both are so, so highly recommended. Doomsdayer's Holiday is probably the darker of the two, but that should be pretty evident from the title. Do not miss these.


(MP3)
Grails - Predestination Blues
Grails - Take Refuge
(Buy albums here and here)


4) The Secret Machines - The Secret Machines
First off, let me say that the only reason this isn't in the #1 spot is that I really feel like the opening track, Atomic Heels, is a really weak spot and I usually skip it when I start this album up. I know, that sucks, and I hate to do it, but I just love the rest of the album so much, and it pains me to sit through that mediocre song when everything else on the album is so brilliant. The term Stoner Rock was designed for The Secret Machines. The songs chug along amidst the heavy bass and fuzzy guitars and Brandon Curtis' signature cryptic lyrics and absolutely infectious choruses ties it all together with a sloppy, fucked up, yet near perfect bow. Any doubt as to the band's health post Ben Curtis can be smashed to bits now.

(MP3)
The Secret Machines - Now You're Gone
(Buy album here)


3) Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
I've spent all year waiting for the new Grizzly Bear album. I listen to the old songs over and over and wait and wait for the day that blissful new album will arrive. In the meantime Daniel Rossen has gone and recorded one of the best pop records that In have ever heard. Brian Wilson probably whistles these melodies in the shower or when he's buttering his toast. Much of my favorite music this year took me completely by surprise and that's certainly the case here. Yet another album I picked up in passing and clung tight to for the rest of the year.


(MP3)
Department of Eagles - No One Does It Like You
(Buy album here)


2) Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes need no introduction at this point. They are undoubtedly the band of the year, coming from out of nowhere to release what is probably the most talked about album of the year. 5 part harmonies, astounding vocal melodies and the most tasteful group of musicians you will ever find make for a jaw dropping recording. This record astounds me and plays in my dreams regularly. The line "Through the forest / down to your grave / where the bird's wait / and the tall grasses sway" gives me the chills everytime. The imagery is so vivid and the music so soulful and achingly beautiful. If these 5 gentleman had been born in the middle ages they would have been the most celebrated musicians of their time. The phrase timeless is thrown about rather haphazardly in music criticism, but if it is not warranted here, then I can think of no time when it would be.

(MP3)
Fleet Foxes - Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
(Buy album here)


1) Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
This is the album that had me singing along the most this year. How can you not relate to the haggard and heartbroken yelp of Scott Hutchison. How can you not want to order another whiskey and howl along to lines like " why won't our love keel over as it chokes on a bone / then we can mourn it's passing and then bury it in snow". I can recall some of the best times of the past year of my life being soundtracked by this album and I can so clearly see this album framing my future memories in much the same way. The Midnight Organ Fight isn't urgent but it's oh so relevant. Relevant to this time in my life and to the life of my friends and that is really what makes the difference between a solid record and a record that is important to you. I've seen Frightened Rabbit 5 times this year and I walked away each time with the biggest smile on my face you could imagine. Nothing gets better. Best of the year. Cheers fellas!


(MP3)
Frightened Rabbit - Poke
(Buy album here)

2 Comments:

rickdog said...

You have a great music blog here! I've added you to my mp3blog list and custom search, check it out.

Rickdog's collected 7,000 mp3blog links, accessible from the alpha menu at page top. You can open frames on these blogs to view them directly on my site, and you can also view the feeds in a frame.

The newest mp3blogs
http://chewbone.blogspot.com/2008/01/alphanew.html

You can search your blog and all the others in my custom google search:

Chewbone MP3blog search
http://chewbone.blogspot.com/2008/03/mp3-blog-search-results.html

I add new blogs to the alpha lists once a week, but your site is immediately added to the custom google search engine.

Anonymous said...

your choice of music makes me moist... literally.

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