Favorite Albums – 2008

This year’s list has a bit of a gamey/outdoorsy theme to it. Rabbits, foxes, eagles, a river, a sun, a moon, some trappers, some foal and some ruffians. Completely inadvertent. Let’s get to it. The following are my favorite 32 (well, technically 33) albums of 2008. As always, pass this along to anyone you think may be interested and please, by all means, post a comment when you’re done reading through. I’d love to know what I missed. Enjoy.

killers
32. The Killers – Day & Age

Just got this album a week before posting. I may regret this by January, but so far it’s good enough for #32.

kings
31. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night

If this was just about any other band, I may have ranked it higher. I dig it, but it’s only my third favorite of their albums. I wanted a little more.

foals
30. Foals – Antidotes

A suggestion from a work friend Tristan who I think said it was a better, fresher Bloc Party. He was right…this album way outdid BP’s ’08 cut.

mgmt
29. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

A bit overrated, but a few standout tracks at the beginning – especially Time to Pretend – are good enough to make it inside of 30.

hotchip
28. Hot Chip – Made in the Dark

These guys don’t slow down, they just get better. Ready for the Floor is one of my favorite club tracks of the year.

blitzen
27. Blitzen Trapper – Furr

One of the much-hyped of the last quarter of the year. If the whole thing had measured up to the title track and Black River Killer it’d been top ten.

conor
26. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

This dude’s excellent, prolific, and not nearly as big a d-bag as Ryan Adams.

calex
25. Calexico – Carried to Dust

A little irresistible, solid, south of the border indie awesomeness.

 

deathcab
24. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

It will possess your heart. I mean, not quite as much as albums 1 – 23, but good stuff.

 

jayr
23. Jay Reatard – the Matador Singles ’08

This thing’s less than 30 minutes long and feels like 15. I think it’s what the cool kids call post-punk. He kicked a stage-diver in the head and punched another one in the face so I was afraid not to include him…didn’t want it getting back to him when this blog becomes famous.

santo
22. Santogold – Santogold

She’s a former African American studies student from Pennsylvania who sounds a lot like M.I.A. The more I know about her the more contrived the whole thing seems. Then again, this album is good fun and got me through a murky May…and besides, all music is contrived, right?

atmos
21. Atmosphere – When Life Gives you Lemons You Paint that Shit Gold

One of the all time great album names AND track #2 (Puppets) is all these hip hoppers needed to make it on to my list. Thanks Tristan (that’s twice…so this can never happen again).

ruffians
20. Born Ruffians – Red, Yellow + Blue

Another post-punk indie band from Canada. Toronto, even. How do more and more bands come out of there with big color and sound without sounding the same? Then again, I don’t speak Canadian, so what do I know?

sigur
19. Sigur Ros – Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

I’ve been pronouncing the name of this band “sugar rose” for a couple of years, hoping I might start enough of a movement that nobody would know how wrong I probably was. Even though I don’t understand a thing they’re saying (they’re from Iceland – !?) their music is ethereal, minimalist and way beautiful.

hercules
18. Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair

One of a few surprise late 80’s-esque techno dance albums on the list this year. I guess it’s a little trendy or whatever. But not so much I’ll work very hard to get over my affection for it.

beck
17. Beck – Modern Guilt

I really don’t get why this album didn’t get more love than it did this year. The guy’s a freak of music giftedness. I mean, he’s no Jeff Tweedy, but Modern Guilt is some good stuff. A little something from every one of his previous albums.

ting
16. The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

Never heard of these guys until I showed up mid-afternoon Friday of Lollapalooza this year with my friend, Steve. What a great and fun way to kick off one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. Really set the tone. My friend Jay thinks this is the worst band in the history of mankind…which certainly helped these guys move up a few more notches in my mind.

m83
15. M83 – Saturdays = Youth

I was lost for how to describe them so I turned to w’pedia who said: “their musical style owes something to the shoegazing genre in its extensive use of reverb effects and lyrics spoken softly over loud instrumentals.” That’s totally what I was going to say.

sun
14. Sun Kil Moon – April

Mark Kozalek – also of Red House Painters – is so devastatingly dependable at delivering a soulful sound you haven’t heard anywhere else without ever letting down. It gets me deep, yo. If you like this, go back and check out Ghosts of the Great Highway from a couple of years ago. Still haunts me.

okkervil
13. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins

Locked in their place as one of my favorite bands with this album. I never thought I’d dig Will Sheff’s voice, but what can I say? It grew on me. I think of Texas whenever I hear these guys…you might, too. Unless when you think of Texas you think of George W. or something. Then I hope it just reminds you of what a band that writes excellent songs sound like.

dodos
12. The Dodos – Visiter

I’ve heard this described as psychedelic folk. I’m not sure what that even means but it’s not a badge I’d generally find appealing…but don’t let it scare you away. I’d call this sort of Shins-y or something…I can’t put my finger on it. (By now you can see this list is about the music, not my pathetic little capsules.)

vampire
11. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

At various different points throughout the year, I’d have ranked this album in my top five or bottom five. It took some distance from it to realize something I come to realize every year thanks to at least one album: don’t let mad hype cloud your own opinions one way or another. If you let the machine get your hopes up too high, you’ll almost certainly be let down. And that would have been a shame with an album as fresh as this.

department
10. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park

I completely admit that this album is the only thing Daniel Rossen from Grizzly Bear has ever done that I get or like. Which probably means if there are any Grizzly Bear fans out there, you probably hate this album. Anyway, it’s very woodsy or something. Which as you can see from the rest of the list from 10 to 1, seems to be a mood I’m in these days. Not that I want to hang out in the woods…they don’t have the internet.

chadv
9. Chad Van Gaalen – Soft Airplane

You won’t find this on many year-end lists, but I was hooked on his sound since the first album two years ago. Sounds like it was made in a barn, just like no. 3 on this year’s list. Except TMNT Mask, which sounds more like it should be on the Hercules album than here, but it’s also very good.

notwist
8. Notwist – The Devil, You + Me

Believe it or not, this German electronica band used to be heavy metal band. Their sound now is a little mellow, but quite striking. I think their last album – Neon Golden from 2002 – is also one of my favorite albums this year (but that doesn’t count, does it, now?).

loscamp1
loscamp2
7. Los Campesinos – Hold On Now, Youngster and Los Campesinos – We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

It’s two albums by the same band in the same year, and I chose not to separate them, but instead to evaluate Los Campesinos (spanish: the peasants…odd for a Canadian band). This is very Broken Social Scene-y; very big sound, lots of big instruments and many many voices. It’s two albums full of #7 goodness.

cutcopy
6. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

Australian dance punk/electro pop…very 80s new wave (see Hercules and Love Affair). Sounds like New Order for the post hipster set. All true. Fun. Clubby. Very easy to like. Lights and Music is on many people’s favorite song lists this year.

girltalk
5. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals

This album is comprised entirely of master mashup artist Greg Gillis sampling dozens of great (and not so great) songs you already know and bringing them all together into 14 surprisingly original and quite layered tracks that wind up embarrassingly irresistible. Don’t over-think it. Good times.
walkmen
4. The Walkmen – You & Me

Ok, we’ve made it to “cut above the rest” time on the list. The Walkmen rebound here, I think, from a disappointing 2006 follow-up to 2004’s Bows + Arrows (oh, man, remember The Rat?). In the New Year – track 4 – is pure gold. It’s a NY indie sound that’s tough for me to compare to anything else, so if you don’t already love the Walkmen, trust me and take a listen.

boniver
3. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Damn this is sweet. Made in a barn in Wisconsin by a guy (Justin Vernon) who I’m going on faith is a Bear (and not a Packer) fan. He broke up with his band and his girl and retreated there on his dad’s land to record something just to get his head right. It turned into this album, so I guess we all benefit from the rough and abrupt changes in his life. Skinny Love was on repeat on my iPod for the entire month of June.

foxes
2. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Hit no. 1 on many a year-end list and would have gotten there for me on the heels of a great live show at Chicago’s Metro theater in October if not for FR (see no. 1). These guy’s vocal harmonies are like none you’ve heard and make a very fresh sound that truly stood out this year. The song-writing is storytelling at its best.

rabbit
1. Frightened Rabbit – the Midnight Organ Fight

A Scottish indie rock band I could absolutely not get out of my head this year. I do admit that my affinity for scotch whiskey added a level of romance to my appreciation, but this one stands on it’s own as one of those great albums that just sinks its teeth in there and grows on you. Some of the writing rivals what I loved from the National’s Boxer last year. Start to finish a real pleaser that to me, was the clear cut number one this year in my humble heart.

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Post a comment, save a whale.

Glad you’re enjoying the list, and happy for the many thoughtful emails and new music recommendations, but post your thoughts here instead (just scroll to the very bottom of the post)…it fuels my e-ego. – Jason

Favorite Albums – 2007

Happy holidays, I’m Jason. For the first time ever (and from here on out), I’ve published my (not very) famous annual list of my favorite albums online. I know what you’re thinking: Thank Heaven. Well, you’re welcome.

Lots of work to do to class this web page up over time, but for now, please enjoy and feel free to post comments praising my wonderful list or ripping to shreds. Just make sure you give me some leads on 2007 music (and 2008 for that matter) I may have missed.

Also for your reference, I’ve included my previous lists back to 2002. So you can see how my tastes have (and haven’t) changed over time.

Lastly, note that while I’m giving suggestions for songs to listen to first from each of my top 20 albums, those are not live links to mp3s…I’ll shoot for that in 2008.

20. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger
I think Ryan Adams only put out, like, just this ONE album this year. If we’re being honest, he’s kind of a spaz. I’d like him to make fewer (better) records, blog less, do fewer interviews, and yell at his fans less often at shows. More than anything, this guy needs a sense of humor. He needs to be able to laugh at himself a little bit. God knows he provides himself enough fodder. This is another very nice album despite the fact that Halloween Head (which sucks) is on it. Alt country. Twangy. Soulful.

ryan-adams.jpg Listen to: Everybody Knows

19. Great Lake Swimmers – Ongiara
Folky. Earthy. Sort of crunchy. Reminds me a lot of Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon), which is high praise indeed. Soft, pretty music with a thoughtful sound…both sure to help you relax and settle in a little easier to whatever relaxes you in life.

great-lake-swimmers.jpg Listen to: I Am Part of a Large Family

18. White Stripes – Icky Thump
Uh huh. Good. Bluesy and a little experimental this time around. Not much drop off at all from these guys one album to the next.

white-stripes.jpg Listen to: Icky Thump

17. Feist – The ReminderMmmm…Feist. What a pretty sound she makes. I can’t believe this she’s the one making all that noise in the Broken Social Scene. I wish she didn’t lend 1-2-3-4 to the iPod commercial. I like her better when she’s a secret.

feist.jpg Listen to: My Moon My Man

16. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81
BRMC is a band from San Francisco that just kicks ass. The first three tracks out of the gate are just old fashioned hard rocker swagger that are followed up by a nice even album the rest of the way. These guys have been around a while but it took this album to get me to notice. I’ll be going back over their older stuff first part of ’08.

black-rebel-motorcycle-club.jpgListen to: Berlin

15. Interpol – Our Love to Admire
One on my favorite bands of the last few years, I’m a bit of a sucker for these guys sound. They’ll never top Turn on the Bright Lights (their debut), but if you like Interpol, give this one a little time to settle in. You won’t be sorry.

interpol.jpg Listen to: Mammoth

14. St. Vincent – Marry Me
Saw her live opening with Tacks the Boy Disaster for Midlake (whose Trial of VanOcupanther was my favorite album last year) at the Granada in Dallas (she’s from Dallas, my Texas friends). She’s a former member of the Polyphonic Spree (!), and is incredibly talented.

st-vincent.jpg Listen to: Marry Me

13. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
Two Dallas friends turned me on to Connor Oberst. Took me a while to get into it, but eventually, Bright Eyes won me over. This album was easily the most readily accessible of all of his albums. I love it. They guys who tuned me on to Bright Eyes? I think they hate it. Not sure what that means. You be the judge.

bright-eyes.jpg Listen to: Four Winds

12. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
These guys will never make an album I don’t love. Not a lot of buzz about this album this year…I have no idea why. It’s as solid and excellent as their first two.

the-shins.jpg Listen to: Australia

11. Arctic Monkeys – Favorite Worst Nightmare
The Monkey’s second album is a great party. Their first album was the best selling debut in British history. And while I haven’t seen them live, I’ve heard from a few close friends that these guys are epic live and consistently one of the best festival acts all last summer.

arctic-monkeys.jpg Listen to: Florescent Adolescent

10. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
What do they call this? Techo? House? Electonica? Whichever. It feels a little like disco for people with computers. I don’t have any idea what people dance to at clubs these days, but my best guess is it’s music like this. So let’s just call it dance music for nerdy white dudes from computer geeks that like disco. And yes, that’s totally an endorsement. This album has lots of energy and pop and basically gets rolling right from the first track.

lcd.jpg Listen to: TBD

9. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
As original as they come today. From Montreal (up there in Canadaland). Deep. Layered. Creative. Multipercussional. Intense. Freaking raw. Is multipercussional really even a word? Lead Win Butler just blows the shit up. He’s a badass. He’s sort of big and ugly and he belts his crazy fairytale/nightmare lyrics out as harshly as he bangs on his guitar. The dude’s freakishly intense and I am afraid of him. These cats play an instrument called a hurdy gurdy. I don’t even know what that is.

arcade-fire.jpg Listen to: Keep the Car Running.

8. The National – The Boxer
Rich sound. Lots of hype online and in print this year. And deservedly so. Their solid breakout album was one of my favorites in ’05 and has just gotten better ever since. And The Boxer is even better. It’s solid from the first song to the last…well written and masterfully composed, it’s worth all of the attention it’s gotten this year (PASTE magazine called it the best album of the year). Matt Berninger’s deep, dark voice will suck you in, his lyrics will humble you and the National will win you over. Or you’ll be bored by them. I’m not sure, but I’m totally in to them.

the-national.jpg Listen to: Mistaken for Strangers

7. Blonde Redhead – 23
Kinda psychedelic for the 00’s. I dare you to listen to this album and not feel “groovy, man.” But there’s nothing 1960’s about 23. You’ll feel like your floating in an electro mash drugged out space train bobbing your head to every song on this album. I read where this album was described as art-rocky dream pop. I have no idea what that meant until I listened to this album. Then I got it and fell for the beautiful voice of BR’s female lead, Kazu Makimo. I think you might, too.

blonde-redhead.jpg Listen to: 23

6. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
So cool. At first I didn’t like Will Sheff. His creaky, howly, uneven voice bugged me. But my friend John Rowe told me at a live show in ’05 (at Trees in Dallas) that once I let it run through my system a bit, that same voice might wind up being exactly what I love about this band. First time that dude’s ever been right. I like these guys a little better than the National – a great band that’s gotten a lot of attention this year that I seem to group with OR in my mind more often than not for whatever reason. Both are blunt and hearty, but I prefer OR because they have a little more fire and rock than the Nat. They sound like Texas to me, or a good whiskey would if it had chops.

okkervil.jpg Listen to: Unless it Kicks

5. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
I’ve been waiting a while to say a few words about this album. Some critics actuall say it’s not their best effort. Sort of quiet they say. Not as adventurous as past efforts. What the fuck? Even though they have a specific sound they can lay claim to, they still manage to find a way to make new albums that sound fresh. It’s amazing how cohesive all of these otherwise diverse albums sound when they’re all played as part of their exquisite catalog on stage. That and a knack for clever writing and consistently great hooks you’ll never choke on are what’s beautiful about Wilco.

wilco.jpg Listen to: You Are My Face

4. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Radiohead put out an album this year. It’s as excellent as you might expect. It’s probably the best album of the year, but it’s sort of like those seasons when Michael Jordan didn’t win the NBA MVP…it wasn’t that he wasn’t the most valuable player in the league, it just got to be unfair to give it to him every year. You kinda have to give all the other guys something to play for, right? You might have heard that you could only get this album online in ’07, but you could pay whatever you wanted for it. I paid 4 British pounds. I don’t know how many dollars that is, but I think I got a steal.

radiohead.jpg Listen to: Bodysnatchers

3. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
A band that always makes solid records with a few standout tracks, really hits the mother load this time with at least 10 pretty terrific tracks. If you’re a fan of Spoon, you’ll love this album’s familiar feel but no worries; it’s plenty fresh at the same time. If you’ve never listened to these guys before, congratulations, you just found a no-brainer Texas-rocker that melds classic rhythm with a some very good pop. And also there are horns, which are cool.

spoon.jpg Listen to: You Got Your Cherry Bomb

2. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Bird’s sound is undeniably savory (like Lay’s Kettle Cooked potato chips); soulful, crunchy and earthy/folksy. He’s clearly as talented a writer as he is a skilled musician. His songs play out like thoughtful and introspective short stories for New Yorker readers or NPR devotees (by the way, it’s my best guess for NPR’s best of the year due out later this week). I hear the whole album was recorded in a barn somewhere in rural Illinois while he was under the influence of a lot of that loco weed the kids all you kids are so into these days.

andrew-bird.jpg Listen to: Imitosis

1. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
A beautiful sound that’s even more beautiful live, an even more beautiful at the Metro in Chicago. I can attest. And it was that night in early December this year that I knew I was witnessing the live manifestation of what would become my number one favorite album of the year. Great for a winter’s listening…it’s warm, woodsy and layered. Very southern-sounding – sort of My Morning Jacket meets the Shins. If you like this, go back and listen to last year’s debut; Everything All the Time, and you’ll get a sort of two for one.

band-of-horses.jpg Listen to: Ode to LRC

Honorable Mentions
Battles – Mirrored
Brandi Carlisle – The Story
Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
MIA – Kala
Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Rogue Wave – Asleep at Heaven’s Gate
Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist

2006
1. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
2. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
3. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
5. Eef Barzelay – Bitter Honey
6. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time
7. Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon
8. Lilly Allen – Alright, Still
9. Peter, Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block
10. The Subways – Young for Eternity
11. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldier
12. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
13. Oh No Oh MY! – self titled
14. Say Hi To Your Mom – Impeccable Blahs
15. Joanna Newsome – Ys
16. Hot Chip – The Warning
17. Brandi Carlile – self titled
18. Silversun Pickups – Carnavas
19. Cold War Kids – Robbers and Cowards
20. Great Lake Swimmers – Bodies and Minds
21. The Knife – Silent Shout
22. Chris Warren and the Dirty Holiday Band – American Vulture
23. Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
24. The Spinto Band – Nice and Nicely Done
25. Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche
26. Rocky Votolato – Makers
27. Black Angels – Passover
28. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
29. Pearl Jam – self titled
30. TV On the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

2005
1. Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise
2. The Decemberists – Picaresque
3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
4. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning
5. Fiest – Let it Die
6. The National – Alligator
7. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
8. Sleater Kinney – The Woods
9. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
10.Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy
11. Ryan Adams (& the Cardinals) Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, 29
12. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
13. The Octopus Project – Burn this CD
14. Beck – Guerro
15. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
16. My Morning Jacket – Z
17. Shout Out Louds – Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
18. Sons and Daughters – The Repulsion Box
19. New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
20. Art Brut – Ban Bang Rock and Roll
21. Denison Witmer – Are You A Dreamer

2004
1. Arcade Fire – Funeral
2. Wilco – A Ghost is Born
3. Interpol – Antics
4. Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
5. Joanna Newsome – The Milk-Eyed Mender
6. Rogue Wave – Out of the Shadow
7. Midlake – Bamman and Silvercork
8. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
9. Snow Patrol – Final Straw
10. Zykos – Zykos
11. The Killers – Hot Fuss
12. Matt Pond PA – Emblems
13. TV On the Radio – Desperate Youth, Blood thirsty Babes
14. The Faint – Wet From Birth
15. Stellastar – Stellastar
16. The Zutons – Who Killed the Zutons
17. Ambulance Ltd. – Ambulance Ltd.
18. Kasabian – Kasabian
19. Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous

2003
1. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
2. The Stills – Logic Will Break Your Heart
3. The Postal Service – Give Ip
4. The White Stripes – Elephant
5. Nada Surf – Let Go
6. Decemberists – Her Majesty the Decemberists
7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
8. Kings of Leon – Youth and Youngmanhood
9. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
10. The New Pornographers – Electric Version
11. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
12. Rufus Wainwright – Want One
13. Damien Rice – o
14. Longwave – the Strangest Things
15. The Libertines – Up the Bracket
16. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
17. Fiery Furnaces – Gallowsbird Bark
18. Zwan – Mary Star of the Sea

2002
1. (Tie) Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
1. (Tie) Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
3. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
4. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot in People
5. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight
6. Beck – Sea Change
7. Ben Kweller – Sha Sha
8. Foo Fighters – One by One
9. Sleater Kinney – One Beat
10. The Hives – Vendi Vendi Vicious
11. Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales
12. Decemberists – Castaways