This article originally appears on Boston Band Crush ). This list isn’t really heavy with the locals, but I promise that next year will be different!
I am sort of picky about liking music. So, although this is a list of my favorite (lucky) 13 albums of 2008, as you get further down the list, the albums include fewer songs that I actually like. The Airborne Toxic Event record, for example, only contains maybe 2 or 3 songs that I like, but those songs are good enough to keep me interested. In recent years, there are always only maybe 3-4 albums that I really like as a whole. This year, the top 6 or 7 are pretty strong and will probably get some rotations in the future.
1. and 2. Dead Confederate – EP / Wrecking Ball
It’s safe to say that I really like Dead Confederate. They spit out searing, lumbering rock with a clear and unique collision of psychedelia and sludge in a way that is completely fresh and compelling. I’ve yet to hear a song by them that I didn’t like. Definitely my favorite band this year. They’re great live too!
3. Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)
Cloud Cult is another one of those collective indie troupes centered around a singer/songwriter. Their songs are heartbreakingly optimistic and bright, while keeping a sort of indie/hipster panache. The record has a few songs that I like less than the others, but overall, this one is a solid no-skip spin.
Here is some bad live video of “Everybody Here is a Cloud” that I shot at their recent show at The Middle East
4. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
Perhaps the hardest band name to spell in indie rock. This was a curious omission from most lists I’ve seen. These guys just write great songs and have killer arrangements and instrumentation. Totally awesome and underrated band and a really great record.
Here is “Lost Coastlines,” which is great, but my favorite song is “Singer Songwriter” (which has no official video)
5. Girl talk – Feed the Animals
I sort of want to be pissed off at Girl Talk for making a career “innovating” something that has been going on in the underground for 20 years, but the kid does it so well, that I can’t bother to be bothered.
“In Step” unofficial video
6. Battle Hymns – Hidden Reservations
This under-the-radar Seattle band really blew me away with their debut album. Sadly, I couldn’t find any video or audio to embed here, but you can give them a listen:
7. The Magnetic Fields – Distortion
One of my favorite bands ever. This album isn’t their best, but it isn’t their worst either. It can be tough to deal with the layers and layers of reverb covering up the songs. A lot of the songs stood up better live.
“California Girls” (unofficial video and live)
8. Langhorne Slim – (Self Titled)
It’s tough to describe the hobo screeching folk of Langhorne Slim, but it’s easy to say that I think it’s great. He has been making really strong music for some time now, but this album really shows what he’s got.
“Rebel Side of Heaven” (official video) and a bunch of songs live on the LaundroMatinee Sessions
9. The Killers – Day & Age
This band has great hooks and manages to subvert mainstream music with some odd lyrics. This combination has always attracted me to them as the best of the million bands that currently sound like this (AKA the only one of them I can even stand to listen to). The album has some really awful songs, but when it comes down to it, the four or so great songs makes it worth a listen. “Spaceman,” a song about being abducted by aliens is my favorite, but lead single “Human” is both a little cryptic and a little awesome. I can’t explain it, but I really like watching Brandon Flowers sing. I guess he comes off as sincere, when he could easily act like a rock star.
“Spaceman” and “Human” (live on TV)
10. The Airborne Toxic Event – (Self Titled)
This is a tough one. Stylistically, I love this band. Most of the lyrics on this album are unbearable and stupid, but a few songs are so overwhelmingly good. I guess it all sort of teeters between bad high school poetry and genius. It makes sense that Pitchfork gave it a controversial 1.6 rating (out of 10). I’d be tempted to hack it apart too, but then “Sometime Around Midnight” is so universal and well crafted that, despite its hackneyed topic, corny lyrics, complete lack of a chorus (literally, no chorus), and endless build to nowhere, it is one of the best songs to come out this year. The band, a poor man’s The Arcade Fire? Only time will tell.
“Sometime Around Midnight” – The video is too literal and sort of ruins the song in a way, but eh, here it is…close your eyes if you’d like. Also, the main guy in the video looks like Langhorne Slim, for whatever that is worth.
11. Conor Oberst – (Self Titled)
I like Bright Eyes. I haven’t really been on board with where things have been headed for the last few albums. This “solo” record is a little better than Cassadaga to me, but it’s still only in the 50% on target range for me. You can hear Conor wringing Dylan out of every cell of his body on this one…sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not.
“I Don’t Want To Die (In The Hospital)” (live)
12. She and Him – Volume 1
The most amazing thing about this is that when I heard that Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were doing an album together, I checked to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. When I actually heard the album, I checked again. Some really good stuff. “Sentimental Heart” is my favorite.
“Sentimental Heart” (Unofficial Video)
13. Jenny lewis – Acid Tongue
I’ve been a big Rilo Kiley fan for years. I only liked one song on Jenny’s first solo record (“You are What You Love”), but this record has at least a few songs I’m really enjoying.
“Acid Tongue” (Live)
Honorable Mention: Parry Gripp Song Of The Week – Sometimes you need a one-minute joke song to make you feel better. Parry Gripp, singer of Nerf Herder, knows how to craft them. Classics like: “Young Girl Talking About Herself” and “Cat Flushing A Toilet” won’t leave my head any time soon…
“Spaghetti Cat (I Weep For You)”
Albums That Everyone Else Loved That I Didn’t:
Portishead – Absolutely, heinously terrible. Unlistenable crap. Worst album I’ve heard this year.
MGMT, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, Black Kids – Yawn. I’m lumping too much together here, but the common thread is that the songs just don’t hook me.
Guns ‘N’ Roses – Most reviews were mediocre, but I think it’s actually worse than that. Axl can still belt, but the songs are total garbage.
Anyway, that sums up 2008 for me…here’s to new music in 2009!