January 1, 2009

Best of 2008

Best of 2008 collage

Band name link is to Myspace site, Album title link is to cheapest way to buy the album digitally (which in every case is either Emusic or Amazon MP3, NOT iTunes.)

1. Mates of State- Re-Arrange Us**
No difficult decision here, this was easily my favorite album of this year. Nothing ground-breaking, just great, fun songs. Spent much of the summer of 2008 on the road, and this was my soundtrack. Mates of State dropped their organ in favor of piano for the album, which caused a bit of controversy for those who cared. I thought it was a great move, and separates this album from all of their previous work. Best song: "The Re-Arranger". (indie pop) (Paste Magazine's #23 of 2008, NPR's All Songs Considered Top-15 of 2008- "The Re-Arranger")
Bought vinyl from Barsuk which came with free mp3 download of full album.
On emusic along with their entire discography.

2. Nada Surf- Lucky**
I have been a fan of Nada Surf since 2003's spectacular "Let Go", and they just keep releasing high-quality albums. This is one was a bit of a grower, my initial impression was not that good but now I love it. As I have reviewed other best-of lists from around the internet, I am shocked not to see it anywhere else. Best song: "Weightless". (indie rock)
Bought vinyl (Box set with all 5 Nada Surf LPs) from Barsuk which came with free mp3 download of full album.
Not on emusic (yet), but much of their back catalog is.

3. Thrice- The Alchemy Index Volumes III & IV: Earth & Air**
Not as good as the first half of the set (released in 2007, and my #1 of that year), but still good and extremely interesting. Each of the four EPs is based on each of the four elements- musicially, lyrically, and thematically. Three of the four worked great, Air was the only miss (good songs, but theme isn't as clear). Best song: "Come All You Weary." (folk rock)
Got on emusic, but just pre-ordered 4 x 10" vinyl set to be released in Feb. 2009.
On emusic along with Volumes I & II.

4. Coldplay- Viva la Vida**
I obviously don't listen to much mainstream music, but I am a fan of Coldplay, and I think this is the best of their four LPs. The production and instrumentation is drastically different than anything they had done before, which is what puts it over the top. Companion EP, "Prospekt's March", contains excellent out-takes and alternate versions. Best song: "Lost!" (rock) (Rolling Stone's #7 album of 2008, Stereogum #26, NPR listeners' #9, NPR's All Songs Considered top 15 of 2008- "Lovers in Japan")
Bought vinyl, which came with free mp3 download of full album.

5. Gemma Hayes- Hollow of Morning*
Irish folk singer that I did not discover until a few months ago. Album is mostly acoustic, but has some songs that have some really great guitar textures. Of all of the artists on this list, Gemma Hayes is the one I discovered the latest, only a couple months ago. I am not exactly sure how I discovered her, I think because the first song I heard of hers was written by Glen Hasnard and eventually appeared in Once. Best song: "Home" (folk)
Got on emusic.

6. Colour Revolt- Plunder, Beg and Curse*
Debut album from Mississippi rock band. They released a much talked about EP a few years ago, and I along with many other people waited forever for this, their first LP. The EP was good but very scattered, this album is much more focused. Very dynamic vocally and with the guitar work. Best song: "Elegant View" (rock) (Paste #35)
Got on emusic, available on vinyl.
On emusic along with debut EP.

7. She & Him- Volume 1**
Debut album from M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. M.Ward of course has been writing and recording music for awhile, but this is actress Zooey Deschanel's first music release. Many of the songs sound as if they could be 50 years old. Best song: "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here" (folk)
Got on emusic originally, then got on vinyl as Christmas present from my sister. (Paste Magazine's #1 album of 2008, Sterogum #28, NPR listeners' #11)

8. R.E.M.- Accelerate*
The band has now been releasing music for 25+ years, and this is the best thing they have released in a decade. The best song on the album, "When the Day is Done", is acoustic and sounds like it could have appeared on something they put out in the 80s. The rest of the album is short, fast, rock songs. (rock) (Paste #48)
Bought CD, available on vinyl.

9. Mogwai- The Hawk is Howling**
First Mogwai album I highly anticipated, as it took me years to really get into their music. Nothing that different here, except for Mogwai's first "pop" song, a 7-minute epic called "The Sun Smells Too Loud." Best song: "BatCat" (post-rock)
Surprisingly not on emusic, because the rest of their discography is, along with 2008's 'BatCat' EP. Available on vinyl.

10. All the Saints- Fire on Corridor X
Debut album from Atlanta band. Not sure if they are known outside of the local scene. A guy I work with is friends with their drummer, and because of that I have been aware of them for awhile and heard their music on Myspace. The guy I work with swears they are awesome live, and I believe him. They are very noisy, somewhat remind me of My Bloody Valentine. (rock)
Got on emusic.

11. Katie Herzig- Apple Tree. I only got this a few days ago (Free on NoiseTrade), and it is excellent. After I am able to listen to it more I bet it moves into the top 10.
12. The Weepies- Hideaway (emusic) Soothing folk-rock from this husband/wife duo.
13. Starflyer 59- Dial M** (bought vinyl) Impressive 11th LP from SF59 in 14 years. I like everything this band has done, but this release is kind of all over the map. Neatest thing about this album was the 10 x 7" vinyl release that was done of the demos before the final product came out.
14. Right Away, Great Captain!- The Eventually Home (emusic) Side project from Manchester Orchestra's prolific song-writer Andy Hull.
15. Headlights- Some Racing, Some Stopping** (emusic) Terrific indie-pop includes one of the best singles of the year, "Cherry Tulips" (free mp3 on emusic).
16. Thao- We Brave Bee Stings and All (emusic) (Paste #42) Very unique female folk artist.
17. Frightened Rabbit- The Midnight Organ Fight* (emusic) Intense Scottish indie-rock. (Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World's #1 of 2008, Pitchfork #33, Stereogum #17)
18. The Bridges- Limits of the Sky (bought CD, amazingly enough the only CD I bought this year!) (Paste #36) Cross between Eisley and Fleetwood Mac.
19. Damien Jurado- Caught in the Trees* (emusic) First album I have really listened to from this prolific Seattle songwriter in about a decade.
20. Fleet Foxes- s/t.** I haven't even listened to it yet, but I got it on vinyl as a Christmas gift from my brother, and I have heard it is good. (Pitchfork's #1 album of 2008, Stereogum #1, NPR's #1 Debut album of 2008, NPR listeners' #1 of 2008, NPR's All Songs Considered top 15 of 2008- "White Winter Hymnal", Paste #6, Rolling Stone #11)

Best EPs:
1. The Lassie Foundation- Jetstreams, Three Wheels EP (emusic). Three new songs from the barely active band. First songs they have recorded since guitarist Jeff Schroeder joined the Smashing Pumpkins.
2. Sixpence None the Richer- My Dear Machine EP (NoiseTrade) First new music from Sixpence since 2002. Four terrific songs, all much better than anything on their very average new Christmas album.
3. Paper Route- Are We All Forgotten EP (iTunes) 3rd EP from this Nashville band. 2009 should bring their first LP.
4. Coldplay- Prospekt's March EP (Amazon MP3) New version of "Lost!" with Jay-Z rapping on the bridge is interesting.
5. Manchester Orchestra- Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind EP/DVD (bought DVD) Two new outstanding studio tracks accompanied this DVD documentary.

Note about EPs: I have people ask me frequently what an EP is. Here is a short explanantion. Back when music could only be purchased on vinyl, there were three types of releases:
1. SP- Single play- contain 1-2 songs
2. EP- Extended play- contain 3-8 songs
3. LP- long play- contain 9 or more songs (usually 10)
So an EP is a short album. EP's usually contain B-sides, live tracks, covers, alternate versions, etc. Often times new artists release EPs before their first LP.

Most Disappointing album of 2008:
Death Cab for Cutie- Narrow Stairs*
Easiest decision of my entire 2008 blog post. Only album in recent memory in which I like the single ("I Will Possess Your Heart") more than any other song on the album. First two songs are very cool, then the album falls apart before concluding with a couple decent tracks. Overall the album is just boring and contains Death Cab's worst song-writing to date. Amazingly enough, it is probably Death Cab's most critically acclaimed album to date. Unfortunately when Death Cab was doing their best work (The Photo Album & Transatlanticism) no one was listening to them. (Paste #18, Stereogum #14, NPR listeners' #5, NPR's All Songs Considered top 15 of 2008- "Cath")
Best part about the album is the cover artwork:

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