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Monday, December 8, 2008

Top 10 albums of 2008

I usually wait until the last week of December to post my year-in-review lists, based on the logic that you should wait until the year is actually over before making these kind of declarations.

But this year I'm giving in to peer pressure and going up early. Here are my 10 favorite CDs of 2008:

1 Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros
This record retained the beauty and majesty the quirky Icelanders are known for, while deftly adding a bit of mainstream accessibility, with a few up-tempo tracks and their first-ever song in English. This is mostly a joyous album, though that English song ("All Alright") shows they can still do melancholy as well as anyone.
Essential tracks: Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, Gobbledigook, Festival
Video link: Gobbledigook (live with Bjork)

2 Feed the Animals, Girl Talk
A mind-blowing mix of more than 300 songs spliced together for maximum dance party enjoyment. The moment where Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" meets Nine Inch Nails' "Wish" and MC Hammer's "2 Legit 2 Quit" is my favorite musical moment of 2008. And mad props to Mr. Gillis for including such delicious '80s pop tracks as "Young Turks," "In a Big Country" and "Jessie's Girl."
Essential tracks: Here's the Thing, Hands in the Air, Play Your Part (Pt. 2)
Video link: Here's the Thing (unofficial video)

3 Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
One of last year's best albums saw a proper release in 2008, with promotional appearances on Letterman and performing slots at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Ambitious, ironic, and playful, MGMT's psychedelic pop sounds both retro and futuristic at the same time.
Essential tracks: Electric Feel, Kids, Time to Pretend
Video link: Electric Feel

4 Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, Amanda Palmer
The Dresden Dolls singer is known for poignant ballads, and there are plenty of those here, but her solo album is more musically adventurous, augmenting her band's simple piano and drums sound with strings, bass, percussion, and horns. There are a number of different styles here, from the hard-rocking "Guitar Hero" to the lullaby duet with St. Vincent's Annie Clark.
Essential tracks: Oasis, Runs in the Family, Ampersand
Video link: Oasis

Goddamned, Jay Brannan
This is the first full-length from Brannan, first seen as Ceth in the John Cameron Mitchell film Shortbus. His writes with a witty, contemporary style ("You said physical chemistry between us was bad/Then why are you still responding to my Craigslist ad?"), and his angelic voice makes the CD an incredibly pleasing listen.
Essential tracks: Can't Have it All, Half-Boyfriend, A Death Waltz
Video link: Can't Have it All (live)

6 Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
I resisted Vampire Weekend's hype at first but the record eventually grew on me. "We're a jam band, we just play really short songs," singer Ezra Koenig said at Bonnaroo, and he was right on the money. Borrowing from Afropop, reggae, and ska, among others, the preppy Columbia grads crafted a thoroughly satisfying pop record.
Essential tracks: M79, Oxford Comma, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Video link: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

7 Dear Science, TV On the Radio
The innovative Brooklyn-ites push the envelope on Dear Science by being normal - or at least, more normal than they usually are. Lush strings and a simple melody make "Family Tree" a welcome departure, while "Red Dress" is funky and danceable, and "Dancing Choose" has verses racing by at hyperspeed. Yeah, on second thought, TVotR is still pretty fucking weird.
Essential tracks: Red Dress, Golden Age, Family Tree
Video link: Dancing Choose

8 Youth Novels, Lykke Li
The Swedish indie chanteuse's debut effort is a memorable one. The marriage of her delicate voice with simple arrangements works really well, and the more complex songs are just as good - the rhythmic "I'm Good, I'm Gone" proves to be one of the album's highlights.
Essential tracks: Let it Fall, I'm Good I'm Gone, Little Bit
Video link: Little Bit

9 Stay Positive, The Hold Steady
It's not as consistent as their last release, Boys and Girls in America, but Stay Positive has several highlights, starting with the raucous title track, while the harpsichord in "One for the Cutters" is an unexpected delight. Craig Finn's stories are as fascinating as ever. These guys continue to do blue collar rock 'n roll better than anyone.
Essential tracks: Stay Positive, Sequestered in Memphis, Constructive Summer
Video link: Sequestered in Memphis (live on Letterman)

10 Metro Station, Metro Station
Easily my biggest guilty pleasure of 2008. The lyrics are juvenile, but songs like "Kelsey" and "Control" represent disposable emo-pop at its best, with hooks out the wazoo and a heaping of synths that separates this band's sound from the rest of the teenybopper pack.
Essential tracks: Shake It, Kelsey, Control
Video link: Control

Other favorites:
Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst
Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles
For Emma Forever Ago, Bon Iver
Weezer (The Red Album), Weezer
Partie Traumatic, Black Kids
Third, Portishead

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