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Monday, December 29, 2008

My top 30 Albums of 2008

These are the records that I enjoyed most and played often in 2008....

1. KAISER CHIEFS - Off With Their Heads (B-Unique/Polydor)
- For their third album, the Chiefs deliver a fun collection of new-wavey Brit-Rock with giant hooks, danceable beats, and sing-along choruses. (site) (site)

2. PARTS & LABOR - Receivers (Jagjaguwar)
- Brooklyn's Parts & Labor somehow combine a dissonant wall of keyboard and guitar fuzz noise with droning rhythms and end up with an album of very memorable songs that could almost be called poppy. At times they remind me of a cross between Stereolab and the Wedding Present. (site)

3. JAY REATARD - Matador Singles '08 (Matador)
- Hyper lo-fi pop songs with a garage rock feel and pop-punk energy. Like a hybrid of American indie-rock with late 70's UK glam. (site) (site)

4. PAS/CAL – I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Laura (Le Grand Magistery)
- The debut album from Detroit’s Pas/Cal is a wondrous Summery pop record that effortlessly shifts from Beach Boys-like harmonies to intricate baroque pop to subtle Belle & Sebastianish melodies to early 70’s art pop flourishes. This is an ambitious pop record full of ideas that could have gotten overwhelmed in pretension in the hands of a lesser band. (site) (site)

5. the LAST SHADOW PUPPETS - The Age of the Understatement (Domino)
- Side project from main guys from Arctic Monkeys and (the current UK band) Rascals, which is better and more consistent than either band’s records. The obvious reference point is mid 60’s pop, with lush orchestral arrangements that make the songs sound almost cinematic. (site)

6. the BASEBALL PROJECT - Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (Yep Roc)
- Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate) and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, and auxiliary REM member) team up for an album of love songs to the sport of baseball. Their passion for the sport and its history come out in the lyrics, but this record still stands up on it’s musically as a collection of diverse styles. The Gary-Glitter-stomp-meets-Americana-indie-rock of “Ted Fucking Williams” might be my favorite song of 2008. (site)

7. the HOLD STEADY - Stay Positive (Vagrant)
- On their fourth album Craig Finn finally manages to cram his volumes of lyrics into songs without sacrificing any melody or sounding too busy. This is classic guitar rock for the underground crowd and the most accessible album the Hold Steady have made. (site)

8. LONGWAVE - Secrets Are Sinister (Original Signal Recordings)
- Epic shoe-gazer rock from New York with huge guitars and a solid batch of atmospheric songs that just keep getting larger. (site)

9. ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO - Real Animal (Back Porch)
- Maybe it’s Tony Visconti’s production or co-writing the whole album with Chuck Prophet, but this is Alajandro’s strongest album, which is incredible coming off of the very strong Boxing Mirror. Alejandro takes the twang of American roots rock and plants it into the 70’s arena rock playbook. This is Springsteen is supposed to sound like. (site) (site)

10. JORDAN ZEVON - Insides Out (New West)
- The debut album from Warren’s son is a great power pop record in the tradition of mid period Marshall Crenshaw, Jason Falkner, Squeeze, and Michael Penn. (site)

11. SANTOGOLD - Santogold (Downtown)
- An eclectic kitchen sink of sounds and references including ska, dub, new wave, post-punk, pop, and hip-hop that for me delivered on the promises of MIA. (site)

12. the PIGEON DETECTIVES - Emergency
- Leeds' Pigeon Detectives play what is admittedly a generic brand of energetic guitar pop in vogue in the UK the past few years, but they write songs that are just a little catchier and sharper than most of their contemporaries. The biggest fault of this album is that it lacks diversity, but the one trick they do, they do wonderfully. (site)

13. BRIAN ENO and DAVID BYRNE - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (todo Mundo)
- At this stage in my life there is something very comforting in David Byrne’s voice, which is probably what made me keep coming back to this album, growing on me a bit more with each listen. The songs are subtle pop songs in tune with Byrne’s solo work, but with Eno’s diverse audio ideas taking them to another level. (site)

14. SLOAN - Parallel Play (Murder / Yep Roc)
- It’s easy to take Sloan for granted, since they seem to effortlessly write strong pop songs pulled from a seemingly endless source of influences. This doesn’t live up to 2006’s fabulous Never Hear the End of It, but it’s still a solid collection of songs from one of the most reliable pop bands making records. (site)

15. the TING TINGS - We Started Nothing (Columbia/ Red Ink)
- Bubblegum dancefloor disco with one foot firmly planted in the 80’s. Nothing ground breaking here, but it’s fun as hell and several of these songs have been popping in my head more than anything else this year. (site)

16. THESE NEW PURITANS - Beat Pyramid (Domino)
- Herky jerky post-punk rock from the UK with a heavy debt to the Fall. The songs are manic bursts of chaotic energy that demand your attention. (site)

17. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE - the Good Life (Bloodshot)
- For his debut album Justin draws on Hank Williams, Jimmie Rogers, 1940’s folk, early acoustic blues, and hillbilly swing to create an album of subdued old-time country twang. The songwriting is top notch and the delivery sincere, making the album feel authentically vintage rather than a calculated recreation of a bygone era. This is my favorite country record of the past few years. (site)

18. the DODOS - Visitor (French Kiss)
- The second album from San Francisco duo the Dodos sounds like it could have come out on Flying Nun along with Tall Dwarfs and Chris Knox. They combine tribal drumming and indie folk rock acoustic guitars with assorted other sounds, but it’s the quality of the songwriting that brings this from just interesting to must hear. (site) (site)

19. the BLACK HOLLIES - Casting Shadows (Ernest Jenning)
- Many bands have repackaged the sounds of 60’s psychedelia over the years, but few have been able to do it as well or convincing as these East Coast garage revivalists. They sound sincere in their love of the genre and fuzzed out guitar raving rather than being kitchy about it. (site)

20. SEUN KUTI - Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Disorient)
- The younger of Fela’s sons delivers a groove heavy afrofunk album in the tradition of his father’s later work (thanks in part to having a large portion of Fela’s Egypt 80 band). The rhythms are absolutely hypnotic and the horns sound fantastic. Femi Kuti also put out a fine album this year, but Seun is the brother that delivered the stronger and more driving album. (site)

21. CUT COPY - In Ghost Colours (Modular Interscope)
- Sparkling synth filled electropop from Australia in the vein of mid 80’s OMD and New Order. The songs are lush and the production is very clean, making for a pleasurably consistent album. (site) (site)

22. TEENAGERS - Reality Check (Beggars Xl Recording)
- (site)

23. SPINTO BAND - Moonwink (Park the Van)
- (site) (site)

24. AL STEWART - Sparks of Ancient Light (Appleseed)
- It’s been a long road for Al since “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages”, and I’ll admit I’m not familiar most of his other 15+ albums or even knew he was still recording, but stumbling upon this was a pleasant surprise. With Laurence Juber (Wings) helping out on guitar, Stewart plays enjoyable folk-pop with intelligent lyrics dealing with assorted historical narratives. (site)

25. the KILLS - Midnight Boom (Domino)
- (site)

26. TOKYO POLICE CLUB – Elephant Shell (Saddle Creek)
- (site) (site)

27. WHY? - Alopecia (Anticon)
- (site)

28. the BUG - London Zoo (Ninja Tune)
- (site)

29. ROBERT FORSTER - Evangelist (Yep Roc)
- (site)

30. GANG GANG DANCE - Saint Dymphna (The Social Registry)
- (site)

Some other contenders…

PORTISHEAD - Third (Mercury)(site) (site)

EL GUINCHO - Alegranza! (Beggars Xl Recording)

FIREMAN - Electric Arguments (Ato Records/Red)

the REDUCERS - Guitars, Bass & Drums (Rave On)
(site) (site)

PAUL COLLINS BEAT - Ribbon of Gold (Rock Indiana/Get Hip) (site)

FEMI KUTI - Day by Day (Downtown) (site)

SUPERGRASS - Diamond Hoo Ha (Astralwerks)
(site) (site)

WRECKLESS ERIC and AMY RIGBY - Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby (Stiff)

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