Posted on January 2nd, 2009 in Music,Year End

Top 25 albums of 2008

2008 kind of sucked for music. there were just a few utterly amazing records, and really only 20-25 good ones. i didn’t feel too terrible about any of those that didn’t make it on the list. BUT, here are my favorites anyway.

Portugal. The Man – Censored Colors
Equal Vision
Portugal. The Man’s brief history is already quite inconsistent. Their brilliant debut was followed by an amazing EP, which was followed by a starkly disappointing full-length just a few months later. Which was followed by this—possibly their most consisent record (whether that’s good or bad i’m still not sure). Still, Censored Colors more or less flows from beginning to end, albeit without the highs of their first album or the lows of their second.
Beck – Modern Guilt
Possibly Beck’s most cohesive record to date, Modern Guilt is drenched in sublime melodies and sunny rhythms and sing-along choruses. Beck doesn’t rely on his chameleon-like musical ability as much as he has in the past, and as a result the album flows seamlessly from beginning to end.
The Faint – Fasciination
Fasciinatiion moves away from the orchestral direction of Wet From Birth and back to the machinistic vitality of The Faint’s earlier records. Unfortunately it falls short in its attempts to revisit the deceptively simple melodies and hooks of those efforts. A solid album, but we have come to expect much more from them at this point.
The Black Angels – Directions to See a Ghost
Light in the Attic
The Black Angels’ second full-length harkens back to the 60s even moreso than their first, resulting in an undeniably amazing trip through a dreamed-up-decade of faux Vietnams and LSD and Woodstocks. Yet, as much flower-power decade nostalgia The Black Angels possess, they still manage to sound simultaneously modern, which gives them resonance and reason to look back on the past and recreate it on their terms.
No Age – Nouns
Sub Pop
Nouns picks up where the highly acclaimed Weirdo Rippers left of — bursting with fuzzed-out guitars, abrasive melodies and barely audible vocals. Yet, buried underneath the layers and layers of noise and dissonance are sugar-coated hooks on par with some of the best indie pop bands around, which gives this record a disarming warmth.
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
MGMT’s first full-length is a sort of savvy melangé of vintage Bowie and late Flaming Lips — juxtaposing sunny psychedelia with dancey anthems that compliment eachother beautifully by turning keyboards into acid flashbacks and acid flashbacks into dancefloor epidemics.
Tall Firs – Too Old To Die Young
Ecstatic Peace!
Too Old To Die Young meanders and stumbles through muddy melodies and half-drunk confessionals that are equally intrinsic and calming and sad and accepting of themselves. Dave Mies’ fatalistic vocals seem both at peace and self aware — melding perfectly with the band’s intricate guitar arrangements; brooding softly and peacefully, like a moon, setting in the sun’s sky.
Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg, and Curse
Fat Possum
Colour Revolt’s first full-length tones down the raw, abrasive attitude found on their EP in favor of a muddier, introspective tone — lending the record a mature, slow-paced drawl that snakes around like a dirty southern creek littered with weeds and leeches. Yet, this subtle shift in songwriting enhances the band’s strengths even moreso, resulting in a strong record that reveals more of its secrets with each successive listen.
The Dandy Warhols – …Earth to the Dandy Warhols…
Beat The World
The Dandies’ tongues are firmly in cheek and their middle fingers raised high on their latest record — their trademark sarcasm and wit as good as ever. Such snide megalomania is what makes this band successful and they’ve come close to perfecting it here, with an album that brilliantly blends the hooks and neo-psychedelia of their early work with the fuck-you-i’m-better-than-you attitude they’ve spent so many years cultivating.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – My Bloody Underground
A Records
Eccentric madman Anton Newcombe’s first album in four years is a hallucinogenic journey through the mind of the mentally insane. Most of the tracks found here are much less songs than strange, meandering collections of ambience: brain synapses, otherwordly anthems, mistake-ridden solecisms and druggy psychedelia. My Bloody Underground is neurotic and restless and moody and brilliant.
The Magnetic Fields – Distortion
Stephin Merritt’s latest thematic undertaking is drenched in reverb — brilliantly accentuating Shirley Simms’ sugary vocals, which in turn act as delicious adversaries to Merritt’s deep, miserablist delivery. Merritt’s arrangements are melodic and sunny as ever, lending Distortion a sort of strange happy-but-sad temper that feeds off its own simplistic beauty.
Health – Disco
Lovepump United
Disco brilliantly blends Health’s noise-rock melodies with tumultuous beats and grinding synths that cycle in and out of focus while simultaneously stomping heads and making love. Each mix is unique and interesting, never boring, giving the record a linear feel that darkly (and murderously) straddles the line between man and machine.
The Dodos – Visiter
Essentially The Dodos’ third album, Visiter furthers the delicate guitarplay of Meric Long, dueling splendidly harmonic vocal melodies, slightly dissonant interludes and Long’s penchant for driving (almost tribal) rhythms that appear and disappear and reappear throughout the record’s (grimy? possibly) entirety.
Foals – Antidotes
Sub Pop
Foals utilize myriad influences (everything from the madchester sounds of The Stone Roses to the current neo no-wave of New Young Pony Club), creating a dichotomy of cool — a mature, multicultural sound that staccatos along at a deliberately slow pace and still feels fevered and energetic; kind of like the assured international shitstorm of a U.S. oil spill near the Russian border.
Murder By Death – Red of Tooth and Claw
Murder By Death’s fourth full-length is a soulful deathride through tumbleweeds and deserts and ghost towns, characterized by cryptic string arrangements and haunting passages that brilliantly accentuate Adam Turla’s deep, guttural vocals.
Kings of Leon – Only By the Night
Only By the Night takes Kings of Leon’s despondent southern rock to new, anthemic heights that are draped in a polished sheen not found on their previous work. Still, it works — providing the songs a glisten and shimmer that brings to the forefront the melodies that were often dirtied and muddied in the past.
Local H – 12 Angry Months
Shout! Factory
A concept album about breakups, this record perfectly encapsulates the withered energy required to sustain a useless and fruitless relationship. Musically, the band moves forward where P.J. Soles left off — at times willing to bare some vulnerability while still maintaining the thunderous power of past releases. As usual, Scott Lucas’s lyrics are witty and on point and smothered in a backdrop of pummeling, skullcrushing rhythmic passages.
Black Francis – Svn Fngrs
Cooking Vinyl
This mini-album from Frank Black is easily his best work since Teenager of the Year. Svn Fngrs is loaded with explosive riffs and supercharged dynamics — topped off with delicious, dripping melodies reminiscent of his prolific early-90s work.
Islands – Arm’s Way
Islands’ second full-length finds the band coming into their own as a band with an actual voice instead of just a post-Unicorns project. Arm’s Way is significantly darker than its predecessors, but it’s dark in that sort of way that makes you kind of want to just solitarily confine yourself while you listen to your own insanity and dance happily and think about murdering past lovers and then dance some more.
The Kills – Midnight Boom
The Kills’ latest is as raw and catchy as ever. VV’s vocals are spot on, with a heavy reliance on melodic PJ Harvey-styled causticity. Conversely, the mellow moments add a delicate, complimentary flavor to the edgy mood that surrounds.
Auxes – Sunshine
Former Milemarker Dave Laney’s new project is a stunning amalgam of corrosive melodies and spastic dynamics that come together like the offspring of some kind of Tom Waits-meets-At the Drive in mutation. Abrasive and beguiling and raw, and ultimately brilliant.
Thinking Machines – A Complete Record of Urban Archaeology
This Philadelphia trio’s third full-length is an exclamatory blend of post-punk dynamism and melodic discord that seamlessly connects to its roots but never denies its willingness to explore new sonic territory.
Pidgeon – Might as Well Go Eat Worms
Absolutely Kosher
Criminally underrated Pidgeon’s sophomore album takes more chances than its predecessor — consistently bait-and-switching the tempo; switching songs in the middle of songs; filling melodic passages with delightfully ear-splitting screams while simultaneously adding even more melody. Might As Well Go Eat Worms is a Pixies album on crack — taking extremes to the extreme all while brilliantly coalescing into one amazingly beautiful godlike sound.
Witch Hats – Cellulite Soul
Witch Hats first full-length continues the no-holds-barred, thunderous direction hinted at on their EP. Kris Buscombe’s rasping vocals perfectly match the band’s grungy, Nirvana-influenced palate, while the surrounding noise gives the record a fevered, frantic tone, creating a sort of catastrophic sounding cacophony of beautiful noise.
Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
Last Gang
Crystal Castles’ long awaited full-length is smothered in 8-bit terror and synthy aural candy and out-of-this-world vocal manipulation and otherwise pure insanity. The new tracks stay true to the band’s renowned nightmare-freakscapes while adding an even more dancable vibe, creating a blistering fusion of intensity and melody.

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