Ok I know that it’s August so this is very late but better late than never. We can call this list “The Best of 2000 Late”. My friend Pavel feels that 2008 was quite a weak year for music compared to 2007 and 2006. I’m not sure if I agree. I guess I feel pretty good that this list of albums would still be selections I would come back to years from now. I should look back at my lists from ten years ago and see how much that holds up.
There are some great new artists out there that I want to mention. They didn’t make it into my top 10 or even top 15 albums of the year, which I detail here, but these artists are worth noting for some great singles and good albums. Here’s that list:
Adele – 19.
I never really quite got into this entire album but I thought the two lead singles, “Chasing Pavements” and “Cold Shoulder” were great. I was very impressed by the impact that Adele made in the U.S., despite her naysayers, including my friend Vanessa. Read more about Adele. Or listen on My Space.
The Dears – Missiles.
I was expected to be disappointed in this album based on my friend Chris telling me that his wife described it as “quite hard in places”. So I was rather surprised that I ended up going back to it multiple times. This band never quite made the impact that their Canadian brethren Arcade Fire have, despite their penultimate album Gang of Losers being shortlisted for a Mercury Prize. But if your a fan of Morrissey or Blur, you’ll enjoy Murray Lightburn’s voice. Read more about The Dears. Or listen on My Space.
Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair.
If you love Antony & The Johnsons and you like dance music, you’ll love this collection of tunes, especially the standout single “Blind”. Read more about Hercules and Love Affair. Or Listen on My Space.
Joan as Police Woman – To Survive.
Joan Wasser started her musical career playing the violin for a band called The Dambuilders. She’s also collaborated with a huge array of artists including Lou Reed, Tanya Donnely, The Scissor Sisters, etc. Read more about Joan Wasser. Or listen on My Space.
Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke.
This New Zealand artist named herself after one of the lead characters (played by Michelle Pfieffer) in a 1985 fantasy-film of the same name. “Paris is Burning” and “Back of the Van” are hot singles. Hope she makes more of a splash in the U.S. with her next album. Read more about Ladyhawke. Or listen on My Space.
Lykke Li – Youth Novels.
This young Swedish indie artist has lived all over the world including Portugal, India, and Bushwick Brooklyn, NY. Her debut album is noteworthy, particular for the track and video “I’m Good, I’m Gone”. Read more about Lykke Li. Or listen on My Space.
The Verve – Forth.
Richard Ashcroft’s solo work never quite resonated in the U.S. or the UK so it’s good to see him back with guitarist Nick McCabe and company. Forth doesn’t quite match the grandeur of 1997’s Urban Hymns but it’s a step in the right direction, especially with the single “Love is Noise”. Read more about The Verve. Or listen on My Space.
Now here is the Top 15 albums of 2008 with the standout track of each album, which might not always be a single. I’ve listed them in reverse order. There are some cases where I may display a video, if I thought it was particularly good. Enjoy. And if I keep up with my Song of the Week posts on this blog, you’ll have some idea of what 2009’s list will shape up to be.
The Top 15 Albums of 2008
15. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
Shoegazing never seemed so electronic as it does now thanks to the terrific job that M83 (pretty much Anthony Gonzales) did putting together Saturdays = Youth. Read more about M83 or listen to them on MySpace.
14. Duffy – Rockferry.
Often grouped with the wave of retro-soul singers that followed the success of Amy Winehouse, the Welsh singer Duffy has a unique voice and sound all her own that Bernard Butler (Suede) helped her craft. “Mercy” was the first Number 1 UK single by a Welsh woman in 25 years. “Warwick Avenue” and “Stepping Stone” were also singles that helped make Rockferry a huge success in the U.S. and UK. Read more about Duffy or listen to her on Myspace.
13. Lady Ga Ga – The Fame.
This album skyrocketed Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) to superstardom but she had actually been signed (for 3 months) to Def Jam records at age 19. This went nowhere but Ga Ga’s burleque and performance art shows on NY’s LES got great reviews and came out of the underground with a spot at Lalapallooza. She also had great success writing songs for Akon, Fergie, the Pussycat Dolls, and New Kids on the Block. It was Akon that heard her voice once again and was instrumental in her getting to work on The Fame. She’s inspired by glam, electronica, fashion, and has been 2009’s darling of the gay community. The Fame is a great pop record that flows great from start to finish and Poker Face has to be a contender for Single of the Year. Read more about Lady Ga Ga or Listen to her on My Space.
12. The Killers – Day and Age.
The third album by The Killers is a melding of the pop sensibility of Hot Fuss and the less accessible but more substantial follow-up Sam’s Town. Tracks like “Human” and “Spaceman” bring on the singalong factor that The Killers’ hits are famous for and “Human” especially has that signature epic Killers sound. Read more about The Killers or Listen to them on My Space.
11. TV on the Radio – Dear Science.
This was undoubtedly one of the year’s best albums with this Brooklyn outfit once again sounding unlike anyone else out there but this time kicking their music up a notch in terms of acessibility. Tracks like “Family Tree” , “The Golden Age”, and “Halfway Home” are all single-worthy but the album works really well from start to finish. Read more about TVoTR or Listen to them on My Space.
10 Keane – Perfect Symmetry
Keane came back in 2008 after lead singer Tom Chaplin’s short stint in rehab with a catchy album and a departure from the piano-based sound of their first album Hopes and Dreams. In Perfect Symmetry, Keane add guitars, synthesizers, the saxophone, and strings. This departure is most evident in the first single “Spiraling” and the obviously Bowie-inspired featured track “Better than This”. Read more about Keane or Listen to them on My Space.
9 School of Seven Bells – Alpinisms
Just reading about this band made me want to hear them. Ex-Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza met on tour with Interpol and decided to quit their former bands to create School of Seven Bells, a band named after a mythical pickpocket training academy. Alpinisms is an album of ethereal indie rock that reminds me of the Cocteau Twins, specifically on my favorite track “Half Asleep”, the featured track. Read more about SVIIB or listen to them on My Space.
8 Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
Australia’s Cut Copy have concocted an electro-pop bath of 80’s influenced synth and new wave with a touch of 60’s psychedelia. This duo’s second album, In Ghost colours, and follow-up to Bright Like Neon Love inspires a return back to an 80’s disco – but the cool ones that no one knew about except for you. It’s my gym soundtrack of the year. The featured track is “Hearts on Fire”. Read more about Cut Copy or listen to them on My Space.
7 Black Kids – Partie Tramatic
Despite being born in ’64 and having many 70’s life influences, I feel like the 80’s are really my era for inspirational music. Jacksonville’s Black Kids kind of provide a musical tour of that decade, channeling some of the most influential artists of that era including Robert Smith, Morrissey, ABC, and The B 52’s. The melodies and lyrics are infectious and their songs just plain make me feel good. “I’ve Underestimated My Charms” is the featured track. Read more about Black Kids or listen to them on My Space.
6 Glasvegas – Glasvegas
Glasvegas has to be one of the coolest names for a rock band I’ve ever heard. For that alone they deserve a position on this list. Glasvegas is a Scottish band that recorded their self-titled debut at Brooklyn Recording Studios in New York. Nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2009, Glasvegas is drenched in Jesus-and-Mary-Chain style noise guitar and Scottish brogue. This quintessentially British quartet are definitely a band to watch out for. “Geraldine” is the featured track. I love the reference to her being a social worker at the end. Read more about Glasvegas or listen to them on My Space.
5 Coldplay – Viva La Vida and Death to all his friends
There is the fact that I sometimes think their lead singer looks completely dorky in videos and in live performances. There is the overly emotional lyrics on previous albums and the get-the-crowd-swaying-with-cell-phones-instead-of-lighters-held-high stadium image. There’s the expectation for commercial success by their label. There’s the accusation that they stole a riff from guitarist Joe Satriani on their biggest hit single. But despite all this, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida and Death to All of His Friends is by far their best album and one of the highlights of 2008. “Violet Hill” is the featured track. Read more about Coldplay or Listen to them on My Space.
4 Grace Jones – Hurricane
Grace Jones has always been one of my favorite performers and pop personalities. Her Jamaican-American roots and Euro mystique have always intrigued me along with her fabulous androgenous and fierce look. In her 10th studio album and first album in more than 19 years, Grace Jones is still as interesting, engaging and scary as ever. The album cover features chocolate heads molded in her image. “Williams Blood” is my favorite track but “Corporate Canibal” definitely resinates in today’s world of corporate greed. I would love to send Grace in to teach some of these greedy bastards a lesson. “Corporate Cannibal” is the featured track. Read more about Grace Jones or listen on My Space. Listen to “Corporate Cannibal” here and read my earlier entry about her, featuring “Williams Blood”.
3 Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
The debut album by the Seattle-based band of the same name, Fleet Foxes reminds you of something you might have heard in the 70’s. It has an instant appeal and has been heralded by critics on both sides of the pond as “An American Classic”. Described as folk rock and baroque pop, this album complements an autumn afternoon with a hot cup of tea and a good book. “Ragged Wood” is the featured track. Read more about Fleet Foxes or listen to them on My Space.
2 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend’s debut album was a bit of a surprise to me, not expecting to like it as much as I did. Lead singer Ezra Koenig formed the band while attending Columbia University and self-produced their first-and-only album. They’ve been quoted as calling their music “Upper West Side Soweto” as their hit song Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa exemplifies. This song clearly conjures memories of Neil Simon’s Graceland lp. Vampire Weekend’s hyper-presence on the blogosphere paved the way for their self-titled debut to peaking at number 15 and 17 on the UK and US charts respectively. “Oxford Comma” is my favorite song on the album. Read more about Vampire Weekend or listen to them on My Space.
1 Bloc Party – Intimacy
This British band has been classified as everything from indie rock to post-punk to alternative dance. Intimacy moves one from where their penultimate album, A Weekend in the City, leaves off but definitely veers more in the experimental electronic direction than before. The band of three is led by Kele Okereke who is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Born to Catholic Nigerian parents and known for being extremely shy, Kele creates a lyrical roadmap his breakups and personal traumas with Intimacy – a departure from the more political A Weekend in the City just a year earlier. Bloc Party’s music can feel obtuse and somewhat “all over the place” upon first listen but it all makes sense after a while. Mercury was the first single. Read more about Bloc Party or listen to them on My Space.