Monday, December 22, 2008

The Top 20 Albums Of 2008: #'s 10-1

This the culmination of hundreds of artists making thousands of albums in one short year. So here they are, the 10 best records of 2008.

Please, enjoy.

(Read about albums 20 - 1 here.)


10. Feed the Animals - Girl Talk (original review)
Illegal Art

Feed The Animals, as told by Chris Sanders.

It was his pick for album of the year, so I'll let him tell you all about it.

9. United Nations -United Nations (original review)
Eyeball Records
Buy (

I guess if Glassjaw wasn't going to get off of its collective ass and release an album, United Nations was the next best thing. Daryl Palumbo, Geoff Rickly, and a few others who (literally) can't be named all got together, and U.N. was what they came up with. File under "violent", "scary", "abrasive", "obscure", and "inaccessible".

Fans of Circle Takes The Square, rejoice a noble birth. Or at least something to tide you over until Circle's next LP.

8. Intimacy - Bloc Party (original review)
Vice Records
Buy (

Oddly enough, I think I might be the only person quite this enamored of Intimacy. I don't really know why though. The material is some of Bloc Party's catchiest to date, and successfully blends Silent Alarm's rock with the electronic A Weekend In The City to craft a diverse whole which surpasses the sum of its parts.

Bloc Party was the indie darling of the world a few years back, and it seems that everyone's been moving on to each successive "next big thing". Fleet Foxes are fine, Portishead's pretty, and Vampire Weekend are...ah...very naiiice. But me? I still have some room in my library for Bloc Party.

Intimacy is 11 reasons why.

7. Uphill City - I Am Robot And Proud
Buy (

It's been a crowded race this year, and the whole electronic scene has been thriving, with outstanding records from outfits like No. 9 and Burning Star Core. Heavyhitter Squarepusher disappointed, and Kira Kira's Our Map To The Monster Olympics was (to me) nothing but hype.

Still, just listen to I Am Robot And Proud. Try to be bored. Try not to enjoy it.

Just try.

Best electronica of 2008? Best electronica of 2008.

6. The Lights We Shed Shall Burn Your Eyes - Deepset (original review)
Kitty Wu/Inspire

Read that review. It's all I have to say.

Beautiful music for a beautiful season - the soundtrack of my upstate New York autumn.

5. Take Me To The Sea - Jaguar Love (original review)
Buy (

I dearly miss The Blood Brothers and everything which they represented. But in the ten years before it becomes appropriate for a reunion show, this album certainly has the potential to tide me over.

4. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst (original review)
Merge Records
Buy (

Many artists release a self-titled album as a debut. Other times it signifies a reinvention or new direction for the music. Conor Oberst doesn't fall into either category.

Rather, this is the culmination of Oberst's career working under Bright Eyes, just without that moniker. His Mystic Valley Band provides an excellent backing to his introspective, off-beat lyrics, and the mood is decidedly loungy and alt-country.

You won't find this on any Country radio station, and that's a real shame. Oberst, much like Rocky Votolato, signifies a return to what made country and folk music so appealing years ago, with stark narratives juxtaposed against jangly, manic accompaniments. Songs such as "Danny Callahan" and "Cape Canaveral" are some of Oberst's strongest ever, making his self-titled effort required listening for 2008.

3. Harmonic Motion Volume 1 - Gifts From Enola /
Differential Records
Buy (

Deepset's beauty aside, the second best post-rock release of 2008 seems obvious to me. When two of the genre's biggest players get together on one record, how can it not be obvious? Gifts From Enola and are immensely talented groups that make immensely enjoyable music, and both bring their 'A' game to this split.

That being said, Gifts From Enola steals the show completely on their side of the album. There is an intensity present that was merely hinted at on Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind on songs such as "In The Company Of Others". I can easily envision a day when people talk about Gifts From Enola with the same reverence currently reserved for Godspeed and This Is Your Captain Speaking. Which isn't to say that is slacking - because they're not. But the you.may.die on Harmonic Motion is more or less the same band heard on Evergreens and Icicles. Gifts' growth is simply jaw-dropping.

I wish that I could offer a money back guarantee on the enjoyment of this album. That's how confident I am in its power.

2. Tha Carter III - Lil' Wayne
Cash Money
Buy (

"You can't fool me, I know what you watchin - me! You watch me!"
-Lil' Wayne, 3 Peat

I can only imagine how it must feel to be "The Best Rapper Alive". Self-aware, self-enamored, self-centered, self-aggrandizing, and - most of all - self concious; Lil' Wayne, in a nutshell. All eyes are on him, and he most certainly knows it. In fact, he feeds on the attention, thrives on the adversity, and loves every minute of it. That last part is key - Dwayne Carter, Jr. genuinely enjoys the act of rapping, and it is this quality that shines in his output more than anything else.

Through his impossible rasp, you can tell when he's having fun. One such moment occurs during his delivery of the quote above, where you can actually hear him beaming, smiling in delight at his own wit, his own success. Lil' Wayne probably doesn't need another fan like me, doesn't need somebody else gushing about his latest release, his record-breaking sales figures, his omnipresence in, more than just hip-hop, but all pop music. He doesn't need anyone else to inflate his ego. But I'll do it anyway.

Tha Carter III is a sprawling contradiction. The year's most challenging, vacuous, accessible, weird, affectionate, misogynistic, genuine, and just plain fucked up music is all somehow compressed into a span of 75 minutes. The strength of Wayne's mixtapes would have rendered almost any album superfluous and irrelevant. Lucky for him, Tha Carter III isn't just any other album.

Over ambitious? Yes. Over-hyped? Probably. Overrated? Never. What's more to say, except "Fuck Al Sharpton".

1. Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles - A Boldogság Minden Reményét Elragadták (original review)

The first time that Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles graced my ears, I was sure that they were something special. At least, I thought so - after seeing them panned by The Silent Ballet, I began to have second thoughts.

Because, what really makes something the best album of a given year, anyway? Does it just have to be great, or does it have to also be groundbreaking? Must it captivate for as long as it plays, or does it have to haunt you all year and linger in the back of your mind? Or should it simply be the album you listened to the most? And the group, should they be catchy or unpredictable? Mainstream or obscure? Up-and-comers or seasoned veterans?

Or does it even matter?

A Boldogsag etc. is frankly not groundbreaking. It isn't new, it isn't catchy, and it's certainly not mainstream. Nor was it the album I listened to the most this year - according to my, the one released in 2008 with the most plays is Tha Carter III.

What it is, on the other hand, is monumental. It represents a return to form for a genre gone astray. Riding Alone are a sort of Godspeed after Godspeed, a post-rock band for a new decade. Samples, strings, and silence all collaborate for over an hour to create a brooding tension that sums up War like no other. It is my opinion that it is A Boldogsag, and not Return to Cookie Mountain or Dear Science (as many in the industry contend), which is the soundtrack of this Administration, the disc that successfully captures the air of frustration, terror, and hypocrisy that inhabits our "post-9/11" world.

So while that other website might not be so forgiving, I'm willing to spot the band on the sparse production and mixing. In exchange, they gave me the Album of the Year.


  1. "seems that everyone's been moving on to each successive "next big thing". Fleet Foxes are fine, Portishead's pretty,"

    Portishead is the big thing since 1994. Sorry to disapoint.

  2. bloc party higher than united nations? your every effort in life is worthless.

  3. that's just a little harsh i think

  4. Where did you get that image from for the cover of "A Boldogság..."? Seems a lot nicer than the plain greenish one that accompanies most reviews of the album I've found.