A Merry Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus to the entire Kittybrains Collective, our loyal readers and of course, the Web Sheriff. I give you my Top 10 albums of 2008-- a year that wasn't as jam-packed with awesomeness as 2007, but certainly had enough to make a Top 10 difficult.
10. The Tallest Man on Earth- Shallow Grave
Thanks to Quinapalus for weeding through Pitchfork's annual paean to pasty white guys playing rave music to dig out their review of this. I love this record. I love the guitar playing, the lyrics, his off-kilter voice and the fact that he's from Sweden.
9. The Week That Was- The Week That Was
Thanks to Tex Plush for alerting the collective to this record. Thanks to Field Music for a) being pretty darn good in and of itself and b) spawning side projects that are even better than the main band.
8. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
God I want to hate this band. In terms of background and hype, they basically are the Strokes. But in terms of talent, they're so much better. Yes, I do hear the Paul Simon-isms. But I think they're limited to only a few songs, and frankly there's a lot of Afro-pop that they touch on that Paul Simon missed. They also are one of the few indie acts to use string instruments in a way that doesn't reek of total dilletante-ism. I'll give points to anyone who gets more out of major scale than their cellist. This debut isn't perfect, but damn if it isn't promising.
7. Wye Oak- If Children
I can't understand why this record was ignored by critics this year. Goes to show that good PR can take you a lot farther than good music. If you want an album that better combines delicate beauty and dissonant guitar/drum fuzz-outs, you'll have to settle for Yo La Tengo. (Only Yo La Tengo doesn't really sound like these guys. So you'll just have to get this record.)
6. Sun Kil Moon- April
Mark Kozelek has gotten so good at what he does, sometimes we don't give him enough credit for solidly connecting every time. This isn't going to make a non-fan a fan or vice versa, but if you dig Red House Painters, solo Kozelek or earlier Sun Kil Moon, this record offers up exactly what you'd be asking for.
5. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
As I noted in my earlier rant about the cheapening of "minimalism," this record is a great example of how stripping back can be the best thing an artist does. (Just not always.) Anyway, by "minimalist" standards, this isn't particulary drastic. There's a good deal of multi-tracking, particularly on the vocals, which gives them this amazingly eerie quality. I'm totally with the critics on this one. Awesome.
4. REM- Accelerate
Hope everyone can hear me over the sound of Tex Plush barfing. I believe Eric linked to an blog entry documenting how critics claim that every REM album is "the best since ___", thereby invalidating the previous album they had bestowed with equal praise 2-3 years ago. Well this time it's true. This is their best album since either Up or New Adventures in Hi-Fi. (Both are classics, but not everyone realizes Up's greatness. Ironically Tex does, yet he does not care for Accelerate. Go figure.)
3. Bob Dylan- Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
I was late in the game to this because I wasn't in a place to be buying double CDs. Also, the fact that everything on here was recorded 2 to 20 years ago makes it somewhat unconventional to make a 2008 Top 10 list. But there are so many great unreleased songs on here, that there was really no way I could deny it. Quinapalus posted some great tracks-- Someday Baby and Dreamin' of You-- and there are many more where that came from. God Knows, Series of Dreams and Marchin' to the City are standouts for me.
2. School of Language- Sea From Shore
Quirky, guitar-heavy, great drums, reminiscent of Shudder to Think, Jeff Buckley and noisy Flaming Lips all at once. What more could a boy really want?
1. Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes
Originally this wasn't even going to make my list, but then I read Pitchfork's brilliantly rendered Top 50, which reminded me how much I loved the Knife in 2006 and suddenly I reali--
Aw, fuck that! I don't need the skinny-pants music intelligentsia to tell me what the best album of the year was. It was GUNS N' FUCKING ROSES motherfuckers!
Chinese Democracy, though flawed (yes, even I admit that) was the best record of the year. Out of 14 songs, it had zero duds, 2 tracks that didn't hold up (Scraped and Sorry), 2 tracks that were interesting but overwrought (Madagascar and This I Love) and 10 fucking amazing songs that are going to join Axl Rose's canon. Yes, he is a ridiculous individual who screwed himself over by refusing to publicly promote the album, but he's a very gifted musician. Time will be kind to this record.
Deerhunter, Deerhoof, American Music Club, the Hold Steady, Shearwater, Drive-By Truckers, Andrew Bird (Soldier On EP), Gutter Twins, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Might Have Made It But Never Heard It
Sea and Cake, Pavement (Brighten the Corners reissue), Calexico, Ryan Adams
Likely Would Have Made My 2007 List Had I Heard It That Year
Travis Morrison Hellfighters, Field Music