13. The Broken West - Now or Heaven
The hooks are plentiful, the songs are well-written, and the beats ride that nice line between electronic and acoustic underneath up-tempo jangly guitar-pop. Though my frustration with the quality of writing in the AV Club continues, this was one recommendation they made in 2008 that I am grateful for.
12. The Sea and Cake - Car Alarm
Listening to TSAC to me is in some ways like The Band - I can focus on any one player in the mix and have a revelatory listening experience, yet they all come together into a totally unique blend. You already know if you like this band. If you do, don't miss this record.
11. Dr. Dog - Fate
Their vocal harmonies in concert are fucking outstanding. I see big things for these guys if they keep on their current trajectory.
10. Sun Kil Moon - April
If you've tried to be a fan of Mark Kozelek in the past and it never worked out, don't listen to this album. If you've ever loved a Red House Painters album or a Sun Kil Moon record, April is up there with the best of them. It definitely feels more to me like old school RHP with all its sprawl, rather than the more efficient sensibilities of Ghosts Of The Great Highway. But as long as you're not in a hurry, the hypnotic tension Kozelek builds during his verses always pays off when he unexpectedly hits the chorus. And when those electrics finally chime in - never has a three guitar attack been so soothing and mind-bending at the same time.
9. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Vol. 1 (World War 4)
8. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
7. Randy Newman - Harps and Angels
No artist makes me laugh out loud the way Randy Newman does. He is STILL at the top of his game. This record was sorely overlooked this year by the establishment.
Favorite line: "You know, it pisses me off that the Supreme Courts gonna out live me. Couple young Italian fellows and a brother on the court now too. But I defy you, anywhere in the world to find me two Italians as tight assed as the the two Italians we got. And as for the brother, well, Pluto's not a planet any more neither."
6. Mates of State - Rearrange Us
Their most mature, best sounding, most diversely orchestrated album to date. Though it drops off a little in the 2nd half, it's the catchiest, sweetest and most optimistic pop record of the year. I've never been a huge fan of these guys, but this time they hit it out of the park.
5. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
I've never listened to a hip hop album as much as I listened to Tha Carter III. His voice and flow is one of a kind and I never get tired of hearing it, specially sandwiched btw the hottest R and B hooks this side of R. Kelly. Funny thing, I have a feeling that Q and I have completely different favorite tracks on this disc....
4. Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy
3. Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs
2. Bon Iver - To Emma, Forever Ago
In hindsight, I guess I'm not surprised that no one really responded when I posted a track from this album a while back. It definitely requires a certain mood to be appreciated, maybe even a certain kind of weather or a particular time of night or early morning. I'm a little bit fascinated by the way some albums have stories connected to them that become part of their mystique and can help communicate that particular atmosphere they need in order to be appreciated. Yes, such stories also serve as marketing, and I guess that is the other part of me that likes them- the part of me that appreciates shrewd business sense. For Emma is a perfect example of how one of those stories dovetails with an albums mood: Justin Vernon's band broke up. His relationship ended too. So he retreated to an isolated cabin in the Wisconsin woods for a long, lonely winter, and he produced this album. He ended the winter with what he thought was a decent demo. What he actually came out of the woods with was the most beautiful sounding record of the year. The emotion just drips from the speakers.
1. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lie Down In The Light
After a string of records that sounded like the work of a warmed-over corpse, Will Oldham got his groove back in the year 2008. No matter when I put this album on this year, it never failed to make me feel more connected to myself, to nature, to my family, to my girlfriend, to life and to death. That's a motherfucking tall order, if you ask me. This album is so meaningful and earnest, yet never heavy and it retains a loose, communal back porch jam feel throughout. I'm tempted to give all the credit to Mark Nevers, whose production is a revelation for Oldham's music. The instruments breath in space, and on almost every track there are new, surprising, yet perfect instrumental additions, whether it be a honky tonk piano, a clarinet, a chorus of horns or a hammond organ. No Bonnie "Prince" Billy album has felt this alive in years, and none have EVER felt this joyful. Oldham is actually singing his heart out and it is just gorgeous. In a year of transition and stress, Lie Down In The Light was just what I needed.