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Sounds of 2008

Last year around this time, we posted a list of favorite albums of 2007.  I say “we” because the post included input from my friend, Matt Jennings (editor of Middlebury Magazine), with whom I host a radio show on WRMC (Friday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.).

We thought it would be fun to do it again this year, and to make a special request to readers to share their own “best of” lists in the comments section, so we all can benefit.

One caveat: you don’t have to put together the kind of “ten best albums of the year” lists that journalists publish this time of year.  A couple or three suggestions is just fine.  That’s what Matt and I decided to do.  No pressure.  Just fun.

Here is Matt’s list:

  • Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend: Ok, on an undulating curve, the debut album from the kids from Columbia has passed from buzz to saturation point to backlash to buzz. But in all fairness, the album came out in January of 2008, and when it hit the airwaves it was energetic, fun, creative, and impossible to ignore. Some tracks trend a little too poppy for my taste, but others (A-Punk, for instance) have that perfect mix of alterna-ska reminiscent of Outlandous d’Amour-era Police.
  • TV on the Radio, Dear Science: Ok, this is a trendy pick. But it’s gotta be mentioned. It seems like everyone is jumping on the TV on the Radio bandwagon these days, but for good reason. These guys are good. Indie rock infused with more than a dash of soul.
  • Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Once: Ok, this is kind of cheating, twice-over, as most, if not all, of these songs appeared on previous Hansard-Irglova collaborations (or on releases by Hansard’s band, The Frames) and the movie from which it comes was released in ’07. BUT, the soundtrack wasn’t released until last spring, so I’m including it here. This Oscar-winning soundtrack will put both a catch in your throat and a smile on your face. And during these dark winter days, who wouldn’t want that?

My list:

  • David Bryne and Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today: Like Matt, I am enjoying TV on the Radio’s Dear Science (it really does swing, and I listen to it a lot while working out), but in this pick I want to nod to early trend-makers and say they still make great music.  David Byrne and Eno began their collaboration in the 1970s, as the Talking Heads were coming to prominence, and this latest effort is every bit as good and very accessible.  Great pop music.
  • Elbow, The Seldom Seen Kid: This British band has made several excellent albums, and this is one of them.  Lush, lyrical, (musically) progressive, and politically engaged, Elbow evokes comparisons to Radiohead and even Coldplay (consider a melding of the two, and you get the idea), which are much better known groups.  But these guys merit just as much attention.
  • James Hunter, The Hard Way: R & B music is at the heart of rock and pop, and James Hunter, who often sounds a lot like Sam Cooke, makes music that is consistent with the golden oldies and sounds new.  This album features some punchy guitar work and growly, falsetto vocals.   Dance songs and love songs, and plenty of regret.  What could be better?

Finally, an honorable mention goes to my friend Cole Odell, who sent me a couple of discs over the holidays featuring some B-sides and live cuts from the New Pornographers.  Since I can’t call either of these discs “albums,” they don’t make my list.  But Cole, where did you get these?  The NPs sound almost like a supergroup . . . .

15 Responses to “Sounds of 2008”

  1. Cole Moore Odell says:

    The Hold Steady, “Stay Positive”–Craig Finn and the band continue to refine their approach with every album; this one may not be their very best record, but it has some of their very best songs, and it benefits by breaking somewhat free from the narrative of the first three releases.

    Gaslight Anthem, “The ‘59 Sound”–this band works some of the same territory as the Hold Steady, with a heavy Springsteen influence, but it’s more melodic. This is one of those rare records that sounds like a greatest hits album–not a weak song from start to finish.

    Girl Talk, “Feed the Animals”–this hyper-dense mashup mixtape is a glorified party trick, but everyone loves a glorious party, right? You can’t really dance to it, and it’s exhausting to listen to, but man, what a blast in the headphones.

    Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago”–I found this one late, but better late than never, i guess. Simply beautiful, soulful, smart.

    Robyn, “Robyn”–My most eagerly awaited release of 2008, this electropop album first came out in Europe in 2005. The delay in a US release actually improved it, as she recorded some of her best singles in the interim, then had the courtesy to put them on the US version. I’m good for maybe 2 or 3 pure pop albums a year, and this topped that list in ‘08.

    REM, “Accelerate”–This album was to 2008 what Dinosaur Jr’s “Beyond was to the previous year–proof that not all reunions are misguided, and that bands can relocate their muses even after years in the wilderness. Better than any REM album since Automatic for the People.

    Tokyo Police Club, “Elephant Shell”–This is the first new band I got really excited about in 2008, and while it was eventually eclipsed by many of the others on this list, I still dig its punchy guitars and precocious lyrics. It’s got kick.

    Fleet Foxes, “Sun Giant” EP & “Fleet Foxes”–Gorgeous singing and orchestration meets well-written songs meets lots and lots of facial hair.

    Los Campesinos, Hold On, Youngster–Hands down, my favorite record of the year. Equal parts abrasive and cuddly, and infinitely catchy. Made me happy to be alive, and a bit jealous to be obviously less alive than these kids.

    honorable mentions: Beck, “Modern Guilt”; Spiritualized, “Songs in A&E”; Wolf Parade, “At Mount Zoomer”; Okkervil River, “The Stand Ins”

    2008 was a pretty great year for rock and roll. And I have yet to catch up with Cut Copy, M83, Santogold, The Last Shadow Puppets and a few others beyond their wonderful singles.

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