Friday, December 26, 2008

The best albums of 2008

No, I don't know what they are.

But I have some links to people who claim to know. And they say things like this:

If you would smile if someone called you 'twee', get this album immediately and get ready to dance around your living room in your bunny ears and vintage aprons because this is your freakin' theme song times a dozen, kiddo.
That's from Summer Anne's top 15 on her blog, Boingy Boingy. Her list is especially good because she has a YouTube clip for one song from each of the top 10 albums. (You might remember Summer from when I blogged her manifestos.)

That list and all the others are making me realize how little I know about the music of 2008, even though I feel like I'm really up-to-date on music. I'll never get through even half of these albums, but I'll try to get through a bunch, eventually.

Here's eMusic's top 88 albums of 2008 -- or, the top 88 albums that are available on eMusic (which doesn't carry major labels). I buy most of my music from eMusic, so this is the list I'll be using the most. They say the list was put together by the website's staff but informed by users' feedback. A nice feature is that they give a short phrase summing up each album (e.g. "Art rock that swoops and soars") in addition to the full-length blurbs. [UPDATE: They've now posted the readers' choices as a separate list.]

Letters Home from Camp has a few people's top 10 lists, with some embedded YouTube clips. This list is by my friend "Alex B."

Pitchfork has a reader poll of the top 25 albums (among other lists). #19 is Of Montreal's new album, which I trashed here.

And here's Metacritic's list of the top 30, which has the (dis?)advantage of being derived by simply averaging out actual reviews of the albums and letting the chips fall where they may, instead of having someone consciously put the whole thing in order. This list also differs from the others in that they tell you each album's score, so you can see whether an album was tied with the next one down or came out ahead by a significant margin.

And if you want to know my opinion (which, again, is of very little worth), the only 2008 album I can whole-heartedly endorse so far is Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree (previously blogged). I was shocked (not "shocked, shocked") to see that it wasn't on any of the lists I've linked to in this post. It wasn't eligible for the eMusic list because they don't sell it, so that's fine ... but what's everyone else's excuse for passing over this radiant gem of an album? It's hard to choose one highlight from an album where every song feels like a hit single, but here's "Caravan Girl":

As usual, you can't particularly hear the bass part in this YouTube clip, so you should definitely buy the album to hear the real music.

There are others I've enjoyed and would probably put on a "best of 2008" list if I made the necessary effort, but haven't sufficiently immersed myself in yet: My Brightest Diamond's A Thousand Shark's Teeth, Ratatat's LP3, Cut Copy's In Ghost Colors, Uh Huh Her's Common Reaction (previously), and the pianist Enrico Pieranunzi's album of Scarlattis sonatas mixed with improvisations.

UPDATE: Others I left out: Avishai Cohen Trio's Gently Disturbed, Jenny Lewis's Acid Tongue, MGMT's Oracular Spectacular.

Any thoughts? Please, comment away!

UPDATE: Here are people's lists on Metafilter, just a few months late.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I liked "Caravan Girl," and for me it brings up the question -- probably irrelevant to your post -- "How long should a song be?" At 3:50, this one seems long in a technical sense; that is, I suspect the same things could have been "said" (musically and lyrically) in 2:50; but as a sensory experience, I wanted it to go on, probably in part because the video helped carry it forward and the girl is so cute. I love songs with long hypnotic endings (the Stones' "Moonlight Mile"; many of Van Morrison's great songs -- to which the title "Caravan Girl" might be an allusion) and 3:50 seems to me to be around the average for a pop song these days. Fifty years ago (in my time!)it was probably shorter than 2:50. So fashion and commerce are factors in song length. How much is song length a consideration for musicians?

Zachary Sire said...

Goldfrapp's "A&E" was on my "best songs of 2008" mix. A great album overall, too.

nori said...

A big "hell yes" for Seventh Tree! The others, I'll have to get listening ...

bill said...

Here's three great, and completely different, albums that apparently no one else thought was great.

Martha Wainwright, "I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too"

Bob Mould, "District Line." With Again and Again as best song of the year.

Windmill, "Puddle City Racing Lights." Catching Boarding Lounges sold me on this album. I'm tempted to buy the vinyl LP just for the cover art.

Michael said...

So, I do not really suppose this is likely to work.
2 | get it | this site