The Best of 2008 in Music – The Top Ten January 12, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2008.
Tags: 2008, albums, Best Of, Bon Iver, Coldplay, drive-by truckers, guns n roses, music, My Morning Jacket, Okkervil River, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, Vampire Weekend
Black Mountain – In the Future
Blue Mountain – Midnight in Mississippi
Justin Townes Earle – The Good Life
Ra Ra Riot – the Rhumb Line
North Mississippi All-Stars – Hernando
Motley Crue – Saints of Las Angeles
Thao – We Brave Bee Stings and All
The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
She & Him – Volume I
Portishead – III
The First Ten:
20. The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
19. Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch
18. R.E.M. – Accelerate
17. Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch
16. Beck – Modern Guilt
15. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
14. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
13. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
12. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
11. Metallica – Death Magnetic
I am an admitted music snob that mourns the slow, tragic death of the album in favor of single songs purchased from Itunes, but, thankfully, there are still some truly great collections of music being released today. Let me know what you think. What did I get wrong? What should I have included?
10. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
I fell in love with the poppy, Police-influenced sounds of Vampire Weekend the first time I heard them. These Ivy Leaguers make the kind of catchy music that is just impossible to dislike. Kick back and enjoy.
Download: Mansard Roof, A-Punk
9. The Black Keys – Attack & Release
I first came into contact with the great blues-rock of The Black Keys in Memphian Craig Brewer’s offbeat but incredible film Black Snake Moan. I soon caught on to the duo and downloaded all of their albums, which quickly became staples on my Ipod. As would be expected, their latest release if also filled with great blues guitar riffs cranked to the max and, really, that’s all you need. I had the chance to catch the Keys here in Memphis over the past year and let me tell you, these guys are just plain awesome. So, turn it up loud and groove like there’s no tomorrow.
Download: I Got Mine, Strange Times
8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Coldplay is the kind of band that I’m not supposed to like. Their safe, sanitized sound carefully packaged to appeal to the masses should be the antithesis of what I enjoy. But, I can’t help it, I am a fan. They have made a name for themselves by constructing huge, sweeping stadium-ready anthemic rock while still finding a way to connect personally with the individual, making music for both Ipods and coliseums. It is a characteristic to which all bands aspire but few achieve. The latest release is a great improvement over the undwhelming X&Y and may even be to the level of what is generally considered their masterpiece, A Rush of Blood to the Head. Oh, and I also want to say that Mike the Eyeguy made a perfect observation when he said some time ago that this band was perfect for running to….now if only I could myself on that elliptical gathering dust in the corner…
Download: Viva La Vida, Lost
7. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
I have been a huge fan of the Truckers for several years now and have had the chance to catch them live twice (and they are coming to Memphis again February 27 if anyone wants to go with me!), so I anxiously await each of their releases. Their songs tell distinctly Southern stories, from the myths of old to dark tales of racism, violence, and drug addiction. The lyrics and style of Patterson Hood evoke images of old men in front porch rocking chairs spinning tales about times past, but never flinching from the harsh realities of life. Their latest release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, continues with these themes, tackling topics like alcoholism, war, murder, and crystal meth…yeah, this isn’t lighthearted stuff.
Download: The Righteous Path, Lisa’s Birthday
6. Bon Iver – For Emma, Long Ago
Justin Vernon , a.k.a Bon Iver, was having a really rough time at the end of 2006, his longtime girlfriend broke up with him, his band disintegrated, and he was suffering through a bout of illness, leaving him lonely and depressed. As a way to, in a sense, recharge his batteries, Vernon moved into a remote Cabin in northern Wisconsin for the winter. Armed with his guitar and some old recording equipment, this album was the product of those three months of solitude, as he dealt with the demons that plagued him. It’s an incredibly intimate album and one that will haunt you long after the last strains of his acoustic guitar have faded away.
Download: Skinny Love, Flume
5. The Gaslight Anthem – That ’59 Sound
In case you ever wondered what would happen if a young Bruce Springsteen had fronted the Clash, here is your answer. The Gaslight Anthem blaze through songs that seem like snapshots of real life in small town America with a punk rock ferocity. Like the aforementioned Springsteen, they name-drop characters (like Mary, unsurprisingly) all around, lending an air of realism to each of these slices of Americana.
Download: Great Expectations, That ’59 Sound
4. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
I first became a fan of this Austin band following their 2007 release, The Stage Names, but I think this year’s sequel may be even better. Their hyper-literate lyrics stand out in a time in which intelligence is seldom rewarded in the music world. “Lost Coastlines” is another song that is among my favorite for the year and I just can’t seem to get that “La la lalalala,” refrain out of my head for anything. Check them out, you’ll be glad you did.
Download: Lost Coastines, Singer-Songwriter
3. Guns N’ Roses –Chinese Democracy
Say what you want, but one thing Axl Rose has is vision. Some 17 years and all of the original band members sans Axl Rose later, G N’ R have finally returned to the music world with the long awaited Chinese Democracy, a much-maligned album that has undergone a gestation period more than eight times that of an African elephant. Its hugeness and messiness is perhaps only matched by it’s brilliance. Mind you, this collection is far from perfect. It definitely has its misses, such as the James Bond theme song sound of “if the World, but these are more than made up for by rockers like the theme song or “Shackler’s Revenge. It also has its surprises, such as Axl’s nice piano ballad, “This I Love,” and the genre-hopping “There Was a Time.” Whatever you do, don’t base your opinion on just one or two songs, CD is an album that is meant to be heard in its entirety. In this age of Ipods and single song purchases, this release may be the marker for the end of the album era…and it’s a heck of a farewell.
Download: Chinese Democracy, I.R.S.
2. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
I’ve wavered a bit on MMJ’s latest release throughout the year, but its consistent presence on my playlist is evidence enough that I love this album. This collection certainly has its fair share of weirdness, most notably in the Prince-like freak out of “Highly Suspicious,” a song whose presence I would imagine turned off a lot of listeners, but regardless of one’s thoughts on that track, though, the remainder of the album is stellar in its reverb-shrouded psychedelia, repeatedly channeling the greats ones of the past like Neil Young, Pink Floyd, and any other number of 70’s classic rock acts. I just wish I had it on vinyl…that’s how an album like this is supposed to be listened to.
Download: Evil Urges, I’m Amazed, Aluminum Park
1. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
There was no other album in the year of 2008 that enthralled me the way The Hold Steady did. The band once called the greatest bar band in America may now just be one of the best bands, period. I’ve always been a big fan of good storytelling songs and there are few acts around today that do it better than Craig Finn’s group. On Stay Positive, the band blazes through tale after tale of life on the dark side, stopping only for the few seconds between songs to take a quick breath before delving in again. The opening cut, “Constructive Summers,” has a line in it that goes, “Let’s raise a glass to St. Joe Strummer / I think he might have been our only decent teacher,” that I think probably best describes where these guys, with smart songs and classic punk riffs, are coming from. Another of the songs included tells the story of a night gone wrong in our neighboring city (“Sequestered in Memphis”) that has gotten a good bit of play here on an independent radio station and it was really what turned me on to this band in the beginning. I think, though, that one of the greatest songs on the album is perhaps the darkest, most harrowing one as well. “Lord I’m Discouraged,” concerns love in the throes of drug addiction and ends with one of the most heartbreaking couplets in recent memory, “I know it’s unlikely she’ll ever be mine / So I mostly just pray she won’t die.” Yeah, it’s not always easy to listen to, but, take my word for it, this is the best of 2008.