Here we are at last – my favorite music of 2008. Like one of my comrades in music inspection, this was a hard one. I think it was a great year for music, in the sense that I liked and purchased a lot of albums. More than any other year, probably. But there were no real stand out obvious choices, except for my top one. But even then, it wasn’t like Sufjan Stevens or Midlake where I listened to the album every day and memorized the whole thing. Or maybe I’m just too old for that now.
10. Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer: Although I’ve hardly listened to the second half of this album, the songs that are good are really innovative, and deserve recognition here. [For whatever that's worth.] I never paid attention to this band until I heard “Call It a Ritual” with its off-kilter piano this year and immediately loved it. These guys make great hooks with a mean guitar. I listened to Apologies to the Queen Mary to make up for lost time, but it felt empty to me. Still, I predict that Wolf Parade have a long and varied career.
9. Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs, The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: The last decade or so of Dylan’s career has seen a resurgence of his talent finally. Was it really gone or was he just putting his energy into something none of us understood (his Christianity and desire for shitty production)? Anyway, this set makes his voice sound great and showcases his amazing band. They are so tight, which from what I understand, is diffcult to do with Dylan. Greatest songwriter ever, so shutup you hipster haters.
8. Sam Phillips – Don’t Do Anything: I’d never heard of this chick until Bob Boilen was gabbing about her Tiny Desk Concert at NPR. From what I read, I thought I wouldn’t be interested, but my gut told me to give it a try. Boy am I glad I have a smart gut. The sound of this album is really surprising — it’s just as full of distortion as the Magnetic Fields were in January, and the songwriting is almost of equal caliber. This was my biggest, and happiest, surprise of 2008 for sure. She’s certainly not for the hardcore hipsters though.
7. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend: To be fair, I’d probably put this one higher if not for all the hype and subsequent backlash. Yeah, I can ride a bandwagon with the best of ‘em. But really, this is a clever album with sounds pop music hasn’t heard since Paul Simon’s Graceland. I’m hoping they’ll grow up with their next album, stop talking about the east coast and college, and even ditch the Afropop. They’ve got real potential. But they’ll probably just break up. Or pretend not to like The Strokes.
6. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue: She does it again, though in an only slightly less country way. She’s sly with her songs — you really need to pay attention. Ditch Rilo Kiley, Jenny, you’re better without them.
5. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid: This was my favorite album for a really long time, and I’m glad it won the Mercury Prize. But then suddenly all the sentimentality lost its luster, and I think a lot of it had to do with the totally lame video for “The Bones of You“, an otherwise brilliant song. Now I’m turned off by it, but I predict that it will become meaningful again in the future.
4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago: I already included this in my Lists of 2007, but it deserves another highlight here. I’m so happy that Justin Vernon has made such a splash around the world with this gorgeous album. MOJO even interviewed him at home in Eau Claire (where I lived during college for 4.5 years)! And he’s following it up with an EP next month, so keep your ears peeled.
3. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park: I can’t understand why this album is missing from so many lists this year. I’ve liked Grizzly Bear (both featuring Daniel Rossen), but never got as obsessed with Yellow House or Friend as I did this one. The soundscape on this album is miraculous. It’s what Brian Wilson wished That Lucky Old Sun could sound like. Heavenly…
2. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: Screw you, haters of this album. I love that the sounds are all over the place. I love that it’s overproduced in spots (that’s the only time you’ll ever hear me say that). I love the proggy sound (again, that’s the only time you’ll hear me say that). This album had nothing going for it in terms of my musical taste. But every song is amazing because Jim James knows how to sing, play guitar, and write fine songs. It’s as simple as that. It’s the Revolver of 2008. I hope MMJ make their Sgt Pepper next year.
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes & Sun Giant [EP]: Best newish band of the year. Best live act for me. Best songs. Part Shins, part Midlake, all Northwest, pastoral, bearded goodness. While I was in Oregon earlier this year, driving through deep woods, my mind’s soundtrack kept repeating “White Winter Hymnal“. Absolutely perfect.