Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best Albums of 2008

Being the music aficionado that I believe myself to be, I admire those who can look through their reams of music and rank them in some haphazardous fashion which makes them look so adept. So this year I am attempting the join the rank of true music lovers and share with you my favorite albums released in 2008. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

1. The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain

This has got to be the breakout album for this Ottawa based band. Folksy guitars and vocals mix with mad Honduran drum beats (two drummers!) and a laid back, chill style that morphs into a slightly more frenetic live performance. Got to see their show in Victoria which was a plus and made them a little cooler in my mind. And is probably the reason that they're first. Some good Canadian content.

Track to check out: Crooked Legs

2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

First album for this Seattle based band and it was a success gauged by placing 1st on the indie-prestigious and slightly obnoxious Pitchfork top album of 2008. It actually made most top 10 lists but what kind of music reviewer would I be without some sort of Pitchfork shout-out. And by calling it obnoxious I place myself slightly above such fare.

As for Fleet Foxes, they are defined by their incredibly tight vocal harmonies (even live) and they describe themselves as "baroque harmonic pop jams". Definitely a hint of jam band, way harmonic, slightly pop-py... but who knows what the heck baroque is... I mean, besides the first name of the next President of the United States.

Track to check out: White Winter Hymnal

3. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lie Down in the Light

I think I have to rate this album third simply for how much it took me by surprise. Who would have thought that a guy who chose to name himself Bonnie "Prince" Billy could actually make a great album. I mean, I would have expected fairy tinkling or Scottish highland music or Prince covers or some outlandish mix of all three(and the cover certainly doesn't help). Instead, you get breathy, stripped down acoustic gems which drive you deep into that land called Introspection.

Track to check out: For Every Field There's a Mole

4. Coldplay - Viva la Vida

Um, really, who doesn't know Coldplay? Piano based ballads, whiny Chris Martin vocals, and glorious, glorious anthemic rock. Pretty much the biggest band since... U2? Their new album doesn't disapoint. It's not simply a rehashing of past formulaic successes but it still has that "Coldplay-ness" that is so distinctive (again, it might just be Chris's whiny voice - seriously, I still can't get Yellow out of my head, and not in a good way).

Track to check out: Violet Hill

5. Mother Mother - O My Heart

Some more Canadian content in this Vancouver based band. CBC called them "pure ear candy" and I would have to say, mmmm candy. They could be called indie pop-rock but, sticking with the candy analogy I think I will just call them Pop-rocks. I see they're going to be touring through the States with Sam Roberts - now that would be a super fun, high energy show totally worth driving to Chicago for.

Track to check out: Body of Years

6. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely

Led by the irascible JackWhite of White Stripes fame and toned down by the silky Brenden Benson this is a collaboration of musician's musicians and they make some gritty, grungy rock n' roll worth pouring yourself a glass of whiskey and drinking to. Unique in all ways and even each song carries a unique flavor.

Track to check out: Consoler of the Lonely

7. Calexico - Carried to Dust

While I have trouble saying what is so stand-out about this album, every time I listen to it I am sucked in by their blend of Spanish/South-western guitars, folksy blues and bad-ass ways. I also love their use of horns. Horns are good.

Track to check out: Victor Jara's Hands

8. Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things

Being the son of the legendary Bob Dylan is a hard cross to bear because, really, how do you measure up to that kind of success? Formerly of The Wallflowers, Dylan is off on his solo journey and all he remembered to pack was his acoustic guitar. I like people who know how to pack light. This is straight-up coffee shop material and while it lacks the writing insight that ol' Bobbo had, it's not too shabby in the writing department as well.

Track to check out: Evil is Alive and Well

9. Sam Roberts - Love at the End of the World

Forget Nickleback or whatever other lame-o band you think is the best Canadian band out there - it's Sam Roberts. And this could be his best album yet. Actually, as I sit here and think about all the good things to say about Sam Roberts, I realize I probably should have ranked this album a little higher. This is also the point where I wish I was Matt Bingham who went to his show in Victoria this last week. Rock at its finest (and Sam isn't too bad either).

Track to check out: Love at the End of the World

10. Ray Lamontagne - Gossip in the Grain

Soulful, silvery, shuffling - all 'S' words I would use to describe the album. This album restores my faith in Ray to create a masterful album that sails (another 'S' word) from start to finish. My only complaint is the track dedicated to White Stripes drummer Meg White. While she is as cool as all get out and deserves a song in her name, I am stuck thinking she deserves a little better.

Track to check out: You are the Best Thing

Honorable mention goes to the following:

The Watson Twins - Fire Songs
Asa (Asha) - Asa
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Amos Lee - Last Days at the Lodge
Joshua Radin - Simple Times

Well, there is 2008. On to 2009.


Jen said...

Just checked out the Acorn! LOVE IT! Thanks for the recommendation. Since I now trust your recommendations I will continue down the list checkout the others on your top of 2008 list!

Hey, have you checked out Might be a good way for you to continue checking out new bands without having to pay for downloads or buy cds.

The Renegade Librarian said...


Some excellent choices! I, myself, have at least 5 or 6 of these albums and they ARE rad. I may have to check out the remainder!