Monday, January 12, 2009

Best Albums of 2008

So after much internal debate I have managed to compile my list of best albums of 2008. Although I have not written a list like this in a long time, I do keep a rough mental list every year which I compare to others floating around. This was definitely a rock year for me. That is not to say that there wasn't some good dubstep, hip hop or r 'n b. That just wasn't where my head was at this year. Anyhow, here's my list.

1) Those Dancing Days -- In Our Space Hero Suits. I came to this record pretty late this year. But it quickly became my favorite. There is something strange in the water in Sweden. I mean how else can you explain the perfectly constructed pop songs from a group of girls barely out of high school. And I do not mean girls in an insulting diminutive way-- they really are that young. Those Dancing Days' songs would not be out of place on a Ronette's record but they are not exactly retro. They are equal parts girl group pop and garage rock. Run Run and Hitten, both released as singles with videos, are stand out tracks. It is impossible to listen to Run Run without getting up to dance. Hitten is a ballad that shows the range this band has. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of great career from this band.

2) King Khan and The Shrines-- Supreme Genius of. As you read this you will probably soon wonder if there is a sort of garage rock theme going on. Yep. I have always been a fan of garage rock. It gets to the heart of what rock and roll is really about. This record captures garage grit with enough funk mixed in to make it great for a dance party in a sweaty basement somewhere. It reminds me somewhat of the DC based outfit the Make-Up from some years back. But the Make-Up, a fantastic live band, did not translate as well on record.

3) Crystal Stilts -- Alight of Night. I think this one still sticks to the garage rock theme. It is a bit more of a shoegazer than a foot stomper, though. They sound like the children of the Jesus of Mary Chain who moved to Brooklyn, dropped out of college and started a band. Tracks like Departure add an element of Ian Curtis tinged post-punk to the mix.

4) Deerhunter -- Microcastes/Weird-Era Continued. My top ten is always in flux. If I wrote this yesterday this record could have easily been number one. I listened to Cryptograms non stop in 2007. Deerhunter sounds to me like what My Bloody Valentine might have evolved in to had they not got stuck in a 1990s rut and decided that loudness was their "thing." Deerhunter in the short time since Cryptograms continues to develop. The tracks on this album rely less on sound design, delay, and effects. The songs themselves stand out as great songs. I also got to check them out live late last year. Definitley a band worth seeing.

5) The Ettes -- Look at Life Again Soon. This record is receiving a lot less buzz than others mentioned on this list. That is unfortunate. It is another female led Nuggets-like garage stomper-- pure unadulterated garage rock. I listen to this one from start to finish which says at lot in this day of single track digital downloading.

6) Sic Alps -- US Ez. Ok I will admit that there is something nostalgic about most of the stuff on this list. I am not sure if that says more about me or more about the records that came out last year. If I were younger my frame of reference would be different. Anyhow, I digress. Sic Alps was recommended to me by a friend who likened it to Brian Jonestown Massacre. I definitely hear that. But I also hear early Sebadoh, the really early cassette recorded stuff. And some of the early Pavement four track stuff. All of these things mix together without sounding derivative or unoriginal.

7) The Kills -- Midnight Boom. This record might be one of the least nostalgic on my list, although I cannot claim that it is completely free from nostalgia. This is minimal rock/pop at its best. This record is what the Ting Tings wish they could be --- edgy and hip without the iTunes commercial cheesy after taste. We will forget that one of the songs found its way to a Gossip Girl episode. I don't watch that show and you probably shouldn't either.

8) CSS -- Donkey. I first heard CSS on their debut two years ago. It was one of many albums coming out that featured dance/groove centered rock. CSS stood out from most of that stuff. This album cements CSS' position on the top of that heap.

9) Times New Viking -- Rip It Off. The first time I heard Times New Viking I said to myself "I didn't even know you could make something this Lo-Fi anymore." It took a few listens and seeing them live before this record became a favorite. It took some getting use to.

10) White Denim -- Workout Holiday. Admittedly when I first started seeing the buzz for this band, I was put of by the name. I know.... I know... don't judge a book by its cover and all that. I find it hard to describe this band's sound. The press seems to lump it under blues rock or garage. But to my ears neither quite gets the complete picture it. It works for "All You Really Have to Do" but not for some many other songs. I hear echos of Pavement, a little Modern Lovers, some Fall, Gang of Four noise fest and maybe even some Pere Ubu. Anyhow, it is just another fun record. It doesn't expect much more than a good time from me. I am easy like that.

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