2008 was a pretty good year in music. There were a lot of great albums and songs, and a few nasty train wrecks. Overall it ends on a high note for me. That said, I offer my official recap of the year. Quail at my wonder.
Favorite albums of 2008:
The Kills – Midnight Boom
This is their most polished, and dare I say radio friendly (shudder!), album to date, but it still packs a punch. I almost feel like this album could totally beat me up in some weird way. Full of razor sharp guitars and beats from the drum machine, the record is dark and raw and really fucking brilliant!
The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
Continuing with their signature fuzzed out/60’s pop-inspired sound, ‘Lust Lust Lust‘ just solidified the band as one of my all time favorites. It’s lush and is best enjoyed as loud as your ears can handle. They even experimented with hip hop beats and sing about my beloved city, Portland, Oregon. What’s not to love?
Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Yet another disc this year riddled with 60’s pop influences, sigh! Only this one is tangled with odd noises, feedback and is just plain quirky. When a copy of Microcastle was leaked online before the official release, it prompted the band to go back and record the bonus disc Weird Era Cont. Which, in my opinion, is far superior.
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Even though most of the songs on this album are kind of played out and tired, I still really enjoy it. It’s been on constant rotation for a while now. It’s a fun record and makes me feel kind of stoned at times. I heard it described once as, “a college-dorm experiment gone horribly right” and I would completely agree.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Dig!!! absolutely exceeded all expectations and left me wanting more. Nick’s primary inspiration was the actual story of Lazarus, a man who rose from the dead. Only looking at things from his perspective. True to form, Mr. Cave takes you on a dark and glorious trip through the cemetery while reminding you it is okay to dance on a grave here and there.
Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
Only the second full length release from Wolf Parade, and I feel like I know them so well. This is much different than their first effort. It’s very catchy, almost poppy. That formula usually equals a less than savory review from yours truly. Not in this case. In all it’s catchy glory it still remains a bit disjointed and restless and full of spirit.
Sune Rose Wagner – Sune Rose Wagner
The self titled venture for the Raveonettes front man, is his first and does not disappoint. Again, another Spector/60’s drenched offering this year and it makes me sweat like a whore in church. It’s sung in his native tongue, Danish, and you barely even notice. In fact, after listening to it several times I had convinced myself I have been speaking Danish for years.
The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead
This is the fourth record for the Portland based duo, and is my favorite release from them yet. It’s haunting, and several songs leave you with a feeling of heartbreak. Who knows if that was the intent, but that’s what I got out of it. Full of emotion and energy, the album is stunning and a real treat from a band I had just about written off completely.
Eagles of Death Metal – Heart On
Ooh, what a sexy record. The cover art and title had me sold before I even heard it. Yes, I did it. I judged the record before hearing it. But, it turned out in my favor. It’s a sultry, almost trashy, romp with classic rock and 80’s hair band undertones yet it still sounds new. It makes me want to stuff a sock in my tight jeans, and hit the town for a night of serious dancing and boozing.
The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost
They’ve drawn comparisons to The Velvet Underground and The Jesus and Mary Chain in the past, and you can really hear it on their latest release. It is a sonic masterpiece, proudly rhythmic and psychedelic and in some odd way a little cryptic. They make me feel a little on edge at times. Like something big is about to happen, and that excites me to no end.
Magnetic Morning – A.M.
A lush and mellow debut from Adam Franklin from Swervedriver and Sam Fogarino from Interpol. There are a few moments on this record that make me feel like I am listening to Slowdive, and that’s what hooked me.
British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
This is a record filled with gloomy anthems and sounds a bit cold at times. They’ve drawn comparisons to Joy Division and Arcade Fire, but for me BSP sounds more like Arcade Fire and The Psychedelic Furs had a baby.
M83 – Saturdays = Youth
Heavily textured with loud electronica beats combined with soft vocals and a touch of mid-80’s nostalgia is the best way for me to describe this piece. The singles “Graveyard Girl” and “Kim & Jessie” could have both fit in very nicely on any John Hughes movie soundtracks.
Portishead – Third
This one just about landed on the disappointment list this year. On first listen I was not impressed, but it gets better with time. It is much different than the first two albums they’ve done, which is good. I’m glad they switched it up a little. This is a much colder, sharper sound for them and may take a little getting used to.
Bloc Party – Intimacy
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Intimacy, I really loved their first album, Silent Alarm and really hated their second release, A Weekend in the City. I don’t know if they will ever top the jittery goodness of Alarm, but this is their best release since. This too had to grow on me. It’s a deeper and darker sound for them and gets better with each listen.
Clinic – Do it!
I adore this band. They have a peculiar sound and often times sound a bit disjointed. They’re off-kilter antics repeat on their fifth release. It’s not my favorite release from them, but the off-chord chaos is still there and it is fine piece of work.
Disappointing albums of the year:
Disclaimer: I’m not saying these records are horrible, they just didn’t live up to my expectations. Most are critically acclaimed and have landed on numerous ‘best of’ lists this year… just not mine.
- Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head = Yawn!
- Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue = Someone clearly had a bad trip!
- Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs = No thanks!
- The Breeders – Mountain Battles = Really unfortunate!
- The Secret Machines = Hot mess!
- She & Him – Volume One = Sounded like a good idea on paper!
My 25 best jams of the year:
#1. “U.R.A. Fever” – The Kills: You’ll have a fever after this track is done boxing your ears with its punchy stomp.
#2. “Black/White” – The Raveonettes: Stark, mysterious, and down right fun… yeah yeah yeah!
#3. “Sex on Fire” – Kings of Leon: All signs point to me hating this song. Not wild about the band & the title is embarrassing… but it is fantastic and has a slight twinge of 80’s Americana.
#4. “Lust” – The Raveonettes: Possibly the sexiest song of the year. Sultry voices in unison singing lines like “I fell out of heaven, to be with you in hell“, Sigh!
#5. “The Captive Mind” – The Helio Sequence: A song about a broken heart and willing someone back into your life. It isn’t as depressing as it sounds.
#6. “We Own the Sky” – M83: This song sounds big. It’s luscious and full and really badass.
#7. “The Handshake” – MGMT: A trippy psych-romp with a little Prince-ish vocal (circa the Purple Rain era) mixed in.
#8. “Credit in the Straight World” – SSION: One of my favorite cover songs ever. It’s jams, straight jams, and will make you want to move.
#9. “Blood Red Leis” – The Raveonettes: An electronic departure from their signiture sound, and it totally pays off. Sexy vocals, dark lyrics and juicy bass. Delicious.
#10. “Last Day of Magic” – The Kills: “There’s only so much you can hide“… it’s true. The song will find you, and wail on you like a little tornado.
#11. “Waving Flags” – British Sea Power: An urgent, and soft anthem that aims straight for the gut and sticks.
#12. “Kim & Jessie” – M83: Like I said earlier, this song sounds like something out of a John Hughes movie to me.
#13. “Hairy Candy” – Tobacco: Another psychedelic-drenched track that makes me feel very, very stoned just listening to it.
#14. “Vox Humana” – Deerhunter: A 60’s inspried gem, with a shared drum intro and some of my favorite lyrics of the year.
#15. “Time to Pretend” – MGMT: The song is a little tired now, but it was quite refreshing at the begining of the year. I’m still hooked, just not as hard.
#16. “Kissing the Beehive” – Wolf Parade: An epic song! It’s a little on the long side, but you never really get bored. The many peaks and valleys keep you interested.
#17. “Náttúra” – Björk featuring Thom Yorke: What an odd song this one is. It’s quirky, aggressive and a little spooky. Oh, and it’s all sung in Icelandic!
#18. “Rockferry” – Duffy: I can’t believe this song made my list. I don’t like anything else she has done, but when I heard this song I fell in love with it immediately. I think it’s the passion in her voice… perhaps.
#19. “Starstruck” – Santogold: Her record was decent, but it was all over the place. This track stuck out though, thick bass and good vocals get me everytime.
#20. “Language City” – Wolf Parade: Loaded with echoed guitars and organ, its hard not to like this song. Plus, I absolutely love his voice. It gives me the grrr.
#21. “I Will Posses Your Heart” – Death Cab for Cutie: I can’t even beleive I am going to say this, but I think I perfer the radio edit over the album version of this song! Yes. I said it. The intro on the album version is too long and irritates the shit out of me. The rest of it is outstanding though.
#22. “4 Minutes” – Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake & Timbaland: Slap JT’s name on any project, and I will listen. He saved this track. I think Madge got lucky on this colaboration.
#23. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” – Beyoncé: I’m completely serious. I love this song. It must be my inner-bootyshaker talking.
#24. “Chemtrails” – Beck: I go back and forth with Beck. I usually tend to get tired of him easily, but I was really impressed with this song. I didn’t expect to be at all.
#25. “Wannabe in L.A.” – Eagles of Death Metal: The funny thing about this song is you can’t really tell if they are trying to be serious, or if it is a total joke. Either way it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Here’s to 2009, cheers!