Thursday, January 1, 2009

Favorite Albums of 2008

So another year in music has come and gone, but not without some great releases. Of course, the usual disclaimers apply, but here are five albums that I adored from this year, plus a list of other records (somewhat arbitrarily grouped) that I also enjoyed. All in all, a good year in music w/ one certifiable classic:

Top 5

5. Dungen - 4 (surprisingly reined in and focused for a Dungen record; jazz influences really coming to the forefront)

4. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (my history w/ VW in short: in love, too cool, reconvicted by their sheer awesomeness)

3. She & Him - Volume 1 (a primer in well-written American pop and country, and maybe the best thing M. Ward's ever done)

2. The Night Marchers - See You in Magic (the album I was most likely to air drum to on the way home from work; power pop disguised as Hot Snakes songs)

1. Deerhunter - Microcastle and Weird Era Cont. (so many things to say about this record, but I'll concentrate on how warm the guitars and drums sound; one of those records - like "I am Shelby Lynne," "In Utero," or "The Soft Bulletin" - that combines excellent songs w/ perfect production)

Punk Rock

Cheap Time - Cheap Time
Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward LP & Get Damaged EP (RIP)
Love Is All - A Hundred Things to Keep Me Up All Night
Mannequin Men - Fresh Rot
White Hills - Heads on Fire
Past Lives - Strange Symmetry EP
F***ed Up - The Chemistry of Common Life

Rock and Roll

Sloan - Parallel Play (and the best show I went to in 2008)
Black Hollies - Casting Shadows
Dr. Dog - Fate
Thomas Function - Celebration!

Girl Rock

Wye Oak - If Children
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Beach House - Devotion

Wild Card

Douglas Armour - The Light of the Golden Day, The Arms of the Night
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Wild Beasts - Limbo, Panto
Lindstrom - Where You Go I Go Too


Cary said...

Nice to see your list, Paul. I respect your willingness to support VW. There are so many reasons to be inclined against them - mostly extrinsic to the music - but they do write very good, catchy songs. Sort of The Strokes of 2008, I think, in terms of their place in the culture.

As for Deerhunter, can you explain the appeal? I have listened to their records and seen them live repeatedly, and I just can't see them as anything other than an indie rock band. I know I'm in the minority on this, and I'd love to hear what generates such ardor in you.

Also, I'm semi-surprised you're not a big ol' hulking Fleet Foxes fan. (I am). What's your feeling about them?

Paul said...

Yeah, VW is definitely like the Strokes in terms of critical ambivalence. However, I think VW's sound is a bit more unprecedented than the Strokes', and as far as I can tell, they're not the lead dog in a pack of imitators.

You say "indie rock band" like that's a bad thing. I mean, I agree: Deerhunter is an indie rock band and, apart from some tape experiments on Weird Era Cont., they don't really deviate from that sonic pallete. The thing is, I like those sounds, and I feel when combined with Bradford Cox's songs, the result is something immediate and touching. The appeal is not really something I can explain; I just know that Microcastles is the first album in a long time that I've been continually draw.

I definitely like Fleet Foxes but some of the songs have just not clicked with me. Admittedly, I think they are a bit pretentious (the Bruegel cover art and the disdain for music post-laurel canyon), so perhaps that figures into it. I know that's not fair to them; I'm trying to let it go.

Cary said...

I left out the word "mediocre" by accident from the intended phrase "mediocre indie rock band" in talking about Deerhunter. I just don't see them as contributing anything unique to the "discourse" nor do I find their songs particularly catchy or moving. I guess I just am surprised by that, because I am a pretty pro-indie rock kind of dude.

Pretension is not something that bothers me in music, I don't think. I think I like it even, as long as the songs are there to back it up.

Paul said...

I certainly like Fleet Foxes; I'm just not taken w/ the album as a whole, and something in some interview along the way irked me. Again, though, good band, and I look forward to their future output. They served as a perfect soundtrack to a walk around windy Santa Monica yesterday.

Sarah Luppen said...

I'm with Cary - a big ol' hulking Fleet Foxes fan. I'm not great at describing why I like an album or band, but here's my shot at it: Fleet Foxes simultaneously calms me down and wakes me up. That's exactly the way I want to walk around my life: calm and awake.

Sarah Luppen said...

Also, Paul - I wasn't that impressed with Jenny Lewis' new album. The songs weren't as ... well ... beautiful as her first. That's not to say I'm not still a huge fan. I went to see her at the Orpheum and it was an amazing show. Of course, she didn't play any of her new songs, which pleased me.

Thomas McMahon IV said...

I'm gonna have to check out a lot of the "also-rans." Haven't heard Douglas Armour, Thomas Function (great name) or White Hills, among others.

Is there a cover of a well-known song on the Love Is All album? I heard their version of something on KXLU recently, but now I can't remember what it was.

Paul said...

Re Love is All: They released an ep of covers that, I think, is available on emusic. It was originally a tour only release.

I was at that Jenny Lewis show, too. Did you see the dude from Mad Men? I thought she played a fair amount from the new record, including "Acid Tongue," "Godspeed," and "Sing a Song for Them" which are all gorgeous. However, I agree that the album is not nearly as good as her debut. That's a very special record to me (in fact, it earned my #2 spot in 2006).

Sarah Luppen said...

You know what - I had to leave a little early, so maybe I missed her new stuff. I do think Godspeed is a beautiful song. And yes, I caught the opening acts. The first one was hilariously bad!

Adam W. said...