Saturday, January 03, 2009

My Favorite Albums | 2008

Happy New Year! It's 2009, and it's a perfect time to think back on 2008. One of my favorite things to do every year is to look back at the great new music I discovered each year. '08 was an eventful year and a good one (for a lot of reasons), and these albums provided a good hunk of my soundtrack for the year that will be remembered as ought eight.

14-15 - The Best Albums that were released in 2008 but don't really count as '08 albums having been disqualified due to various and obvious violations of common law qualifications for a 2008 Album:

15. Colin Meloy - Colin Meloy Sings LIVE! - Released in '08, but recorded live in '06, before Meloy's band, the Decemberists released their masterpiece "The Crane Wife." It's too old and too 'live' to count in a list of 2008 albums, but it's wonderful; the work of a master songsmith stripped down to naught but his sweet guitar and articulate vocals.

14. Danielson - Trying Hartz - This two disc, career spanning collection of material from the Danielson Famile, Brother Danielson and DanielsonShip is a must own for silly people like me who've been meaning to "get into" Danielson for years, but didn't know where to start. There's no new material here, but there is some previously unreleased live stuff, I believe.

1-13 - The 2008 albums which qualify as legitimate 2008 albums which I listened to, liked, and ranked in order based on how much I liked them:

13. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges - MMJ is a good rock and roll band. I really liked their 2006 release, "Z," and this was a worthy follow up.

12. The Submarines - Honeysuckle Weeks - This duo sings that song from the iPod commercial: "Every day we wake up, choose love, choose light..." The album is catchy, quirky and interesting. It's a perfect album for a sunny day.

11. The Bridges - Limits of the Sky - Everybody knows I'm a sucker for family bands: The Partridge Family (ha!), The Danielson Famile, Hanson (LOL), The Jonas Brothers (tee-hee), Chevelle, etc. The Bridges rise above 'family as gimmick' and just make good music. It's Americana/Folk/Pop done right.

10. Beck - Modern Guilt - When I heard that Beck was collaborating with DJ Danger Mouse on this release, I figured it would be absolutely 'off the chain.' I was a bit underwhelmed by the results. It's a solid album, for sure, but I expected more. Maybe it'll grow on me in 2009.

9. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst - I was underwhelmed by this one as well. It's not as consistent as his best efforts ("Lifted..." and "I'm Wide Awake..."), but there are certainly some gems, like "Lenders in the Temple." It's hard when someone's set the bar so high for themselves.

8. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive - Straight up down and dirty rock n' roll out of Minnesota's twin cities. Somehow, the lyrical style reminds me of David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), though the music is far different. The Hold Steady are just great rock n' roll storytellers.

7. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs - I love how Death Cab continues to stretch themselves artistically even after achieving ridiculous amounts of critical and financial success. These guys are doing something right. If it weren't for the lame mathematical metaphor of "Long Division," this album may have been a notch higher on the list.

6. She & Him - Volume 1 - Thanks to Paste Magazine for picking this #1 and reminding me that M. Ward did something this year. His "Post-War" album is one of my favorite of the past few years, and this collaboration with actress/singer/songwriter Zooey Deschanel seems a perfect match. This album goes down easy, and I mean that as a compliment.

5. Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust - This album actually dropped down my list as the year went on. After the first few listens, I was convinced it was one of my favorite albums of all time, let alone 2008. I was taken aback by how different it was from previous albums, and I loved it. Yet as I get used to "new" Sigur Ros, I still like it, but I remember 'old' Sigur Ros with greater affection. I have to be honest; I'll probably like anything they put out. They're simply great.

4. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago - Possibly the most hyped album of 2008 by the indie crowd, and with good reason. It's a great album. It brings together two of my favorite genres, folk and atmospheric indie rock, in a way I've never heard. It could well be the quintessential 'winter' album. I'm not sure what that means, but it feels true to me when I listen to it this winter.

3. The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave - He's from Sweden, and he's called The Tallest Man on Earth. Being a 6'9" Swedish-American, it seems that there must be some cosmic forces drawing me to listen to his music. Whatever the role of the cosmos in the process, I absolutely love this album. I'm fairly certain that I will be able to listen to it hundreds of times without tiring of it, as there will always be another metaphor to unpack or a turn of phrase to deconstruct. He's an old-school finger picker on both guitar and banjo, and he sings with conviction.

2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal" is my daughter's new favorite song...brilliant. It's odd to hear my 2 year old singing about little heads falling in the snow, but it's cool. This album is incredible. It gets better with every listen. It's as smooth as butter, obviously influenced by Brian Wilson yet utterly creative. This album somehow seems to equally embody all four seasons, as though it could have come from a California summer, autumn in Tennessee or a Siberian winter just as easily as rainy Seattle (from whence it actually did come). It's accessible, too. Case in point: my mom was riding in the car with us this week as we listened to this album. We only got through the album's first three songs (we listened to "White Winter Hymnal" about 7 times, per Addison's request), but when we arrived at a bookstore, she bought the album. My mom bought it. It's that good.

1. Anathallo - Canopy Glow - Not everyone loves Anathallo as much as I do, but for some reason, they are a band in tune with my soul. This album is great from the first note to the last. I didn't really think they could top their 2006 epic "Floating World," but I think they did. The album is focused and tight, and the melodies are gorgeous. "All The First Pages" is my favorite song of 2008, and "Italo" is my daughter's runner up to Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal." I hope Anathallo is able to continue to make music for a very long time. I will listen. Yes, I will listen again and again.
Thanks to all the artists who continue to make great music year in and year out. I certainly do appreciate it, and I know that somehow the world is better for it. It is good for humans, created in God's image, to create beautiful things for our brothers and sisters to enjoy. So enjoy the list, and I hope, the music.

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At 3:06 PM EST , Blogger JohnsonFamily said...

Rash, you inspire me! And make me poor!


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