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2008-12-19 - 4:37 p.m.

Some "best ofs" for 2008!

Best snowman:

This guy was sitting outside my apartment this morning, with a poignant look on his face.

best snowman ever

Snowman face

Best real rapper name:

Young Spiffy


(Special note: I do not include my friends' albums in this year-end reckoning, because I'd rather not rank the work of people I love personally.)

Nearest and dearest:

British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?

The received wisdom of late is that nobody listens to "albums" anymore, it's all single tracks on a harddrive, shuffled to oblivion. But this set of songs had me believing in sequencing again, and in cavernous reverb and gorgeous melodies, and British accents, and boys singing in unison. Best of all, this third album is so much better than the band's previous two that it also had me believing in artists who actually improve with time instead blowing their wad on their debut. Thank you, British Sea Power!

Sam Phillips Don't Do Anything

I've always loved Sam Phillips's songs, and she rarely writes a clunker, but its been especially cool to see her evolution lately as a crafter of albums. The further she gets from her marriage to her producer T-Bone Burnett, the simpler and rawer her sound has become. The minimal production here showcases her lovely but very human (i.e. not pitch-corrected) vocals and the power of her lyrics and ear-wormy melodies.

Laura Marling Alas, I Cannot Swim

From the first strains of the galloping folk-thumper, "Ghosts," to the aching, string-laden lament of "Tap at my Window," there is something so authentic about Laura Marling's debut, that emphemeral attributes like her youth (18 years old at the time of the recording) and acclaim (Mercury Prize finalist) fall away, leaving nothing but a bright, burning ember of an album heralding a strong new songwriting talent. This mostly acoustic set combines the autumnal textures of lo-fi poets like Beirut and Neutral Milk Hotel with the solidly melodic approach of classic Brit-folks like Richard Thompson, tied together by an assured voice that never reaches too hard. It is a late-night album that casts a long shadow the morning after.

Duke Spirit Neptune

This band occupies that rarefied space where indie-rock ethos meets rockstar charisma. Liela Moss is a strong frontwoman and the band just rocks relentlessly.

Albums that I really, really liked:

Dodos Visiter

Stirring, tribal indie-folk that doesn't sound like much else out there.

The Pretenders Break Up the Concrete

It has been so long since I've been able to listen to a Pretenders album all the way through without weeping or falling asleep, but this record is a muted gem, full of great singing, from-the-heart writing, and a real down-to-earth vibe. It sounds like Chrissie Hynde actually sat down and wrote some songs she could believe in, rather than meeting a committee of song doctors in a conference room somewhere. But the other rockstars ask me, "Paula, why is this album in your Top Ten when so many of your favorite bands have been putting out good albums all along?" Because, Rockstars, you are ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that I should make merry, and be glad: for this thy band was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Frightened Rabbit Midnight Organ Fight

Why are Scottish bands so awesome?

Ruby Suns Sea Lion

This is "world music" for people who feel squicked out by actual world music--lots of adventurous muliticultural sounds presented in an atmospheric yet lo-fi way.

A.C. Newman Get Guilty

Whereas Beck's 2008 album has 33% great songs, A.C. Newman's has 90% good songs, and somehow it felt more sporting to award the coveted #9 position to an album that provides so many minutes of trebly pleasure.

Future Clouds & Radar Peoria

Not as immediately stunning as their 2007 debut, this album nevertheless continues the sonic adventures of Robert Harrison and his trippy power-psychedelia. His guitar playing just keeps getting better, and his willingness to take songwriting risks pays off, without sacrificing hooks.

Honorable Mention, Top Level

Juliana Hatfield - How to Walk Away

Dirtbombs - We Have You Surrounded

Hold Steady -Stay Positive

Lucinda Williams - Little Honey

Jennifer O'Connor - Here With Me

Alla - Es Tiempo

Tim Finn - The Conversation

Issa - Dragon Dreams

Rosebuds - Life Like

Thee Oh Sees - The Masterís Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In

Alejandro Escovedo Real Animal

Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree

Gutter Twins - Saturnalia

Richard Swift - Richard Swift As Onasis

Dengue Fever Venus on Earth

Black Angels - Directions to See a Ghost

Honorable Mention, Tier Two

Theresa Andersson, Eliza Carthy, Kassin+2, James Blackshaw, The Sights, Prints, Juana Molina, Jucifer, Thomas Function, Carlene Carter, Crooked Fingers, Denison Witmer, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, Beck, Long Blondes, Jenny Lewis, Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, John Hiatt, Shearwater

Please feel free to weigh in on your favorite sounds of 2008--either in a listicular way or a link to your own site.

thoughts? (19 comments so far)

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