Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Albums 2008

15. Calexico - Carried to Dust

Not only one of the year's best, but definitely the year's most surprising album. Calexico puts on a hell of a show, but has never really been able to match that on record. They certainly do now. This is a great album.

14. Sigur Rós - Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust

This album definitely has a few slow spots, but the high points are some of the best this band has ever released. Also, this is probably their least melodramatic album to date. Because of this, it sounds very refreshing.

13. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

If the Beach Boys were formed in the last couple of years, this is what they would sound like. It's weird. It's beautiful. It's what music sounds like right now. It's almost what it used to sound like. And it all works.

12. Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

One of the year's most underrated albums. This is definitely a grower, but David Berman's writing is absolutely spectacular on this album.

11. Black Keys - Attack & Release

Danger Mouse can do no wrong. Every time he touches an album, it works. Here he makes yet another great band even better. Best Black Keys album to date.

10. Fleet Foxes - s/t

Got to be honest, I'm definitely not as crazy about this album as everybody else on the planet. Great album? Definitely. It's just not as much of a masterpiece as it's made out to be. Just my opinion.

09. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Of Montreal is a ridiculous band that records ridiculous music, but it is great to hear. Of Montreal is like the Monty Python of music.

08. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams

Destroyer's previous album is one of my favorite albums in years. And while this album isn't the classic that one was, it is still amazing. And how is it that nobody has payed any attention to this album? Surely the most underrated album of the year.

07. James - Hey Ma

With James's ego, I was definitely expecting a reunion album full of "we're so awesome!" The liner notes helped with this assumption. However, the music itself is amazingly good and relevant. There is no rust from this James lineup that hasn't recorded together in fifteen years.

06. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

Okkervil River's relevence is the fastest growing in the world right now. Within another album, this band will be what Wilco was three years ago. Even an add-on album like this is still remarkable.

05. Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride

The more polished the Mountain Goats get, the harder it is to listen to at first. However, the more you listen, the more you understand that everything is still the same. The writing is as funny and viscious and emotional as ever. Remarkable albums are routine for the Mountain Goats.

04. Beck - Modern Guilt

Beck's simplest, shortest, and possibly best album to date. It's just all so super-hip. Even if Beck is kind of a douchebag, his music is just so cool. Oh and take a look at who produced this album. It's Danger Mouse again!

03. The Walkmen - You & Me

2008 was definitely the year of the Walkmen for me. I’d never really paid much attention to them. Then I saw them play in Norfolk in the spring and have been obsessed since. However, this latest album isn’t just me riding the wave. It is just a great album.

02. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

2008’s most criminally ignored album. Where did all the love for Wolf Parade go? Four years ago, they could do no wrong. Now they release one of the best albums of the year and nobody pays attention? It’s a shame because this album rivals their previous release in every way possible.

01. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Nick Cave is the king of reinvention because it’s never insincere. Here’s the rundown of his career:
Pre-1983: The garage punk
1984-1990: The gothic lounge singer
1990-1994: The heroin casualty
1996: The sick balladeer
1997-2004: The redemption man
2007: The middle-aged garage punk
2008: The beat generation’s last emissary
Every single phase of Nick Cave ’s career has reflected exactly who he is. He’s the world’s most honest songwriter. He will write songs that nobody else would think about. Or maybe others will think of it, but would never be ballsy enough to release it. This latest album by Nick Cave is one of the most sincere releases I’ve heard in years. There is nothing phony here. It’s funny. It’s disturbing. It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. It’s just perfect.


Gotta be honest here. 2008 was kind of a disappointing year in music. Usually it's difficult for me to fit just fifteen of my favorite albums on a list. This year, it was difficult to find fifteen albums to put on this list. Don't get me wrong, these albums I included are all great. It's just that this list lacks the classics I've included in the past few years. Except for Nick Cave's new album. That album blows my mind.

2009, however, is shaping up to be a great year. This upcoming Tuesday has four releases that can contend for album of the year (Animal Collective, Antony & The Johnsons, Andrew Bird, and A.C. Newman... that's a lot of A's). Then next week is the next Franz Ferdinand, which I am looking forward to.

Beyond that, March is looking great (new Decemberists, Handsome Furs, and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, plus that mysterious Condo Fucks album). Even further down the line are promises of a new Grizzly Bear album, two new albums by Phosphorescent (including next months Willie Nelson cover album), and (gulp!) a new album by Wilco sometime this spring. 2009 is looking great so far. Can't wait!