The ubiquitous year-end list... the inevitable bane of music writers
and journalists everywhere. Everyone loves to disagree and discuss
throughout the coming year. So, here are our lists. We'd love to
know what you think.
Embo Blake - Cowboy Music Writing Guy
It was a tremendous year for British rock music
Not only in
new releases, but in the reunion tour of everyone's favorite noisy,
twanging, shoegazing machine, Swervedriver. I would have liked
to include their name in my top albums, but alas, we didn't get a
new album from Adam Franklin and company. But to balance out
all that goodness, there was a surprising lack of great new shoegaze/dreampop
music this year (and a surprising silence from great labels like Clairecords).
Anyway, Liberally strewn with Anglo-rock, here's a list of my favorite
records of the year 2008:
1. Barton Carroll - The Lost One
There are few words to describe the beautiful delicateness and brilliant
emotinalism of Carroll's songs. Just know that you should hear them.
2. Charlatans UK - You Cross My Path
Tim Burgess can't decide if he wants to play Reggae or Electro-pop
either way, these elder statesmen are proving time and again that
we don't need the Rolling Stones anymore, their replacements are here
3. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
The Gallagher boys are still good, but made even better with the surprising
retention of Andy Bell and Jem
Another fantastic Oasis record.
Which makes them all good so far.
4. Elbow - The Seldom Scene Kid
Never heard of Elbow? Perhaps now is the time for you to experience
their brilliant songwriting and perfect musicianship.
5. Waco Brothers - Waco Express
John Langford still takes some fine Limeys and makes great American
this time live, raucous, rowdy, and awesome.
6. Hacienda Brothers - Arizona Motel
The untimely death of Chris Gaffney was not enough to stop the best
record the Brothers ever released. Pure, brilliant Americana with
just the right twang and uber-soul.
7. Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
Although Lu is giving up a bit of the twang, she is still making some
of the best music of her career. Heartfelt and provocative, this new
set of songs remains highly personal, but a bit more sober.
8. Sonny Landreth - From The Reach
Sonny Landreth is currently the greatest electric slide guitar player
going. This new record is further proof of such. Country, blues, rock,
it's all here
and tone for days!
9. Calexico - Carried To Dust
Joey Burns and John Convertino keep getting better. The band has almost
forgotten their noisy past and turned completely Americana, which
makes for the best Calexico record yet. Brilliant.
10. Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking
Adams is the worlds #1 purveyor of downbeat Americana. This new record
stretches to new sonic territory, but remains rooted in the blissful
beauty that has always plagued his work.
Other things you should be listening to:
The Christines - Here It Comes Again
Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Stars
David Ford - Songs For The Road
Luka Bloom - The Man Is Alive
In 2009, I really want a new Natalie Merchant Record
Gareth Bowles - West Coast Music Writer Guy
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
The Mancunian purveyors of "prog without the solos" came
up with their fourth and best album yet this year, and supported it
with some cracking live shows. Well-deserved winner of the prestigious
Mercury Prize in the UK, Elbow combine the artiness of Radiohead
with the accessibility of Coldplay to show that music can be
both cool and commercial. Song pick: "One Day Like This"
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
My top album of the summer, and almost the year. The Hold Steady are
rapidly becoming legends in their own lifetime, a band for fans to
obsess over and follow to every tour date. Stay Positive has
the usual killer tunes, tight-as-a-duck's ass band interplay and Craig
Finn's always astounding lyrics and ever-improving singing. Song
pick: "Sequestered In Memphis"
Steve Wynn - Crossing Dragon Bridge
To make this record, Wynn took a break from the cranked-up-to-the
max rock of his last few albums with the Miracle 3 and took
off to Slovenia with only producer Chris Eckman for company.
The resulting collection of songs are as vivid and compelling as ever,
with a more reflective feel; perfect fall and winter listening. Song
pick: "Manhattan Fault Line"
Wire - Object 47
Named after it being their 47th record release, this fantastic album
continues last year's Read & Burn 03's move away from a
polished, high octane roar to a quieter, more atmospheric and experimental
sound, much as they did between the late 70s classics Chairs Missing
and 154. It's still instantly recognizable as Wire, and challenges
the work of any band half their age. Song pick: "All Fours"
Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
On which Death Cab prove once and for all that they're not just a
band for swooning tweens. There's always been plenty for regular music
fans to like on DCFC albums, from Chris Walla's intricately
detailed production to Ben Gibbard's wry reflections on love
gone wrong. Narrow Stairs might be challenging to longtime
fans, but stretches out the band's abilities to make their best album
yet. Song pick: "I Will Possess Your Heart"
The Verve - Forth
This first album in ten years, and only their fourth overall, didn't
meet my (unrealistically high) expectations at first, but turned out
to be a real grower; not quite up to the level of their first two
masterpieces, but definitely an improvement on 1997's Urban Hymns.
Richard Ashcroft's voice and lyrics now have a world-weary
edge, Nick McCabe's guitars still thunder and chill, and the
matchless rhythm section of Simon Jones and Pete Salisbury
(always the band's trump card) pumps out a dubby, Can-like
groove as always. Song pick: "Numb"
Magnetic Morning - A.M.
Inspired collaboration between Adam Franklin (Swervedriver
/ Toshack Highway) and Sam Fogarino (Interpol)
recalls the less-remembered, slower side of Swervedriver with an added
Interpol sheen. Song pick: "Motorway"
Julie Ocean - Long Gone And Nearly There
Great power pop from a sadly already-demised DC band of vets from
Velocity Girl and Saturday People. Song pick: "#1
Spiritualized - Songs in A&E
Hugely varied set of songs from Jason Pierce (who we're lucky
to still have with us after a near-fatal illness last year) and his
latest crew of musicians. From the doom-laden "Death Take Your
Fiddle" to the euphoric "Soul On Fire", this is a landmark
album. Song pick: "Sitting On Fire"
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
A surprise hit that made many critics' top lists this year, this is
uncanny, timeless Americana with instantly memorable tunes and killer
harmonies. Song pick: "Ragged Wood"
David DeVoe - Music Editing Guy
1. Barton Carroll - The Lost One
Rarely does an album of this much importance come along so criminally
unnoticed. Amazing songs, brilliant playing, genuine emotion and great
2. Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark
Diamond is the king of rock, really
and this new record proves
it again (finally!) after 20 years of so-so records. Sonic perfection
and a return to his songwriting roots.
3. Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking
While I am still a tad bummed about no more EastMountainSouth, this
latest from Adams is remarkable. The songs are well-conceived and
beautifully recorded, and Adams truly spreads his wings musically.
3. The Charlatans UK - You Cross My Path
Despite throwing away their recent sound infavor of becoming New Order,
Burgess and Company are still the finest Brits making music. Period.
4. Luka Bloom - The Man Is Alive (DVD/CD set)
Finally a great live set from Luka that you can take home. The interviews
were personal and precious and the performances as remarkable as everything
the man touches.
5. Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Stars
Gary Lightbody and Co. do it again
somehow, inexplicably. Possibly
their most mature work to date, the songs are mostly subdued but incredible.
There are the rocking tunes as well though, and "Take Back The
City" is a wonderful example.
6. Johnathan Rice - Further North
This new record from Rice turned much darker than his previous orchestral
pop masterpiece. The songs are much more cohesive and immediate, steeped
in the darkness vs. light conundrum of California.
7. David Ford - Songs For The Road
The first Ford record was filled with bitter anger, which has now
turned to righteous indignation. The music is still compelling and
urgent, filled with personal demons rather than social.
8. Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell
No one is happier to have new music from Glen Campbell than I am
the fact that these songs are really well done and not cheesy gospel
makes it that much more of a bonus. Long live Glen!
9. Calexico - Carried To Dust
Calexico continues to amaze with their Southwestern onslaught. Carried
To Dust finds the band at its most stable and beautiful yet.
10. Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious
Doughty still writes some of the best new-beat poetry and lyrics there
are, and continues to make some of the most up-beat and important
music the world has ever known. Plus, he's cute.
11. The Christines - Here It Comes Again
The Christines are historically one of Denver's finest all-time bands
and now that they've finally released their third record, it is still
patently obvious that they remain royalty around these parts. Although
half the band lives here, while Mike Kircshman still resides in California,
the album was well worth the 12-year wait.
Susan Frances - East Coast Music Writer/Runaway Sentencer
1. Miwa Gemini - This Is How I Found You
Like the voicing of an enchanted songbird, Miwa Gemini has a poetic
tone that coos with the ease of a nightingale brimming with a passion
that's harnessed by a soothing nature able to wash away burns scarring
the soul. Everything about her songs are mellifluous and elegant as
they grip the listener's heart-strings with a blend of Parisian-jazz,
honky-tonk country, and acoustic-folk. On her home turf of New York
City, she is best known for her heart-wrenching rendition of Johnny
Cash's tune "Ring Of Fire," but this Japanese-American
songstress has an arsenal of original material that can rival Cash.
Miwa has a gentleness and smooth seductiveness that swathes listeners
with rolling waves of warmth and cradles them in a manger of sonic
2. Saving Abel - Saving Abel
Southern rock has a new recruit, that of Saving Abel, whose self-titled
debut album broke out into mainstream like a much needed rainfall
over sun-burnt lands. Their tracks are loaded with libido-laced lyrics,
lusty guitar shreds and power rock punches, but every now and then
the band sprinkles on some tender cinders into the album's hearth
with acoustics that are melodically charged, romantically barbed and
softly whisked. It's an album that doesn't lose it luster after repetitive
3. People In Planes - Beyond The Horizon
In a time when it has become more prevalent to find genuine pearls
along the ocean floor around Australia than it is to find a good modern
rock band, the UK's People In Planes prove that their conviction for
modern rock is indeed the only fluid pumping through their veins.
The band's 2008 release Beyond The Horizon takes a walk through
the craggy cliffs of hard rock and the snowcap mountains of melodic
bliss. Their rawness is bold though nicely polished, and their coarseness
adds a vigorous shaking that's universal attractiveness. People In
Planes keep their feet firmly planted in a modern rock while extracting
fragments of melodic bliss to make a heady mix that's slightly romantic
and fully masculine.
4. Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious
Singer-songwriter Mike Doughty delivered the follow up to his 2005
album Haughty Melodic this year. As a child of the '90s alternative
rock era, Doughty shows that he just keeps getting better and better
at making adult contemporary rock. Golden Delicious displays
Doughty's talent in full force offering everything from lulling ballads
to power-pop driven rock peppered with infectiously fun sing-alongs.
The album is a keeper.
5. Tina Dico - Count To Ten
With a dulcet voice that recalls of the innocence and beauty that
is inherent in Walt Disney's animated characters like Cinderella,
Snow White and Ariel, Tina Dico gives acoustic-pop a contemporary
brushing and a domesticated aura that makes the listener feel at home.
She has the kind of voice that little boys dream of and little girls
want to have.
6. The Balustrade Ensemble - Capsules
The majestic rises and falls in the atmospheric escapes of The Balustrade
Ensemble's music is agreeable with listener's sense of inner peace
and sonic joy. The San Francisco-based group are gifted at gelling
their passages beautifully, and making languid trundles transition
gracefully into brilliant crescendos. There is something vintage about
their melodic fibers, and yet, their album is the epitome of modern
classicism transcending all nationalities, creeds, races, and music
genres around the globe.
7. The Birthday Massacre - Looking Glass
In the vane of Goth rock's Evanescence, Nightwish, and
Lacuna Coil, The Birthday Massacre put another notch in metal's
movement toward female-fronted bands. The band's guitar shreds burn
lively and their drum kicks pellet the melodic frames with beefy thrusts.
This isn't your father's metal, but something much more, with blustery
showers that inflame rock-infested blazes to greater heights than
ever heard before from previous generations.
8. Tristan Prettyman - Hello
The acoustic-folk beauty of Tristan Prettyman's songwriting is illustrated
wonderfully in her 2008 release Hello
x. It's an album that you
will want to keep in your back pocket, and enjoy listening to any
place that you go and in any mood that you find yourself in at any
time of the day. It's an all purpose album that gives folks a taste
of life's simple pleasures.
9. James Otto - Sunset Man
Formerly the guitarist for country star Gretchen Wilson, James
Otto ventured out on his own in 2008 releasing his solo album Sunset
Man. The album fuses country, rock, pop, and Americana melodies
beautifully. He has the kind of voice that folks can trust and relate
to on a personal level. Everything about his album speaks volumes
about country music's history, and its breadth to reach markets outside
of its cloistered niche. It's an album that allows country music to
acclimate to modern times and soft-pop motifs.
10. Astrid Williamson - Boy For You
The country-folk musings of Astrid Williamson have been able to hold
audiences captive in their seats, and her 2008 release Boy For
You reassures audiences that she still has it. Williamson has
a feminine beauty that is part tom-boy and part sultry vixen. She
exposes her vulnerable side in her songs, and shows that she is just
as human as everybody else. Her voice is accessible to the listener,
and yet, so melodically entrancing that no one in the world can sing
a song like Astrid Williamson does.
Rachel Fredrickson - Midwest Music Writer
2008 was apparently about quality not quantity. We weren't overloaded
this year with new stuff. But the albums that did come out were genius.
1. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
This album is probably one of the best albums of the decade. No exaggerating
necessary. If you're compared to the likes of U2, then you
know you've made it. It's got everything from catchy lyrics, meaningful
themes and beats to keep you dancing like a crazy person.
2. Republic Tigers - Keep Color
Brilliant musicianship, brewed in the minds of Kansas City natives,
brings you an album that's simplistic and beautiful.
3. People In Planes - Beyond The Horizon
If Coldplay had the best album of the decade, PIP had the best album
of the year. Its U.K. alternative meets cold hard U.S. rock and it's
4. The Matches - A Band In Hope
They're crazy... plain and simple, this band is crazy. And their live
show can attest to that. However their album is first-class (with
a little insanity mixed in). The dynamics change so much between each
song it's nearly impossible to give a one sentence overview of the
album. So just go get it.
5. The Black Keys - Attack And Release
There's something very classic about the TBK sound. It's almost as
though they formed in the '80s and just waited a few years to release
this album. This is quality rock and I have a feeling it will be just
as good a few years from now.
6. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology
Grabbed this album for the song "Magick" and realized the
rest was pretty awesome. My song is a bit of garage-rock and the rest
of the album morphs more into the classic rock. Perhaps 'drugs and
rock 'n roll' really do go together.
7. Kings Of Leon - Only By The Night
Love was found this year in KOL. This is honest music; there are no
bells and whistles. Critics claim it's "too commercial",
well I think it's just right.
8. Various Artists - Twilight Soundtrack
Any album that combines Mute Math, Muse, Linkin Park,
and Collective Soul is awesome in my book. Especially when
that album has a NEW Mute Math song.
9. Kinch - Advances
They may not be major label, but they are majorly talented. Are they're
also "Phoenix's answer to The Strokes"? Sure. There's
so much energy racing through this album, that you'd be fool to put
it down. It's a little bit of rock and a little bit of blues, with
a smudge of swing-ness.
10. The Airborne Toxic Event - The Airborne Toxic Event
If I was going to cheat on KOL with a new love, it would with Airborne.
Brand-spankin' new on the scene, they've already reeled in thousands
of fans with the single "Sometime Around Midnight." Although
the themes may be in matters of the heart, these are no sappy love
songs. Its raw rock that begs dance moves only seen in the middle
of empty living rooms.
JD - Secretary Of Defensive Music Writing
JD's Best of 2008:
1. Vendetta Valentine - There's Nothing Safe
2. Silent Kids - Dinosaurs Turn Into Birds
3. Slim Cessna's Auto Club - Cipher
Album that could've been on this list if the dipshit publicist had
actually sent it to me when the band asked them to: Pidgeon
- Might as Well Go Eat Worms
L. Keane - Music Writer
1. Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns
2. Dean & Britta - L'Avventura
3. Mark Geary - Opium
4. Charlatans UK - You Cross My Path
5. Luka Bloom - Eleven Songs
6. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
7. Rob Dickinson - Fresh Wine For The Horses (re-release)
8. Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking
9. Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious
10. Beck - Modern Guilt
Danny R. Phillips - Quasi-Music Columnist
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
Firewater - The Golden Hour
The Dirtbombs - We Have You Surrounded
The Architects - Vice
The Breeders - Mountain Battles
The Gits - Best of The Gits
Charlie Pickett - Bar Band Americanus: The Best of Charlie
The Black Keys - Live at The Crystal Ballroom (DVD)
Dillinger Four - CIVILWAR
Alkaline Trio - Agony and Irony
Ha Ha Tonka - Buckle of The Bible Belt
The Scams - Noisez, Booze and Tattooz
Metallica - Master of Puppets (Vinyl Re-issue)
Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
Kate Nash - Made of Bricks
Dan Warren - Overseas Music Writer
1. Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2
2. Colin Meloy - Colin Meloy Sings Live!
3. Jonathan Richman - Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild
4. Hello Saferide - More Modern Short Stories From Hello
5. Jack Johnson - Sleep Through The Static
6. Andy Mullen - The Toenail Jar
7. They Might Be Giants - Here Come The 123s
8. Pelle Carlberg - The Lilac Time
9. Ingrid Michaelson - Be OK
10. Weezer - Weezer (Red Album)
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