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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. Post haste.

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 to stay.

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 music… 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 Song"

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 storytelling.

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 serenity.

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 listens.

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…x
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 amazing.

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 Pickett
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 Saferide
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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