Friday, January 2, 2009

2008, A Retrospective (Part 2)

Originally posted at on December 30th, 2008

The second half of my two-part "salute" to 2008 looks at the music that came out in the last year. Granted, I ran out of time and didn't have an opportunity to listen to several albums that have been on several other critics' best-of lists (David Byrne and Brian Eno's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today and Oracular Spectacular by MGMT, for starters), but this list stands as a fair assembledge of the sounds I enjoyed this last calendar year:

1. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend. A fun, infectuous record from four New York City college kids who treat Paul Simon's Graceland like a holy document. As a debut release, it's not the game-changer that The Strokes' Is This It was supposed to be seven years ago, but it's an awfully strong first impression.
2. Dear Science, TV on the Radio. Hands down the best album by an established band in '08, this delicious cornucopia of indie-rock, electronica, and R&B is nimble, polished, and loaded with passion.
3. In the Future, Black Mountain.
4. Shake, Rattle, and Roll!, Foxboro Hot Tubs.
5. Stay Positive, The Hold Steady.
6. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros. The title translates to "With Buzzing in Our Ears We Play Endlessly" ...and even you wish it wouldn't stop. Quite possibly the most accessible Icelandic post-rock album ever made.
7. The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot.
8. Re-arrange Us, Mates of State.
9. Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay.
10. Third, Portishead.

Honorable Mentions: Do You Like Rock Music?, British Sea Power; One Day as a Lion (EP), One Day as a Lion; Harps & Angels, Randy Newman; This Gift, Sons & Daughters.

Best Reissue: Pacific Ocean Blue, Dennis Wilson. Released with surprisingly little fanfare in 1977, the belated compact disc debut of the first Beach Boys solo album is an underrated, melancholy gem.

My ten favorite songs (not including songs that were on the aforementioned discs):

"Sex on Fire," Kings of Leon
"Re-education (Through Labor)," Rise Against
"You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie," The Submarines
"One Pure Thought," Hot Chip
"Chasing Pavements," Adele
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," Beyonce
"Love Hurts," Incubus*
"Gamma Ray," Beck
"Morning is My Destination," Tift Merritt
"White Winter Hymnal," Fleet Foxes

My favorite music videos of 2008:

1. "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?," She & Him. Old school country-rock twang meets Edward Gorey-esque gallows humor in this cute-meets-macabre clip.
2. "I Will Possess Your Heart," Death Cab for Cutie. A young woman travels the world in a search for self. I'm not giving away much else.
3. "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?," Gnarls Barkley. Warning: this video is not for the faint of heart... literally.
4. "Heartless," Kanye West. Probably the best use of rotoscoping since "American Pop."
5. "Thing for Me," Metronomy. I had to include one indie-rock clip, just to be kosher with the cool kids. Just follow the bouncing ball...

My three least favorite albums of the last year:

1. Shwayze, Shwayze. Lightweight Jason Mraz-meets-Lupe Fiasco hip-hop-pop that obsesses with the lily-white, rich SoCal kids you only see on "The Hills" with much mellow menace that it borders on narcissism.
2. One of the Guys, Katy Perry. Katy, you're a smokin' hot chick and everything, but you're recorded some of the most annoying music in recent memory. Given your past status as a Christian-pop singer, it seems like the music industry turned you into a bendable, posable, decidedly agnostic mold of clay. Don't fall prey before they spit you out.
3. Shine Through It, Terrence Howard. The latest in a long line of albums where a proven movie star cuts an album that is clearly more vanity than statement. Not godawful, just very bland.

Worst Song: "All Summer Long," Kid Rock. This dual rehash of one great '70s song ("Werewolves of London") and one that gets more credit than it deserves ("Sweet Home Alabama"), combined with Bob Ritchie's figmented recollection of a white trash beach trip circa 1989, adds up to probably the most irritating radio single of the summer. And yes, that includes "No Handlebars."

*Yes, I do realize that song was originally released in 2006, but it didn't garner any radio play until Fall '08.

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