At the end of each year I delight in reading a ton of “best albums of the year” lists on blogs and in magazines to find everything that I’ve missed over the year. I think I listened to quite a bit over the last 11 and a half months, so I’ve decided to publish my own best of 2008 this time around. It was a hard to choose, but I finally got it down to 20.
20 | Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto
I’m starting off my top 20 list with some fauve British guitars. I’ve been following Wild Beasts from their early EPs and singles and what’s great is that they didn’t lose their raw sound on their debut album, Limbo, Panto. Angular guitars, falsetto vocals, and unconventional percussion make this a weird but rewarding listen. Matisse would be proud.
19 | Bloc Party – Intimacy
I miss Silent Alarm era Bloc Party, but will always welcome anything they release. If Weekend in the City was a jump, this is a complete departure from their early sound. Here they’ve stuck to their love of post-punk, but have incorporated more electronic elements and weird sound effects (i.e. a drill in your right ear) than ever before. Intimacy finds them trying new things, and once they master them, the sound is going to blow our minds.
18 | Fleet Foxes – s/t
One of the most acclaimed albums of the year, the self-titled debut LP from Fleet Foxes has catapulted the Seattle five piece from obscurity to superstardom. Every time I listen to it, I’m reminded of so many of my favourite bands. Put simply, this album is the psychedelia of Miracle Fortress, the orchestration of Arcade Fire, and the earthy feel of Beirut.
17 | She & Him – Volume One
Who knew Zooey Deschanel could sing? Her songs paired up with the guitar work and production skills of M. Ward have made Volume One one of the more enjoyable listens this year. They’ve perfected a classic pop sound with a country tinge. Any of these songs could have been hits for America or Albert Hammond (Sr.).
16 | The Kills – Midnight Boom
I don’t know if punk still exists in 2008, but if there’s one example it may be The Kills. These guys have the attitude down. They have the anger too, but instead they make slow, calculated garage rock. When the repression breaks out into distortion and feedback, magic happens.
15 | The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed
Mike Skinner hasn’t had an album on which every song is great since 2001’s Original Pirate Material, but I’ve always found songs to love on each of his albums. This one is no different with my favourites being “Everything Is Borrowed,” “On the Edge of a Cliff” and “I Love You (More Than You Like Me).”
14 | Mystery Jets – Twenty One
At first I didn’t like the transformation of Mystery Jets from their first album Making Dens to their sophomore release. Yet another band who had sold out by trading in a tight guitar sound for slick pop production. But after listening to this enough, it had me convinced that the change was an improvement. This is great radio-friendly stuff, which will have you singing along by the second listen.
13 | The Organ – Thieves EP
It was a sad day when The Organ announced that they would be breaking up in late 2006. Even sadder was when I saw this EP and mistakingly thought they had reunited. They haven’t, but at least now the world has six more songs unreleased songs from the band that left us too soon.
12 | DeVotchKa – A Mad & Faithful Telling
I first heard DeVotchKa’s “How It Ends” and “You Love Me” on the Everything Is Illuminated and Little Miss Sunshine soundtracks. Since then they’ve mastered their hybrid sound of gypsy folk with punk, especially on “Transliterator” which is one of my 2008 favourites. I recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of Beirut or Gogol Bordello.
11 | The Lodger – Life Is Sweet
Life Is Sweet features more of the same sweet guitar melodies that made The Lodger’s debut album Grown Ups one of last year’s best albums. What’s more, they even decided to upgrade their indie pop sound on a few tracks with a raucaus dance beat a la Orange Juice.