Sunday, December 28, 2008

Favorite Albums of 2008

So I'm officially sick of "Best Albums of 2008" lists. I think I've read one to many to care about them anymore at this point. A couple weeks ago I posted about Stereo Subversion unveiling their list. But even before that, list were rolling in from every magazine and blog site across the interweb. There's Spin, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, StereoGum, and Prefix among many others. Even my fellow Austin bloggers got into the act with ultra8201, Austin Town Hall, and Cannibal Cheerleader all offering up their own opinions as to what were the best releases of the year. And what is to be learned by looking at all these list? Well for one, it's pretty apparent that most critics and bloggers listen to all the same music. You'll see Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, Deerhunter, Crystal Castles, and (for reasons that are totally lost on me) Lil Wayne. Cream of the crop or products of the great hype machine?

Either way, because it's customary to do so, I give you my favorite albums of 2008. And I'm stressing the word favorite as these are the albums that through the year found permanent places in my personal heavy rotation. Beginning with #1...

The combination of Beck and Danger Mouse is a match made in heaven. This ranks among Beck's most lyrically revenant as he touches on everything from global warming ("Gamma Ray"), to government conspiracy ("Chemtrails"), to spirituality ("Walls"). All the while we are treated to Danger Mouse's most mesmerizing production. There was nothing not great about Modern Guilt.

It took 11 years for Porishead to follow-up their self-titled masterpiece, and they did not disappoint. Filled with everything that makes Portishead who they are, it also marked a giant step toward a more progressive sound as they explored new territory with instrumentation and music making in general. Even if they never release a forth, this album solidifies the band as one of the most important groups in modern music history.

Dan Auerbach's pint-sized protégée was a huge surprise in 2008. Her first full-length album contained more heartbreak and emotion than all the other albums on this list combined. Not since Fiona Apple's debut at 19-years-old has a young songwriter created such mature songs. Read my full review on

No band in 2008 were as cool as The Kills. Midnight Boom was the album these two were born to make. It was hip, stylistic, fun, and most important rockin'. Even with a electronic drum machine, this album is pure punk rock. Read my full review here.

If Sean Connery’s James Bond started an indie band and recorded an album, it would probably sound a lot like this. A bit of indie rock noir, this album could be the soundtrack to a 60's spy movie. It's like nothing else I've ever heard before and a great find in 2008.

With the economy in further turmoil and hometown Philadelphia’s crime rate rocketing to record levels, The Roots pick up where 2006’s Game Theory left off. Rising Down continues with a harder street edge, almost completely abandoning the “organic hip-hop jazz” label of their earlier days. A time will come when The Roots' latest isn't the best hip-hop album of the year; but thankfully I don't see that day coming anytime soon.

Chan Marshall once again delivers a superb collection of covers. Backed by her Dirty Delta Blues Band she created an album that was a nod to yesteryear and a leap forward for her own life. The true gems are found on the Deluxe Edition where she serenades in spanish on "Angelito's Negros" and souls-out some Hot Boyz on "I Feel" (yes, Cat Power covers Lil Wayne).

Ms. Lewis finally stands alone on an album without the assistance of Rilo Kiley or The Watson Twins. The result is a very musically diverse effort where she delivers some of the strongest material of her career. Lewis is only getting stronger with each release.

Danger Mouse produces another one of my favorites from 2008. The Black Keys deliver a funky, bluesy, and soulful album choke-full of goodness that gets better with repeated listening. The closing duet with Dan Auerbach and Jessica Lea Mayfield is outstanding.

A beginning to end high-energy album that will have you singing ooohhh's, aaahhh's, and whoa's. Punk meets doo-wop as Son & Daughters give their fullest album to date. Read my full review on

What can be say about this album that hasn't already been said. Probably nothing. That it even was released was in itself an accomplishment. The fact that it was actually good, a better one. Read my full review on

Jack White’s other band unfortunately will always be labeled as only half as exciting as The White Stripes. But even half as good as The Stripes still beats a lot of music released today. The Raconteurs are now more than just a side project. The closing track "Carolina Dreams" is one of the best of White's career and gives me the chills every time I hear it.

This album shouldn't exist. Actors are not supposed to actually succeed when they try to make the jump to music. But hollywood sweetheart Zooey Deschanel became an indie-rock darling when she joined forces with M.Ward to release their debut album which garnered tons of critical praise. How can you not smile when listening to this?

While his Chi-town partner in crime was busy fiddling around with an auto-tuner, Common enlisted the services of The Neptunes to produce his ode to early 80’s era techenotronic hip-hop (à la Afrika Bambaataa). A huge departure from his last two albums, Common does one for the party crowd and what fun it is.

Trading in his undeniable lyricist skill for a venture into audio-tuned R&B, America’s most outspoken college dropout transforms into Kanye 3000 to create his The Love Below. But putting aside the precedence, 808s & Heartbreak is able to break boundaries and be an impressive departure from traditional hip-hop. Urban music needs more creative-minded artists like Kanye West who are willing to shoot the dice on an album.

The Rest of the Best (in no particular order)

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