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Top 10 Albums of 2008-Scott's List (Revised edition)
2008-12-30 21:54
by Scott Long

Update.  I just discovered a new release this year from a band named Frightened Rabbit.  Another great Scottish band that I think will have some staying power.  Put them at number 3 on my list.  Bump everybody down one.   Uh, wait a second....another revision.  Bump Girl Talk up to number 4, as that record is just too much fun to groove to.  I wouldn't be surprised if in a couple of years, Girl Talk will end up being the record I listened to the most in 2008.  Now, go back to your NYE festivities. 

2008 will be an extremely forgettable year in music.  In a decade where making a great album seems to be secondary, this past year was the worst.  As Will mentioned, though, the depth wasn't bad, just nothing that really wowed me.  

Before I put up my list, let me offer up this guidepost to how I put together my list.  While I appreciate music that challenges me, first and foremost, I'm seeking out things that sound good to my ears.  I need me some hooks.  Also, I try to listen with the notion of will the music hold up in 5 or 10 years.  I think most of this stuff will.  As you can tell from my list, it is not exactly Top 40 radio, but it isn't just made up of what will give me hipster status.  

Finally, I am not that interested in writing up long descriptions, as instead, I have just given you a link to what I think will get you interested in what I believe is some tasty tune-age.  

1. REM- Accelerate

When I bought this, I thought the first 3 songs were as good as anything I had heard kick off any CD since American Idiot.  I wasn't as crazy about the rest of it, but over time, it started to grow on me.  A great comeback for America's greatest rock and roll band.  

2. Vampire Weekend

This reminds me of my college radio station back in the 80's.  Like many of the white kids then who were playing around with ska like the Police, English Beat, etc., they might lack authentic street cred, but they do happy afropop as well as I've heard in a long time.  

3.  She and Him- Volume One

Actress Zooey Deschanel has always had a not of this generation feel to her performances in movies, now she brings that voice to music.  Great 60's Spector-like sound.  

4. Gabe Dixon Band

I'm a sucker for a piano-based rock band, so when I was really disappointed by Ben Fold's newest, I didn't figure I would find my fill-in.  Then I stumbled upon this group, led by a front-man with a Billy Joel-sounding voice, but with some Dr. John-like boogie when tickling the keys.  

5. Fall-Out Boy- Folie A Deux

They really never were emo, but more a great power-pop band.  While not as great as their past release, this one proves that despite seeming like a total wanker, Pete Wentz is talented wanker.  Wentzer?  Patrick Stump has as versatile of a pop voice as there is in music today.

6. Ranconteurs- Consolers of the Lonely

The most important rock artist of this decade is Jack White, as everything he has put out has been of high-quality.  While the first release of this band was dominated by White, Brendan Benson brings stuff here that raises his game to Jack's level.  

7. The Hush Sound- Goodbye Blues

One of the most underrated groups in music, this is the 3rd quality release in a row for the Chicago-based duo.  Music-hall meets 70's pop meets indie rock....


8. The Virgins

Snotty, New York new-wave kids who I'm sure I would probably hate, if I met them.  Having said that, their influences are seductive to me, with Elvis Costello, the falsetto late 70's Stones, and some Ray Davies thrown-in.  The music can be like if the Strokes met up with Fun Boy 3.  The lyrics are fairly silly, but the music grooves.

9. Gnarls Barkley- The Odd Couple

While not on the level as their original offering in 2006, I can't turn my back on the original talents of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse.  Who's Gonna Save My Soul was the best video of this year.  

10. Girl Talk

Most hip-hop music this decade has left me wanting, but the master mashup's of DJ Greg Gilis has helped me better understand the charms of some of the most successful rappers of today.  

11. Death Cab for Cutie- Narrow Stairs
12. Hold Steady- Sequestered in Memphis
13. Snow Patrol- "A Hundred Million Suns"
14. MGMT- Oracular Spectacular
15. The Toadies- No Deliverance

16. Metallica- Death Magnetic
17. Eagles of Death Metal- Heart On
18. Shinedown- The Sound of Madness
19. Jonatha Brooke- The Works
20. Fleet Foxes

Notes on the second 10.  Death Cab, Hold Steady, and Snow Patrol have done better work in the past, but each has it's moments.  Snow Patrol's Crack the Shutters is the kind of song Prince would write if he was Scottish. MGMT had 2 of the best singles of this 2008.  I describe them as Flaming Lips, if LCD Soundstystem had joined them in the studio.
The Toadies are one of those bands that must have a self-destructive instinct because they rock like few can.  The place between Guns and Roses and grunge.                       

 I liked St. Anger a lot better than most, but it was cool that Metallica decided to make a more back to roots record with Rick Rubin.  Some great And Justice for All-type moments.
In the world where Nickleback sells millions, I don't get why Shinedown isn't the biggest of all these bands. They can go from Metallica-like slam to Modern rock-pop like no one else.  Lead singer Brent Smith is a big influence for Chris Daughtry. I don't consider that a negative. 
EODM are one of my favs.  It is mindless, sexy, T. Rex-inspired rock. They have had better records, but I still think they belong in the Top 20 of 2008.
Jonatha Brooke was given the opportunity to follow in Wilco/Billy Bragg's footsteps in interpreting Woody Guthrie's words. There is some beautiful stuff here and her duets with Keb Mo and Glen Phillips are standouts.  
There was no more beautiful record in 2008 than the celestial sounds of Fleet Foxes.  It is like hearing Brian Wilson songs done by a gothic church choir.  It does make me feel sleepy, though, so no driving at night to them.

2008-12-20 16:59:17
1.   overkill94
Pretty good-looking list you got there Scott! I've always assumed Fall Out Boy sucked, but if both you and Will have them on your list then I might just have to check them out.

Here's my personal top 10:
1. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

Took a while to sink in, but once it did it became quite the listen. A continuing progression in their sound has seen them eschew the overlong slow jams while still retaining their southern charm.

top tracks: "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2", "Librarian", "Smokin' from Shootin'"

2. Vampire Weekend - S/T

Seems like it came out forever ago, but it has held up quite well in the 11 months since it came out. The quality starts to suffer a bit toward the end of the album, but there are still some extremely enjoyable songs on here. One bummer is that they left one of the best songs from the demo off the official release ("Boston").

top tracks: "Mansard Roof", "A-Punk", "M79"

3. Evangelicals - The Evening Descends

The most surprising album of the year comes from these Oklahoman boys. There's a cheesy horror movie theme permeating throughout which is sometimes goofy but for the most part effective. Gimmicks aside, this is quality indie rock with plenty of hooks.

top tracks: "Skeleton Man", "Bellawood", "Midnight Vignette"

4. Fleet Foxes - S/T

Being intrigued by the Band of Horses and MMJ comparisons, I checked out the debut from these Seattle boys. There are plenty of beautiful pastoral harmonies to be had - especially in the vocal department - but a few boring tracks toward the end keep this from the top.

top tracks: "White Winter Hymnal", "Ragged Wood", "He Doesn't Know Why"

5. The Walkmen - You and Me

An interesting album due to the murky production throughout and a general gritty vibe not seen on their previous three discs. It makes for a great listen, but only when you're in the right move. Basically, this is one of the last albums I'd put on at a party.

top tracks: "In the New Year", "Red Moon", "Canadian Girl"

6. She and Him - Vol. 1

The melodies may be syrupy sweet and the lyrics hackneyed, but damn is this a fun set of songs. Zooey's singing voice is as lovely as she is and the choruses are generally impossible to keep out of your head.

top tracks: "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here", "I Was Made for You", "Sentimental Heart"

7. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

This is about as close to electronica as it gets for me (which is why Pitchfork's year-end list pissed me off so much). It rocked me pretty hard at first and seemed destined for a top-5 spot, but a few too many songs suffer from RCS (repetitive chorus syndrome).

top tracks: "Time to Pretend", "Weekend Wars", "Kids"

8. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams

Much more consistent in overall quality than their previous effort (Destroyer's Rubies) but not up to par with some of the finer moments on said album. A few too many of the songs just kind of cruise by without making much of an impact.

top tracks: "Dark Leaves from a Thread", "Blue Flower-Blue Flame", "My Favorite Year"

9. The Fratellis - Here We Stand

Though it was a pretty big disappointment in my eyes compared to their debut (which was my #1 from last year), Here We Stand is still a good listen. Instead of letting the songs flow naturally like on the debut, it seems they tried too hard to make hit songs.

top tracks: "Mistress Mabel", "A Heady Tale", "Look Out Sunshine"

10. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

After getting tons of hype I finally decided to check this album out...and thought it was boring. Eventually I grew to like it for what it is - stripped-down acoustic rock with some nice production touches.

top tracks: "Flume", "For Emma", "Skinny Love"

Honorable mention (and some of these might end up in my eventual top 10 with more listens):
The Kooks - Konk
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
Mason Jennings - In the Ever
Kings of Leon - Only by the Night
Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Devotchka - A Mad and Faithful Telling
Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
The Black Keys - Attack and Release

2008-12-20 17:24:21
2.   Scott Long
Nice list, Overkill. It is kind of like a mix of what Will and I have, without the pop touches that Will and I always include. The Evangelicals I will have to check out. Thanks for the heads up.

For those of you that are interested, I did like this year's model of TV on the Radio better than Cookie Mountain, but I just don't get the mad props. (Spin and RS both made it their top choice.) I think the New York bias is strongly in effect. I strongly suspect that practically no one will be listening to them in 10 years.

2008-12-20 21:00:45
3.   overkill94
2 Thanks Scott, I realize I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to music by avoiding the poppier bands, but at least I'm not as snobby as Pitchfork!

I feel the same way about TVotR as you do. Dear Science is better than Return to Cookie Mountain, but still just not that enjoyable to listen to. I realize they're doing some interesting stuff, but there's just not enough quality melodies to warrant repeated listens.

2008-12-21 17:25:32
4.   TFD
Hey all.....well at the risk of being the total contrarian here, but seemingly sucking-up to the elitist/critic crowd, the two CDs I liked best this year were the aforementioned TVOR - Dear Science, and Portishead - Third. As to TVOR, I can honestly say, and with texts to Will to prove it, I had no idea they were listed at #1 on Spin & RS. Pareles loving them this weekend was totally predictable. Longtime readers will know that I'm just not that hung up in the 'hookiness' of music. To me the sense that the music breaks new ground, while at same time leading you in a place that you can understand (see Daniel Levitin) and even expect is really the deal. (That really isn't a 'hook' in the traditional sense. Anyway....)

There's so much to write about in Dear Science, of which I could never do justice, however much like all great music sometime between the 6th and 9th time you listen to it, the endorphin rush is unmistakable.

And to the 'trendy' & 'NYC-bias'....its time to read Malcolm Gladwell. We're all products of the set of circumstances we happen to be in at the moment. NYC is the cultural and economic capital of the world; live with it. Do they get some benefit from the most-influential rock critic today loving them...sure. Does that mean they're not praiseworthy? Hardly.

Other CDs that I'd include in the Top 10 (in order):

3.) Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
4.) David Bryne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens
5.) REM - Accelerator
6.) James Hunter - The Hard Way
7.) Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson - Two Men With the Blues....Need I say more..?
8.) Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
9.) Beck - Modern Guilt
10.) Duffy - Rockferry

One strong point of disagreement with Scott...there's such a plethora of good music being made right now, it's almost impossible to keep up. The state of music couldn't be better. The future is incredibly bright.



2008-12-21 20:19:47
5.   yankee23
Has anyone encountered "The Good, the Bad, & the Queen?" Very stellar album, even by supergroup standards.
2008-12-21 20:19:55
6.   Repoz
Since I stopped doing long players about 35-years ago...

My Idiotic Indie/Undie Top 75 Songs - 2008

1 - Cineplexx - "Tiger Trap"
2 - Capstan Shafts – "3 Million Weeks of Leaving"
3 - Eddy Current Suppression Ring – "Colour Television"
4 - Women – "Black Rice"
5 - Mayer Hawthorne and the County – "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out"
6 - Wire – "25 Years Too Late"
7 - Symfoniorkestern - "Sommardepression"
8 - Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby – "First Mate Rigby"
9 – Für Amel – "Pink Eyes"
10 - Drew Danburry – "I'm Pretty Sure This Is Someone Else's Song, But I Couldn't Figure It Out So I'm Keeping It!"
11 – Julie Ocean - "#1 Song"
12 - ###### Up – "Black Albino Bones"
13 - Francois Virot – "Cascade Kisses"
14 – Withered Hand – "Hard On"
15 – The Spanish Prisoners – "Where God Does His Laundry"
16 – Gigi – "The Hundredth Time"
17 – Menahan Street Band – "Home Again"
18 – 13 Ghosts – "Beyond the Door"
19 - Meeting of Important People – "Mothers Pay More"
20 - Nouveaunoise – "To Where is Alright"
21 - Ponytail – "Beg Waves"
22 – Jay Reatard – Always Wanting More"
23 - When – "Toy Party"
24 - The Gang – "Rose Island"
25 - Army Navy – "Saints"
26 – The Dutchess and the Duke – "Reservoir Park"
27 - Brainstorm – " You Know Who You Are"
28 - Voluntary Butler Scheme – "Trading Things In"
29 – Will Currie and the Country French – "Push Pins"
30 - That Ghost – "Open Window"
31 - Diamonds – "The Waking"
32 – Soltero – "Out By the Wall"
33 - Clinic – "Free Not Free"
34 - David Karsten Daniels – "Oh, Heaven Isn't Real"
35 - Smothered in Hugs – "Blank Test"
36 - These United States – "First Sight"
37 - El Ten Eleven – "I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool"
38 - Snailhouse – "Superstitious"
39 - Blue Eyed Blacks – "The Wrong Thing"
40 – No Age – "Teen Creeps"
41 - Peter Moren – "Social Competence"
42 – Blood on the Wall – "Jukeee…Julieee…"
43 - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – "Doing All the Things That Wouldn't Make Your Parents Proud"
44 - Silver Jews – "Strange Victory, Strange Defeat"
45 - Justice of the Unicorns – "Jesus Has a Sweet Girlfriend"
46 – El Guincho – "Palmitos Park"
47 – My Little Pony – "I Don't Know"
48 - Capstan Shafts – "Eyeliner, Skywriter"
49 - Basia Bulet – "Before I Knew"
50 –Tallest Man on Earth – "The Gardener"
51 - The Weeks – "Buttons"
52 - Royal Bangs – "Cat Swallow"
53 - Erik Hallden – "If I Ever Get Married"
54 - Cineplexx – "Espiral"
55 - Rags and Feathers – "Hey You's"
56 - Alt-Ctrl-Sleep – "In the End"
57 - Andy Love – "Exit Bag"
58 – Fujiya and Miyagi – "Knickerbocker"
59 - Dan Friel – "Ghostown Pt1"
60 - Salty Pirates – "Survivalist Guide"
61 - Super Furry Animals – "Never More"
62 - Jolie Holland - "Mexico City"
63 - Pretend You're Happy – "The Other Side of the Earth"
64 - Deerhunter – "It Never Stops"
65 - The Golden Hands Before God Conducts Incredible Magic Band & The Spirits – "Communist Party"
66 - Banda de Turistas - "Todo Mio El Otono"
67 - 20 Belows – "This Boys Not Giving Up"
68 - Jay Reatard – "See Saw"
69 - Prisonshake – "Crush Me"
70 - Dirtbombs – "Sherlock Holmes"
71 - The Wedding Present – "I Lost the Monkey"
72 - Automatic Drawings – "Appalachia"
73 - Capstan Shafts – "Space Nut To Ape Length"
74 - Arms – "Kids Aflame"
75 - Jeff Dahl – "All My Favorite Ramones Are Dead"

2008-12-22 00:14:43
7.   overkill94
6 I've heard of maybe 5 of those bands
2008-12-22 11:25:30
8.   Humma Kavula
There's been no mention so far of The Baseball Project.

I realize that the album is a side project, a lark, and a minor work for all the principal members.

It's also completely enjoyable. It could have been a novelty, but instead it's a love letter to the topic that unites this site.

2008-12-22 11:52:38
9.   Scott Long
I discussed the Baseball project earlier in the year. I liked it and thought some of the lyrics were great. I would put it somewhere between 30-40 for me.

Thanks Repoz for taking the time putting up your eclectic list. I recognized just 15 of the artists and I think I'm pretty knowledgeable.

TFD's list is something I think I could have guessed, as it all fits his personality.

I suggest everyone take a listen to girltalk. you can download it for free. I paid 5 bucks so I could get it in 1 complete download, like I was at the club. Classic rock meets modern hip-hop.

2008-12-22 14:18:09
10.   TFD
Scott....Not sure if that's a compliment or a slam. Not too gritty/elitist mish-mash...right?;-)

It does say something about me that I only knew 6 off Repoz' list. wow....even more GREAT music out there!!

2008-12-22 18:21:25
11.   Scott Long
It was extremely NPRish. I listen to NPR probably more than any other station outside of Howard Stern 100, so I consider it a compliment, though I do think a Guns and Roses or Toadies or Eagles of Death Metal would be good to loosen you up. :)

Hope you have a great holiday.

2008-12-22 19:46:22
12.   TFD
"Extremely NPRish"....

Just to show I have 10 year old daughter LOVES Slash. On a ppt of her life today, and no kidding, she had Slash/GNR prominently displayed as 'likes'.

See if Robert Segal can beat that!

You too....all the best to you and yours.


2008-12-22 21:42:15
13.   MC Safety
6 Finally some Jay Reatard love. I really like what I've heard from Ponytail, too. Good on ya for the "Teen Creeps" selection, as well.
2008-12-22 21:47:56
14.   MC Safety
Oh, and GirlTalk brought out dance moves I never thought I had. Ah, 2007 Coachella memories.
2008-12-23 15:32:19
15.   Repoz
BTW...I was just blasting Meeting of Important People's – "Mothers Pay More" when my deadbeat brother-in-law walked in and asked..."What Zombies album is this on?"
2008-12-30 22:48:01
16.   underdog
I really liked Accelerate, too. So glad to have REM "back" as it were.

I'd have The Walkmen on my list for sure, too; can't stop listening to that one.

2008-12-31 11:56:08
17.   dianagramr

I second that emotion ... it was REM's best album since "Automatic" ... though "New Adventures" was pretty good too ...

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