Top 5 albums of 2008

As expected, 2008 wasn't a great year for music. 2007 was just the right mix of established and new acts releasing good music, and 08 was just all the leftovers. So unlike 07 when I had too many albums to choose from, this time I had too few, and even fewer legitimate options. I found many of the albums to be flawed and others just ok. almost all of the new stuff I heard I didn't find all that interesting. Too much bad singing and bad 80s techno ripoffs. But there were some bright spots, and hopefully there will be a whole lot more in 09. 

5. Kings of Leon- Only By the Night: when I heard that Kings of Leon was going to release an album so soon after the last one, I was worried that it wasn't going to be very good. Some bands can release albums in quick succession and keep the quality at a high level, and others can't. I think this album shows some growth from Because of the TImes, but there aren't any really great songs on it like with the previous album (see: "Arizona"). It's more of a consistent sounding record- nothing is great but nothing is bad. I think they're easily the best mainstream American band right now, but Americans are too stupid to realize it.

Favorite Songs: 17, Sex on Fire, Closer

4. Beck- Modern Guilt: better than The Information and Guero, this album is a nice mix of Beck's "crazy" stuff and more mellow "sad bastard" stuff that I have ignored. It feels more mature without losing what makes Beck so interesting. I'll be interested to see where he goes after this.

Favorite Songs: Youthless, Modern Guilt, Gamma Ray

3. Duffy- Rockferry: after hearing a few of the songs from this album, I couldn't quite put my finger on the appropriate comparison until I saw Duffy compared to Dusty Springfield, then it was like a lightbulb went off. The 60s sounds on the album are modernized nicely and work well with Duffy's voice. And it's always nice to see a mainstream album where the hit single isn't the best song on the album.

Favorite Songs: Rockferry, Stepping Stone, Hanging on Too Long

2. Paddy Casey- Addicted to Company Pt. 1: I would call this the surprise album of the year because I really had no idea it was coming out. I was a big fan of Paddy Casey's first album, but when his second album was never released in the US, I kinda forgot about him. The label marketed this album as his debut for some reason, and the first single was actually a song from his real debut album. Label idiocy aside, this album is really good in a quiet kind of way. There aren't any songs that really jump out and grab you instantly, but all the songs are good, and the subtle mix of genres is interesting.

Favorite Songs: Refugee, U'll Get By, City

1b. Nikka Costa- Pebble to a Pearl: easily my most played album of the year, it's one of those albums where your favorite songs change every time you listen to it. What I enjoyed most about this album were the variety of styles throughout. You get 70s funk, acid jazz, 90s r&b, blues, 60s soul...a little bit of everything, and it's all done well. It feels experimental in comparison to her older albums, but at the same time it's very comfortable and natural. An easy pick for #1.

Favorite Songs
: Keep Pushin, Pebble to a Pearl, Keep Wanting More

1a. Radiohead- In Rainbows: last year I said that if 08 sucked, In Rainbows would be on my top 10 5 list. And since it's far better than anything that came out this year, it gets to be #1. I'd also like to note that hearing In Rainbows live has basically ruined almost every other Radiohead album for me. Way to go guys.

Favorite Songs: Nude, House of Cards, Videotape

Partially Honorable Mention:

Gnarls Barkley- The Odd Couple: while the album as a whole is only so-so, "Neighbors", "A Little Better", and "Who's Gonna Save My Soul", are all very very good songs that I enjoyed a lot.

Dishonorable Mention:

David Usher- Wake Up and Say Goodbye: I have to admit, I haven't actually heard the full album, but from what I have heard, it's Morning Orbit 2.0, and since Morning Orbit is hands down his weakest album, this doesn't bode well.

Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend: go away, please.

Looking forward to in 2009: Emm Gryner x2, Neko Case, Cursive, David Usher (acoustic album), John Vanderslice, PJ Harvey