I’ve been compiling this list for god knows how long, and since there is exactly one day left of 2008, I figure I should get my butt in gear and post it. This is a list of my 15 top favorite albums from 2008, a year filled with some really amazing records. This list actually started out as 10, and then 12, and finally ended at 15. I feel satisfied with these 15, and if I had to remember 2008 by only these albums, I certainly wouldn’t be sad.
With that being said, here are my picks, in alphabetical order:
Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago
For Emma by Bon Iver
Bon Iver killed it this year, not only releasing a stellar album made up of a mixture of soft tender moments and loud banging drums, but by also putting on one of, if not the very best, shows of 2008. This was an album that I recommended to a good number of people, all of which seemed to love it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve met a person who doesn’t love this album.
They have a new EP coming out January 19/20th (depending on where you are) called Blood Bank which is stunning, and I highly suggest snagging it when it drops. It’s an immense step in the already incredible musical sound of one of the best bands of 2008.
Cut Copy | In Ghost Colours
Out There On the Ice by Cut Copy
For me, the danciest album of the year was easily Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours. Where MGMT’s album definitely started out good in the beginning, it ended pretty weakly, But In Ghost Colours is one long, continuous jam of perfect pop songs, never stopping or stuttering in it’s entire 50 minutes. I also love the quiet, dreamy moments they put into the record as well, something that allows you to catch your breath for a moment.
I think one of the biggest reasons for the albums cohesion was Mr. Tim Goldsworthy’s hand in producing the album, giving the guys the structure they needed to make something really spectacular.
Department of Eagles | In Ear Park
No One Does It Like You by Department of Eagles
In Ear Park was one of those albums that actually surprised me when I first heard it. I thought the Department of Eagles’ last album, The Cold Nose, was okay, not the best ever. But because of Daniel Rossen’s involvement in Grizzly Bear, I had to hear it, especially if it was anything like the new GB song, While You Wait For the Others.
Thankfully In Ear Park was a major gem, filled with lots of beautiful choruses, dark guitar melodies, and even a Van Dyke Parks tribute. The album also featured No One Does It Like You, which is definitely one of my favorite songs of the year.
Earlimart | Hymn & Her
Face Down in the Right Town by Earlimart
Recorded in less than a year, Earlimart released Hymn & Her, an album that is simpl and beautiful. The band was paired down to only Ariana Murray and Aaron Espinoza, as referenced by the title of the album, and featured songs about love and loss, themes which have always been consistent to the band. But what made this album one of my favorites of the year was how well the album flowed together and how the two of them have such a great connection when it comes to writing music.
I’m hoping they continue suit and release another album out of the blue next year, just so I can be ecstatically surprised yet again.
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes
Blue Ridge Mountains by Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes self titled debut album was pretty much an instant hit, so I don’t think there’s a lot to say that hasn’t been said. I know for me personally it was an album that reminded me of older times, somewhere between rock, countryn and folk music, but there really wasn’t anything to compare it to. Robin Pecknold’s vocals sounded a bit like the dude from My Morning Jacket, but the similarities really stopped there. There’s just something really powerful about this album, which I think Bon Iver’s album falls into as well. They have this spirit and energy that their music portrays that hasn’t been seen in a long while.
Before I wrote this I decided to stop by their Myspace blog, and I noticed that they dropped the name of their next album, which is going to be: FORD AUTOMOTIVE PRESENTS FLEET FOXES II: TIDES OF THE UNDERDEMON, SERMON 3:16. That’s genius if I’ve ever seen it.
French Kicks | Swimming
Carried Away by French Kicks
I remember seeing the French Kicks open up for Hot Hot Heat when I was like 20, but I had never listened to them after that. But then I started hearing good things about their album Swimming, and whaddya’ know, it’s on my list of favorite albums. This album pretty much sums up the summer for me, like it is THE perfect summer album. There’s something about it being hot out, driving around with all the windows down and letting this album wash over me.
My one beef is that I got to see them live, and honestly, it was one of the worst concerts I’ve ever been to. I don’t like to broadcast negative things, but I ended up leaving the concert early because it was that sad, like they had no energy to perform or something. It’s too bad I didn’t get to see my favorite summer album performed excellently.
Little Joy | Little Joy
Don’t Watch Me Dancing by Little Joy
Little Joy was one of those bands that I always meant to write about but I never got around to it. And it’s funny, because I could almost say that this was my hands down favorite album of the year… but I won’t. The band is made up of Fab Moretti from The Strokes, the Devendra-related Rodrigo Amarante, and the amazing Binki Shapiro. Together they started Little Joy, which is named after the dive bar here in Echo Park, and started making timeless music that I have a hard time identifying.
It has moments where it sounds somewhat Strokes-esque, but then there are songs where Binki sings, and you feel like your heart is going to melt in your chest. I honestly listened to nothing but this album for an entire week, it’s an absolutely magical album that everyone should own.
Lykke Li | Youth Novels
Breaking It Up by Lykke Li
This gem of an album was actually suggested to me by my friend Alex, the only other time I had heard of Lykke Li was Josh Spears’ constant tweeting about how in love he was with her, haha… But yeah, Youth Novels is amazing on so many levels. First there’s her voice, which is breathy and almost sensual in a way. Then there’s the music itself, which is soooo well produced, it’s a joke. Every instrument is perfectly mixed together, giving that Swedish sound such a full body.
I also love the album artwork, which is something I haven’t mentioned until now. It’s rad to see someone new on the music scene coming out swinging with something that’s visually interesting. I see a bright future ahead of Ms. Li.
Megapuss | Surfing
To The Love Within by Megapuss
I feel like I lucked into loving Megapuss, even if that doesn’t make much sense. If I hadn’t accidentally seen them perform live at The Hammer Museum, I may never have fallen so deeply in love. Megapuss is one of those odd bird bands that’s definitely not for everyone, but I have a serious boner for Devendra Banhart, so having him make his own fucked up Beach Boys record is like heaven.
I honestly can’t wait for next summer to bust this out again, when it’s all hot and sweaty out and I need something to clear my mind. I just hope they decide to make another record eventually, and that this isn’t the one and only gem by the lovable boys in Megapuss.
Pale Young Gentlemen | Black Forest
Our History by Pale Young Gentlemen
My personal style as of lately has been influenced by two concepts, “old-timey” and “masculine.” When I listen to Pale Young Gentlemen’s album Black Forest (tra la la) I totally think of those ideas. I posted about these guys not too long ago, but this was an album that totally stuck with me, mostly because they sound like they’re from another time. I mainly attribute this to the strings and guitar plucking, but having songs named Coal/Ivory and Kettle Drum help as well.
I would love to see them play in concert, hopefully they’ll swing by LA at some point in 2009. I need some epic live string action!
She & Him | Volume One
This Is Not A Test by She & Him
My love for She & Him came this summer after I saw The Go-Getter, anxiously awaiting the credits to roll by so I could see who made the music. Technically it was mostly M. Ward, but that led me to She & Him, and my love affair with their album. With such a diverse arrangement of songs, anywhere from folk, to 60′s pop, the album had it all.
I also really love that Zooey Deschanel is not only beautiful, but that she also wrote most of the songs. M. Ward, I’m sure, had his amazingly little crafty fingers in there, producing the record to a genius state, but I feel like they’re both damn talented people. Paste Magazine voted Volume One as their record of the year, and in an interview M. Ward states, “Zooey has about a gazillion brand new awesome songs. All we know about Volume Two is that it’s going to be twice as good as Volume One.” Rock on.
Sigur RÃ³s | MeÃ° suÃ° Ã eyrum viÃ° spilum endalaust
ViÃ° Spilum Endalaust by Sigur RÃ³s
MeÃ° suÃ° Ã eyrum viÃ° spilum endalaust, which means ‘With Buzzing in Our Ears We Play Endlessly’, was an album that really surprised me with it’s freshness. With previous albums, Sigur RÃ³s has often been quite morose, and sometimes downright depressing, no matter how beautiful the strings have have been. But with this album they took a decidedly cheerier outlook on things, and made an almost happy album filled with more guitars than strings.
The overall effect is brilliant, especially the first song Gobbledigook, which always brings such a huge smile to my face, like much of the album does. I also think it’s cool that the last song, All Alright, is the first song JÃ³nsi has ever sung entirely in English. Definitely something everyone should own, especially if you’ve been turned off by Sigur RÃ³s in the past.
These New Puritans | Beat Pyramid
Navigate-Colours by These New Puritans
I came across These New Puritans after reading about how Hedi Slimane discovered them and had them create music for his Dior show a year or so ago. Now typically, this is not my kind of music. I’m really not a fan of Brit rock anymore, like Razorlight or Kaiser Chiefs, but for some reason TNP album Beat Pyramid totally stood out for me. I listen to this album a lot when I’m designing, there’s something about the frantic drum beats and off kilter electronic music, as well as Jack Barnett’s screechy, almost preachy voice.
I’m not sure this one is for everyone, but it definitely stood out in my mind as something I enjoyed a whole lot, so hopefully some people will be turned on to them. I’m curious to see what their next album might sound like, hopefully it’s just as frantically creative as this one is.
Vampire Weekend | Vampire Weekend
The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance by Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend is another one of those duh albums, which is universally accepted as one of the best albums of 2008. I was lucky enough to see Vampire Weekend perform at Amoeba Records in February, and they were really, really great. I suppose they’re “played out” at this point, but when this first came out it blew my mind.
By mixing pieces of Paul Simon and a kind of Afro sound, these 4 white guys from the Massachusetts upped the creative bar with what was needed to make an album really stand out. I think another big part of their success is the songwriting abilities of Ezra Koenig, who made the songs so damn fun to sing along to, indie kids and drunk frat dudes alike. They’re also snappy dressers as well, which obviously didn’t hurt either!
The Walkmen | You & Me
Canadian Girl by The Walkmen
This last album is actually kind of new to me, but made such an impact that I had to put it on the list. The Walkmen were never really one of my favorite bands, The Rat was the one song I knew, but I kept hearing good things about their newest album You & Me, so I gave it a listen, and sure enough I loved it. There’s something about the way the instruments are layered with Hamilton Leithauser vocals. A lot of the songs remind me of an old 70′s sound, almost like something The Doors might have done. That’s not the best description, but it’s as close as I can get to it.
It’s a very retro feeling album for sure, but also kind of timeless as well, like many of the albums on this list. I feel like that was something that was prevalent this year, making music that wasn’t necessarily of the hear and now, but making music that sounds like it could be from many different eras. I think The Walkmen totally nailed it on this one, and hopefully they’ll get it right again on their next release.
I hope you all enjoyed my epic list! It was fun to put together, and I think it really accurately reflects the music I enjoyed the most this year. I’d say overall this year was really amazing, definitely just as good as last years… though this list is a bit more complete then the one I made last year. Here’s to another year of amazing music!