My mp3 device was boosted on Christmas Day. A sour way to end the year, no doubt. Certainly, things could be worse. And overall, the year was very good to me. But in the moment, I pouted like a little boy who had his favorite toy taken away. Music is a lifeline to me. It travels with me wherever I go. In a world with instant portability and access to information, I was suddenly left in the cold without any clothes.
In the meantime, I’ve resorted to using a portable CD player on my daily walks with the dog. The antiquated process has given me an opportunity to listen to complete albums from start to finish; something that rarely happens with an iPod when it’s all too easy to simply hit shuffle or create a playlist. I quickly devised a list of my favorite releases of 2008 and made a point of listening to each album in full. Sure, it wasn’t as convenient, but it definitely helped me appreciate what turned out to be a fine year in music.
10. Fleet Foxes :: S/T [Sub Pop]
Released :: June 3, 2008
A soothing, intimate collection of songs best played on a long walk alone. This album provides an ample mix of ’60’s, ’70’s & modern folk rock with introspective lyrics and distant vocals.
09. The Kooks :: Konk [Astralwerks]
Released :: April 15, 2008
Playful Brit Pop in all its glory. The band tops their debut with this release, full of energetic guitars, wistful rhythms, and head-bobbing harmonies. “Shine On” is probably the best song they’ve written in their young careers.
08. Neon Neon :: Stainless Style [Lex]
Released :: March 18, 2008
The collaboration between Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and Boom Bip is reminiscent of the Postal Service. Neon Neon, however, is a more rhythmic, quirkier version. Elements of hip-hop, electronic, and ’80’s pop blend to create one of the better feel-good albums of the year. The DeLorean concept isn’t all bad either.
07. Grand Archives :: S/T [Sub Pop]
Released :: February 19, 2008
Gentle sunshine pop from former Band of Horses member, Mat Brooke. Grand Archives is a fabulous combination of beautiful muscianship and song writing. This album begs to be spun on a rainy day.
06. Walter Meego :: Voyager [Almost Gold]
Released :: May 27, 2008
One of the most anticipated albums released in a while (locally at least), the first full length from this electronic dance-pop duo does not disappoint. The spotlight shines on the production value lent by Colin Yarck, as his beats set the table for Justin Sconza’s eerie vocals. It’s the soundtrack that plays in the background at the last great party you attended.
05. Hot Chip :: Made In the Dark [EMI]
Released :: February 4, 2008
It might not top the Warning, but Made In the Dark does a nice job showcasing the strong output from these whimsical Brits. Hot Chip knows the formula that works for them, and they continue to stick with it. Perhaps the one thing that keeps them from topping lists: their best songs are almost too strong and seem to overshadow the others on the album. There are no less than 6 fantastic songs here which makes it tough not to skip directly to them.
04. The Helio Sequence :: Keep Your Eyes Ahead [Sub Pop]
Released :: January 29, 2008
Not nearly as poppy as past albums, the boys in the Helio Sequence decided to step back with a less-is-more approach to make perhaps the most sonically beautiful album of 2008. An album that can bring on a smile or a tear within seconds.
03. Jamie Lidell :: Jim [Warp]
Released :: April 28, 2008
Classified as neo-soul, the brilliance within could easily be mistaken for a Motown or Stevie Wonder album. Funky and carefree in all the right places, each listen is more enjoyable than the last.
02. Vampire Weekend :: S/T [XL]
Released :: January 29, 2008
Staying away from the vast arguments regarding Vampire Weekend’s style and overall influence, this album is the most consistent one of the year. Shimmering pop that provides a perfect backdrop on a warm, sunny day. An album with staying power (one I’ll listen to for years to come).
01. The Features :: Some Kind of Salvation [self-released]
Released :: June 23, 2008
An album in the works for a while but released with little warning, Some Kind of Salvation brings the fire, passion and energy transcended from their unbelievable stage show to a proper studio release. The production value is raw and earnest, which makes it their best album to date.