The Best Albums of 2008

If for some reason I thought it was hard last year to decide the top ten albums then this year has been a nightmare compared to that walk in the park.  Quite honestly this year has produced a veritable slew of brilliant albums.  From up and coming acts to bands on their forth or fifth album 2008 has seen some incredible music released.  Here is my personal list of the top ten albums of this past year.  If you’re still looking for a gift for someone special I suggest snagging few of these albums and stuffing their stockings with the best of what came this year.

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

01 : Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (amazon) (itunes)

I’ve long been a supporter of all things that Sigur Ros has done.  From the first time I heard their music when I was in university there has been something special about these boys from Iceland.  This year they released their most easily accessible album to date and they’ve literally stolen the show.  There are a great many artists who have put their best foot forward this year, but although many came close, none of them quite live up to this masterpiece.

mp3 : Sigur Ros – Gobbledigook
mp3 : Sigur Ros – Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
mp3 : Sigur Ros – Fljótavík

02 : Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (amazon) (itunes)

This album is a perfect combination of melancholy and clever lyrics.  The music sets the mood perfectly on this trip through lost love and a true feeling of being sad.  Although a bit of a downer emotionally it never strays too far into the realm of depression to leave you wallowing in your own self pity.  If this is what Frightened Rabbit will sound like in the future you can be sure to see them appear on best of lists for years to come.

mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Fast Blood
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Poke

03 : Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) (amazon) (itunes)

Last year Cloud Cult topped my list for the best album of the year.  To think that less than one year later they went out and made an album that is literally better than their last is simply mind numbing.  What other band puts out this high quality an effort in back to back years?  Literally no other band is producing at such consistently high a level.  If there was one band on this years list that everyone should immediately start listening to I would recommend Cloud Cult.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Journey of the Featherless
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Ghost Inside Our House
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Love You All

04 : Coldplay – Viva la Vida (amazon) (itunes)

I’ve been a fan of Coldplay since the first awkward steps Chris Martin made to the microphone and it’s been a delight to watch them move from behind the U2 and Radiohead curtain out into their own worldwide acclaim.  And rightly so I might add.  Viva La Vida found this foursome out of England reaching a new height and a cohesion of sound that was only alluded to on their previous albums.  It’s great to hear a band really starting to use their full potential.

mp3 : Coldplay – Lost!
mp3 : Coldplay – Death And All His Friends

05 : Greg Laswell – Three Flights from Alto Nido (amazon) (itunes)

Greg Laswell has a streak of brilliance not often found in the overflowing singer/songwriter set.  He has a mind for clever arrangements built upon relatively simple, but elegant, melodies and in this regard he reminds me a bit of Sufjan Stevens {they definitely have very different musical tastes, but their gift for arrangements is the parallel I see here}.  Regardless of who or what this album reminds you of one thing is certain; this is the best Greg Laswell has done and it’s easily one of the best albums of the year.

mp3 : Greg Laswell – Comes And Goes (In Waves)
mp3 : Greg Laswell – I’d Be Lying

06 : The Dodos – Visiter (amazon) (itunes)

When you pare down a musical group until it contains a simple guitar and a simple drum kit you either get garage based disaster or you find that within a minimalistic setting true brilliance shines through.  In the case of this duo it’s easy to hear the talent that lies behind this album.  From track to track Visiter flips through well written stories with a sense of quiet urgency that never leaves your mind, and yet never becomes a frustrating distraction.  There is a fragile and perfect balance to be heard.

mp3 : The Dodos – Fools
mp3 : The Dodos – Ashley

07 : Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us (amazon) (itunes)

This year the top ten seems to be filled with established acts who just now are releasing their best album to date.  This is the case of Mates of State.  Their previous albums have largely been forgettable with a few random acts of brilliance sprinkled throughout.  This album, on the contrary, is solid from start to finish and it’s refreshing to see an older act pull their formidable talent together and focus it on a full album.

mp3 : Mates of State – The Re-Arranger
mp3 : Mates of State – Blue and Gold Print

08 : MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (amazon) (itunes)

MGMT found a way to make space rock and classic rock throwback into an insanely enjoyable acid trip of mashed up tracks.  There’s no simple or easy way to quantify this album as it caterwauls from proggy futuristic beat heavy pop to songs that remind me of a mythical pairing of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Whatever words you find to describe this album I’m sure they’ll be of a positive nature.

mp3 : MGMT – Weekend Wars

09 : TV On The Radio – Dear Science (amazon) (itunes)

Their previous effort, Return to Cookie Mountain, began to hint that this eclectic gathering of talented musicians just might be onto something.  With Dear Science the boys that make up TV On The Radio proudly display their particular brand of music.  I’m willing to put money on the idea that twenty years from now this album will be listed as one of the most influential albums of this decade.

mp3 : TV On The Radio – Lover’s Day

10 : Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns (itunes) (amazon)

Somehow Snow Patrol’s latest album found a way to sneak into the top ten.  This is probably largely due to the fact that the final sixteen minute mega-track is insanely well constructed I kept listening to this album over and over again.  Snow Patrol has found a way to consistently make solid albums.  They might not be as attention grabbing or as trendy as their counterparts but the find a way to impress with each album they release.

mp3 : Snow Patrol – If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

And that’s it.  That’s the top ten albums of 2008 in my humble and rather correct opinion.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to disagree with me {even going so far as to claim you’ll delete me from your feed reader}, but in the end you’ll see the wisdom of my discretion.  Granted there are two other bands that I really wanted to include on this list, The Walkmen and Nada Surf, and for their effort they easily deserve an honorable mention.  Amongst the letdowns of the year were the fact that both Sufjan Stevens and The Postal Service failed to make good on rumours that new albums would drop this year, Weezer put out a really great half of an album and then mucked it up with three or four tracks that are just terrible, and Death Cab, Ben Folds, The Killers, and Phantom Planet put out decent albums but not really the quality that deserves a spot on the top ten.

Until next year so long.  I’ll keep posting as long as you all continue to listen to good music.  If you’d like to see my 2007 list you can click here.

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BOTM vol 10

It turns out I am not well suited for waiting patiently.  That being said I’ll get straight to the music in this volume of Best of the Month.  If you’d like to check out all the previous volumes click through this link.

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

mp3 : Boy Crisis – Dressed to Digress
Love the title, love the opening couple of lines of this song, and love the dance beat that’s draped across the entire song.  Yeah it’s a bit retro eighties, but what isn’t these days?
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mp3 : Death Cab for Cutie – A Movie Script Ending (Acoustic)
This is a great version of this song.  It might even be better than the original album version.  Seriously, this is a wonderful track to have stumbled upon this month.
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mp3 : Gabriella Cilmi – Cry Me A River (Justin Timberlake Cover)
Almost sounds like Mary J. Blige doing a cover of J.Tim.  This track is a solid cover and well worth a download.  It’s always nice to hear popular artists covered by other talented individuals.
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mp3 : Kate Nash – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You (Black Kids Cover)
This is easily one of the best cover songs I’ve heard in awhile.  It’s fun, it’s not too serious, and who doesn’t love to hear Kate’s British pronunciation of “dance”?
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mp3 : Kerli – Walking On Air
I blame this song on the copious amounts of television I consume.  If you think it sounds familiar that’s because this track has been used prominently to promote the upcoming premiere of the show Fringe on Fox.  The chorus is incredibly catchy.
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mp3 : Mates of State – California (Phantom Planet Cover)
I’ve been in love with all things Mates of State for awhile now {their latest album is brilliant}.  I found this older track the other day and it’s a wonderful cover.  It’s just the right amount of melancholy added to the once bright pop song.
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mp3 : Megafaun – Lazy Suicide
At times I have a single track by an artist that doesn’t necessarily warrant a full post, but nonetheless is an incredible song.  This is one of those tracks.  It reminds me a lot everything I loved about O Brother Where Art Thou?
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mp3 : Queen – One Vision
Not the best Queen song ever made, but who could resist putting it in Best of the Month.  I miss the days when Queen and other classic rock gods were all me and my friends listened to.
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mp3 : The Chemists – Toxic (Britney Spears Cover)
For some reason I can’t resist listening to almost anything that involves Ms. Spears.  The chorus in this cover is what made it worth the listen {and the post here on BOTM}.
last.fm amazonmp3

mp3 : The Kooks – All That She Wants (Ace of Base Cover)
I’m not sure what it is with me and my love for covers this month.  Regardless for the subliminal reasons I’ve been addicted to cover tracks this is another solid effort.
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mp3 : This Is Ivy League – You and Me and The Moon (Magnetic Fields Cover)
Why not include another cover song?  Really, why not?  This track stays in line with the rest of this list in that it’s mellow, relaxed, and makes for some easy listening.  Enjoy at your leisure.
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mp3 : Thom Yorke – After The Gold Rush (Live)
This track hails from the brilliant appearance Thom made at the Bridge School benefit concert in 2002.  I have the entire recording and it’s amazing {I might be persuaded to post it here}.
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mp3 : Your Vegas – In My Head
This is pop music as it was meant to be made.  Forget what you hear on the top forty, on the crappy local radio station you love, or even from your dorm room neighbors.  This is what pop music should aspire to be.  Solid verses, catchy chorus, hooks you’ll be humming for days.
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That’s all she wrote.  Short and simple on this time around.  Tell your friends.

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Mates of State

I’ve been a quiet fan of Mates of State since my days at university.  Anecdotally speaking I discovered their music around the same time I started listening to Yo La Tengo, not that it matters.  Anyway, for the past few years Mates of State have been sitting quietly off center on my radar screen.  I’ve listened to each of their albums a couple of times through, I’ve been pleased with their sound, but nothing really grabbed my heart and mind until now.  Their latest disc, Re-Arrange Us (amazon) (itunes), is phenomenal from open to close.  Each track is beautifully crafted and I love how this duo has taken the time to let each song linger on for just the right amount of time.

mp3 : Mates of State – My Only Offer
mp3 : Mates of State – You Are Free

It’s rare these days to find an entire album which you love from start to finish.  So many talented bands create three to five standout tracks and then muck up the rest of the album seeking simply to fill out the rest of the disc.  Not so with this release from Mates of State.  Re-Arrange Us is a solid album and deserves a listen from anyone still reading this blog.

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BOTM vol 09

Someday I’m going to use Photoshop again and update the Best of the Month graphic.  Until that day comes {I’ll need to snag a new computer first} I’ll keep the old picture and instead focus on bringing some good music to the interwebs.  Here below are the best thirteen tracks I heard during the previous month.  By no means are these the best tracks that were made/released during the past month, but they are the best tracks that I personally had time to listen to.  Enjoy the music and tell your friends.

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

mp3 : Akon – Sorry, Blame It On Me
I don’t know why, but I love this song.  I heard a parody of it on a random youtube video and was instantly reminded how great this song is.  So, in a roundabout way, I thought of Akon and all the things he’s probably sorry about.  At least he didn’t blame it on the rain.
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mp3 : Bob Dylan – Dreaming of You
Bobby has been a little creepy lately.  Ever since he was featured in a Victoria’s Secret commercial he’s come across like a lecherous old man perv {and maybe he is}.  This song does nothing to erase that mental image, but Dylan is still Dylan and he continues to make good music {even if it sounds like it might be influenced by the work of his boy Jacob}.
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mp3 : Database feat. Midnight Martyn – Party People
Granted, this probably, almost, kinda, sorta should qualify for a spot in Best of the Remix series.  For some reason it ends up here and you should all be less judgmental of my list making abilities {i can has mad skills!} and more supportive of hearing awesome tracks.
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mp3 : Gnarls Barkley – Going On
Will the dynamic duo ever hit the heights of Crazy again?  I’m inclined to say they won’t, but on the other hand look how another duo, Outkast, consistently has come through with smash hit after smash hit.  This track might not be quite Crazyesque, but it is awesome.
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mp3 : Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others
For most of their career Radiohead has chosen fine bands to open for them when the tour the U.S.  {with exception of their tour with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks}.  Grizzly Bear sounds a bit like seventies rock driftwood that’s washed up along the Radiohead shore.  And for some reason they pull it off.
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mp3 : Lily Allen – Everythings Just Wonderful
Off the top of my head I’m inclined to believe Lily Allen is the best female solo artist out of the UK.  I would bet she would agree.  She’s definitely the best hip hop lady from Britain.  That is undisputed.  Part of me secrectly likes her because she’s so full of herself.
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mp3 : Mates of State – The Re-Arranger
If you’re only going to download one track today this should be your choice.  I’ve been a Mates of State fan for awhile now, but this takes their music to a new level.  The layers in this song are brilliantly well done.  Three cheers to Mates of State.
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mp3 : Nathan Moomaw – March
The album this track comes from is really interesting to listen to.  Mr. Moomaw wrote one song a month for each month he was twenty six years old.  March is my birth month and he wrote a nice slice of melancholy for me… or March, whatever.
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mp3 : Ne-Yo – Take A Bow (Rihanna Cover)
My disdain for Rihanna has been well documented so I don’t feel I need to rant about her again.  I am glad to present this cover to you.  Ne-Yo takes this song to a level Rihanna could never imagine {even if she is hot}.
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mp3 : Santogold – Icarus
The opening track sounds like what I imagine a drunken goose and whale duet would sound like.  When the drum kit is added into the mix the song becomes sublime.  Literally ear candy.  Even the whine laden childish vocals seem to fit here.
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mp3 : The Boy Bathing – The Beaches Meet the Sea
I really enjoy The Boy Bathing.  Although this isn’t my favorite track by them {I posted that awhile back} this song is a solid example of their talent.  This is a classic example of what indie pop can {and should} sound like.  It builds and builds adding layer upon layer until there is a sonic complexity that is gorgeous.
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mp3 : Mystery Jets – Flakes
There are some bands that I enjoy less in their pure form and more in their oft remixed tracks.  Mystery Jets are one of those bands.  For some reason I usually can’t get my attention to be totally involved in their music outside of remixes.  This track, though, has staying power.
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mp3 : The Secret Life of Sofia – Nanda Devi
I simply love this song and I think each and every single one of you should promptly download this track so you can love it too.
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That’s all I have today.  Enjoy the music.

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