So first thing’s first, let me take an opportunity to unveil the Best of 2008. Check back soon, I’ll add an MP3 to each album for you to grab, as soon as I learn how to do so. Leave a comment to give your input on the matter, because applause or boos both sound the same on the internet!
P.S. These are in completely random order, kiddos…
Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
Conor Oberst chose to break out on his own in 2008 following Bright Eyes’ 2007 release Cassadega. Sticking with the theme of folk-hewn spiritualism, Mr. Oberst and pals took to recording south of the border in Tepoztlán, Mexico. The album comes off as one of the stronger efforts of the recent Bright Eyes/Oberst works with a handful of standout tracks such as “Sausalito” and true country-rocker “I Don’t Want to Die (In A Hospital)”. The single “Souled Out!!!” stands alone, though, as not only my favorite song off of the album, but one of my favorite tracks of the year. Oberst sings the bluesy rollick with a wink, a smile, and a punk sneer that is sure to be among the best in his extensive catalogue.
Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
Ok, I’ll be honest, before I did a little searching I really didn’t know what a “rhumb line” was, but now, the nautically-themed album title makes complete sense. Ra Ra Riot, hailing from Syracuse, NY, will draw comparisons to another band with yacht-rock tendencies (but we’ll get to that band in our Top 10). Their subtle moments bring swooning harmonies, that in an instant can build to thundering post-punk crescendos. The kids will love “Too Too Too Fast” with its tween-pop sheen, but the album-opener “Ghost Under Rocks” jumps from the starting gate with the emotional grandeur of Arcade Fire and the percussion-driven fire of the National.
The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
I’m as big a fan of Los Angeles punk icons X as any late-to-the-game, 20-something can be. The Gaslight Anthem is one of a handful bands out of New Jersey this year that brought the X “sound” back to the forefront of the indie music community. With elements of Springsteen and blues-rock swagger, these guys spent 2008 touring with the Warped Tour crowd, but make no mistake about it, they reside on the Hold Steady side of the fence, rather than the Green Day side. I’m pretty excited to see what the Gaslight Anthem has planned for the future.
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
This was a really tough one. Ya’ll, these guys earned a Top 10 finish this year; alas, it was a “last band out” situation. I owe you, MGMT, next time. MGMT (or “Management” or “M-G-M-T”, what have you) put together one strong debut that combines the greatest elements of electronica, Diamond Dogs-era Bowie, and a dash of ’60s Brit-pop to create an album about the pains and heartaches of growing into adulthood. Honestly, the first five songs of the album could stand with any of 2008’s best. “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” are fun, well-written pieces of pop psychadelia, and “Electric Feel”, the Bee Gees-worshipping track, has to be one of the year’s best “ready for the floor” hits. It should come as no surprise if MGMT feel a lot like a pop-inspired Of Montreal, considering that they were tourmates and that MGMT’s Andrew Vanwyngarden and Of Montreal front man Kevin Barnes are planning a side project for 2009. Now THAT is something to look forward to, we’ll get to that in a few weeks…
Lykke Li – Youth Novels
There are not a lot of words that need to be said about this album, because its quality speaks for itself. Lykke Li is the new Swedish gift to the indie pop community, lying somewhere between Bjork and countrymate Robyn, with a keen sense of both the weird and the beautiful. Please, please check out this album and tell me you don’t have “Let It Fall” running through your head most days. Ha! You will.
***UPDATED: MP3’s Added***
Next Up: Baked Beans & Glitter’s Top 10 of 2008!