As the old saying goes, "better late than never." So without any further anticipation, here is my top 15 favorite albums of 2008. Take 'em or leave 'em.
15. The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement
14. Underoath - Lost In The Sound of Separation
13. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
12. Bloc Party - Intimacy
11. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
10. Apes & Androids - Blood Moon
Apes & Androids is, to say the least, one of the most interesting bands I’ve listened to in a long time. This five-piece glam-rock band has created a sexy, synth ridden experience with vocals that would be comparable to a modern day Freddy Mercury … ya know, if he wasn’t dead. The mood of the album is immediately set with opener “Blood Moon I” as the sounds of a space craft descending on earth sends society into disarray and chaos. This is Blood Moon, a completely unique and strange offering in a world that has yet to see anything of its kind before. Apes & Androids take the best tricks of the trade from classic rock acts like Queen, Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days, and a twist of Prince, combining them with a unique and interesting sound.
Favorite Tracks: "We Don't Understand You," "Hot Kathy," "Doyle is Dead"
9. Eagles of Death Metal - Heart On
Baby Duck and Boots Electric have released their latest fabulous weapon on the wanting masses and it is the sexiest of their collection. Heart On takes the good-old-fashioned scuzz rock which made its predecessors so great and refines it just a bit more. The Eagles expand on their simple formula of making fun 70s style rock throughout the album with some deeper tracks like “Now I’m a Fool” and “How Can A Man With So Many Friends Feel So All Alone.” Unlike Peace, Love, Death Metal and Death By Sexy, EoDM’s self-proclaimed “sonic warhead sexually tipped for her pleasure” not only delivers the fun but also a sense of polish that has yet to be seen on an Eagels disc. Heart On further demonstrates the evolution and growth of these stellar gods of rock and sex while giving their fans some “Cheap Thrills” in the process.
Favorite Tracks: "(I Used To Couldn't Dance) Tight Pants," "Secret Plans," "Heart On"
8. Lower Definition - The Greatest of All Lost Arts
The date is July 29th, 2008. I pass the threshold into a small, dark establishment known as “Valentine’s” only to immediately be assaulted by some of the most furious and commanding post-hardcore this side of Glassjaw and Poison the Well. Everything on this album is tight, from the soaring guitar to the thumping, powerful bass work. Singer Matt Geise’s vocals are sure to amaze listeners and translate perfectly from their live performances. His ability to seamlessly jump from gentle melodic vocals to a gut-wrenching scream places him among the elite. The Greatest of All Lost Arts is definitely an album that should not be passed by any fan of the genre. Lower Definition offers nothing but a fully engaging piece of work in their debut full-length and a promise of great things to come.
Favorite Tracks: "Versus Versace," "The Ventriloquist," "The Weatherman"
7. Sigur Ros - Meo suo í eyrum vio spilum endalaust
Sigur Ros’ fifth studio release features relatively shorter, more playful songs with lighter guitars and a bit less of their established post-rock tone yet remains as serene and beautiful as the rest of the band’s discography. The album is seemingly divided into two halves, the first being far more joyous and whimsical than the latter half which is more in the vein of previous discs like 2005’s “Takk.” That point being made, this is what makes Meo suo í eyrum vio spilum endalaust one of the years best. It is able to appeal to a wider audience with accessible tracks like “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur” and “Vio spilum endalaust” without compromising the band’s original tastes. Mes sus … builds upon Sigur Ros’ musically style exquisitely, making it one of the best albums of 2008 as well as one of the best of their collection.
Favorite Tracks: "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur," "Vio spilum endalaust," "Suo i eyrum"
6. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
No one can deny that Trent Reznor has been on a massive role recently. Since 2007, Reznor and his Nail Inch Nails have released FOUR full-length albums: Year Zero, Year Zero Remixed, Ghosts I-IV, and The Slip. On May 5th, 2008, the latter was released via the bands official website … for free. That’s a pretty good start for an album. The Slip immediately jumps into the fast, punk-infused track “1,000,000.” This gut-wrenching, heavy chorded track doesn’t loosen it’s grip until you’re led into the furious “Letting You,” which is very similar to those heard throughout Year Zero. The album continues in a similar, dark and brooding fashion, until the disturbingly peaceful “Lights in the Sky,” a track that features Reznor whispering over dramatic piano. The album’s closer, “Demon Seed,” isn’t easy to describe as it combines aspects of NIN’s entire discography: electronic beats comparable to those in Ghosts I-V, a smooth bass line accompanied by heavy handed guitar akin to those in With Teeth, and lyrics similar to those in Year Zero. The Slip was a sudden and unique album which can be described as the amalgamation of everything Nine Inch Nails has released to date. With his seventh studio release, Reznor once again proves to be a master of his craft.
Favorite Tracks: "1,000,000," "Letting You," "Echoplex"
5. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
Do you remember My Morning Jacket’s critically acclaimed album Z released in 2005? If so, forget what it sounded like. Completely. This mostly bearded classic rock group have decided to switch things up a bit with their latest release, Evil Urges. For instance, on previous records, front man Jim James’ vocals sounded a lot more southern-rock than they do on Evil Urges, in which case James has adopted a piercing falsetto suggestive of Prince on a handful of tracks. This isn’t the end of the gamut of change MMJ runs through, however. During the course of the album, the band successful manages to delve into multiple genres of music left untouched beforehand. The albums begins with three tripped out and funked up tracks that would normally be considered out of the quintet’s playbook. The album doesn’t stop here, however, featuring slow, country-esque tracks like “Sec Walkin’” and “Look At You,” as well as the nicely place, deliciously poppy “Two Halves.“ Sure there are still a couple honest-to-god rock songs on the album in the form of “I’m Amazed,” “Aluminum Park,” and “Remnants” but, on the whole, each track is an exciting deviation of the one before. With their fifth studio album, Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket is able to prove that change isn’t always a bad thing.
Favorite Tracks: "Highly Suspicious," " Sec Walkin'," " "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream (Part 2)," and of course "Good Intentions"
4. She & Him - Volume One
Allow me to start this review by stating a simple desire; Zooey Deschanel, I wanna get on you. Not just because you’re exceedingly attractive, but because you have one of the most talented voices of any current female recording artist. When you listen to She & Him’s Volume One, you will feel as though your time machine broke down in the 1960’s. Deschanel’s voice carries with the a natural beauty and is the definition of cutesy 60’s bubblegum-pop while Him, guitarist M. Ward, provides a simple, yet fitting, background which carries a strong country twang. The album is a assortment of love songs essentially. Zooey’s magnificent pipes are able to deliver the emotions of complete and utter giddy excitement as well as desperate heartbreak picture perfectly. Thankfully, this album is called Volume One.
Favorite Tracks: "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?," "You Really Gotta Hold On Me," "Sweet Darlin' "
3. Does It Offend You, Yeah? - You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into
This four-man crew from Reading, England have accomplished quite a bit in their short time together. Since 2006, Does It Offend You, Yeah? have manufactured remixes for big-name bands like Bloc Party and Muse, become known amongst fans and critics alike for their raucous and wild live shows, and released one of the most widely acclaimed dance-rock albums of this year. With a sound similar to Klaxons and Justice, Does It Offend You, Yeah? shows their creativity and originality with songs like “We Are Rockstars,” a frantic and synth-laden romp, and “Epic Last Song” which is rightfully named to say the least. Overall, You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into proves to be a boisterous rock record and an extremely fun, original electro disc that is guaranteed to offend.
Favorite Tracks: "With A Heavy Heart (I Regret To Inform You)," "We Are Rockstars," "Epic Last Song"
2. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
Since the days of Youth and Young Manhood, Kings of Leon have shown great maturity and have gradually transformed their style a bit with each album. This change is most evident with the band’s fourth studio release, entitled Only By The Night. Trading in their rattling, fast-paced country rock beginnings for a calmer and more contemplative tone, Only By The Night features deeper vocals, warbling guitars, and some of the most epic Kings of Leon tracks since “California Waiting” and “Holy Roller Novocain.” Singer Caleb Followill has steered away from the scruffy vocals of previous albums, settling on a somber croon which reveals the true power and range of his voice. Caleb’s vocal shift makes songs like “Use Somebody” and “Cold Desert” especially exceptional tracks. These Tennessee kings take their time to seduce listeners with Only By The Night and the result is phenomenal.
Favorite Tracks: "Use Somebody," "17," "Cold Desert"
1. TV on the Radio - Dear Science,
I’m sure this comes as a massive surprise to anyone who has seen any other “Top Albums of ‘08”list but TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, is an astounding collection of tracks filled with uncharacteristically catchy beats as well as superb vocal work and beautiful lyrics. Dear Science, is the polar opposite of everything TVOTR has offered before it. At it’s heart, this is a record about immense optimism and love, even in times when it seems as though the human race is completely fucked. This message is pushed through with every word sung by Adebimpe and Malone and supported to perfection by the funky playing of guitarist David Sitek, bassist Gerard Smith, and drummer Jaleel Bunton. Each song’s lyrical content oozes with the contradiction of finding joy in the stern, merciless face of destruction and nothingness. In other words, facing inevitable Armageddon and telling it to fuck off. TV on the Radio offers a few options when dealing with this matter: you can keep faith that there is peace and love after death, dance your troubles away until they come knocking on your front door, or, in the words of closer “Lover’s Day,” “smash the walls, break the bed, and crash the floors” with the nearest member of the opposite gender. The peaceful, dreamy “Family Tree” is the best portrayal of option one, telling the tale of a love, quelled by racism, destined to carry on past the narrator’s hanging. Option two comes in the form of the extremely groovy “Red Dress” which advises listeners to look their snazziest and celebrate the coming of the “Whore of Babylon!!” However, with intent, the following track, “Love Dog,” is a touching piece about a lost and lonely dog, howling for his owner; Call me crazy, but I think there might be a deeper meaning behind it. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m completely and madly in love with this album. Every single aspect of this disc is triumphantly woven together. You can hear the conviction and belief in Adebimpe’s voice; These aren’t just meaningless words written on paper. Dear Science, is a truly outstanding piece of art and, is without a shadow of a doubt, the finest of 2008.
Favorite Tracks: "Family Tree," "Love Dog, " "DLZ"