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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Top 31 Albums of 2008 (Pt. 1)

#31: Chris Walla: Field Manual - When I first wrote my review of Chris Walla’s debut album, I described it as a sort of “socially conscious” Death Cab-lite album that would serve as a nice filler while waiting for the next Death Cab album. I stick with that assessment today. With the exception of one or two songs, this album lost my attention by February. That Death Cab album, however, wound up being one of the most surprisingly satisfying albums of 2008!

#30: Magnetic Fields: Distortion - This too is another album that fell off of my radar rather quickly. The Magnetic Fields was one of the first indie bands that I really got into, and like many, I was disappointed with their previous album. Distortion is a much better effort by far. Though it takes some time to get used to the layer of distortion that plagues each track on the album, the songs that go on top of that are nothing short of the brilliance that we’ve come to expect from this legendary group.

#29: The Dears: Missiles - Of all the bands in 2008 that I thought would disappoint me, I never suspected The Dears, whose previous two albums had been masterpieces of moody, indie rock. Missiles ended up getting mixed reviews from critics, many of whom even put it towards the top of their year-end lists. I, however, found Missiles to be a remarkably drab affair with little of the tension and emotional pull of the band’s earlier work. It still wound up being a somewhat decent record, but several miles off from what I feel needed to be achieved.

#28: Tilly and the Wall: O - Who would have thought that a band who made their name by replacing a drummer with a tap-dancer would be able to make the jump from playground tomfoolery to edgy punk rockers? Answer: nobody, and personally, I wasn’t buying it either. I believe I originally gave this album a 5/10 score. Nowadays, I’d be more inclined to give it a 6/10. Sure that’s not saying much, but when you overcome all the nonsense you start to realize that there are some good tracks on O. Not all of them, clearly, but some of them.

#27: Mates of State: Re-Arrange Us - Mates of State made hints on Bring it Back that they were becoming adults but it wasn’t until the release of Re-Arrange Us that we all found out what that would mean for the group. What it meant was ditching the Casio for a piano, shelving shouting and yelling for soft, subtle harmonies, and taking the energy and trading it in for poignancy. Re-Arrange Us is in no way a bad album. But it is severely lacking in almost everything that I used to love about the band. Parenthood definitely makes a person grow up. I just wish they would have held it off for a few years.

#26: Sun Kil Moon: April - Mark Kozelek is a master of making repetitive, mediocre tunes into mesmerizing snapshots of life. He is a true artist, not someone who relies on gimmicks or “it” sounds to creating memorable songs. One gets the sense that deep down, he is aware of his flaws; his lack of compositional flare or his whiny, nasally voice. The remarkable thing is that he perseveres through these shortcomings and even uses them to his advantage in some cases. In the end, what you get is something that is never special, but more than ordinary. April is one of those albums.

#25: She & Him: Volume One - I’m a bit surprised to see She & Him winding up on so many year-end lists for the simple fact that the music contained on Volume One was in no way inventive, flawless, or even entirely memorable. While Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have made a respectable album with several catchy songs, one simply cannot ignore the nearly-mediocre vocals or the somewhat juvenile lyricism. Let’s face it, we all have a schoolyard crush on Deschanel, let’s try not to let that cloud our judgement.

#24: The Dodos: Visiter - Sometime in February or March (I can’t really remember when), I was in a musical drought with nothing new or interesting to listen to. Somehow I came across Visiter and, based off of favorable reviews, decided to give it a try. While not entirely perfect, The Dodos have managed to make one of the most inventive albums of the year! Just from listening it’s hard to gauge who their influences are. There’s some definite similarities with Glen Hansard and Animal Collective, but even that is reaching far. The important thing to remember is that what you’re listening to is good. Who it sounds like is secondary. Enjoy it!

#23: The Mars Volta: The Bedlam in Goliath - Redemption is a sweet, sweet thing. Over two years ago, The Mars Volta followed what many would consider to be their best album (Frances the Mute), with one that most would consider their worst (Amputecture). This year, TMV gave us a much more respectable record that, while not achieving the heights of their first two LPs, manages to get things back on the right foot. Here’s hoping that 2009’s TMV album (assuming that they continue to release a record every 18 months or so) blows ‘em all out of the water!

#22: The Little Ones: Morning Tide - This album crossed my desk around the same time that I first got a hold of Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping. The result, unsurprisingly, was a severe lack of attention paid to it on my part. As the year wound down, however, I discovered just how charming and delightful The Little Ones can be! Morning Tide is a pretty cookie-cutter indie pop album, and many will be deterred by the sheer averageness of it all. However, despite its lack of creativity, Morning Tide is an extremely well-assembled album that contains more than its fair share of potential singles and sing-alongles. I recommend that you all check it out, whether you really want to or not.

#21: The Wombats: A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation - Call it what you will - punk, indie, a combination of both - but few can deny the sheer energy that this band exudes at every corner nor the infectious nature of that energy. The Wombats are not nearly as popular here in the States as one would expect, what, with such a marketable sound. I suppose that should tell you a lot about the state of music media in the US of A. But hey, good for Lil’ Wayne. Good for auto-tune!


Double Hawk said...

I definitly agree with your idea on The Wombats and I don't understand how America didn't soak them up.

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