Monday, December 15, 2008

Favorite Albums 2008

by Scott

[Before Scott gets to his more complicated list, the meat of this post, I am going to do a quick Geoff Klock favorite albums of 2008 list. I wish I could participate better in this: I have been doing better buying a lot of music this year, but not enough FROM this year to talk intelligently even about such a personal thing as a favorite. But nevertheless here are the six 2008 albums I have:

6. Bobby Digital's Digi Snacks, -- This was weak, I thought, except for the second track. Just not that memorable.
5. Flying Lotus's Los Angeles, -- This was a lot more atmospheric than I was looking for. Nothing sticks with me.
4. Wu Tang Clan's 8 Diagrams -- This had a lot of good stuff on it, but did not hold together well as an album.
3. Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak -- This is a weird one, and still requires deliberation: my first impression is that I love the production but found the lyrics really disappointing. It ends with a live track of Kanye rapping in Singapore and that seems like the best audience for the album: people that do not know what the words mean.
2. The GZA's Pro Tools, -- Strong stuff in a solid short album.
1. T.I. 's Paper Trail -- This is definitely the favorite. Celebratory and just FUN which is primarily what I am looking for. "On top of the World" and "Life Your Life" are the real standouts.

The AV Club put out a top 30 albums of 2008. That is going to be a sort of list for me for a while: I am going to try various stuff on that for the next few months. Here is Scott:]

(Note: As the title indicates, these are, more or less, just my favorite albums of 2008 and, as we’ve discussed before, my preference is for the Rock. I invite anyone whose preference is for the Hip-Hop [or the Pop, Country, Indie or Polka for that matter] to make their own post for the blog!)

Well, it’s the end of the year and all the big magazines are doing their ‘Best of the Year’ pieces. Both Spin
and Rolling Stone have named TV On The Radio’s ‘Dear Science’ their number one album; an album, that from what I’ve heard, isn’t really all that impressive: If I had wanted to hear a Beck album I would have bought the new Beck album… which is exactly what I did. Also, Rolling Stone continues to prove my point about Dylan being overrated (or perhaps just overpraised). When we had our discussion here, I named Dylan as a possible contender for ‘Most Overrated’ artists based primarily on the fact that magazines like Rolling Stone are constantly giving highest marks to WHATEVER he releases, often naming said album the best album of the year. This time around, while he doesn’t take the top spot, he manages to land the number 2 position with ‘Tell Tale Signs- The Bootleg Series Vol. 8’, a collection of unreleased rarities recorded between 1989 and 2006. Granted, I haven’t heard this and, in fact, it may be a transcendent collection of tunes, but I find it hard to believe that a handful of tracks that Dylan didn’t think worth releasing in the first place that were recorded during a pretty hit-and-miss portion of his career is the best album of 2008. If it were, say, some long lost recordings from his mid-sixties renaissance, then it would be more understandable. But, even then, would that be more relevant than music actually making its debut in 2008? In my own year-end-best-of I put such albums in a sort of ‘best of stuff that isn’t really new this year category’… kind of like a ‘Best Re-issues’ category. If not, I probably would have put the bonus disc included with the Reissue of U2’s Boy as my number 2 album.

However, in a more roundabout way, am I guilty of the same thing as Rolling Stone? Of all my artist, the ‘youngest’ artist listed, other than the Killers, is The Raconteurs… whose band members have actually been around for about 10 years in one way or another. Do I no longer appreciate new music? Is my lack of appreciation for TV On The Radio just the result of me growing old … have I finally entered the phase of ‘These Kids and Their Music Today’? I certainly hope not. Anyway, let me know if there’s something that you think I should check out… especially something by a newer artist; I’m always looking for something new to listen to. Maybe I’m just getting picky in my old age.

Anyway, here are my pics:

10. Black Ice- Ac/Dc- It has been hailed as their best album since Back In Black; probably not entirely true since, song wise, it’s really only their best since 1990’s Razor’s Edge. With a band like Ac/Dc, it’s really about just capturing their sound and Brendan O’Brian deserves credit for making them sound better than they have in decades.

Momofuku- Elvis Costello- This album manages to combine the sounds of his previous two ‘rock’ albums, Delivery Man and When I Was Cruel, without being quite as good as either of them. That sounds like a slight, but this is still a solid album from one of the best singer-songwriters in the business.

8. Day & Age- The Killers- I keep waiting for the Killers to release their masterpiece and, while Day & Age might be their best overall album yet, it still lacks any songs as brilliant as “Somebody Told Me” or “Mr. Brightside.” With their last album, as a side effect of touring with U2 and listening to too much Springsteen, they made a failed attempt at ‘earnestness.’ Fortunately, for this album they remembered they were from Las Vegas and managed to stay in more familiar territory without losing any of the grandiosity and scope that they experimented with on Sam’s Town.

7. In Rainbows- Radiohead- I almost didn’t include this one since, in a very big, groundbreaking way, this album actually came out last year (and thanks to someone at the local Wal-Mart accidentally putting it on the shelves too early; I also bought my hard copy of the album last year). Part of me keeps wishing that Radiohead would just make a kick ass rock album, but, nevertheless, I enjoy anything they do and this is probably their best collection of tunes since Ok Computer (even though it sounds NOTHING like Ok Computer).

6. Modern Guilt- Beck- Beck does something different on just about every album. This one is his version of Psychadelic Garage Rock. As always, he puts his unique spin on it and, as always, it’s excellent.

5. Death Magnetic- Metallica- Their best album since the Black Album and their heaviest since And Justice For All…, Death Magnetic is Metallica speeding up in their old age; the tempos are faster, the songs longer, the results their most satisfying work in 17 years.

Accelerate- REM- The songs could have been better but the band is playing with more energy than they have in a decade. The 10 years since Bill Berry left the band have seen a lack of direction in the studio even as they remained a top notch live act; coming hot on the heels of last year's live album, Accelerate manages to capture some of the magic in the studio.

3. Viva La Vida Or Death and All of His Friends/Prospekt’s March- Coldplay - I was initially disappointed with Viva La Vida because the album felt unfinished and, had the band not released the Prospekt’s March EP, they would have probably come in a spot lower on this list, but, with said EP, they finally managed to ‘finish’ the album so to speak. It would have been better if they had done so in the first place and, while I feel Coldplay still has their best album ahead of them, “Viva La Vida” and “Violet Hill” are, by far, the best songs they have produced to date.

Consolers of The Lonely- The Raconteurs- Jack White and company allow themselves to embrace excessiveness… which, next to something like Chinese Democracy, still sounds like a dude with a banjo and a couple of cymbals strapped to his kneecaps…. But, nonetheless, the album is a delightful combination of garage-rock, blues, bluegrass, classic rock and over-the-top balladry.

Chinese Democracy- Guns N’ Roses- Ok, granted, this probably gets a certain level of ‘extra credit’ so to speak because A) It was actually finally released and B) unlike most of the albums on this list that were either about what I expected them to be (REM, Metallica) or a little disappointed with (Coldplay) this album FAR EXCEDED my expectations. Axl’s not the most brilliant lyricist in the world and Chuck Klosterman’s description of the album’s lyrics as “Appropriately Narcissistic”, is pretty much, the most accurate evaluation that I have heard… but, then again, that’s the way his lyrics always were. Otherwise, the album is filled with brilliant musicianship, catchy melodies and lush arrangements. This is not an album meant for ear buds or computer speakers; it’s meant to be blasted from the best sound system you have available. A refreshing approach when most albums tend to go for a mix, like The Killers latest, that sounds better coming through one speaker in my factory issue car stereo, than it does my home sound system. At the end of the day, Rose and company managed to make a top notch album that, for the most part, successfully managed to evoke the classic Guns N’ Roses while still managing to sound modern, no small feat in and of itself, but , given the expectations placed on this album, isn’t that one the most reasonable?

Other Stuff:

Honorable Mention- Jukebox- Cat Power- This was actually my number 10 album before I decided to include In Rainbows.

U2’s reissues of Boy, October, War and Under a Blood Red Sky. Totally high quality packaging with great liner-notes and plenty of rare, unreleased and live tracks with each album. Under A Blood Red Sky is released on DVD for the first time and looks/sounds gourgeous. The two disc versions of October and War may not be essential to the more casual U2 fan but the bonus disc with Boy is excellent including some of their most hard to find and unreleased tracks from the earliest days of their career. And, of course, it’s all remastered so it sounds great. Keeping my fingers crossed for the re-issue of Achtung Baby sometime in the near future.

The Police- Certifiable- (CD/DVD) I couldn’t afford the couple of hundred dollars it would have costs me to ACTUALLY have gone to see the band on this tour but the 20 bucks I paid for this excellent 2-CD, 2 DVD set is a nice consolation prize. The band is in fine form here and I’m continually amazed at the amount of sound they are able to create with just the three of them on the stage.

The Who- Live At Kilburn 1977- There’s precious little video of the original Who, live in their prime, this two disc set (that also features most of a set from the ‘Tommy’ tour) corrects that omission in the bands DVD catalogue.

Top Songs of 2008:

5. “Rock And Roll Train”- Ac/Dc
4. “Violet Hill”- Coldplay
3. “Consolers of The Lonely”- The Raconteurs
2. “Salute Your Salution” –The Raconteurs
1. “Viva La Vida”- Coldplay


Kenney said...

I'm so out of the loop when it comes to music that it isn't even funny. I definitely discovered some new music this year, but I don't think any of it came out this year.

L capitan said...

I'm not over flowing with knowledge of the newest music either, but one album of 08 that grabbed my attention (and still has it in fact) is The Last Shadow Puppets' debut The Age of the Understatement. It's indie-Brit-pop-or-something-like-that, heavily influenced by the 60s, moody, and rocking. Actually, I went on and on about it in my own little blog (if anyone cares to give that an eyeball it's here So yes, horizon expansion!

Curt said...

Dear Science is a creeper of an album. Superficially, it's not nearly as bombastic or accessible of an album as TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain.

Give it a proper listen, though, and I think you would be surprised by how solid it actually is. It's not very often that I agree with the good people at SPIN, but this is one they got right. I would be hard pressed to think of a more interesting release in 2008.

In my mind, 2008 saw more solid releases from upcoming (though not necessarily "new") bands than any other year in recent memory. Okkervil River, The Ruby Suns, Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, Spiritualized, Wolf Parade, The Black Keys, Sun Kil Moon, My Morning Jacket, Horse Feathers, and the list goes on...

Mikey said...

For the past five years or so my friends and I have had a deal where we can only buy music that comes out in that year. Then at the end of the year we all make mixtapes and have a (long, loud, loaded) night where we get together and listen to them all. It seems a bit limiting, but it's quite a nice restriction. It's been a blast, as it forces you to actively hunt out new music.

Most of my 08 listen came out of obscure subcultures from East and South London. But the stuff that might mean something to (mostly) non-Brits include:

Melvins - Nude With Boots (RAWK!)

Guns N Roses (Scott, I really like this now! No one's really making the kind of breezy Californian rock of Jane's Addiction etc. any more, and I've been enjoying this as "an album of Estranged's").

Akimbo - Jersey Shores (Akimbo put out an album a year and are a kind of more sloppy, likeable version of Mastodon)

Fleet Foxes (saw these guys at the start of the year and they left an impression)

Anti Flag - The Bright Lights of America (I kind of rediscovered cheesy anthemic American punk rock)

DJ/rupture - Uproot (album of the year)

Geoff, I think Protools is a very strong, sturdy album. The Gza knows he's got nothing to proove at this stage. It's stately, his voice is strong, the rhymes are precise. He articulates well. Plus "Pencil" sounds like a vintage Wu joint, and Rza's bars on that song are so tight they entirely make up for the awful, awful Digi album. On a hiphop tip, did you listen to Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III?

Also agree on Flying Lotus - he's clearly talented but none of it really grabs you. Similar, but a bit more nimble, is The Gaslamp Killer's album, which is in a similar vein but you might like a bit more. Some interesting things happened in Californian electronic music this year. Things got a bit...wonkier.

A strange year - the stand outs didn't really stand out as much as recent years but I attribute that to me uprooting myself and moving half way through the year. I've had much less time to actively listen to much.

Stephen said...


Nothing to do with music, but get a load of this about Morrison's BATMAN:

And, if you don't know, Rich Johnston IS liable to fault, but about 90% of the time with the "green lights" he's right on the money.

Paul said...

I've been posting my 40 Songs of 2008 over the last week or so. I've been posting them in five song chunks and I'm embedding videos when I can. Start at the oldest post and work your way up:

My favorite album this year has to be TV on the Radio's Dear Science. I was also very happy with the return to form by R.E.M. and the Cure, too.

scott91777 said...

First of all, I just submitted grades at 10am and am now finished with the semester (not bad considering exams just started yesterday) so WOOT!


The 'album full of Estranged' approach is probably the best way to appreciate the album. Actually, most of what I buy these days is new or, at least, fairly new music. Maybe not from 'new' artist but at least their most recent release.... so I could actually probably pull that off... maybe I'll give it a shot in '09...

Oh, one addendum, I would like to add to the category of I-haven't-really-had-a-chance-to-check-them-out-but-would-probably-have-made-the-list-if-I'd-had-the-chance Panic At The Disco's Pretty Odd and Bullet For My Valentine's Scream, Aim and Fire.

Already looking forward to new Bruce and U2 in '09!

Madd_Hadder said...

Typically a rap album tops my list of best albums of any given year, but this year Raphael Saadiq's The Way I see it tops my list. The album has a nice throwback vibe. My friend declared it sounds like a temptations album with Raphael singing.

Other albums I loved this yr:

Theater of the Mind- Ludacris. He really came with it on this album. his punchlines are stronger and his flow is ridiculous.

Evolver- John Legend. His voice is so perfect and it took some warming up to because it is less soul and more pop but I love it now.

Untitled- Nas. It is such an angry and sarcastic album and that is why I love it. He manages to make 15 songs that are all roughly the same song, but it works for me.

808s and Heartbreak- Kanye West. I love deeply personal albums and this is one of the most personal I have heard. Usually the vocoder singing ainging annoys me but I like how West uses it. The production is amazing.

The Million Dollar Backpack- Skillz. This is a rapper who has never been able to put together a complete album because he could never figure out hooks and song concepts. He was always good for a hot verse or a mixtape, but this album is actually a complete album.

I am still trying to get into T.I's album. He is so hit and miss for me, but when he is on he is hot.

Geoff Klock said...

MH -- I forgot about TPain. I got Thr33 ringz but did not really like it -- too many love songs. I want battle songs, which is why I like the RZA

Madd_Hadder said...

I could never even imagine picking up a T Pain album. RZA is not my favorite Wu member, in fact, I do not think I have liked any of his solo stuff enough to buy it, but I enjoy his movie scoring.

Curt said...

Honestly, I'm a little surprised to see so many mainstream rap albums on some of your Best of Year lists, as I haven't heard anything truly compelling from that genre in at least five years.

You would be surprised at the quality you can find "left of dial;" you're missing out on quite a lot.

scott91777 said...


Such as....

Also, Update... a friend burned me copies of Panic At The Disco and Bullet For My Valentine. I'm digging the Panic album but Bullet For My Valentine, while it starts out OK, gets old really quickly... I also get the feeling that there is a much better artists in this genre (melodic-metalcore?) that I should be listening to instead. Suggestions?

Curt said...


Such as?

Such as Deerhunter, Wolf Parade, Beirut, The Black Keys, K-Os, Blitzen Trapper, British Sea Power, Calexico, AC Newman, Vampire Weekend, My Morning Jacket, Cat Power, Enon, Asobi Seksu, Fleet Foxes, Sigur Ros, The Swell Season, Islands, Margot and the Nuclear So & So's, Okkervil River, Phoenix, Sufjan Stevens, The Ruby Suns, Bad Veins, Shout Out Louds, TV on the Radio, Sun Kil Moon, Vetiver, etc, etc, etc.

That list ranges from folk to hip-hop to indie rock and that's just off of the top of my head. I do this for a living. Believe me, you're missing out on quite a lot.

scott91777 said...


I know I'm missing out on a lot, I was asking for reccomendations :)

I've actually heard a lot of those but have yet been excited enough about any of them to go out and purchase the album and, in fact, Cat Power's Jukebox just missed making my list.

I'm always looking for reccomendations... but I can be quite picky.

Curt said...


Well, why don't you give me an idea of what kind of genres interest you most and I can give you some focused recommendations.

I've been a professional music critic for the better part of a decade... and I'm also the editorial manager for one of the country's top ranked college-conservatories of music, so I'm pretty picky too.

scott91777 said...

Catchy guitar rock and soaring anthemic rock (a la Coldplay and U2) seem to be my preferences I suppose.

The last time a wave of new music really blew me away it was the 'the' bands of about 5 years ago; The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines.

And, of course, I LIKE Chinese Democracy... I think that says a lot about my taste :)

Curt said...


Fans of catchy guitar rock would do well to check out some of the more recent Okkervil River albums (The Stage Names, in particular). Built to Spill and Ted Leo + the Pharmacists are two of the great, unknown guitar rock bands of the last decade. I would recommend starting with Built to Spill's Keep It Like a Secret or Perfect From Now On and Ted Leo's Shake the Sheets or The Tyranny of Distance.

When it comes to more anthemic rock, you might want to check out Arcade Fire, if you haven't already. Funeral is the more bombastic of their two LPs, although Neon Bible certainly has its moments, too. British Sea Power is also worth exploring; Do You Like Rock Music is probably the best place to start there. Both bands create big soundscapes in the grand tradition of the E-Street Band. Islands are a tad bit stranger than either of those bands, but their '08 release Arm's Way probably has enough soaring moments to satisfy your tastes.

Fans of Bruce, in particular, might also want to check out The Hold Steady. I have to admit that I've been on the fence when it comes to this particular band, but Stay Positive, their most recent full-length, is at least worth a casual listen.

If you don't mind a little southern psychedelia mixed in with your guitar driven rock, the My Morning Jacket might prove to be a revelation. Z is probably the best place to start. This year's Evil Urges is a bit more spotty, but is still a solid release. Band of Horses is another band in this vein that probably possesses enough guitar muscle to hold your interest.

Finally, fans of Cat Power can find a lot to like on Thao Nguyen's We Brave Bee Stings and All.

Those are all pretty good places to start, I think. Check 'em out and I think you might be very pleasantly surprised by at least a couple of these acts.

Jason said...


It's not new, but I utterly recommend that you check out Midnight Oil's album "Earth and Sun and Moon." One of my all time faves for anthem-type stuff. (Assuming "anthem" means the same thing to me as it does to you in this context.)

Geoff Klock said...

Curt and Scott: I can back up Curt's recommendations of Built to Spill and Arcade Fire, both of which I have been listening to lately. Islands, I need some more time with.

Curt: can you recommend some good hip-hop and/or music to run to. My favorite running album is LCD Soundsystem's 45:33 but I got Flying Lotus in part because they were said to be similar to LCD Soundsystem -- they probably were generally, but not for running purposes.

Curt said...


It just so happens I run to LCD Soundsystem's 45:33, too. Who knew? It's definitely the best installment in Nike's series of original, running mixes.

Anyway, the two LCD Soundsystem proper albums have plenty of uptempo material, too. Sound of Silver is the better of the two, though. LCD mastermind James Murphy has a FabricLive mix on CD that's also worth picking up. The album is a recording of one of his DJ sessions, which is pretty solid, but it's a little more disco than his regular output.

As far as hip-hop is concerned, I'm pretty partial to K-os' Joyful Rebellion and Atlantis: Hymns for Disco. The latter is my favorite and "Sunday Morning," "Born to Run," and "Valhalla" are regular staples in my running and cycling mixes. I'm pretty partial to old J5, too, but that's just me.

I'm betting you're familiar with it, but parts of Gorillaz's Demon Days really lend themselves to a good jog, as does much of the Bloc Party remix album, Silent Alarm Remixed.

Ted Leo's Shake the Sheets, which I mentioned earlier, is definitely high-octane music, as is Death from Above 1979's You're a Woman, I'm a Machine. It's interesting to note that one half of DFA1979 went on to form MSTRKRFT.

I also listen to a lot of New Pornographers while working out, although they're a bit too hook laden for some people.

That's all that comes to mind now.

Curt said...

Okay, I lied. Do yourself a favor and pick up The Black Keys Attack & Release, if you haven't already. The Black Keys are a guitar/drums duo out of northern Ohio who make The White Stripes look like amateurs.

Attack & Release, their latest album, was produced by Gnarls Barkley/Gorillaz/Beck/The Good, The Bad, and the Queen producer Danger Mouse. The album sort of flew under the radar, but it's definitely one of the best releases of 2008.

Geoff Klock said...

Curt: that is an awesome list, and you did the thing i need to hear to get me to buy new music -- you listen to something I like (you even run to it as well) -- so now I feel like I can totally trust you because you made the connection for me. Thanks. I am totally going to get that stuff.

Geoff Klock said...

Curt -- you are, of course, welcome to post here anytime. I added Tracer to the sidebar.

Curtis P. Whitacre said...

Much obliged on the TRACER link, Geoff! I really appreciate it!

In all seriousness, let me know what you think after you've looked into some of those suggestions. You can catch me at, or in the comments of your next music-related blog post (although, I'm also a fan of your observations on Morrison, Miller, and Whedon and Jason's Claremont/UXM analysis).

Curt said...

And autofill can be blamed for my name change on that lost post!

Geoff Klock said...

Curt: I just came back from a 5 mile run to K-OS's Atlantis. That was an awesome album. I am going to take your recommendations very seriously and I will get more albums on that list.

Curt said...

Glad to hear it, Geoff! I think k-os deserves all of the attention he can get, so I'm just happy to spread the word.

scott91777 said...


Thanks for the reccomendations, I've been on the fence about both the Black Keys and Arcade Fire for awhile now. I like both 'ok' just not sure if I LOVE them yet. For Arcade Fire I think I wish they had a stronger vocalist.

My Morning Jacket reminds me of Wilco circa Being There... of course when it comes to Wilco I prefer Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The Hold STeady could be promising, the vocalist totally sounds like Bruce circa 'Greetings From Asbury Park', I also find the loud guitars appealing :)

Built To Spill also seems like they may be worth checking out.