The following is not a list of the Top-10 Albums of the Year (c’mon, I’m one man, who am I to say if these are the best albums of 2008?), instead, this is simply a list of my Top-10 favorite albums of the year:
10. Girl Talk, Feed The Animals
Yes, he’s just a mash-up artist, and what can a mash-up artist do besides layer acapellas over well-known instrumentals? Well, if you’re Girl Talk you take hundreds and hundreds of not just instrumentals, but bleeps, breaks, and beats and masterfully intertwine them with the naughtiest dirty south rap lyrics you can find. Feed The Animals isn’t just a simple collection of click-and-drag MP3 files, it’s an A.D.D.-pop-culture-musical-collage pieced together like a fine work of art.
9. Sons & Daughters, This Gift
Ah yes! They’ve made their first great album. This was my initial reaction after listening to Sons & Daughters’ sophomore effort, This Gift. Their debut, The Repulsion Box, had some “moments,” but it still seemed like the Scottish foursome hadn’t found their identity. This time, they found it, crafting one of the best rock albums of the year. Adele Bethel’s vocals are beautiful, Scott Paterson’s guitar licks steal the show on many of the tracks, and each song will leave your feet stomping for more.
8. The Raconteurs, Consolers of The Lonely
Throughout the duration of Consolers of The Lonely, I thought to myself, “If The Raconteurs wanted to, they could be the best rock, pop, country, or blues band in the world.” Because they can’t decide on one direction, sometimes Consolers of The Lonely feels a little jumpy, bobbing between the big rock of “Consoler of The Lonely,” the backwoods, southern-fried, “Top Yourself,” the Zeppelin-like “Rich Kid Blues,” and the burger and malt, retro-rock of “Many Shades of Black.” If only every band had these kinds of problems, huh?
7. The Cool Kids, The Bake Sale
I love the idea of The Cool Kids. As stated on their track, “88,” the group is attempting to bring back 1988, and who wouldn’t love to have that year back? Public Enemy would be fresh off the release of their groundbreaking, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, Run-DMC would be Tougher Than Leather, and The Beastie Boys would be between Licensed To Ill and Paul’s Boutique. With their old-school rhymes, sparse production and Bomb Squad-inspired snare drum blasts, The Cool Kids sound unique in our Timbaland-ruled world. My only complaint is that The Bake Sale was released as an EP. Didn’t anyone tell The Cool Kids that back in 1988 (before hip-hop albums became littered with 20 or more tracks) The Bake Sale would have been released as a proper full-length album?
6. The Morning Benders, Talking Through Tin Cans
Indie-pop-rock acts who are inspired by The Beach Boys, with daydreams of being The Shins are a dime a dozen. So even if you are inspired by the two bands mentioned above, how do you separate yourself from the rest of the pack? By creating some of the most feel-good, well-polished, catchy-as-sin songs of the year. Like many great singer/songwriters before him, Chris Chu has the talent of making the verse in a song just as memorable and sing-a-long-worthy as the chorus.
5. International Superheroes of Hardcore, Takin’ It Ova
After creating their mellowest album to date, Coming Home, and being dropped from their major label, New Found Glory took a page from Rocky Balboa’s book and went back to their roots by fully embracing their hardcore tendencies, forming the band International Superheroes of Hardcore. Their debut album, Takin’ It Ova, sounds like any great hardcore album from the late 80’s/early 90’s (everyone-shout-at-once choruses, machine gun drums, slow-down-the-mosh-pit breakdowns), but it’s different in that it’s lyrics are pure comic gold. Brilliantly written tongue-in-cheek songs about seat belts, emo kids, and super hero movies will leave you grinning from ear to ear, while thinking back to the glory days of Sick Of It All.
4. Hot Chip, Made In The Dark
Hands down, the best album Hot Chip has ever made. Their previous efforts–not saying they weren’t good–came off a little choppy, especially during the transitions between their dance club bangers and tracks where they wanted to flex their singer/songwriter muscle. Made In Dark boasts both types of songs, but instead of the album feeling uneven, it sounds like a well-made mix tape–I’m sure it also helps that Hot Chip created some grade-A, booty-shaking beats, sequenced the album perfectly, and wrote some really, really good songs.
3. Santogold, Santogold
Santogold seamlessly blurred the lines between hip-hop, dancehall, new wave, and indie-pop-rock on her self-titled debut album. Is she the first artist to do this in the last few years? No, but her penchant for pop and catchy hooks may make her more mainstream accessible than that one girl with the brightly colored lipstick (although Santogold’s beer commercials didn’t grip America like her counterpart’s movie trailer did). Comparisons aside, how freakin’ good were “Creator,” “Say Aha,” “Lights Out,” and “You’ll Find A Way”? The future’s looking bright for Santogold.
2. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Just one album in and Vampire Weekend have already carved out their own signature sound–jangly indie-rock mixed with African-inspired music, lush string arrangements, Ivy League college wit, and a smidgen of swagger. I mean, c’mon, who else sounds like Vampire Weekend? (I had a friend earlier this year who called them a cheap rip-off of Paul Simon, but I think he was just reacting to the hype.) All of the songs on Vampire Weekend make me feel something special inside, and although I don’t know exactly what any of them are about, oddly, I do.
1. Weezer, The Red Album
Weezer’s best album since Pinkerton. For those who felt the lyrics were too simplistic, keep in mind we’re living in a different Rivers Cuomo-world. You can’t be writing songs about teenage Japanese girls after you’ve conquered the galaxy. Instead, you share the microphone with your bandmates (who wrote some solid songs in the process), take a dig at critics any chance you get, and throw any and all self-consciousness out of the window. If people thought Pinkerton was Weezer’s most honest album, the Red Album has to be considered their most fearless. How else do you explain the epic-ness of “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” the rap-rock of “Dangerous,” and “Heart Songs,” a tune that simultaneously shouts out Nirvana, The Fresh Prince, Iron Maiden, and Debbie Gibson?