June 24, 2008
We’re quickly approaching the halfway point to 2008, and that can only mean one thing. It’s time for midway-through-the-year lists. I’ve been relistening to all my favorites from the year and deciding which ones were worthy of a much-heralded list placement. It wasn’t easy, but I settled on 12 (and a half) favorite albums for this year. I also made a nifty graphic that includes visuals from all the albums I have listed. I noticed there was a theme for album covers this year: Disembodied Body Parts, Chandeliers, and Clouds (every album has at least one of these items. odd right?).
These 12 and a half albums (because it’s half of 25) are listed in chronological order and only include albums physically released in the first half of this year (sorry Girl Talk, Hold Steady).
Evangelicals – The Evening Descends
This was a big grower album for me. I loved “Skeleton Man” from the beginning but it took seeing their absolutely wild live show and spending some time with the album to realize that the rest of the album is just as amazing. Dripping with horror b-movie film references and delicous psychedelia, The Evening Descends is an incredible album from a still-developing band.
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
If you take away all the crazy hype that this band has received, you still have a 11 ridiculously catchy tunes. It’s amazing how strong people’s opinions are of this actually fairly unassuming, fun pop album. I still listen to it and enjoy it on a regular basis, and I’m of the opinion that M79 is one of the best songs of the year.
Quinn Walker – Laughter’s An Asshole / Lion Land
This is my one oddball pick on the list, but if you’ve ever listened to Quinn Walker’s music you probably realize that this double-album, his first ever official release, begs to be recognized. Quinn’s music ranges from psychedelic tribal folk to epic post-rock to highly-orchestrated baroque-pop, sometimes in the same song. There’s also moments of breathtaking, transcendent beauty here like “Smile For Me”. I honestly can’t recommend this guy enough.
British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
Easily the most anthemic, epic rock album released this year. If you answered “yes” to the album title’s question and can listen to huge choruses and even huger guitar riffs without immediately making silly comparisons to U2, you need to pick up this album. This music is powerful, majestic, vast, sublime and explosive. It’s also probably my most listened to album of the year.
The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
John Darnielle is a ridiculously talented guy, both musically and especially lyrically and this album is one of the best of his illustrious career. Unlike Get Lonely (which I loved) there’s a lot of variety on this album, especially thematically. Heretic Pride features some absolutely gorgeous instrumentation, some much-needed rocking out moments, and some of Darnielle’s best vocal performances ever.
Sun Kil Moon – April
Sun Kil Moon is a band I had no knowledge of going into the year. After hearing April I rushed out to get the rest of the band’s albums and am now glad to call myself a fan. These songs are intimate, hypnotic, and beautifully played with lush acoustic guitar, piano, and string flourishes. From the sprawling ten-minute epic “Lost Verses” that opens the album to the plucked acoustic greatness of closing track, “Blue Orchids”, everything on April is drop-dead gorgeous.
Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)
After last year’s outstanding, breathtaking album The Meaning of 8, Cloud Cult shot up to “new favorite band” ranks in my book. I obviously was very excited when the band released Feel Good Ghosts so soon afterwards. The album doesn’t match the greatness of 8, but there’s plenty on here to love including some of the most jubilant and triumphant songs the band has recorded. Seeing many of these songs being played lived, raised my already sky-high appreciation for this band and this album.
Islands – Arms Way
This is an album that takes some time to fully appreciate how awesome it is. Return to Sea was a more immediately catchy, but Islands have fully expanded their sound here and created a much darker, theatrical, epic album. Arm’s Way is filled with bombastic instrumentation and elaborate compositions, but also leave room for some of the completely infectious melodies that made fans fall in love with them in the first place.
Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us
It’s true, Re-Arrange Us is not as breathtakingly original and spectacular as Bring It Back, but I still can’t get enough of this album. The unbelievably catchy melodies are there, and they still do boy/girl harmonies better than any other band out there. This album is easier on the ears then anything they’ve done before (a good or bad thing depending on who you ask) and features a more varied musical palette, which on awesome songs like “Re-Arrange Us”, “Get Better”, and “You Are Free” is a very good thing.
Shearwater – Rook
I loved Shearwater’s last album, Palo Santo, which was a breakthrough album for the band and Rook improves upon the band’s sound in almost every way. Johnathon Meisburg’s vibrant vocals alone are enough to bring someone to tears and matched with the dynamic, enchanting instrumentation you have one of the most beautiful albums of the last few years. If you can listen to a song like “Leviathan Bound” without getting chills, you probably don’t deserve to have ears.
Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
Dan Broekner and (especially) Spencer Krug are two of the best songwriters in indie rock today, so you know this album is going to be good, but At Mount Zoomer surpasses all my expectations and provides an album that will likely go down along with their debut as one of the best indie albums of the decade. The album is thrilling ride of proggy explosions and rock opera anthems. More accessible than anything from Sunset Rubdown or Handsome Furs, this album combines the best parts of both frontmen into glorious triumph.
Sigur Rós – Með suð i eyrum við spilum endalaust
Sigur Ros haven’t ever made anything close to a bad album, and they’re not about to start now. The first single “Gobbledigook” sent fans into a excited frenzy about the band’s new sound, but the album has shown that the band hasn’t at all abandoned their massive scope of music. They’ve just evolved their sound to be much more jubilant and spirited that we saw in smaller doses on Takk… and now is fullly-realized in incredible songs like “Við spilum endalaust” and “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”. There’s still flashes of the longer, drawn-out epics like the beautiful “Festival” but it seems more of the band efforts have gone into making shorter, livelier tracks which I couldn’t be more happy with.
Favorite EP of the 2008 (so far):
Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP
I decided to include Fleet Foxes Sun Giant EP as the half of my twelve and a half favorite albums, partly because I didn’t have the room to put the full-lenghth on here and because it is, in it’s own right a fantastic collection of acoustic chamber pop songs that is still revealing itself to me. I still can’t get over the lovely, gospel-like qualities of the vocals in songs like “Sun Giant” and “Drops In The River”. Easily one of the best new bands of the year.
Jamie Lidell – Jim
Headlights – Some Racing, Some Stopping
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Los Campesinos – Hold On Now Youngster
Destroyer – Trouble In Dreams
The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
The Dodos – Visiter
Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs
M83 – Saturdays=Youth
No Age – Nouns
Okay – Huggable Dust
Tags: British Sea Power, Cloud Cult, Death Cab for Cutie, Destroyer, Evangelicals, Fleet Foxes, Headlights, Islands, Jamie Lidell, Los Campesinos!, M83, Mates of State, No Age, Okay, Quinn Walker, Raveonettes, Shearwater, Sigur Ros, Sun Kil Moon, The Dodos, The Mountain Goats, Vampire Weekend, Wolf Parade