No point in any long, drawn-out intros right? I posted #s 25-13 yesterday. Here’s my Top 12 for the year.

12. Keane “Perfect Symmetry”

Yep, Keane made a better album than Coldplay. Even if you pit the two bands’ signature piano ballads against one another, Keane wins based on Tom Chaplin’s near-operatic voice. However, for album #3, Keane flipped the script, adding a guitarist on some tracks and going for an Eighties’ dance-pop sound with songs like the excellent Spiralling. I’m amazed that this album didn’t do better than it did, this might be the year’s most underrated album.

The Lovers Are Losing – Keane

11. Raphael Saadiq “The Way I See It”

It took me a long time to get into this album, because the former Tony Toni Tone’s Motown homage seemed like it was made with the specific intention to appeal to people like me who have major issues with current R&B music. However, unnecessary Jay-Z remix aside, The Way I See It won me over with grooves that recall the best of the Temptations, Tops and Miracles, not to mention the Chi-Lites and Delfonics. Seeing Saadiq perform these songs live a month or so ago only reinforced how good this album is.

10. Kings of Leon “Only By the Night”

Kings of Leon make their second straight appearance on one of my year end charts by expanding on the formula that’s brought them success so far. Caleb Followill still has that weird, haunting quality to his voice that makes everything he sings sound kind of spooky, but the rest of the band has stepped up their game to the point where they’re making real rock anthems. Sex on Fire was a winning single whose slightly dirty vibe justified its’ title.

9. Gnarls Barkley “The Odd Couple”

Best rapper/singer currently working? Cee-Lo Green. Although the rotund half of Gnarls Barkley dropped emceeing from his repertoire with this album, it wasn’t missed-Cee-Lo remains one of the most expressive singers in any genre. Oddball songs like Blind Mary and the haunting Who’s Gonna Save My Soul blended perfectly with dancefloor rave-ups like Run to successfully beat back the sophomore jinx. If I had trophies to give out, Danger Mouse would get one for best producer of 2008.

8. Girl Talk “Feed the Animals”

Remember back in the day when sampling was more creative than just dropping vocals over the instrumental to a popular song? Girl Talk certainly does, and this enjoyable collection of mashups-think Three 6 Mafia rapping over Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend or BLACKstreet’s No Diggity over the beat from Kanye West’s Flashing Lights-is sure to get the party started every time. Although half the fun is sitting, listening and trying to figure out what samples are being used.

7. Mike Doughty “Golden Delicious”

The latest solo effort from the former Soul Coughing frontman has a loosey-goosey quality to it-like a bunch of dudes just showed up at the studio and decided to jam. The fact that it’s a little sloppy-sounding is part of it’s charm. My favorites on this album are the somber Wednesday (Contra La Puerta) and the politically-charged Fort Hood, which lifts the chorus from the Sixties classic Let the Sunshine In to create one of the most emotionally affecting songs of the year. One of my favorite moments of 2008 was being able to tell Doughty in person how much that song meant to me.

6. Shelby Lynne “Just a Little Lovin'”

Shelby Lynne was meant to sing to intimate arrangements like the ones on this album-a collection of Dusty Springfield covers that sounds like it was recorded in a smoky nightclub. Lynne’s readings of songs like Anyone Who Had a Heart and How Can I Be Sure are almost painfully direct-like she’s singing the songs to you alone. This album made me run out and buy Dusty in Memphis to hear where Shelby got her inspiration from.

Anyone Who Had A Heart – Shelby Lynne

5. Robyn “Robyn”

Most females in pop these days have a sort of manufactured sassiness. With the exception of P!nk, it’s hard to find one American girl pop singer with an attitude that doesn’t seem put on. Thankfully, Swedish singer Robyn returned after a ten (ten!!) year absence to show the girls how it’s really done. Whether rapping or singing, these electro-bounce tunes had chutzpah to spare, and songs like Be Mine proved that Robyn could put across heartbreak just as easily as she could put across badassitude.

4. Kanye West “808s & Heartbreak”

And to think, I thought this album was going to be a huge disappointment. Kanye deserves your props just for abandoning a style that had earned him critical respect and commercial rewards for something a little more intimate. Maintaining his stellar production standards, Mr. West went all the way left and made an album influenced more by Thom Yorke than Jay-Z. While the lyrics could have used a bit more fine-tuning, 808s proves that Kanye is a master at setting a mood, and anyone that makes Auto-Tune tolerable deserves a hearty pat on the back from me.

3. Ne-Yo “Year of the Gentleman”

The guy with one of the sharpest pen games in pop music sharpened that pen even more for his excellent third album. If you’re looking for an album that discusses relationships with more realism than the average album, you wanna check this out. If you just suffered a breakup and you want to wallow a little, check this album out. If you just want to hear well-crafted pop/soul music, check this album out. Year of the Gentleman vaulted Ne-Yo far above the Chris Browns, Ushers and Timberlakes of the world. Those guys have a lot of catching up to do.

2. Q-Tip “The Renaissance”

Another artist returning after nearly a decade-long break was Q-Tip, former leader of A Tribe Called Quest. As a member of that groundbreaking hip-hop outfit, Tip was responsible for two if not three of the greatest albums in rap music history. The Renaissance‘s smart rhymes and booty-shaking beats proved that Tip didn’t need Phife Dawg or Ali Shaheed Muhammad to make a classic.

1. Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend”

Four Columbia University undergrads, armed with a handful of Afrobeat records (and I’d imagine copies of Paul Simon’s Graceland and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light), decide to make an African-influenced indie pop album that references the M-79 bus, Lil’ Jon’s Get Low, Peter Gabriel and oxford commas, while giving shouts out to the “bears in Provincetown”. Sounds like a recipe for the best album of the year? Not quite. However, Vampire Weekend made 2008’s most enjoyable album by following one very simple rule-HAVE FUN. Their self-titled debut brought a smile to my face and a wiggle to my hips every time I heard it, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

So there you have it, folks. My favorite albums of 2008. Here’s hoping that 2009 brings you all that you wish for. Happy New Year!