Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone. Our own Greg Harrell has passed on his own indie-tastic list of his favorites of 2008. Have a look-see, won’t you?
20.) Atmosphere â€“ When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold
19.) The Verve â€“ Forth
18.) Raphael Saadiq â€“ The Way I See it
17.) Ra Ra Riot â€“ The Rhumb Line
16.) Coldplay â€“ Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
15.) Robyn â€“ Robyn
14.) Bloc Party â€“ Intimacy
13.) The Streets â€“ Everything Is Borrowed
12.) Shearwater â€“ Rook
11.) ohGr â€“ Devils in my Details
10.) The Mars Volta â€“ The Bedlam In Goliath
Were it not for a handful of shitty songs, this would easily be album of the year. “Metatron” is the greatest thing anybody recorded in 2008, and when this record’s on, it’ll give you seizures. Seriously, Curtis Mayfield could’ve written “Goliath” after a weekend of dropping acid in the desert. Occultist prog-rock doesn’t get any better.
9.) Sigur Ros – Med Sud I Eryum Vid Spilium Endalaust
This record is every bit as “Sigur Ros” as anything these crazy Icelandic bastards have done in the past: meaning it sounds very much like pop music from some beautiful alien civilization. Still, the band decided to throw in a few curveballs, and it definitely sounds muchâ€¦earthier than anything else they’ve done, probably because the sweeping electric guitars of yore have been replaced with acoustics. Surprisingly, they pull the folky direction off beautifully. The sweet ballad “Illgresi” has made it onto just about every mixtape I’ve burned this year, “Gobbledigook” is a gleeful sprint through the woods, and the angelic explosion of “Ara batur” is just paralyzingly beautiful. I don’t know what the hell world these guys inhabit, but I’d sure like to visit it someday.
8.) TV on the Radio â€“ Dear Science
Depending on whose reading this, you either have no idea who the fuck TV on the Radio is or you’ve had the brilliance of this record shoved down your throat so many times that you’re completely sick of it. So yeah, TV on the Radio experiments with dance / disco / afro-beat / new wave, everybody loves it and I’m already sick of talking about it.
7.) Kanye West â€“ 808s & Heartbreak
I wasn’t as scared of this record as a lot of people were. I dug “Love Lockdown” from the get go, and figured if anyone could make a great record out of the autotune it would be Kanye. Sure enough, he proved me right. If for whatever reason you haven’t heard this yet, “808s & Heartbreak” finds Mr. West going a more somber route. Yeah, there’s singing; yeah, there’s heartbreak; yeah, there are 808s too incidentally enough. I don’t know if this as radical as some people have made it out to be, seeing as there are at least four great singles on this album, but whether you love the man or hate him, you’ve gotta respect his artistic daring. I mean, how many times has Kanye reinvented his style now? Exactly. I don’t really know where to place the sound of this record: somewhere between the “walking through the streets at night contemplating what an utter failure your life has become” sound of Burial’s last record, the catchier side of Depeche Mode and the more Eurocentric songs from “Graduation.” It’s a hell of a statement, and nobody other than Kanye West could’ve possibly made it.
6.) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds â€“ Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Imagine “Highway 61 Revisited” plowed into the Doors’ self-titled record. “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” is the result.
5.) Beck â€“ Modern Guilt
Beck writes a bunch of apocalyptic songs and gets Dangermouse to provide some colorful and vaguely psychedelic beats. Naturally, the result is brilliance.
4.) Q-Tip â€“ The Renaissance
The only legitimately great hip-hop record released this year (“808s” is a little too leftfield to qualify as hip-hop exclusively). Q-Tip does something that not too many pioneers of the genre are willing to do: he looks forward instead of trying to plagiarize himself. The result is an excellent hip-hop medley, sometimes jazzy, sometimes soulful, always electrifying. Tip puts everybody doing this to shame so astoundingly, and so effortlessly, it’s almost humbling.
3.) Portishead â€“ Third
Speaking of leftfield comebacks, holy shit this record is amazing. Considering that trip-hop (which isn’t really a genre but let’s pretend it is for a sentence) has essentially been left to fester in a ditch, I can’t say I was expecting Portishead to pull off a masterpiece. But lo and behold they did. Beth Gibbons sounds as lovely as ever, and the other two guys still know how to convert dank and despair into beauty. From the shimmering “Hunter” to the bubbling “Rip” to the foggy “Small,” there’s not a bad song here. Proof that your musical idols aren’t always content to just sit on their asses and exploit their legacies.
2.) Bon Iver â€“ For Emma, Forever Ago
The sound of a white wolf pawing at the moon. Music don’t get much sadder and wintry than this.
1.) Elbow â€“ The Seldom Seen Kid
How the hell have these guys not blown up yet? Seriously, “Grounds for Divorce” alone should have made them a household name. Well, unless Judd Apatow decides to use one of their songs to promote his next movie, I guess these guys are gonna have to remain a secret. “The Seldom Seen Kid” goes everywhere: one track you’re soaring through space, the next you’re getting stretched through a funhouse mirror. One minute you’re sitting on top of a skyscraper, the next you’re walking past a friend’s grave. And so on. Guy Garvey is an absolutely brilliant songwriter, and the lyrics wash through you as if the feelings were your own. As a singer, he’s capable of evoking both the tenderness of Chris Martin and the swagger of Peter Gabriel (who I guess could be tender too butâ€¦umâ€¦). If you’ve yet to hear this, then look up the dazzling “Mirrorball.” If that song doesn’t move you then I don’t want to share the sameâ€¦planet as you. Get out.