Top Music Releases of 2008

Before I put up my list, let me offer up this guidepost to how I put together my list.  While I appreciate music that challenges me, first and foremost, I’m seeking out things that sound good to my ears.  I need me some hooks.  Also, I try to listen with the notion of will the music hold up in 5 or 10 years.  I think most of this stuff will.  As you can tell from my list, it is not exactly Top 40 radio, but it isn’t just made up of what will give me hipster status.

Finally, I am not that interested in writing up long descriptions, as instead, I have just given you a link to what I think will get you interested in what I believe is some tasty tune-age.

1. REM– Accelerate

When I bought this, I thought the first 3 songs were as good as anything I had heard kick off any CD since American Idiot.  I wasn’t as crazy about the rest of it, but over time, it started to grow on me.  A great comeback for America’s greatest rock and roll band.

2. Vampire Weekend

This reminds me of my college radio station back in the 80’s.  Like many of the white kids then who were playing around with ska like the Police, English Beat, etc., they might lack authentic street cred, but they do happy afropop as well as I’ve heard in a long time.

3.  She and Him– Volume One

Actress Zooey Deschanel has always had a not of this generation feel to her performances in movies, now she brings that voice to music.  Great 60’s Spector-like sound.

4. Gabe Dixon Band

I’m a sucker for a piano-based rock band, so when I was really disappointed by Ben Fold’s newest, I didn’t figure I would find my fill-in.  Then I stumbled upon this group, led by a front-man with a Billy Joel-sounding voice, but with some Dr. John-like boogie when tickling the keys.

5. Fall-Out Boy- Folie A Deux

They really never were emo, but more a great power-pop band.  While not as great as their past release, this one proves that despite seeming like a total wanker, Pete Wentz is talented wanker.  Wentzer?  Patrick Stump has as versatile of a pop voice as there is in music today.

6. Ranconteurs– Consolers of the Lonely

The most important rock artist of this decade is Jack White, as everything he has put out has been of high-quality.  While the first release of this band was dominated by White, Brendan Benson brings stuff here that raises his game to Jack’s level.

7. Frightened Rabbit-  Another great Scottish rock band.

8. The Virgins

Snotty, New York new-wave kids who I’m sure I would probably hate, if I met them.  Having said that, their influences are seductive to me, with Elvis Costello, the falsetto late 70’s Stones, and some Ray Davies thrown-in.  The music can be like if the Strokes met up with Fun Boy 3.  The lyrics are fairly silly, but the music grooves.

9. Gnarls Barkley– The Odd Couple

While not on the level as their original offering in 2006, I can’t turn my back on the original talents of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse.  Who’s Gonna Save My Soul was the best video of this year.

10. Girl Talk

Most hip-hop music this decade has left me wanting, but the master mashup’s of DJ Greg Gilis has helped me better understand the charms of some of the most successful rappers of today.

11. Death Cab for Cutie– Narrow Stairs
12. Hold Steady– Sequestered in Memphis
13. Snow Patrol– “A Hundred Million Suns”
14. MGMT– Oracular Spectacular
15. The Toadies– No Deliverance

16. Metallica- Death Magnetic
17. Eagles of Death Metal– Heart On
18. Shinedown– The Sound of Madness
19. Jonatha Brooke– The Works
20. Fleet Foxes

Notes on the second 10.  Death Cab, Hold Steady, and Snow Patrol have done better work in the past, but each has it’s moments.  Snow Patrol’s Crack the Shutters is the kind of song Prince would write if he was Scottish. MGMT had 2 of the best singles of this 2008.  I describe them as Flaming Lips, if LCD Soundstystem had joined them in the studio.
The Toadies are one of those bands that must have a self-destructive instinct because they rock like few can.  The place between Guns and Roses and grunge.

I liked St. Anger a lot better than most, but it was cool that Metallica decided to make a more back to roots record with Rick Rubin.  Some great And Justice for All-type moments.
In the world where Nickleback sells millions, I don’t get why Shinedown isn’t the biggest of all these bands. They can go from Metallica-like slam to Modern rock-pop like no one else.  Lead singer Brent Smith is a big influence for Chris Daughtry. I don’t consider that a negative.
EODM are one of my favs.  It is mindless, sexy, T. Rex-inspired rock. They have had better records, but I still think they belong in the Top 20 of 2008.
Jonatha Brooke was given the opportunity to follow in Wilco/Billy Bragg’s footsteps in interpreting Woody Guthrie’s words. There is some beautiful stuff here and her duets with Keb Mo and Glen Phillips are standouts.
There was no more beautiful record in 2008 than the celestial sounds of Fleet Foxes.  It is like hearing Brian Wilson songs done by a gothic church choir.  It does make me feel sleepy, though, so no driving at night to them.

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