The end of another year. What do we have to show for it? Nothing. Well, not really. We’re about to have a new president (who according to some people, may or may not be the savior of all things horrible), an economy in dire straights, and Chinese Democracy. Is it a bad thing that the only thing in that list that blows my mind is Axl’s doomed-from-the-beginning opus? No? I haven’t even heard it yet, but what I have heard are reviews ranging from rave-party glowing to dark-as-a-Goth-shindig. I mean, if that album was anything less than perfect, it was a failure. So…it failed. But you can’t blame Axl for trying. At least we all get to experience the sweet nectar that is Dr. Pepper. I still don’t know the details behind that but just the idea was sweet enough.
The real question you're asking is: “What is he doing back, poisoning the web with his writing that he thinks is so clever?” First, thanks for the compliment. Second, I’m not impervious to year-end lists. I’ve got my Top Ten Albums of 2008 right here in front of me. Let me preface with how it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind. In fact, most of my friends might laugh me out the door. My list is devoid of the TV On The Radio’s or the Animal Collective’s or Fleet Fox’s or even the Hold Steady’s (sorry, Corey). After that whole mainstream rant I went on in the last post a few months ago, I’d say that’s exactly where I’m sitting. But I think it’s cool that if I’d looked at a release schedule back in January, I could have almost picked out this list that I’m about to…uh…list. Actually, that’s pretty cool. As someone on the AV Club said the other day in reference to things like Wall-E and The Dark Knight being some of the best movies of the year, why do we live in a world where living up to the hype is such a bad thing? And that is what the albums that I have listed here have done.
Again, these are opinion. You can try to sway me, ridicule me, or agree. That’s why music just plain sucks. You can’t prove anything. You hear that, Mike? Take your fourth diminished, tres octave D-sus chord and shove it. Throwing theory in my face isn’t gonna change my mind. So here we go. Oh yeah, they’re in alphabetical order by artist.
1. Coldplay, Viva La Vida
As you’ll see further down, this was a year of experimenting from some of the larger acts. Nobody progressed further than Coldplay. While the album didn’t grab me at first, it’s definitely a grower, with deeper instrumentation and melodies. There are no “Clocks” here, just solid songwriting. And they’re not Radiohead so can it with the comparisons. Just let them write what they want.
Favorite Track: “Lovers in Japan”
2. Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs
Plans was merely alright, only helped in my mind by the Direction DVD. But Narrow Stairs brought Ben Gibbard and company back in the limelight. Rocking harder than ever, the opener “Bixby Canyon Bridge” showed that you’re in for a ride of ups and downs like any great Death Cab record.
Favorite Track: “Long Division”
3. Fall Out Boy, Folie A Deux
Get off your indie high horse and just let go. FOB is making the best pop-punk music in the absence of Blink-182 (which might not be for long). And as their first single says, they don’t care what you think. Love him or hate him, Pete Wentz writes some very vulnerable stuff. And these guys don’t rest on their laurels, but they grab those laurels and bring them with them on the quest to make perfect pop records. They’re on the way…
Favorite Tracks: “The (Shipped) Gold Standard”, “What A Catch, Donnie”, and the Neptunes-produced “w.a.m.s.”
4. Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
This is one I wouldn’t have called. The other great album from an animal moniker, FR writes jaunty tunes with a little anger behind them. I will say the album could have been about two songs leaner, but it’s still more solid than any other indie band championed this year. Pitchfork readers agree in that it was underrated. So give it a shot.
Favorite Tracks: “The Modern Leper”, “Keep Yourself Warm”
5. Hot Chip, Made In The Dark
I think any album with “Shake a Fist” on it would make it to the top ten. What…a…song. But the rest of the album has shining moments of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. Some songs can drag, but isn’t that the beauty of the genre? I look forward to more.
Favorite Track: “Shake a Fist” (duh)
6. Kanye West, 808’s & Heartbreaks
Is there anybody more interesting that Kanye West right now? Oh, I’m sorry. I meant annoying. Either way, you can’t deny that this guy tries to be the greatest, even while he still thinks he is the greatest. Get past what you’ve heard about his fourth disc, cause there's some great stuff here. I like the sparse instrumentation and the auto-tune really isn’t near as annoying as his personality. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you like on this disc. If not, then read Pitchfork’s review and maybe you’ll listen differently. I hate those guys but they can really nail it sometimes.
Favorite Track: “Paranoid”
7. The Killers, Day & Age
No surprise here. After hearing “Human” for the first time though, there might have been. Now I love that song. The rest of album isn’t too shabby either. The Killers aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves (the Boss and Bowie), but they take those fractions and make them add up their own way. They’re only three true albums in and have tried more than most bands do in fifteen years. Needless to say, The Killers are going to be tons of fun to watch over the next decade.
Favorite Tracks: “I Can’t Stay”, “Neon Tiger”
8. Kings of Leon, Only By The Night
You wanna talk about no surprise. I’ve already said all I can say about this album. I love it and if you don’t, tough. I can’t make you change your mind. Just…I don’t know…try again.
Favorite Tracks: “Manhattan”, “Be Somebody”
9. The Raconteurs, Consolers Of The Lonely
I liked Broken Boy Soldiers enough but this one took me by storm. There is no doubt that Jack White is better with a rhythm section not anchored by a three-year-old’s skills (Sorry, Meg. You suck). But it’s not just White that makes these guys what they are. Brendan Benson certainly adds a great dynamic. I love when the two trade off. But this album is a rocker through and through.
Favorite Tracks: “Salute Your Solution”, “Five on the Five”
10. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
This stuff is just too much fun. It’s so simple, yet so replayable. It’s nice to see that they haven’t been thrown to the dogs yet like others before them (Cold War Kids, Tapes N Tapes, Clap Your Hands…) I hope they stick around but I’m afraid maybe their schtick will wear off on the second go round. Let’s hope we get our blood sucked out again soon. Bad metaphor? Yeah, it was.
So there you have it. Geez, looking at it now, it bores even me. But who cares? I like them all. Some runners up: Ra Ra Riot’s The Rhumb Line, Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals, and the Hold Steady’s Stay Positive. Seriously, there are more too. It’s been a good year for sure. 2009 is looking up in my book: new Trail of Dead, Franz, possibly Muse, and…wait for it…Third Eye Blind. Yeah, that thing is on the way. Too much excitement.
Well, I’m starting this thing back up again cause of my California escapades coming up in a few weeks. Should be fun. I go from coast to coast to give you the most…crap. See you soon. Til next time, baby birds.