Best Music of 2008

30 Dec

Check out Thursday’s Daily Journal for my take on the best local music released this year.

This is a list of my favorite non-local music of 2008 – but first, here’s why I even have a list to begin with:

It seems like, back in the day, everybody saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, everybody had a copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and everybody remembers seeing the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video for the first time.

I’m not sure that “everybody” does anything together like that anymore. We all hear music and experience pop culture in different ways. I know I don’t listen to the radio as much as I used to, for example, but I know plenty of folks who are loyal to their favorite stations. Others only listen to the most obscure bands on MySpace. Some folks are content to stick with one band or genre.

In other words – we’re all living our own playlists. My favorite music of the year won’t be the same as anybody else’s, which I like.

I’m lucky enough to have a job at which I can spend a lot of time studying and reading about the latest music. I find my music in thousands of different ways – some I fall in love with by seeing the band live (Farewell Flight, for example); some I find via magazine articles (Darker My Love); others I find by just searching music sites (She Keeps Bees); others I check out based on what another music blogger suggests (Jessica Lea Mayfield).

That said, I offer up a list of my favorite music from this year so more listeners can discover music they may like. We may not all have the same taste in genres, but you may find something in this you like. And if I can spread a little musical cheer, then my job is done. 🙂

Here’s my list. Share your favorites!

Best Album of 2008:  “Sound. Color. Motion,” Farewell Flight
Farewell Flight

My favorite album of 2007 was M.I.A.’s “Kala,” because it changed the way I listened to music.
My favorite album of 2008 reminds me why I fell in love with music in the first place.
The music on “Sound. Color. Motion,” feels like the most true thing I’ve heard in years. There’s no pretentiousness here, no showing off, no trying to one-up those who’ve come before. It’s just the lives of Luke Foley, Robbe Reddinger, Marc Prokopchak and Timmy Moslener, in the form of music.
The Pennsylvania-based band works together tightly, playing off each other so well and allowing each member plenty of time to shine.
It’s Foley’s voice is what makes the beautiful music even better. It’s evident that the songs were well-worn and well-practiced even going into the studio, but Foley sings each track with raw emotion and power that draws the listener in every time.
There are thousands of labels I could throw at Farewell Flight – words like pop, indie rock, emo even – but that just feels like it cheapens the music. I think words like reality and truth better describe the band’s sound.
Farewell Flight reminds me of John Lennon in that I hear the truth in both artists’ music.
As Lennon said about his 1971 album “Imagine,” “I think it’s realistic and it’s true to the me that has been developing over the years from my life…It’s me! And nobody else. That’s why I like it. It’s real, that’s all.”
And that’s why I love “Sound. Color. Motion,” by Farewell Flight. It’s real, that’s all.

Click “keep reading” to see my other favorites of the year…

I have not loved any other album the way I love and connect with Farewell Flight’s, but I want to recognize some great albums that were released this year. In no particular order, here are 10 other albums I loved this year:

“Nests,” She Keeps Bees
This album sounds like it was made at half-past midnight in a Spanish moss-drenched cemetery with the help of some virgin water, shiny dimes and a voodoo priestess.
I nearly fell off my chair when I read that this duo is based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., because this music sounds like dirty, gritty, grimy Mississippi blues.
To quote Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendan) on an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “It smells like church in here. No wait – evil church.” And that’s “Nests.”
Key track: “Gimme”

“The Bake Sale,” The Cool Kids
The Cool Kids describe themselves as a “black version of the Beastie Boys” – and that’s exactly it. These guys made a totally fresh, unique, fun rap album. Take “What Up Man,” in which the claps, bass line and “ticks” are all spoken. Pretty cool.
Key track: “What Up Man”

“Fleet Foxes,” Fleet Foxes
Songs like “Ragged Wood” and “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” could’ve been made 30 years ago or 30 years in the future. Timeless and perfectly pretty, there really isn’t anything quite as lovely as this record this year.
Key track: “White Winter Hymnal”

“Feed the Animals,” Girl Talk
Granted, Gregg Gillis didn’t write Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” or Faith Evans’ “Love Like This,” for example, but the way the DJ mixes those songs and more up on his latest CD is a work of art. The casual listener will love hearing the most obvious genre clashes (like Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” mashed with Metallica’s “One”), but a deeper listen reveals how all genres of music can easily work together, if placed in the hands of a craftsman like Gillis.
Key track: They’re all great – the album is really more like one long song, in a way – but I’m especially sweet on “No Pause.”

“Midnight Boom,” The Kills
Infectious hooks of teen pop minus the perkiness plus a healthy dose of rock and blues multiplied by a sexy, slinky attitude equals one of the tightest, catchiest albums of the year.
Key track: “Sour Cherry”

“The Rhumb Line,” Ra Ra Riot
This indie rock band’s debut is full of sturdy, beautiful music. There may be nothing new musically done here, but it sure is a gorgeous listen. It’s kind of like eating a really, really good steak: sure, you’ve had steak before – but that doesn’t make the one you just ate any less satisfying.
Key track: “Too Too Too Fast”

“Consolers of the Lonely,” The Raconteurs
The Raconteurs’ album sounds like a collection of siblings: there’s the indie rock 30-something brother (“Consoler of the Lonely”), the quirky sister majoring in liberal arts (“You Don’t Understand Me”), the “Guitar Hero”-playing teen brother (“Salute Your Solution”), the punk rock sister (“Hold Up”), the brother that buys his jeans at feed stores (“Old Enough”), and so on. They’re all obviously related, but they all have their own quirks that make them unique and loveable.
Key tracks: “Salute Your Solution,” “Old Enough”

“Pretty. Odd,” Panic at the Disco
Go ahead, say it: It sounds like some 20-year-olds finally heard “Pet Sounds” and “Sgt. Pepper’s” and tried to duplicate it by way of Morrissey. But, really, is that so bad? These guys put an earnest effort into taking classic sounds and making them their own. I’ve returned to this album numerous times throughout the year and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Key tracks: “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed),” “Northern Downpour”

“Santogold,” Santogold
There are so many genres of music out there: rock, punk, pop, ska, dance hall, indie rock. And then there’s the genre of Santogold, which mixes all of those other genres together into one original musical form. The singer/rapper’s debut does exactly what a debut should, and that is that she totally captures her listeners and leaves them wanting more.
Key tracks: “Lights Out,” “L.E.S. Artistes”

“The Good Life,” Justin Townes Earle
Country music so good and honest it knocks the breath out of you. The son of Steve Earle has done his dad proud.
Key tracks: “Lone Pine Hill,” “Hard Livin'”

Honorable mentions:
“With Blasphemy, So Heartfelt,” Jessica Lea Mayfield
“Volume One,” She & Him
“Year of the Gentleman,” Ne-Yo
“Shine,” Estelle
“Lay it Down,” Al Green
“Army Navy,” Army Navy
“In Ghost Colours,” Cut Copy
“Stay Positive,” The Hold Steady
“Furr,” Blitzen Trapper
“Robyn,” Robyn
“Colin Meloy Sings Live!,” Colin Meloy
“Trouble in Mind,” Hayes Carll
“For Emma, Forever Ago,” Bon Iver

SONGS
“Two Ways Out,” Darker My Love
This is one of those rare gems that sounds simultaneously familiar but fresh. The fuzzy rock sound is indie rock enough for hipsters but catchy to please any ear.

“Red Wine,” Izza Kizza
Let other rappers tinker with Auto-Tune. Izza Kizza proves a good rapper just needs his voice, an attitude, smart lyrics and a healthy sense of fun.

“Always a Friend,” Alejandro Escovedo
Proof that a well-crafted, old-fashioned rock song cures all ails.

“Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis
It’s as super-stylized and over-prepped as a big-haired beauty pageant contestant, but Lewis’ gorgeous voice makes it so easy to surrender to this guilty pleasure.

“Blue Year,” Perhapst
The song screams randomness. Perhapst is the solo side-project from The Decemberists’ drummer (see? random already), and his album is full of folksy rock and pop sounds that are as breezy as summery Sunday afternoons in the 1970s seemed to be. “Blue Year” is a laid-back, easy song that brings a smile to your face. And is that a cowbell I hear?

“Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings
The guitar riff in this is so good it’s mind-numbing. Turn off your brain and dance, fool.

“Fever,” Family Force 5
The crunk-rock band outdid itself with this infectious dance ditty. Why this song hasn’t taken over the world yet is a mystery.

“I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz
It’s not without it’s flaws, but at the same time, if you really hate a song this sweet and laid-back, you have no soul.

“Valerie Plame,” The Decemberists
The plucky first single from the band’s “Always the Bridesmaid” singles series is the best song written about an ex-CIA officer. And in a year full of incredible politics, the world needs a plucky song about an ex-CIA officer.

“Disturbia,” Rihanna
While not as quoteable as “Umbrella,” “Disturbia” is way more fun. Turn it up.

Honorable mentions:
“Love Lockdown,” Kanye West
“American Boy,” Estelle f/ Kanye West
“Right Hand on My Heart,” The Whigs
“Kiss Me Again,” Jessica Lea Mayfield

6 Responses to “Best Music of 2008”

  1. ezradaisy December 31, 2008 at 2:31 am #

    i have no explanation for the list i am about to post. these are my top 20 albums (i couldn’t stop once i got started) from 2008 – released, not personally found in ’08. in no particular order, here is what you requested.

    adele – 19
    the impossible shapes – 9
    amos lee -last days at the lodge
    the places we lived – backyard tire fire
    the boxmasters
    hope for the hopeless – brett dennen
    until that day EP – easy star all-stars
    echoes, silence, patience & grace – foo fighters
    the gabe dixon band (self titled)
    made of bricks – kate nash
    meiko (self titled)
    songs for you, truths for me – james morrison
    we sing, we dance, we steal things – jason mraz
    heretic pride – the mountain goats
    pictures and sound (self titled)
    sea from shore – school of language
    fearless – taylor swift
    home this year – virginia coalition
    line in the sand – zox
    rockferry – duffy

  2. sheenabarnett December 31, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    and i know farewell flight is on your list, too. 🙂

    i really liked pieces of adele’s and kate nash’s….and the rest of this i’m sure i’ll be bumming from you at a later date 🙂

  3. ezradaisy December 31, 2008 at 4:15 pm #

    that’s fine. i tried not to duplicate what you previously posted. and don’t worry about the bumming because i see fair trade in the future.

  4. ezradaisy December 31, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    i was in a previous life. that’s why i have the awesome knowledge of all things random. these abilities, however, only apply to the items most commonly called “useless.”

  5. sheenabarnett December 31, 2008 at 4:47 pm #

    you were also really good with birds in an earlier life too. your talents were various and many. or something like that 🙂

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