Top 10 Albums of 2008

2008 has just about come and gone, so every asshole who has ever listened to a goddamn song is going to be coming out with a year-end list. And not only am I an asshole, I have actually listened to several songs. You know, on the radio and junk.

I think this robot sounding fella was in one of them

But, when we get down to the nitty gritty, 2008’s music seems a bit…lacking. While 2007 had too much good stuff, this year I found myself adding albums and songs to this list that I never gave more than 3 or 4 listens. I’m sure come June of 2009, I’ll look back at this list and have dozens of tracks and albums I wish I had put on here instead. But you know what they say about regrets- they’re only good for horseshoes and hand grenades.

“That’s complete bullshit. Trust me, no one says that about regrets”

But, in a year of bad M.I.A. covers, date rape rap, and *gulp*, another Nickelback album, we might as well sit back, and take a look at the little bright spots of the past year in music. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

I know how to hold the stethoscope while wearing sunglasses and everything

10. Fuck Buttons- Street Horrrsing

This is probably a bit of an homage to my 2006 selection of Liars’ Drums Not Dead as the number 8 album of the year, and might by my reach selection of the year as well. Most people reading this probably wouldn’t find Fuck Buttons to be their thing. That’s the assumption I make anytime a good noise-drone album gets made. And yes, they are called “Fuck Buttons”, which, in non-band form, I could only assume would sell like hotcakes if the FDA ever legalized them.

“Where do…do I…press it?”

It’s essentially an album made for me to study to, which is all well and dandy except that as a graduate from the prestigious I’mTooLazyToMakeAGoodJokeHere University, I no longer have to listen to music while studying.

See, you don’t remember this movie either. A joke about it would have been a total dud.

With six tracks, only one of which is shorter than 7 minutes, it’s not an album you’d really play at a party to take things up a notch. But what’s really surprising about the album is how, despite being centered on overly distorted guitars and screamed incomprehensible vocals, the album falls more under the category of “easy listening” instead of “harsh noise”. Plus, they’re from England, and probably call elevators “lifts”.

9. Okay- Huggable Dust

I’m not sure how I feel about trying to crack jokes while describing this album. I’m not saying I’m one to shy away from making fun of people with illnesses or disabilities, I just don’t really know how effectively I can make jokes about Crohn’s disease…

ZING! Nailed it!

Apart from being just about impossible to google, Okay is Marty Anderson, an IV bound singer-songwriter who suffers from a fairly severe case of the aforementioned disease (…zing?). His first album was a double album, High Road and Low Road, where Anderson played every instrument and did all the vocals for the track. His voice also sounds a little bit like a dehydrated frog or something.

“I’m really thirsty”

That being said, he makes endearing, slightly off-kilter lo-fi pop music that he expands upon in his sophomore effort, which utilizes orchestration and is written entirely for his girlfriend-at-the-time (who does backing vocals throughout the album). Though, I’m guessing she didn’t like it that much, since they broke up after it was finished.

“How the fuck can you hug dust, Marty?”

“Go to hell, bitch, that’s how.”

But I’m going to have to take Anderson’s side in this break-up. The album is intimate, pretty, and avoids love song clichés remarkably well. Tracks like “Tragedy” and “Truce” sprawl out throughout the album, and though not every one of these eighteen tracks is a winner, there are far more hits than misses.

8. Bodies of Water- A Certain Feeling

I’m pretty sure that Bodies of Water is not a band, but in fact, just four people who disappeared in the 1970’s and are the basis for every rural story that starts, “That road? You don’t wanna go down that road…”

“Lotta history down that road…”

They all play their instruments really loud, and they all sing very loud, and it makes for quirky Indie Rock tracks that, while not particularly unusual, avoid sounding conventional with very unique vocal work and an array of Indie-friendly unusual instruments. Just about every song relies heavily organ use (yes, as in that fancy church piano with the pedals). Also, they sometimes use a glockenspiel.

This may or may not be what a glockenspiel is…

I discussed Bodies of Water in my year end list after their first album was ruled to be the 9th best album of 2007. That album is better than this, their sophomore effort (remember that whole “2007 was a better year for music than 2008” thing?), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that A Certain Feeling is still one of the better albums of the year. Also, they sound like The Arcade Fire having dirty, dirty sex with The Polyphonic Spree.

This is gonna be hot

7. Man Man- Rabbit Habits

Man Man is the best kind of batshit insane. Notice the cover art. You have a weeping naked woman showering, a man in the basement lighting the house on fire, while an act of oral sex occurs not too far away from a man in a banana suit. Also, a man has hung himself on the same floor as the house’s…pet…gorilla? What the fuck, Honus Honus?

“Yes, I’m the lead singer of this band. Yes, my name is Honus Honus. And yes, I am going to eat that baby. THAT baby, RIGHT there.”

The band members are Honus Honus, Sergei Sogay (get it!? Sooooo gay!) Pow Pow, Critter Crat, and Chang Wang. The majority of the band members have moustaches or beards. They dress in all white for their concerts, with glow in the dark war paint (see above).

While their third album is a slightly noticeable step down from their first two efforts, they still do the Zappa-meets-Beefheart-meets-Waits thing to a science. Some of the songs are riotous and danceable in that Indie-kids kind of way, but the album also throws in the occasional 8 minute long string-driven somber ballad in there. The only reason the album doesn’t rank any higher is that “Spooky Jookie”, a track they’ve been touring with for the past few years, and which would have been the best song on the album, is curiously absent from the track listing.

But otherwise. Yeah, again. Batshit insane.


Especially at the 2 minute mark of this video

6. Okkervil River- The Stand Ins

How Okkervil River has not yet reached the Indie level of fame reserved for, say, Modest Mouse or The Arcade Fire is beyond me. They craft their literary “folk-punk” Indie Rock with a keen ear, combine soft, pretty songs with upbeat rockers, and put on one of the best live shows this side of the millennium.

In their follow up to 2007’s outstanding The Stage Names, The Stand Ins doesn’t quite match the level of songs like “Unless It’s Kicks” or “John Allyn Smith Sails,” the band’s reached a level of craftsmanship that any album they’d release should be considered one of the best of the year. Hell, even their interviews are better than the majority of the albums that came out this year.

They’re also the best thing to come out of Texas since Dan Rather.

“Though, to be fair, I’m not much of a singer.”

5. Girl Talk- Feed the Animals

Putting a Girl Talk album on this list almost seems unfair, since there’s pretty much nothing catchier than hearing Gregg “why do I have three g’s in my first name” Gillis mash together all your favorite top 40, indie, and oldies songs into one lengthy dance party. Hell, we’re talking about an album that actually manages to make “Soulja Boy” not only listenable, but enjoyable.

“Youuuuuuuu crank dat Girl Talk”

This is an album that doesn’t thrive on individual tracks, but on individual moments. Save for a choice few, I can’t tell you what song I’m listening to, but I can tell you that this motherfucker just combined Salt-N-Pepa with Nirvana, and I want it to be my fucking ringtone. Hint, hint, America.

“Make the damn ringtone. It’s from In Step. Do it.”

The timing seems ideal too. Right after we had all played Night Ripper to death, and were wishing there could be Girl Talk album with some of the new tracks that have come out in the past years, white college students finally have a different album to play at all their parties. And, just like before, most people will dance appreciatively to the catchy tracks, while the hipster kid sipping PBR in the corner stutters, “This is Girl Talk, they’re pretty cool” to every attractive girl that ignores him while walking by. You know…hypothetically. It’s not like I did that…though, I mean, if I did, I’d probably say something like, “I booked a concert with this DJ, you know. *gestures to genitals*”

Because that would be weird. *cough*

“…You’re gross”

4. Why?- Alopecia

When white people try to flow, they should do it the way Yoni Wolf does. None of this Asher Roth bullshit (that’s right, that’s the second time I’m ripping on him in this article. He’s getting more hate than Weezer, can you imagine?), Why? sometimes sings in a slightly atonal manner, or he’ll just ramble his lyrics with a deliberate low register, dancing between poetic and haunting to innocently vulgar. It’s not hip-hop, it’s hip-pop, with instrumentals that scream Indie, but with a vocal delivery style that is hanging around in limbo, not sure what it wants to be.

As a result, a lot of the songs end up with an echo-like haunted quality to them which, while not leading to more than two or three mix-tape worthy tracks, makes for a really great listen when you’re in the right mood. Also, ghosts are awesome, so they have that going for them.

Hey, I needed to put a joke in here somewhere. No one said it had to be a good one…

3. The Hold Steady- Stay Positive

The Hold Steady is another band like Okkervil River that could pretty much take a dump on a plate, microwave it in MY microwave so my apartment gets a terrible smell that will never go away, package it as a CD, and still make my year end list.  I mean, I’m not speaking from experience here necessarily, but, you know, if that did happen, I’d be totally cool with it.  Though, I’d appreciate it if Craig Finn would at least pay someone to clean the microwave…

Seriously, dude, it would cost like, 20 bucks, tops.

But honestly, who doesn’t like a kickass album of roaring garage rock full of nostalgia, drinking, and character motifs? We all secretly have a hard on for Bruce Springsteen, but The Hold Steady has no qualms letting all of us know. Which is fine by me, as long as they keep pumping out albums like this. While the album isn’t as strong top-to-bottom as their previous album, Boys and Girls in America, what we can all agree upon is that the cover art is far superior this time around.

I mean, seriously you guys, what the fuck?

The album is chalked full of catchy, fun songs that, while generally not squishing anyone’s mindgrapes with their scope or awesomeness, are always good for a listen. But the reason why this album is so high on my list is the closing track, “Slapped Actresses,” which easily ranks as one of the best songs the band has ever done over their four album discography. There’s nothing like closing an album on an incredible track to leave you screaming for more, and here, The Hold Steady just leaves me hoping I’ll have an opportunity to put them on my year end list for next year too.

Imagine this, but with an actress in front of him.  Only, as a song.

2. Peter Adams- I Woke Up With Planets In My Face

Now we’re getting to the part of the list where I’m liking albums that most of the Indie online magazines are ignoring, since they’re not big enough to warrent their attention.  I’m not saying I’m somehow better than those people, or anything, but… you know…

shh…but yeah…suck it, pitchfork

Peter Adams is a Cincinnati based singer-songwriter who makes lush orchestral Indie Rock. The kicker is, at least for his first album, that he did it all himself. Vocal harmonies, guitars, drums, bass, cellos, violins, all of it was recorded by Adams in his basement, but you wouldn’t guess that just by listening to it. So, while Peter Adam’s songs are technically “lo-fi”, it’s lo-fi in the same way that a pre-op Tranny is a chick.

Surprise!

For this, his second album, Adams actually formed a band, but that was mainly just so he could actually tour and play shows. So, I honestly don’t know how much of the album was just recorded by Adams himself, though I do know he still recorded it in his basement. Which would be kind of depressing if the album wasn’t so goddamn awesome.

I think the Fonz lived in a basement or something, right?  And he’s still cool, right?  Case closed.

Where the album really shines are the two 7 minute tracks, “Antarctica” and “The Seventh Seal,” which are easily some of the best tracks of the year.  Ultimately, it’s lush, gorgeous, and catchy, which is reason enough to listen to it.  Oh right, it’s also available for free download on Peter Adams’ website, so, you know.  Hint.

1. Butterfly Assassins- Sylvia

The Butterfly Assassins are a local Chicago group that falls under the category of “they’re not well known at all, but everyone I’ve given them to have gone crazy over their album”.  Which usually is a pretty good sign that the band is pretty good.  But number one album of the year?  For an album very few of those reading this have heard of, and who I can’t think of any real good jokes for?  Well, probably because I’ve listened to this album more than they had made Patty Hurst listen to those brainwashing tapes.

Though I’m gonna go out and say it- Sylvia is probably way catchier than those tapes were anyway

It’s all a very simple science equation.  Cello + Indie rock = awesome.

+ =

How much plainer do I have to put it?

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About Jeff GoodSmith

I write on occasion. Sometimes it ends up here.
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10 Responses to Top 10 Albums of 2008

  1. Ken says:

    Good list—but no link to the BA Nitescool video you previously posted? What’s with that?

  2. Matthew says:

    Very interesting list. I’m going to have to check out more of this stuff. Particularly, I need to give The Hold Steady another listen. It took me ages to really enjoy “Boys and Girls in America,” so this is probably no different.

    And I hate to support Pitchfork-related things… but, damn, Fleet Foxes is some amazing stuff. Did you give that a spin yet?

  3. Jeff says:

    I actually do have the Fleet Foxes CD on my itunes- they were close to making this list, since they’re pretty good, but I’ve honestly only listened to it twice or so, so I don’t really have an articulate opinion of them yet

  4. Bryan says:

    Link to Sylvia II music video:

  5. Ken says:

    Thanks for posting the video link Bryan–it’s great.

  6. Dixaclock says:

    I’m loving the peter adams cd man, good call.

  7. Pingback: Interview: Peter Adams

  8. Pingback: 5 Changes Pitchfork Could Make to be a Better Site

  9. Pingback: Overlooked- The Best Albums of 2008 (That Didn’t Make My Best-Of-2008 List) | Elitish

  10. Pingback: Elitish’s Top 50 Tracks of 2010: #30-21 | Elitish

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