Adam's Best of 2008


Best Songs of 2008

1. “Skinny Love,” Bon Iver- This acoustic ballad is one of the most brilliant, haunting songs you’ll ever hear. While I didn’t love Bon Iver’s complete album as much as everyone else does, this song is a stunner, and the best of the year.

2. “White Winter Hymnal,” Fleet Foxes- The Fleet Foxes did an excellent job of reviving old-school Beach Boys harmonies. This song has the perfect mix of fun catchiness and melancholy sadness. A sweet, quick little tune, but a memorable one.

3. “Walcott,” Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend’s anthem about getting the hell out of Cape Cod is also their best track, with violins, a sing-along chorus, a gradual build, an epic ending, and most of all, that piano chord that will always roll along in your head.

4. “Family Tree,” TV on the Radio- Another beautiful song with a little more production than “Skinny Love.” Gorgeous vocals, strings, and synths make TV on the Radio the unlikely creator of one of the best ballads of the year.

5. “Robocop,” Kanye West- Also unlikely is an epic, string-filled, Stephen King-referencing Kanye West track that cannot be defined by a genre. Kanye’s entire album is gold, but something about “Robocop” places it above all the rest- probably Kanye’s surprisingly strong vocals, which carry the tune throughout.

6. “Paper Planes,” M.I.A.- Just an awesome song. Tribal beats, fantastic vocals, and of course, “All I wanna do is……”

7. “Viva La Vida”- Debatably 2008’s definitive anthem is also one of Coldplay’s best songs ever. And coming off of their brilliant album of the same name, that says a lot. I just wish it wasn’t so overplayed!

8. “Keep Yourself Warm,” Frightened Rabbit- I first heard this song during a shocking twist ending on one of my favorite shows, “Chuck.” It gave me the chills then. Now, listening through my iPod headphones, same effect.

9. “M79,” Vampire Weekend- Another VW track with strings out of a retro spy movie, a sing-along “woah,” and a building finale.

10. “Something Is Not Right With Me,” Cold War Kids- How can a song this big be under three minutes? I’m not quite sure, but the Cold War Kids have done it with a funky track marked by lead singer Nathan Willet’s trademark yelping. Their entire album should have sounded like this.

“Good Day,” Jukebox the Ghost

“Constructive Summer,” The Hold Steady

“Use Somebody,” Kings of Leon

“Ottoman,” Vampire Weekend

“When The Day Met the Night,” Panic at the Disco

“NYC, Gone, Gone,” Conor Oberst

“Do The Panic,” Phantom Planet

“Single Ladies,” Beyonce

“Lost!”, Coldplay

“A Dustland Fairytale,” The Killers

“In My Room,” The Last Shadow Puppets

“The Re-Arranger,” Mates of State

“You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds (featuring Regina Spektor)

“Lovers In Japan/Reign of Love,” Coldplay

“Sun It Rises,” Fleet Foxes

“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” Vampire Weekend

“Spaceman,” The Killers

“Ragged Wood,” Fleet Foxes

“Lost Coastlines,” Okkervil River

“A-Punk,” Vampire Weekend

“Love Lockdown,” Kanye West

"Halfway Home," TV on the Radio

"Titus Andronicus," Titus Andronicus

"You Can Do Better Than Me," Death Cab for Cutie

"Nine in the Afternoon," Panic at the Disco

"Bixby Cannon Bridge," Death Cab for Cutie

"Fools," The Dodos

"Raise the Dead," Phantom Planet

"Streetlights," Kanye West

"Sometime Around Midnight," The Airborne Toxic Event

"Walking," The Dodos

"He Doesn’t Know Why," Fleet Foxes

"Stay Positive," The Hold Steady

"The ‘59 Sound," The Gaslight Anthem

"Shape of My Heart," Noah and the Whale

"Dancing Choose," TV on the Radio

"Run," Gnarls Barkley

"Tessellate," Tokyo Police Club

"Teenagers," Department of Eagles

Best Albums of 2008

Honorable Mentions: Frightened Rabbit, Jukebox the Ghost, The Killers, The Hold Steady, The Dodos, Lil’ Wayne, Wolf Parade, Delta Spirit

10. The Age of the Understatement, The Last Shadow Puppets - I love the Arctic Monkeys. I love epic string arrangements. So yeah, I love the Last Shadow Puppets.

9. Raise the Dead, Phantom Planet - Unfortunately, Phantom Planet has broken up after releasing this wonderful album, which has enough pop-rock hooks for a massive coat rack. But don’t forget about their epic stunners- album opener “Raise the Dead” gives Arcade Fire a run for their money (not really, but whatever) and closer “I Don’t Mind” ain’t too shabby as well. If you haven’t listened yet, I strongly recommend a peek at this excellent band’s final album.

7. Pretty. Odd., Panic at the Disco - Maybe its not the best idea to place a Panic at the Disco album so high on a year-end list. But Pretty. Odd. is just fun. Every track is pitch-perfect, old-school pop-rock. Brendon Urie’s melodic whine somehow finds a way not to annoy me, but to please me. Try not bobbing your head or singing along with him on “She’s A Handsome Woman.” Ryan Ross’ vocal contributions don’t hurt either, notably on “Behind the Sea.” And even the slower songs can hold your attention and make you feel more emotion than your typical top-40 band can. Just listen to “Northern Downpour” or “She Held the World.” Corny as they are, these songs do make you feel something. And they only make up a small portion of the album- they’re nothing compared to bouncy tracks like “Pas De Cheval” and “That Green Gentleman.” So while Panic may not have the same indie-rock sensibility that, say, Deerhunter has, they sure are more fun. I dare you to listen to “When the Day Met the Night” and not smile.

6. Re-Arrange Us, Mates of State - I could never get into Mates of State’s older albums. Not sure why. But I always thought that they had the potential for some incredible, accessible, guy-girl piano pop. And on their latest album, they deliver. Easy to listen to from beginning to end, the 10 songs breeze by before you know it, and you just need to play it again. An exceptional album from an exceptional pair. If you haven’t already, take a listen to “The Re-Arranger,” or “Get Better.” You’ll be hooked.

6. 808s and Heartbreak, Kanye West - A new genre created, and a R&B tool perfected. Mr. West masters his use of Auto-Tune, string arrangements, and tribal drums. Well done, Kanye. Just wish you had made “Say You Will” a little bit shorter- and maybe rap a little next time!

5. Dear Science, TV on the Radio - Dear Science is a grower, and boy did it grow. Now placing in the top ten on nearly every list, the band’s latest has captivated the indie rock world, with a mixture of alt-rock-funk (“Golden Age,” “Dancing Choose”), subdued ballads (“Stork and Owl,” “Family Tree”), and even epics (“Halfway Home,” “Lovers Day.”). With its singing, rapping, strings, horns, and hooks galore, Dear Science is a near-perfect album. It just didn’t hit me the way the next four albums did.

4. Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie - Most fans accepted Death Cab’s willingness to try new things with open arms- one of those fans being me. From their 8 minute, 26-second single (proving that this was a different band) to their 1 minute, 59-second afterthought (“You Can Do Better Than Me” is a GEM, as a good friend of mine put it), Death Cab continues to create catchy, creative, and memorable music.

3. Viva la Vida or Death and All of His Friends, Coldplay - I had my doubts about Coldplay’s latest album. They have a knack for being too cheesy, too self-important, too…lame. But even though Viva la Vida or Death and All of His Friends contains all of those aspects, it still delivers- mainly by covering all types of musical aspects as well. An epic, piano-driven U2 track (“Lovers in Japan”). An experimental, Radiohead rocker (“Violet Hill”). A string-filled, Arcade Fire ballad (“Viva La Vida”). Even an instrumental tune (“Live in Technicolor”). Chris Martin knows that its OK to borrow from other bands- and I know that too. Coldplay doesn’t copy, they figure out what works and use it. And it makes for an excellent record.

2. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes - Ah, yes. The dreamy, harmonic, and original Fleet Foxes. Their self-titled full-length debut finds its way into your head and stays there. As a matter of fact, it’s so intrusive that when one song finishes, you already start singing the next. The sounds are hypnotic, the mood is orchestral and the voice is simply gorgeous. A stunning cohesive work that might flow TOO well.

1. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend - Not a masterpiece, probably not even technically “the year’s best,” but certainly my favorite album of the year. Awesome strings, Afro-Pop influences, tribal drums, and calm, soothing vocals guide us through the 11 breezy tracks. At its best, Vampire Weekend contains moments of inspired simplicity (“Campus,” “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,”) and of epic ambition (“Walcott,” “M79”). But the entire album is full of great music- every single track. They may be overblogged, but I do not feel that Vampire Weekend is overhyped. They have lived up to every expectation and then some. Their album has found a place in my heart, and I’m sure its found one in yours too. And seeing them live in an excellent concert last Monday night only reaffirmed my belief that Vampire Weekend HAS created the year’s best album.

Best TV Shows of 2008

1. Lost- Different from past seasons, but never delving too far from the show viewers know and love, season four of Lost kept fans guessing at every twist and turn. The flash-forwards went a long way in making sure that the show’s formula didn’t get old, and the captivating performances from the fantastic cast (notably Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn) don’t hurt either. Lost continues to be the most brilliant show on TV, and not just because of its plot and characters, but also because of its minor quirks. The incredible music from Michael Giaccino. The beautiful shots of the island. Even the show’s standard ending, with the screen blanking out and the LOST logo booming on, has become a bit of an art form. Lost just keeps getting better, folks, and I don’t think it’s going to peak.

2. 30 Rock- I used to say that 30 Rock was funnier than the Office, but that the Office was better because of its dramatic aspect. But now, I think that 30 Rock has fully established itself as a show that not only makes you laugh out loud, but also makes you care about the characters. Liz Lemon ‘s cute connection with Jack Donaghy has become the show’s center. Even last week’s Christmas episode featured a sweet ending rather than a funny one, with Jack finally realizing that maybe his mother wasn’t so bad, and singing with her at the piano. But all this sweetness doesn’t take away fron what 30 Rock is at heart- an edgy, funny comedy with an all-star cast of more than just the two leads- Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski provide consistent laughs. And let’s not forget about Kenneth the Page, who has become television’s funniest character.

3. Daily Show- Alright, those first two were long so I’ll make these quick. The Daily Show is really never weak. John Stewart can get a laugh out of a mutter, or a facial expression. He can also provide the wittiest commentary about the state of our nation (last week’s “What’s black and white and completely over?” about the newspaper industry was pure gold). And for the people who watch him and his hysterical correspondents on a nightly basis, The Daily Show was a huge factor in one of the most important elections of all-time. And was hands-down the funniest show on late-night television.

4. The Office- The past year or two has ushered in the era of the awkward comedy. And this hysterical trend was brought about by the brilliant Office, which after a shaky season three has rebounded with consistent humor and emotion.

5. Friday Night Lights- I have not yet seen season 3 of the Direct TV-ified Friday Night Lights, but season 2 certainly still counts for 2008, and while it pales in comparison to the first season, it remains an amazing, while flawed, season of a phenomenal show. About more than football- about life.

6. Chuck- More people should watch this! There’s humor, action, a great cast, and great twists. Chuck has become primetime’s best dramedy (unless, of course, you count the Office and 30 Rock), and you should get in on it.\

7. Family Guy- “Did they just say that?” Is the typical reaction from my friends and I when we watch Family Guy. But this shock factor doesn’t hurt the show, it only makes it funnier. 7 seasons in, Family Guy remains as edgy and as random as ever, and while it occasionally does go too far, it mostly just provides laughs on a Sunday night when people need it.

8. Human Giant- Normally if a person tells you to watch MTV you won’t listen. But watch this video and tell me you won’t start watching this sketch show with three of the funniest guys in comedy.

9. American Idol- Although the formula is getting a tad old, AI still remains one of TV’s most entertaining hours. On performance night, that is…results shows, not so much.

10. The Sarah Silverman Program- Also creating shocking and laugh-out-loud comedy is none other than the queen of shocking comedy, Sarah Silverman. Her hysterical show never ceases to crack me up- she’s helped by her awesome supporting cast, including her real-life sister, Laura Silverman, playing her sister.