2008 was quite a year for music. Maybe it wasn't as great as 2007, but we made due with what we had. I didn't connect with an album in 2008 the way I connected with In Rainbows, or Neon Bible, or Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Those were albums that had me falling in love with every track listen after listen.Â However, the following twenty albums are my favorite albums of 2008 and ranking them was somewhat painful/futile — which is why we came to the conclusion that numbering year-end lists was completelyÂ sacrilegious and spat in the face of music lists everywhere.
After deciding to trash the option of numbering this list, I went with dividing my Top 20 albums into 3 categories: Big Albums by Big Names, Newcomers, and Eye Openers. Are you ready? Here are Pretty Much Amazing's 20 Favorite Albums of 2008.
Leave your top albums in the comments, if you'd like! We'd love to hear them! Oh and if you have a blog and have posted a year end list, drop the link in the comments as well!
With record labels forcefully pushing for profit and hits, it's always a delightful surprise to find a big album worth a few listens. It's even better when some of these big albums and up being some of the best albums of the year.
Coldplay have always prided themselves in producing experimental light-rock music. Their experimentation was always played safe and Viva La Vida sounds like Chris Martin and Co. have found their experimental maximum. But an album full of hardy melodies and universal lyrics is definitely not a bad place for any band to be in. Especially 4 albums into the career.
OnÂ Narrow Stairs Death Cab For Cutie unleash their most "polarizing," rock-and-roll record to date. While the album still features their traditional ghostly instrumentation accompanied by Ben Gibbard's signature voice throughout most of the album, we do get a sense of rock pathos and incitement that is both new and exciting to hear on a Death Cab for Cutie record.Â Narrow Stairs is an awfully good indie-blues record for the ages riddled with juxtaposition and detail.
Say what you will about Kanye West or the vocoder, but even at his darkest hour, Mr. West reminds us all that he still is supreme. After a troublesome 2008, the Louis Vuitton Don hangs up his Venetian-blind shades and gives us a glimpse of his heartbreak and gives us another masterpiece, with impeccable skill. 808s won't be his biggest hit, but it does define Kanye West.
Listen:Welcome To Heartbreak
While the inner workings of the Britney Spears machine/spectacle are questionable and confusing, one thing is for sure: when she does it right, Britney Spears is in a class of her own. Lyrically speaking, Circus probably doesn't deserve a Top 20 spot, but since when do lyrics matter when it comes to dance-pop music? It's not about winning the songwriter award, it's about making an appearance. And just admit it, you can't look away. Tabloid headlines aside, Circus ranks among pop-gems like Baby One More Time and Oops! I Did It Again.
Day & Age isn't the sugar rush Hot Fuss was. It's not the anthemic perfection Sam's Town was either. It seems that the Killers have found the middle ground on their third album. It's like having fun and not having fun, like being punched in the stomach and suddenly remembering something great while you're struggling to breathe. Basically, Day & Age is fantastic.
Listen:I Can't Say
Sometimes I can't decide whether Lil Wayne is years ahead of his time, from another planet, or just one of a kind. He truly is as rare as "a Mr. Clean with hair." Weezy tackles Tha Carter III with surprising vigor, endless rhymes, and fascinating beats. To have the capacity to record hundreds of songs in 2 years' time and still deliver a subversive album like Tha Carter III gives me an exhilarating feeling. This isn't a mixtape, folks. This is the real deal.
2008 was definitely the year of debut albums. Nearly half of my favorite albums of 2008 were made by new artists.
Santi White's (aka Santogold) self titled debut is far from flawless and its eclecticism becomes almost overbearing, but Santogold's pop sensibility is endlessly exciting and real. Right now, Santogold is her own damn musical movement and nothing you do will stop her.
Listen: I'm A Lady
Probably more cheerleader-ish than the Go! Team, the Ting Tings' We Started Nothing delivers with rushes of a-little-too-much beats per minute of fun, that its like some new exercise for your ears. In times like these, a happy album like We Started Nothing seems to be the perfect medicine.
Listen: Great DJ
Oracular Spectacular is epic and complex but quite simply, it's brilliant. Oracular Spectacular is a wonderful introduction to the vision quest that is the world through MGMT's eyes. A debut of the highest caliber.
Lykke Li is strikingly confident, silly, and even profound on her Nordic slice of pop-heaven, Youth Novels. Youth Novels delivers on all facets of pop music: you've got the venom, the danceability, and the oh-so-sweet melodies.
Listen: Breaking It Up
It's hard to find a debut album you'll be gushing about more. Its perfectly constructed build-up, its poetic lyrics, and its bleak, intimate beauty is as wonderful now as it was the first glorious listen.
Listen: Skinny Love
Hercules and Love Affair is relentlessly addicting and listenable. The big numbers are almost too good and almost too emotional to be made for the dance floor. Yet somehow, Hercules and Love Affair have constructed an album that is for the feet, the heart and the soul. Rare is a dance album that can remain insanely danceable while effortlessly capturing the full range of human emotions from start to finish.
Listen: You Belong
Vampire Weekend is justifiable buzz, no-gimmick pop, catchy, airy, peppy, mature, and clever — but not too smart for its own good. These four Brooklynites produced the most replayable debut album indie-rock album in years.
Music of this quality is an alchemical process and Fleet Foxes produce gold on their self-titled debut. For such a young and modern band, the songs are seamlessly timeless. Few albums in 2008 were better.
Listen:White Winter Hymnal
These are the albums that surprised me and surpassed and shattered any expectations I had and ended up being some of my favorite albums of the year.
Delusions of Adequacy said it best: Stay Positive is a true testament that good music will always prevail. One can only hope that a band like this will continue to make music for years and years to come because we desperately need it.
Listen: Sequestered in Memphis
Hot Chip marked their return with the staggering good Made in the Dark. This near-perfect album showcases a band that have really come to their own. Hot Chip boldly expand their sound and creativity, while fully holding onto what they have already mastered. Made in the Dark is loud, auspicious, and startlingly heartfelt.
Listen: Ready For The Floor
It may have taken a few years, but Robyn has finally unleashed the pop Tour de force that her debut is. It's too early to tell if the album is career defining, but it sure as hell defines Robyn and works double-time as a shining introduction to the art of pop raucous.
Listen: Konichiwa Bitches
To be honest, In Ghost Colours is definite triumph. Not a revolution or a movement or anything particularly new, but a triumph nonetheless. Cut Copy refine existing sounds from the hidden corners of France and Australia and achieve an exciting sense symbiosis.
Listen: Hearts on Fire
New Amerykah Part I jump-starts from the beginning, surprising us all the way through. You know the album is special from the first listen and fresh treasures are found in every new listen. It will probably take many more to find out how special this album really is. "New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War is an insane, obscure and exciting record of the kind that very few artists have the guts or imagination to make anymore." (.music)
Listen: The Healer
Music elitists throw words like "career-defining" and "album of the year" around like they mean something — in the case of Dear Science,, they really do. No two songs are the same, yet there's never the slightest doubt in your mind that TV on the Radio is behind this great, great record. Brooklyn has had a good year for sure (MGMT, Vampire Weekend), but nothing matches this surprisingly eatable, hot-as-shit, ferocious monster of an album.
Listen: The Golden Age