Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Music of 2008: Part 7 (5-1)

Before I proceed with the top five, I want to report on the progress of the year-end compilation.

I haven't started it yet. But, no worries. It's not that I've been lazy or I'm not motivated to do it. In fact, I'm quite excited that this year's mix may introduce a somewhat revised format. It's just that I've been spending a considerable amount of my downtime writing these blog entries. It takes time to insert the album images, identify and link them to insightful but non-mainstream (e.g. no Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, etc.) and non-pretentious (i.e. no Pitchfork) reviews, make sure it all formats exactly the way I want, and do the write-ups.

So, if you're interested in receiving a copy of my 2008 compilation, and you're not already on my list of regulars, just e-mail me at, or leave a comment here and we'll work out the details--most importantly, obtaining your address.

Oh, and if you're not sure if you're on my list of regulars, then it would be safer to assume that you're not.

And now, as Casey Kasem might say, back to the countdown.

5. Bloc PartyIntimacy

IntimacyThis English band has flirted with the top ten twice in the past three years. It's not necessarily that this is their best album, but possibly an indication of the relative weakness of the year in music, that they finally break into the top ten with Intimacy. Still, it's a tremendous album that's at least worthy of comparison to 2005's breakthrough Silent Alarm, and continues their trend of heavily mining the territory of relationship loss. This time, though, singer Kele Okereke seems to hint at greater loss, particularly on "Signs," which may turn out to be this year's "I Still Remember." That is, the one song that I could never listen to just once. Lyrics such as "I could sleep forever these days, 'cause in my dreams I see you again" and "I believe in anything that brings you back home to me" really struck a chord.

4. Drive-By TruckersBrighter Than Creation's Dark

Brighter Than Creation's DarkThese modern day southern rockers/alt-country heroes had quite the year, in my world. First, they were chiefly responsible for making their double-bill with The Hold Steady my concert of the year, at least based on the music itself. That's saying a lot in a year that I also saw a Neil Young/Wilco show, although other considerations would probably vault the latter to concert of the year status. But, most importantly, they join The Hold Steady as the second artist to extend their top ten streak to three consecutive releases. Brighter Than Creation's Dark plays like the follow up to the album- 2002's Southern Rock Opera--that turned me on to their down-home charm in the first place. With 19 songs divided into four "sides," as described on the CD sleeve (the LP release is actually two records), it clocks in at almost as long as that two-disc magnum opus.

3. Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaustNot really being a fan of Sigur Rós prior to 2005's Takk..., and not yet spending much time exploring their back catalog, I generally have to take people on their word that this Icelandic band's music has been getting sunnier with each release. I've definitely witnessed their progression from that album to this one. I still can't pronounce the names of any of the songs, nor of this record's title. In fact, I still struggle with the band's name--something like see-gyer-ros--but that doesn't really matter when the music is as powerful and majestic as this. On Takk..., "Hoppípolla" was one of the most beautiful songs I'd ever heard. While none of the songs here quite reach that level, there are several that come close, cementing this album's place as better than its predecessor and one of the absolute best of 2008.

2. Wolf ParadeAt Mount Zoomer

At Mount ZoomerI've joked in this blog a few times about the prolificacy of Wolf Parade side projects in comparison to the actual band itself. Since the 2005 release of their full-length debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, co-leaders Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have put out three albums between them--two by Krug's Sunset Rubdown and one by Boeckner's Handsome Furs. If you're scoring at home, this means that 2008 is the fourth consecutive year that Krug has played a significant role on a record in my top 11. In my Fab 40 series from a couple years ago, I discussed the question of what musicians have maintained the status of my second favorite to Neil Young at one time or another. Unofficially, I'd say that Jay Farrar, Steve Earle and Joe Pernice have held that distinction since the mid-90s, with the position currently being vacant. Does Spencer Krug now emerge as a candidate? He is Canadian, after all. I'm not sure I'm ready to elevate him to that status just yet, but the fact that I'm even bringing it up certainly says something.

1. American Music ClubThe Golden Age

The Golden Age A few years ago, while my 2004 year-end compilation played in the background at a friend's place, a mutual "friend" mocked a track from Love Songs for Patriots that was on that mix by crooning, "Oh, I am so emotional." This, of course, was from a person who wore a homemade shirt which offered that "Bon Jovi can lay me down in a bed of roses" to one of the New Jersey pop-metal icon's concerts. Don't get me wrong here. No one loves cheesy rock from the 80s more than I do--well maybe she does--but I guess I'm also a sucker for a lot of music that packs an emotional punch. As one reviewer said, American Music Club effectively blends rock muscularity with folk wussiness, and they've never done so better than on my album of the year, The Golden Age. Well, I may not be qualified to make that statement--not yet, at least. In 2009, I plan to spend considerable time exploring the AMC back catalog. I hope they prove me wrong, because if their prior albums can match the brilliance of "The Sleeping Beauty," "All the Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco," "Windows on the World," and "Who You Are"--my 2008 theme song--then I will be quite pleased.

With that, it's goodbye to 2008 and hello to the final year of the 00s, the most awkward-to-phrase decade of my life so far. Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to get Bloc Party solely on the possibility of there being a new "I will remember" ;) Great list as usual, looking forward to the CDs!