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Paul Shirley's best of 2008 inspired me to start researching (check out my comments on the

article) and I found the uber-list of the best of ’08 on Metacritic, so I figured it’s time for my

annual music year in review as per Nate!

Albums of the Year:

#1 The Hold Steady: Stay Positive; There’s not one unredeeming track on the album. More

importantly it’s an album that questions faith, values, and friendships in the light of increasing

popularity, urban decay, and the road life with its sycophants, hangers on, fans and media. It’s

also a collection of urban tales about real people, often told through religious iconography that

straddles the line between profane, profound, and heretical on it’s journey through the grubby,

sanctified underbelly of the American indie rock scene. The title track is great sentiment for the

times, and though ”Stay Positive”, “Sequestered in Mempis”, and “Constructive Summer” were

the singles, “Slapped Actress” has my favorite line of the last year, "Don’t tell my sister about

your most recent vision. Don’t tell my family. They’re all wicked strict Christians."

#2 TV on the Radio: Dear Science; The tracks are just incredibly inventive, eclectic, lyrically

dense, and ear catching rhythms and melodies. I can dance to it. I give it a 9.5. Unfortunately, it

starts out a bit too experimentally for some, but if you check out “Golden Age,” you’ll be treated

to 80s funk intro that rolls into epic. If you check out “Dancing Choose” you’ll get a post punk

punk/hip-hop ska rap that ends with trumpeting crescendo. If you check out “Love Dog” you’ll

get a submissive’s missive, a longing love song for the loveless. It’s so haunting. “This lonely

little love dog, that no one knows the name of curse me out in free verse, wrap me up and reverse
this patience is a virtue until it's silence burns you.” It pretty much sums up my love life in the

mid 90s. Every song on this album sounds like it could be on another album, and when it all

eclectically comes together, it’s brilliant.

#3 Okkervil River: The Stand Ins; The followup to 2007's The Stage Names, this band is poppy,

dark, dense and talented. They even wrote a song about Bruce Wayne Campbell. They continue

the nautical theme that their last album ended on with “Lost Coastlines,” and then continue with

soul searching oddities like, “Starry Stairs,” “Calling and not Calling My Ex,” combining their

introspective lyrics with a Beach-Boys-esque sense of melody and music, but without their

harmonies. Oh, and not the Bruce Campbell from Army of Darkness, the gay Glam rock star.

#4 Tapes’n’Tapes: Walk it Off. Lo-fi, funky, bass driven, earthy, and earnest. This sophomore

effort features better song-craft than their raw, rambling wunderkind first effort, Insistor, yet still

retains its it’s driving, relentless, pulsing energy. “Hang Them All,” “Conquest,” and “Say Back

Something.” highlight. Play it loud. It’s the best album to kick ass to of 2008. “The Dirty

Dirty” sums up the times best, “Where did all the money go? Where did all the money go?”


#5 Sigur Ros: Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust; Hey the Swedish proggers finally put out

a track in English . The rest of the album is pretty damned fine too. I wish I understood a word

they were saying, even in English. Still, this is by far their most accessible album, and gone are

their 15 minute Swedish prog-rock epics. The longest song on this album is 8:57. Replacing the

prog epics are slightly poppy experimental drum driven, vocal chants of rhythmic polyphonic
bliss -- oh, and piano driven dirges, but I still find them haunting. Damn I wish I spoke Swedish.

I might like “Gobbledigook”, “Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust” (love the piano), and

“All Right.” (The first two tracks are the best).

#6 Waylon Jennings and the .357s: Waylon Forever. So what if some of it is over-produced? It’s

a chance to hear Waylon one last time, singin’ with his boy one last time. It includes a totally

awesome version of Cream’s “White Room,” “Waymore’s Blues,” and the anti-outlaw country,

outlaw country song.

#7 Gym Class Heroes: The Quilt. It’s plain that very few people make music like this. GCH

makes Hip-Hop/Pop/Rock and plays their own instruments. They’re carving out almost a new

genre. This effort should’ve been trimmed by a few tracks, but it’s still like almost nothing out

there. They must not be as good looking as the Black Eyed Peas, cause more people should be

listening to them. Oh yeah, most people are idiots. They wouldn’t listen to “Home,” “Guilty as

Charged,” “No Place to Run,” and “Peace Sign/and Index down.” Still, as amazing and eclectic

as my musical taste is, I will admit that this was the best and only Hip-Hop album I listened to

this year.

#8 Ray LaMonagne: Gossip in the Grain. “Meg White, you’re all right, in fact I think you’re

pretty swell,” goes down as my favorite guilty pleasure song/title of the year. Ray should get

more play for this effort. Good songs, good lyrics, and an evolution from his earlier stuff. If you

like early 70s R&B, check out “You are the Best Thing.”
#9 Blitzen Trapper: Furr. Contains two of my absolute favorite tracks of the year: “Furr” and

“Black River Killer.” They sound like a modern incarnation of the Grateful Dead, without the 30

minute songs.

# 10 Bon Iver: For Emma, For Ever Ago. I had a hard time thinking of what to put in this spot,

since I had so many albums I liked, but Justin Vernon’s dark, strumming ,steady minor chords,

vibrato chorus crooning voice, and delicate songs are perfect for a rainy day when you want to

wallow in melancholy. Anyone got any laudanum? Check out “Flume,” “Skinny Love,”

“Creature Fear,” and “Re: Stacks.”

Honorable Mentions

Ok, there are a lot here, but 2008 didn’t seem that great till I went back and started listening


Black Keys: Attack and Release. Akron’s own asskicking blues rock duo has replaced the White

Stripes as the best two man blues rock band in the land. Teaming up with Danger Mouse only

enhanced their awesomeness. A near miss for the top ten. “Strange Times” -- Holy Crap it’s


My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges. They did the Pearl Jam,Vitology thing and put two shitty songs

on the beginning of the album. Why? I have no idea. “Highly Suspicious” might be the worst

song by a good indie rock band ever created. Still, “I’m Amazed,” “Librarian,” “Smokin from

Shootin,” and “Touch Me I’m going to Scream” highlight an album that should have cut some

bad tracks and waited for good ones. “Librarian” is so good it hurts. “When God Gave us
Mirrors, he had no idea…” Do lyrics get better than that?

The Dodos: The Visiter. Starts and ends strong. There’s just a bit too much self indulgence in

the middle. It’s too bad they didn’t make more minimalist songs like the closing “Undeclared”

(if it’d been out a year sooner, it would’ve been on the Juno soundtrack), and more lush rhythms

like the opening, “Walking,”(2008’s best use of Banjo) and “Red and Purple”. Best minimalist

album cover of 2008.

The Racontuers: Consolers of the Lonely. Better than the last White Stripes effort by a long


The Walkmen: You and Me. Not as good as their last two, but still really good.

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular. They stole Michael Jackson’s Early 80s funk Mojo. “Electric

Feel” would have been a #1 hit for weeks in 1983. Now it just gets added to the 80s rock revival

going on in indie.

Cold Play: Viva la Vida. You know how I know I’m not gay? I burned this album for my wife.

Yeah, I have a wife, which means I don’t like to have sex with other men, even though I listen to

Coldplay. They’ve redeemed themselves with this album. A tiny tiny bit.

Cat Power: Jukebox. OK, I’m playing identity politics. I had to put ONE woman on this list.

Great singer, great songs, but possibly a bit too obscure for a covers album. Please Neko Case,

come up with a great album in March so I don’t look like a misogynist next year.
Alejandro Escovedo: Real Animal. Came to it late, and it’s climbing fast. As always, if you have

a chance, check out Alejandro live, cause he’s better live, but this isn’t too bad.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: Cardinology. Ryan Adams best album since Stone Roses. He

should make one good only one good album every year, rather than three mediocre ones.

Have heard good things about these albums, but haven’t checked them out yet:

Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Santogold by Santogold, Vampire

Weekend by Vampire Weekend, Carried to Dust (sorry, no link) by Clexico. Made in the Dark by

Hot Chip.

EP of the Year:

The Avett Brothers: The Second Gleam. It’s great that the greatest band that no one has heard of,

the bluegrass, acoustic, harmonic trio from Concord, North Carolina, is going to get some

national pub, as they’ll be opening for Dave Matthews in April and May! “Murder in the Cit”y

is enigmatic of the lyrical, harmonic, beautiful genius that the Avett Brothers produce. A fine

follow-up to one of 2007’s best Emotionalism. Check them out if you get the chance.


Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes (They sound exactly like My Morning Jacket, I mean EXACTLY)

Kings of Leon: Only By the Night. As my friend Joel said, “I’m so disappointed. Their other

albums were so much better.” I think I’m just going to start calling them the Kings of Misogyny.
Horribly Disappointing:

The Killers: Day and Age (it’s like they’re taking a crap in your mp3 player)

Most Eagerly Awaiting:

Franz Ferdinand’s new one, on which “Lucid Dreams” is prominently featured.

Neko Case’s new one, Ace in the Hole (working title).

Until then, Happy New Year, and Stay Positive! Cause...

I got a lot of old friends that are getting back in touch

It’s a pretty good feeling. Yeah it feels pretty good.

I get a lot of double takes when I’m coming around the corners.

It’s mostly pretty nice. Yeah it’s mostly pretty alright.

Because most kids give me credit for being down with it.

When it was back in the day. Back when things

were way different.

When the Youth of Today and the early 7 Seconds.

Taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons.

There’s gonna come a time when the scene will seem less sunny.

It will probably get druggy and the kids will seem too skinny.

There’s gonna come a time when she’s gonna have to go

with whoever’s gonna get her the highest.

There’s gonna come a time when the true scene leaders

will forget where they differ and get big picture.

Because the kids at the shows they’ll have kids of their own

and the sing along songs will be our scriptures.

We gotta stay positive!