Top Albums of 2008 - Four Months Late

Clearly, I have neglected the blog in 2008. I (personally) had only two posts in 2008, and one of them was about Hunter S. Thompson. If anyone was reading this thing before, they certainly cannot be anymore. I won't apologize or make promises I cannot keep for 2009, but I can at least offer up my top albums of 2008 (in case someone is dying for some relatively new music). I have not done my usual thing of painstakingly writing each individual review, so I apologize for the lack of written content. Instead I have offered up a few sentences about each album, and then embedded a youtube clip of a track from the album. Maybe by having the clip right there (and having less self-indulgent writing), it will be more likely that someone will check out something new. Let me know what you think.

10. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
Side project of Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen. Sounds like a more structured (and certainly more personal) rendition of the haunting psych-folk that has gained Grizzly Bear so much praise over the past few years. Always feel like this could be the soundtrack to an indie film made today about midwestern suburbia in 1987.

Track: "No One Does It Like You"

9. Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
First Silver Jews album in three years. Wry flea market poetry on top of Nashville inspired honky tonk. Not the best Silver Jews album, but there is no such thing as a bad Jews album.

Track: "Suffering Jukebox"

8. Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak
Broken-down version of the traditionally over the top Kanye West, translates into the most consistent release of West's undeniably impressive career. Thematically, Kanye is as depressed as he has ever been (or probably will be) on 808s, and the result is the humanization of one of pop music's loudest mouths. The minimal, electronic pallete and tales of misfortune result in one of the most surprising releases of 2008.

Track: "Street Lights"

7. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant EP
The Sun Giant EP proceeded their s/t full-length debut, but everyone seems to group them together (probably because they are both so good). Soaring vocals over Appalaichan folk (rock). The music trods along, sounding from another time and place. The harmonies would make Brian Wilson jealous. Seems like every review of this I read mentions "pastoral rock", but I am not sure what that is. Album is epic.

Track: "Your Protector"

6. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
A band known for its unorthodox mix of junk rock and electronic (think if Radiohead formed in Brooklyn in 2001 - and was just overall grittier), Dear Science finds TV on the Radio exploring their pop/dance tendencies. The result is David Sitek and company cutting through the density of TV on the Radio records past, and the most straightforward TVOTR release to date.

Track: "Crying"

5. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
This album came out in January of 2008 and seemed to pass with me seamlessly through each season. Its African pop tendencies were a breath of fresh air as the winter thawed right into spring. Its east coast affluence made me feel like less of outcast as I was off to the College of William & Mary a few times this past summer. Once fall rolled around I was wearing boat shoes, had a purple gingham checked shirt on and was scoffing at people getting bent out of shape regarding comma usage.

Track: "A-Punk"

4. The Dutchess and the Duke - She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke
Sounds like the great rock artists/bands of the late 60's doing their best folk rock stuff. Think the Rolling Stones doing Beggar's Banquet. Sometimes I hear Dylan. Sometimes I hear Cohen. On "Mary", I hear both of them. If you like the darker stuff that came out of the late 60's (which you should) you will like this (you will).

Track: "Out of Time" - (Live Version)

3. The Gaslight Anthem - The 59' Sound

See my full review one post down or at this link (

Track: "The 59' Sound"

2. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
If you are reading this, it probably means you talk to me somewhat regularly. That being said, I have probably already raved to you about the Hold Steady. Best live band in America makes another album of fist pumping, throat clearing, rock and roll music. Of course, you can (and will want to) sing along to the whole thing. Just let me know when, and I can bring the beers.

Track: "Constructive Summer"

1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

I am not kidding when I say I have listened to this album over 100 times (I have the itunes "play count" to prove it). That should be enough of an endorsement. If this album doesn't move you, then you are dead. Check out my full review three posts down or direct at this link(

Track: "Skinny Love"


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The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

If forced to categorize their sound, most would classify the Gaslight Anthem as a punk rock band. This is probably a fair assessment. After all, they did share a bill this past fall with Rise Against and Alkaline Trio. Make no mistake though, The Gaslight Anthem span beyond the stereotypical teenage-centric crowds of pop-punk's reach. With a foundation that is based more in the working-class grit of east coast rock and roll, than in the saccharine sheen of the MTV pop-punk circuit, The Gaslight Anthem sound like a punk rock band playing classic rock songs. The end result plays to my most elementary desires.

With the Gaslight Anthem hailing from New Jersey, it would be ridiculous not to mention the influence that Bruce Springsteen has on The '59 Sound. Lead singer Brian Fallon reportedly cut his teeth only a few blocks from E Street, and this is apparent from his first growl on album opener, "Great Expectations", to his last wail on closer, "The Backseat". The comparisons don't stop at the vocal stylings though. Lyrically, Fallon makes no mistake of his allegiances to the Boss, romanticizing about some of Mr. Springsteen's favorite topics: garages, girls, and growing up. In fact, the similarities move to direct Born in the U.S.A. references on tracks like "High Lonesome" (which pulls lyrics directly from "I'm on Fire") and "Meet Me by the River's Edge" (which name-checks both "No Surrender" and "Bobby Jean" within its first ten seconds). The flagrancy of the borrowing somehow makes it less of a sin though, and ultimately contributes to The '59 Sound's cohesion.

The real heroes here though are the hooks, and there are a lot of them. For better or worse, every chorus on The '59 Sound will get stuck in your head. They are melodramatic ("Everybody leaves, so why wouldn't you?"), they are covered in schmaltz ("Did they play your favorite song, one last time?"), they are over the top ("We're gonna wash these sins away, or else we won't come back again"), which is basically three ways of saying that they are fucking great to sing along to ("Maybe I should call me an ambulance").

Plain and simple, The '59 Sound is an album full of unforgettable melodies and hooks, which are laced with nostalgia. With their hybrid version of punk and classic rock, the Gaslight Anthem manages to create a standout summer album in a year (2008) full of them. Musically, it may not be complex. Thematically, it may not be groundbreaking. The '59 Sound will make you sing and dance though. That is what we came to do, right?



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