The Top 50 Albums of 2008

Avatar photo
The Top 50 Albums of 2008

30. Vivian GirlsVivian Girls (In the Red)

A pop girl group they are not. In fact, it appears that few saw the Vivian Girls coming, with all of their fuzz-drenched hooks exploding with a rock and roll energy not often matched since the Raincoats first made their mark in the late ’70s. In songs like “Tell the World,” soaring vocals are augmented by hyper punk-tempo hooks and ferocious percussion, while the lo-fi production feels like it comes from that punk-to-post-punk era that changed the rock and roll landscape as we know it. It’s not angry chick rock, nor is it über-masculine punk rock—Vivian Girls’ music can be defined as very well-done, infectious noise rock, full of garage riffs and synchronized, Spector-esque vocals. There’s an at-home feeling to this debut that personally makes me want to pick up a guitar and jam (no matter if I’ve done so before). Perhaps, as all the cool kids say, I shall “jam out with my clam out.” Or something along those lines. – Anna Gazdowicz

Review

29. Atlas SoundLet the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky)

The perfect synthesis of shoegazer pop and experimental ambiance, Atlas Sound’s debut vibrates with adolescent urgency. Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel exorcises the icy demons of Bradford Cox’s youth, from the forced isolation of “Quarantined,” to the beautiful teenage prayer of “Recent Bedroom.” The Deerhunter front man often explores shredded avenues of a troubled past, cast pale in strange oscillations of somnambulant reverie. It feels too fully realized to be a side project, but then Cox is known for being an emphatic and wildly prolific individual. Alternately shrouded in chemically saturated electronic haze and doleful ghost vocals pinned to the mist, Feel transcends easy categorization, an ingeniously imbibed draught of ambivalent atmospherics. – Mars Simpson

Review

28. Q-TipThe Renaissance (Universal-Motown)

Q-Tip, to lift a line from “The Wire,” puts the ‘b’ in subtle. Being hip-hop’s master craftsman would be a role relished by some with the excess of a despot but Q-Tip barely even makes records, or when he does they’re not officially released (see Abstract, Kamaal The). Having said that, The Renaissance is officially in our ears, dug in deep. It’s like the best kind of urban block party, or like the locker room of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates (if you read Roger Angell)—people shouting, people laughing, people dancing, food, games, flirtation. The elegant, affable “Gettin’ Up” finds the future in nostalgia while “ManWomanBoogie” samples Can and makes it sexier than most of that band’s posthumous usage so far. Overall the lightness of the grooves and Q-Tip’s T-ball ump’s temperament make The Renaissance the surprise easy-listening record of the year. Norah Jones is even on it! – Anthony Strain

Review

27. BeckModern Guilt (Interscope)

Why is Beck such a mystery in 2008? Beck Hansen is one of the most important artists in the last twenty years; he single-handedly molded elements of hip-hop, Latin, folk and rock into mainstream success of Odelay. But ask about Modern Guilt and most will say Beck, who? It’s such a shame. Though Modern Guilt may be missing on many 2008 year end lists, here at Treble, we recognize the importance of this ever-evolving artist and his collaboration with Danger Mouse. Modern Guilt is an album that percolates inside and slowly takes you over. Songs like “Gamma Ray” and the title track captivate you with their addicting back beats. But it’s the dark lyrics that linger inside: “Misapprehension is turning into conversation/ don’t know what I’ve done but I feel ashamed.” It’s as if Beck feels claustrophobic inside of his persona and he’s looking for a way out from the past that haunt him so. On Modern Guilt, it feels like Beck is slowly stripping away all of his sampled studio gimmicks that made him infamous. I’m looking forward to the next step in the evolutionary phase in Beck’s career. Who knows where he’s going, but if songs like “Volcano” and lyrics like “I don’t know where I’ve been/ but I know where I’m going…” is any indication, we’re starting to see the true Beck coming into light, and what we’re hearing is luminous and incendiary. – Adrian Cepeda

Review

26. Gang Gang DanceSaint Dymphna (The Social Registry)

Gang Gang Dance is one of the last truly uncategorizable bands. That may sound cliché, or perhaps hyperbolic, but to listen to their newest album Saint Dymphna is to hear a work of boundless imagination. From ambient dub ether, the band births tribal funk breakdowns (“Bebey”), and from house music synthesizers come ethereal new wave pop anthems (“House Jam”). It’s a peculiar and diverse blend, with exotic blends of pulsing beats and atmospheric samples sidling up beside intense blasts of…uh, I guess you could call it rock music, sort of. And then there’s a random grime track that’s unsurprisingly spectacular. That the band chose the patron saint of mental illness as the title of the album is fitting, if a bit misleading. This music may, on some level, be crazy, yet clearly this band is anything but. – Jeff Terich

Review

25. British Sea PowerDo You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)

When British Sea Power asks `Do You Like Rock Music?’, they very well could be speaking rhetorically. Of course, we all know the answer is `yes,’ and on their third album, BSP deliver just that—their most anthemic, most heroic, arena-ready, fists-in-the-air, balls-to-the-wall rock album. From Arcade Fire-like singles such as “Waving Flags” or “No Lucifer” to straight up power chord rippers like “A Trip Out,” British Sea Power offer up little in the way of subtlety, and everything in the way of a hedonistic, guitar swinging party. There are tributes to wrestlers, the admission of being “astronomical fans of alcohol,” and shout outs to football teams in the Czech Republic, all delivered with the kind of emotional high that only blokes like Bono or Bowie could sell. You’re damn right we like rock music. – Jeff Terich

Review

24. Sigur RósMed sud í eyrum vid spilum endalaust (XL)

Sigur Rós translate the fragile desolation of their native Iceland’s stark beauty, a hearth-bound warmth against which even the coldest hearts inevitably thaw. `Triumphant’ seems almost a paltry way to describe the cinematic sweeps of Med sud í eyrum vid spilum endalaust . Singer Jon Thor Birgisson’s elfin murmurs in his native tongue refract through the delicate snowflake of the band’s most celebratory effort to date. As if dug from beneath their homeland’s thin, frigid soils, endalaust is, in a word, organic. Acoustic guitars, bare piano chords, an intimacy set adrift on thermal drafts. Sigur Rós have evolved their dynamic crescendos with graceful gusto, at once reaching for the higher latitudes of creativity and of deeply wrought emotional resonance. – Mars Simpson

23. The Hold SteadyStay Positive (Vagrant)

It opens with a little Iggy Pop and closes with a little John Cassavetes. That’s proof enough of Craig Finn’s genius, which is put on full display on Stay Positive. He’s there for me like Phil Lynott, with enough wisdom to get you through the tough times and enough whiskey to see you through the good times. To some extent Stay Positive is familiar territory for The Hold Steady. Good rock songs. Literate rock songs. Occasionally seedy rock songs. Good, literate albums with occasionally seedy rock songs. Admittedly, that is one of the reasons I enjoy Stay Positive so much. Yet the album does have its surprises: the harpsichord on “One for the Cutters,” the big-time rock and roll lamentation on “Lord I’m Discouraged.” Even that thundering riff on “Slapped Actress” surprised me. Those are joined with the familiar comforts, like “Constructive Summer,” the summer song to end all summer songs, which had me from the opening simile (“Me and my friends are like the drums on ‘Lust for Life’“). “Sequestered in Memphis” also stood out, even if just for the pre-chorus and chorus. There’s murder and mystery and booze. I’m not complaining and this round of whiskey’s on me. Raise a toast, boys. To Saint Joe Strummer. – Hubert Vigilla

Review

22. Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsDig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (Anti-)

Had it not been for Nick Cave’s other substantial accomplishments, not atypical of artists his age, it would be difficult to be reminded that he is, indeed, in his fifth decade of living. While Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is being labeled as a “return to form” record, it, to me, is more of a logical continuation of Cave’s artistic vision and personality that isn’t interrupted by other bands or writing projects. Nothing is lost from his post-punk heritage, not his literate, witty lyrical style, his surreal lounge singer from Hell persona, nor his obsession with the Bible’s stranger narratives, in this case that of Lazarus only from Lazarus’ point of view in New York City rather than Bethany. The only difference being that Cave has moved from a participating madman – best known during The Birthday Party – to a sensitive, keen-eyed onlooker wherever travesty or some such thing may be. Dig!!! has gotten so much fondness from all directions it seems ad nauseam to praise it once more, but leave it to Cave & Co.’s talents to remind us that there are still some powerful tales of lost spirits in the big city to be told even after Scorsese tried to bash the concept’s head in all those years ago. – Chris Morgan

Review

21. Broken Social Scene presents Brendan CanningSomething For All of Us… (Arts & Crafts)

Something For All of Us is like the kind of conversation I have on a train that leaves me thinking “you’re great, I’m ridiculous, and this is generally good news.” It’s some sort of incredible equivalent to the best of the big budget ’90s indie rock albums. There’s no room for improvement across the board, and there’s never a feeling of too much self-satisfaction present. “Hit the Wall” has a killer bass line/chorus combination. The melancholy static and widescreen immediacy of “Churches Under the Stairs” could be the perfect tonic for anyone who had hoped Radiohead would move into U2 territory post OK Computer. “Antique Bull” takes Holcombe Waller’s Extravagant Gesture template two steps left. “Possible Grenade” acquires on a Porcupine-era Bunnymen release to great effect. “Been At It so Long” is reminiscent of Set Yourself On Fire and Al Green, and I want to walk around a foreign metropolitan business district with “Chameleon” on my headphones before my twenties end. A brilliant record. – Tom Lee

Review

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5
Scroll To Top