Friday, December 05, 2008

Best Albums of 2008

Here we go again.

First off, let me start with a few things.

Thing #1: The era of the ALBUM is OVER.

And good riddance. For those of you not steeped in pointless music history and trivia, the album is a contrived format devised by record companies long ago. 10 songs, 45 minutes long. One per year, by contract.

Music is art. It has to be inspired, written, and recorded. Some artists are prolific and can crank out good music by the truckload. Some artists are not. They might write one or two really good songs a year.

Thing #2: Digital music is the best thing to happen to music in decades.

The music labels tanked. Singles are back. Packaging and record covers have bitten the dust. And most importantly, the musicians and songwriters are, for the first time EVER, in control of their own art.

And that, my friends, is great news for us. $16.99 for an overpriced CD? Fuck that. Ten bucks and it's yours on iTunes (that's like $4 in 1988 dollars). Just want that ONE SONG? Done. A buck. Want three songs from this album and two songs from that album? You got it.

Oh, and the choice. Such choice. No longer is recording music as much a result of where you live or whether or not you're savvy enough to land a record deal. Anybody can record music now. For the price of a canvas, some wood, and some paints, you can put it on wax.

So to speak.

Thing #3: 2008 was the best year for music EVER.

You can take 1967 or 1977 or 1991 and shove them up your nostalgic butt. In 2008 the global musical cup runnethed over. There was so much unbelievably good music this year that I almost didn't even attempt to write this list. There was/is so much to choose from, it's like sifting through a haystack of hundred bills trying to find the crispest ones.

So with that said, here we go...

The Best Albums of 2008

Okay, the era of the album might be over, but a lot of artists are having trouble getting past it. Which is okay. We'll get to the singles next. There are so many talented songwriters out there, there are bound to be a few who love the 10/45 format and have no problem cranking out classic slabs.

Here are the best five...

5. The Charlatans - You Cross My Path
In 2005 the best album of the year was Echo & The Bunnymen's Siberia. This year one of the best was from another British throwback who, even though most people don't know it, aren't throwbacks at all. The Charlatans have been recording and touring all this time. And this is actually one of the best albums they've ever done.



It's got the groove and maturity of 1999's Us And Us Only, but with the hooks and pep of their early Madchester days. Get it, geezer.

4. Lindsey Buckingham - Gift Of Screws
Yes, THAT Lindsey Buckingham. And if you ever wondered who the real talent behind the mid/late 70's incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was, don't call up Mick. It was the American (and I'm not talking about the pudgy witch).



Put Rumours away for a week and crank this up instead. It's the new Fleetwood Mac album you've been waiting for since Tusk. It's modern, it rocks, Lindsey's guitar work is phenomenal, the songs are amazingly produced, and its got one of the best album titles in ages. Oh, and Lindsey's voice is still fantastic.

3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Overplayed? Maybe. Overhyped? Probably not. Only hip-hop and Britney-pop gets truly overhyped. Do they sound like Graceland-era Paul Simon. Yes. Got a problem with that?



We've been listening to Beatles ripoffs for 40 years now. It's about fucking time someone ripped off Mr. Simon's best album ever and one of the best discs of the entire 1980's. Only this time around, throw in some punk, some ska, and give it a good dose of new school irony that only a generation weened on Green Day could infuse. Not that you need me telling you this. You probably already own it. Good for you.

2. Low Vs. Diamond - Low Vs. Diamond
Rock is back. Pianos are back. And, thank the lord, good voices are back. This is what happens when new wave alt. rock meets real production.



The songs are catchy with sweeping arrangements and fantastically lush fusions of guitars and pianos. Think Brian Ferry meets Steely Dan, with a little Joe Jackson thrown in for drama and edge. Think the Killers...but without that retro desperation. Oh, fuck it. Just get it. And sing along until the people in the cars next to you start taking photos of you, the unapologetic singing retard, with their camera phones.

1. The Grand Archives - The Grand Archives
Before I pontificate, this is what I saw at 12:30 one night, lying in bed, aimlessly flipping channels.



Thank god for TiVo. I actually rewound it, woke my wife up, and made her watch it. She immediately fell back asleep, because she's lame when she's woken up in the middle of the night and forced to watch the Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, but I probably watched it three or four more times, wrote the name of the band down on a paperback book and bought the album the next morning.

The album is, simply, majestic. I hadn't heard bearded hipsters sing so beautifully since my Old Man finally stopped playing his CSN albums in the late 70's. Every song is more melodic and entrancing than the last. It's everything I loved about the Shins first album - the atmosphere, the sparse, delicate harmonies - but with better vocals.

And at right around 35 minutes, it's that perfect length that makes you play it again the second it ends.

To plagiarize myself 7 years ago: Buy it, borrow it...fuck, STEAL it if you have to. Get this album.

The Best SONGS of 2008 Coming Next...

2 Comments:

Blogger Harrison said...

Hmm. I agree that musical output need not be limited to the album, but to argue for single tracks over the album would be to cave to a much more venerable and constructed tradition by the record companies. Really, the "album" (as the dominant format for new muic) has only been around for about fifty years.

11:28 PM  
Blogger The Colonel said...

As part of the broader musical history, totally agree. The 3 minute single is as contrived as any 10 track album. My comments pretty much only relate to rock and roll. I would imagine recorded and packaged music was probably even more restrictive for jazz, classical and other types of musicians.

10:34 AM  

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