December is here and the year is quickly coming to an end. Many magazines, websites and blogs are beginning to put out their “Year End” lists for best records of 2008. There have been, in my opinion, plenty of good records put out this year and I want to take this time to take a look back over those records that I most enjoyed this year. So, without further ado, here are my top 13 records of 2008.
13.) She & Him – Volume One [Merge] Release Date 3/18/2008
A very pretty first effort from M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. Folksy and reminiscent of 1960’s era girl pop groups, this album was one of the sleeper hits of the year. Let’s hope there is a Volume Two on the way.
12.) Be Your Own Pet – Get Awkward [XL] Release Date 3/18/2008
The second full-length album from this now defunct Nashville band, is full of the same youthful exuberance that made their self-titled debut so great. Loud, fast guitar work from Jonas Stein and Jemina Pearl’s screeching vocals are the standouts on this album.
11.) The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride [4AD] Release Date 2/19/2008
John Darnielle continues to be one of the most literate songwriters of his day. Heretic Pride is a collection of thirteen songs that, on the whole, are not as sad and depressing as the material on 2006’s Get Lonely, but are every bit as good.
10.) The Eastern Sea – The Eastern Sea EP [Self Released] Release Date 7/12/2008
A stunningly beautiful and haunting release from this Austin quartet fronted by Matthew Hines, who is a personal friend of mine. Lush instrumentation and deeply personal lyrics make this one of the most intriguing releases of the year. If you have not heard of the Eastern Sea yet, you soon will.
9.) Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago [Jagjaguwar] Release Date 2/19/2008
Justin Vernon’s first release under the name Bon Iver has had an interesting life. Recorded in a cabin in northern Wisconsin, For Emma, Forever Ago, was originally self-released until indie label Jagjaguwar picked it up. Sparse and beautiful, this album is not to be missed.
8.) Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes [Sub Pop] Release Date 6/3/2008
Where did these guys come from? This Seattle quintet, fronted by Robin Pecknold, delivers beautiful harmonies and almost seems to take the listener back to a bygone era, which era that is, I’m not completely sure of. Nonetheless, this is a great record from a great band.
7.) Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea [Drag City] Release Date 6/17/2008
Six albums in and the Jews are still rocking. The fact that head Jew David Berman is a published poet and writer really shows on this album. Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea takes a folksier tone than previous Silver Jews efforts, but Berman’s songwriting remains as good as ever.
6.) Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping [Polyvinyl] Release Date 10/21/2008
One of the most overtly sexual albums of the year. Skeletal Lamping is, in my mind, a continuation of Hissing Fauna, but with less of the deeply personal narratives found in the songs on Hissing Fauna. This album, more than anything, is an artistic statement of immense proportions.
5.) Deerhunter- Microcastle [Kranky] Release Date 10/28/2008
I really don’t understand Deerhunter. Stylistically, there really is not another band around to compare Deerhunter with. Microcastle is a dense record, with some great guitar work, give it a few listens and it will grow on you.
4.) Okkervil River – The Stand Ins [Jagjaguwar] Release Date 9/9/2008
Okkervil River’s followup to 2006’s The Stage Names surpasses its predecessor in many ways. Immediately more accessible, The Stand Ins starts up where The Stage Names left off and is a perfect addition to Okkervil River’s growing catalogue.
3.) Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair [DFA] Release Date 6/24/2008
The brainchild of DJ Andy Butler, Hercules and Love Affair is comprised of an eclectic bunch of members, including Antony Hegarty of Antony & the Johnsons. The pairing of late 70’s inspired disco and house music with Hegarty’s dark vocals may sound like a strange idea, but it ends up working well.
2.) Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Lie Down in the Light [Drag City] Release Date 5/20/2008
Lie Down in the Light is Will Oldham’s seventeenth release under the moniker Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Oldham consistently puts out good records, and Lie Down in the Light is no exception, it may even be his best from the past few years.
1.) No Age – Nouns [Sub Pop] Release Date 5/6/2008
Hands down the best record of the year. It’s noisy and beautiful and complex. Amidst all the feedback, one can clearly hear that there is a lot more to this record than meets the eye, or ear for that matter.