In general I am not a big fan of “best-of” lists when it comes to music because I don’t like the idea of declaring one person’s piece of art better than something someone else produced (although that is a large part of being a critic). However, I do know what I like and I do know what my favorite records of the year are, so instead of declaring this a “best of” list I am going to call this list my favorite 28 records of 2008.
One quick disclaimer: This list is likely different than most lists you’ve read because unlike full-time music critics I am a freelancer, which means I don’t get a lot of albums sent to my mailbox. Since I pay for most of the music I listen to and I don’t have a finite amount of cash to spend on my music-buying habit, I have yet to hear records by Bon Iver, Portishead, Santogold, Kanye West, No Age and other acts that have been near the top of other best-of lists. I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up those records and I’m sure I’ll enjoy them, but for now the below list represents my favorite albums of 2008.
Oh, in case you’re curious, this list won’t have any Seattle artists on it. Because this year was so great for local music I decided create a separate list of my favorite 28 records released by Seattle groups in 2008 that will be posted later this week.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks “Real Emotional Trash” I’m not a big Pavement fan but I am confident in stating I enjoy listening to this album more than any Pavement record in my collection (I own three of them in case you’re curious). I don’t think “Real Emotional Trash” is flawless, but you’d be hard pressed to find a bad song on this record.
My Morning Jacket “Evil Urges” Before owning this album I had never listened to a My Morning Jacket record. “Evil Urges” made me seek out MMJ’s back catalog, that’s how good it is.
The Hold Steady “Stay Positive” Craig Finn and company released their best record since their debut “Almost Killed Me.” This is The Hold Steady’s masterpiece with standout tracks including “Slapped Actresses,” “Stay Positive” and “One For The Cutters.”
The Black Keys “Attack and Release” I’ve been championing this band for five years and it is great to see the reach a mass audience with this album. The production and instrumental assistance by Danger Mouse makes this record a tough act to follow whenever this duo from Akron releases its next album.
Blitzen Trapper “Furr” Northwestern Appalachian backwoods rock from a bearded buzz band out of Portland. The future is very bright for these guys.
NIN “The Slip” What’s better than free music? Free music that is good. Thank you Trent Reznor.
Girl Talk “Feed The Animals” Okay, so this record wasn’t offered for free but it was released using the Radiohead pay-what-you-want model, which is sooo 2007. Regardless what price you paid for it (I opted to go the free route) it is worth every penny.
Metallica “Death Magnetic” My favorite heavy metal band (and one of my favorite bands of all time) finally returns to its roots and released a record that made me forget about the three atrocities that were “Load,” “Reload” and “St. Anger.” Thank you Rick Rubin.
Jenny Lewis “Acid Tongue” This record is chock-full of songs fit for a hoedown and while it is a solo album, Lewis gets plenty of help from her friends. Appearances by Elvis Costello, M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes are scattered throughout the record, making it as good, if not better than, her output with Rilo Kiley.
Be Your Own Pet “Get Awkward” Pure fun and unadulterated punk rock. The fact this record is BYOP’s swan song makes this album that much better.
Weezer “Weezer” Weezer’s best record in 10 years proves that there will always be room in the musical landscape for geek rock.
Lil Wayne “Tha Carter III” If you’ve listened to this album then you realize Lil Wayne will be a major player in the future of rap music.
Conor Oberst “Conor Oberst” Great Americana-style rock by an emo icon.
Raconteurs “Counselors of the Lonely” Jack White does it again with his other band.
Gutter Twins “Saturnalia” Greg Dulli + Mark Lenegan = AWESOME
Black Mountain “In The Future” It’s a little ironic that a record with future in its title has such a retro sound, but that retro stoner rock sound is a major part of its appeal.
Kings of Leon “Only By The Night” The single “Sex On Fire” is good enough on its own to merit the album’s inclusion on this list.
TV On The Radio “Dear Science” For some reason I don’t like TVOTR but I find myself enjoying this album a lot, maybe my thoughts on their overratedness will change soon.
Q-Tip “The Renaissance” The leader of A Tribe Called Quest shines on his second solo effort.
Dead Confederate “Wrecking Ball” This album is what Nirvana might sound like today if Kurt had married Neko Case instead of Courtney Love and didn’t, well you know, kill himself.
Cool Kids “Bake Sale” Until Dyme Def releases a proper sophomore record this will do just fine for a fun hip-hop record for me to bump on my stereo.
Thao “We Brave Bee Stings And All” A fun and spunky record by a fun and spunk artist.
Nada Surf “Lucky” These Barsukians just keep getting better with age.
Kaiser Chiefs “Off With Their Heads” Catchy next-gen Brit rock from a highly unappreciated band.
The Mars Volta “The Bedlam In Goliath” The quality of this record makes up for their jackass performance at Sasquatch!
Helio Sequence “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” Just like the Black Keys, this PDX duo is getting better with every release.
Wale “The Mixtape About Nothing” This free mixtape that covers all things Seinfeld was one of the most creative hip-hop albums of the year.
REM “Accelerate” These legendary Athens, Ga. rockers remember how to rock on this album.
Honorable mentions: The Toadies “No Deliverance,” Valient Thorr “Immortalizer,” Ben Folds “Way To Normal,” Atmosphere “When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Sh*t Gold,” Mudcrutch “Mudcrutch,” Howlin Rain “Magnificent Fiend,” Portugal. The Man “Censored Colors,” Elbow “The Seldom Seen Kid,” Coldplay “Viva La Vida,” Guns N Roses “Chinese Democracy”