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My 28 favorite records of 2008

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”

My 10 favorite songs by Seattle artists from 2008

This list is one of many lists that I will post by the end of the year to commemorate my favorite live sets of the year, favorite albums of the year and favorite NW albums of the year. Notice I said favorite, not best.

Here are my 10 favorite songs by Seattle artists released in 2008

The Saturday Knights, “Dog Park:” A fun, playful song by a fun, playful band


Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”: This song alone justifies why Fleet Foxes are on so many best-of lists

The Moondoogies “Changing”: Excellent roots rock from a band some consider to be Seattle’s next big thing

Team Gina, “Wife Swapping”: A humorous song about the nature of the lesbian dating scene

Common Market, “Trouble Is”: Rapper Ra Scion and his DJ partner in crime Sabzi at their finest

Common Market “Trouble Is” Music Video from Zia Mohajerjasbi on Vimeo.

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, “I’m The Man Who Writes The Country Hits”: Fun, unadulterated honky-tonk music

See the video here (but be warned, it is graphic and very NSFW)

SHIM, “Animal”: A sexed-up love song with a Foghat-meets-Wolfmother vibe

Jake One, “Trap Door”: The pairing of Jake One with MF Doom is one of the many highlights on an amazing album

Dyme Def, “Brain’s Theme”: Definitely the best, if not the first, song to sample the “Pink and the Brain” theme


H is For Hellgate, “Copernicus And Me”: Progressive rock from a band on the rise

My five favorite club shows of 2008

For my final Ear Candy column of the year for the print edition of the Seattle P-I my editor has asked me to write about my top 5 club shows of the year. While I was not able to make it to every club show in Seattle (due to my geographical location as well as the fact I spent most of the year covering major concerts and festivals for the P-I), I did spend plenty of nights in dark, sweaty, booze-filled clubs witnessing some really great music.

So here’s a recap of my five favorite club shows of the year:

Weezer’s Hootenanny @ Vera Project

Yes, it was an invite-only event. Yes, it wasn’t an actual =W= concert. And yes, Rivers Cuomo’s mustache made an appearance. All of those things only touch the surface of why this was one of the coolest shows of the year. Take 200 =W= fans, crazy instruments and a rocking kazoo solo on “Beverly Hills” and you’ve got one heckuva hootenanny.

The Gutter Twins @ Showbox at the Market

The two-day Sup Pop 20 Festival was an amazing fete the venerable local label threw for itself, but you didn’t experience all of SP20 if you weren’t at this show. The combination of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli in the darkened confines of the Showbox was spellbinding.

Tom Morello, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard @ Showbox at the Market

This get-out-the-vote show didn’t include any big surprise special guests like many speculated it would (come on, three-fifths of Peal Jam was in the building and no PJ surprise appearance?) but really the show didn’t need any razzle-dazzle stars to impress. Tom Morello broke out RATM riffs and played enough of his upbeat new material to prove he is a more than adequate frontman. Mike McCready kicked out a set of six spectacular Hendrix covers and Stone Gossard played honky-tonk versions of “1999” and “Ace of Spades.” Oh yeah, and at the end of the show McCready and Morello jammed together.

Dyme Def 3Badbrothaaas Mixtape Release Party @ Nectar

Hip-hop gets a bad reputation by critics because for the most part it often comes off as boring when performed live because the crowd is often not engaged. Well, this release of the “3Badbrothaaas” Mixtape (which was handed out for free at the show) and the performance by Dyme Def at Nectar proved Seattle can do hip-hop right. The performance by these three MCs was one of the most charismatic sets I saw all year, and I saw more than 200 acts this year (yes, I keep count).

Supersuckers 20th Anniversary @ Showbox at the Market

Sup Pop wasn’t the only Seattle institution celebrating 20 years in business in 2008. The rockabilly punks in Supersuckers railed off a 35-song set list during a show that lasted more than two hours and touched on every one of their records. The only thing that was missing was their excellent cover of “Hey Ya!” Oh, and to help mark 20 years, Green River got together for another show ( only the band’s third in its 20 years since breaking up) to toast their friends in Supersuckers.

What’s on your year-end lists?

It’s that time of year again. The time where music critics like yours truly begin composing lists of what they enjoyed most this year and then start spitting them out at various places throughout the Internet.

I am beginning to create my lists of favorites for 2008 and I want to know what some of your favorites were from this year. So let me know what your favorites were in the following categories and I will post them near the end of the year.

You don’t have send lists of every category and there’ s no limitations to the number of items that can be on a list. Also, feel free to explain your choices if you want to fill me in on your decision.

Here are the categories:

  • Albums
  • Local albums
  • Local bands
  • Local hip-hop records
  • New local bands
  • Concerts
  • Club shows
  • Festivals

Instead of dropping all your favorites in the comments field, please e-mail your lists to bestoflist@gmail.com. The deadline for these lists is Dec. 17.