2008 is going to be remembered as a tough year. It is the year where people are besieged by a terrible economic crisis, war, the election craziness, among others. These themes permeated some of the best albums. It was also a year of new sounds, mixing of genres, experimentation and discoveries. Because of the economic crisis, people tend to buy less music, especially the physical cds, as downloads are much cheaper. Many resorted to sharing (stealing?). Below are the best albums of 2008, tallied from the lists of the top music magazines:
L.E.S. Artistes by Santogold, one of the top albums of 2008
38. Nouns - No Age
30. Robyn - Robyn
And the top 20 music albums of 2008 goes to...
20. Little Honey - Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams, who is always great at illuminating the soul’s dark corners, is now singing more upbeat songs, some even with punch lines. The album features a duet with Elvis Costello "Jailhouse Tears". Other guest vocalists include Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, Jim Lauderdale, Tim Easton and Charlie Louvin.
19. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst - Folk rock songwriting and vocalizing at its most earnest and musically gratifying. This album by the Bright Eyes frontsman earns him comparison to country legends like Hank Williams.
18. Life Death Love and Freedom - John Mellencamp - The “poet laureate of the interstate” reached deep into his soul, and sings about a nation going broke and a generation in deep trouble. This scorched blues production is his darkest, but his most irresistible album yet.
17. Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 - Bob Dylan - This album is a collection of outtakes and orphaned songs that span 20 years. Each track crystallizes Dylan’s genius, showing him breaking new grounds in rhyme, tempo, and emotional expressiveness.
16. Only by the Night - Kings of Leon - This is southern rock at its most satisfying. Gorgeous sonic beauty abounds in the instrumentals where melodic lines are traded between instruments. Caleb sings with dramatic gritty emotions.
15. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver - After Justin Vernon's old band split he isolated himself in a hunting cabin in Wisconsin for the winter and worked through his personal issues through music. The result is uninhibited musical expressions of personal troubles, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss, and guilt.
14. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT - This indie rock album by the New York duo is full of tuneful but thrillingly eclectic tracks - colorful and unpredictable.
13. Feed the Animals - Girl Talk - This album consists of mashups of samples and juxtapositions of sounds that act as commentary. The mixing of prerecorded music from the likes of Jay-Z, Huey Lewis and Twisted Sister is complex and unique and is fun to listen to.
12. Harps & Angels - Randy Newman - Randy Newman's first studio album of all new material in nearly a decade is full of hilarious and satirical rage, though not without its poignant moments. Newman fronts a small combo from the piano and reveals his love for the New Orleans piano tradition.
11. Made In the Dark - Hot Chip - Hot Chip’s third album release is quirky, clever, soulful and poppy. The band evolved a wilder, heavier electronics, though still coupled with a signature pop aesthetic. Hot Chip’s straddling between electronic and pop, with songs that are infectious and catchy, while still being original and inventive enable them to attract a wider audience.
10. Modern Guilt - Beck - The songs range from the lyrical to the introspective, from socially relevant to the humorous. They vacillate between economy and experimentation, hybrid and pop classicism, while manifesting Beck and Danger Mouse's shared interest in psych-rock, folk, electronic minimalism and orchestration.
9. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes - Seattle's Fleet Foxes describe their music as baroque harmonic pop. They draw influences from the traditions of folk, pop, choral, gospel, sacred harp singing, West Coast music, traditional music from Ireland to Japan, film scores, and their NW peers. Their subject matter ranges from the natural world and familial bonds to bygone loves and stone cold graves.
8. New Amerykah Part 1 4th World War - Erykah Badu - Socially conscious soul music filled with odd sound effects and funk beats. Erykah sings of the power of hip hop, the damage caused by drug dependency and the state of black America. Only the eighties-style slow jam "Honey” at the end of the album breaks the serious tone.
7. Death Magnetic - Metallica - The influential band's first album in five years. Heavy and thrashy, filled with fast guitar riffs, and drum -orchestra charge, it's everything Metallica's done better than anyone else all these years. It’s a celebration of heavy metal’s resurrection.
6. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend - The songs of this Columbia dorm room kids have simple, tuneful melodies, danceable rhythms and are full of goofiness and optimism. They contain experiments with African guitar music, the Western classical canon, hazy memories of Cape Cod summers, winters in upper Manhattan, and reggaeton. Catchy highlights include the hook-filled “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”, the expletive singsong of “Oxford Comma” and the ska of “A-Punk”.
5. Viva La Vida - Coldplay - The album title from a painting by renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and the music strays from the band’s previous commercially successful rock-pop formula. The changes include using exotic instruments like Indian tables and the Persian santur, adding instrumental tracks ("Life In Technicolour"), using subtle North African and Latin elements ("Yes", "Strawberry Swing"), and abandoning strict verse-chorus-verse structures in favor of slightly more avant arrangements.
4. Evil Urges - My Morning Jacket - This great rock band escapes being pigeonholed by being wild and crazy through this album. It mixes indie, Southern and hippie rock to come up with a genre that is something else, and this uniqueness is enhanced by Jim James’ distinctive voice.
3. Santogold - Santogold - In her debut album, Santi White mixed dub, punk, and electronica to come up with angry but highly energetic dancehall music. Hits include "L.E.S Artists", a stirring new-wave pop and the propulsive ska-pop numbers “You’ll Find a Way” and “Say Aha”.
This is the sixth studio album by rapper Lil Wayne and it is the final album in Tha Carter trilogy. It is also the most highly anticipated hip-hop album, and considered one of the best. The songs consist of a variety of mood, metre, tone and timbre. Hits include “Lollipop” and “Dr. Carter”.
And the best album of 2008 is...
This rock record, the best of 2008, reflects America’s mood this year with songs that cover themes such as war and economic desperation. The tracks combine strong songwriting with mix of rock, electronica, doo-wop, punk, soul, Afrobeat as well as ballads. The unique sounds are artistically brilliant. The standouts are “Family Tree” and “Lover’s Day”, which Rolling Stones calls the greatest hipster booty call ever recorded.
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