Monday, December 29, 2008


JCR List: 2008 Top Ten Albums
December 26th, 2008 | Global

From sonic experimentalism to retro rockabilly, here are our picks for the top ten albums of 2008.

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago

Minnesota-based Justin Vernon's For Emma, Forever Ago evoked strong feelings when it came out in May—and expressed even stronger emotions. Recording under the name Bon Iver, Vernon composed the heart-wrenching album at his father's log cabin after his band split up and his girlfriend left. The nine beautiful tracks express this musical poet's anger, angst and loss. If the titular Emma hasn't taken him back then she probably didn't deserve him in the first place.

TV on the Radio, Dear Science

TV on the Radio offered an excellent, if less experimental, follow up to their previous releases. The NYC five-piece impressed audiences with afro-beats, ballads and the stomping single that is "Golden Age" on their third studio release, Dear Science. Main man Dave Sitek didn't stop with that, however. The unstoppable music personality also produced the underrated Scarlett Johansson album, Telepathe's forthcoming LP and Foals' Antidotes.

Foals, Antidotes

Foals stormed the dance floors in March, impressing musical revelers with clever lyrics and a bouncing rhythm section. The post-punk outfit even left their two biggest singles, "Hummer" and "Mathletics," off the album, but Antidotes still featured eleven top-notch recordings—a clear indication of a band with both integrity and staying power.

Santogold, Santogold

Another solo artist that impressed was Santogold. It wasn't only her music that was colourful, but also her personality and fashion. Thanks to fruitful collaborations with producers such as Diplo and Pharrell Williams, she's on her way of becoming a household name. But, of course, Santogold's success is primarily based on amazing tracks such as "Creator" and "L.E.S. Artistes."

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular

No one could have missed NYC sensation MGMT. Call it overblown media hype if you like, but fact remains that Oracular Spectacular is full of happy and hippy sing-a-long anthems that kept us busy dancing all through the year. The album impressively turned out three massive singles: "Kids," "Time To Pretend" and "Electric Feel."

Bloc Party, Intimacy

Bloc Party's Intimacy was unfortunately unnoticed. A failed online launch limited the album's exposure and the band's continued use of experimental electronics handicapped it commercially, but the release is one of the London quartet's best productions. Russell Lissack's lets loose his guitar on "One Month Off"—a comfort for anyone looking for a new "Helicopter" or "Banquet"—while Kele Okereke's characteristically cut-up voice comes across gritty and evocative.

The Last Shadow Puppets, The Age Of The Understatement

Arctic Monkey's Alex Turner and the Rascal's Miles Kane took the tricky business of musical side-projects to a new level with the Last Shadow Puppets. On The Age Of The Understatement Turner's brilliant lyrics shine through the '60s pop sound and the album cover art merits a mention of its own. Adding to this retro approach, the duo look like fop-mopped Beatles members circa 1968.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis champion a bygone sound with their fresh brand of rockabilly. With a few songs of their own and assorted hits from the '50s, the North London sibling trio excite live booty-shaking, while dressing the part in seminal suits and dresses. Songs such as "Going Up The Country" should have been bigger hits than they were, but these talented teens have a bright future ahead. An album of original songs—and no covers—is eagerly awaited.

Glasvegas, Glasvegas

Glasvegas took our breath away in September with single "Daddy's Gone," a gorgeous ballad of paternal loss. Life can be harsh in Glasgow and James Allan sings about knife stabbings and heroic social workers like no one else. If anything, Glasvegas prove that pop music is at its best when sad, desperate and painstakingly honest. Fittingly, the band dress in black while performing their self-titled album.

Late Of The Pier, Fantasy Black Channel

Late Of The Pier came from somewhere near nowhere, but made their presence known—whether you wanted it or not—with sonic experiment Fantasy Black Channel. Unassuming songs such as "Broken," "Whitesnake" and "Focker" quite literally blew everyone's minds, and perhaps the closer, "Bathroom Gurgle," should lend its name to this un-categorized genre.

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend categorize themselves as "Upper West Side Soweto," referencing both their famous Ivy League legacy and their fondness of African rhythms. Picture clever boys doing clever music. "A Punk" is a true anthem, but songs such as "Oxford Coma" and "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" first impressed savvy listeners with their Graceland-like influence and rock roots.

—David Hellqvist

No comments: