2008’s best music

I heard a LOT of new music this past year. Quite a bit of it though, seemed mediocre to me. Some albums would have a few great songs, but also a lot of filler. Is that a consequence of the single song sales on iTunes and other online music outlets? Is the complete album dying as an art form? I hope not. Whether I get them on CD or full-album downloads, complete albums are still how I listen to music. Here are the best ones I heard in 2008.

Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend
The fresh and unique sound of Vampire Weekend made this my favorite album of the year. It’s also the best debut album of 2008. See my post from last February for a review of Vampire Weekend.

sample of A-Punk by Vampire Weekend (mp3)

Kathleen EdwardsAsking for Flowers
I really should have written up a full review of this album. For the past five years Kathleen has released three solid records, and I think this one stands at the top. She has a definite talent for songwriting, singing and musicianship. She can go from quiet and introspective, to loud and raucous, and everything in between. Kathleen and her band also performed my favorite concert of 2008.

sample of Oil Man’s War by Kathleen Edwards (mp3)

The Hold SteadyStay Positive
This band plays straight rock and roll with vivid, storytelling lyrics. They’ve been compared to Springsteen and the E-Street Band, which is spot on.

sample of Sequestered in Memphis by The Hold Steady (mp3)

Cowboy JunkiesTrinity Revisited
See the review of Trinity Revisited I wrote back in August.

I Don’t Get It by Cowboy Junkies (mp3 from the band’s website)

2008 was a banner year for neo soul music. I’ve got three outstanding titles in that category:

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings100 Days 100 Nights
Sharon Jones has a classic soul voice reminiscent of soul singers from days gone by, and the Dap-Kings do an excellent job backing her up. As an aside, this disc was actually released in 2007, but I didn’t discover it until I received it as a surprise Christmas gift. It’s such a good record, it deserves to be highlighted, even if I am a little late.

100 Days 100 Nights by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings (mp3 from the record label’s website)

Gnarls BarkleyThe Odd Couple
I posted a review of The Odd Couple last summer.

sample of Surprise by Gnarls Barkley (mp3)

Raphael SaadiqThe Way I See It
Raphael Saadiq (formerly of Tony! Toni! Toné!) has a sound that comes straight out of Motown. Hearing his voice makes you wonder if he’s got DNA from Smokey Robinson. This album is very strong, and features guest artists like Stevie Wonder, Josh Stone, and Jay-Z.

sample of Love That Girl by Raphael Saadiq (mp3)

Big Blue Ball
A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Big Blue Ball.

sample of Burn You Up Burn You Down from Big Blue Ball (mp3)

The VerveFourth
The Verve reunited after ten years and released an excellent album. While I do like Richard Ashcroft’s solo records, when he’s with the other members of The Verve, the music is over the top. I’ll give them the best comeback award of 2008.

sample of Rather Be by The Verve (mp3)

Sun Kil MoonApril
See the review of April I posted earlier this year.

sample of Tonight The Sky by Sun Kil Moon (mp3)

Honorable Mentions

  • Alejando Escovedo – Real Animal
  • Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  • Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology