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2008 = Musical Renaissance

On January 4th, 2008, as a (very) belated Christmas present, I received a Zune. Around the same time, a friend let me grab the entire contents of his gigantic, music-filled portable hard drive. These two occurrences, in conjunction with my increased activity here at Sputnik towards the end of 2007, helped make 2008 a veritable musical renaissance for me. I discovered more bands, musical genres and albums this year than any other year before hand, save for perhaps 2001 when I first started my music collection. To put it into perspective, at the end of 2007, I had less than 100 full albums on my computer, collected over 6 years. During 2008, that number increased to 350, with many more right around the corner (especially thanks to my new job and In other words, I discovered A LOT of new music last year! This list, then, is a list of my favorite finds during 2008. The first one is my favorite album discovery; the top 5 were all contenders for #1. The next 12 (which would be 6-17) were all albums that I listened to heavily during the year, and which opened more musical doors. The rest are simply great albums distinguished from all the ones I found this year. Right...enough talk.

It took me a loooooong time to try and figure out which album was my favorite during 2008, but I think this one does it. 'Illmatic' opened my eyes like hardly any album before. EVERYTHING about this album is flawless: the rapping, the production, the grittiness, the length, the pace. And I've said it before, so I'll say it again: "The World Is Yours" is probably the most beautiful hip-hop song I've ever heard. Absolutely no wonder why Nas was hailed as the best rapper of the time after only this album. On a more personal note, "Illmatic" helped me pick out what I wanted from a hip-hop album; I was able to appreciate old-skool hip-hop much more after hearing this, as well as pick up some more underground. Yeah. #1.
Favorite tracks - "Life's A Bitch", "The World Is Yours," "Represent," "It Ain't Hard To Tell"
2Dream Theater
Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From a Memory

Sputnik got me curious about Dream Theater well before 2008, but it was my hard-drive-totin' friend's copy of 'Octavarium' that opened the door. 'Octavarium' was, at that time, only 'good' after a quick trip to Sputnik, I found my next acquisition in 'Metropolis, Pt. II: Scenes From A Memory'. What a BEAST this album is! It's hard for most people to sit down and listen to an entire album, especially when that album is nearly 80 minutes long and doesn't work too well on random. For was easy. DT had my attention from the moment the ticking clock set in. I loved the way that each track flowed into each other; I'd never encountered such a cohesive album before. And it's simply epic! HUGE in scope and magnitude...and I still don't even know the whole storyline! It showed me an entirely new artistic side to music that I had, up to that moment, missed out on. One of the very best I've ever heard.
Favorite tracks - "Strange Deja Vu," "Fatal Tragedy," "Beyond This Life," "The Dance of Eternity"
3Fair To Midland
Fables From A Mayfly

I have to give a huge thank you to Hell Yeah. They came up to Lubbock in March for a festival, and they brought Fair To Midland with them. My roommate at the time went, and came home raving about how this guy could belt out these notes. I immediately grabbed the album, and I really haven't stopped listening to it. I've heard singers like this guy, in bands like Circa Survive and Haste the Day, who can sing like they were being circumcised on stage; Darroh and Fair To Midland, though...they've got some X-Factor that just propels them beyond anything I'd heard to that point. I can't quite say why they're so enjoyable, or why I could listen to 'Fables From a Mayfly' over and over and over without tiring of it...but I can. And I do. A lot.
Favorite Tracks - "Dance of the Manatee," "Kyla Cries Cologne," "April Fools and Eggmen," "Upgrade^Brigade,"
Origin of Symmetry

I'm going to go ahead and say it: Guitar Hero III got me into Muse. Obviously, first came "Knights of Cydonia," then came my hard-drive-totin' friend with "Black Holes and Revelations," then came Sputnik telling me, "NO! 'Origin of Symmetry' is much better!" Score two for Sputnik. 'Origin of Symmetry' is much like Dream Theater was for me: something of a new musical experience that I should've had a loooong time ago. I never did get into Radiohead like everyone else did, so this was a brand new thing for me. Such a bombastic band, shrilling out lines in falsetto, more Queen than Circa Survive, then jamming out with the distorted guitars, simliar to...well, Queen. I guess that's how I'd describe Muse: a modern-day Queen, fitted to the kids these days who need something this fanatical to keep their attention...but even then, they're so much more, because besides the ever-twitching snotrags, there's also the calm and collected Radiohead enthusiasts. It's a strange collection of influences and styles, but Muse makes it work...and it works best on this disc.
Favorite Tracks - "New Born," "Bliss," "Plug In Baby," "Citizen Erased"
The Alchemy Index: Vols. I and II...

I've been interested in Thrice for a little while...but for all the wrong reasons. I was into songs like "Stare at the Sun" and "Image of the Invisible" because they were straight-up rock songs that sounded good. That started to change when I heard "Flags of Dawn;" that song showed me that there might be more to Thrice. Then came all the buzz on Sputnik about 'The Alchemy Index.' I got the first set on a whim...and I was hooked as soon as I heard the Air-raid siren. "Firebreather" alone would've been enough to get me hooked on Thrice, but no, they had to go and throw down 11 more songs after that, ranging from 'solid' to 'epic'. "Digital Sea" was an astounding transition right after "The Flame Deluge," and "Open Water" is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard this year. On the heavy side, "Firebreather" is everything "Image of the Invisible" wishes it could be, and "Burn the Fleet" really gives a different perspective of fire than the first three hard, heavy tracks. Overall, this was pretty much the perfect introduction to Thrice for me, and they've become one of my favorite bands because of it.
Favorite Tracks - Don't make me choose. "Firebreather" is #1, though.
6Asheru and Blue Black
Soon Come...

Asheru, of course, is the rapper who does the opening theme for the cartoon "The Boondocks." It's that very cartoon, and the mixtape that came out for it, that made me buy this c.d. It's an amazing hip-hop c.d., one I'd recommend for anyone who might be into Nas, Pharoahe Monch or Mos Def.
Favorite Track - "Soon Come"
Viva La Vida

I went on a huge "Pop-Rock/Pop-Punk" binge during the middle of the year, and it came to a head as soon as this was released. It's so different from anything Coldplay has released, and yet at the same time, it's unmistakably a Coldplay c.d. To say the least, it's my favorite c.d. made in 2008.
Favorite Song - ...I'll get back to you on that.
The Mouse & The Mask

I already had a couple songs from this c.d. on my computer from Epitaph's website, but I finally got the whole thing this year. MF Doom became one of my favorite rappers because of this c.d.--his flow is amazing! I've gotten two other c.d.'s with him on the mic ('Madvillainy' and 'Viktor Vaughn'), but this remains my favorite so far.
Favorite Track - "Old School"
9Dream Theater

I really got into this one AFTER 'Metro, Pt. II', even though I got it well before then. It was the title track that did it,'s the third-longest track I have on my computer (behind Edge of Sanity's "Crimson" and a piece of a Jazz concert), but it's one of the easiest songs over 10:00 mins. for me to listen to. The other tracks on the disc aren't bad at all, either; "Never Enough" gets slammed all the time, but I really like it. "Panic Attack," of course, is amazing. I'm just glad I gave this c.d. the listening-to it deserved.
Favorite Track - "Octavarium"
10He Is Legend
Suck Out The Poison

People often compare this to its predecessor 'I Am Hollywood', and it always comes out worse. By itself, though, it's not at all a bad c.d. It's different for He Is Legend, no doubt, but there's a lot here to love. Croom's voice works for the direction they take, making this album sound much grainier than the one before it. Something else I love are the over-hanging storylines in songs like "Dixie Wolf (The Seduction Of)" and "China White II." While I agree that its overshadowed by its more polished brother, this album is still excellent in its own right.
Favorite Track - "Goldie Torn Locks"
11Jimmy Eat World

My favorite J.E.W. disc. I've said all I could possibly say about it in an earlier list, so I'll just say that it's an amazing night-driving c.d.
Favorite Track - "Pain"
The Everglow

My first encounter with Mae's music came in the form of "Someone Else's Arms"...which is why I have this c.d. This is perhaps the most uplifiting album I've ever heard. In fact, I've chosen "Anything" to be my personal anthem for 2009. I think it can even stop emo kids from cutting themselves. It's that powerful (though I don't know if that would be a desired side effect :-P).
Favorite Track - "Cover Me"
13My Bloody Valentine

What a MONSTER of an album! "Only Shallow" was on constant repeat throughout 2008 after discovering this one, and "Soon" is always a pleasant listen. Surprisingly this wasn't my first introduction to shoegaze music (Starflyer 59 gets that honor), but it's very easy to understand why this album makes that entire genre viable.
Favorite Track - "Only Shallow"

A friend recommended these guys a loooong time ago, but it was only last year that I got into them. They fall into the Dream Theater category of "Epic and Beautiful" that I got into during the middle of the year (I might not have appreciated them as much if I hadn't heard DT first). And besides that, it was such a relief to find a band that actually does the beautiful-voice-in-front-of-crunching-guitars thing right. Awesome c.d. from an amazing band.
Favorite Track - "Dark Chest of Wonders"
15Pharoahe Monch

I wish this guy were mainstream, it might give credibility back to radio hip-hop. Credibility that Soulja Boi stole, pawned and used to buy his gay-ass rainbow shoes. His flow is impeccable; it reminds me simultaneously of Dr. Dre and MF Doom. How that happens, I have no idea, but it does. This album has a subtle old-school feel, and while it is definitely rooted in contemporary hip-hop, it's still an extremely entertaining listen.
Favorite Track - "Push"
16Simon and Garfunkel

It's Simon and Garfunkel. 'Nuff said.
Favorite Track - "Fakin' It"
17Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind

I wish, OH I wish I had discovered this c.d. back in the 90's. I had, of course, heard quite a few songs off of it ("Graduate," "Semi-Charmed Life," "Jumper," "How's It Going To Be," "Losing A Whole Year"), so to have the entire c.d. and feel how all the songs flow together, and listen to other highlights like "Motorcycle Drive-By" and "Good For You" felt unbelievably refreshing.
Favorite Track - "Graduate"
18A Perfect Circle
Thirteenth Step

(I've actually had the full c.d. since the beginning of the year, but it took a long time for me to discover its true value)
20Art of Noise
The Seduction of Claude Debussy
21Black Star
Black Star
22Bionic Jive
Armageddon Through Your Speakers
Ultimate Victory
25Demon Hunter
Storm the Gates of Hell

(Demon Hunter is one of my favorite bands, and I just got this c.d. this year, so...yeah)
26Dr. Dre
The Chronic
27Dream Theater
Images and Words
29Explosions In The Sky
The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place

(I like it, but I still haven't really EXPERIENCED it like I know I can)
30Flight of the Conchords
Flight of the Conchords
Fight With Tools
32Gnarls Barkley
St. Elsewhere

(I inexplicably missed the "Crazy" craze, so this c.d. was really fresh when I first heard it. Perhaps that's why I like it so much more than a lot of other people)
Every Man For Himself

(Late to the party, else it undoubtedly be higher)
Black Holes and Revelations
Operation: Mindcrime
37Secret and Whisper
Great White Whale
38Silent Civilian
Rebirth of the Temple
39Starflyer 59
Dial M

(The first full SF59 album I got, and it came out this year)
The Alchemy Index Vols. III and IV...

(As a whole, not as good as Vols. I and II, but it's got plenty of high points)
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