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Top 10 Albums Of 2008

The Top 10 Albums Of 2008
1Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago

Although I wholeheartedly disagree with its placement on 2008 lists, I am going to include Justin Vernon's, stage name Bon Iver, debut album For Emma, Forever Ago on mine not only because it is gracing other publications lists, but because it is simply far better than any other album year. Written and recorded in a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin, For Emma, Forever Ago is one of the most emotionally moving pieces of music of the last decade. Vernon's vocal overdubs and gospel-esque falsettos give the album a sound that could be mistaken for an unplugged TV On The Radio album. However, his graceful acoustic work on tracks like "Creature Fear" and "Skinny Love" are in a league of their own. From the opening strums of "Flume" to the absolutely breathtaking album closer "re: Stacks," For Emma, Forever Ago is mesmerizing in its honest delivery. Congratulations to Vernon on creating one of the best albums of 2007 and 2008.
2 Born Ruffians
Red, Yellow & Blue

Born Ruffians are surely not groundbreaking in any way. Yet there's something about Red, Yellow & Blue that has kept me listening for months now. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Born Ruffians sport the traditional three-member guitar/bass/drums formation, yet craft music equally as catchy and engaging as any other band in the indie pop scene. Songs like "Hedonistic Me" and "Badonkadonkey" are perfect musical representations of the band themselves: youthful, vital and fun. Luke LaLonde's vocals perfectly complement his twanging, quick guitar lines, Mitch Derosier's dancey bass lines refuse to be buried in the mix and Steve Hamelin's steady drum beats will keep your head bobbing throughout the whole album. The extensive use of gang vocals and harmonies throughout Red, Yellow & Blue both contributes to the album's youthful sound and works wonders for getting LaLonde's clever lyrics stuck in your head. Red, Yellow & Blue is truly refreshing in its unadulterated honesty and energy.
3Girl Talk
Feed The Animals

In 2007, Girl Talk a.k.a. Greg Gillis released Night Ripper, an album that redefined the mashup genre and electronic music in general. Gillis' incredible, unrivaled ability to layer 30+ samples of classic rock, pop and dirty rap in one song is impossible to ignore. With 2008's Feed The Animals, Gillis sent a clear message: Girl Talk is here to stay. Tracks like "Shut The Club Down," with its brilliant infusion of Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" with Ahmad's "Back In The Day," or "Here's The Thing," with its hilariously awesome mix of "Jessie's Girl" and Three Six Mafia's "I'd Rather," ("I wish that I had Jessie's Girl! But I'd rather get some head!") solidified Gillis' as the Andy Warhol of pop music (credit to my friend for that perfect metaphor). I can't count how many times I have selected a song from the album to listen to and wound up listening to the whole thing. Gillis' has really struck formulaic gold. Take every recognizable line, melody, and hook from the past 40 years and combine it into one 3-minute song. The pop music of the future? Look no further than Feed The Animals.
4Sun Kil Moon

I was extremely ecstatic when the news came in late 2007 that Sun Kil Moon would be releasing a new album in 2008. Sun Kil Moon is driven by another one of the best songwriters of the last decade, Mark Kozelek, who also fronted the seminal Red House Painters. April is Sun Kil Moon's first original recordings since 2003s Ghosts Of The Great Highway, one of my favorite albums ever, and the album does not disappoint. The album is filled with all of Kozelek's trademarks: songs clocking 7 minutes or more, beautiful finger picking guitar lines, and Kozelek's angelic voice and vivid lyrics. Even after a five-year wait, April is everything I could have asked for and is by far the best Kozelek release of 2008.
Trouble In Dreams

Destroyer is the stage name of Dan Bejar, stage name Destroyer, also of The New Pornographers and Swan Lake. And although the consensus I've gotten from most people is that they preferred Bejar's 2007 release Destroyer's Rubies was better, I felt that Trouble In Dreams was superior. From the moment I heard "Blue Flower/Blue Flame," I knew Trouble In Dreams would be an album that would stay in rotation on my iTunes for a long time. And it did, all year long. Bejar is known for his distinct voice, vivid lyrics and superb songwriting abilities and Trouble In Dreams certainly exhibits all of these. The slower, organ-driven "Foam Hands" allows Bejar to display his fantastic range and imaginative lyrics while "Dark Leaves Form A Thread" is just as strong an indie pop song as Wolf Parade could write. The pacing of Bejar's lyrical delivery is what makes the album so captivatingly poetic, honest, epic and beautiful the whole way through. With Trouble In Dreams, Bejar also secures himself a spot on my list of greatest songwriter of the last decade.
Modern Guilt

Although this album received mixed reviews from critics and fans, I thought Modern Guilt was one of the year's most captivating and underrated albums. On the album, Beck taps into producer DJ Dangermouse's percussive prowess to create one of his catchiest and hard hitting albums to date. Every song is rich with instrumental subtleties and engaging rhythms. Instead of choosing one style, Beck does what he does best and hops from genre to genre, from the near surf rock of "Gamma Ray" to the heavy garage/blues fusion "Soul Of A Man" to the sample based folk of "Walls." The clean, beat-based production brings to mind In Rainbows, as does the guitar tone on "Profanity Prayers" and the cascading guitar sample on "Replica." "Youthless" employs muted repetitive guitar and electronics reminiscent of TV On The Radio. The album, criticized for its shortness, packs a punch and never loses your attention. Beck proves once again that he is one of the best singer-songwriters of the last decade.
7The Game

Here it is, the token rap album on my list to make it more diverse. But in all seriousness, The Game takes quite the bow out with his third and (supposed) final album LAX. With Doctor's Advocate, The Game proved himself to be one of the most exciting West coast and mainstream rappers in, well, the game. LAX has all of Game?s usual lyrical themes: L.A., Compton, name-dropping, weed, impalas, etc. But also per usual, he displays his rapping prowess, some fantastic beats and great guest appearances. The production overall is much grittier than its predecessor Doctor's Advocate, but The Game perfectly mixes catchy, radio hits with songs with harder messages and trickier beats. Hopefully Mr. Taylor rethinks his decision to step out and once again shows that there's a reason he?s called The Game.
8Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend

Call me hip, call me whatever, but Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut has kept me listening all year. Even now when I revisit the album, I still bob my head to tracks like "Oxford Comma" and "I Stand Corrected." Guitarist/vocalist Ezra Koenig's lyrics are undeniably clever, boasting lines like "first the window, then its to the wall, Lil Jon he always tells the truth." as is the bouncy tremolo guitar line that follows. I would feel remiss in not including such an impressive debut effort from this group of Columbia students. Let's just see if they can avoid that sophomore slump.

Deerhunter had already had me sold with 2007's Cryptograms; 2008's Microcastle only solidified the fact that Deerhunter are one of the most important up and coming bands in modern music. Microcastle succeeds in its stated goal of a search for more song structure. Gone are the 7-minute jams of Cryptograms, replaced with one-minute variations of strange pop, shoegaze and punk infusions. The second track, "Agoraphobia," is a relentless, moving mix of vocalist Bradford Cox's whispered vocals and twinkling guitar arpeggios, steady bass and distortion. "Activa" is pure audio evil with its employment of deep horn blasts, eerie vocals and dissonant guitar strums. "Nothing Ever Happens," the album's high point, is a masterful display of songwriting with its punching bassline and dancing guitar lines that echo Cox's strongest vocal performance in a Deerhunter song. Even more impressive is the release of the album with its companion piece, Weird Era Cont., though Microcastle is the stronger of the two. I eagerly await to see what Deerhunter does in 2009.
Carried To Dust

Latin influenced folk rockers Calexico released an album late in the year that, despite mostly positive reviews, went often unnoticed. But once I heard the twanging guitar line in the chorus of album opener "Victor Jara?s Hands," I was in love. Carried To Dust is an eclectic and stunning mix of alternative country, folk and Latin music. With its beautiful compositions of acoustic guitar, maracas, horn sections and even Spanish lyrics, the album paints vivid pictures in my mind of barren desert landscapes somewhere in Calexico's home state of Arizona. "Inspiracion" is a straight up salsa ballad, while "Two Silver Trees" captivates with its ascending tremolo guitars and piano and "Writer's Minor Holiday" sounds like it could be on Wilco's Summerteeth. Viva Calexico.
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