It’s that time of year again: Everyone is putting together their best-of lists. So here’s my two cents. As usual, the list is based on my personal opinion, and not which artists managed to outdo themselves with “face-melting” riffs (can we please retire this colloquialism already?) or who hired the most expensive producer—this is all about the music that made my ears happy.
I’ll admit that my usually rabid need for aural consumption waned in the wake of 2008’s time-consuming traumas, so I’ve included a list of albums I probably would’ve enjoyed had I taken the time to seek them out. What else? Oh! Coldplay are still a bunch of soggy British pussies, so don’t expect to see them, Vampire Weekend or goddamn Radiohead anywhere on here. And don’t even get me started on Dragonforce. For the record, they still make my ears shit.
On that note, please to enjoy:
1. The Duke Spirit - Neptune
Though tales of love gone wrong hardly make for an uplifting album, Neptune did just that for me. The female-fronted British quintet—think Dusty Springfield jamming with the Stones—created an impeccable rock record with nary a filler track. More importantly, Neptune found me a time when I needed the most distracting—packing up my Atlanta apartment alone soon after Erlene’s passing. Somehow, thinking about shitty old relationships instead of life’s cruel injustices was oddly comforting, and for that Neptune is my album of the year.
Essential Tracks: “Neptune’s Call,” “Wooden Heart”
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Cave is the master of cinematic, bluesy narratives, so it's no wonder that his fourteenth album with the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, still manages to reach biblical proportions.
Essential Tracks: “Hold On To Yourself,” “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”
3. Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle Pt 1
It would be enough to commend the Chicago-based powerhouse on their refined vocal delivery or for infusing melody into their black metal framework. But it was really their Pink Floyd-influenced three-part track, “Seasick,” that killed it. Without question, this is the best metal album of 2008.
Essential Tracks: “Ghosts of Grace,” “Seasick (Part 2: Oceanborne)”
4. Torche - Meanderthal
A third of the way in, Torche switch gears from Melvins-worshipping fuzz mongers to heavy-ass shoegazers that owe as much to My Bloody Valentine as they do to Buzz & company.
Essential Tracks: “Healer,” “Across The Shields”
5. Dungen - 4
The Swedish band’s ability to create laconic psychedelia with lounge sensibilities remains as impeccable as ever on 4.
Essential Track: “Det Tar Tid,” "Satt Att Se"
6. Melvins - Nude With Boots
While it sometimes felt like a diluted version of 2006’s brilliant A Senile Animal, the Melvins’ continued collaboration with Big Business birthed the solid (but not always standout) Nude With Boots. As long as drummer crush Coady Willis is involved, I'm a happy camper.
Essential Tracks: “Dog Island,” “The Smiling Cobra”
7. Black Mountain - In The Future
In The Future's Sabbath-cum-Starship earthy sound is only enhanced by the rhapsodic vocal interplay between singers Amber Webber and Stephen McBean.
Essential Tracks: “Tyrants,” “Wucan”
8. Young Widows - Old Wounds
Recorded partly live, Young Widows’ confident sophomore release, Old Wounds, finds the band striking a fine balance between concise post-hardcore and straight-up AmRep swagger-jacking.
Essential Tracks: “Took A Turn,” “The Guitar”
9. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
Though I tend to favor the tracks where Greg Dulli takes lead, this collaboration between the Afghan Whigs frontman and Mark Lanegan elevates tortured, mid-tempo white soul to an art form.
Essential Tracks: “Circle The Fringes,” “Seven Stories Underground”
10. The Sword - Gods Of The Earth
This sophomore release from the Austin-based hipsters of doom is even more impressive than their Sabbath-heavy debut. Even Metallica took notice.
Essential Tracks: “How Heavy This Axe,” “Maiden, Mother & Crone”
11. Madonna - Hard Candy
Fuck all you haters, Madonna still matters. Though I generally skip first single “Four Minutes,” there are enough sticky-sweet dance tracks on Hard Candy to keep me coming back for cheap sugar highs.
Essential Tracks: “Incredible,” “She's Not Me”
12. Genghis Tron - Board Up The House
Steadily paced yet violently schizophrenic, Board Up The House is a refined math-rock masterpiece, borrowing as much from NIN’s extended moody instrumentals as it does from Agoraphobic Nosebleeds’ spastic blast beats.
Essential Tracks: “City On A Hill,” “The Feast”
13. Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals
I have no idea what you’d call Yeaysayer’s style. Whatever it is, All Hour Cymbals is both folksy and harmoniously lavish, with a healthy helping of worldly spirit. And they're from Brooklyn.
Essential Tracks: “Wait For The Summer,” “Forgiveness”
14. Play!Radio!Play! - Texas
This is my ’mo pick of the year and I swear it has nothing to do with the title. The one-man show known as Daniel Hunter—who's already a tortured genius at age 19—specializes in dreamy electronic-based love songs that thump with youthful innocence and anxiety.
Essential Tracks: "I'm A Pirate, You're A Princess," "Some Crap About The Furniture"
15. Wetnurse - Invisible City
Noisy, eclectic and utterly satisfying, Invisible City is a promising album in the vein of old-school Candiria mixed with all the math-grind bands—like Cattlepress and The Red Chord—that I miss seeing at CBGB.
Essential Tracks: “Missing Lion Returns,” “Life At Stake”
16-17. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip & Ghosts I-IV
A large block of my teens and 20s were spent obsessing on Trent Reznor’s body of work, then suddenly, somewhere around The Fragile, I fell out of love. Yet with this year’s pair of releases, he squirmed his way back into my heart.
Essential Tracks: “Discipline,” “Corona Radiata"
18. Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
Somewhere between a Broadway score and a gospel revival, Wilson’s charming ode to the California sun is loaded with saccharine-sweet lyrics and plenty of lush melodies. Far less out there than Smile, That Lucky Old Sun serves as a cure for seasonal affective disorder.
Essential Tracks: “Oxygen To The Brain,” “That Lucky Old Sun”
19. Opeth - Watershed
Though Watershed won’t go down in the annals as Opeth’s greatest work, it may go down as their most refined.
Essential Tracks: “The Lotus Eater,” “Burden”
20. Hank III - Damn Right Rebel Proud
It’s always an event around these parts when Hank III drops an album, but Damn Right Rebel Proud is an especially intimate affair, often pinning Williams’ real self against his Hellbilly persona.
Essential Tracks: “Stoned and Alone,” “Three Shades of Black”
Santogold - s/t*
Rick Ross - Trilla
Grails - Doomsayer’s Holiday
The Knux - Remind Me In 3 Days
Murder By Death - Red of Tooth And Claw
Testament - The Formation Of Damnation
Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
Evile - Enter The Grave
1. “Knifeman” - The Bronx
“This isn’t music, it’s a pyramid scheme” pretty much sums it up.
2. "A Milli” - Lil Wayne
Far more bombastic than “Lollipop,” this might be Tha Carter’s hardest single to date. Just please, Weezy, keep away from those guitars.
3. “Bad Things” - Jace Everett
The rockabilly theme song from HBO’s True Blood is as seductive as a vampire's kiss.
4. “Crying” - TV On The Radio
Dear Science’s only bona fide booty shaker. No songs in French next time, k? Thanks.
5. “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” - Madonna
Dark, brooding and sexy, Madonna wins again.
Albums I’ll Probably Like (If I Ever Get To Hear Them):
Dolly Parton - Backwoods Barbie
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
Trap Them - Seizures In Barren Praise
Akimbo - Jersey Shores
CSS - Donkey
Don Caballero - Punkgasm
Russian Circles - Station
At least one of those bands with “Crystal” in their name
Girl Talk - Feed The Animals
The Mars Volta - The Bedlam In Goliath
Meh… Not So Much:
Metallica - Death Magnetic
TV On The Radio - Dear Science
Portishead - Third
Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy
The Faint - Fasciinatiion
Most Unlikely Reissue I’m A Little Too Into:
Foreigner - No End In Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner
The Sword's "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians"
Best DVD Reissue:
Iron Maiden - Live After Death
Best Live Show Experience of 2008:
At The Gates at Irving Plaza
Close Second: Catching Clipse immediately after seeing Motorhead play at SxSW—all before 5 pm.
Stumbling into Emo's two weeks ago and discovering the glory that is Bang Camaro playing. It was like Dokken met Il Divo for 10 rounds of Rock Band. My life will never be the same.
*Best Music-Related Facebook Status:
"I liked Santogold better when they were called Missing Persons."—Gerard Babitts
Metal Chick I Miss The Most: