Music lists are a very fun to craft exercise in self-indulgence. After 2007 made me sort of hate music, 2008 was so full of great albums that I'm constantly finding myself remembering things that belonged on this list.
Especially cool about this year: indie rock is struggling. The Flaming Lips sound, especially that vocal style, and wimpy music was getting less and less prominent, and the hip eye turned toward cool stuff like African funk compilations (not represented here, but I'm not sure if those count as new music). Funk is coming back in a big way, and I suspect that with the internet and its infinite means of exposure, it's not going to be a fad.
Rock & Roll had a pretty strong year as well. While garage rock still seems to be going in the direction of lo-fi punk rather than 60's influenced stomps, there were some notable efforts. I don't know if I'd say surf rock is on the rise, but I'll be damned if surf musicians didn't put their best feet forward. The Barbwires are the glaring example here, but even the Raveonettes feature an ex-Tremolo Beer Gut guitarist, and I can certainly hear that influence on the album.
1 .Barbwires - Searider
Let's face it: Surf is a formulaic genre. While exciting things are happening to change that, many bands are happy to work within that. Over 40 years after surf's heyday, The Barbwires not only perfect that formula, but decorate it in ways we've never seen. This is THE surf album I will recommend to people if they were to buy one. I waited all year for it and was only amazed to find that it surpassed my expectations.
2. Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust
The first couple of listens to this album were a complete letdown considering that Pretty In Black still finds its way into my CD player all the time. Over the summer, though, it clicked! Maybe with graduating and moving out into the world, I found comfort hearing these teenage love songs -- the teenage part being operant here. Underneath all the sap there's an awesome sense of defiance and, uh, lust lust lust.
3. Don Cavalli - Cryland
Don Cavalli was the most refreshing thing I heard in my entire time as a music director. He's french, but sounds like a septegenarian cajun seriously abusing his wa-wa pedal playing the blues. At first listen it sounds terrible, but it wins you over in just a few minutes. You will love Don Cavalli.
Before I enjoyed the other Jesus and Mary Chain tribute band's album (see #2), I was listening to this on repeat. I can do without whiny Magnetic Fields just fine, I like this band for albums like this, where I can get the entire thing stuck in my head.
Nomo blend post-rock and afrobeat so well you'd never think there was any difference between them. Great to dance to, but sitting back and listening works just fine as well.
6. Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life
Hidden World briefly reminded me that I loved being punk, and Chemistry of Common Life did it all over again, maybe a little harder. And with bongos.
7. Steinski - Retrospective
Party rappin'! I listen to this with the same mindset I do when I listen to Grandmaster Flash and others from that era. And there's so much of it too!
8. Quintron - Thirsty 4 Love
Is it that much different than his last album? No. but probably a little more solid. Quintron's melding of his own organ-fueled dance music with older R&B stylings is one of the reasons I'm so proud to live in New Orleans. Pure rock & roll.
9. Ramblin' Ambassadors - Vista Cruiser County Squire
Oh speaking of pure rock & roll, the the Ramblin' Ambassadors play dry-toned raunchy surf with at full adrenaline level. They've sharpened their craft enough that I think they put older Huevos Rancheros albums to shame.
10. Cheap Time - Cheap Time
I sharpied "Exploding Hearts" over the title and though it's not exactly the same, I can pretend just fine. This album is pure fun.
11. Chicha Libre - Sonido Amazonico
This album really succeeds mostly because your average listener (or at least this one) is not familiar with the Chicha music these surf veterans are trying to emulate. Some of these are straight covers of excellent songs, but whether or not it's all their stuff, it's a great listen.
12. Ratatat - LP3
Ratatat had a really good sound going, for their past few albums and they were doing very well with it. For LP3, though, they gave it a full overhaul. The results are great and it gives me a little more respect for their ability to craft a song, whereas the other albums seemed like copied and pasted riffs that they had found the right combination for.
13. Menahan Street Band - Menehan Street Band
Some of Daptone's finest tone it down a little, but play expertly. I especially love "The Contender"
14 .Pierced Arrows - Pierced Arrows
This is essentially a Dead Moon album. It's the same guys, so you can expect the same quality.
15. Quiet Village - Silent Movie
If only more albums paid homage to Martin Denny. While I wouldn't go in expecting straight-up exotica, everybody loves an artist in the vein of The Avalanches
16. Working For A Nuclear Free City - Business Men and Ghosts
Almost every review I've seen for this album says "it's been done before, but it's done well". That's about right, but they've even stretched this "done before" sound of shoegaze, radiohead and chemical brothers-esque songs into two full CDs well worth listening to.
17. Thee Oh Sees - The Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In
I love their brand of psych-surf-garage. Not everything on here is gold, but it gets extra points for being a really strange listen.
18. Black Mountain - In The Future
Black Mountain remind me that I only really dislike classic rock because it's overplayed.
19. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
This might have been higher had I not just gotten around to listening to it yesterday.
20. Tobacco - Fucked Up Friends
Black Moth Super Rainbow are never as good as themselves as they are with other bands (such as Octopus Project) or on side projects. It's similar stuff but better done
21. Portishead - 3
Don't get me wrong, this is a very good album, but Portishead albums never really have grabbed me enough to be my favorites.
22. Carl Hector & The Malcouns - Sahara Swing
I was talking about this with a friend. This album sounds incredible when switching through songs. It's well-arranged and well-played. The songs just don't come together enough to really make it what it could be.
23. The Dodos - The Visiter
I've only gotten around to listening to this about once, but I started listening after I heard there was a member of the Gris Gris. There was no Greg Ashley release this year that I know of, but this does evoke a very similar vibe of psychedelic folk.
24. Eli "Paperboy" Reed - The Satisfier
His voice sometimes ventures into cheesy acoustic guitar jam-band territory, but his influences clearly lie in much funkier territory. And he does them justice.
25. Chin Chin - Chin Chin
I think the radio promo read something like "Chin Chin is like a wookie spread out on your couch". Yes.
26. Andre Williams & The New Orleans Hellhounds - Can You Deal With It?
He's done better and he's been more obscene, but this was certainly a pretty fun album.
albums that probably belong on here somewhere but I haven't listened to enough to really know where to place: The Surfites - Escapades in Space, both albums by Guitar, Torche's new album, Melvins - Nude With Boots. And I just found out Connie Price and the Keystones had a new album.
2009: I'm calling it, the return of EXOTICA