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The Best Music of 2008



2008 was a pretty good year for new music.

The Best albums released in 2008 (Album –  Artist):

  1. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark –  Drive-By Truckers
  2. The Evening Descends –  Evangelicals
  3. The Chemistry of Common Life –  F**ked Up
  4. At Mount Zoomer –  Wolf Parade
  5. HLLLYH –  The Mae Shi
  6. Hold On Now, Youngster… –  Los Campesinos!
  7. Liver! Lung! FR! –  Frightened Rabbit
  8. Ice Cream Spiritual –  Ponytail
  9. Jim –  Jamie Lidell
  10. Heretic Pride –  The Mountain Goats

“You! Me! Dancing!” by Los Campesinos!, from their debut album, Hold On Now, Youngster… (also found on the 2007 EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets)

The rest of the best (in no particular order):

  • 808s & Heartbreak –  Kanye West
  • Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  • Third –  Portishead
  • We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed –  Los Campesinos!
  • Vivian Girls –  Vivian Girls
  • In The Future –  Black Mountain
  • Distortion – The Magnetic Fields
  • Ferndorf –  Hauschka
  • Life…The Best Game in Town –  Harvey Milk
  • Cities of Glass –  AIDS Wolf
  • Microcastle –  Deerhunter
  • The Odd Couple –  Gnarls Barkley
  • Skeleton –  Abe Vigoda
  • The Midnight Organ Fight –  Frightened Rabbit
  • The Twilight Sad Killed My Parents and Hit the Road –  The Twilight Sad
  • Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea – Silver Jews
  • Methods: (EP) –  Imperial China
  • Sing Along (EP)  –  Caverns
  • Kittens! (EP)  –  Caverns
  • Music Needs You –  Ryan Blotnick
  • Red, Yellow & Blue –  Born Ruffians
  • A Certain Feeling –  Bodies of Water
  • Nouns –  No Age
  • Smile –  Boris
  • Pop-Up –  Yelle
  • Made In The Dark –  Hot Chip
  • Lost and Found –  The Dexateens
  • Long Gone And Nearly There –  Julie Ocean
  • Litany of Echoes –  James Blackshaw
  • Arm’s Way –  Islands
  • Magnificent Fiend –  Howlin’ Rain
  • High Places –  High Places
  • Flight Of The Conchords –  Flight Of The Conchords
  • Christmas On Mars (Soundtrack)  –  The Flaming Lips
  • Street Horrrsing –  F**k Buttons
  • Visiter –  The Dodos
  • Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us –  Death Vessel
  • Drippers and  Bonus Drippers –  Black Moth Super Rainbow
  • Rip It Off –  Times New Viking

Best Re-issue of 2008:

  1. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul –  Otis Redding

– R.H.



The Best Albums of 2008 :

1. Is it the Sea – Bonnie Prince Billy : Our favorite melancountry superstar delivers a live album that reminds one of his greatness while examining it in a whole new light.

2. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady : Working class is not a label that readily describes Craig Finn and co but their tales of townies and misguided teenagers are just as funny, touching and perfect in their own scrappy way as ever. The world’s best bar music as interpreted by indie elitists.

3. Glasvegas – Glasvegas : Melodic catharsis in spades delivered by four Glasgowians. This young band is not infallible as a whispered poem over Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata suffers in comparison to the original but they got spirit, energy and stories of absent fathers, wounded teens and overall angst that really should not work as well as they do.

4. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed – Los Campesinos : Cheeky and clever but much more than that. Nihilists on the outside but pop craftsmen at heart, their ruminations on youth’s assured end in dejected failure are all good fun until you stop and realize they’re telling you the party’s going to be over and there’s nothing you can do.

5. Microcastle – Deerhunter : There’s something ethereal about this band and especially this album. Playing with avant garde ideas without sacrificing listenability, these ambassadors of indie keep winning.

6. You and Me – The Walkmen : The Bob Dylan comparisons become ever more pronounced especially with frontman Hamilton Leithauser affecting nasally intonations. Still, their chief appeal is heartfelt, esoteric storytelling, aged and cackling.

7. Skeletal Lamping – Of Montreal : The hype machine finally broke down and Kevin Barnes began to tumble critically while selling out shows. The music, however, is just as inventive and grand as it ever was. Though lacking the darkness of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Barnes’ latest is rife with the new ideas he keeps discovering and surely will stand more prominently in the cannon once the sobering influence of time takes hold.

8. Modern Guilt – Beck : The dream team of Beck and The Gray Album mastermind Dangermouse creates surprisingly ignored quality tunes. Beck is still haunted by his demons from Sea Change but he still finds time to offer Dangermouse jubilant, sampled pop ditties to wash down the depression.

9. Saturnalia – The Gutter Twins : An album that abounds with apocalypse throughout as two musical legends push each other to the limits of their sensibilities, one high the other low.

10.That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson : A musical legend who seems to be experimenting with the harmonies and arrangements that have fascinated him throughout his career not for the audience’s benefit but his own. The results are as reliably stunning as ever.

Honorable Mention: 808s and Hearbreak – Kanye West, Untitled – Nas, A Larum – Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, The ’59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem

– Vman


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Live: Dead Meadow, Ancient Sky – 4/16/08 at Black Cat Backstage

Dead Meadow at the Black Cat, backstage. With Ancient Sky.

The Red Room is a nice place. That’s where we wait before former local (D.C.) band Dead Meadow put on their show at the tiny backstage venue of the Black Cat.

The backstage is very intimate and small and comfortable and the sound system is pretty great. We get right up next to the stage.

Brooklyn (by way of Richmond, VA and surrounding towns) rockers Ancient Sky set up and play. The band plays some type of stoner-ish psychedelic rock. The have a guitarist/singer; a bassist; a drummer; and a man on horns, keys, noise, and other assorted sound-making devices (all musically based). They are a good band and I was excited to see them.

They played with a controlled gusto. The bassist was a bit too into just his instrument but the singer/guitarist worked well, as did the other players. As performers they reminded me of a subdued (in fierce, rockin’ energy) Howlin’ Rain. The singer’s passionate yelps also recalled My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, as weird as that sounds. Ancient Sky sounds nothing like either of those two bands. But the vocal performance is definitely reminiscent of that of live Howlin’ Rain (a great live band).

Ancient Sky played their experimental rock and it was terrific. A superb performance from an up-and-coming (they just finished recording their debut album in D.C.) band with solid songs. Ancient Sky is indeed a band to watch.

Dead Meadow came on. Guitarist/singer, drummer, bassist. They were awesome. A very slow melt of the face. They completely blew me away. They played a great show.

Admittedly, the three-piece has a strong catalogue, but it’s littered with songs that sound the same. That showed during the show, when I thought one song was being played but then they actually played that song later in the night. This happened several times. Oh, well.

Guitarist Jason Simon’s vocals are obscured and hard-to-hear on their records. Same goes for their live shows. But did the lyrics really matter when the music was this great?

Bassist Steve Kille did some jumping and played well. Drummer Stephen McCarty showcased his strong playing. Jason’s solos and the band’s jams that extended the songs well past the pop-music minute mark made for an awesome spectacle. Just pure rock ‘n’ roll in a great, small venue.

The crowd interacted well with the band and there were some really dedicated fans in the audience. Before Dead Meadow began their encore, they brought one of the audience members on stage. He had some kind of connection with the band (his uncle or something…). In the words of a 21st Century Camus: It was funny. It was cool.

Steve told the onstage fan to introduce the band as “Black Mountain.” That got some laughs. (Has anyone listened to “Angels,” from Black Mountain’s latest, In The Future? Sounds similar to Dead Meadow’s “At Her Open Door,” from Feathers) After the show, Steve explained that the band was friends with Black Mountain and that they were “really nice guys” (the L.A. transplants and the Canadians have toured together).

The encore continued the pleasurable face-melting. Mind, this was not face-melting in the “I’m gonna rock your socks off” vein or pure rock fury vein, but the “Oh my gosh, this is pretty dang awesome. Mind-blowing even. What good music” vein.

Dead Meadow rocked. Plain and simple.

A great show.

– R.H.

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