Last year on Thunder Matt's Saloon, each writer listed they're favorite albums of 2007. The list was eclectic, bloated and disorganized. Some people wrote blurbs, some didn't, some made up awards, some only listed 5 albums, some listed 10. Overall it made for one big jumbled mess, and it was glorious.
This year is no exception. All 11 members of the Pomp Culture Collective have offered up their highs (and lows) for music in 2008. From pretentious indie hipsters, to metal fans, to jazz aficionados, to cock rockers, we've got just about everything covered here. So here we go, the most skeet-tastic albums of the year:
Chip Wesley - warning, may be too pretentious for some readers.
I posted my top 30-11 last week, you can read that here.
1. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely - Really, nothing else came close for me. This album doesn't just knock your dick in the dirt, it rips it off, takes it offshore and does deep sea drilling with it. Check out: The whole album, I can't narrow it down.
2. White Denim - Exposion - A fantastic album mixing elements of garage rock, blues and psychedelia. This album is only available on vinyl and digital format as the band has stated, "CDs seem pretty worthless to us". Check out: IEIEI, Shake Shake Shake, Migration Wind.
3. A Night in the Box - Write a Letter - A chance listen on XM radio led to me discovering A Night in the Box. A quick search and download from eMusic later and I had one of the best albums I've heard all year. The best description I've heard for them is "dirty roadhouse folk" music. Check out: Let Me Know, Broken Down Radiator Blues, Rich Man's Table.
4. TV on the Radio - Dear Science - Definitely an album that takes multiple listens before truly appreciating, but it's rewarding once you do. Expect this album to show up on more than just my list. Check out: Halfway Home, Red Dress, Love Dog
5. Secret Machines - Secret Machines - There's alway room for dark, moody, prog rock and Secret Machines fills that nicely. Listening to this album full of 6 minute-plus space rock anthems makes me want to dust off my Pink Floyd albums. Check out: Now You're Gone, Underneath the Concrete, The Walls Are Starting to Crack.
6. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins - Coming off the same recording session as last year's release "The Stage Names", Okkervil River offers a nice continuation of that album with "The Stand Ins". Check out: Singer Songwriter, Lost Coastlines, Pop Lie.
7. The Black Keys - Attack & Release - The biggest complaint I keep hearing about this album is that it sounds too polished and that it's missing raw fuzzed out sound from their previous work. Look, I love the Keys and their rough fuzzed out guitar recordings in the basement are great, but they've done that for four albums now. I for one welcome the change. Danger Mouse does a great job mixing up a bit without losing that unique Black Keys sound. Check out: Strange Times, Psychotic Girl, Oceans and Streams.
8. Delta Spirit - Ode to Sunshine - Band out of San Diego that blends Americana with a little bit of soul. Fans of Blitzen Trapper would probably dig this album too. Check out: Trashcan, People C'mon, Streetwalker.
9. Shugo Tokumaru - Exit - I was in my car listening to XM, when I first heard "Parachute", the opening track on Shugo Tokumaru's latest album, 'Exit'. I tried my best to remember the artist's name until I could get home and look him up. After some quick and dirty Google searching and some spelling corrections I was fortunate to find this album. Shugo's amazing ability to layer instruments and experiment with melodies makes 'Exit' a beautiful little nugget of indie pop weirdness. Check out: Parachute, La La Radio, Wedding.
10. What Made Milwaukee Famous - What Doesn't Kill Us - I thought Schlitz was what made Milwaukee famous. Actually the name comes from a Jerry Lee Lewis song and the band is from Texas, not Wisconsin. In fact WMMF is the fourth band on this top ten from Texas and the third from Austin in particular. Really it's just an odd coincidence. Check out: Blood, Sweat and Fears, Sultan, Resistance Street.
Biggest Disappointment - Kings of Leon - Only by the Night - I had low expectations for last year's Because of the Times and wound up pleasantly surprised. I guess then I should've known that I would be let down by this one. I was optimistic when the single "Crawl" was released online. Sadly that is the only real decent song, the rest is insipid alt rock tailor-made for FM radio and large arenas.
Interpol Award - Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes - This award goes to the album that critics and indie snobs drool over and yet I just don't get all the adulation. It's ok I guess but after 3 or 4 songs it just wears on me. Previous winners of this award include The National, Bloc Party, and of course Interpol.
The Hundley - only a top five, but what a diverse five they are!
1. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely - Usually I'm not one to make brash statements, but this album is far and away the best thing I've heard this year. It's not even close. It might even be one of the best albums of the last five years. I really dig the arrangements, which are pretty complex for straight ahead rockers like these guys. The whole album has an Americana feel to it with country-esque fiddle, bluesy guitars, and folk-tinged organ. And in a band with such high profile members, no one seems to shine brighter than anyone else.
Tight Cuts: Old Enough, Rich Kid Blues, Carolina Drama
2. Black Crowes - Warpaint - Songwriting is not dead! The Crowes came back in a big way with this album and remind all of us how talented of a band they are. The new addition is Luther Dickinson from The North Mississippi All-Stars on lead guitar, who shines bright on this album with his interplay with founding member and primary songwriter, Rich Robinson. Most of the album was recorded live and without overdubs. Their energy and creativity is back and provides a nice difference from their last album almost 7 years ago. The album's music lend itself to be easily performed live, which, let's face it, is where the Black Crowes have always made their hay. This album was definitely a nice surprise.
Tight Cuts: Wounded Bird, Goodbye Daughters of The Revolution, Movin' on Down The Line
3. A Night in the Box - Write a Letter - I have to thank Chip Wesley for turning me on to these guys. Kind of a bluegrass, folk, blues odyssey that's rich in dynamics. The lead singer has a wailing and powerful voice which is complimented nicely by some slow, and many times eerie violin work. Listening to the album from start to finish is definitely a journey - it's powerful and dangerous at one moment, while joyous and playful the next. Actually, it's a lot like my performances in the sack in that regard.
Tight Cuts: Let Me Know, Broken-Down Radiator Romance Blues
4. The Black Keys - Attack and Release - Oh Black Keys, why did you deviate? What in the hell does some cat named Danger Mouse have to do with your sound? They tried something different - they went away from their raw, extremely lo-fi recording practices in favor of some of DM's production and subsequent layering of vocals and guitars. I'm not sure if it was an improvement, but it still works nonetheless. The bottom line is that their raw and gritty energy still shines through, making it an album that will produce a fair share of head bangs and air guitar chops.
Tight Cuts: Strange Times, I Got Mine, Remember When
5. North Mississippi Allstars - Boulderado (Live) - If there's one criticism you could make about this band, it's that their studio albums seem distant, which is true of most any jam band (re: Grateful Dead, Phish, Robert Randolph). Naturally with this being a live album, you get the essence and true feel of the band. Nearly three hours of music on this double disc set, chocked full of extended jams and the singing guitar of Luther Dickinson. Pretty amazing sound for a three-piece. A great album for those who love them some blues/rock jamming.
Tight Cuts: Someday Baby, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Mean Ol' Wind Died Down
Biggest Disappointment - Guns 'N Roses - Chinese Diplomacy - Have I listened to it? No. Does this deserve to be called Guns 'N Roses? No. Am I wearing pants right now? (Pleads the 5th Amendment)
Guilty Pleasure - This Warm December - A Brushfire Holiday - Hey, it's a slow year. I'll admit, I listen to this album all the time. The album is composed of some artists from Brushfire Records, about half of which are new songs, while the other half are fresh takes on traditional Christmas songs. The artist list includes Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings, Matt Costa and more. Particularly intruiging is the song by Zee Avi, whom Johnson found on YouTube of all places!
Arcturus - may actually think it's 1960.
1. Hank Mobley Quintet-Hank Mobley
This is a remastered session from March of 1957. Mobley is my favorite tenor saxophonist and he's got an all-star lineup here with Art Blakey on drums, Art Farmer on trumpet, Horace Silver on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. Check out: "Funk in Deep Freeze" and "Base on Balls".
2. Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants
Trumpeter and jazz legend Davis is accompanied by Milt Jackson on vibes, Thelonius Monk on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Kenny Clarke on drums for the majority of this haunting album. There's also one track featuring Miles's first classic quintet of John Coltrane on tenor sax, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Check out: "The Man I Love" and "Bemsha Swing", as well as "'Round Midnight" for an early Coltrane fix. The Modern Jazz tunes are from '54 and the "classic quintet" from a session in '56.
3. Settin' The Pace-John Coltrane
The soon to be sax legend recorded several albums for Prestiege as he began to experiment with his sound. These albums may not be as adventerous as what came later, but they're among my favorite jazz albums. This album features Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. Check out: "I See Your Face Before Me" and "Little Melonae" to see Coltrane's beautiful and fiery sides respectively.
4. How to Walk Away-Juliana Hatfield
While her last album "Made in China" was an angry blast of indy rock anger, How to Walk Away captures the pop sensibilities of one of our most undersung songstresses. Check out: "This Lonely Love" and "My Baby . . ."
I heard Rockferry in a Borders and had no idea what I was listening to. I honestly thought it was a neo soul album sung by a lady of the African-American persuasion. I didn't ask the staff what they were playing and forgot about it until I heard the song "Mercy" on a TV commercial. I'd also seen oodles of the CD out on display at stores everywhere and never made the connection between the two as the CD cover featured a skinny white chick. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the song on Amazon and discovered they were one and the same. This is a surprisngly good album with arrangements that remind me of old Stax records. Apparently, there was a lot of hype surrounding Duffy, but I never caught wind of any of it, proving once again how abysmally out of it I really am. No matter, as this Welsh gal delivers the goods. Check out: "Stepping Stone" and "Hanging On Too Long" as well as the title cut.
E-Claire - can incorporate Billy Joel into any top ten list.
1. The Raconteurs – Consolers Of The Lonely. Apart from the fact that I enjoyed the album musically, I like how Jack White and Co. mix it up on a lot of the tracks. For example, songs like "Old Enough" and "Top Yourself" have a twang to them, while "Salute Your Solution" and "Consoler of the Lonely" have more of a rock vibe. This was definitely my favorite album of 2008.
2. What Made Milwaukee Famous – What Doesn't Kill Us. Damn! This whole time, I thought what made Milwaukee Famous was brats. Apparently, it was this band. If you like that garage-rock sound – like the White Stripes and The Strokes – this album might be for you.
3. The Whigs – Mission Control. The Whigs were a political party who opposed the policies of Andrew Jackson. However, they dissolved in 1856, and then decided to form a kick-ass rock band. What? That's not how it happened? Whatever. This album is good.
4. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak. I think the reason I liked this album so much is because of its simplicity. For example, the beat for "Heartless" is basically a base line and one of those train whistles you hear in the Sleep Train mattress commercials…And the song "Say You Will" is pretty much Kanye's voice, a couple of drums, and some kind of noise that sounds like it came from the game "Pong." There aren't many artists that can do so much with so little. I was impressed..
5. Eagles of Death Metal – Heart On. Hah! Heart On! I just got that! Anyway…This album pretty much sounds like their other albums, but I still like the band's musical stylings…It's not super-processed, and that "WannaBe in L.A." song is damn catchy.
6. Weezer – The Red Album. I am a pretty big Weezer fan, and I was kind of disappointed with this album. It starts out fine enough, but then it kind of tails off at the end. It's almost like they worked really hard on the first half of the album, and then said "Shit! We've gotta crank out 5 more songs!" Still, there are some good tracks on The Red Album – including "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," which seems like it's their attempt at a "Jesus of Suburbia"-type song. Also, on the deluxe version of the album, there's a really good song called "King" – sung by drummer Pat Wilson.
7. Billy Joel – The Stranger: 30th Anniversary (Legacy Edition). This album came out in 1977, but it was re-released this year as a 2-disc set featuring a re-mastered version of "The Stranger" and "Live At Carnegie Hall" – which was previously unreleased. When I tell people I'm a huge Billy Joel fan, they usually tell me to go play croquet with the other 50-year-olds...But he's such a good artist. He's a phenomenal piano player and a talented song writer who's been able to stay relevant for over 30 years. The Stranger is my favorite album of his, so if you're bored at work with nothing to do, give it a listen and see what you think.
8. The Black Crowes – Warpaint. I like The Black Crowes, and this pretty much sounds like all the other Black Crowes albums…So therefore, I liked this album.
9. John Legend – Evolver. This album makes me feel groovy, and I've always liked Legend's voice. One thing I noticed while listening to this album: Legend is either singing about wanting to get with girls, or wanting to get back together with a girl he misses. Johnny…Perhaps if you stopped trying to get with girls, the girl you like wouldn't leave you. Just a suggestion…
10. Electric Light Orchestra – All Over The World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra. Ok, fine. This album didn't come out in 2008…But I bought it in 2008 and I needed something to round out my top 10. I like this album, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's fun…It's upbeat (with the exception of "Telephone Line" – that song's kind of a downer)…And it keeps me awake on long drives. So it makes the list.
Biggest Disappointment: Panic At The Disco - Pretty.Odd. They dropped the exclamation point from their name, and apparently, they also dropped the fun from their music. I take a lot of crap for it, but I liked "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out." It was an upbeat album that was fun to listen to. But in the band's sophomore effort, it seems like they're trying too hard to shake the image of their first album. You can tell they're trying to be more artsy, but I just don't think they pull it off. I didn't mind the change of pace, but I wish they'd kept some of their old vibe on this album, too.
Album That Everyone Seems To Like But Me: TV On The Radio - Dear Science. I wish I could give you some genius explanation for not liking this album, but I just didn't. Apart from that Newspaper Man song, I just didn't like any of the songs on the album. Sorry.
Daft Funk - can incorporate Electric Six into any top ten list.
Lingering Bursitis - coming from a bunker stocked with canned goods and vinyl albums.
What passes for "new music" these days is an incoherent, unlistenable mess, so my list is empty this year. The schizophrenic twittering and buzzing of electronic music could give the listener a sudden burst of Parkinson's, while every male singer-songwriter comes across like a neutered puppy with their whining and pining for loves lost and heartbreak found. Heck, with their fondness for saccharine observations and sappy perspective on the world, is it any wonder they're lonely?
Jordi Scrubbings - these songs make good pro wrestling intros.
Governor X - stuff you probably hated but the Gov doesn't care what you think.
1. R.E.M. – Accelerate
After years of wandering through an electronic post-Bill Barry malaise, R.E.M. reminds the world that when they want to be, they can be a knock your dick in the dirt rock band. The punk inspired Accelerate is their best CD since New Adventures in Hi-Fi and spawned one of their best live sets ever.
Download – Horse to Water
2. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy
If it is even possible for a CD to live up to 17 years of hype, Chinese Democracy comes about as close as you can get. Every time you think this CD can’t get any bigger and more epic, Axl turns it up a notch by bringing in a string section, sampling a Martin Luther King speech, or stripping it down to nothing more than him and a piano pining for lost love.
Download – Better
3. The Offspring – Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace
When I graduated high school, I figured I had left The Offspring behind. Sure they had a good song or two on their last few CDs, but they were pretty much dead to me. Well, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace brought the Offspring back with a vengeance. It could be their finest work ever.
Download – Half-Truism
4. Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak
Long live auto-tune! Actually, the material on West’s 4th CD is so solid and gripping, the metallic auto-tune almost becomes an after thought. Its kind of a love it or leave it type of disc, but you can file me under “love it”.
Download – Paranoid
5. The Killers – Day & Age
The Killers’ homage to disco and alien spacecraft may take awhile to grow on you, but if you let it slip into your life you’ll soon find yourself wishing you knew how to quit it. After numerous listens, the only real issue with the disc is its frustratingly short 40 minute runtime.
Download – Spaceman
6. Keane – Perfect Symmetry
My love of the pudgy English trio would be more appropriate on the beaches of Brighton than the beaches of California, but I can’t help myself. Keane is really the only band today that carries on the banner of the great unsung mid-90s Britpop era.
Download – Perfect Symmetry
7. Daddy Yankee – Talento de Barrio
Much to the dismay of family and friends, 2008 was the year I discovered reggaeton music. I have Daddy Yankee’s Pose to thank for opening my eyes and ears to this growing musical phenomenon.
Download – Pose
8. T. I. – Paper Trail
With the musical tragedies of Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and T-Pain dominating the airwaves in recent years, I was ready to proclaim hip-hop dead. Then, out of nowhere, T.I. comes back with the best rap CD since Dr. Dre’s 2001 and renews my faith in the genre.
Download – Live Your Life
9. Travis – Ode to J Smith
Comebacks seem to be a recurring theme on my list - some literally like GNR, and others quality wise like R.E.M., The Offspring, and T.I. Travis falls into the 2nd group, putting out one of their most complete and less depressing works in years.
Download – Before You Were Young
10. Tokio Hotel – Scream
Apparently I’m a 13 year old European girl because this emo glam-rock by a group of effeminate weirdo teenagers from Germany totally caught on with me. We all have our crosses to bear.
Download – Forgotten Children
Honorable Mention – Live Discs
With so many quality new CDs out this year, I felt there was no need to include live discs in my top 10. Two concert CDs this year are worth an honorable mention though. My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade is Dead CD/DVD features the band playing their 2006 CD The Black Parade from beginning to end allegedly for the last time ever. Muse’s HAARP is the British band’s first live performance available in the US. The music is predictably solid, but unfortunately the CD does not contain two of their best songs, Plug in Baby and Apocalypse Please, which appear on the DVD.
Biggest Disappointment of 2008 - Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul
Oasis is one of my favorite bands, but Dig Out Your Soul simply can’t be swept under the rug. I really wanted to like this, but it starts out so-so, builds slightly and then slams right into a brick wall with the unbearable 6th track (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady. The disc never recovers after that and will go down not only as 2008’s biggest disappointment, but Oasis’ worst CD ever.
Brant Brown - a little bearded lad from New Zealand tickled his fancy.
1. Liam Finn: I'll Be Lightning
Technically this album was released in 2007, but not until 2008 stateside. The studio recordings do not quite capture the amazing breadth of Finn's talents and energy that he displays in his live shows, but it does make for an excellent first step in what is sure to be a very successful solo career.
Check out: Energy Spent, Better to Be, Lead Balloon
2. TV on the Radio: Dear Science
To me, Dear Science is composed of a tighter, cleaner batch of songs than Return to Cookie Mountain. What stand out to me are some of the slower, more melodic tunes. Very catchy and difficult to get out of your head at times, which is fine as long as the songs are of this high quality.
Check out: Love Dog, Family Tree, Crying
3. Sigur Ros: Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Another outstanding set from these auteurs of sorrow. In this album, however, the group took great strides in delivering a more upbeat and hopeful cadence during the first half of the album. Then they predictably (and beautifully) transition back to the deep emotional introspection that fans are accustomed to, and in the effort, come out with some of their best material ever.
Check out: Festival, Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, Ára bátur
4. She & Him: Volume One
This debut album from actress Zooey Deschanel and musician Matt Ward may seem like some cheap novelty at face value. These songs, and her voice, are absolutely legitimate. The minimalist instrumental stylings bring Deschanel's harmonies to the forefront. The reception to this album has been strong, so we should be receiving more from the duo on the near future.
5. Okkervil River: The Stand Ins
I would imagine it's difficult to release two full length albums of high quality in successive years, but Okkervil River nailed it, delivering this set after The Stage Names in 2007. The Stand Ins feels a little softer, maybe a little less distinct, but from start to finish this is a top notch effort.
The rest of the Top 10
6. Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
7. Secret Machines: Secret Machines
8. Black Keys: Attack & Release
9. Richard Swift: Richard Swift as Onasis
10. Blitzen Trapper: Furr
Biggest Disappointment: This award goes to Oasis' Dig Out Your Soul on so many levels. What a complete mess.
Album I Despised the Most: Chinese Democracy. My expectations were at rock bottom for this album, and Axl met me there.
Chaim Witz - best listened whilst donning an ascot and/or monocle.
Dave Thomas - best music while surfing for awful links.
1. Fleet Foxes (Fleet Foxes) - There was an awful lot of hype about this album going into my purchase and I was skeptical, to say the least. But when Pitchfork rants and raves it begs attention. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the sound the first time through. Now I think the lyrics and harmonies are, for the lack of a better term, absolutely pure. You should own this.
2. Feed the Animals (Girl Talk) - This album completely blew my mind the first time I listened to it. I was excited the entire time to see what was going to pop up next. Top notch Mr. Gillis. Top notch indeed.
3. Consolers of the Lonely (The Raconteurs) - This was an early favorite for my favorite album of the year. They put on a hell of a show at Lollapalooza too. The best rock album of the year for me. If you liked this, you might also like: The White Stripes, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, welding.
4. Vampire Weekend (Vampire Weekend) - This album is pretty catchy and I found myself listening to it over and over on my walk to work but it had to give it a rest before I burned out. It’ll take the Mario theme to get Oxford Comma and A-Punk out of your head.
5. Low vs. Diamond (Low vs. Diamond) - This is my sleeper pick of the draft. They’re a smaller group from LA getting a bunch of popular reviews. A friend turned me on to them, albeit too late to hear them play a show in my neighborhood. You can bet I’ll be keeping an eye out for any future shows.
6. For Emma, Forever Ago (Bon Iver) - An excellent album from beginning to end. No complaints.
7. Dear Science (TV on The Radio) - This is probably my favorite album of theirs but it’s a very unique sound and I can see how some people would have a difficult time affording the patience to let it grow on them. Eclectic.
8. 808s and Heartbreak (Kanye West) - One could say that this “feel sorry” story is actually just one song. If you can get over the voice modulation that he uses in EVERY song I think the stories are interesting and while Kanye isn’t the most talented musician out there, he keeps reinventing himself and that keeps my attention.
9. Attack and Release (The Black Keys) - I Got Mine and Strange Times were the high points for me.
10. What Doesn’t Kill Us (What Made Milwaukee Famous) - A smaller group finding their legs. Listen to Cheap Wine.