As usual, with anything I could potentially be involved with, my Top Albums Of 2008 list is, well, a little late. And....this isn't even it. I still have superlatives, and books, and things of that nature, to add. But I try to, in times like this, remember the old saying about eating an elephant...it sucks. Entirely. And you shouldn't do it.
Russ's Top Catorce Albums of 2008
(why catorce? because, years ago, it was good enough for Bono, and that's still good enough for me)
1) Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont
Proustian meditation on southern small-town ennui, stasis, and the pains of being the world’s most pure-at-heart blogrock superstar. I had no idea these kids were capable of making an album this beautiful, this brilliant and this weird and out-right stunning…ever.
2) Kanye West, 808s And Heartbreak
God, when have I not been talking about this album lately? Even IF you divorce the ego from the music, you still get a stunning, stark, risk-taking album from a modern rap maverick. Leave what you know about Kanye in place, though, and you get something even more-the knowledge that this, what should have been a bedroom album catharsis about his breakup with his fiancée and the death of his mother (that he blames on her following his own love of excess and the trappings of fame), is publicly consumable.
3)Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree
Eschewing the glittery electro-stomp that they’d built their names and bank accounts on, this year Goldfrapp went wry, sincere and pastoral-ambient. I will admit to having listened to this album and nothing but this album for like a month as soon as I figured out the lyrics to “A&E”.
4)Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Say what the hell you want about Weezy: boy is off his freaking rocker in all the right ways. Everyone looks for comparisons to justify their love for Lil Wayne, and mine is simple enough: Kool Keith. Wayne is the second coming of the multi-personality-laden, utterly unhinged and just-not-caring Keith.
5) Leila, Blood Looms and Blooms
Another early 2008 favorite, Leila’s “Blood, Looms and Blooms” is like a night-time visit to a moon-lit wax museum: child-like, haunting, and frightening.
6)School of 7 Bells, Alpinisms
This is what I think I wanted the High Places record to be: less ambience, more epic, world-music-informed emotive drone passages.
Jesus Christ who saw this one coming? The band that invented the salon-rock triphop genre suddenly returned from a length hiatus with…this. A stunning, bleak landscape of harsh sounds balances with Beth Gibbons’ unmistakably beautiful and fragile voice.
8)Lykke Li, Youth Novels
This album fell of my radar later in 2008, but early in the year I was all about this oddball Swede-pop chanteuse, so much so that to NOT have this on my tops of 08 would be utterly turning my back on the first half of the year.
9) Tie for nine: Now, Now Every Children, Cars/Atlas Sound, Let The Blind Lead Those Who See But Cannot Feel
Now, Now Every Children is a band that busted up into my listening habits, literally, a month before making this list. Their debut full-length, though, is so damn good that it shot up into the top ten-full of epic, sprawling and heartfelt songs like a more ramshackle Arcade Fire.
Atlas Sound is the flip-side of the coin from Bradford Cox, frontman of Deerhunter. Atlas Sound is his ambient/experimental project, which, at first listened, sounded like coins loose in an echo chamber to me. Played back-to-front with the new Deerhunter, though, Let the Blind sounds less like self-important electronic noodling and more like creepy, brain-infecting variations on the music from Twin Peaks.
10)TI, Paper Trail
OHMYGOD what an album. Every single song on this record bangs, both lyrically and beat-wise, and I have no doubt it’s because he did exactly what he said he would never do again-actually wrote his lyrics down. From the utterly cheesy (“Whatever You Like”) to the instantly pummeling (“Swagga Like Us”), this was the southern rap throw-down T.I. has been threatening to make.
11)Amanda Palmer, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
It’s not often in my older years that I can say an album “saved my life”. In middle and high school, I used to think various singer-songwriter records were keeping me from slitting my wrists (granted, I never tried, and even if I had I would have cut across the vein as opposed to with, and, I mean, probably would have had some stupid stitches and been bullied worse upon returning to school), but it’s not an experience that happens to me much anymore. Amanda Palmer’s solo record saved me this year, and really that’s all I need to say.
12)Magnetic Fields, Distortion
It doesn’t matter how much distortion you bury Stephin Merritt’s tongue-in-cheek, brilliant lyrics under, they still come through…though, for my taste, I PREFER the pounds upon pounds of Jesus and Mary Chain-homage fuzz that Distortion saw the ‘Fields warping their pop tunes in.
13) REM, Accelerate
God, in an ideal world I would have liked this album SO MUCH MORE. Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Up, Reveal-they all were within the top five albums of the year for me when they each came out.
(We won’t discuss Around The Sun.)
It’s not that Accelerate is a BAD record-far from it. But, in the band’s attempt to reclaim the meat-and-potatoes rock fans that basically haven’t given a crap in years, they eschewed the playful experimentation that made earlier (and, granted, less popular) albums so much fun. That said, there’s still some classic R.E.M. here-the whole album, in fact. I just wish it wasn’t so straight-forward.
14) Tie for Catorce: Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons Paint That Shit Gold/Vampire Weekend, S/T
Slug from Atmosphere is my emo bro. Seriously-there’s no one in modern music who can lay out a verse about being done wrong by a woman and have me empathize so closely. I didn’t give it the proper listen upon release, but When Life held strong through the end of the year.
Vampire Weekend? Oh come on I can’t even pretend to be able to justify this.
Most. Rushed. Year-End. List. I've. Ever. Compiled. But I hold to it.