The Best Albums of 2008

If for some reason I thought it was hard last year to decide the top ten albums then this year has been a nightmare compared to that walk in the park.  Quite honestly this year has produced a veritable slew of brilliant albums.  From up and coming acts to bands on their forth or fifth album 2008 has seen some incredible music released.  Here is my personal list of the top ten albums of this past year.  If you’re still looking for a gift for someone special I suggest snagging few of these albums and stuffing their stockings with the best of what came this year.

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

01 : Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (amazon) (itunes)

I’ve long been a supporter of all things that Sigur Ros has done.  From the first time I heard their music when I was in university there has been something special about these boys from Iceland.  This year they released their most easily accessible album to date and they’ve literally stolen the show.  There are a great many artists who have put their best foot forward this year, but although many came close, none of them quite live up to this masterpiece.

mp3 : Sigur Ros – Gobbledigook
mp3 : Sigur Ros – Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
mp3 : Sigur Ros – Fljótavík

02 : Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (amazon) (itunes)

This album is a perfect combination of melancholy and clever lyrics.  The music sets the mood perfectly on this trip through lost love and a true feeling of being sad.  Although a bit of a downer emotionally it never strays too far into the realm of depression to leave you wallowing in your own self pity.  If this is what Frightened Rabbit will sound like in the future you can be sure to see them appear on best of lists for years to come.

mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Fast Blood
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – Poke

03 : Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) (amazon) (itunes)

Last year Cloud Cult topped my list for the best album of the year.  To think that less than one year later they went out and made an album that is literally better than their last is simply mind numbing.  What other band puts out this high quality an effort in back to back years?  Literally no other band is producing at such consistently high a level.  If there was one band on this years list that everyone should immediately start listening to I would recommend Cloud Cult.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Journey of the Featherless
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Ghost Inside Our House
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Love You All

04 : Coldplay – Viva la Vida (amazon) (itunes)

I’ve been a fan of Coldplay since the first awkward steps Chris Martin made to the microphone and it’s been a delight to watch them move from behind the U2 and Radiohead curtain out into their own worldwide acclaim.  And rightly so I might add.  Viva La Vida found this foursome out of England reaching a new height and a cohesion of sound that was only alluded to on their previous albums.  It’s great to hear a band really starting to use their full potential.

mp3 : Coldplay – Lost!
mp3 : Coldplay – Death And All His Friends

05 : Greg Laswell – Three Flights from Alto Nido (amazon) (itunes)

Greg Laswell has a streak of brilliance not often found in the overflowing singer/songwriter set.  He has a mind for clever arrangements built upon relatively simple, but elegant, melodies and in this regard he reminds me a bit of Sufjan Stevens {they definitely have very different musical tastes, but their gift for arrangements is the parallel I see here}.  Regardless of who or what this album reminds you of one thing is certain; this is the best Greg Laswell has done and it’s easily one of the best albums of the year.

mp3 : Greg Laswell – Comes And Goes (In Waves)
mp3 : Greg Laswell – I’d Be Lying

06 : The Dodos – Visiter (amazon) (itunes)

When you pare down a musical group until it contains a simple guitar and a simple drum kit you either get garage based disaster or you find that within a minimalistic setting true brilliance shines through.  In the case of this duo it’s easy to hear the talent that lies behind this album.  From track to track Visiter flips through well written stories with a sense of quiet urgency that never leaves your mind, and yet never becomes a frustrating distraction.  There is a fragile and perfect balance to be heard.

mp3 : The Dodos – Fools
mp3 : The Dodos – Ashley

07 : Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us (amazon) (itunes)

This year the top ten seems to be filled with established acts who just now are releasing their best album to date.  This is the case of Mates of State.  Their previous albums have largely been forgettable with a few random acts of brilliance sprinkled throughout.  This album, on the contrary, is solid from start to finish and it’s refreshing to see an older act pull their formidable talent together and focus it on a full album.

mp3 : Mates of State – The Re-Arranger
mp3 : Mates of State – Blue and Gold Print

08 : MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (amazon) (itunes)

MGMT found a way to make space rock and classic rock throwback into an insanely enjoyable acid trip of mashed up tracks.  There’s no simple or easy way to quantify this album as it caterwauls from proggy futuristic beat heavy pop to songs that remind me of a mythical pairing of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Whatever words you find to describe this album I’m sure they’ll be of a positive nature.

mp3 : MGMT – Weekend Wars

09 : TV On The Radio – Dear Science (amazon) (itunes)

Their previous effort, Return to Cookie Mountain, began to hint that this eclectic gathering of talented musicians just might be onto something.  With Dear Science the boys that make up TV On The Radio proudly display their particular brand of music.  I’m willing to put money on the idea that twenty years from now this album will be listed as one of the most influential albums of this decade.

mp3 : TV On The Radio – Lover’s Day

10 : Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns (itunes) (amazon)

Somehow Snow Patrol’s latest album found a way to sneak into the top ten.  This is probably largely due to the fact that the final sixteen minute mega-track is insanely well constructed I kept listening to this album over and over again.  Snow Patrol has found a way to consistently make solid albums.  They might not be as attention grabbing or as trendy as their counterparts but the find a way to impress with each album they release.

mp3 : Snow Patrol – If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It

All the tracks in one zip file : here {zshare = left click}

And that’s it.  That’s the top ten albums of 2008 in my humble and rather correct opinion.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to disagree with me {even going so far as to claim you’ll delete me from your feed reader}, but in the end you’ll see the wisdom of my discretion.  Granted there are two other bands that I really wanted to include on this list, The Walkmen and Nada Surf, and for their effort they easily deserve an honorable mention.  Amongst the letdowns of the year were the fact that both Sufjan Stevens and The Postal Service failed to make good on rumours that new albums would drop this year, Weezer put out a really great half of an album and then mucked it up with three or four tracks that are just terrible, and Death Cab, Ben Folds, The Killers, and Phantom Planet put out decent albums but not really the quality that deserves a spot on the top ten.

Until next year so long.  I’ll keep posting as long as you all continue to listen to good music.  If you’d like to see my 2007 list you can click here.

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32 thoughts on “The Best Albums of 2008”

  1. because phantom planet is breaking up? or because they’re too “mainstream” for you? or because you don’t agree with me? i’m not really sure why you’re upset… hmm. because you love jason schwartzman and wish he would’ve stuck with his band and pursued his acting at the same time?

  2. NOTE: it should be noted that bon iver would easily have made this list if not for a slight technicality. you see he released his album by himself in 2007 and then re-released it with a studio in 2008. thus i can’t really say his album qualifies for this year. it’s the same way that radiohead’s latest, which received a january first release date here in the states after being released online, etc., doesn’t qualify for this list. :NOTE

  3. Billy-

    I really enjoyed your list! As per your recommendation, I think I’m going to do my best to put some time in with Cloud Cult when I get the chance. You’ve also done a terrific job of selling me on Snow Patrol, who I was pretty angry with after Final Straw (great singles, other stuff left me pretty disappointed), but I’m giving their new material an honest chance and really liking it.

    This is one of those long-time-listener-first-time-caller posts, and I just wanted to say that I really enjoy the blog. I was paging through Pitchfork’s top 100 the other day, and was kinda irritated. Pitchfork and myself have something of a disconnect when it comes to musical taste, and I resonate with the songs, artists, and opinions posted on TWF much more easily!

    Thanks again; hope to hear some ever greater stuff next year.

  4. It has nothing to do with how mainstream they are. If it did don’t think I would of mentioned the coldplay album instead? It has to do with the awful generic sounding garbage albums that snow patrol and phantom planet released. I don’t care about jason schwartzman they aren’t good with or without him.

  5. Good list – a few i hadn’t heard of so will be interesting to give them a listen. I’ve read your blog for ages so thought i’d finally reply. I’m a big fan. Great to see Coldplay on there!

    However, Bon Iver isn’t on the list – i thought you might be a fan?? A great album IMO.

    Love the blog but you could tone down the arrogance lol – gets a bit tiresome when someone thinks they know everything. No offense meant.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. @ Tom UK – thanks for the comment. sorry about the arrogance, it’s all meant tongue in cheek form of self deprecation. i understand that my opinions matter little when it comes to the world at large and as such i continually poke fun of myself and claim my all important dominance. it is the internet after all so i suppose i can pretty much say what i want {although sarcasm and satire don’t always translate well via simple text, especially across continents}.

    also, the Bon Iver album i left off due to the fact that it was technically released in 2007 and then rereleased with a proper label in 2008. it is brilliant.

  7. i am glad you mentioned snow patrol on your list! it was on mine too. I am getting a little tired of hearing that they just make “garbage” and “generic” music, i think they have a very calming and interesting sound and if you enjoy listening to them, who cares what anyone thinks!

  8. A great list for a pretty busy year. I’d also mention Shearwater’s “Rook”, The Tallest Man on Earth’s “Shallow Grave” and Portishead’s “Third”.

  9. Thank you for placing Frightened Rabbit so high on your list. It really is a brilliant album, like this year’s version of “Boxer”. Once it grabs you, it doesn’t let go.

    Also props for putting Coldplay at #4. And I guess I should start looking into TV on the Radio soon, huh?

  10. Great list. I hadn’t heard of Frightened Rabbit until you mentioned them, and I quite like them. It’s good to see Greg Laswell and Coldplay so high, although I feel Snow Patrol’s last track is one of the best songs of the year.

    Oh, and I like your site name.

  11. Happy New Year, Billy! I love your list, and I’m happy you picked FR too, that is an AWESOME album. I also made a list of what I liked this year, of course it differs from yours, it’s what “I liked,” duh! lol xoxox

  12. first of all, i love the blog. mostly everything i can agree with. i just wanted to suggest an artist called “bon iver”. i highly recommend “flume” on his album titled “for emma, forever ago”. amazing music. keep up the great work.

  13. apparently no one that comments here reads the actual comments… i’ve stated multiple times that i LOVE bon iver, but he wasn’t included on this list due to a technicality. his album was really released in 2007 and then later it was picked up by a studio and re-released in 2008. for this reason bon iver isn’t on my list {it’s the same reason radiohead’s album “in rainbows” wasn’t included on this list. they released it themselves in 2007 and then it was actually released as a proper album in the USA, under an official label, in 2008}. in all actuality i should have put bon iver on my best of 2007 list, but i hadn’t heard of him at that point.

  14. you’re right matt. apparently MGMT did release their album in digital only format on October 2nd in 2007. due to this technicality {that being that it was a digital only release – as opposed to Bon Iver and Radiohead which both offered actual media}, MGMT stays on the list and Bon Iver gets pushed to the “albums i should have heard of in 2007″ – thanks for the heads up though, i never knew they did a digital release preceding their album.

    long story short, i’m not restructuring my list.

  15. matt, when you spend as much time as i do listening to music, putting it into a year end list, writing about it, editing images, uploading music, and submitting it to various aggregators across the interwebs you’ll understand that reorganizing the list after it’s been published is simply not worth it. at all.

  16. I think Bon Iver has a really nice beard. I also think the list is solid, except for Mates of State who I’ve decided should give up music altogether and focus on couples photography, which they seem to be fairly good at.

  17. @ Brandon – i agree with you almost completely… except for this new album. it literally is light years above and beyond anything they have ever done. their last, like, fifty albums all kinda sucked, but this new one was great.

    @ matt (aus) – i’ve been assuming that you’re matt, from australia, but i really don’t know. and thanks for all the feedback. blogging can become a very stagnant and dead medium if there aren’t people reading, commenting, and correcting what i write at all times. kudos to you for not only leaving a comment but coming back to check on replies. it’s readers like you that make TWF worth it.

  18. Just kinda stumbled around your blog and I have to agree with most of the albums on the list [especially with Sigur Ros and Snow Patrol both taking a spot]. I have never heard of Mates of State before, and now I’m really digging “Re-arrange Us” – it truly is a solid album. Thanks!

    Keep on recommending such good music.

  19. nice albums…and I love your music. love it. On Snow Patrol: I’m glad you put them on your list. I of course found them probably through Chasing Cars and then got that CD – I definitely wasn’t an immediate fan of the whole CD, but they snuck up on me slowly and I ended up finding a deep appreciation. Also, saw them in concert and it was amazing. I’m still getting used to the new one…i’m in like with it now especially set down your glass and the planets bend between us.
    Anyway! sorry i just wrote a book but i never get to talk about snow patrol to people because usually they don’t know all their music!

  20. I love this website… I found Lenka on here a really long time ago and have been hooked every since. I have such great appreciation of what you do, it’s incredible. I am growing especially fond of Frightened Rabbit on here… It really amazes me. Thank you for introducing me to all this music, I absolutely love what you do and please, please never stop. (:

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