Some people insist that 2008 was a low year regarding music. For my part, I can only look at the music I bought and ask myself how some people could actually think that. It's not to say that 2008 was the BEST year in music ever. But weak it wasn't and here are some of my recommendations with commentary and grade. In no particular order:
The Mars Volta – Bedlam in Goliath
Mars Volta's brand of psycho latin jazz rock finds its finest expression on their fourth album. True, their best album continues to be Deloused in the Commatorium (if you ask me), but if you want an album that borders on Miles Davis avant garde tenacity and ambition, Bedlam pushes new ground that shall forever defy cover bands stupid enough to think they can tackle this material.
Jack Johnson – Sleep through the static
Seems ole Jacky Boy pulled a Dylan on us and unsheathed the electric guitar for this warm, deliciously fun album. I really don't think Jack Johnson can viably pull off a shitty album and his seventh album (counting the two surf flick soundtracks as well as the one for Curious George) is filled to the brink with great tracks that invite you to sip wine, beer, tea or your beverage of choice with good friends for good times.
Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV
How much of a cliché is it to call Ghosts a haunting album? But truly, I think it's the best way to describe this compilation of instrumental tracks by workaholic Trent Reznor. If you need great music to write something dark, morose, scary and ... well haunting, look no further than this to put on your stereo.
The Black Crowes – Warpaint
Is this the best Ctowes album? No. Period. But it's a Crowes album and it's solid throughout so if you're low on your southern blues rock, this is the shot you need. Don't believe me? Listen to 'Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution' and tell me you're not toe tapping. Hip swaying, ass banging rock. How can you say no to that? Be sure to check out the slow burn of 'Walk Believer Walk', the warm summer tinge of 'Oh Josephine', the bourbon splash of 'Movin down the line' or just the road trip worthy 'Whoah Mule'. Solid is too little a word, but for now, it shall have to do.
Counting Crows – Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
This Desert Life put a lot of people off the other Crows (you know, the band without the e in their name). Hard Candy did little to pull back the masses although I honestly believe it is a terrific album. Enter Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings. This is the type of album that can turn you onto a band. Solid through and through, variety, hooks, memorable songs, fast songs, slow songs, quirky songs. Everything you might want from a Counting Crows album is here so if you're a fan, what the hell are you waiting for. And if you're not a fan, give this one a shot. You should be quite pleased.
Blind Melon – For my friends
Blind Melon was one of my favorite bands ever, not just of the 90's, but ever. I am one of the people who wept Shannon Hoon much more than Kurt Cobain because though I did love Nirvana, I identified much more with Blind Melon. So after a decade without an album and a couple of side projects (By all means check out Unified theory and Abandon Jalopy), a new singer is chosen and a new album arrives. A lot of people were outraged that the band actually still used the name Blind Melon and I can't help but think that a bit unfair to say the least. Then again, less than a year passed before Blind Melon found themselves short another singer. But I stray from the point. This album is undeniably solid. A lot of people say that it's different from previous Blind Melon albums and I'm not even sure what the hell they expected. What I heard was a straight out rock album that showed continued promise from a band that is extremely talented. People will focus on Travis Warren not sounding like Shannon Hoon, or not being as good a writer as Shannon, or not as good a frontman as Mr. Hoon (Hmmm, I wonder why the hell he left). But for my part, I heard a solid album I was actually eager to hear live. Unfortunately, something happened and Travis left Blind Melon and now I, along with the people who believed in the reincarnation of Blind Melon, are left to wonder if there'll ever be any way of having a steady supply of the brand of music only Blind Melon could pull off. Who knows? What I do know is that this is an album you should definitely check out.
Nine Inch Nails – The Slip
So Trent Reznor wants to show how productive he can actually be after tumultous years where releases were far between. Fine. Actually; more than fine. Excellent. BLOODY excellent. Fucking Awesome. Ok so enough praise. How's the album? Well if you ever asked yourself whether Nine Inch Nails could have an album that included elements of ALL their previous albums, that's precisely what you'll find upon hearing The Slip. At times hard, at times dark, at times fast, at times gothic fuck music. This is the most complete NIN album you can find if you want a taste for all the directions that Maestro Reznor has ever taken. Play loud and repeat as necessary.
Filter – Anthems for the Damned
Ah, how I love people that insist they are audiophiles. You see, there's a recent trend of people demanding (and rightfully so) more quality in the music they pay money to hear. Seriously, if you pay for something, the least that can be done is to have the best possible music mix for your dollar. Well, of course you can imagine there are people that truly are audiophiles in their musical taste and can tell a good recording from a great one... oh but there are also a wide variety of people who are full of shit and insist that an album is mixed poorly or has shitty drums mainly because someone else said so and they felt the need to agree. Enter Anthems for the Damned. I had to listen to this album 4 times before realizing how I felt about it. Rather than go in depth in my reaction, lets focus on what I just said. I listened to an album four times straight just to see if it was good...... Ummm yeah. I think it's pretty safe to say that it isn't a bad album. Is it better than Short Bus or Title of Record? How about no? But does that mean it sucks? Well how about listening to it four times so you can decide for yourself?
Fleet Foxes – S/T
New band. New album. Old souls. If you've ever liked any Crosy Stills Nash and Young song, you need this album. If I had to describe this album, I'd say it is the musical equivalent of dawn on an orange grove. I'm serious, this is such a damn good album that it is among my top 3 picks for the year. It's mellow, beautiful, and damn near perfect. I could go on, but I'd waste your time rather than letting you buy and listen to this great piece of music.
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
Is there such a thing as a plateu for My Morning Jacket? I think not. This grammy nominated album serves as evidence that a modern live act you HAVE to see to believe can pull out an album that sounds like 1974 bliss without breaking a sweat. I used to ask myself how they could make an album that could follow Z, or an album that could follow any of their previous recordings, and it just dawned on me that these guys are just going to get better. If they're coming to town, DON'T MISS THEM. And if you see their album, DON'T LEAVE IT AT THE STORE.
Coldplay – Viva la Vida
Ok so Coldplay ripped a song riff from Joe Satriani and don't want to admit it, that's fine because this is still a hell of an album. True, I think the video for Viva la Vida has a little too much self love for my taste, but the album is great and a worthy return to form after a solid, albeit unprogressing album in X & Y. Chris Martin continues to show his scraggly voice is gold and upon hearing the title track to this sweet album, I couldn't help but predict another platinum album for this Chick Flick version of Radiohead. Am I taking away from these guys and their musicianship? Hell no. I'm just a Satriani fan and I felt the need to at least offer one verbal slap on the wrist for the coincidence of 19+ continuous notes from that other song that had NOTHING to do with Viva la Vida.
Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Few bands can take me closer to crying than Sigur Ros. So imagine my reaction when I heard an album from them that had so many songs that could make me smile. I'm a fan of good music, good lyrics, good artwork, you name it. And if anything is clear from Sigur Ros is that they always capture the essence of each album with their artwork. The last one has an artwork of a sunny day and four naked people running through a field. I don't think there's any better way to describe this album than with that phrase. Oh, and please don't think there aren't some introspective tracks though. Lets put it this way, as day has dusk, so does this album and it's as beautiful as ever.
Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
How many solid southern rock bands does it take to make a good year in music? Well I don't know but this is the third southern rock album that is on this list and by no means is it the worst or the least worthy of praise. Some people say that 'Sex on Fire' is a misleading track because there aren't many like that on the album. My only reaction is to scratch my head and wonder if these same people didn't hear the rest of this great album. Turn the volume to max, roll down the windows and make sure your destination is at least this album's length away.
Oasis – Dig out your soul
It's funny for me to hear people say that Dig Out Your Soul is a return to form for these Manchester rockstars. The closest to a shitty album Oasis ever pulled was Standing on the Shoulders of Giants and even that album has more than just a handful of solid tracks. But Dig Out Your Soul is a hell of an album to say the least. What I like the most is that it sounds so different yet so familiar for Oasis. Trust me, they do break new ground on this album and the result is another solid rocker that begs to be played more than once on your radio. So what if they sometimes act like a pair of tits? Shit, I live for the sheer entertainment of either Gallagher's disdain during an interview. So by all means, call them what you will, but dig into the tunes and dig out your soul.
Ray Lamontagne – Gossip in the Grain
Another album with warm southern US music. How Ray Lamontagne is not black escapes me, because he has such a warm soul and smoky voice. If anything I can say about Ray, it's that he knows how to craft songs you want to slow dance with your soul mate to. Another of my top picks from last year. Light some candles, open a bottle of wine and show someone you love them. Is this a modern day Van Morrison? I'm not sure anyone deserves such an accolade, but if anyone does, Ray is making amazing progress to achieve just that.
AC/DC – Black Ice
How can I make a best of 2008 list without mentioning AC/DC? I can't, that's how. Millions of people know this by now, but in case you haven't heard, this is one of 6 AC/DC albums you need to own, so do yourself a favor and make the right choice. Have a stiff drink with some black ice to go with it, and release your inner Angus.
Snow Patrol – A hundred million suns
Though Snow Patrol is a pretty good band, not spectacular, they seemed to have it in their system to want to prove me wrong with their last album and guess what? They did. This is by far Snow Patrol's best album and it's the first one that has me interested from start to finish with no filler to complain about. So without further ado, my congrats boys for doing something very dangerous.... possibly creating the best album of your careers that borders on almost impossible to follow up.
Scott Weiland – Happy in Galoshes
I am a child of the 90's. That said, it's pretty obvious that I'm a fan of Stone Temple Pilots regardless of Scott Weiland's inconsistent nature and the reckless dumbass nature of his drug habits. In case you're wondering though, I did buy Scott's first solo album and I think my reaction to the new one is similar. It's an interesting album to own with some genuinely awesome tracks and others you can't help but wonder if they weren't would be B-Sides that made it to the album for lack of better material. It's not to say that the album doesn't have merit or that Scott can't write a good tune or that he would stray from the path as far as Chris Cornell (thank the heavens only one rock god has turned to sucking as a new career choice). It's not even that the album sounds jumbled together, which it actually doesn't. It's just that I know that no matter how much I enjoy some tracks, Scott's best musical expressions shall forever come forth through his work with his STP brethren. Lets see what happens in '09.
Elbow - The Seldom Seen kid
How the hell can a band be this good and not get support from their sales. Seriously, Elbow is one of my top 20 bands with 4 of my favorite albums ever with more beautiful tracks than you can shake forty sticks at? I don't know. What I do know is that these bastards have done it again and put forth an album that is so good that you can't help but click repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat. Seriously, with all the would be Colplay and Radiohead ripoff artists going around, making something good and fresh sounding, yet revolutionary, beautiful, inspirational and downright magical should be impossible, but these fuckers pull it off every time. Spare some change and buy this album please, if not in the name of the band, then in the name of meaningful music.
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Though I hadn't heard of TV on the Radio before, I can say I've heard a lot of them the last couple of months thanks to their last album and the few times I played it. Fresh, different, new, awesome. Pick your word and it applies to this interesting collecion of solid tracks.
Portishead - Third
It's been a long time coming but finally Portishead decided to release another album. So how does it measure up? Ok here's the sumup. It's not as easily accesible as Portishead's other work, granted. But if you give this album a chance and three listens, you'll see that the third times a charm.
Meshuggah – Obzen
Dropkick your womb or nutsack (or both, we do not discriminate against hermaphrodites here at WAS). That's the sonic equivalent of Meshuggah's latest batch of ear shattering metal, just try to imagine that those intense physical traumas were pleasant in some way. Like comparing the excising of a tumor to catharsis. Raw, hard, crunching, dark. What else could you possibly need for a cheery day of daydreaming about crashing your car into a gas tanker? While Slipknot shot themselves full of estrogen on the last album and Metallica continues to exist (the album isn't bad but Unforgiven 3? Seriously, THAT is unforgivable), Meshuggah screams harder, bangs more ferociously and does what all good metal has to do for me: make me want to surf and fuck shit up. :D