Best in Music 2008: Part 1

Articles | Dec 15th, 2008

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Another year, another ridiculous amount of music consumed. While some of my buying, downloading, and listening habits changed, I do have to say that 2008 was a very good year for music, far better than last year, and perhaps almost as good as any this decade.

This year I stopped buying CDs altogether. I bought a rather impressive amount of new albums on vinyl, one of the biggest perks being that the album comes with a download coupon for legal acquisition. This year marked the first time that I bought digital music, which was pretty significant since I’ve been quite the downloader for some time now. But with a busy career, I’ve been going to concerts less and less, and it has been affecting my ability to support bands financially. I think the album that changed it was Paul Westerberg’s 49:00, which was more than affordable at 49 cents. Beyond that, it was some harder to find Canadian albums that were well worth the iTunes gift cards.

The most significant experience that altered my music intake was my regular downloading of the CBC Radio 3 and R3-30 Podcasts. They made my daily commutes tolerable, and introduced me to some of the best Canadian bands out there. I’ve always been a supporter of Canadian music, but I think that this year more than any other I’ve recognized some homegrown talent.

Today’s article will focus on the top singles, most disappointing, and most overrated albums of the year. Tomorrow’s article will be my top 50 albums.

Top 25 Singles of the Year

1. Bon Iver Skinny Love

Bon Iver was recommended to me by a couple of friends, and while at first I wasnt completely sold on his sound, this song stood out and really just blew me away. It is both beautiful and haunting, melodic and soulful, and one of the best singles of the last year. I dare you not to be moved.

2. Okkervil River Lost Coastlines

Another song that completely sold me on the entire album. While it is easily the best song on The Stand-Ins, it is also one of those songs that you cant help but tap your foot to, and sing the la-la-las because all the rest of the lyrics are far too complicated. Plus, gotta love the soul-shaking bassline.

3. Chad VanGaalen Willow Tree

Ill thank CBC Radio 3 for getting me hooked on this song. In a way, a painfully simple song, but it has something so tender and enjoyable that it warrants many repeated listens.

4. Jamie Lidell Little Bit of Feel Good

One of those songs that gets in your head and just doesnt leave. I really like Lidells brand of retro soul, and this song is the perfect example of why it works so well.

5. M83 Kim and Jessie

One of the first songs that resonated off of M83s new album, and probably the song, along with Graveyard Girl that I listen to the most. I know that M83 are known for some of their dancier, spacier tracks, but I think they work best as a flat out pop band, and this is the best example.

6. Sun Kil Moon Lost Verses

I usually hate really long songs, but I think I could listen to any Mark Kozelek song, no matter how long it is. This one builds beautifully into an alluring chorus, and a terrific outro. Easily the best leadoff track on an album this year.

7. Fleet Foxes Mykonos

There were a lot of Fleet Foxes songs to choose from, and I think that there are quite a few others that are very popular, but this was the song that hooked me on this band. The awesome harmonies on the intro are great, but its the bridge in the middle where it completely changes the type of the song that really does it for me.

8. Cut Copy Lights and Music

One of those bands that normally might be hit or miss for me, but I really took to their blend of melody, danceable beats, and pop hooks. Especially as the band rev up for their chorus, this song sounds like its ready to explode.

9. Kathleen Edwards Alicia Ross

Easily the most profoundly sad song of the year. I rarely get emotional over a song, but I have a bit of a personal connection to the song, namely that the titular character was a young woman from the suburb in which I grew up. The story was big in the headlines a few years ago; a seemingly anonymous 25-year-old woman gets abducted and chopped up by her 30 year old neighbour, who lived in his parents basement. The song takes all of her familys sorrow and makes it into a song that I can barely get through without getting all weepy.

10. Decemberists Valerie Plame

A late addition to this chart, this is one of those songs that sort of purposely borrows elements of other songs that throws them together with an intentionally political bent. I dont know what I like more about it: the chugging banjo, or the Hey Jude-like outro, but I do know that this is one of the most fun songs this band has put together.

11. Elliott Brood Miss You Now
12. Hold Steady Sequestered In Memphis
13. Grand Archives Sleepdriving
14. Aimee Mann Freeway
15. She and Him Sentimental Heart
16. Matthew Barber Easily Bruised
17. Guillemots Get Over It
18. Hot Chip Ready For The Floor
19. Born Ruffians Barnacle Goose
20. TV on the Radio Crying
21. Teenagers Make it Happen
22. NQ Arbuckle Postcard From Princess
23. Mother Mother Ghosting
24. Ladies of the Canyon Every Minute
25. Library Voices Step Off The Map and Float

Top 10 Disappointments of the Year

1. Teddy Thompson A Piece of What You Need

I loved Teddy Thompsons last album, Separate Ways, and I had high hopes for this one, but I just think that every song other than the opener really is subpar material that is in every way inferior to his past work, and really just sounds more or less like zillions of other singer-songwriters, unlike his older stuff, which had the right combination of songcraft and voice to make it stand out. Maybe an underwhelming live performance might have added to this disappointment, but I just really couldnt make it through this album more than once.

2. Kanye West 808s and Heartbreak

I give Kanye credit for trying, but I just cant listen to this. It has some of the same flavour that I really enjoy, but I guess I just cant really get into it, and that whole autotune thing drives me nuts.

3. Marah Angels of Destruction

I love Marah. Their 2000 album Kids in Philly might be in my top 10 of the decade. Their two previous albums were solid, if flawed. But this one is terrible. The hooks are forced, the performances are dull, and there wasnt one song that came off as memorable. Its really a shame, too.

4. Guillemots Red

This one had some great singles, but its the rest of the stuff that is truly awful.

5. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals Cardinology

I still kind of liked this one, but I think I was hoping for something more exciting or something closer to Heartbreaker, which Ive now accepted Ill never find.

6. Peter Bjorn and John Seaside Rock

Instrumental albums? Leave them for instrumental artists.

7. Hayden In Field and Town

Too meh.

8. Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

Their 15 minutes is long over.

9. Destroyer Trouble In Dreams

So very forgettable.

10. Feeling Join With Us

Makes me wonder how their first album was so good and this one isnt.

15 Most Overrated Albums of the Year

1. Deerhunter Cryptograms

I tried. I really did. I tried to see what was so special about this band, but to me theyre mediocre at best. The continuous acclaim for them seems to baffle me, but then, Ive always hated Radiohead.

2. Crystal Castles Crystal Castles

I dont think anyone actually likes these guys. They just pretend to like them to be cool. Otherwise theres no explanation. If I wanted screaming vocals over Casio keyboards, Id make them myself.

3. Vivian Girls Vivian Girls

Not terrible, but so very bland.

4. Hercules and Love Affair Hercules and Love Affair

This was cool for about 5 minutes and then I grew bored.

5. Nico Muhly Mothertongue

I have no idea why this guy is famous.

6. Jay Reatard Blood Visions

This is totally reatarded (hahaha).

7. Ponytail Ice Cream Spiritual

Would be okay if not for the obnoxious voals.

8. MGMT Oracular Spectacular

Yes, Time To Pretend is a fun song. But the rest of this album barely treads water.

9. Women Women

Cool sound and recording style, but nothing much beyond that.

10. Islands Arms Way

I fucking hate Islands.

11. Deerhoof Offend Maggie
12. No Age Nouns
13. Times New Viking Rip It Off
14. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
15. Music Tapes For Clouds and Tornadoes