You have to have a list, right?
Wale, The Mixtape About Nothing
So it's a mixtape inspired by Seinfeld. For real. And it's incredibly good - just very odd, to the point of being kind of awkward. I don't think it's the 'best' anything this year, but it's so different that it's worth a shot - Wale is one of the brightest things to come out of 2008, a true cross-over-able intelligent rapper.
Just missed: Lil' Wayne, The Hold Steady, Okkervil River, The Black Ghosts
11- The Knux, Remind Me in 3 Days
I can remember starting college as a freshman and having a pretty extensive collection of very narrow music. Napster broke big, and completely changed my life - that's not even really hyperbole . . . there was a fundamental shift in my mentality courtesy of Napster. Two specific tracks then blew my mind: "Like Today" by Atmosphere, and "Letter from an Occupant" by The New Pornographers. All of the sudden, there was an entire world beyond Moon Records, Sublime and modern rock radio, combining elements I'd never seen mixed before. The Knux record surprised me like no rap record I've heard in a long, long time - not exactly traditional, not exactly backpack, not exactly even hip hop . . .
10- Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours
Music is mostly about moods for me. By that, I mean that most music matches a feeling or time or place in my mind, and I'll usually go back to songs to match a certain place. For In Ghost Colours, that place is my car while in a completely unexpected good mood, such as a random endorphin high after leaving the office and heading to happy hour, or getting good news, or simply feeling good for no damn reason.
9- The Gaslight Anthem, The '59 Sound
Whenever a friend actively apologizes for liking an album (just like my incredible co-author C did, via Facebook no less, in re: this record), I almost invariably purchase/download it immediately. Sometimes this is good (like this), and sometimes it's bad (like ... almost every other time), but the search for a guilty pleasure marches on. I'm not even ashamed. This is probably the record that Craig Finn would have made at 15, if he weren't getting drunk in K-Mart parking lots in Minnetonka instead. We're all glad it went down like it did.
8- Titus Andronicus, The Airing of Grievances
A part of me will always want to light things on fire, or get into fights with assholes during rec league sports, or devastate people who have hurt me in the past, or rage against structure, or lash out at things that are completely unfair even if I can't do a single thing about it. That part doesn't really get out very much, and I'm pretty happy about that. I'm also happy that some bands rely on just that part of them as muse.
7- Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
When the days get shorter and winter sets in, slow nights can become almost interminable. The sun sets incredibly early, and weekdays are met with only brief periods of light. It's almost as if time passes more slowly - I can't tell you how many times I've looked at the clock and said "Holy God - it's only 8:30?" This has that same nearly-brutal quality, like waiting for warmth.
6- Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
Schadenfreude is a powerful phenomenon - people love seeing others going crazy, almost as if it validates their own sanity. Yet we also fear it - the guy outside Marlboro Market lobbing imaginary grenades at Charley can touch a little close to home, or maybe we can connect or understand with the way someone like Hannibal Lecter or Gordon Gekko rationalizes things when we know we shouldn't. Still, the spectacle draws our attention - Kevin Barnes is now the spectacle, by choice and by consequence.
5- The Cool Kids, The Bake Sale
In the video for Dude 'N Nem's "Watch My Feet" the group is rocking the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire fucking life: a t-shirt (apparently put out on Shorty Capone's line, which I've never found for sale anywhere), in either black or white, with contrasting rhinestone-laden letters that simply spell out "SHIRT." I have no clue why I think it's so awesome, but I would kill a child for one. Basically, that's how I feel about the Cool Kids at this point, too.
4- Deerhunter, Microcastle
Music reviews throw around meaningless words like "dreamy" or "atmospheric" all the time - these are shitty shorthand, allowing for lazy journalism and truly uninspired review. Still, they perfectly describe this album . . . whoops.
3- Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
I pulled a series of near-all-nighters to finish up a research study early this year - a good friend and the only other co-writer for that specific material made a tough choice to take another job, and I was left with a ton of work on a tight time frame. Obviously, it got finished, but it required typing in the back of a few bars like the Lift until closing time, knocking back beers with headphones as loud as they go. This was the perfect soundtrack for those nights - including how ridiculous I must have looked to everyone else.
2- TV on the Radio, Dear Science
There's a weird arc to the way sexual interaction happens in a relationship. At the beginning, there's some fumbling and struggling, definite awkwardness - but that's awash in a sort of animal interest, a drive that is both exciting and disorienting (Young Liars EP, Dirty Youth). As the relationship coalesces into the honeymoon phase, the frenzy remains, but there is some focus - you're discovering what each of you enjoys most, and you can apply that learning while retaining some of the fierceness, while still exploring and testing boundaries (Return to Cookie Mountain). Then, finally, you settle into a groove - you can become efficient and effective, and you can proceed with some pace, with just enough experimentation to keep it interesting . . . overall, this is the most satisfying phase, even while lacking many of the positives from the earlier phase. That's where TVOTR are today.
1- Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
It's always better to go to the beach when you're hung over - you can sleep more easily, the beer goes down smoother, and that little bit of dehydration makes everyone seem more attractive (even you, being a little more cut based on an utter lack of water in your body). This record will always be the sound of driving to the beach while hung over, and (hopefully) the party afterward.