1. Fleet Foxes, “Fleet Foxes” In a not-so-great year, this one stood out from the rest with its soaring vocals and unique structures. If anyone can bring flannel back in a big way, my bet’s on these guys.2. The Raconteurs, “Consolers of the Lonely” Just a solid rock-and-roll album. An old-fashioned band, like Fleet Foxes, but with less flannel and more electricity.
3. of Montreal, “Skeletal Lamping” Kevin Barnes can do no wrong, and this one is another great album, full of sexual deviants and unpredictable melodies. Not as good as “Hissing Fauna” but a solid addition to the catalogue.
4. Death Cab for Cutie, “Narrow Stairs” Not as “experimental” as they claimed, but it’s just a really good Death Cab album. They do what they do well.
5. TV On the Radio, “Dear Science” I wasn’t as big a fan of their last one, but this one I like. It brings the dance.
6. Beck, “Modern Guilt” Smooth and silky production surround this album of solid tunes. Beck’s getting older, but he hasn’t lost it yet.
7. Ra Ra Riot, “The Rhumb Line” I doubt many people have heard of these guys, but you should check them out. They redefine the term “catchy”. 1. The Hold Steady, “Stay Positive” I feel bad for people who just can’t “get into” The Hold Steady. They are missing out on a band that continues to outperform itself on each consecutive record. Drink a few PBRs and throw on “Sequestered In Memphis” — it’s bound to be an epic three minutes.
2. Sam Amidon, “All Is Well” A break-up album for the late 1800s. Delicate strings and horns support Amidon’s crisp guitar and unique Icelandic drawl. Listen to “Saro.”
3. TV On the Radio, “Dear Science,” I like the sounds that TVOTR comes up with. Less schizophrenic than “Cookie Mountain.” I can picture Liam O’Brien dancing to these jams.
4. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, “Pershing” The sounds of spring, or early summer. “Glue Girls” yanks you in with its shameless poppy hooks and the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint. Nothing groundbreaking here, just good music.
5. Fleet Foxes, “Fleet Foxes” Ask Alex Schaaf about this record.
6. Laura Marling, “Alas I Cannot Swim” Marling is a Brit with a sultry voice and knack for smart and sassy lyrics. A good companion to Amidon’s “All Is Well,” though perhaps less focused. 1. Sigur Rós, “Med sud í eyrum vid spilum endalaust” It feels dirty and predictable to put a Sigur Rós album at the top of my list but a) I’m just that predictable b) 2008 was just that lackluster and c) I think this album is genuinely fantastic — triumphant at all the right times and quiet in all the right ways. I particularly like “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur.”
2. David Byrne and Brian Eno, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” Words and vocals by David Byrne and music by Brian Eno. This equation is exactly what you would expect, in all the best ways. I recommend buying this for your father to “reconnect” or buying it for yourself and singing along to “Life is Long” while driving.
3. Wolf Parade, “At Mount Zoomer” I was a bit of a latecomer to Spencer Krug and the whole Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown scene and am thus still pretty heavily under his spell.
4. Fleet Foxes, “Fleet Foxes” Well, I can’t help but love them, along with the rest of the world. Seamless.
5. Hot Chip, “Made in the Dark” This album manages to be pretty fun without being overwhelming, an effect maybe owing to the British accent. Also, they are electronic, making me briefly feel like I am a member of the 21st century with a diverse music collection.
6. The Avett Brothers, “The Second Gleam” This was just an EP but an excellent one at that. It is full of tender harmony and has a sort of 19th century vibe, filling the hole in my life where I wish a Decemberists album had been. Which bring us to 2009 . . . 1. Lil’ Wayne, “Tha Carter III” 2008 was the year of Lil’ Wayne. With “Tha Carter III,” Lil Wayne broke out above and beyond the mainstream and emerged as a true force in music. This album had phenomenal record sales while at the same time receiving top-notch reviews from almost every music publication. If you managed to get through this past year without hearing a track by Mr. Carter, you were probably living under a rock. Love him or hate him, Lil’ Wayne is here to stay.
2. Portishead, “Third” The return of Portishead was indeed triumphant. After a 10-year hiatus, Portishead has come back with the most hauntingly beautiful album of 2008. The intense music combined with the gorgeous vocals of Beth Gibbons makes this an essential album of 2008.
3. TV on the Radio, “Dear Science” When I first got this record, I didn’t quite get the hype. As I built up my listens though, I found Dear Science to be a remarkable album from a remarkable band. TV on the Radio has again taken their style to another level that has really cemented them as one of the more important bands of our time.
4. The Raconteurs, “Consolers of the Lonely” This album was by far the best rock-and-roll album of the year. Many people brushed aside The Raconteurs after their first record, considering them just a fun little side project of Jack White. With this record and accompanying tour, The Raconteurs showed that they are, in fact, a tight-knit group of musicians that can craft a truly great rock album.
5. Fleet Foxes, “Fleet Foxes” / “Sun Giant EP” These two releases have proven that Fleet Foxes are so much more than a run-of-the-mill indie folk group. In addition to their masterful vocals, these guys incorporate many complex elements into their music that give them a sound all their own. This band grew immensely in popularity over the past year and I only expect that growth to continue.
6. Ludacris, “Theater of Mind” This year Ludacris yet again proved his worth to the hip-hop scene with his latest release, Theater of Mind. In addition to the sharp rhymes and signature flow of Ludacris, there are a host of excellent guest appearances and finely produced beats that make this record worthy of a top spot this year.