Friday, December 5, 2008

Music Of 2008 - A Review

Overall, I would consider 2008 to be a disappointing year for music. One reason why I feel that way is probably because 2007 was such a strong year. '07 saw releases from some of my favorite artists - Wilco, Arcade Fire, The National, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Page McConnell, Neil Young, The New Pornographers, and Elliott Smith (posthumously). Meanwhile, I discovered some gems for the first time in '07 too - Tokyo Police Club, Okkervil River, Liam Finn, and Band of Horses. Heck, it was even a strong year for soundtracks - There Will Be Blood (Johnny Greenwood), Once, The Darjeeling Limited, and Juno.

So '08 was bound to disappoint. Here we are in the final month of '08 and there are only a few albums that I would consider to be on par with most of the releases mentioned above. But that doesn't mean that '08 was a total loss. Of the five albums I chose for my "Favorite of 2008," three are by bands that I had not heard of before January 1, 2008. 2008 also saw some strong sophomore releases, like by Tokyo Police Club and Wolf Parade, even if they didn't quite match the level of their debut albums. And if nothing struck you strongly this year, there's always hope for 2009 (I know for sure that Wilco and Midlake are planning releases).

Without further ado, I present my favorite music from 2008 - my five favorite albums, a number of honorable mentions, and some overrated stuff.

#5 The Dodos, Visiter

This is one of the three bands that I listened to for the first time in 2008. The Dodos are clearly an indie band, but their sound is not one-dimensional and they are confident in shifting gears and focus.

#4 Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut album garnered quick praise, and by March the album was being hailed as the best record of '08. Then by June the band's tunes were being played in baseball parks across America, and by the fall it was losing cred with the hipster-indie crowd. Vampire Weekend draws from many influences to create their unique sound, and even though this album is open to criticisms, achieving mainstream success shouldn't detract from the fact that this was one of the best releases of the year.

#3 Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

It took me a few listens to warm up to Fleet Foxes, though that isn't rare for me when it comes to new bands. At first listen, I was reminded of Midlake, Simon & Garfunkel, My Morning Jacket's album Z, and the The Shins. But there are definitely other comparisons to be made. One review I saw mentioned a similarity to Pet Sounds, which is an album that is used far too often for comparisons. But there are definitely hints of that album, especially on track 7, "Heard Them Stirring."

#2 The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely

After their first release, Broken Boy Soldiers, The Raconteurs quickly established themselves as a solid rock n' roll outfit. With their newest album, they firmly place themselves as the go-to rock n' roll band around. The album is filled with quick kicks of adrenaline, but the band showcases other gears - "You Don't Understand Me" is a moderate tempo piano rock piece and "Carolina Drama" is a southern rock soap opera.

#1 Tapes n' Tapes, Walk It Off

Tapes n' Tapes doesn't just begin where they left off with their first release, The Loon. The core of what made that album so good is still intact, but the band makes some nice strides with Walk It Off. There is an added burst of energy this time around, and a fuller sound. The interplay between the musicians is tighter and more expressive, revealing a maturity and wisdom that gives the album a quality of timelessness. Every song sinks its hooks into you, and there isn't a weak track on the entire album.

Honorable Mention:

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer, A solid sophomore effort, the final track "Kissing The Beehive" is the gem of the entire album.

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell, Another solid follow-up to a debut album, but this one seemed to lack the edge and experimental nature of their first release.

Colour Revolt - Plunder, Beg, and Curse, Never mundane or boring, but is at times a forgettable record for me.

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords, No new material here, but it's hard to get tired of the old stuff.

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges, There is a lot to like about this album, but also a few things to dislike (track 3, "Highly Suspicious," is unlistenable in my opinion).

Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs, Another release in the Bootleg series, Dylan shows that 2 discs of his "throw-aways" are better than most artists' A-material.

Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark, Southern rock that leaves an impression.

Stuff I Found Overrated:

Basically, any album that was full of down-tempo, sparse sounding, Lo-fi, minimalist, "atmosphere rock," or repetitive, droning, wallowing sounds - anything like that, I didn't embrace as much as some critics. This includes: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago; Sun Kil Moon - April, Shearwater - Rook, and Deerhunter - Microcastle. There were some good tracks on those albums, but as entire works I couldn't get into them.


Voyno's Hi said...

wow with a sterling recommendation like that I must check out tapes'n'tapes.

tS said...

Definitely check them out...if you like any of the bands mentioned above there's a good chance you'll like them. Thanks for checking out the blog.

Thos. Sense said...

What about holiday music? Check out "Hell's Bells of Christmas: A Tribute to ACDC" - Various Artists.

tS said...

Not a fan of ACDC, but I believe that they put out a new album this year that got decent reviews...and when it comes to holiday music, I stick with the jazz classics - Oscar Peterson comes to mind right away.

Voyno's Hi said...

Frank Sinatra is also a great choice for the winter season. I love Frank.

tS said...

Always a solid choice.

Brad V said...

How about Born Ruffians?

tS said...

Haven't heard of them, but I'll check them out...I think in a month I'll do another post on the music that I had to catch up on.