January 7, 2009

Breaking Blog Silence: 2008 Albums

Rather than including some diatribe about why this place went silent in July or why the silence is being broken, I’m just going to jump in and start writing again.

Ten albums I couldn’t stop listening to that were released in 2008.

Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us

Smiley happy music is what I’ve gotten used to from Mates of State as I’ve written about them quite a bit since I first learned about them and saw them play in 2005. Re-Arrange Us doesn’t depart from the happy hooks but shows another level. Some have described it as a maturity, but I think it’s a depth to the indie pop. Quite a fun album!

Matthew Ryan – Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State

Despite still not getting the attention his talent deserves, Matthew Ryan quietly released a solid album. Many of the songs ring true to the times with a slumping economy and a election based on hope. While I continue to feel like Bruce Springsteen is willing to release music (Magic) that doesn’t stand up to his best material, Matthew Ryan is unintentionally willing to pick up that torch of Nebraska or The Ghost of Tom Joad and voice those ideals in song.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Most ‘best of 2008’ lists include the Bon Iver album and for good reason. It’s a solid clean quiet album that works for driving or for background music in the office. The production is done well to capture the songs in what feels very organic or raw, which compliments the tone of the album.

She & Him – Volume One

I’ve been a fan of Zooey Deschanel as an actress since Almost Famous, but also enjoyed her in Winter Passing, The Good Girl, Bridge to Terabithia, but you could see the star quality when she busted out in song in Elf. Fast forward a few years and she teams up with M.Ward to release an album of great songs. She has a great voice, but the rawness of the production comes across like a girl that "just loves to sing" and it’s very refreshing.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

I’m still hooked on 2006’s Boys and Girls in America, but Stay Positive was a great follow-up. If you have any doubt that rock and roll can’t survive in today’s music world, The Hold Steady are a great piece of evidence that it’s alive and well. Both albums make me think of Springsteen circa Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Cat Power – Jukebox

Solid collection of covers from Cat Power. Any year Chan Marshall releases an album, it makes my list. But the real question is: when is an album considered a covers album and when is it simply an artist interpreting standards? I’ve read complaints that this album didn’t contain the "Space Oddity" cover that was used in a commercial, but apparently that will be on a future album.

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

I wasn’t sure what to think of Frightened Rabbit when I first heard them…in fact, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to like them or if they kind of qualify as a guilty pleasure like Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20 or Dashboard Confessional. The album is solid and I have enjoyed letting the images surround me. Much of the angst doesn’t apply to my life today, but it definitely takes me back through times in my life.

MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

This is a fun album. I’m sure there’s some substance to the songs, but I’m still enthralled by the multilayer sounds and beats. I’m not the biggest fan of electronic music, but 2008 seemed to be my year of listening to it. MGMT do it pretty uniquely.

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

This is an unapologetically fun album. This album and the band got a lot of hype prior to it being officially released, but with the upbeat songs with clean production and a world music vibe, it’s a great album to get through a long day.

Blitzen Trapper – Furr

I’m a sucker for Portland music, but this album is a solid well crafted effort. A little country a little rock and roll, this album has them both covered. Plenty of sounds packed into this album to keep your ears busy.

Honorable Mentions: Or albums I listened to quite a bit, but that didn’t live up to my hopes for them.
Don't get me wrong, I liked these albums, but they didn't quite reach my expectations.

Coldplay – Viva La Vida

Counting Crows – Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy

My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

Ryan Adams - Cardinology

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

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