Monday, December 29, 2008

My 2008 Soundtrack: A Love Story

In keeping with the spirit of The Felstein Review, the following list is not a 'best-of' in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of music that subjectively defined my year - the songs that I carried with me through the ups and downs and in-betweens of '08. More importantly, they are the pieces of music that will continue to formulate my ever-developing musical palate as I set out towards 2009 and beyond.


1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Justin Vernon struck a chord with the music community in 2008. His music is painfully beautiful, his heartbreak is palpable, his lyrics are cryptic yet ubiquitous. Artists like Justin Vernon only come around so often, and an album like For Emma, Forever Ago will never, ever fade away. The genesis of For Emma was truly Walden-esque, and in his scarcity and solitude, Vernon produced a soulful and priceless piece of art that was at the epicenter of my 2008 music experience.

2. The Dodos - Visiter
Visiter is a conglomeration of reckless percussion, hybrid freak-folk acoustic picking strumming, and charming pop melodies. The result is fourteen tracks of keeping shit simple, but at the same time, blowing shit up. While Bon Iver wins by a nose for being so perfectly beautiful and unique, The Visiter follows closely with the most consistently breathtaking/exhausting/viscerally exhilarating album of '08.

3. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
The critically-adored art rockers' fourth full-length may feel like an obvious choice in a blogger's top-10. And, well, it is. But I don't really know how to be unobvious here - Dear Science is the most comprehensive and - from a melodic standpoint - the most purely listenable album these Brooklynites have put out. And that is saying quite a bit.

4. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant EP
2008 was a huge year for Robin Pecknold and Fleet Foxes. Evoking shades of CSNY, Fleet Foxes have arisen as arguably the best Americana/roots-rock band around. Indeed, the combination of the self-titled full-length and the Sun Giant EP stands as a tour-de-force of stripped-down rock songs about mountains, trees, snow, and death by drowning. Additional props are given for writing a song which required singing in rounds.

5. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours.
While there were plenty of great dancefloor/electropop albums released this year - from Crystal Castles to Hercules and Love Affair to Passion Pit - In Ghost Colours is a markedly superior album. The Australian gentlemen of Cut Copy have composed an album that bends the framework of dance music; it transcends the genre and implements elements of pop, grunge, and post-punk. Because of its depth and accessibility - along with the fact that I listened to this album literally every day this summer - In Ghost Colours demands a spot on the list.

6. Mount Eerie - Lost Wisdom
With Lost Wisdom, Phil Elverum has composed an album that stuns the emotions while taking its listener dangerously close to a state of comatose. Lost Wisdom is indeed a spare, occasionally challenging, and devastatingly emotive exercise in lo-fi perfection.

7. Parts & Labor - Receivers
Receivers is a heavy listen. Not heavy in a Slayer sense, but heavy in that much is demanded from the listener in order to find the soul of each track. The songs with comprise Receivers carry a crunch and thickness that can be nearly impenetrable. But amidst the sonic walls and loops and buzzing and feedback lies truly exceptional songwriting and musicianship.

8. Shearwater - Rook
Rook has the distinct advantage of utilizing at its core an instrument that that is exclusive to Shearwater: the voice of Jonathan Meiburg. Coupled with piano-heavy pop melodies, Meiburg's theatrical vocals helped make this Okkervil River offspring a viable player in the 2008 music scene.

9. Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave
I fortunately appropriated this gem of an album back in September from my compatriot and Felstein Review founder Dorian. Defined by Kristian Matsson's rampantly complex finger-picking and trembling voice, Shallow Grave is a collection of effortlessly catchy folk songs that demands serious attention.

10. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrsing
And to round out the top-10, the Fuck Buttons: the most brilliantly named experimental ambient-noise band of 2008. Street Horssing is a veritable omnibus of wildly profound and gritty noise anthems that will bitch-slap your eardrums into oblivion.

Honorable Mention: (in no particular order)

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Los Campesinos! - We are Beautiful, We are Doomed
Passion Pit - Chunk of Change EP
Women - Women
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
The French Kicks - Swimming
The Gaslight Anthem - '59 Sound
The Walkmen - You & Me
Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

The Songs of '08:

1. Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead"
2. TV on the Radio - "DLZ"
3. Dodos - "The Season"
4. Bon Iver - "Lump Sum"
5. MGMT - "Kids"
6. Fredrik - "Black Fur"
7. Crystal Castles - "Untrust Us"
8. Wolf Parade - "California Dreamer"
9. Fleet Foxes - "Your Protector"
10. Gnarls Barkley - "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?"

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