i've never been much for these kinds of statements, but i have to say that in the 8 years i've been making a year-end list, this is the least excited i've been about a year's albums, and the first year i didn't really feel like any particular album was my favorite favorite favorite of the last 12 months. i'm not sure if that's music's fault or mine, but in any case, it took me a fair amount of work to pick my favorites this year, not because there were so many vying for my attention, but because i just wasn't that crazy about most of the stuff i heard this year. that's not to say there wasn't any good music--i DO consistently enjoy these albums and a few others that came out this year. anyway, without further ado, here's 10-6 of 2008:
10 emiliana torrini, me and armini
my medical school friend and dyad ernesto told me i needed to hear this album, and i'm really glad he did. her voice is so smokey, laid-back, and downright sexy that i guess a comparison to norah jones is unavoidable, but this is ms. jones if she wasn't...well, mostly so boring. the songs here feel unpredictable and never feel like recycled sounds, and are much better for it. torrini writes pretty straightforward pop songs, but she's got the voice and pop sensibilities to do it and do it well ("big jumps" is the sort of song industry types probably say will "make her a star" in press junkets or at meetings), and the lyrics and melody to give you something to remember when it's over. light and fluffy like desert, but substantial and filling like dinner. ah, food similes for music--they're never wrong.
highlights: fireheads, big jumps, jungle drum
09 the dodos, visiter
here's to minimalism, and here's to unadorned, unembellished, no-frills music. what i heard the first time through this album, and what was underscored seeing them live this summer, is the way this group's nearly simplistic approach to music (two guys bang the crap out of everything within reach, usually including guitars) allows them a complexity and intensity a 10-piece blog-hype band with strings and an accordion can't create. in his triumphant return to blogging, my buddy aaron wrote that it's the percussion, and not the melodies he usually loves music for, that keeps him coming back to this album, but i'd say it's the musicality and melodic nature of the percussion that makes it so special. sometimes all the banging and clanging seems to give depth and, well, complexity to what would otherwise be a pretty thin outing, despite some very good songwriting, which by the way is why i'll be looking forward to what these guys do next.
highlights: walking, fools, winter
08 q-tip, the renaissance
"sometimes i phase out
when i look at the screen
when i think about my chance for me to intervene
and it’s up to me to bring back the hope-
feeling in the music that you could quote
not saying that I hate it cause here
i kinda dig it
but what good is a ear
if a q-tip isn’t in it?"
none, q-tip. no good. no good at all without a q-tip in it. look, i'm not a hip-hop expert by any means, but a tribe called quest's first two albums are by far two of my favorites of the genre, so i was really looking forward to q-tip's first solo album in 8 years for several months before it came out. and i wasn't disappointed at all--i love his voice, his flow, and he's a great producer, both for the way his beats match his lyrics, and also for the great instrumental performances all over the album. too many mc's get locked into a particular musical sound and rarely venture elsewhere, but this album stays fresh and interesting and all over the map until the end. also, that's a slick cover.
highlights: johnny is dead, won't trade, shaka
07 deerhunter, microcastle
in the past several years, i've really grown to love a fair amount of electronic, experimental, kinda off the wall stuff. i really like the feeling that i'm hearing something i've never heard before, and i suppose as someone who enjoys the discovery of new music, it makes sense that that's a high value for me. but my greatest weakness will always be the guitar--for example a nice, crunchy, overdriven sound, like the chord that opens this album. there's just nothing like it, and those tones and that emphasis on the guitar, both to play both straightforward rock and also some more sprawling, reverb-drenched classic bradford cox music, is all over this album. and so, here it is on my end of year list. this album is deceptively and very subtly intricate, and i was pleasantly surprised on my 5th time or so through the album to still be noticing so much happening behind the curtain for the first time--a definite grower for me, and one i expect i will continue to enjoy in the future.
highlights: agoraphobia, little kids, nothing ever happened
06 sigur ros, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
the album didn't turn out to be the huge stylistic shift "gobbledigook" seemed to herald, but looking back over their recorded output, it makes sense to interpret sigur ros' artistic development as one of their 9:00 slow burning songs, slowly building and beautifully unfolding along the way. this album is one more slow movement toward something new, and once again the journey is as rewarding as whatever i can hope the destination will be. when i think about sigur ros' albums, i tend to think of moments more than songs or movements, and this album is bursting with enough moments of pure, bombastic, joyful release and twinkling, jittery, blissed out sugar-highs to more than make up for the few spots where things drag a little. i can't wait to see where they're headed next!
highlights: Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, Við spilum endalaust, Festival
ok, that's all i have time to write tonight--stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion tomorrow!