Stranded In Stereo: SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #10-#6

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #10-#6

Every year I find it gets a bit more difficult to pick the 10 best albums in the given year. When I start out with my typical equation that I mentioned days earlier, it is usually pretty easy to pick a few of them that will end up in that upper echelon. Last year was one of the best ones for music; I had a pretty terrible time deciding on what would be #1. Looking back, I think I can happily say I'm ok with how it looks on paper and blog post, but that the top 3 contenders (The National, Spoon and LCD Soundsystem) were also in a three-way tie for the throne each having their own valid reason. This year was not the case: #1 came in by a mile.

That will be announced tomorrow. Until then, we inch ever so closer as we enter the Top 10 Albums of 2008. Want a few insider secrets? #10 was a dark horse that jumped up last week from #14. #6 could be a little higher, but as I told one Gianni Antonaccio yesterday, I think the highest it would've ever gotten, though, was #4. Why you ask? Because I can validate this year's Top 3, but could make a case against 4 and 5.

10. Crystal Stilts / Alight of Night / Slumberland
Ever since I heard their theme song and ever since I missed their every last performance at CMJ (the closest one because they weren’t going on ‘til about 4 in rhe morning and I copped out at 1), this record keeps finding itself getting played over and over. It’s an album one must sit with for awhile – although songs like the above mentioned “Crystal Stilts” and epic closer “The City In The Sea” are catchy, I only just now am finding the inner beauty of “Spiral Transit” and the murky goodness of “Shattered Shine”. Like I said before, it’s as if Thurston Moore and the Jesus and Mary Chain hopped in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and went back and made a murky surf record, and beat the Velvet Underground to the punch of taking the crown as possibly the forefathers of what we now called “indie rock”.

9. Portugal. The Man / Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons
Last year was my introduction to the band that once called Wasilla, Alaska home. Then some wench who liked to wink and throw the word maverick around as loosely as her vagina became famous, and they decided to call Portland, Oregon their new abode. Was this maybe what inspired them to make such a profound concept record? The opening song, “Lay Me Back Down”, harkens back to the bells and sermons of last year’s Church Mouth, but from there on the listener is taken on a different journey. Acoustic guitars and secular arrangements of harmonies fill up the first half leading to the Censored intermission. On the flip side we find a series of songs interconnected, not just segueing one to the next, but also from a spiritual perspective as well. The men who make up Portugal are not afraid to die, nor are they afraid to do things their way, either.
8. TV On The Radio / Dear Science / Interscope
The best 1-2-3 out of the gate belongs to the Brooklyn bros who just keep getting better and better. You didn’t think they would be able to top Return To Cookie Mountain, but then they do. “Halfway Home” comes off as the best song Bloc Party never wrote; “Crying” is soulful with its brass swirling around the atmospheric sounds brought forth by Dave Sitek; “Dancing Choose” is just a flat out romp that I always find myself clapping out loud too. And then there’s also “Love Dog” and “Red Dress” which has the best lyric of the year, easily. “Fuck your war, cause I’m fat and I’m in love”. Perhaps I should’ve had this album higher on my list.

7. Cut Copy / In Ghost Colours / Modular
This was the frontrunner for the #1 spot this year, that is, until what takes the throne of #1 came along and gave it a run for its money. I guess albums between two and six also staked their claim to be ahead of this one as well. Not that it isn’t an instant classic for the decade, full of dance this the likes of which have not been brought forth since the 1980s. “Out There On The Ice”, “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found”, “Feel The Love” – are all songs that have cemented the Australian troupe. Maybe since they’ve made the best record second that only the best is still yet to come?

6. Oxford Collapse / Bits / Sub Pop
There wasn’t a more consistent album to come out in 2008 than the latest from this Brooklyn trio. Originally conceived as a double album, it appears the three men of the Collapse picked the best Bits for the album, serving up the rest of the treats on seven and ten inch slabs of vinyl. While not one track stands out like “Please Visit Your National Parks” did in 2006, that doesn’t take away from the consistency factor. Experimenting with violins and Saturday afternoons at a country club (“A Wedding”) contrasts the additional 12 songs that channel that pristine time in the 1980s when college radio was on the rise. Pop sensibility and blending harmonies come in on “Featherbeds” while Wire-style angular guitars and nasal-y vocals shape the 115 seconds of “Men And Their Ideas” shaping up the best Bits for your buck.

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