Stranded In Stereo: SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #5-#1

Friday, December 19, 2008

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #5-#1

And so here we are the Top 5 Albums of 2008. Are there any surprises? No, not really, not to me at least. But maybe for you, faithful reader, you will be inspired to investigate these bands and maybe you'll even like them. The possibilities, as they always say, are endless. But of course before we get to #5, if you are coming late to the party because you just finished drinking your free Dr. Pepper (quick aside -- I got my coupon in the mail the other day, thanks Axl!), here's the 25 leading in to the top honors of the year.

30. Lambchop /
OH (Ohio) / Merge
29. Portishead /
Third / Island
28. Kings of Leon /
Only by the Night / RCA
27. Bloc Party /
Intimacy / Atlantic
26. Plus/Minus /
Xs On Your Eyes / Absolutely Kosher
25. Nine Inch Nails /
The Slip / The Null Corporation
24. Throw Me The Statue /
Moonbeams / Secretly Canadian
23. French Kicks /
Swimming / Vagrant
22. Delta Spirit /
Ode To Sunshine / Rounder
21. The Walkmen /
You & Me / Gigantic
20. Death Cab For Cutie /
Narrow Stairs / Atlantic
19. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
18. Mason Jennings /
In The Ever / Brushfire
17. Department of Eagles /
In Ear Park / 4AD
16. Nada Surf /
Lucky / Barsuk
15. The Rosebuds /
Life Life / Merge
14. Damien Jurado /
Caught In The Trees / Secretly Canadian
13. R.E.M. /
Accelerate / Warner Bros.
12. Beck /
Modern Guilt / DGC
11. Hot Chip /
Made In The Dark / DFA/Astralwerks
10. Crystal Stilts /
Alight of Night / Slumberland
9. Portugal. The Man /
Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons
8. TV On The Radio /
Dear Science / Interscope
7. Cut Copy /
In Ghost Colours / Modular
6. Oxford Collapse /
Bits / Sub Pop

5. The War on Drugs / Wagonwheel Blues / Secretly Canadian
It was at the hottest point in the summer that this debut from these Philadelphians landed on my desk. You know what song stuck out on that first listen? The epic, 10-minute penultimate “Show Me The Coast”. It asks for one’s patience, holding the same hum and shoegaze style guitar playing for the entire time, as a wandering and dwindling solo plays throughout. The leader of the war has vocals that channel early Bob Dylan, while The Boss’ “Dancer In The Dark” is channeled on “A Needle In Your Eye #16”. But it still all goes back to drone and haze of “Coast”; the third song in is actually “Coast Reprise” which, in theory, would be what leads in to the “Show”. Just follow the sounds of the people and the heat of the sun and you’ll get there, the coast that is.
4. Neil Halstead / Oh! Mighty Engine / Brushfire
The other band that my cousin once really tried his damndest to push on to me was Slowdive, the early 90s bastard cousin to My Bloody Valentine. Eventually I came around to them, more for Neil Halstead’s soothing vocals buried under the fireworks and catastrophe that was their Loveless (it was called Souvlaki, go find it if you’ve never heard it). On his second proper solo album, Halstead continues down the path he began walking down in his post-Slowdive outfit, Mojave 3. His voice has never been stronger, the words never so clearer, as he sings of door-to-door religious salespeople (“Sometimes the Wheels”), escaping to fame (“Elevenses”) and even dedication (“Baby, I Grew You A Beard”). Whether or not Mojave 3 makes another record, or if Slowdive would ever reunite doesn’t matter. Halstead just needs to keep making records and the world will be a better place.

3. The Republic Tigers / Keep Color / Chop Shop/Atlantic
This would have to be the band that got the most coverage on ye olde Stranded this 2008 and with good reason. After the loss of one of my favorite bands, The Golden Republic, I was at saddened by the prospects that there wouldn’t be a follow-up to their pristine debut. But Kenn Jankowski took “Buildings & Mountains” and called it his own, returning to his little project he had going before The Golden Republic with friends in Kansas City. “Golden Sand” rocks hard, while serene numbers “Contortionists” and an all-time favorite song in “Made Concrete” balance out the Color palette.
2. The Dandy Warhols / …Earth To The Dandy Warhols… / Beat The World
Who knew it would take them being dropped from Capitol to make quite possibly the best album of their career? Many will argue that 2000’s breakthrough Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia is the standout in their catalog, but I’m not so sure. After the horribly dismal Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, the band finally made what I call the album they were born to make. Coming from a life long fan, it’s definitely their most accessible and cohesive effort since Bohemia, channeling that album’s pop sheen (“The Last of the Outlaw Truckers aka the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty”), flare for the Stones (song of the year “Welcome to the Third World”), and even bringing back to life a song from the dead (“And Then I Dreamt of Yes”). Even the half-cover that is “Valerie Yum” with its nod to Ween In the way Courtney Taylor-Taylor manipulates his vocals is something great and unpredicted. And though they continue the tradition with worst-last songs on an album, the neat thing is how when on repeat, the last song goes in to the first, displaying a band who has made one complete revolution and is on to their next.

1. Abe Vigoda / Skeleton / PPM
Back in July in an interview with AV guitarist Juan Velasquez, I called it then. In one clear sentence I wrote it out that I, Rusty, had named his Album of the Year within a week or two of having it. And I stand before you, five months later, and can still say that without a doubt it is the greatest album to come out in 2008. It does best what one’s Album of the Year should – it catches you off guard, it is a surprise, it is so out of the blue. You never know the first time you’ll put a record on the impact it will have on you and your life. The first 32 minutes I spent with it floored me, making me put it right back on the second it was over. It’s an album that has taken up several half hours this year. It does what more records should do these days, bringing the listener in extra close and not letting them go for one second of its duration. Earning their keep through undivided attention.

Every time I put it on it still sounds so fresh to my ears. The ferocious playing is juxtaposed by the melodies and harmonies buried beneath it all. That gallop that signals the change in opener “Dead City/Waste Wilderness”, the portrait I paint in my head of four men younger than me going to war with their instruments in “Animal Ghosts”. And need I say any more about the mind equals blown catastrophe that is the title track that rounds out this record?

Now that they have established themselves, my hope is that Abe Vigoda is no longer just an actor and a death clock on the internet, but a quartet of guys younger than me making some of the most daring music today.

1 comment:

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