Monday, January 05, 2009

Favorites of 2008 (part 1)

First things first: this is not a "Best of 2008" list, in no way, shape, or form. It is a favorites list, and when I say favorites, I mean MY favorites. That means these are the albums that I've listened to over the course of 2008 that stuck. They're not necessarily the most technically proficient or innovative. They're probably not albums you'll see on other blogs lists. And they're certainly not best sellers of 2008.

Of course when you see a best of list you instinctively jump to the number 10. While I never planned on sticking to that generic number, I wanted to keep it manageable. That being said, I went back through all the music that I had written about over the last twelve months and just started compiling a list month by month. And then of course, the list was way too long, so it turned to trim time. After I was done, I was left with a list of twenty four albums that I was thankful for in 2008.

I've split the list into two halves so as to not inflict musical overkill on you. Today I'll share the picks that I wrote about over the course of the first half of the year, and I'll post up the second half tomorrow. For each I'll share one of my favorite tracks from the album along with a blurb from the original post (as well as a link to read the whole thing if you really have extra time to kill). Keep in mind, these are roughly in chronological order (based on when I wrote about them), not ranked based on popularity. I hope that you find something here that you like which you missed.

1.) Kate Nash - Made Of Bricks

"Where as Lily's [Allen] album seemed like the carefree jaunt you had when you graduated college (if you have yet, that is), Kate's album feels a little more mature. Lily sings about making the rounds around the pubs; Kate sings about the relationship problems she's having with the guy she met at the pub. Lily sang with youthful abandon; Kate sings with the pangs of having been burned and the wisdom you gain along the way." (original post)

2.) Flat Duo Jets - Two Headed Cow

"...for just two guys, damn they rock. The pair churns out a smorgasbord of rockabilly, blues, and surf rock that hits hard and fast and's a kick in the balls." (original post)

3.) Tristan Prettyman - Hello

"Tristan has put together twelve new tracks that focus on what she does best singing about - love. Only this time, instead of the demure sweet voiced, soft-spoken, doe-eyed Tristan we met on Twentythree, she's got a little more spunk and sass (try California Girl for a taste)." (original post)

4.) Laura Gibson - Six White Horses: Blues & Traditionals, Vol. 1

"I've simply fallen in love with Laura Gibson and her new six song EP Six White Horses: Blues & Traditionals, Vol. 1. It's quiet. It's haunting. It's full of covers and reinterpretations. But it's also wonderfully original. And I love it." (original post)

5.) The Roots - Rising Down

"The reason I start by talking about the title is because I think it's a clear indication of why The Roots have been around for so long, continue to make music that is warmly received, and continue to receive such positive feedback in a genre known for one hit wonders where singles are king and albums typically full of filler. There is a lot more meat on a Roots' song compared to a lot of entire hip-hop albums out there today." (original post)

6.) Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark

"If my opinion is worth 2 cents, this album proves that he wasn't just a glitzy 70's star that should be relegated to kitschy movie roles. Honestly, I think this album is going to be one of my top 5 favorites of the year. Call me a sentimentalist if you want, but I'll still stick with this album. As he did with Cash, Rubin has stripped down Diamond's sound, although not as much. Diamond's voice is nearly as spent as Johnny's was either (not putting down Johnny, the scratch was part of the draw - that lived hard and played harder mythos that he carried with him), but is certainly carries a somber tone that he hasn't always displayed in his work." (original post)

7.) Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump (compilation)

"When it comes to my knowledge of Nigerian music, it can be summed up in three words: Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat. I’ll surmise that the same can be said of most Western listeners. That being said, listening to Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump was a refreshing dose of new music for me. It’s the newest title from Strut Records that I’ve been listening to lately." (original post)

8.) Kate Walsh - Tim's House

"To describe the album as sparse would almost be an overstatement. You have some extremely light instrumentation (sometimes only a guitar), and Kate’s vocals. Arrangement and production magic are very minimal, and in this case, that’s an outstanding choice to make, and I’ll tell you why. The real draw on these ten tracks is Kate. All ten tracks were written by Kate, and when she sings them, she sings with a tragic forlornness that really tugs at your heart (which isn’t necessarily surprising when you consider she wrote much of the album dealing with a break-up). I’m not talking throw up in your mouth sickly-sweet here either, there’s a genuineness that doesn’t feel forced or fabricated." (original post)

9.) Quiet Village - Silent Movie

"Listen to Victoria’s Secret and you’ll immediately pick up on the Denny influence as it's a song that could have been lifted right off of one of his albums from the 50's. The album rapidly accelerates through time though, leaving the 50's behind and evolving into a sound that retains links to the exotica of the past, while incorporating a modern chill groove you could pick up on in the present. Experience that transition begin to take place in the second track, Circus Of Horror. Eventually the album comes full circle, ending with Keep On Rolling, a track that reminisces back to the resplendent sounds of sea gulls and ocean waves from the opening song, but with an updated feel that typifies Quiet Village's modern-discotheque version of the style and sounds Martin Denny was playing with fifty years ago." (original post)

10.) Esperanza Spalding - Esperanza

"There's two things that I love about this album: Esperanza, and all of the musicians behind her. In other words, everything. Esperanza's voice has a soaring precision to it that is gracefully elegant, and you can tell that she nails each note the exact way she wants to. I have next to no musical training, but even my ear can tell how dead on she is when her voice glides through the register...Behind Esperanza is a talented group of jazz musicians in their own right with some swinging chops, and are the other reason I enjoy this album so much. If you were to strip away all of the lovely vocals, you'd still have an incredible collection of instrumentals." (original post)

11.) Plantlife - Time Traveller

"In it [the lead off title track], lead singer Jack Splash runs through a virtual litany of who's who of old skool rap and funk, and sets up the listener (in this case, me) for a trip back through some good times...And now for those other eighteen tracks. To be fair, they deliver well on half of what's promised. You'll be get a healthy does (over an hour) of some electro-funk sounds a la Funkadelic and Sly & The Family Stone, although the hip-hop connection just isn't so plain, especially if you're thinking mid 80's, turn of the 90's. You'll find glimpses of it here and there (try Don't Go Around Looking For A Broken Heart) that will remind a discerning listener of hip-hop in its infancy and tunes like Afrika Bambaataa use to drop." (original post)

12.) Verve Remixed 4 (compilation)

" The latest volume, volume 4, continues with twelve tracks from names possibly still familiar with newer ears (James Brown, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald) as well as some from artists who undeservedly time has not been so kind to (Dinah Washington, Marlena Shaw, Astrud Gilberto, Roy Ayers, Willie Bobo - whose original version of Evil Ways, the song that helped launch Santana's career, you'll find here). There is some incredible music here. Timeless music. Music that really deserves not to be lost. In fact, the tracks that I most enjoy on the album are the ones that are from the artists I'm least familiar with...I'll be honest with you, this album has been in my car for the last two weeks, and it rarely has left my CD player (and if it has, it's promptly gone back in)." (original post)

13.) The Herbaliser - Same As It Never Was

"I’ve been listening to Same As It Never Was for the last month or so and have really been diggin’ it. One of the reasons I think that I’ve been enjoying The Herbaliser's latest so much is the group’s continually developing skills at mixing of jazz, hip-hop, and funk, all styles that my musical meanderings have been tending towards as of late, and this album sates my thirst for all three." (original post)


Jane said...

Hi Sean. I'm only familiar with two on the list so far (Prettyman and Diamond), and look forward to looking into the rest of your picks.

Are you familiar with Krista Detor? She became one of my new favorite artists this year, although she's not new ... just new to me. I'd have a hard time narrowing down the list of this year's favorites to just 24. Which is a good thing, I suppose. Thanks for the post.

Happy New Year!

Jessica said...

Time Traveller is the shit. So under appreciated.

Sean said...


No, I haven't heard Krista, I'll check her out today. Thanks for the recommendation!

Happy new year to you, too...and look for part 2 of the list tomorrow. Hope you find lots that you like.


Completely agree with you. I definitely think I enjoy the album more as I've listened to it more, also.

Stephen said...

Rising Down was so good. Still think I like Game Theory even more, but it's great to see The Roots making some grimy shit again. Nice to see QV, Nigeria 70, and Herbz on here. Word up!