Well, it’s that time of the year folks. Snow is on the ground and lists are in the air. And not one to miss out on a good excuse for a list, this week’s Tuesday Playlist will be usurped instead by my picks for best album of the year. Two notes before we begin, though:
1.) So I take it from the resounding silence on Friday that no one who reads this blog is interested in playing the Friday Five Quiz Game. (Save for Ann. Thanks, Ann!) I dig. If anyone’s still curious, the answer was that all the bands had had a member die while the band was active.
2.) As my friend Mike reminded me, the new album by Jubilee is supposed to be out sometime before the end of the year. Now that I’ve been reminded of that, I do remember reading that somewhere, but now I can’t find any info on a hard release date.
So with those notes out of the way, on to the list. There was some pretty stiff competition this year, and a lot of records that would have been clear choices other years just didn’t quite make the cut. Below are my choices for the best albums of 2008. As always, feel free to tell me in the comments just how wrong I am.
Fifty-Two Tuesday’s Best Albums of 2008
5.) Yael Naim, Yael Naïm
With a history-making single, “New Soul”, and an album to match, Israeli pop songstress Yael Naïm exploded onto the American scene earlier this year. The album is a trilingual pop masterpiece that makes me sincerely hope that we’ll be hearing more from Ms. Naïm in the future. If for no other reason than I’d love to have a few more catchy Pop singles like the bopping, upbeat “New Soul”. Seriously, go listen to it a few times. That is what a pop single is meant to be.
4.) The Shondes, The Red Sea
For as much as I’ve squeed about this album the past year, you’d think this was my number one album of all time at all, ever. Really, it’s just a damn fine album of solid rock music that’s novel and interesting besides. What makes it even more amazing is that it’s a self-released album by a comparatively obscure bunch of rock mavens. I honestly think that it’s not only one of the best albums of the year, but also one of the most important. The Shondes are playing with genre, message, and composition in ways that other bands lately just aren’t.
3.) The Cure, 4:13 Dream
Simply put, this album was a tidy, well-produced encapsulation of everything I’ve ever liked about the Cure. Slick, guitar-driven New Wave, heavy with quippy little hooks and dark, dream-like lyrics. Well-crafted songs, clean production, and Robert Smith and company in top form. What more can one ask for, really?
2.) Portishead, Third
Normally when we say that a band’s new album was “worth the wait”, we’re not talking about a wait of a decade. That is, of course, unless we’re talking about Portishead’s highly anticipated third album, the aptly named, Third. This album is not only the best that this year in Synth Pop had to offer, it’s good enough that it may well set the bar for the genre for a few years to come. Rumor has it Portishead are already hard at work on the next album (working title: Fourth ?), so our grandchildren will have that to look forward to.
1.) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
On the surface, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ fourteenth studio album is full of exactly the sort of crunchy, noisy, dark rock that we’ve come to expect from them after all these years. But dig deeper (no pun intended) and there’s also some pretty clever images and some pretty powerful recurrent themes. It displays the sort of deep symbolism and insightful commentary that common opinion tells us doesn’t exist in modern music. It marries form and substance into a package which, aside from being great rock music, is excellent art.
Video: The music video for the title track off of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!.
Chris Walla, Field Manual
Okay, so apparently I was the only person in the world who liked this album? I thought it was both well-conceived and well-executed, but other reviewers seem to be sort of tepid at best about it. Admittedly it hasn’t grown on me much, but I thought it had a lot of good tracks and really wanted only for cohesion. I mean, hell, it deserves a spot on this list if only for the fact that it contains some of the first politically-oriented music I’ve heard in ages that didn’t make me want to reach through my stereo and punch whoever was singing it.
The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely
If anyone ever asks me to defend my assertion that The Raconteurs are one of the best narrative bands in modern music, (second, I think, only to Nick Cave) I’ll point them to two songs: “The Switch and the Spur” and “Carolina Drama”. Admittedly, the former isn’t really a coherent story so much as a brilliantly drawn-out snapshot scene from one, but they’re both exactly the sort of evocative, rocking tunes that make the band both great musicians and great storytellers. To be honest, I kind of hope that they’re next album is a rock opera. Yeah, you heard me. I said that I’d welcome news a Raconteurs rock opera. So there.