Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Albums of 2008

I realize this is a day late, and I can't tell you how sorry I am. With the end of the year only hours away, it seems fitting to put out a list of my favorite albums of the year. Now please bear in mind that these are only albums that I have purchased, so apologies to those bands and/or artists I may have left off this list. Also, I have a couple albums on the way via post, so those will obviously be excluded, as I haven't had the chance to listen to them yet.

10. The Fratellis - Here We Stand. This album has grown on me. I've said before that their first album, Costello Music, has more hooks than a tackle box. Here We Stand has fewer hooks, but the songs are still really good and still catchy. In my opinion, this is one of the best up-and-coming rock bands around.
9. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night. I wouldn't call this a step back for Kings of Leon, after their excellent 2007 release, Because of the Times, but I would call it a step sideways. It is a very solid album, but would have been higher on the list if there were more foot-stompers, like "Sex on Fire" (which I think is a phenomenal song) than trippy, slower songs like "Closer."
8. Louis XIV - Slick Dogs and Ponies. The long-awaited follow-up to 2004's The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, Slick Dogs and Ponies is darker than its predecessor, but just as glammy and delightfully tawdry. "Guilt By Association" and "There's a Traitor in This Room" are great songs.
7. Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy. The long-awaited follow-up to 1993's The Spaghetti Incident?, Chinese Democracy is actually a really good hard rock album. I'm not sure anyone knew what to expect out of this album, but two things are certain: Axl can still wail, and he can still write a hell of a song. It's just too bad we had to wait more than a decade to finally hear it.
6. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple. Bohmann once described Cee-Lo's voice as "velvety," which is true. He and Danger Mouse have put together yet another album of catchy, funky, soulful, oftentimes upbeat hip hop. It's simply a fun album to listen to, and it's an easy album to listen to, if that makes any sense.
5. Township - Township (available on iTunes). Township's SECOND album of 2008 (what is this, the '60s?!) is a great rock album. As I've mentioned before, this Boston-based band draws on influences from rock's gilded age (the late '60s and early to mid '70s) and has created an album that leaves you longing for more good, old-fashioned straightforward rock that has become hard to come by these days. If you live in New England or New York, be sure to check them out. Rumor has it that they may be coming to Chicago in 2009, and obviously I'm pumped about that.
4. The Black Keys - Attack and Release. Speaking of Danger Mouse, what do you get when you combine him with a fuzz-heavy blues rock duo from Akron? One hell of an album. The Black Keys grew a lot on this album (produced by Danger Mouse), yet it is not too much of a departure for them (even if there are more instruments than just an electric guitar and drum set).
3. Metallica - Death Magnetic. I received a free copy of Death Magnetic as part of a package with tickets to Metallica's upcoming concert, and frankly I wasn't expecting all that much. I haven't purchased a Metallica album since their self-titled release in 1991 (aka, "the black album"), and I was blown away by Death Magnetic. It is a return to roots of sorts, and is harder than most of what they've put out since And Justice for All. Simply put, it's a great metal album.
2. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive. With their fourth album, these guys pick up where they left off with 2006's critically acclaimed Boys and Girls in America. The songs are mostly straight-up rock, with well-placed piano work (courtesy of the mustachioed Franz Nicolay), driving guitar, and memorable choruses (as the first song, "Constructive Summer," so aptly states, "our songs are sing-along songs"). Craig Finn writes the most interesting musical stories this side of Bruce Springsteen. One of my favorite lines is from "Joke About Jamaica": "They used to think it was so cute/When she said 'dyer maker'/All the boys knew it was a joke about Jamaica/She'd always find a ride back home from the bar." It was hard for me not to put this album at the top of the list.
1. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely. I liked The Raconteurs' 2005 debut album, Broken Boy Soldiers. But I loved their follow-up, Consolers of the Lonely. The songs are generally harder, tighter, and more interesting than the songs on their debut. Jack White and Brendan Benson not only wrote a great album, but they play well off each other vocally, while Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler (both of the Greenhornes) provide a formidable rhythm section. These guys are hitting on all cylinders on this album, from the jagged opening track, "Consoler of the Lonely," to the final track, "Carolina Drama," which is a fascinating, folkish tale of violence, clergy, and milk that sounds like it could be on one of The White Stripes' first two albums and draws you in every time. There is not a song on this album that I skip. Not too bad for a side project.

Honorable Mention: Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward; Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll!!!; Man Raze - Surreal; One Day as a Lion - One Day as a Lion (EP); Township - Coming Home; Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album).

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