Albums of 2008

Pop was fantastic this year. It’s like bankruptcy and horror made people long for happy songs and dancing so the output was joyous and fun. The fact that there were so many releases that would good made it hard for me to pick my favourite albums of the year which is a good problem to have. This year I’ve been strict and kept it only to albums released in 2008, not ones I’ve discovered in the year.

1. M83 – Saturdays=Youth

m83 - Saturdays=Youth

m83 - Saturdays=Youth

It’s been described as the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie that has never been made, which is a fantastic way of explaining this sounds like an 80s electronic album. Think OMD, New Order and the Pretty in Pink soundtrack. Although the noise comes from synths the mood is totally melancholy and reflective. You, Appearing is almost a somber death march and the introduction to the album. Kim & Jessie was paired with an amazing music video of skating girls that told the story of a summer and was my introduction to the album. Graveyard Girl sounds like Morrissey consulted on the content. I’ve moved on from the 80s in my listening habits, but this merges the best of that era with the ethos of today.

Most Played Song in itunes – Kim & Jessie
M83 Website

2. Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us

Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us

Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us

I’m a long time fan of Mates of State and a sucker for male female harmonies. This would be number 1 if M83 hadn’t ended up being the soundtrack of my life for the year. On this album the production is a lot cleaner which makes it a less messier sounding affair than their last album Bring it Back. The drums aren’t so in your face and it almost becomes easy listening if you aren’t listening closely. It’s full of uh oh ohs but with lyrics that almost seem to be about midlife crisis, it’s not your average pop album. The chord change in Now when they talk about waiting on the doorstep kills me everytime. Warning, this is a twee album!

Most Played Song in itunes – Now
Mates of State Website

3. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Some albums on first listen don’t hit right away. Maybe it’s the wrong place, wrong weather, wrong mood. Sometimes it takes two Swedish girls in a forest covering a song on youtube to make you return to a record and re-examine it before it reaches your psyche. That’s what happened with me and Fleet Foxes. I’m not the first to say that they sound like Neil Young and The Beach Boys singing in a dark forest. It’s very much a winter album even though I picked it up in the summer. Pauline reckons that White Winter Hymnal sounds like a christmas song. I’m looking forward to seeing them on the 4th January at the Tivoli.

Most Played Song in itunes – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
Fleet Foxes Website

4. Santogold – Santogold

Santogold - Santogold

Santogold - Santogold

Sounding like a cross between The Pixies, Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols with a bit of Leonard Cohen chucked it, you could almost mistake this album for a mashup although as far as I know, no samples were included. Lights Out is clearly the standout track and although this album is far from perfect, it’s innovative and exciting. Lots of comparisons to M.I.A. for this album but I’d say Santi is a little more accessible. This is a great Saturday night doing slut laps party album.

Most Played Song in itunes – Lights Out
Santogold Website

5. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

No doubt this album is on everyone’s list as this record was everywhere and *should* appeal to everyone. Not only is the music kicking but the lyrics are smart and funny. Time to Pretend should be the anthem for everyone under 22 with lyrics like this:

This is our decision, to live fast and die young.
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do.
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute.

Fucking brilliant!

The album reminds me of David Bowie and John Lennon in their experimental days (like Changes) but with modern technology at their fingertips and hedonistic morals of Gen Y. Requisite summer listening.

Most Played Song in itunes – Time to Pretend
MGMT Website

6. Sia – Some People have real problems

Sia - Some People have real problems

Sia - Some People have real problems

This is my girly album. Totally radio friendly, produced with the help of Beck and with her amazingly expressive voice, Sia drops a record so lovely it makes me want kittens. Academia was the catalyst for me, cute lyrics using mathematics to expressive love. I haven’t explored the later tracks on the album which makes it rate so as this position, but when the album opens with Little Black Sandals, why would you really need to go further – it starts so brilliantly.

Most Played Song in itunes – Academia
Sia Website

7. She & Him – Volume One

She & Him - Volume One

She & Him - Volume One

Zooey Deschanel showed us her singing chops in the movie Bridge to Terabithia, but this album was a complete and utter surprise in how good it was. There are a few covers, but the ones that stand out are the ones actually written by Zooey. When listening Patsy Cline comes to mind and I suspect that Zooey’s acting experience lends to the way she knows how to tell a story in a song. This is also a little Rilo Kiley, so if you like Jenny Lewis you’ll love this album. The him part of the band is M Ward who is well known in alternative and country circles. I always like a little country in my playlists. 🙂

Most Played Song in itunes – Sentimental Heart
She & Him Website

8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

They look like preppies from any Jocks vs Geeks movie but they sound like African beats fronted by Adam Ant touched with some classical music. Wait, didn’t Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel already do this style of music? Who cares, it’s bloody great. This is the closest you can get to World Music without actually being World Music. It seems like interesting lyrics are a pre-req for this year’s list and this album doesn’t disappoint. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, Oxford Comma and Walcott are my picks on the record other than A-Punk.

Most Played Song in itunes – A-Punk
Vampire Weekend Website

9. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords

Funny funny guys who take every type of music style and shove it on their tv show and album to make an eclectic mix of cool songs. Foux de Fafa, Inner City Pressure, Ladies of the World are all fantastic. Containing Pet Shop Boys spoofs, easy listening sex dudes, bad rhyming, David Bowie and robots, how could you ignore it? A sample of the lyrics:

Bowie’s in space
Bowie’s in space
Whatcha doin’ out there man?
That’s pretty freaky, Bowie.
What’s a rock musician doing out in space man?
Isn’t it cold, quite cold out there Bowie?
Do you need to borrow my jumper Bowie?

Most Played Song in itunes – Robots (?? Foux De FaFa not far behind though)
Flight of the Conchords Website

10. Dr Horrible – Sing Along

 Dr Horrible - Sing Along

Dr Horrible - Sing Along

Take a bad guy, make him the hero of the show, set it to music and show it only on the internet. Recipe for oblivion right? Not if it was written, directed and scored by Joss Whedon (Buffy and Firefly creator). This thing went nuclear in July and sent Neil Patrick Harris’s stocks even higher than they were with How I Met Your Mother. Unexpectedly the soundtrack was catchy and I found myself listening to it without needing the video. I think it was Felicia Day’s voice that I especially liked since you don’t really hear a voice like that very often. Plus it helped that Chris couldn’t stop listening to it at work.

Most Played Song in itunes – Perfect Story
Dr Horrible Website

11. Madonna – Hard Candy

Madonna - Hard Candy

Madonna - Hard Candy

Ironic that as Madonna divorces Guy she releases her best album in maybe a decade. I’m not a dancer, but I found myself getting jiggy to Give it to Me and 4 Minutes (even though the lyrics on 4 minutes annoyed me a bit). I gushed about this to everyone while I was in lust with the album which was just after I picked up the cd leaving Hong Kong airport trying to ditch my cash. I think it was ingrained in to my brain since it was playing in all the stores I was in when I was doing my hard core Hong Kong shopping. Anything Timberland and Timberlake touch turns to gold.

Most Played Song in itunes – 4 minutes
Madonna Website

12. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours

I love my Cut Copy, support the locals and all. A dance band with yes, good lyrics and catchy tunes. Feel the love and Lights and Music are my favourites other than Out there on the ice. It was released at a time when I had stacks of new music to listen to and not much time to hear it, so it was a minor miracle it rose to the top (but I guess it had a head start since I loved their old album). Good driving music.

Most Played Song in Itunes – Out there on the Ice
Cut Copy Website

Ones that didn’t make the list – only just

  • Kings of Leon – Only by the Night (It would be in the list, but I haven’t listened to it enough to make it a contender. Love a few songs on the album already though)
  • Camille – Live @ the Olympia (saw her in concert. AMAZING.)
  • The Killers – Day and Age (only a few weeks of listening but like it way more than Sam’s Town. Welcome Back
  • Alphabeat – This is Alphabeat (they sound like saturday cartoon kids bands. Wicked!)

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