My Favorite 20 Albums of 2008

I've looked over my list of favorite releases for the year many times and tried to see if I could find any sort of pattern. As with most years, it was hard for me to discern anything, although compared to some more recent entries it probably has a few less straight-up electronic releases than usual. I don't know if it's a sign of my shifting music tastes or simply that I didn't think that this year was particularly strong in that area. Of course, even the more "traditional" artists on this years list incorporate a lot of processing and electronic layering, so perhaps my point is completely moot.

As I have been for the past 7! years, I'm again doing a Readers List. Enlighten me as always! I love to discover things I've missed.

Again, thank you so much for reading my site.

1. Dodos - Visiter (French Kiss)
Really, this one came out of completely nowhere (I hadn't heard their debut under what was then a slightly different name) and stuck with me all year. It's something I would have never guessed would have done so, but there it is. Two guys playing their instruments (and singing) in a special way. full review

2. Nico Muhly - Mothertongue (Brassland)
Ambitious and a bit pretentious and deconstructionist and yet completely bewitching. A classical record for the mass-information age, this is a release that isn't afraid to blow through boundaries. full review

3. Elephant9 - DodoVoodoo (Rune Grammofon)
A monster wicked ripping progressive rock jazz beast of squealing organ, drums, and bass. This is the most insanely fun thing I've heard on the Rune Grammofon label in a long time, so salut! full review

4. Portishead - 3 (Mercury)
My favorite band of over ten years ago finally decided to come out of retirement and unlike a lot of cash-in acts this was a gem of an album that found them veering in several new directions. Krauty and dark and damn evil in places, this was an unexpected (but long anticipated) treat. full review

5. Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow, & Blue (Warp)
I probably shouldn't love this release so much, but I do. It's semi-spazzy, nearly straight-up rock with a playful edge, but I can't stop going back to it. I have sung-a-long the living shit out of this record. full review

6. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna (The Social Registry)
After working out a lot of the kinks on a slew of EPs, this group came back with this shiny full-length and surprised the hell out of me with it's sophistication. It's all over the map, but it's one of those albums that sounds like a dream and tugs you along by your cochlea. full review

7. James Blackshaw - Litany Of Echoes (Tompkins Square)
Young master Blackshaw is kind of a weathered veteran of his craft despite his young age, and this beautiful release is only the latest step in his development. Lovely stuff. full review

8. Lindstrom - Where You Go I Go Too (Smalltown Supersound)
Instead of tightening up his music even more, Lindstrom went in the opposite direction with this release and stretched things out into long, smooth trip that I just keep going back to. Part Ash Ra, part disco, this one will float you. full review

9. The Mae Shi - Hlllyh (Phantom Sound & Vision)
Crashing together 8-bit deconstruction, pop, and punk rock, this album is a glorious collision of noise and hilarity that's ultimately insanely catchy. On any given day, I will be caught singing/screaming along with one of many from here. full review

10. Plants And Animals - Parc Avenue (Secret City)
This release easily wins the award for the album that made the highest jump in my playlist over the course of the year. I was naive to think that there were only a couple stunners on this album because the truth is that the whole damn thing is great. full review

11. Marnie Stern - This Is It And I Am It... (KRS)
One year later and Stern is already back with another finger-shredding batch of songs, despite spending a good portion of the past twelve months on the road. A truly singular voice right now, Stern is basically kicking ass and taking names. full review

12. Autistic Daughters - Uneasy Flowers (Kranky)
Dean Roberts has had a hand in something like a dozen releases over the course of the past half-decade, but it was this newest album with his deconstructionist rock group that really finally zapped me right in the sternum. Haunting. Lovely. full review

13. Hercules And Love Affair - Hercules And Love Affair (Mute)
Over-the-top and somehow somewhat restrained, this is an album of great pairings. It's a disco inferno without all the backlash. Embrace it. full review

14. Murcof - The Versailles Sessions (Leaf)
Someone had the bright idea of letting Fernando Corona have his way with baroque instrumentation and he creates something that sounds like it was belched out of a distant exploding star. You've got to give him credit, as there's not too many people who would have done the same. full review

15. Girl Talk - Feed The Animals (Illegal Art)
Completely fun and at times hilarious, head-bashing, music mashing from an engineer who quit his job to rock the laptop worldwide. I'd give him props for that alone, but this follow-up release is slamming as well. full review

16. The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion (Sub Pop)
I don't remember hardly anyone saying a word about this album and it's a bit of a shame. A bit on the rough side, but unexpected and seriously fun in places. full review

17. Gavin Bryars - The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969-) (Touch)
This third recorded version of this piece is like a modern dream team of musicians, with Bryars teaming up with Alter Ego and Philip Jeck for this glorious performance. Alternately brittle, crushing, and elegiac, this is probably the best recorded version yet .full review

18. Dosh - Wolves And Wishes (Anticon)
Part time Andrew Bird backup band, part time normal dude who records elaborate music in his basement, Martin Dosh makes music that makes me happy. full review

19. El Guincho - Alegranza (XL)
Spaniard loops world-spanning sounds and sings in gloriously infectious melodies for nine songs and forty minutes. Film at eleven. full review

20. The New Year - The New Year (Touch N Go)
So workmanlike in their approach, they'll lull you to sleep if you're not paying attention. As with every album, though, there is just enough bite in the music and words to have real staying power. full review

9 Great Reissues
Glenn Gould - The Complete Original Jacket Collection (Sony)
80 CDs of piano-based music? Are you freaking kidding me? It's true that this is one of the more obsessive box sets that I've had the pleasure of owning, but given the nature of Gould himself, I couldn't think of something more appropriate. There's enough here to explore for months or years, but that's part of the joy. full review

Gas - Nah Und Fern (Kompakt)
Although the packaging isn't as cool as it could be, these four modern classic albums finally get a re-release in this inexpensive set from Kompakt. If you haven't heard this yet, shame on you. full review

Robbie Basho - Bonn Ist Supreme (Bo'Weavil)
A slightly muffled, but stunning recording of Robbie Basho in his prime. Not as well known as Fahey or Kottke, he deserves to be, as he was a unique artist with an unforgettable voice. full review

Basic Channel - BCD-2 (Trojan)
The second in a series of compilations collecting tracks from this seminal group, this one features six absolute barnstromers in their full-length glory. On CD for the first time, these are deep, deep cuts. buy at amazon.com

Group Inerane - Guitars From Agadez (Music From Niger) (Sublime Frequencies)
A killer set of guitar tracks from this small African nation, this is rough and tumble music that sticks you straight through. Primal. full review

Pavement - Brighten The Corners: Nicene Credence Edition (Matador)
Easily one of the best reissues in the series from Matador of Pavement material, the b-sides here are about as solid as they come. I hadn't listened to this album in awhile, but I simply can't stop now that I played it again. buy at amazon.com

John Cale & Terry Riley - Church Of Anthrax (Wounded Bird)
A truly great collaboration that sounds like a near-perfect melding between two artists who on the surface might not seem like a good match together. Intense, near motorik rhythms and minimal melodies that wrap into your head. full review

Robert Fripp & Brian Eno- No Pussyfooting (DGM)
A killer 2CD re-release of a multi-layered, droning, melodic ambient masterwork. It took them long enough, but all the bonus material makes the wait worth it. buy at amazon.com

Dennis Wilson- Pacific Ocean Blue (Sony Legacy)
A long-lost album considered by many to be the best solo album by a member of the Beach Boys, there's easily a case for that. This 2CD remaster with gorgeous packaging features a bunch of unreleased tracks, a massive booklet, and a hell of a lot of amazing music. buy at amazon.com

RECENT REVIEWS
December 25th, 2008
Girl Talk - Feed The Animals (Illegal Art) Feed The Animals

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December 18th, 2008
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Good Stuff House - Endless Bummer (Root Strata)

Silent Land Time Machine - & Hope Still (Time-Lag / Indian Queen) And Hope Still

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December 11th, 2008
Brethren Of The Free Spirit - The Wolf Shall Also Dwell with the Lamb (Important)

Deerhunter - Microcastle / Weird Era Continued (Kranky)

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December 4th, 2008
Averkiou - Throwing Sparks (Clairecords)

Fennesz - Black Sea (Touch)

Johann Johannsson - Fordlandia (4AD)

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