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eskimo bliss’s top 10 albums of 2008

December 23, 2008

Like most musically-inclined bloggers, I like to look back at the year in independent music by compiling a list of my favorite releases. In my opinion, 2008 has been a fantastic year for music, with some big debuts from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend, and old standbys such as The Rosebuds, My Morning Jacket, and TV on the Radio offering some of the best releases of their careers. In a nutshell, I look back at 2008 happy to see an emergence of melancholic indie-folk permeating the indie radio airwaves, tired of electro-punk, and already looking forward to early ’09 bringing some new stuff from the likes of Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Loney Dear, and eskimo kiss‘s own North Elementary!

So without further adeiu, I bring you my TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2008

Fleet Foxes

10. Fleet Foxes – S/T
Like many, I was initially blown away by this record. It has the makings of a masterpiece, with lovely harmonies, layers of reverb and that campfire indie-folk feel that I love. But over time, Fleet Foxes started to feel like MMJ-lite, but with less engaging songs. With that said, I still find this to be an enjoyable listen with very little filler. I listened to it quite a bit this year, so it’s no doubt deserving of a spot in my top 10.

Vampire Weekend

9. Vampire Weekend – S/T
Every year there’s a record that I avoid for as long as possible, simply due to all the hype surrounding it, but eventually give in to and profess my love for. I did it with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Arcade Fire in the past, and this year I did it with Vampire Weekend. I even skipped out on their SXSW performance because I felt like after being blown away by Shout Out Louds, Yeasayer, and Bon Iver, anything else would just be a letdown. I finally gave the record a chance this summer after my husband brought it home. It’s hard to deny its catchiness; it’s a really fun listen that hearkens back to the days of Paul Simon but still keeps things fresh with production values that remind me a little of The Strokes‘s first record. I’m also a sucker for bands who can take silly lyrics and actually make them work. So anyone who can make a phrase like “Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?” sound catchy as hell gets multiple cool points.

Ra Ra Riot

8. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
I have to admit, sometimes I’m not sure how I feel about this record. My first impression was that I absolutely loved it. Every pretentious indie-meets-macabre orchestral flourish, every happy rhythm disguising themes of death and depression… “The Rhumb Line” initially struck me much like The Smiths, as Ra Ra Riot has a way of making you dance along and almost not notice the underlying sadness. But over time, I think the complexity of it wore on me, as I tend to like my indiepop a little more stripped down. Maybe it was best that I put it away for a few months, because recent listens have reminded me that it really is a standout record. Its multiple layers can be its biggest attribute or biggest fault, depending on your tastes. But tracks like “Dying is Fine,” and “Can You Tell” are perfect winter anthems. So break out the egg nog and drown your sorrows.

The Whigs

7. The Whigs – Mission Control
The first time I heard this I told a friend that it sounded more like a Foo Fighters record than the last Foo Fighters record did. I still stand by that, but after seeing them live The Whigs sold me. I have a soft spot for power trios, and this young band from Athens, GA is definitely one of the best. Can’t wait to see them open for Band of Horses next week!

The Dodos

6. The Dodos – Visiter
Despite their ridiculous name, The Dodos managed to completely floor me the very first time I listened to “Visiter.” Their secret weapon is percussion, and that’s what did it for me. If The Whigs are indie rock’s best power trio, The Dodos are the genre’s best power duo. For two people, the band certainly makes a lot of noise, and manages to create some of the most captivating songs and sounds that I’ve heard in quite some time. This record is a real gem that, despite its stripped-down instrumentation (and a format that’s been done time and time again), is not only a joy to listen to but is also probably the most interesting release on this list.

TV on the Radio

5. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Were it not for “Rachel Getting Married,” one of my favorite movies of the year, I probably would have never given TV on the Radio a chance. They’re one of those bands whose popularity was just a little too mainstream for me to really care about. After all, didn’t Spin give them best album honors two years in a row? But I enjoyed singer Tunde Adebimpe‘s contribution to the film (he plays the guy that Rachel marries) so much that I knew I needed to at least investigate his music output a little deeper. A friend suggested that I start with TVotR’s “Young Liars” EP, and I liked it enough to want to hear their newer material. So glad I did, because “Dear Science” is an album unlike anything I’ve heard, well, since Prince and then Beck. Interestingly, what most critics are pinpointing as the record’s main drawback – its lack of cohesiveness – is the very thing I love most about it. Sure, it’s a bit schizo at times, not sure if it wants to be Afrobeat or garage rock, but TVotR have never been your average rock band. They push the envelope on this record, and the result is something timeless and beautiful.

My Morning Jacket

4. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
My Morning Jacket is definitely one of those bands that’s best experienced live. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe there’s any way you can capture the full-on rock intensity of their live shows on record. “Evil Urges” does a decent job though, and I think it’s important to note that my first exposure to most of these songs was through their 2008 SXSW appearance. Truth be told, that was really my first exposure to the band. I had heard a song or two but never really paid much attention. I’m not sure why, because now they are one of my favorite bands (again, thanks to their live show… I had the pleasure of seeing them again a few months ago at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, and it was mind-blowing). “Evil Urges” takes .38 Special and Skynard and makes it new again. I can even tolerate “Highly Suspicious” (but again, I think it’s probably because I heard it live first); but like most fans, I tend to prefer the straight-ahead rock of “Aluminum Park.”

The Hold Steady

3. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
This was definitely the soundtrack to my summer, and I’d go as far as to say that it’s The Hold Steady‘s defining album. Sure, they borrow a trick or two from the Boss. And their singer, Craig Finn, doesn’t so much sing as shout. But he turned “we went to some place where she cat sits” into lyrics; how cool is that??? Not to mention that he’s just the epitome of geek-cute (sorry, but he just is). I love this album so much that I want to get the logo tattoo’d on my forearm. That’s love.

The Rosebuds

2. The Rosebuds – Life Like
Ah, The Rosebuds. I don’t have any children, but I can’t help but view The Rosebuds like a proud parent. We both paid our indie rock dues in the same small but cliquey Wilmington, NC music scene. In fact, their first show was an opening slot for my old band Pacer, which at the time also featured a husband-and-wife at its musical core. Ahem. That husband-and-wife ended up splitting up right around the very same time that the ‘buds got signed to Merge. Go figure. But my musical envy aside, this is a splendid record that shows The Rosebuds’s more mature side (death references) but is still a heck of a lot of fun (one song, “Bow to the Middle,” even inspired a new dance). I think I would have ranked it number one until I realized the reason I love it so much is because of Justin Vernon’s ever-present thumbprints all over it, which brings me to…

Bon Iver

1. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
OK, so technically this is a 2007 self-release but fortunately Jagjaguwar gave it a proper release in ’08, in turn making Vernon quite the indie superstar. It seems he’s been everywhere this year, lending a hand to the aforementioned Rosebuds record, appearing on Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, and being written up in every publication you can think of. I can’t think of a more deserving musician. “For Emma, Forever Ago,” is honest, raw, intimate, and breathtakingly beautiful. As I type this, I’m suffering the worst cold I’ve had in years, and I’m nowhere near ready for Christmas. But as Bon Iver plays in the background, I feel a sense of peace. “Everything that happens is from now on.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

It goes without saying that any eskimo kiss release from this year could have been placed in my top 10, but I didn’t want to play favorites. However, Gregg Yeti’s & The Best Lights‘s debut, Citified‘s sophomore effort and even The Good Graces‘s (shameless self-promotion) little record really did mean a lot to me this year, and I love each of them dearly. But my own releases aside, several others deserve a mention and almost made the list, so check out:

Port O’Brien – All We Could Do Was Sing
Wye Oak – If Children
Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Juliana Hatfield – How to Walk Away
Megafaun – Bury the Square
Coconut Records – Nighttiming

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2008 10:59 pm

    What a coincidence – this is exactly my top 10 list, too!

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