My Favorite Music – 2008

My year-end music list this year is different. Not necessarily in style, but in form. The era of buying full albums is more or less over for me (and I think many others). I might have bought one or two full albums this year. Now I scan through albums via song samples and just buy songs. So I struggled with how to rank my tops for 2008 this year. I also didn’t get to really comb the depths as much as I have in the past, though I did find some new stuff that really grabbed a hold of me. In the end, I’ve decided to post some of my favorite songs of 2008. I hope you enjoy them and I hope I make you a rabid fan of something you haven’t heard previously – that’s really what gets me going.

The following are in no order whatsoever:

Pete & The Pirates:  I found these guys on EMusic.com, who recently revamped their music recommendation service and whatever they’re using now for recommendations is 100 times better than before! Yeah, Pete & The Pirates is a terrible name for a band, but I found some excellent stuff from them a few months back and it’s sticking. Check out “Lost In The Woods.”

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The Delta Spirit: perhaps my favorite band of the new year and I just discovered them about four weeks ago when I saw them open for Nada Surf. I was purchasing their music the next morning. There is a timeless, slightly weathered feeling to this music, yet a young energy that you just can’t shake. If you only listen to one band from my list here, listen to this one (but really, I know you’re listening to all of these. You better be – these posts take a long time). This one is called “Parade”

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David Byrne & Brian Eno: Again, EMusic. I am not a fan of David Byrne. Oh, I loved Psycho Killer and maybe one or two of the songs from the mid-1980s (I did love “Burning Down the House”) but I just can’t get into the Talking Heads. Any of it. Believe me, I have tried. So why did I sample this? Well, the way it was written up as a mini-review made me start sampling and I’ll be damned! It’s terrific. Most notably the song “Home,” which I also included in a November 20th post here, but it’s such an excellent song it’s here again:

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Blitzen Trapper: I know I’ve mentioned Blitzen Trapper here a few times. I’ve decided that their latest album isn’t as good as their previous effort, but it’s most certainly got a few phenomenal tunes on it and they continue to pretty much defy any genre or real accurate description, so of course I love them. Here’s the softer side, via a song called “Furr,” which I was so-so on until I saw them do it on Conan. Now I LOVE it.

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Jenny Lewis: Perfect example of why I’m only doing songs this year: I’m a BIG fan of Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis and even The Elected. But Jenny Lewis’s solo album released this year really turned me off. With the single exception of this song, called “Acid Tongue,” which feels so real and so heartfelt that I couldn’t stop listening to it when I first heard it. Sometimes she can just crank out a special one. This is it.

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Easton Stagger Phillips: It seems to me that no matter what Tim Easton does, it absolutely resonates with me in such a huge way. In between his own albums, he cut this one with some Alaskan friends of his and it’s pretty much a stunner. Very down home, warm, comfortable feeling with this one, so much so that I bought the whole album after hearing just one song – I didn’t have to sample the rest. I knew it would be incredible and it is. There isn’t a bad one to be found on this, so I’ll just close my eyes and poke a pencil at one song. It’s “She Was Gone.”

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Okkervil River: holy SHIT! I never got into these guys before, but their latest release has some AMAZING songs on it. Just sweeping, epic stuff – great lyrics, great music, great everything! I was so pleasantly surprised. For this post I’m picking “Blue Tulip” not just for it’s emotional ebb-and-flow, but because it contains the my single most favorite moment in a song. It starts at about the 2:10 mark, really starts to stab you at about 2:40 when that guitar hits and then BURIES you at about 3:08 when the lyrics start up again. This is near-perfect song craft. Might be my favorite song of the year.

For every single inch of me, I’m going to make you mean it,
With every single cell of me, i’m going to make you mean the words you sigh
You lie

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Sam Champion: This is one of the reasons I SO love it when people leave a comment on this blog. One day out of nowhere a few years back I got an email from a woman in Wisconsin who told me she’d been reading my blog for a year or so and thought we were musical compadres. So she recommended a local named Sam Champion so I went and sampled it and thought – very good. Well, he released another record this year and I found “You Can’t Stop” and downloaded it right away – just an awesome rock song. Love that riff in the beginning and the end, because you don’t feel at all like you’re getting a great rock song – then it HITS you! The middle is a total curve ball and it’s all good.

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The Hold Steady: I’m not as gung-ho on these guys as I used to be and I think their new album wasn’t as adventurous as I hoped. That said, what they did before worked, so they didn’t really have to throw any knuckleballs here. And there were a couple very good tunes on thier 2008 release. This one is my favorite, called “Slapped Actress.”

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Sloan: come on, you didn’t think I’d leave my favorite band of the last TEN years off, did you? Their 2008 release “Parallel Play” wasn’t as much of a romp as their double album from ‘07, but it is, of course, full of terrific power pop. These guys can be relied on 100% to make music that will make you tap your feet. Their live show, which I think I’ve probably seen 4,356 times now, is one that ranks among my favorite. Ever. This is “Witch’s Wand.”

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The Black Keys: these guys are just pure ass-kickers with a sound all their own. Some would call them bluesy, others call them straight-up indie rock. It doesn’t matter what you call them – they make good, old-school music. You pretty much know it when you hear them. This is  “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be.” Enjoy!

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The Racontuers: just like their first offering, I didn’t want to like them because I just can’t stand The White Stripes. But I can’t help it – I love these guys. More old-school rock that takes me back to the days of cranking WCOZ on my parents Scott stereo system (local alert! local alert!). This is one called “Rich Kid Blues.” Classic rock lives!

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Nada Surf: of course. These guys are making a run at Sloan for me. They just keep putting out album after album of such high quality material that it’s not even funny. It’s also not even a question anymore – when there’s a new album, ALL of it is purchased. No questions asked and no songs heard. It’s a done deal. You know I love a band when I get a baby-tee from the band for my kid. If you don’t like “Weightless,” then get off my cloud!

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Kelley Stoltz: one of my favorites of the last couple of years. Seriously, this guy is a genius. I don’t know what else to say at this point, besides that he’s so creative, inventive and crafts tunes that leave me occasionally quite speechless. One of them is “Put Your Troubles To Sleep.” Why can’t I  get over the guitar part that kicks in around the 2:10 mark? I can’t get over how much I love it.

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Holy shit, 2008 was better than I thought! Listen and leave comments!

6 comments to My Favorite Music – 2008

  • Matt

    Interesting list. I’ve been meaning to check out Okkervil River for a while.

    Two questions, though: I was a little puzzled at your Hold Steady comment about being adventurous…wondering what kind of record you wanted/expected from them. Also, didn’t I introduce you to Nada Surf? If so, I want credit! Just kidding. I love that band.

    My top 10:

    Boston Spaceships – Brown Submarine
    Nada Surf – Lucky
    The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
    Longwave – Secrets Are Sinister
    Matthew Sweet – Sunshine Lies
    The Baseball Project – Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails
    Robert Pollard – Robert Pollard Is Off To Business
    The Wedding Present – El Rey
    Sloan – Parallel Play
    The Whigs – Mission Control

  • rustedrobot

    @Matt
    I don’t know about The Hold Steady. I guess adventurous isn’t the word. I mean, I think the album is fine, I just think it’s a complete re-tread of the previous. Which is fine.

    As far as Nada Surf, you didn’t introduce them to me, but you did prompt me to listen to them again – so thank you.

  • Hey, isn’t Sam Champion a band and not a “he”? At least, this Sam Champion (and not that one)?

  • Anonymous

    @Paul
    You’re probably right Paul……..by the way, do you like Jethro Tull? I think he’s awesome!

  • Alexi

    Re: Okkervil River, I loved the eponymous first track on Black Sheep Boy in a borderline unhealthy, play it 10,000 times in a row, kind of way, but didn’t really enjoy the rest of that album…mainly because the rest of the album was a much different, more muted style than that track. This song is more in line with the reserved passion of Black Sheep Boy (whatever that means). Will need to give this album a full-blown sample.

  • Alexi

    btw, obviously I didn’t like it *that* much, because the song I was obsessed with was actually For Real (Track #2), not Black Sheep Boy.

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