Just when you thought 2008 was gone for good

Now that the green bean casseroles of Christmas and the champagne hangovers of New Year’s Eve have passed, there’s been some time and space to consider all the great tunes of 2008. Granted, just about everyone remotely interested in popular music compiles this kind of a list. It’s a handy way to take stock of which artists you’ve enjoyed over the last 12 months of your life, whose work has surprised you, any trends you’ve noticed in the music business, all that fun stuff.

If you’re like me, you’d rather think about these sort of developments over that ugly “Where am I and what am I doing and where is it all going?” conundrum. Yay, avoidance!

As a way to introduce myself, I thought I would post the links to the Best of ’08 lists from sources I trust in turning me onto pleasing aural sounds. I’m also including my personal ’08 faves and somewhat pithy explanations about why they float my boat. If you like my selections, care to suggest similar songs and artists for me to obsess over, or just want to tell me I’m stupid and have no business owning an iPod, feel free to comment!

My Top Ten Albums of 2008 in no particular order because that’s like asking me to tell you which of my children I love the most (the answer is my cat):

  • Fleet Foxes ~ Fleet Foxes ~ Sub Pop

White Winter Hymnal

I, like every person and their mothers in the Northwest especially, became way excited about this band. Mainly, it’s “White Winter Hymnal” that makes me fall hard each time I hear them. I linked to a Youtube video of the acoustic version of the song because you hear just how gorgeously the harmonies stack up against each other.

  • Yoav ~ Charmed & Strange ~ Verve Forecast

Club Thing [Due to copywright issues, the link to this song was deleted.]

When I first encountered Yoav, he opened for Tori Amos at a show at the Schnitz. Like Ms. Amos, he singlehandedly creates a complex, rich sound, except he uses a number of pedals as opposed to a piano. His voice makes me swoon, just a little.

  • Ra Ra Riot ~ The Rhumb Line ~ Barsuk

Run My Mouth

Lush string arrangements provide the soundtrack for perseverance after tragedy. Could you ask for more with your first full-length album? Ra Ra Riot suffered the sad loss of their drummer in 2007 but honored him by putting this very quintessential Barsukian record out last August.

  • Breeders ~ Mountain Battles ~ 4AD


You almost want to say something insensitive like, “Man, if the Deals can put albums like this together, I don’t care how many drugs they’re on!” But ultimately, we want the sisters Deal and the rest of the Breeders healthy and sane so they can keep giving the world songs that run the range from peppy and anthemic to abstract and sprawling.

  • Blitzen Trapper ~ Furr ~ Sub Pop

Black River Killer

That “Gacy” number by Sufjan Stevens paved the way in the Pretty Songs about Serial Killers genre. Like Stevens, local favorites Blitzen Trapper have enough lyrical and technical talent to sing about murderers, or the desire for a less regimented and more organic way of life, or, you know, love and stuff. I can’t wait to hear more from these guys.

  • Allison Moorer ~ Mockingbird ~ New Line

Dancing Barefoot

I’m such a sucker for covers. Sometimes re-interpretations can be self-indulgent, sometimes they are superfluous compared to the originals. When Allison Moorer released this album of cover songs, her reworkings turned into daring, thoughtful pieces worth investigation beyond their predecessors. It’s what I had hoped Cat Power’s Jukebox would be. As it happens, Moorer does a wonderfully mournful take on “Where Is My Love” that almost made me forget that Chan Marshall released anything this past year, and that’s a tough feat. Here, Moorer takes a song by Patti Smith previously thought of as untouchable and turns it into a bar siren’s call.

  • Elbow ~ The Seldom Seen Kid ~ Polydor

Grounds for Divorce

The first line of this song – “I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce” – has Elbow channeling Tom Waits at his most cheeky. Their album is mightily produced, their sound is varied and almost daunting, and the comparisons to better known bands from the UK are so obvious that I won’t go into them here. But all Sounds Like games aside, this album is a force to be reckoned with.

  • M83 ~ Saturdays = Youth ~ Mute

Graveyard Girl

M83 made an album that you can kind of dance to, at points. That works for me.

  • Ratatat ~ LP3 ~ XL


My friend suggested that the best way to appreciate Ratatat is to create a scenario, like a scene from a movie or an animated short, to accompany the music. When I hear this song – and I chose this song often during many bus rides to and from my job – I picture someone spacing out and watching the clock at his place of employ. Sometimes, it’s a cubicle farm. Other times, it’s in front of the fryer at a fast food joint. The dazed employee’s reverie always involves fending off some adversary, whether it’s an errant printer or a gang of french fries. The employee, in any version of my visualization, looks a little like Evan Mast from Ratatat. But in the end, no matter what the fantasy involves, the employee ends up being the one who gets saved by a co-worker who looks, coincidentally, like me. Weird how that works.

  • Bon Iver ~ For Emma, Forever Ago ~ Jagjaguwar

Skinny Love

As we in Portland, OR brace ourselves for another cold and cloudy couple of months, we tend to seek out artists who excel at drawing out our quiet, more introspective moods. That may explain why the city of Portland drinks more microbrewed beer and PBR than any other place in the U.S. per capita. But that makes me wish I had known about Bon Iver much earlier, like before Arctic Blast ’08 made curmudgeons out of everyone. This song makes me want to stare out the window at the rain while clutching a glass of a dark stout close to me.

All Songs Considered: NPR Music




3 Responses to “Just when you thought 2008 was gone for good”

  1. 1 Danielle January 12, 2009 at 4:19 AM

    Welcome to the blogosphere! That’s a pretty mighty list you have going on right now. I can’t believe I haven’t listened to ANY of them. Guess it’s time to get crackin’, right?

    • 2 oldvertue0103 January 12, 2009 at 5:56 AM

      Thanks, hon! Don’t worry about ’08 too much – there’s going to be lots of neato tunes to jam on this year.

  1. 1 Gorge on the three B’s (waffle not required but delicious) « The Sound and the Nerdy Trackback on February 18, 2009 at 6:49 AM

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