The Best Albums of 2008

Well, Hooks and Harmony has made it to the end of 2008. I started with a  bang  – I couldn’t stop writing. But it was like running a sprint at the beginning of a marathon, and I ran out of gas. I’m learning to pace myself now, a bit slower, and I’m not so worried about “winning” – i.e., making it to the top of Technorati or quitting my day job. And it is fun. Blogging about music brings together my three most favorite hobbies – music, writing and the Internets. I’ve interviewed artists, gained new friends, achieved some temporary fame through StumbleUpon, and made a whopping $7.99 from ads. Woo hoo!

So now I give you my Best Albums of 2008 – just under the wire. I listened to quite a few albums this year, and when I looked back on iTunes, only 12 had actually stayed on my playlist. I’ve narrowed them down to 10, which means that Mates of State and Sam Phillips didn’t make the cut. Here’s what did:

  1. She & Him. The only stinkers on here are the cover songs, which shows that Elf star Zooey Deschanel should have written more material. Her songs are sublime, and when coupled with her plainspoken voice, they remind you of every ’60s classic.
  2. Neptune City, Nicole Atkins. This was technically released in 2007, but late enough that it can qualify for 2008. A strong, almost melodramatic singer whose voice can carry any song.
  3. Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie. This former indie band was coming dangerously close to mainstream, which usually means that they sell out in some way that ticks me off.  Although it doesn’t contain classics like their predecessor, Plans, it’s a more consistent album – beautiful in a somewhat morose way.
  4. SheBANG!, Kelly Jones. I haven’t reviewed this yet, having just gotten it a few weeks ago, but it’s already vaulted into heavy rotation. A review will follow quickly in 2009. Think Kirsty MacColl.
  5. Adrian Bourgeois. The son of pop singer-songwriter Brent Bourgeois created one heck of a debut album – well-crafted pop tunes that no doubt make his father proud.
  6. Pretty.Odd., Panic at the Disco. The emo group’s sophomore effort took a decidedly pop turn, a musical soundtrack similar to Sergeant Pepper. I hope they continue this trend.
  7. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, Sigur Ros. Iceland’s dream-pop group went a little more mainstream with this release, which also means that they were a little more accessible. But the result is still atmospheric and beautiful.
  8. Hideaway, The Weepies. Innocent, harmless indie pop seems like a euphemism for boring. But with this album, you just don’t have to think. You just sit back and enjoy the music.
  9. Accelerate, R.E.M. Finally. The R.E.M. I grew up with is finally back with an in-your-face, rockin’ CD.
  10. Freedom Wind, The Explorers Club. It’s the Beach Boys without the annoying Mike Love. I would have had a great intervew with these guys, but their press guy blew me off. Here’s hoping he has a Google Alert for his band to remind him yet once again that he didn’t get my questions answered.

Happy New Year, everyone! Dang. I didn’t make it in time for 2008.

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