Uncle E’s 2008 Album Round-Up

Well it turned out to be another decent year didn’t it? I mean, other than the economy, the war, the housing market continuing to spiral into the abyss, the auto industry losing billions, over a million people losing their jobs (and millions of others living in fear), mainstay institutions like the LA Times going belly-up…buy hey at least we had some decent tunes!

The below lists reflect what I believe to be the best albums of new material , best re-issues and biggest disappointments released in the year 2008, and yes they’re in order. That’s always the toughest part, especially when there were so many great albums released last year.   It seemed to start off kind of slow but picked up steam somewhere near September and finished really quite strong these last two months. Some old favorites got their acts together and released super fine records while some newbie’s made a memorable first impression on yours truly.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the reissues this year. Nick Lowe, OMD, New Order, Squeeze and Elvis Costello all  released excellent packages of their earlier classics that knocked some of the original 2008 material off of rotation for a goodly portion of time.

And, like any year, there were some disappointments. Albums by groups that usually deliver the goods that didn’t, some in a very grotesque fashion. Others fall under the “meh” file. All are listed below.

These lists are certainly up for debate and knowing the readership here at The Nightmare like I think I do the comments section should be abuzz with some heated opinions about my selections. I wouldn’t have it any other way, folks.

So have at it and have some fun! Tell me what I missed so I can run out and purchase your favs at my earliest convenience. I don’t know what 2009 has in store for us yet so I’ll need to stock up.

Top 20 Albums Of 2008

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#1. Dig Lazarus Dig by Nick Cave:  Ever since this album was released in March of this year it has captured my interest and imagination. Beelzebub’s very own personal lounge singer is back and he’s horny, angry and funny as hell. It seems that Nick’s last side project with the Bad Seeds charged his batteries somewhat. Gone are the more sensitive and symphonic soundscapes of Lyre Of Orpheus, replaced by a barn storming and intelligent set of songs that I believe are the finest of his super long discography

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#2. Electric Arguments, by The Fireman:  Ok I’ll be honest here. I’ve only listened to this a few times since it’s release and don’t actually own a copy…yet. But from the first listen I knew that Paul McCartney’s songwriting juices were flowin’ once again and in grand ways. For the uninitiated this is Paul’s collaboration with Killing Joke bassist and electronic pioneer/ producer Youth. Their first two “albums” were fine examples of ambient electronica mixed with McCartney’s knack for a melody but this betters both by a very wide margin. It’s a little edgier (witness the Helter Skelter-isms of opening track (Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight). Although McCartney’s contributions are at the forefront it is Youth’s atmospherics that give the album it’s modern feel. Truly a collaboration in the best sense of the word

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#3. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes:  I avoided this album for the longest time, perhaps due to the massive hype surrounding it’s release and the constant mention of their mix of influences (CSNY, Brian Wilson, etc) in all too glowing reviews. I got caught up in that with Panda Bear’s Person Pitch and have never listened to that one since. Anyway, this is a really really great album and although the influences can be heard they don’t take away the originality of the songs themselves, only adding to the overall enjoyment, in my opinion.

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#4. Parallel Play by Sloan:  Another power pop gem of an album by Canada’s favorite band since Chilliwack! Aw, I’m only kidding my Canukian cousins! These guys remain consistently excellent album after album after album. The Big Star of our generation.

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#5. Working Man’s Café by Ray Davies:  More pristine character sketches from the guy that invented brit-pop and his second album in as many years. It’s a more “bouncier” affair than last year’s Other People’s Lives and a tad edgier but no less enjoyable. With a new box set from the Kinks (just released!) this fine album should get the attention it so rightfully deserves.

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#6. 22 Dreams by Paul Weller:  Weller delivers his finest in  years and although it may be a cliché this album is a snapshot of everything best about his solo career. Folky, psychedelic, rocking and heartfelt, 22 Dreams is a great achievement for someone who’s been going strong since 1977!

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#7. Modern Guilt by Beck:  Beck is one of those artists that consistently put out interesting albums but only rarely terrific ones. Each album since his debut have contained some excellent tracks, but only Odelay, the neon freak-out Midnight Vultures and melancholy Sea Change have been great as whole pieces. You can add Modern Guilt to that list. It’s a looser album than The Information and not nearly as bloated clocking in at just over 30 minutes. 
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#8. In The Future by Black Mountain:  Canadian hippy politicos with Black Sabbath guitars and long beards doesn’t sound like something you’d like? Try it and you may be surprised by the tunefulness of this collective. While you’re at it download their single Druggernaut as well.

 

mmj#9. Evil Urges by My Morning Jacket:  One of my most anticipated releases this year I must say I was a tad disappointed at first. Still not as good as the magnificent “Z”, but is growing on me each time I take it for a spin, particularly I Think I’m Going To Scream pt’s 1 and 2. Still spacey, still have that Crazy Horse on the moon vibe, but evolving into something different.

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#10. Songs In A & E by Spiritualized:  Jason Pierce has crafted his best set of songs since the masterpiece that was Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. Less symphonic than the previous effort (only one full orchestra on this one, I believe) and more song focused it’s held together as a concept by the themes of death and redemption running through the album. Worth a listen.

#11. Take A Good Look by The Fleshtones:  Good old fashioned goofy rock and roll by these garage rock stalwarts. ‘Nuff said?

#12. Flight Of The Knife by Brian Scary And The Shredding Tears:  The most fun you’ll have listening to an album all year. This album combines the sound styling’s of Queen and ELO with gleeful abandon; never pretentious or overly goofy, this record is a rarity. Just good old fashioned 70’s fun!

#13. Snowflake Midnight/ Strange Attractor by Mercury Rev:  Another highly anticipated release. More sequencers than I’d like, but the Rev have never been one to go with what’s fashionable. Snowflake Midnight is the album proper while Strange Attractor is the instrumental album offered as a free download on the day of release. It’s moody, romantic and a hell of a long strange trip…but pretty nifty nonetheless.

#14. Chemical Chords by Stereolab:  As my bud Rumproast says, “It reminds me of what a great band these guys were/ are”. Still kitschy, still bouncy and still a great listen after all these years. They may not be trendsetters anymore but they still do retro better than anyone.

#15. Beautiful Future by Primal Scream:  Oh how I wanted to love this one! Their last effort was utter dogshit (Riot City Blues) and I was really hoping for a return to form. What I got was much better than Riot City Blues but not quite up to par with the best (XTRMNTR, Screamadelica, Vanishing Point). It’s the Scream’s version of a pop album, and it succeeds overall. The title track and many others (including a duet with Linda Thompson!) rank up their with their best but Bobby’s silly lyrics and one of the worst tunes recorded by anyone ever (Zombie Man) keep it from being a stone cold classic. Good but not great.

#16. Stainless Style by Neon Neon:  Fun concept album about car designer John DeLorean by Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys. The music itself is an homage to 80’s synth bands but they do it with style and there’s not an ounce of irony to be found.

#17. Momofuku by Elvis Costello:  A down and dirty release by Costello which contains one of his best tracks ever in the wonderful “Go Away”. We need this guy to keep releasing records like this.

#18. Alpacas Orgling by L.E.O.:  Similar to Brian Scary’s 2008 effort (see #12) but without the Queen. You’d think an entire album dedicated to aping the sound styling’s of Jeff Lynne would be terrible, but you’d be wrong.

#19. Mountain Battles by The Breeders:  Not quite up there with Last Splash, but hey! What is? Deal is back and seemingly invigorated by the recent interest in her old band’s back catalogue. But this one stands up on it’s own merits as a darker twin of their previous effort.

#20. Stop Drop And Roll by Foxboro Hot Tubs:  The boys from Green Day go back into the garage, listen to a little Kinks, a little ? And The Mysterians and slam out one of the rawest, retro rock and roll records of the year.

Just Missed The Top 20

#21. Stay Positive, The Hold Steady
#22. You Cross My Path, The Charlatans
#23. Flight Of The Conchords by Flight Of The Conchords
#24. The 59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem
#25. The Stand-Ins by Okkervil River
#26. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend
#27. The Bedlam In Goliath by The Mars Volta
#28. Microcastle by Deerhunter
#29. Nouns by No Age
#30. Third by Portishead

Best Re-Issues Of The Year

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#1. Jesus Of Cool by Nick Lowe
#2. Tell Tale Signs by Bob Dylan
#3. Dazzle Ships by Orchestral Maneuvres In The Dark
#4, #5, #6, #7. Technique, Low Life, Power Corruption and Lies and Brotherhood by New Order

Biggest Disappointments Of The Year, Or Deserving Of  A Rating Of “MEH”

Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
The Verve, Four
Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun
Calexico, Carried to Dust
The Cure, 4:13 Dream
Kings Of Leon, Only by the Night
Tv On The Radio, Dear Science
Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul
Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy
REM, Accelerate

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