If I had any inkling that this list would be easy, you can slap me upside the head and call me an idiot. Compiling a list of my 10 favorite albums from 2008 is like asking me to pick my favorite kind of gummy candy. I can’t. They’re all good in their own distinctly flavorful way.
After finally narrowing it down to the 10 “beast” [best] albums, I had a handful that deserve Honorable Mention status. And briefly, here’s why.
HM5. Santogold / Diplo – Top Ranking
Super hot mixtape that y’all should own. Legally. ;)
HM4. Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold
Slug and Ant’s 6th studio album presents storytelling, songwriting, and musicality at its finest.
HM3. Britney Spears – Circus
You can’t deny the power of a good hook by Bloodshy and Avant. And ringmaster top hats.
HM2. Microfilm – The Slingshot Orchestra
Opulent electronics and grandiose minimalism. We likey.
HM1. Little Boots – Arecibo EP
So it’s not a full length, but how else would we be introduced to Stuck On Repeat and Meddle? [big wink to that]
And now on to the meat and 'taters.
Following a five-year absence since Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique came out swinging with The 3rd World, debuting at number 99 on the Billboard 200 chart. With the standard generous helping from all of his cronies, Tech put out one of the most lyrically relevant albums of the year.
Singing in a haunting, sensual wail, Santi White adds a layer of softness to an unusual mix of synthesizers, dance hall rhythms, and percolating new wave sounds on her debut album. It’s been noted that “the collaborators and players may change, the sounds may shift, but at the center is one woman's indelible vision”. Powerful chords marry an at times voice of desperation for a young generation. Solid from start to finish.
Yes it took 3 years to finally have it released in the US, and although it was released more than 3 years prior in her native Sweden, Robyn’s self-titled album was able to transcend time. Her style and star still seems to be peaking, thanks in part to collaborations with Kleerup, Alexander Kronlund and Karin Dreijer Andersson, not to mention a few new reworks and remixes in ’08, as well as some sly verses with Snoop Dogg. The 3 year delay makes this fall lower than I’d like it to land, but so be it.
Raphael Saadiq's The Way I See It is satisfying for both old school heads and today's hip music buyers: his background as a musician, singer and songwriter is steeped in a love for R&B married with a commitment to making his own brand of expressive soul music. The Way I See It has the kind of smooth musical flow associated with great records made by pioneering producers at famous R&B companies like Motown, Invictus and Brunswick. From the foot-tapping opening track, Sure Hope You Mean It, to the head-shaking reflective closer Sometimes, Raphael delivers a present day potent ode to a bygone era. Loyal Tony! Toni! Toné! fans will particularly appreciate 100 Yard Dash, which Raphael described as "a juke joint, Booker T.-type groove. I reflected back to my first T!T!T! albums when I was singing in a high tenor voice." It’s a masterful collection of new material that speaks to Raphael Saadiq's deep love for rhythm and blues.
Stainless Style is the debut album from Neon Neon, a project from Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys and electronic artist Boom Bip. Designed as a full-on concept record about the wives and lives of John DeLorean, the first playboy engineer, it is a frivolous and frenetic superpop record. Need more convincing? I Lust U, featuring Cate Le Bon, is a deliriously poignant lovers’ lament, enough to give you the best kind of chills.
A late January 08 release in Lykke Li’s homeland of Sweden made the tiny lass an international sensation, well before her summer release in the States. Pairing eccentric arrangements and vocal stylings with signature dance movement, Lykke Li warmed the hearts across all genres this year. So when you see that mohawked blister sporting a lip ring and child-predator glasses rocking out to his headphones, you can feel pretty confident in guessing that he’s grooving to I’m Good, I’m Gone. It’s science.
Detroit-area born, DC-area based musician Zo! and rapper/singer Phonte of the group Little Brother joined together in 2008 for Zo! and Tigallo Love the 80's, a collection of 80's cover songs. The duo started collaborating back in 2006, starting with their take on Joe Jackson's classic Steppin Out. The full albums also contatins covers of Toto's Africa and A-ha's Take On Me, however the track to receive the most critical acclaim and fan approval is there take on Level 42’s Something About You. Quite possibly one of the top 5 most played tracks I divulged in this year. Great grooves with an intense falsetto make for a gorgeous rework.
Ladyhawke (AKA New Zealand girl Pip Brown) was raised in the 80's with a musical family and grew up listening to the likes of Stevie Nicks, Deep Purple and Joan Jett. Beginning as the drummer in a school band, Pip plays four different instruments on her debut album.Brown wrote, arranged and plays on all the songs on the album working alongside several guest producers. Magic, Another Runway, My Delirium, Morning Dreams and Dusk Till Dawn were produced with her chief collaborator, world-renowned producer Pascal Gabriel. And with a resounding YES, OH YES, we fell in love hard with the sights and sounds of Ladyhawke.
We Started Nothing is the debut album from The Ting Tings. Tipped in the top three of the BBC's Sound of 2008 poll at the beginning of the year, seemingly, the year started out with the mindest that they have much to prove. However, The Ting Tings defied that notion and simply put out an album in the hopes that they, and we, would enjoy it. Making great British pop music - their way - is what they're about. Katie White and Jules De Martino’s debut album is brimming with intuitive pop noise. It's pure garage-pop and once heard will in-bed itself into your subconscious for many days, weeks, months to come. Snappy choruses trade off against angular guitar work, whip smart drumming and a succession of loops that they create live with the use of delay pedals. One of the best albums of the past 5 years, hands down.
Some People Have Real Problems is the third studio album by Australian singer Sia. It is also the album that was released the earliest, yet stood the test of time to make it to the number one spot on my list of best albums for the year. Many of the songs on this album shimmer with a radio-friendly gloss, but the show belongs to this eccentric Aussie, who bravely subverts the accessible production through winking and sometimes sinister lyrics. Paired with vocal accompaniment by Beck on the mathematically haunting, Academia, Sia delivers a captivating, yet dark take on the joining of like souls. Late in the year, the release of Soon We’ll Be Found as a single saw Sia on the promo tour, including a stop by David Letterman, in which the footage still has the ability to make me tear up to this day. Alongside a visually obsessed knack for the strange, Sia will make you think twice about what you're seeing, but can't distract from the intoxicating soundscape she delivers.
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