(I will be posting my Top 10 lists for each year this decade over the next couple weeks. This gives me a chance to do some revision, as some releases I didn’t discover until after I made my list, while a few like Kings of Leon rose greatly after further reflection. Here is the original list link.)
Before I put up my list, let me offer up this guidepost to how I put together my list. While I appreciate music that challenges me, first and foremost, I’m seeking out things that sound good to my ears. I need me some hooks. Also, I try to listen with the notion of will the music hold up in 5 or 10 years. I think most of this stuff will. As you can tell from my list, it is not exactly Top 40 radio, but it isn’t just made up of what will give me hipster status.
1. REM– Accelerate
When I bought this, I thought the first 3 songs were as good as anything I had heard kick off any CD since American Idiot. I wasn’t as crazy about the rest of it, but over time, it started to grow on me. A great comeback for America’s greatest rock and roll band of all-time.
2. Kings of Leon- Only by Night
I have never missed so badly on a band the first time I listened to them. I still feel there records before this are a bit overrated, but in 2008, they lived up to all the hype. Transcendent choruses like they were channeling 1980’s U-2, but with a southern rock vibe that makes the song all their own. The 2 best rock radio songs released were Sex on Fire and Use Somebody. REM and Kings of Leon bridged the gap between classic rock and college radio in 2008.
This also reminds me of my college radio station back in the 80’s. Like many of the white kids then who were playing around with ska like the Police, English Beat, etc., they might lack authentic street cred, but they do happy afropop as well as I’ve heard in a long time.
4. Girl Talk
Most hip-hop music this decade has left me wanting, but the master mashup’s of DJ Greg Gilis has helped me better understand the charms of some of the most successful rappers of today. I can’t say I have listened to any 2008 release as much as this one.
5. Frightened Rabbit- The Midnight Organ Fight
Another great Scottish rock band. The brogue that singer Scott Hutchison brings to their sound makes you feel like you are in an awesome pub in Glasgow, feeling his ache for the very first time.
I’m a sucker for a piano-based rock band, so when I was really disappointed by Ben Fold’s newest, I didn’t figure I would find my fill-in. Then I stumbled upon this group, led by a front-man with a Billy Joel-sounding voice, but with some Dr. John-like boogie when tickling the keys.
7. She and Him– Volume One
Actress Zooey Deschanel has always had a not of this generation feel to her performances in movies, now she brings that voice to music. Great 60’s Spector-like sound.
8. MGMT– Oracular Spectacular
While it has a couple clunkers, the high notes on this dance/rock record show the influence that 80’s dance music has had on bands like the Flaming Lips.
9. Keane- Perfect Symmetry
The theme for 2008 might just be how taking from the 80’s and putting a modern touch to it is gold. While not of the quality of Muse, Keane has been another band pigeonholed as a Radiohead wannabe, but have been far from tribute acts. For the first time, Keane puts together a cohesive record from beginning to end.
10a. Ting Tings- We Started Nothing
While Lady Gaga and the Blackeyed Peas have dominated pop radio, the catchiest, sing-songiest band around are the Ting Tings. They are like a modern-day Blondie, with Katie White doing a Rapture-like Debby Harry which achieves pop ecstasy on That’s Not My Name and Shut Up and Let Me Go.
10b. Shinedown– The Sound of Madness
It’s interesting how close you can be from the worst in music, Nickelback, and still be really great. Meet Shinedown. Faceless hard rockers who can rock like Metallica, but groove a strong ballad like Styx. They have put out a number of good singles on their first 2 releases, but this was the first time they were able to go strong from beginning to end. The Sound of Madness might be the Foreigner 4 of the decade. For those hipsters who think that is a bad thing, I will respond by saying it’s hard to jam out in the car listening to TV on the Radio.