Best Albums of 2008
by Dan
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


1. Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow, and Blue - "Foxes Mate For Life"
Somehow two things can sometimes come into existence at the same time. Like babies who look the same and also happen to be named the same name. But when this happens, one wins, right? VHS beat Beta, Madonna beat Cyndi Lauper, and unbelievably, Vampire Weekend beat Born Ruffians. Both their big debuts kind of offer to fill the same kind of role of "clear new vision and singular charming, moving new musical voice." But it's unfortunate that Vampire Weekend got all the credit, because Born Ruffians blow them out of the water, right out. So this is the best album of the year because it's flawless and fuck Vampire Weekend. [Buy]

2. Ladyhawk - Shots - "I Don't Always Know What You're Saying"
A forest at night. If you scrape the bark off the trees, you can hear songs that sound familiar, but drip with the dark fresh sap of the tree. Ladyhawk has made an album so vital I can't think of another way to describe it except for the blood of trees. It's not human blood, it's tougher, harder, ready for danger, it's more removed. It's familiar with humans, it's been watching them, harmed by them, but is not itself human. [Buy]

3. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping - "Nonpareil of Favor"
Nothing has the shape you thought it would. Suitcases are used like life rafts, fruit like wall-hangings, windows like doors and vice-versa. But in this world where it feels like conversations happen with people talking at the same time, and every day has a different tempo, precarious, still there is magnetic, towering, thorny, blessed and bloody, truth. To hell and back with gender, sex, race, fame, subservience, control, and charm. [Buy]

4. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams - "My Favorite Year"
Destroyer has sewn the clouds into the snow on the mountains. Every song seems to fade to white, after bursting with gold or red or blue flower and flame. Epic one step at a time. [Buy]

5. Wild Beasts - Limbo, Panto - "Brave, Bulging, Buoyant, Clairvoyants"
Limbo, Panto is hard to listen to all at once. It's kind of like a 10-course meal, just over the half-way mark you're kind of thinking, "okay, that much again?" But that's only a quirk and not a detriment, there's just too much to love here. A list of some of the things you can think of when you listen: ghosts, opera, Morissey, picnic with a stereo, socks dancing, bike riding, witches, fake women voices. [Buy]

6. Hologram - Summer Jammer - "Mommies"
This band doesn't even have an album yet, but I couldn't ignore them. Such promise I rarely see. Caroline's voice comes straight from out of the woods, full of spring water and hollow logs, and she always sings strange and swaying and moonlit. And the guitars are loud in just the right way, they really make it sound easy. They made the most consistent collection of 6 songs of anyone this year, and I'm told there's a full album coming out next year, and I've heard one song from it already, I can tell you we haven't heard the last at all. [Buy from Insound, with insane blurb written by me]

7. Lykke Li - Youth Novels - "Breaking it Up"
5 songs out of 12 isn't even half. One show on a whole tour is only a fraction. But these things are enough for me to consider Lykke Li, and her first album, a masterpiece. Every side of her is marvelous, rich, full, gorgeous. [Buy]

8. The Whiskers - Distorted Historian - "Heat Death"
Distorted Historian is kind of like the Synecdoche, New York of albums. It's cool and warm, it's completely touching and personal and affecting and true, but also horrifying, wrong, and made of parts that don't all fit together. It's marvelous, and I liked my time with it, but if I listen to it too much the goddamn winds of old age, sickness, forgetting, dreaming, wishing, disappointment, small victories, real-life love and all else starts to weigh a little heavy on my admittedly sensitive little shoulders. Here's to whiskers, and The Whiskers. [Free! / Buy]

9. Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea - "Party Barge"
I used to go to a cottage in the summer times, and on that lake there was an actual Party Barge. It was this floating deck covered in astroturf, with a tent and some lawn chairs and a cooler on it, with a little prop motor on the back, and it would pup-pup around the lake, slow as can be, and the people on it would turn and wave to every beach they passed. Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is a beautiful and sincere Party Barge. Huge, friendly, calm, comforting and slow with still plenty of room to party. So much care and love and offered-up confession. [Buy]

10. Diamonds - Diamonds - "Diamonds"
This album is about one thing. I don't know what it is, I don't think they know what it is, but if you listen to this album, like if you listen to On Avery Island or Aw Come, Aw Wry, you start to see it reveal itself. Some kind of alive idea that goes beyond similar beats and chords, those are just the only ways of dealing with this same idea. [Get!]


tomorrow: Sean's Top Songs of the Year.

also: Shaq's twitter account

Posted by Dan at December 11, 2008 12:35 AM


Posted by matthew at December 11, 2008 1:53 AM

yesssss born ruffians yessss, on the money

Posted by jess at December 11, 2008 7:52 AM

Interesting list, Dan! I'm rather embarrassed to say that I haven't heard several of these... but will look for them now.

Posted by Amy at December 11, 2008 1:02 PM

"fuck vampire weekend"

fuck vampire weekend!

Posted by sam at December 11, 2008 2:07 PM

boring year and the ruffians are nothing to get excited about.

Posted by kafka at December 11, 2008 5:27 PM

dude, YES
not only fuck vampire weekend, but Red, Yellow & Blue IS the best album of the year
MTL knows

Posted by biedrins at December 11, 2008 7:43 PM

Good stuff, somehow a lot of it reminds me of Talking Heads

Posted by mirazza at December 11, 2008 8:08 PM

I don't liek the Of Montreal record very much but otherwise, good list man

Posted by Hanan at December 11, 2008 9:33 PM

hey dan.

Would you mind changing the whiskers link to read "Buy/Free" or something along those lines?

it's a free download, and i think we'd like as many people as possible to hear it.

music is for sharing. sharing is caring.

Posted by karpe at December 12, 2008 12:05 AM

Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Posted by dmfb at December 12, 2008 7:13 PM

I'm surprised how many people seem to have plum forgotten the Born Ruffians album now that it is list-making time. It is a nearly flawless plum.
Now I'm hungry.

Posted by meghan at December 16, 2008 12:44 AM

Great list. Here's mine.

Posted by George Dvorsky at December 17, 2008 10:17 PM

Wow. I had not heard of The Whiskers. I just got it and it is fantastic! Thank you so much for knowing about them to share this information. Your list is going to ruin the one I just created.

Posted by Matt at December 20, 2008 9:48 PM

right the motherfuck on with born ruffians

Posted by skyler at December 22, 2008 8:39 PM

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