The caring and jovial Mrs. Pax Arcana and I were sad to see our upstairs neighbor, The Good Doctor, leave for the swamps of D.C. earlier this year. But just because he’s gone — and he abandoned his own blog almost a year ago — doesn’t mean TGD can’t contribute to our ongoing series on the best music of 2008 (Perry posted his list yesterday — expect Father Scott, Fallen Angel and I to contribute our own soon).
The Good Doctor, apart from being The Man Who Will Singlehandedly Rescue the American Economy, is an exceedingly knowledgeable music fan. Here, with only minor grammatical edits, is his list:
This year I’ve particularly gotten into the Americana genre, as my year-end list will indicate. At last count, I’ve bought around 50 albums released this year. Here are my favorites:
12. Frightened Rabbit — “The Midnight Organ Fight”
11. Vampire Weekend — “Vampire Weekend”
Meh, mostly harmless.
10. Plants and Animals — “Parc Avenue”
These guys have a Talking Heads (Burning Down the House era) jam-bandy feel to them, which I totally dig.
9. The Weepies — “Hideaway”
I actually think this is a more solid album than their debut. It’s more upbeat, too! Try the title track, “Hideaway”:
8. These United States — “Crimes”
The first of many Americana-ish albums on the list. Much much better than their debut. Try “Honor Amongst Theives”:
7. Langhorne Slim — “Langhorne Slim”
So this was the year my tastes strongly shifted towards Americana, and Langhorne Slim strongly fits the bill. Try “Rebel Side of Heaven” or “Worries.” Try “Restless”, here on Letterman:
6. Tift Merritt — “Another Country”
Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely nothing groundbreaking or special about this album. It’s almost straight up alt-country, no funny business (maybe even drop the “alt” on that). I kept coming back to this album time after time this year, which must mean that it’s meaningful, but I really can’t articulate why. It’s just solid, well-written and tuneful music. Here’s “Broken”:
5. Jason Collett — “Here’s to Being Here”
I don’t have a lot to say about this. The music is richer than singer-songwriter stuff tends to be; he’s part of Broken Social Scene; and the record is sublime. Here’s “Out of the Blue”:
4. Bon Iver — “For Emma, Forever Ago”
This should probably place higher, and if this ranking was for “best music, artistically speaking,” it probably would: incredibly well-written music which is perfect for a snowy evening, and I bet it’s doubly-excellent live. I just don’t happen to listen to this as frequently as I do the higher-ranked albums: it’s not quite something I can hum along to on the morning commute.
Check out “The Wolves”:
and “Skinny Love”:
3. She & Him — “Volume One”
I absolutely love M. Ward. One of my favorite all-time singer-songwriters: his slow, gravelly-voiced, old AM-radio style is timeless and perfect for late evening nights or cold Sunday afternoons. I first met Zooey Daschenel as Buddy the Elf’s love interest in “Elf,” in which she sings “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the shower. Given the similar vocal style to M. Ward, She & Him is a natural – and somewhat obvious – collaberation. I had incredibly high expectations for the album, and I must admit to being a little underwhelmed in the end. Her songs are sometimes cute, sometimes touching, but generally a little vacuous. Also, I could use me a little more M. Ward (the lyrics and tunes are largely hers; the rest of the composition, I suspect, is him; she’s 95% of the vocals). I hear they have plans for a Volume Two, though, which can’t come soon enough! (M. Ward’s sixth – “Hold Time” – is coming out this spring).
I adore the song, the video is wacked-out.
2. Dr. Dog — “Fate”
Love them, have nothing to say about them.
and especially “From” (only song, no video):
1. Fleet Foxes — “Fleet Foxes”
I like to think these guys sound like if My Morning Jacket went all-acoustic, joined forces with a college Glee Club, and sang tranquil, pastoral songs in the middle of a forest clearing. They have the same sort of vocal-reverb sound as Band of Horses and MMJ, but there’s something more peaceful and intoxicating about this music.
Plenty of up-tempo tunes, too: try “White Winter Hymnal” (video below), “Ragged Wood”, and “Your Protector.” I imagine that in a few years I’ll still be pulling this one out for a listen, which I think is more than can I can say for anything else this year. Thus, my year-end favorite.
Honorable mentions: Thao, “We Brave Bee Stings and All”; Hold Steady, “Stay Positive”; British Sea Power, “Do You Like Rock Music?”; Bonny Prince Billy, “Lie Down in the Light.”
I’ll also note my favorite album that I first heard this year is Christopher Denny’s “Age Old Hunger” (along the same lines as M. Ward, Langhorne Slim, A.A. Bondy, Deer Tick, etc.). But it was released last year, so it doesn’t count. Also, Deer Tick’s “War Elephant” – one of my favorites from last year that has progressively grown on me – was re-released this year, so technically it could make my list, as was A.A. Bondy’s album “American Hearts.” All three of these albums might top my 2008 list if they weren’t released years ago…
Previously: Top 10 Albums of 2008: Perry Ellis Edition