Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Favorite Albums of 2008

[Originally published at MadeLoud]

1. Amadou & Mariam – Welcome to Mali

The latest effort by Mali’s premiere husband-and-wife duo isn’t as instantly catchy as its Manu Chao-produced predecessor, but this mind-blowing amalgam of Afro-funk, folk and even electronica is even more ambitious. There simply aren’t many more exciting acts anywhere on the globe.

2. Yahowa 13 – Sonic Portation

It may not have been the year’s most talked-about reunion, but the return of this ‘70s psych-rock trio was by far the most fruitful. Over an album’s worth of improvised jams, Yahowa 13 crafts a powerful, apocalyptic soundscape that transcends the decades and flat-out kicks ass.

3. Ruby Suns – Sea Lion

A lot of albums strive to be compared to Pet Sounds, but this elaborately produced kaleidoscope of sound is one of the very few that actually earns that distinction. Veering from ponderous to poppy to straight-up silly, the New Zealanders’ second album draws on a huge range of global influences and reveals a little more with every listening.

4. Q-Tip – The Renaissance

The Tribe Called Quest front man’s sophomore solo effort was a long time coming, but well worth the wait. In a year that saw disappointing efforts from hip-hop cult favorites from Del to Devin, Q-Tip’s distinctive flow, groovy beats and quick-witted lyricism rang out loud and strong.

5. TV on the Radio – Dear Science

It’s not quite on par with the band’s 2006 masterpiece Return to Cookie Mountain, but that’s about the only knock to be made against this slicker, sleeker follow-up. Plenty of bands would kill to be able to evoke half the passion that bleeds from every TV on the Radio song.

6. She & Him – Volume One

At first glance, the pairing of indie film gamine Zooey Deschanel and indie folk charmer M. Ward looked like a pretentious gimmick, but the duo’s debut is exactly the opposite. Deschanel’s charming delivery complements Ward’s clever production perfectly on this sunny collection of tunes that would fit right in on a ‘70s pop sampler.

7. Cat Power – Jukebox

She’s one of her generation’s greatest lyricists, but Chan Marshall’s second covers collection proves she can knock it out of the park no matter who’s holding the pen. Her rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I Believe in You” hits especially hard, while the album’s lone original, “Song for Bobby,” captures Dylan’s voice almost as well as the man himself.

8. The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

The British duo’s debut album was ubiquitous on 2008’s pop culture landscape, turning up on MTV, an iPod ad and soundtracks from “Slumdog Millionaire” to “The House Bunny.” It’s easy to see why – their brand of glam-pop is brassy, sassy and catchy as hell.

9. Tobacco – Fucked Up Friends

The Black Moth Super Rainbow co-founder follows in that band’s unpredictable footsteps with this raucous blend of hip-hop, electronica and psychedelia. It’s the type of album that will set heads nodding at the right kind of party and clear the room at the wrong kind.

10. Crooked Fingers – Forfeit/Fortune

Eric Bachmann’s latest reaffirms his status as one of the most consistently interesting creative forces on the indie scene. This time around, his gracefully gritty songwriting is buoyed by eclectic production that draws on everything from power pop to European folk to ‘80s goth rock.

Also excellent: Jake One – White Van Music, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!, Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Lie Down in the Light, of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping, Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold

- Ira Brooker

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