Friday, December 19, 2008

My 2008 List (Honorable Mention)

OK, so I've covered my list of 2008 disappointments. Now it's time to focus on the positives from the year.

Here are the albums that I would normally call ## 11 to 20, but am calling my Honorable Mention list because (a) I've had a hard time ranking them in any sort of order, and (b) I'm lazy.

Great Albums That Deserve A High Level of Distinction, But
Weren't Quite My Favorite Albums of the Year, But They Were
Close, So No One Should Feel Bad About It At All I Assure You

Earlimart, Hymn and Her [buy]
2007's Mentor Tormentor remains one of my favorite albums of the decade, and I was amazed to hear that the band was following up that album with a new disc so quickly. Hymn and Her didn't quite reach the same heights as that album, but was still a solid disc with a number of standout tracks ("Face Down In The Right Town", the haunting "Time For Yourself"). I just wish they'd come to DC for once instead of Baltimore.

Julie Ocean, Long Gone and Nearly There [buy]
One of the two or three best albums this year that you never heard. Ten songs of pure, unadulterated power pop goodness. I dare you to listen to this album and not have a huge smile on your face. The band sadly called it a day when singer/guitarist Jim Spellman moved off to Denver, but I have a feeling that we ought not write off the other 3 band members quite so quickly. Hopefully they'll be bakin' up something new before long.

Liam Finn, I'll Be Lightning [buy]
Definitely the biggest surprise for me of the year. Based on a friend's recommendation, I saw Liam perform at SXSW in one of the huge halls in the Austin Convention Center, and after about 3 minutes I moved to the back of the room to read a magazine and wait for my friends. I was unimpressed. But then I ended up with a copy of the album, dug it, and managed to see Liam a couple more times in much smaller rooms (DC9, Rock and Roll Hotel), and it all started to come together for me. Not a perfect album, but a damn fine debut that rewards more and more with additional listenings.

Magnetic Fields, Distortion [buy]
Can't say I was ever a huge MF fan before this, but I'm a sucker for just about anything remotely shoegaze-y/Jesus and Mary Chain-y, and this disc had that in spades. Though I suppose it's not a huge surprise that I actually prefer the songs that Shirley Simms sings on to Stephen's songs.

Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust [buy]
Continuing in the shoegaze-y/Jesus and Mary Chain-y vein. Indeed, a lot of reviewers suggested that this disc should be thought of as a JAMC cover album. Honestly, I have no problem with that.

The Rural Alberta Advantage, Hometowns [buy]
I feel really guilty about this pick, because I'm fairly sure that if I'd had more time to spend with this album, it would be in my top 10 list. Hell, it might even have inspired me to do actual rankings so that I could put it in my top 5. But I'm just not there yet. If you've been waiting patiently for (or impatiently) for Jeff Magnum to issue that followup to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, you may be well advised to just pick up this disc and call it a day. A stunning album.

Sad Day for Puppets, Unknown Colors [buy]
You know how I said that I'm a sucker for shoegaze? Well, the same pretty much goes for it's step-sister dream pop. If you liked Lush, you'll love Sad Day for Puppets. Pretty, ethereal vocals, loud guitars... what more do you want?

Shearwater, Rook [buy]
I'll be honest... I almost put this on my disappointment list. Not because it's bad - it's absolutely not. It just didn't have the same resonance with me as the band's prior album, Palo Santo. But as I've been putting this list together I've been listening to the album again and realizing how good it actually is. No, it's not Palo Santo, but it's definitely one of the 20 best albums I've heard this year.

Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea [buy]
As with the Magnetic Fields, I wasn't a huge Silver Jews fan before this album came out. And I know that the long-time Jews fans weren't really enamored with this disc. For me, though, it the album that finally brought me to the band, for whatever reason. After getting into LMLS, I went back and picked up the band's earlier works, and can finally call myself a fan. But I still stand by the fact that this is an excellent album.

The Whigs, Mission Control [buy]
While this wasn't quite as good of an album as I had hoped it would be, it was still one of the best straight-ahead rock and roll albums of the year. How "Like a Vibration" and "Hot Bed" didn't break through on internet radio or elsewhere I will never understand. Nor do I understand why the band refused to headline in DC at all this year. My eardrums are bored, fellas - get your asses back here.

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