Best of 2008: Top 20 Albums (20-11)

December 14, 2008

British Sea Power

#20 British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?

Even with unappealling cover art and a clumsy album title, British Sea Power have won over more than a few critics with this effort.  Coming on like the ultimate fusion of stadium rock and indie jangle, they effortlessly move between grandiose statements and intimate moments.  The production is shiny but never distracting and the songs have a way of slipping past you the first time but winning you over on repeat listens with that special slow-release formulation.  If you can answer yes to their question, you can find more than enough to love in this album.

British Sea Power – “No Need To Cry”

Gregor Samsa

#19 Gregor Samsa – Rest

Sounding even more hushed and subdued than on their last, extremely quiet album, Gregor Samsa have moved beyond the Low and Rachel’s comparisons to develop an idiosyncratic sound.  Rest is a contemplative album, full of spacious silences and envigorating atmospherics.  It’s also more than a little bit creepy and you’d be advised not to listen to it while driving dark roads at night.  Gregor Samsa have made a tricky album to grasp fully, but it always tantalises you with the promise of new revelations.

Gregor Samsa – “Jeroen Van Aken”

Al Green

#18 Al Green – Lay It Down

The old master still has what it takes to deliver a killer album.  After more than three decades as one of soul’s greatest, Al Green has made an album that sounds like the work of a much younger man.  With help from Roots drummer ?uestlove and a host of other youngsters, Green belts out a disc full of spirited, funky R&B.  It manages to sound both current (the production is industry gold standard) and classic (you could almost be listening to Green’s debut).  He might sound happy and relaxed nowdays, where previously he was tense and horny, but there’s still no one who can beat Al Green at his own game.

Al Green – “You’ve Got The Love I Need”


#17 Lambchop – OH (ohio)

Kurt Wagner, grouchy frontman par excellence, does his own thing whatever happens.  With his revolving lineup of country and western compadres, he makes album after album of disgruntled rural soul.  OH (ohio) is a slightly more contented and positive album than previous discs, but it’s still full of the trademark Lambchop sounds: gruff baritone singing, shimmering acoustics and sophisticated instrumentation.  You may not have any idea where Wagner is going with this album – conceptually it’s all over the place – but it’s a great little ride if you want to follow him.

Lambchop – “National Talk Like A Pirate Day”


#16 Portishead – Third

The weight of expectations after 11 years is always high.  The only way to really get around it is to pretend the expectations don’t exist.  Portishead’s Third sounds as if they simply aren’t aware that any time has past.  It’s both a logical extension of 1997’s Portishead and a perfect fit with today’s tense and uncertain climate.  Third is a difficult listen, full of Beth Gibbons’ plaintive singing and grim arrangements, but it’s frequently beautiful and endlessly inventive.

Portishead – “Hunter”

Damien Jurado

#15 Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees

Seattle’s gloomiest troubador never seems to run out of sad stories to sing.  On Caught In The Trees, he manages to find another line-up of degenerates and desperadoes to populate his chilly gothic folk.  It’s an approach that isn’t getting old just yet.  Jurado’s newfound consistency of backing musicians also helps.  This is his loosest and most playful album in years – the product of a band at ease with each other.  Juradoland is a sad place to spend time, but anyone with a love of storytelling and inventive folk music will find it worthwhile.

Damien Jurado – “Last Rights”


#14 M83 – Saturdays = Youth

After turning out a Vangelis-meets-My-Bloody-Valentine extravaganza in 2005, Anthony Gonzalez took time to rework his sonic pallette, with amazing results.  Mixing up the best of 80s synth-pop with his own sweeping atmospheres, Gonzalez is a talented fusionist and an unashamed romantic.  In interviews, he reveals an unselfconscious love of all kinds of music.  There’s no hipster irony in his appropriation of old sounds.  He knows that so much material dismissed as “cheesy” has a real heart and he’s determined to make us realise that too.

M83 – “Too Late”

Mystery Jets

#13 Mystery Jets – Twenty One

Bursting out of an energetic young London scene, Mystery Jets are among the best of the new wave revivalists.  As well as an enviably tight band dynamic, they’ve got some of the best tunes and choruses going.  They’re another band that doesn’t mind drawing on uncool influences, taking cues equally from the popular and the leftfield sounds of the last few decades.  Twenty One is an ode to youthful experimentation and mistakes, capturing a slightly bruised optimism in every tune.  Being young has its downside, but Mystery Jets know that it’s also the best time of your life.

Mystery Jets – “Veiled In Grey”

Titus Andronicus

#12 Titus Andronicus – The Airing Of Grievances

They’re bratty and precious.  They flaunt their highbrow influences shamelessly.  But don’t let that put you off them.  New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus are the perfect antidote to musical indifference.  Their punky swagger, screamed vocals and glass-shattering guitar work is bracing and inspiring.  With the take-no-prisoners approach of The Thermals and the wordy brilliance of Bright Eyes, they’re a talent to watch.  There aren’t many young bands that sound quite so much like their life depends on the songs they’re singing.

Titus Andronicus – “Fear And Loathing In Mahwah, NJ”


#11 Deerhunter – Microcastles

For the product of a deeply strange and experimental band, Microcastles is a remarkably accessible and tuneful album.  Deerhunter’s sound is still swirling, noisy and effects-laden but it’s also welded onto a framework of solid tunes and insidious melodies.  Bradford Cox’s vocals are eerie and ethereal, slipping in and out of the complex, almost psychedelic arrangements.  It’s a work of punchy, glorious, shimmering shoegazer brilliance from a band that’s still finding its sweet spot.

Deerhunter – “Nothing Ever Happened”



One comment

  1. […] Believer Just another WordPress.com weblog « Best of 2008: Top 20 Albums (20-11) Best of 2008: Top 20 Albums (10-1) December 15, […]

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