it’s that time again to pull together my top albums of the year. there was a lot of great music this year so it was tough to make the final list, but here it is.
there were a couple of great albums that came to my attention too late to potentially make the list because I always try to live with an album for at least a couple of months before I will even consider it for my year end list, so no Sharon van Etten or Kanye.
also I should note that I always try to put this together without any sort of ranking but one record this year was far and away better than any thing else so I will lead off with my favorite album of the year:
Janelle Monae - Archandroid
I started hearing some rumblings about this album when it first came out but ignored it because I assumed it was just another pop/r & b album. then I heard the review on sound opinions and it wasn’t so much what they said about it but the opportunity to hear a number of songs that grabbed me. there really is no way to classify this album. she includes so many genres that she really does create something new.
Communist Daughter - Soundtrack to the End
The only local entry on my list and it is a debut album from this new band. I never listened to Friends Like These, so songwriter John Solomon was new to me and this album has grown on me in an unexpected way throughout the year.
Yeasayer - Oddblood
I came to All Hour Cymbals late but it became one of my favorite albums in 2008, so I was really excited for this album to come out and I was not disappointed. This album seemed to get mixed reviews but I think the songs are just as good as their debut and really open up with repeated listens.
Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
I have never been a Sufjan fan before, a little too precious for me I guess, but I heard Vesuvius and thought it was one of the most beautiful songs I had heard in years. luckily the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint. interestingly, I didn’t like the 25 minute “impossible soul” but I have come to love it. I feel like he had some songs left over and instead of keeping them as outtakes, he put them together as a single brilliant piece
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
If this is truly the last album that James Murphy is going to release under the LCD Soundsystem name, then he truly saved the best for last. As I noted in my write up earlier, he has never been shy of sharing his influences, but this album almost feels like a tribute to those influences. The songs don’t sound derivative though, they instead seem to use those influences as jumping off points and every time I listen to the album another song becomes my favorite.
The Roots - How I Got Over
The Roots have been absolutely on fire lately between their work on the Jimmy Fallon show, with John Legend, and tons more. out of all of that comes this album that is definitely their best in my opinion since Things Fall Apart. While the two indie sampling songs are perhaps the best known, I think that ‘Now or Never’ and especially the title track are where they shine. Hands down the best hip hop album of the year.
Lindstrom & Christabelle - Real Life Is No Cool
Dance albums are frequently iffy and rarely make my year end lists, because they tend to just be singles collections or just aren’t interesting over the long haul. Lindstrom and Christabelle pull it off though with an album that takes in a wide range of songs while maintaining a consistent sound throughout. ‘lovesick’ is an absolutely brilliant song that is one of the songs of the year period and the MJ-like ‘Baby Can’t Stop’ is another highlight of this great album.
Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
This is the first album that I have ever included in my top ten that has come out in November but I am making an exception to my two month rule for two reasons. First, I previewed it on NPR a few weeks before it was released. Second, because it is so awesome. Cee Lo’s work outside Gnarls Barkley seems to get ignored, but this is a great album from start to finish. The production is a great spectrum of classic R & B from the 60s to the 80s but the lyrics are pure Cee Lo. Sexy but twisted. Most people probably think of the lead off NSFW single but I think that ‘Wildflower’ and ‘Bright Lights, Bigger City’ are the best of the best.
John Legend & the Roots - Wake Up!
originally planned as an EP, but expanded to a full albums of classic political R & B covers. The Roots provide an incredible backdrop, many times sounding just like they stepped out of the past and I thought that Legend’s voice fit these songs very well, despite much criticism. I think people forget how rough many of the originals were
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
The first Gorillaz album not to be produced by an outside producer and perhaps the first one that truly accomplishes what Damon Albarn has been trying to do with this band. With this album Albarn was able to combine his many diparate interests (hip-hop, ‘world’, R&B, rock) into a cohesive statement that pulls great performances from his many, many guests.