Paul Rogers TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2008
THE KOOKS: Konk (Astralwerks)
Most charming of the recent wave of brisk Brit guitar acts, The Kooks offer endless melody, harmony and musicality without the angular, smarty-pants sonics of kindred spirits Arctic Monkeys. Super-prolific and shockingly young, The Kooks have barely begun.
KEANE: Perfect Symmetry (Interscope)
Brave, lush and larger-than-life, Brit trio Keane have mined perhaps the last un-stripped corners of ’80s music (Billy Ocean anyone?) to produce an album of massive melody, optimistic aura and metaphor-littered lyrics. Utter, shameless pop and the best morning disc of the year, hands-down.
IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE: The 3rd World (Viper Records)
Fiercely independent, super-(self) educated and scared of nothing, Immortal Technique is contemporary rap’s premiere storyteller and a reminder of what the genre could’ve become before the bling set in. Fully collaborating with DJ Green Lantern this time only ups Tech’s micro and macro rage.
SCARS ON BROADWAY: Scars on Broadway (Interscope)
Yes, Scars on Broadway sound like System of a Down (the band is basically SOAD guitarist/singer Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan), but there’s more John Lydon sneering, lyrical perversity and, most surprisingly, some Lennon/McCartney mellowness.
THE CURE: 4:13 Dream (Suretone/Geffen)
Opening track “Underneath the Stars” is gorgeous, escapist Robert Smith songwriting and arrangement at its best—as good as anything the band has recorded in their 25-plus years. Thereafter ol’ Bob over-dabbles and gets just too darn happy, but 4:13 Dream is still worth the price of admission.
FALL OUT BOY: Folie A Deux (Decaydance/Island)
Absolutely believe the hype—and then some. Like last year’s Infinity on High, this is glorious, shameless pop topped with Patrick Stump’s Michael Jackson-esque inflections. Fall Out Boy are about great songs and arrangements, not just bassist Pete Wentz’s stadium-sized ego.
METALLICA: Death Magnetic (Warner Bros.)
Not just back, but happy to be back, the Bay Area big boys have resurrected their rep with this tuneful yet expansive beast of a disc. You’ll sing along; you’ll play flailing air-drums; you’ll mime goldfish-faced guitar solos; you’ll puff out your chest and drive faster. Yep, it’s a proper Metallica record.
TOADIES: No Deliverance (Kirtland Records)
Though not as consistently rousing as their largely overlooked 2001 sophomore effort Hell Below/Stars Above, these reunited Texans return with another lesson in simple-but-effective guitar/bass/drums dynamics; religion-has-a lot-to-answer-for lyrics; and wounded, uniquely male angst.
OASIS: Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother/Reprise)
Another return to form from a veteran act, Oasis seem to have remembered what made them great in the first place: borrowing heavily from the Beatles (and a bit from T-Rex and The Who) to produce romantic, increasingly nostalgic anthems that are OK for macho lads to sing along to.
THE MARS VOLTA: The Bedlam in Goliath (Universal)
Ever since guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez started producing his band’s records they’ve become increasingly oblique. But when they lock into an actual song—and when singer Cedric Bixler Zavala’s oddly androgynous, tremulously feral wail can truly take flight—there are few bands on earth who can hang with The Mars Volta.
George A. Paul’s Top 10 Albums of 2008
James: Hey Ma (Decca)
The Manchester, U.K. band reunited and it felt so good. Memorable anthems, life affirming tunes and panoramic melodies—not to mention politics and self-deprecating humor—made for one enthralling listen.
The Enemy UK: We’ll Live and Die in These Towns (Warner Bros.)
Inspired by the Clash, Who and Jam, the teenage trio’s brilliant debut featured incisive rockers about working class issues, picturesque lyrics and danceable tunes a la Franz Ferdinand. Added bonus: an ace cover of Bowie’s “Five Years.”
The Stills: Oceans Will Rise (Arts & Crafts)
Some albums simply make you glad to be alive. The Montreal indie rock group’s third and strongest disc fit the bill, thanks to vivid environmental imagery, moody Peter Gabriel-esque numbers and chiming U2-styled guitars.
Jack’s Mannequin: The Glass Passenger (Sire/Warner Bros.)
Andrew McMahon battled leukemia, then rebounded with another piano-driven pop/rock gem. The band’s sonic palette was expanded amid emotionally-charged confessionals about romance (“Suicide Blonde”) and survival (“Swim”).
Kings of Leon: Only By the Night (RCA)
Caleb Followill found a confident voice while his kin proceeded to blow the Southern fried rock label out of the water. Highly ambitious, their ominous, sensual and reverb-drenched excursions clicked for the first time ever.
The Last Shadow Puppets: The Age of the Understatement (Domino)
Cinematic in scope, the enticing side project from Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner combines the epic grandeur of 1960s film soundtrack composers (John Barry, Ennio Morricone) with distinctly British pop smarts.
David Byrne & Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todomundo/Opal)
The creative brain trust behind seminal Talking Heads albums and an acclaimed World Beat collaboration return for an ethereal, alluring batch of folk/electronic/gospel songs aided by Roxy Music, Sex Pistols and Soft Machine alumni.
Teddy Thompson: A Piece of What You Need (Verve Forecast)
More upbeat than usual, the fourth effort from Richard & Linda’s singer/songwriter son is a charmer, using Roy Orbison and Neil Finn as touchstones during several clever pop and folk-tinged tunes.
The Cure: 4:13 Dream (Suretone/Geffen)
From Robert Smith’s trademark mewling and creepy, psychedelic dual guitar work (welcome back Porl Thompson) to dark and breezy love songs, it doesn’t get much better for longtime fans.
Beat Union: Disconnected (Science)
These Birmingham, England upstarts specialize in insanely catchy tunes with gang-style chants. The vigorous blend of 1970s punk, pub rock, ska and new wave (think early Police, English Beat, Elvis Costello) immediately grabs your attention.
John Schacht’s Top 10 Albums of 2008
Centro-matic/South San Gabriel: Dual Hawks (Misra)
The two sides of Texas’ songwriter extraordinaire Will Johnson, magnificently displayed on this split double disc: South San Gabriel’s processionals, as vast as the Southwestern sky, and Centro-matic’s fuzzy guitars-fueled rawk show.
Sera Cahoone: Only As the Day Is Long (Sub Pop)
This Seattle singer’s second full-length was one of the year’s biggest surprises, chockablock with road-weary laments, high-and-lonesome pedal steel and gorgeous melodies. In a year of strong female twang, Cahoone out-did them all.
Pontiak: Sun on Sun (Thrill Jockey)
Spooky stoner rock from this trio of brothers who hail from Blue Ridge farm country in Virginia. Their earthy, dam-busting riffs and psychedelic space-jams seem just as tied to the land as any banjo-and-fiddle act.
Micah P. Hinson: Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire (Full Time Hobby)
Hinson looks like he’s 15, but writes grizzled, orchestral folk-blues—with the occasional sonic explosion—and squeezes more emotion into three minutes than all of Music Row combined.
Shearwater: Rook (Matador)
Jonathan Meiburg sings like an angel, and combined with chamber strings and horns, and songs that ebb and flow like storm-tossed vessels, the ex-Okkervil River member delivers a haunting vision of our planet’s precarious state.
Calexico: Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)
Joey Burns and John Convertino return to their Wavelab Studio roots, recasting Burns’ songs and the band’s lustrous instrumentation in more of the desert-noir mystery that first made the band an international favorite.
Tindersticks: The Hungry Saw (Beggars Banquet)
After a five-year layoff and two Stuart Staples solo records, the ‘Sticks return with another evocative mix of Euro-resignation, slo-burn blues, sinister noir, soulful horns, and orchestral flourishes. Dark romance that still intoxicates.
Plants & Animals: Parc Avenue (Secret City)
This Montreal trio/collective offers more proof that there’s something in the Canadian water that breeds indie rockers willing to bend genres or song structures to their own (in this case) fantastical whims.
Okkervil River: The Stand-Ins (Jagjaguwar)
Another discourse on the funhouse mirror of celebrity from Will Sheff and company: Nesting doll narratives, big sloppy anthems, and balladeer dramas about people put on pedestals, as well as those who put them there.
Liz Durrett: Outside Our Gates (Warm)
An expanded sonic palette results in another leap forward for the underrated Athens songwriter; her sparse arrangements now mix with mariachi strings and Memphis soul horns, emphasizing the beauty in both.