Top Ten Albums: 2008
As part of my on-going music project, here are my ten favourite albums from 2008. They are listed in alphabetical order and there is a bonus list with some additional albums I considered.
Arkells - Jackson Square
Debut album be damned. This album is exactly what I would play for someone if they asked, “What’s an example of a great Canadian rock album?” Max’s vocals are perfect for the band’s sound and I’ve liked every album the Arkells have released since. Fun anecdote from future me: two years after this album was released I saw the Arkells perform at the Olympics in Vancouver (along with my best friend Stefan) though they self-censored the lyrics about Europeans vacationing in the summer.
Black Lungs - Send Flowers
I can’t remember if it was obvious at the time, but with this album it should have been clear that Wade needed to be a front man. If I remember correctly, this album was released around the same time there were rumours of an Alexisonfire1 break-up (but shortly before Alexisonfire released Young Cardinals). I remember liking the contrast in this album. There’s hard, punk rock parts, melodic parts, and even some up-beat reggae-type parts2. This was a cover-to-cover listen for me.
City and Colour - Bring Me Your Love
Dallas Green might be the best singer I have ever seen live. In a since-deleted Tweet - and often-repeated line - I would say something like, “At 1:33 of Pulmary Archery I fell in-love”. You can lock it in that every year Dallas released an album, it’ll be on my favourites list for the year. This was his second full-length solo album and still largely retains the acoustic-heavy sounds of his debut album but some of the tracks foreshadow his transition to a more folk-rock sound on the next album.
Die Mannequin - Unicorn Steak
Technically a re-release, this album combined their first two EPs into one record. The straight-out rock and growly vocals of Care Failure reminded me of bands like Veruca Salt, The Distillers, and Jakalope… just much better, much more raw. It didn’t hurt that they originally had Jesse F. Keeler on drums and doing production. They performed at my university as an opening band when only their first EP had been released and I watched Care Failure rock all around the venue like she owned the place - guitar in hand, full jam session, kicking drinks out of people’s hands as she strut across the bar top. Awesome.
Girl Talk - Feed The Animals
The combinations that Girl Talk puts together genuinely make me forget the original songs to the point where if I do hear a song featured on one of his albums, I will often sing the parts from Girl Talks’ version. It’s difficult to hear the song, “Nothing Compares 2 U” any more without also hearing “Gettin’ Some” right along with it.
Hey Rosetta! - Into Your Lungs
For a long time I had a hard time putting song names to songs on this album because I just listened to it straight through every time. There are only two songs on this whole album that I wouldn’t consider to be great songs. They’re just good songs.
Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak
Kanye West makes great music. He seems like an asshole but he makes great albums. I am far from a hip hop historian but to me, his first two albums were straight forward hip hop albums, but starting with Graduation he started to really explore and experiment with things. I remember this album being mocked for its reliance on Auto-Tune but compared to what Auto-Tune was being used for at the time, this was refreshing and new. I tried to start a music review site around the time this album came out (New Music Tuesday was the name, I believe) and I remember writing a review of this album. Paranoid and RoboCop were my favourite songs at the time and I think they still are. I think this album remains my favourite Kanye West album to date. I think it was daring and I think it helped further him down the road of making creatively challenging music rather than just standard fare hip hop.
Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
Kings of Leon were a band that were under-the-radar successful that never really interested me. Only By The Night interested me. The music doesn’t seem as southern-rock as their previous albums and I’m sure that pissed off some older fans. This is an an album that I liked so much and felt was enough of a reflection of ‘music that I like’ that I bought it on vinyl3.
Panic! At the Disco - Pretty. Odd.
There are some vocalists that just resonate with me. As the saying goes, “I’d listen to them sing the phone book.” This is the case for Brendon Urie. That, combined with a sound that reminds of Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles and I’ll gladly listen to this cover-to-cover.
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
I think I have a thing for music you can stop your feet to. I also have a thing for kind-of-odd-sounding vocalists. The RAA have both, lots of it.
I started with a broad list of about 35 albums by quickly scanning my iTunes playlist for that year, Best Of lists from various music publications, and award winners/nominees from a few different music prizes. I further narrowed that list down to about 20 albums from which I selected my top 10. Highlights from the remaining 10 albums are listed alphabetically below with a couple of points about each.
Alkaline Trio - Agony & Irony
There are several bands that fall into the category of “I wasn’t cool enough to really listen to them”. Alkaline Trio was one of those bands. I don’t know if this was the album that made them crossover into mainstream rock or not, but it certainly was the first one that I listened to. A lot.
Coeur de pirate - Coeur de pirate
Like another entry in this bonus list, I did not know of this album in 2008. I saw Heart Pirate perform in Vancouver and became an instant fan. I’ve enjoyed all of her albums since this one. It’s amazing what live performances can do to win over a fan.
Flobots - Fight With Tools
I cannot remember how I came to find this album but I think more than anything, the actual sound of the album is what kept me coming back. Excellent sound production that fits perfectly with the vocals.
Mother Mother - O My Heart
I became a much bigger fan of Mother Mother after seeing them in Vancuover at the Olympics (much like a handful of other Canadian indie bands). At the time, this album would not have been on my list.
Sam Sparro - Sam Sparro
Another one I’m not sure how I found it but I like the sound of the vocals and the music was a great combo of funk and synth. It didn’t hurt that Dallas Green often included a brief cover of Black & Gold in his live version of Sometimes.
T.I. - Paper Trails
There are a handful of hip hop artists, rappers, whatever you want to call them that I really like - as in their whole catalogue. T.I. is not one of them but his Paper Trails album caught my ear. It seems like this was his most successful album, at least in terms of mainstream success, so maybe that makes me a poseur. Ah well.
Winter Gloves - About a Girl
One of the many bands I saw perform at Starlight but one of the few that I left Starlight with their CD in hand. I did not like their follow-up album as much but it does not hinder my enjoyment of the debut.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, here’s an Apple Music playlist with some of my favourite songs from all of the albums, bonus list included.
- iTunes Smart Playlist for albums released in 2008
- Pitchfork 50 Best Albums of 2008
- Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums of 2008
- Metacritic Albums: 2008
- Stefan’s 2008 Top Ten Albums
- Polaris Prize 2008 nominees
- Mercury Prize 2008 nominees
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Easter-egg time - I have had this domain since 2004 when I registered it while in university and used it for nothing but a link to HowardStern.com. The URL is a nod to the Alexisonfire website, theonlybandever.com ↩︎
Doing some research while writing this post, I noticed that the former Bedouin Soundclash drummer was a part of the band… so the reggae/ska sound makes sense. ↩︎
I have a few dozen records from my parents that I took from their collection as well as some older ones that I’ve picked up at garage sales but at some point I decided that it would be neat to have my own collection of vinyl of bands and albums that I really liked that could be kept as keepsakes for my children to use to judge me. I probably have 15-20 different records so far of albums that I enjoyed and/or had a big impact on me and I continually add to the collection as time passes. ↩︎