Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brian's Top Ten Albums of 2008

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

A moving work of lo-fi introspection. Vernon's layered falsetto, recorded in a wintery cabin in Wisconsin, still gives me shivers.

The Dodos - Visiter

Deep, driving polyrhythms undergird emphatic mandolin and guitar amidst percussive tambourine and a flurry of other instruments on this amazing, slightly off-kilter LP that just might highjack your nervous system. The Dodos take everything immediately lovable about Animal Collective and multiply it.

Damien Jurado - Caught in the Trees

I have always loved Damien Jurado for his ability to evoke the pathos of weary souls and forgotten stories, plunging us into the lives of misfits and anti-heroes who only get noticed if their mugshot makes the news. That's his bread and butter, and there's plenty of it on Caught in the Trees. But it's also his most versatile album to date, showing that his experiments away from straight forward folk have paid off.

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

A really solid indie rock album. Plus, I'm a sucker for Scottish vocals.

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes most popular song "White Winter Hymnal"--I was following the, I was following the, I...--annoyed me enough that I gave up on them early despite an otherwise promisingly original sound.  Hearing a second song months later was all it took for this Seattle band to win me back.  Describing their own music (accurately, methinks), they say they play "baroque harmonic pop jams."

Sigur Rós - Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust

While not as strong as most of their soaring, ethereal back catalog Sigur Ros' latest album is an encouraging departure that signals nothing's going stale yet. The opening track, Gobbledigook, is an unexpectedly joyous romp that melds Steve Reich, Animal Collective, and Dave Matthews. Mmmmm.

Blind Pilot - 3 Rounds and a Sound

Portland keeps pumping out great music.  And, as a whole album, this debut from the duo known as Blind Pilot was the best of the bunch last year.  Packed full of simple indie-folk-pop songs that get better the more you listen. 

Juana Molina - Un Día

This Argentine ex-soap star's hushed vocals over gentle tribal rhythms and strange aural juxtapositions will either have you dancing in a trance or hallucinating vaguely sinister claymation music videos.

Jacaszek - Treny

Chained to his laptop, Polish composer Michal Jacaszek sits in a cavernous dungeon with a partial symphony of ghosts and a forgotten angel singing lonely lamentations. Dark and beautiful. And dark.

Max Richter - 24 Post Cards in Full Color

What sounds like a terrible idea for a concept album--to create neo-classical cellular ringtones--turns out to be, in Max Richter's able hands, a beautiful collection of wordless short stories, or story fragments.  With most of the songs lasting only a minute or so, it is amazing he is able to conjure such vividness of place, evoke such poignancy of emotion, and intimate the reality of an imagined narrative. This is the audio cure for melancholy novelists with writer's block.


Dena said...

I must need to get out more...I haven't heard of ONE single album listed.

Brian said...

Yeah, Dena, none of them are exactly main stream--ie. you wouldn't hear them on most radio stations-- but there is a pretty big subculture that wouldn't find them obscure either (except maybe Jacaszek).

Here are my honorable mentions. You'll know one of them, I promise:

Son Lux - At War with Walls and Mazes

Anathallo - Canopy Glow

Toumani Diabate - The Mande Variations

The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave

Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain

Devotchka - A Mad and Faithful Telling

Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All

Coldplay - Viva La Vida

Anonymous said...

Hurrah for your inclusion of Blind Pilot. But what's this? No shout-out for the clear-eyed tipster who steered you to them?

theRachel said...

I love Bon Iver. So Much. We are missing him play in Brighton, England by 1 day.