We made it to the top ten! (Facebookers: you know where to go... and I mean that in the nicest possible way.)
#10. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
At the start of 2008, I had never even heard of these Portlanders. While the 2007 song "Wild Mountain Nation" is tremendous, that album is a less stellar than it's title track, possessing some of the worst parts of early Beck (schizo electrono-rock with purposeful dissonance and auditory overload). Although I've somewhat decried apparent mainstream-ization of albums *cough Dear Science cough*, Blitzen Trapper's latest effort benefits from a sonic scalpel, likely applied by the guys over at Sub Pop. By toning down the worst parts of the band and boosting the best, BT put together a solid album (although it probably wouldn't be in the top 10 if I hadn't seen them in concert in November... hearing their songs evokes memories of their very lively show; there's no doubt in my mind if I had seen The Black Keys this year, Blitzen Trapper would be knocked out of this spot). "Furr" isn't my favorite track off the album of the same name, but it's got a cool video (and is evidence of BT's storytelling):
#9. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
While that awesome-but-quickly-ubiquitous-and-subsequently-annoying song "Crazy" got all the fame, I was a bigger fan of St. Elsewhere's weirder tracks, like "Go-Go-Gadget Gospel" and "Transformers." Odd Couple is the triumph of the weird-but-good vibe from their debut album. However, while bands with a similar sound (TVotR) seems to get an insane amount of praise, the fact that Odd Couple was left out of so many best-of lists seems--wait for it--odd, especially given how much cred Danger Mouse seems to have. One of the reasons Odd Couple is so high in my countdown is the number of listens this album garnered: just like Konk, this album stayed in my car's six-disc player from it's release date until one or two months ago. Here's the video for "Going On," one of my favorite tracks off the album:
#8. Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Yet another artist with whom I was unfamiliar at the outset of this past year. This sprightly Swedish twentysomething burst onto the scene thanks to the work of Bjorn (of Peter Bjorn & John fame) and you can tell--or at least I think I can tell--his influence: electronic beats and sometimes-slightly-off-key tones. This album is full of a few songs that will become big singles: "I'm Good, I'm Gone," "Breaking it Up," "Complaint Department," "Dance, Dance, Dance," and "Little Bit." If those saw the light of day on MTV (or whatever it is that influences high schoolers), the kids would be eating it up. For now, I'll keep things the way they are (I'm a little bit in love with her). Here's the [weird but good] video for "I'm Good, I'm Gone":
#7. Dr. Dog - Fate
When I saw these guys open for The Black Keys in '06, I thought they had a fun stage presence, but didn't think they'd amount to much. This is like, you know, one of the three or four times in my life that I've been wrong. Fate is a tremendous album that takes a few listens to really get into your head, but you later find yourself craving it, as I often do with the song "The Old Days" (video below). The songs are catchy without being cheesy; think Rooney, and then the exact opposite... sort of like if Spoon took PCP and heroine and then played a show at a trucker's bar in Philly. Genuine emotions are carried in each tune, and the lyrics can be a treat at times: not every band can question the meaning of life and get away with it. If they come back to the area anytime soon, I'll definitely show up... as long as nobody's head gets chopped off, like in "The Ark"; here's a studio version of my favorite song, "The Old Days":
"The Old Days" - Dr. Dog from LaundroMatinee on Vimeo.
#6. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
It took me a long time to get my hands on this album. I put it on my Amazon wishlist when it was released, but I could never scrounge enough cash together to actually buy it (or my cash went towards the purchase of other albums). Thankfully, some friends intervened and gave me a copy. While this album has received an unbelievable amount of praise (Pitchfork's #1 album), I tried not to hold that against it (I think the offices at Pitchfork have those leadership posters, but instead of inspirational words, they've got stuff like "Pride" and "Pretension" and "Braggadocio"). Some people have criticized FF for sounding like Band of Horses, and while there is a recognizable similarity, it doesn't bother me at all. With each listen, this album inched itself up this list, from initially being just outside the top 20 to being inside the top 10. If I had another month, it might take that next step into the top 5. Here's a great little stop-motion animation video for "White Winter Hymnal":
The top 5 is next...