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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 9 Albums of 2008

(Or The Nicsperiment's Top Nine Albums (That I've Heard) of 2008

Hey, I'm at my parents' house, the Internet is free, and I liked a lot of records this year, so why not do an abbreviated version of my formerly annual list?
9. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard-The Dark Knight Original Soundtrack: The Joker's theme is one note and Batman's is only two, yet they both carry more depth, mood, character, and complexity than many composer's dream of. Brilliant mix of creepy and beautiful electronics with bombastic orchestrations to support what is probably the best superhero movie of all time.
8. POD-When Angels and Serpents Dance: Sadly ignored by most and unfairly maligned by fans, POD's first album featuring the return of original guitarist, Marcos Curiel, easily features the most skillfully written lyrics and diversified musical arrangements of any of their albums to date. Faithfully follows the theme laid out in the album's title--the epic battle of good versus evil in all our hearts.
7. Sigur Ros-Med Sud I Eryum Vid Spilum Endalaust: A weak album for this band is still a juggernaut by any other standard. The band goes for a more organic approach than their previous alien landscapes, relying heavily on acoustic guitars and horns,and less on keyboards and drums(half the songs have no rhythm section).
6. Trenches-The Tide Will Swallow Us Whole: Slow, pounding, incredibly heavy and majestic with vocals that go from Zao to Pantera to Stone Temple Pilots in the same song. Fronted by ex-Haste the Day (who I've never previously enjoyed) frontman, Jimmy Ryan, Trenches' debut album sounds nothing like his previous band. Like a mammoth taking its time through a dark and beautiful underwater forest.
5. Thrice-The Alchemy Index: I've never been a fan of this band until the release of this album, (the first part was released last year, but the whole was completed this year) which is actually four separate Eps: Fire, Water, Wind, and Earth. Each EP attempts to tackle the sound and idea of its particular element. Whether the band is successful at this is beyond the fact that they have crafted 24 beautifully atmospheric, well-produced songs that stand just as well on their own as together.
4. Coldplay-Viva la Vida or Death and all of His Friends: After crafting X & Y, an album I described in my 2005 list (where it landed at # 1) as listenable for anyone, Coldplay globalizes their arena rock sound, adopting tribal drums, latin rhythms, and a kitchen sink from somewhere in Asia. It still sounds universal, but vocalist Chris Martin's lyrics actually have a little more depth this time, and the band's color pallete has gone from primary to neon.
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds-Dig! Lazarus, Dig!: Nick Cave takes his main gig into a realm he has recently explored with side project, Grinderman, getting down and dirtier, sounding more garage rock than possibly ever, but retaining all his unique lyrical and musical charms. Age has only inspired him to push harder.
2. Portishead-Third: After an 11 year break, the band returns with another dark dive into the hypnotic grandeur only they can conceive. Gone are the record scratches and hip-hop beats of the past, retained are the paranoid, hurting, haunting lyrics and vocals of Ms. Beth Gibbons. The spy guitar is still there to some extent but is bolstered more than ever by a barrage of retro sci-fi keyboards and nightmare landscapes. The harshly repeating final drone sounds like the signal from the last operating antenna on a dead Earth, warning future visitors to stay away.
1. Drive By Truckers-Brighter than Creation's Dark: The characters and stories from the 19 songs on this album are more real, inspiring, heartbreaking, and funny than any other album this year. If you want a clear, concise, and honest description of the South while you rock out, this is it. After 7 albums, this band just gets better and better, and their live show is not to be missed.

Could've made it-
Fleet Foxes new album is pretty excellent, but I haven't heard all of it, so I'm not putting it on this list. TV on the Radio have a new one that I've only heard once, but I'm not totally sure if I like the direction they're headed or the way they can loop a burp for 42 minutes if they want and have every music critic call it genius. That said, they are a very good band, and on additional listens this may grow on me.
Happy New Year to anyone who reads this. I'm sorry I'm not more active and don't visit more, but I hope my previous post explains this to some extent.


John T. Meche III said...

I'm going to have to check out some of these albums. I didn't even touch POD, because I didn't expect it to be any good, but per your recommendation I may give it a shot now.
Also, did you know that zoe deschanel just put out an album...and it's awesome? Don't know if you're aware of Derek Webb's solo career, but it's amazing. And last but not least..if you're into rap...Shai Linne's Atonement...amazing.

Nicholas said...

Angels and Serpents is way better than Testify. Not even close. I've only seen the one She and Him video. It was pretty awesome. I need to check that out. I'm a little leary of Derek Webb's solo stuff. I have all but one of his albums, but I feel like I don't like them as much as I should if that makes any sense. I wish he would just do Caedmon's Call all the time. They are so much better with him. I love the rap. Gotta check that Shai Linne out. Thanks for the reco.