Now that we're almost 1/24th finished with 2009, we figured we should probably compile our top albums of 2008. Just like last year, it was difficult to rank and resolve the list. However, like last year, we tried to think about the Big Picture. We tried to project what we'll be listening to in, say, five years time rather than what's going through our brains in January of 2009. With that parameter, the results can sometimes be surprising, but helps shake out the results a little more cleanly.
5. Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs
Death Cab appears to be cursed by the runaway success of Transatlanticism. In fact, Narrow Stairs is one of those albums that probably soars to the critical heights that Transatlanticism did had it been released before Transatlanticism. Lyrically, they've lost nothing since that release. Musically, they've only gotten stronger. Really the only difference between the two albums in Narrow Stairs' lack of an anthem like Transatlanticism's title track. But we challenge you to listen to Narrow Stairs through an unfiltered lens.
4. Headlights, Some Racing, Some Stopping
We're not sure why Headlights didn't appear all over the place: on top 10 lists, Gray's Anatomy, etc. We have a hard time leaving this CD alone. In fact, this was the first album of the year that really sank in for us.
3. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
This is one of those albums that was released early in 2008 and even at that time already had a huge buzz around it. So it became cool to knock it as soon as it was released. But after listening to it the past few weeks, it holds up remarkably well. It certainly passes the iPod Shuffle Test. That is, when you have your iPod on shuffle and a song from the album comes on, do you skip it? With Vampire Weekend we almost never skipped a track. And we bet you don't either.
2. TV on the Radio, Dear Science...
This album had the #1 spot locked for a long time until it was unseated right at the end of the year. We're never disappointed by anything TV on the Radio does. They're phenomenal.
1. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
Bon Iver has been sitting in our car's CD player for weeks and hasn't come out. That's even a tougher test than the iPod Shuffle Test: the Leave the CD In the CD Player for Weeks On End Test. In fact, there are probably very few albums that can withstand that test. In fact, there are even fewer that come out sounding better at the end of that test. Bon Iver's album does just that: it lulls you in and keeps you there.
If we gave you one guess as to where For Emma, Forever Ago was recorded, what would you guess? A cabin in the woods of Wisconsin? You'd be exactly right. And this album is probably the perfect Winter album. It's also the perfect drinking-alone album; the perfect falling-asleep album; the perfect Sunday-morning album. It's versitile in it's simplicity.
Actually, it's interesting that we'd have TVOTR and Bon Iver as the top two albums. From two independent people we heard the comparison of Bon Iver as "an acoustic version of TV on the Radio." Between the falsetto, the aggressive lyrics, and the "My my my; my my my; my my" on "Skinny Love" they do sound similar, if you were to unplug TVOTR.
Honorable Mention: Flight of the Chonchords, Flight of the Conchords. Maybe the funniest television show of all time. Not that we're prone to hyperbole or anything. But seriously, give it a watch and give it a listen.