Matt Walerstein was kind enough to let me share his top 10 albums of 2008 with you. Matt sure knows his music. It’s great. Check out the list below.
Top Ten of 2008
1. Lisa Hannigan, Sea Sew
Showing the same flair for emotional vibrancy as her former boyfriend and musical cohort, Damien Rice, the Irish folk chanteuse weaves a stunningly beautiful tapestry of love and longing with her intimate voice and tender evocations of the sea.
2. Passion Pit, Chunk of Change EP
This playful set of songs, coursing with bellowing synths and explosive falsettos, was originally created as Valentine’s Day present for singer-songwriter, Michael Angelakos’s girlfriend. If all courtship displays were this ingenious, See’s Candy would be out of business. Everyone thank Michael’s girlfriend for sharing.
3. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
Your first question will invariably be, “Why is he singing like that?” Your second, just as fated, “And why can’t I stop listening?” The sonic tableau may at first seem sparse and desolate, but give the album a chance. Amid that sense of emptiness lurks enough joy and grandeur to transform solitude into something resplendent. Justin Vernon recorded these songs at a cabin in Wisconsin; every time you listen you’ll find yourself there with him.
4. M83, Saturdays = Youth
Finding the perfect blend of billowing vocals and spiraling electronic harmonies, the veteran French-Electronic outfit led by Anthony Gonzales leaves you enveloped, tunneling through walls of ethereal sound. “We Own the Sky” might be the single of the year.
5. Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
With manically strummed guitars and the momentum of a freight train, the divine opener, “The Modern Leper,” ushers in one of the most visceral albums you’ll ever hear. From there, it never lets up. And with lyrics like “it takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm” and “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name” sung in a thick Scottish brogue, the album is one of the few that can make you crack up as you rock out.
6. Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line
“Dying is Fine” threads the first stanza of e.e. cummings, “dying is fine)but Death” into a rollicking chorus worthy of the poem. Indie Rock music that’s equal parts shimmering and literate? I think I’m in love.
7. Headlights, Some Racing, Some Stopping
Alternating between its male and female vocalist from track to track, the band channels the same aesthetic and structure that made Stars’ 2005 offering, “Set Yourself on Fire” such a masterpiece. The lush melodies and diaphanous “ooohs” leave you humming them for days on end.
8. School of Seven Bells, Alpinisms
The gorgeous Deheza twins match thumping beats with heavenly vocals and win the award for “most seamless delivery of polysyllabic lyrics” on the charmingly opaque chorus to the album’s seminal moment, “Half Asleep.”
9. Jon Mckiel, The Nature of Things
Mckiel’s grungy guitar riffs and understated delivery. The real triumph here though, is the pacing of the tracks. Even the softer numbers brim with expectation, before giving way to climactic finishes. Case in point, are the riveting drug abuse elegy, “Get Caught,” and the album standout, “Poor Heart.”
10. Robert Svensson, Young Punks Are On The Never-Never
The unheralded Swede uses a boyish voice and harmonic textures lifted from the ‘80s to embellish his debut collection of genre-defying pop. Svensson mixes up the emotional tone of the album nicely, capturing infectious joy on “Young Enough” before dialing it down on the reflective duet with Cokiyu, “Hum.” Overall, a fine effort with a delightful title.
Honorable Mention: Lykke Li, Youth Novels; Blind Pilot, Three Rounds and a Sound; Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes; Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours; Fredrik, Na Na Ni