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Great CDs of '08

The Pagemeister

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Looking back on a year of music and digging out the gems you may have missed


The mainstream consensus is 2008 was a barren year for music. But, that really depends on how sharp you keep your shovel. Without too much extensive digging - I simply pulled aside any disc I liked as the year passed - it turns out, as usual, there's almost too much choice for the best albums of the year.

You may not have heard of them all, but that's what we're here for. Also, as an Christmas bonus, check out any of these artists at seeqpod.com, where you can stream pretty much any song you can think of free of charge. Goodbye radio, hello future!

Anyway, here's a thorough and highly subjective list of the best CDs of the year - enjoy and debate!

Merry Christmas!

Antony & the Johnsons - Another World EP: It'll move you like Ella Fitzgerald.

Ashes to Ashes Original Soundtrack: Staggeringly good BBC compilation of 1981 tunes.

Bison B.C. - Quiet Earth*: The best metal band in Canada, speaker-blowing thunder.

Black Mountain - In the Future*: Stoner rock, highlight of Pemberton this summer.

David Bowie - Live @ Santa Monica '72: Perfect concert from the Ziggy era.

Joe Bataan - Under the Streetlamps 1967-72: Humorous, charming Latin soul.

The Bug - London Zoo: Futuristic, progressive hip-hop without mercy.

The Buttless Chaps - Cartography*: Soothing, spacey pop from Vancouver.

D.B. Buxton Review - No Refund EP**: Proof busking can lead to sharp rock.

Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies**: Tied for best album of the year, an electronic hip-hop apocalypse. Simply amazing beats and a ferocious look at the Facebook age.

Calexico - Carried to Dust: Especially track three, The News About William.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!: Thoughtful and rockin', Oz's emperor.

The City Streets - Concentrated Living**: Powerful harmonies hand out the will to live hard.

The Dears - Missiles*: Like a zombie war survivor's diary, moody pop drags that drag you in deep.

Duchess Says - Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs*: Jagged, insane, weird, invigorating, alien girl punk.

Maria Dunn - The Peddler**: Unjust, modern war will never be justified to this folksinger.

Elliott Brood - Mountain Meadows*: Rhythm-driven Americana, high notes always hit.

F**cked Up - The Chemistry of Modern Life*: A sonic mess you can get behind.

Ghostkeeper - self-titled*: Brilliant native-led music, hypnotizing pop.

Girl Talk - Feed the Animals: The best mashup in the universe.

Give Me Love - Songs of the Brokenhearted: Baghdad laments from the 1920s. Amazing.

Grand Theft Auto IV - Vladivostok FM: Russian rap is exactly what you've always needed.

Guns 'n' Roses - Chinese Democracy: Here just so we stop talking about it forever.

Merle Haggard - Live from Austin '78: Country used to be excellent, you know.

Veda Hille - This Riot Life*: Tori Amos powerful, but with more interesting issues.

Robin Hunter and the Six Foot Bullies - You Just Gotta Get Used to It**: What every singer/songwriter should aspire to.

Waylon Jennings - Live from Austin '84: Buy this with the Haggard.

Ladyhawk - Shots*: There's something reassuring about this rock angst.

Mad Men Original Soundtrack Vol. 1 - Amazing show, serendipitously tight soundtrack.

Mass Effect Original Soundtrack** - The music, featuring the Faunts, made this game score stand out.

Metallica - Death Magnetic: Best album in decades (except for, ugh, Unforgiven III).

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular: Upbeat dance pop with some depth.

Monkey, Journey to the West: Chinese opera with a modern electronic backbone.

The Moondoggies - self-titled: Powerful folk-rock, sometimes danceably so.

Mudcrutch - self-titled: Tom Petty reunion with his first band, totally rules.

N.E.R.D. - Seeing Sounds: "All the girls standing in the line for the bathroom!"

Nine Inch Nails - The Slip: Still good, but did Trent Reznor maybe need a label for input?

NQ Arbuckle - XOX*: Toronto keeping the indie country flame alive.

The Notwist - The Devil, You and Me: Peaceful electro pop with German accents.

Okkervil River - The Stand-ins: Energetic and passionate pop bordering operatic.

Old Man Luedecke - Proof of Love*: In need of a good mood? Try relaxing banjo folk.

The Roots - Rising Down: Not their best, but they're still stellar rappers.

Secret Fires - I Only Want What I Can't See**: We do love "rock music" in this city.

Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea: Nerdy, folky pop with heavy lyrics.

Smashula - self-titled**: That war criminal song gets me every time.

Stereo Image - self-titled: Spastic, emotional electronic mayhem with weird beats.

Sun Kil Moon - April: Like angels trapped in the attic, strange and pleading.

Thor - Keep the Dogs Away*: Re-release of an unsure pop-metal classic.

Ian Tyson - Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Stories*: Tyson's voice is shattered in a most endearing way. Sentimental goodness.

Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane*: Tied for No. 1, Calgary's top musician pulls it out again, combining sci-fi, murder and Snow White's voice and even inventing a robot instrument.

Wet Secrets - Rock Fantasy**: Larger release includes remixes by Cadence and Nik7. Buy this.

Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak: So he sings, too - calm down, it's still awesome.

The Whitsundays - self-titled**: ' 60 melodies and sass - pleasurable pop echoes.

Witch - Paralyzed: Pretty solid monster metal with J Mascis on drums.

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer*: No Queen Mary, but still pretty solid rock.

Women - self-titled*: Recorded by VanGaalen, his pixie touch is obvious.

John Woroschuk: Slight O Hand**: Solid roots disc from one of our best players.

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To be honest you've just (for me anyway) proven how 'barren' a year for music it has been. There are some decent ones on there but not nearly enough.

There's been a lot of good stuff released. The hard part is you have to go through alternate means (non commercial radio) to find it.

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To be honest you've just (for me anyway) proven how 'barren' a year for music it has been. There are some decent ones on there but not nearly enough.

That's only one list and it is in no way indicative of the past year in music overall. No single list ever is. Try checking several just to get a better, more rounded perspective. I actually enjoy seeing individual lists compiled by fellow music fans. What you're most likely to see here is how there is no good music being made anymore and if it is, it's too damn hard to find. Or that old favorite, "home come bands today don't sound like Led Zeppelin?"

There's been a lot of good stuff released. The hard part is you have to go through alternate means (non commercial radio) to find it.

I don't think it's really all that hard, it's all just part of the discovery of music to me. Even back in the heyday of "album rock" stations there was always something to find off the beaten path either through friends or something I'd read about in a music magazine that was worth checking out. That hasn't changed in 2008, nowadays there's just more means to discover music in that way. Hell, it's even easier when you think about it. With a nearly endless resource like the interwebs at our fingertips most new musical discoveries are only a click away.

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My list is a big fat zero. Yeah, maybe there's some interesting new music out there....

I just don't care anymore and don't even have the time. Plus, I think my friends would think it's weird every time I brought up some new/obscure music combo i was listening to.

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Great albums released this year for me were,

AC/DC - Black Ice

Airbourne - Runnin' Wild

Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God

The Answer - Never Too Late (EP)

Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider

Why was there advertising for the release of Runnin Wild this year, coz I live in Australia, last year I bought the album, and they were nominated for an ARIA award (australian music), was it released first here then later overseas? Along Came a Spider was good, the one with slash, Vengeance is mine. Rock n roll train is ok but i heard another black ice song on the radio a few times and when i heard it first i thought it was a pop song until i heard the screechy vocals then i was just confused.

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My favourite albums this year:

1. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul

2. The Fratellis - Here We Stand

3. The Fireman - Electric Arguments

4. Panic At The Disco - Pretty Odd

5. Coldplay - Viva La Vida

The Delays' Everythings The Rush and Snow Patrol's A Hundred Million Suns were pretty good too but I haven't listened to them that much. Overwall a poor year in music, like the last 3 or 4 years. I miss the 90's!

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I don't stop by these parts too often anymore, but what the hell, I'll say hello, wish y'all happy holidays, and post my favorites of the year.


20)Xiu Xiu – Women As Lovers

This complete lack of surprise or new direction that Xiu Xiu displays with Women As Lovers would be a misstep for most bands, but they have their formula, it works, and this is another enjoyable release from a great band. They took their basic sound and edgy pop songwriting sensibility that they've developed over the past few albums, tweaked it with a greater emphasis on percussion as well as brightened things up with jarring brass horn instrumentation. And from start to finish this might be their most melodious to date.


19)Q-Tip – The Renaissance

A Tribe Called Quest are undoubtedly one of the greatest entities in hip hop history, and here Q-Tip recaptures some of his old group's magic, causing fans to reminisce over ATCQ's vitality while managing to avoid sounding stuck in the past. The Renaissance proves to be unabashed in it's sunniness and optimism, the sound is so fresh with an old school, motown vibe. Plus Q-Tip doesn't sound like he's missed a beat over the past decade on the microphone, his flow remains one of the best in the game with a fluidity that's unmatched. To sum things up, this is a great come back from a true trailblazer.


18)Evangelista – Hello, Voyager

Offering up this brooding batch of material on Hello, Voyager, Carla Bouzilich, the creative force behind Evangelista, seems to be a second coming of No Wave icon Lydia Lunch. She rambles, laments, shrieks her way through an album of slow bluesy marches with controlled outbursts of feedback or nasty post-rock leanings with dissonant orchestration. Despite the vile atmosphere, there are a few turns of rather poignant tenderness, "The Blue Room" is almost heartbreaking in it's own crude way.


17)Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles assemble bizarre, animated electronic pop songs that could be said to resemble a malfunctioning Nintendo system. To craft this hybrid indie techno music the two members use a sound card from an early Atari consul and run their instruments through it to get an ADD video game keyboard clatter. The product is catchy bitpop, and the timbral resources utilized allow for a great deal of harmonic and melodic clarity, providing more depth here than in most dance inclined, techno influenced music.


16)Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls

At 21 minutes, this is a solid, concise indie pop record that grows on you with admirable consistency on each subsequent listen. Like artists such as Beat Happening or Tiger Trap before them, they revel in jangly guitars, muddy production, and a lack of accomplished musicianship. The songs benefit as a result, and the band build some memorable three part harmonies with their voices, most noticeably in the album's high point "Where Do You Run To", a wonderful little gem. If Vivian Girls lasted too much longer it would risk growing somewhat tiresome; as it stands it's a wholly welcome first LP from the girls.

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15)Original Silence – The Second Original Silence

Original Silence are back again with their second album in as many years, this time featuring four thunderous pieces on the disc instead of two. The first couple improvised "songs" on The Second Original Silence chug along with perhaps a little more direction if just as much insanity as they did on the first album. The second two take a slightly different approach, placing O'Rourke's squealing electronic noises and Gustafsson's saxophone wails in the forefront, building the structure around those two elements and giving the guitars and drums more of a supporting role. Although it isn't the achievement that The First Original Silence was, in the end it's another work of free improvisation that delivers the goods.


14)Experimental Dental School – Jane Doe Loves Me

Following in the footsteps of fellow bay area cohorts Deerhoof, Jane Doe Loves Me is an exercise in fractured discord, with a blatant disregard for conventional tempos or melodies. Experimental Dental School's unpredictable song-centered experimentalism makes heavy use of crunchy distortion, bubbly keyboards/organs, and outrageous shifts in direction. Art rock, proto-punk, noise pop, prog rock, whatever label you want to put on them, XDS aren't beholden to any musical ideology though there are traces of each in their foundation.


13)Yellow Swans – Deterioration

Here is a work birthed from noise, incorporating reverberating melody and never lacking in expressive psychotropic qualities. Motifs build into hallucinatory currents, deteriorate, and finally die in a blaze of guitar strum and cacophonous showers. Unfortunately Yellow Swans have decided to disband, bringing an end to one of my favorite psych/noise-rock projects out there today. They have one more scheduled release for 2009, here's hoping it's as good as, if not better than Deterioration.


12)Excepter – Debt Dept

On this album Excepter plays kind of like a cross between Black Dice and The Residents, like some sort of dark and arty club music. There are murky drum machine beats, loops of rhythmic electronics, samples, drones, and bizarre speak-shout vocals with nonsensical lyrics. All of this mixes together to create a wacky and trance inducing listening experience.


11)Deerhoof – Offend Maggie

Deerhoof continue to pump out charmingly idiosyncratic indie rock albums with an astonishing consistency, and Offend Maggie is another exciting example of the pure ingenuity at work within the band's makeup. Offend Maggie has a back to basics feel to it after Friend Opportunity, utilizing stripped down arrangements and standard rock instrumentation of guitars, bass, and drums paired with more modest production. The constant is the songwriting, which remains top-notch as they weave some great intertwining guitar licks and of course those quintessential sugary sweet pop hooks that never grow old.

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10)Thank You – Terrible Two

Terrible Two perfectly captures that feeling of having an incredible jam with friends that no one will ever remember what they were playing or how they got there, even if the results are anything but aimless. Using drums and an organ as the keystones, Thank You remind me a bit of OOIOO on their last couple albums. Extended drum rave-ups, sublime

guitar spazz, occasional moans/ohhs/grunts, sustained organ notes that harmonize and phase together. The record never really "goes" anywhere in particular, but it also manages to go everywhere at the same time.


09)Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

Transitioning from the semi-abstract, drum heavy electro-art rock of God's Money, Gang Gang Dance put forth a genre bending installment of warped electronics with Saint Dymphna. From ambient tracks like "Dust", to the grooviness of the aptly titled "House Jam", to a guest rapper on "Princes", the album is tied together by a retro 80s new wave feel. While that glossy 80s synth sound has certainly made a huge comeback in indie rock over the past 5 or so years, and is bordering on being very cliché nowadays, Saint Dymphna is executed so well and maintains enough of the group's experimental, ritualistic charm to make it a winner.


08)Tv On the Radio – Dear Science,

With their excellent 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain, New York artists Tv On the Radio were able to reconstruct their post-punk and No Wave revival roots with walls of guitars, slick sound collages and soulful vocals. Their newest peels away some of those layers of sound while adding even more soul and tunefulness into the compositions. Other changes include a greater dose of off-kilter funk and timely dance rock. The result being that Dear Science, may be more streamlined than it's predecessor, but is just as rewarding a listen.


07)The Goslings – Occasion

Husband and wife team Leslie and Max Soren make up The Goslings, a band heavily immersed in a delightful mess of sludge and grisly doom abstractions. Their music is truly dreadful, Max plowing along with repetitive, mangled, down tuned guitar riffs and impenetrable fuzzed out drones while Leslie emits processed howls and occasionally wails away on a makeshift drum set. You're unlikely to hear a more hostile record in '08, one that makes most metal sound downright tame.


06)Times New Viking – Rip It Off

Although the lo-fi recordings of indie pop forefathers including Guided By Voices and Pavement came off as endearing products of situation, for Times New Viking the sensation of hearing a third-generation dub of a demo recorded on a boom box is a desired effect, not a necessity driven by circumstances. Every calculated measure is taken to fashion a brash, in-your-face grime. The amps are turned up to ear bleeding volumes, short momentous pop songs that usually only last a minute or so are derived from static and hiss, not just draped in it. Certainly the crowning achievement in noise pop for the year.

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05)Suishou No Fune – Prayer For Chibi

There is a stark spiritual power surrounding Prayer For Chibi, comprised of languid pieces for dueling guitars stretching out into gauzy torrents that mesh with the lofty vocals of Kurenai and Kageo. The theme of the album deals with the death of their cat Chibi, and the droning psych-blues mimics those sensations of death and sorrow. Each string struck rings out with clarity, free to float in slow motion. This subtle path is a perfect choice for handling these solemn songs of remembrance.


04)Flying Lotus – Los Angeles

Talented producer Flying Lotus delivers a nuanced, largely instrumental trip hop effort that simultaneously blends hip hop aesthetics with laptop composition and a warm organic feeling with digital precision. Cryptic pulses underline what sound like cheap 8-bit synthesizer themes, ingeniously icy beats create the hooks needed to thrust the listener into his world. The album avoids sounding downright apocalyptic through scrupulous crackles and pops, background distortion, hums that gives one the cozy sensation of listening to an old beloved vinyl.


03)Fennesz – Black Sea

Rich electro-acoustic horizons once again dominate the plane inhabited on the newest release by ambient mastermind Christian Fennesz. Fennesz does prodigious things with the guitar, altering it's very fabric and texture through laptops and digital filters with such skill as to turn the instrument into his own personal symphonic palette, sculpting effervescent ambiance that is epic in it's proportions. Black Sea is perhaps a slightly more desolate and mature album, it's beauty lies in wonderfully hooky harmonies and blistering ethereal foam.


02)Aufgehoben – Khora

Khora is a gargantuan, relentless sound mass that hits the listener like a ton of bricks, the sonic equivalent of a volcanic explosion caused by clashing tectonic plates. Imagine hearing a live band performing an experimental noise maelstrom, but with the long-term editing and precision definition of instruments that cannot be obtained with any pa system in a venue. Skillful guitar noise battles cavernous drums for prominence in your speakers while mutant electronics swirl about. Repeated listens aren't likely to make wrapping your head around Khora any easier, but will allow you to appreciate the meticulous detail that is probably Aufgehoben's most impressive quality.


01)Portishead – Third

Making a comeback album following a long layoff or breakup is a difficult proposition for any band, no matter how good. The temptation is always there to pick up where things left off, to perhaps regain some of that old magic. Usually efforts like this come off as tired and derivative, so it is fortunate that Portishead decided to take the route less traveled and generate such a bold artistic statement. Instead of expanding upon the trip hop of Dummy and Portishead with jazzy 60s atmospherics and smooth string/horn arrangements, Beth's pristine voice now fronts a jagged backdrop of pulsating electronic grooves and industrial beats that produces a haunting document of sound. Like many great albums, Third defies easy classification, branching out across genres and transcending boundaries.

Honorable Mentions:

Thee Oh Sees – The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In

Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That

Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual

Sonic Youth – SYR 8

The Hospitals - Hairdryer Peace

Boris - Smile

The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust

El Ten Eleven – These Promises Are Being Videotaped

Prurient – And Still, Wanting

The Breeders – Mountain Battles

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog – Party Intellectuals

Eat Skull – Sick To Death

Autechre – Quaristice

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing

Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill

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Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere In Particular

John Mayer - Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles

Eric Sardinas - Eric Sardinas And Big Motor

B.B. King - One Kind Favor

Buddy Guy - Skin Deep

Hernando - North Mississippi Allstars

AC/DC - Black Ice

The Black Crowes - Warpaint

Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple

Los Lonely Boys - Forgiven

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Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere In Particular

John Mayer - Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles

Eric Sardinas - Eric Sardinas And Big Motor

B.B. King - One Kind Favor

Buddy Guy - Skin Deep

Hernando - North Mississippi Allstars

AC/DC - Black Ice

The Black Crowes - Warpaint

Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple

Los Lonely Boys - Forgiven

He's great live. I saw him open for Steve Vai a couple of years ago and had the chance to meet and chat with him. Very cool guy.

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Why was there advertising for the release of Runnin Wild this year, coz I live in Australia, last year I bought the album, and they were nominated for an ARIA award (australian music), was it released first here then later overseas? Along Came a Spider was good, the one with slash, Vengeance is mine. Rock n roll train is ok but i heard another black ice song on the radio a few times and when i heard it first i thought it was a pop song until i heard the screechy vocals then i was just confused.

Runnin' Wild was released in late January here in the U.S. far later than the release date in Australia. AC/DC's Black Ice album was great, I think you mean Anything Goes because that song did sound a like a pop song and not so much AC/DC ish but if you listen to the whole album you'll like it a lot.

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As already mentioned, Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes are great new albums. I also like Hellacopters "Head Off", Drive-By Truckers "Brighter Than Creations Dark" and Glasvegas "Glasvegas". That's what I come to think of right now..

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My top 10

1. Blood ceremony- Blood ceremony

2. Half Man half Biscuit - CSI Ambleside

3. Skiltron - Beheading the liars

4. Black Stone Cherry - Folklore and superstition

5. The Hold Steady - Stay positive

6. Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God

7. Emmylou Harris - All I intended to be

8. Battlelore - The last alliance

9. Sabaton - The art of war

10.Elvis Costello - Momofuku

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