2008 was not the best year for new music. I wouldn’t call it a total wash, but it was just average in comparison to even 2007. There were a few that were amazing & a couple were just out on the periphery. Loudon Wainwright III’s album, “Recovery” was good, but a little too weird to fully get into. Lil’ Wayne’s album had fantastic beats & catchy hooks, but the lyrics are average at best, so, to me, it didn’t have the tonal quality that I think a great album must adhere to. All that being said here are my top ten albums of 2008:
10 – Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst – Generally I have issues with people naming albums after themselves & I am not a fan of Bright Eyes (Obersts’ previous/current band). His voice grates on me like nails on a chalkboard, but something about this album resonated with me & I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge it as one of the best albums of the year.
9 – Blue Mountain – Omnibus – True, this album was just a redoing of former songs, but they are redone with such vigor and heartfelt emotion that they come across as more poignant now than they ever did before. The alt-country scene is alive and flourishing with bands like Blue Mountain part of that revival.
8 – Counting Crows – Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings – Adam Duritz is one of my favorite rock personalities, being that he always has something to say & usually it’s relevant. This, Counting Crows’ first album in five years, isn’t their best but it’s still pretty damn good. The first half of the album is rock oriented like a party on Saturday Night while the second half is mellow and reflective like an easy Sunday Morning.
7 – Mason Jennings – In The Ever – Mason Jennings is Lou Reed if Lou Reed sang folk music. This album was absolutely amazing. I loved it and played it over and over again. Simple melodies with great lyrics make this album something that I’ll enjoy for many years to come. Like I pretty much do with everything Jennings puts out there. My favorite song on the record is Memphis, Tennessee. It personifies everything about that style of music that I love.
6– James Hunter –“>The Hard Way – It’s odd to see James Hunter and then hear the voice that comes out of this little British man. Reminiscent of old R & B artists such as: James Brown & Wilson Pickett, Hunter is a pleasant change in a world of music that is becoming increasingly similar in all facets. The Hard Way is an album with the main theme being love. With twinges of ska thrown in this may be the funnest album of 2008.
5–Jackie Greene – Giving Up the Ghost– Jackie Greene has no one genre you could pigeon hole him into. he is parts country, alternative & blues. Giving Up The Ghost may be his best album yet. With bluesy riffs & mellow hooks this album should’ve achieved more recognition and success than it has, but rest assured if he keeps putting music out like this then it won’t be long until Jackie Greene is on the same level as Pete Yorn and Ryan Adams.
4 –Okkervil River – The Stand Ins – With 2 singers trading vocals back and forth with one sounding like Dave Gahan & the other sounding like Robert Smith Okkervil River has been blowing away the music scene under the radar for quite a few years now, but with the Stand Ins they’re finally getting the recognition they deserve. It’s an absolutely brilliant companion piece to 2007’s The Stage Names which it was intended to be a double album with.
3 – Kathleen Edwards – Asking For Flowers – If you don’t know who Kathleen Edwards is & it’s very possible you don’t, then you’re missing out on one of the best female voices around today. Not only is she beautiful but lyrically, melodically & musically she is superb. Asking for Flowers followed the tradition of her previous albums Back to Me & Failer by keeping basic finger picking guitar melodies with complex heartfelt lyrics. As evidenced in the song Scared at Night. The pain and passion that comes across in Kathleen Edwards’ voice is enough to bring a grown man to the verge of tears. Not this grown man, but a grown man.
2 – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology – It’s no secret that I think just about everything Ryan Adams touches is gold, but I was particularly struck with how good this album was. It took me a long time to really get into Easy Tiger, but with Cardinology I really felt it from the beginning. Ryan is easily the best lyricist of this generation. I don’t think it’s a stretch to put him on par with Bruce Springsteen if not Bob Dylan. It has the band still entrenched in that steel guitar sound the Cardinals are famous for without compromising that rock sound that Adams loves.
1 – Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things – This is about as stripped down bare as an album can get. I saw the Wallflowers twice once at the Palace in Hollywood and once in Petaluma & the main cog that held that band together was the brilliant writing and voice of Jakob Dylan. Not merely a famous son he is in his own rite a talented musician with one of the best albums I have heard in a long time. That is not mere hyperbolic conjecture on my part, this is a beautifully composed album combining elements of folk, blues and country which is the reason it is my favorite album of 2008.