Top 10 Albums of 2008 ~ BitterSweetLife

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008

After talking about it for weeks I'm finally posting my Top Ten Albums of 2008. Yeah, it's technically a little late...yearly top 10 lists typically appearing at the end of the year in question. But why get hung up on chronology? These are the albums that dominated the Vanderhorst airwaves last year, and will continue to get tons of play. And while I'm not a famous expert music critic, YES--I think it's safe to say that these albums deserve a shot at making your playlists.

How did I finalize this list? By throwing the contenders in an unordered list and then moving them up and down according to their relative merits? That's right, you guessed it. After a few years of this approach, I have it down to a science. Cover art will take you to Amazon where you can fill out your collection while donating about 4% to this blog. We sure appreciate all those dimes.

Here we go.

10. Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie. DCFC haven't released a bad album in almost a decade, and while Narrow Stairs had its slow moments, the highlights ("Grapevine Fires," "No Sunlight") more than atoned.
9. Viva la Vida by Coldplay. Coldplay pulled a remarkable trick, producing a highly anticipated album that satisfied their own expectations as well as those of their international fan base.
8. Dear Science by TV on the Radio. Crackling with energy, this is smart, layered Indie rock at its best.
7. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. Friends Cawley and McCoy absolutely love this album, and I do too--Bon Iver's whispery voice and cathartic lyrics earned this one a lot of play...if not my number one spot.
6. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend. Clever lyrics, dancy African vibes, and a clear, direct sound. Aidan and Asher want to know, What's not to like?
5. You and Me by The Walkmen. Omnipresent twangy electric guitars and Hamilton Leithauser's twangy voice, seasoned with acoustic variety, resulted in an album that grew and grew on me.

4. Third by Portishead. Described by Lindsay as "weird and trippy," Third probably does fall in those categories, but that's a good thing. This album is carefully textured, mysterious, and sometimes beautiful.

3. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes. Stately acoustic settings and lingering melodies. This self-described "baroque harmonic pop jams" outfit has ridiculous talent.
2. Rook by Shearwater. These sweeping, stripped down songs are poetry set to epic music.

1. Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow. Landing somewhere between Radiohead and Coldplay stylistically, Elbow further established their unique identity with this one, killing us with exceptional hooks and lyrics. Aidan and Lindsay added their accolades, and Elbow gained the popular vote. If you haven't heard "Grounds for Divorce" yet, go play it right now.

Here are the also-rans: Carried to Dust by Calexico, In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy, Limbs And Branches by Jon Foreman, The Rhumb Line by Ra Ra Riot, You Are My Sunshine by Copeland, Perfect Symmetry by Keane. I was tempted to expand the field to fit Copeland and Keane in--that's how close it was.

So, what albums am I missing?

(Cross-posted on

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John B. said...

Ever since I bumped into Shearwater via sometime last year, I've been downloading free (and legal) mp3s wherever I find them, and Rook is on my Amazon Wishlist. Some time ago, "The Snow Leopard" showed up on a free Matador sampler they put out once a season, but I hadn't listened to "The Snow Leopard" till this morning, when it came up in my iTunes player's shuffle. That song is so heartbreakingly beautiful, it made me cry. Where, what part of the soul or the ether, does music like that come from?

You coulda warned a fella, you know.

Ariel said...

I'm with don't stumble upon an album like Rook everyday. And there aren't a lot of bands that write songs that are truly beautiful. "Snow Leopard" does hit hard, but I'm not quite ready to say it's the most impactful song on the album. You seriously need to hear the whole thing.

Jami Jensen said...

I must agree with you on viva la vida... now that is some quality music. love it.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife