Okey-dokey! Now I’ve got more time on my hands, as I have successfully completed the Fall 2008 semester and am on break. :) So to kick off my being “back” (although I never truly left!), let’s take a step back in time!
The year is swiftly coming to an end, so that means it’s time to take a look and a listen back at the music that provided the soundtrack to the year 2008. The layout of this “best of” list will be a little bit different to last year’s list – all the categories will be there (except for “best group reunion,” as no groups that I like reunited this year!), but this year I’m splitting the list into three posts – the first will be the “top 15 albums of 2008,” the second will be the “top 30 singles of 2008,” and the final post will be all the rest of the “best of” categories like best remixes, best videos, best compilations, etc.
Without further ado, here is:
The Best Music of 2008
The 15 Best Albums of 2008
A pretty self-explanatory category!
1. Tarantula by Mónica Naranjo: Back in May, I noted that Tarantula was my favorite album of the year so far. It turns out that nothing else this year could top the delicious excess of Mónica’s masterpiece. Beginning with the operatic, epic “Europa,” and going out on a high note with “Revolución,” Tarantula finds the perfect, dramatic balance between dance, rock, and pop. Though I don’t speak a lick of Spanish, Tarantula needs no translation – the music speaks for itself.
2. Out Of Control by Girls Aloud: My love for the album has only increased since I reviewed it! Decidedly more melancholy (though still dance-ably so) than any of their previous albums, Out Of Control has overtaken Chemistry as my favorite Girls Aloud album. And that’s saying something! Highlights like the bluesy “Love Is The Key” and incredible “Untouchable” are indicative of the album’s quality as a whole. Pop has never sounded so good!
3. Circus by Britney Spears: Personally, I think Britney still needs a lot of time and love to recover from her lowest points. By all appearances, she hit rock bottom, and for a lot of people it’s not an easy climb back up to stability. Like a lot of fans and even casual observers, I just want her to be happy and healthy. Now, about the music – if you look back at the last few years in Britney’s life, you wouldn’t have expected 2007 to result in an awesome album like Blackout, and you certainly would be shocked to discover that lightning struck again with this year’s Circus. Circus leans more toward classic pop than its predecessor with the three-ring antics of “Circus” and the naughty romp “If U Seek Amy,” and even gets in a few sweet ballads, like “Out From Under” (and I must be one of the few that rather likes “My Baby”!). Say what you want about Britney – she still makes a darn good pop record.
4.Hard Candy by Madonna: Perhaps I was a little over-excited about the album in my review of it in May… but I still just can’t get enough of Hard Candy. Admittedly, I skip “Candy Shop” on most listens because it really is atrocious. But all the way from the too-much-fun “4 Minutes” to the haunting “Voices,” Hard Candy really is a treat. This urban-tinged pop album has gotten a bit of a bum rap with fans and critics alike, but don’t write it off completely – a little bit of Hard Candy can’t be too bad for you!
5. Curiouser by Kate Miller-Heidke: A late addition to my “top albums of 2008” list, Curiouser is wonderfully weird, with Kate’s operatic squeal working its way into many of the tracks in strange and fun ways. I even compared “Politics In Space” to my one true musical love Kate Bush’s “Them Heavy People” in an October review. Curiouser might strike some as a bit too saccharine, but for those with a sweet tooth, the album should hit the spot.
6. The Fame by Lady GaGa: I started off kinda disliking Lady GaGa, but with a few more listens to The Fame, I fell under her spell. Songs like “Love Game” (with its infectious rap about a “disco stick”!) and the dark dance beats of “Poker Face” make for a fun, electrifying listen.
7. I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too by Martha Wainwright: We take a break from the dance pop that has characterized the last few entries in this list with this sort of alt-folk album. I’ve really enjoyed this album since I first heard it – the melodies and instrumentation, not to mention Martha’s distinctive light vocals, make each song something special. Songs like “Jesus And Mary Chain” and “So Many Friends” may sound dark, but there’s a warmth there, too. A beautiful album.
8. Common Reaction by Uh Huh Her: I wondered, in my thoughts on this album in an earlier post, if Common Reaction would end up in my “top 5 albums of 2008.” It’s a few places down, but that doesn’t make Common Reaction any less of a refreshing electro-pop experience! Singles “Not A Love Song” and “Explode” demonstrated that you can join electro sounds with pop sensibilities, and the rest of the album consistently reaches the heights set by those tunes.
9. Forth by The Verve: In August I reviewed this album, and I stand by my declaration that when Forth “is good, it’s glorious!” Low points like “Numbness” and “Columbo” are forgotten in the dense psychedelia of “Sit And Wonder,” while lead single “Love Is Noise” might just get you up on your feet and dancing! Though patchy in parts, Forth is ultimately a great listen.
10. Home by Maple Bee: I first found out about Maple Bee awhile ago thanks to the awesome (but on hiatus) Electro/Retro, and her new album, Home, is definitely worthy of attention. The lush, lively opening track and lead single “While You Were Sleeping” sets a high standard that the rest of the album matches, from the quietly intense “No Place” to the beautifully anguished “This Face This Name.”
11. Safe Trip Home by Dido: Safe Trip Home is a mature progression from the meaningful downtempo of her first two albums – the songs are still low-key but there are some new and interesting twists. Lead single “Don’t Believe In Love” is surprisingly funky, “Grafton Street” features lovely Irish notes, and the sprawling, special, almost 9 minute long “Northern Skies” never wears out its welcome.
12. Sexy As Hell by Sarah Connor: I’d never listened to Sarah before this album, and now I wonder what else I’ve been missing! This is fun urban-electro-pop from beginning to end, with a few quite lovely ballads in between. Club bangers like “Under My Skin” and “Sexy As Hell” are just that – sexy as hell! – and other highlights include the bouncy 80s-inspired “Beautiful View” and the vocoded but sultry “Touch.” Good stuff!
13. Never Never Love by Pop Levi: My “find” of the summer, Pop Levi’s Never Never Love brings glam rock and kicky electronica together to make one heck of a catchy album. Heavy tracks like the guitar-and-bass-driven “Wannamama” and “Dita Dimone” and its grinding synths share space on the album with slower tunes like the pretty “You Don’t Gotta Run.” An eclectic, engaging listen!
14. We Started Nothing by The Ting Tings: Starting out with ultra-catchy single “Great DJ” and ending with celebratory jam “We Started Nothing,” The Ting Tings’ debut album (which I reviewed in May) is full of fun ‘n’ punchy electro-pop. Music snobs think they’re too trendy, too contrived – but give ’em a listen, and you’ll hear why The Ting Tings are so much fun.
15. We’re In The Music Biz by Robots In Disguise: RID’s punky brand of electro-clash-pop is in fine form on this, their best album to date. Not only can the Robots do fast-and-fierce tunes like “Can’t Stop Getting Wasted” and the title track, but they can also slow it down and come up with less party-minded songs like the delicate “The Tears” and the theological thinker “I Don’t Have A God.”
Hopefully I’ll get the next post done tomorrow! :)