It was a good year for music in 2008 despite all the doom-and-gloom music industry stories. Personally, I listened to far more music online than on CDs this year, perhaps a function of how much time I spend in front of a computer but still a shift from the past for me. Several of my overall top ten, then, are acts I discovered online somehow–the Spring Standards, Warm In the Wake, The Raveonettes. Other picks are from artists whose prior work has also shown up on my top ten lists in years past–The Avett Brothers, Drive-By Truckers, Teddy Thompson, and Anthony David.
Top Ten Albums of 2008
1.Spring Standards No One Will Know (self-released)
If you’ve seen this band play, their unorthodox percussion (spread out between several members) immediately catches the eyes. The ears, however, are more captivated by the vocal harmonies and counterpoints atop some irrepressibly bouncy acoustic pop tunes.
2. Avett Brothers, Second Gleam (Ramseur)
A second quiet acoustic collection from the North Carolina alt-whatever darlings, is it wrong to say I prefer this to their louder, more raucous club show fare?
3. Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust (Vice Records)
Postmodern disco rock, or is it post-disco modern rock? Either way it’s cooler than you are and the best goth-punk-disco band since My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult.
4. Jamie Lidell, Jim (Warp)
Classic soul sounds from a contemporary upstart with an ear for the genre’s masters and the ability to translate that into something both timeless and timely.
5. Teddy Thompson, A Piece of What You Need (Verve Forecast)
A smoother songwriter than dad (Richard Thompson, who shows up on a couple songs here), this is more pop even than his previous efforts, and better for it.
6. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (Vagrant)
The boys from Jersey may be the best mainstream rock band in the country that the mainstream of the country hasn’t really heard of—too bad for them.
7. Drive By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)
The title says it all in this case—bright sunny rockers next to detailed, depressing story-songs, nobody out there today does contemporary southern rock as well, with as much conviction, or with as much spiritual or emotional depth.
8. Danielle Sansone, Two Flowers (self-released)
Children’s music isn’t just for kids, as this family-friendly release proves. Sansone strikes a good balance between flights of imaginative fancy and the solid underpinnings of sophisticated melody on a batch of songs for her youngest fans that shimmer and shine as brightly as anything from Sarah McLachlan or Jenny Lewis.
9. Warm In The Wake, Speak Plainly (self-released)
Jangle-pop from Georgia that doesn’t wear its REM influences on its proverbial sleeve.
10. Anthony David, Acey Deucy (Universal Republic)
Forget that this is a more produced combination of the raw material from his two indie albums and just listen to the man’s voice, a classic R&B concoction that can be smooth as Luther Vandross yet as cutting as Bill Withers. “Words”, the song featuring India Irie, earned a Grammy nomination, and no less than Michelle Obama has David’s songs on her iPod playlist.