Best Records We Heard in 2008

19. Nine Inch Nails “The Slip” – Reznor edges onto my list with his free, web-based distribution method and some solid additions to the NIN catalog. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

18. The Republic Tigers “Keep Color” – If you secretly (or unabashedly, like me) love Coldplay, but would like to hear something with a few more surprises in it, hear “Keep Color.” Last year’s OxBlood Records comp included “Made Concrete,” still my favorite song, but I spun the Tigers’ major-label debut in heavy personal rotation for a lot longer than I ever expected to. -h | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

17. No Age “Weirdo Rippers” – This is the weirdest record I own.  The production is lower than lo-fi, the vocals are dissonant and buried, and the song arrangements don’t make any sense.  But it’s fun to kick yourself in the face with someone creepy once in a while. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

16. The JV All Stars “Take Me Back To Spectre” – JVA is better than your favorite punk band. Following a hiatus I was afraid would become permanent after their domain name expired, the All Stars toured through Kansas City, slept on my friend Jill’s floor, and gave me the smart, poppy, and lyrically specific (God bless ’em) “…Spectre.” It’s like punk-pop swallowed a Mario mushroom; the melodies are more creative, the textures change at breakneck pace, the barbs are sharper and the joy is brighter. -h | JVA on MySpace

15. UUVVWWZ “9 Songs” – These dudes (and gal) are from Lincoln, and they put out one of the coolest, most unique art-rocky records I’ve heard.  There’s nothing too weird about the record, and they don’t use a crumhorn or anything weird like that.  It basically sounds like dirty experimental blues rock with female punk vocals.  “Shark Suit” is my favorite, as well as “Blackberry Can.” -Cory | mp3s via Skreemr

14. TV on the Radio “Dear Science” – TVotR blessed us with an unstoppable rhythmic tour de force this year (and they play C&C drums!). Like some holy alliance of technology and soul, hooks and experimentation, “Dear Science” is a supremely moving and emotional record precisely because of the fractures and contraditions it exposes. They seem to have a reputation as a band it takes time to get into, or may even be “difficult” – myself, I don’t understand whey the public doesn’t move 5 million copies for them and make radio requests 24/7. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

13. Billy Joel’s entire New York discography (1976-1983) – 2008 is The Year of Joel in my book; I enjoyed his “Greatest Hits” so much last December at my folks’ for the holidays, I began tracking down his vinyl during trips to Half-Price Books. Turns out the overwhelming majority of his worthwhile stuff (and it is eminently worthwhile) comes from the time he spent rocking New York, after a stint as a LA-based singer-songwriter and before he sucked* – “Turnstiles,” “The Stranger,” “52nd Street,” “Glass Houses,” “Songs from the Attic,” “The Nylon Curtain,” and “An Innocent Man.” Catchy as hell, tight and limber backing band, unparalleled songwriting; there’s no going wrong here. And it turns out “Greatest Hits” overlooks all the best songs, like “All for Leyna,” “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” and “Easy Money.” -h | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

*To his immense credit, he knew when he started sucking, and basically stopped making pop music. And there are a few late-period gems, such as “And So It Goes” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

12. Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago” – This weirdo-folk record is like nothing I’ve ever heard before.  I don’t know how one could dislike “Skinny Love,” for example.  My one complaint is that Justin Vernon has a great chest-voice, but he sings in falsetto basically the entire record, which gets old and makes the songs blend together.  But a great record. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

11. “The Musical Tales of…” Pat Bradley – In our biggest coup to date, Mr. Furious Records secured and released Pat’s solo recordings in March. Known around Lincoln for his work with Tangelo and The Amalgamators, Pat possesses an enviable Neil Young-like gift for making simple fingerpickings and melodies sound fresh and beautiful. I’ll admit I took an extra-long time mastering the album and double-checking every last detail on unfinished CD burns as I drove around KC, simply enjoying tracks like “Sunny Farm” and “Two Days in the Valley.” -h | mp3s via Mr. Furious Records

10. Missy Elliott, “The Cookbook” (2005) – I don’t know; you can’t go wrong with this shit.  every track sounds like a major club hit, while simultaneously being totally inventive.  Missy Elliott is a fantastic rapper.  Get the party started. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

9. Architects “Vice” – Kansas City’s own Architects are tuffer, deffer, louder, and Boss-er than The Gaslight Anthem, another classic rock/punk hybrid band that a ton of people discovered in ’08. “Vice” is the perfect blend of sin, storytelling, volume, anthem, redemption, and the beefiest snare sound imaginable. For extra pleasure, get it on vinyl. -h | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

8. Death Cab for Cutie, “Narrow Stairs” – I think that if I had never heard DCfC, this CD would have totally blown me away.  And it IS good, especially songs like Cath and No Sunlight.  But I keep thinking about records like The Photo Album, and so it’s hard for me to as thrilled about this record.  But if I were 18 and DCfC were foreign to me, I am sure it would change my life, just like The Photo Album did. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

7. Subtle “ExitingARM” – I’d been reading about Subtle for a couple years, and remembering Doseone’s standout track “Mannequin Hand Trapdoor I Remember” on Boom Bip’s “Seed to Sun” record, before finally checking out this year’s “ExitingARM.” Reviews built up my expectation for a real mindfuck, and I got it. The backstory – which isn’t necessary to enjoy the album – is that the protagonist of Subtle’s first two records, Hour Hero Yes, has been forced to record pop songs against his will in a world not his own; he survives by slipping subversive, revolutionary messages into the tunes, and the results are compiled on “ExitingARM.” The bottom line is that Subtle have made a collection of incredible music that stands perfectly balanced between abstraction and pop. It’s freaky and memorable; my favorite. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

6. The Hold Steady “Stay Positive” – As with “Boys and Girls in America,” I didn’t get it right away.  Then, after a few listens, I learned to quit nitpicking and just rock out.  An enjoyable, ass-kingingly rock record.  The guitars are huge as always, and if you ever liked listening to songs about getting hammered, buy this record.  Also, if you like songs with lyrics like “Get hammered!” in them, buy this record. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

5. The Roots “Rising Down” – It’s strange at first, then exhilarating, and finally, fully awesome to hear a group as established as The Roots sounding as hungry as they do on “Rising Down.” Following their move to Def Jam they’ve released a string of under-appreciated records, and this year’s entry currently stands as the zenith of their later (post-“Things…”) career. In a way they’re doing for hip-hop what Wilco did for alt-country with “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” as noise, samples, and general abstraction bubble beneath the surface of an album full of bangers. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

4. Panic at the Disco “Pretty. Odd.” – Another pop record!  An album of 15 or so songs that are just fantastic.  They manage to make you feel the way you do when you listen to the Beatles and ELO, only it’s new-sounding.  I’m glad they took this direction.  Classic psychadelic pop-rock done immaculately. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

3. Botticellis “Old Home Movies” (2007) – There’s a certain feeling that this record is able to sustain throughout.  It’s sort of this dreamy, adorable, jangly, holy, tender pop music.  The melodies and music are very well thought-out and constructed, and it sounds really intricately done to me.  After listening to this record, you’d swear they would sound totally dry and weak live, but they sound just as echoey, huge, and beautiful.  When the lead singer sings, it sounds like a well-produced studio recording. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

2. Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend” – This record revitalized my faith in simple, upbeat pop music.  There are a bunch of Paul Simon comparisons, but I don’t really hear it.  This record isn’t like “OK Computer” in that it pushes the boundaries of music or anything like that.  It’s just the most fun record I’ve heard in many years.  They manage to make a totally interesting record without ever being too emotionally involving.  I could listen to this record 50 times in a row and never get burned out. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

1. Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes” – Last January, who knew that the secret weapon employed in the year’s best recording would be bearded young men singing in three- and four-part harmony? Fleet Foxes gently sung their way out of the Northwest with a blend of old-timey sounds and surprisingly un-folk, linear arrangements. The best thing about their album; it sounds even better *loud.* -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

Catching up & getting into in 2009:

Kings of Leon “Only By the Night” – I have only heard a couple of their songs, but “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire” will absolutely not get out of my head. -Cory

The Cool Kids “The Bake Sale EP” – They rocked at Pitchfork in 2007, and I want more. -Cory

No Age “Nouns” – It’s supposed to be more user-friendly than “Weirdo Rippers,” and I can’t imagine that No Age would ever be criticized for being “over-produced.” -Cory

The Walkmen “You & Me” – Their opening set for Spoon was stellar, and I’ve heard that “You & Me” is the Walkmen being their best Walkmen selves, continuing to perfect their unique sound. -h

M83 “Saturdays = Youth”- Everything I’ve heard from M83 is incredible, I just have to get around to picking up my own copy! -h