Sunday, December 21, 2008

Best Albums of 2008 - Part 4 - #10-6

We're getting to the good stuff now...

Part 1 - Rules and Runners Up
Part 2 - #20-16
Part 3 - #15-11


The Crystal Stilts - The Crystal Stilts [EP]

The Crystal Stilts have made some big waves this year with their simple, measured pop songs, which sizzle with distortion, ring with indie dramatics and have so much reverb, they may have been recorded in a cave. Yes, I know they put out a real album in 2008. And that album, Alight of Night is more polished and more cohesive than the self-titled EP. However, this collection of songs was the more exciting of the two. While on the album proper, the Stilts could consistently be mistaken for the Jesus & Mary Chain, the EP shows a broader range of influences and a lot greater diversity between songs. Alight of Night shows what the Crystal Stilts are, but The Crystal Stilts shows what they could be.

Track pick: "Converging in the Quiet"


Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
Kill Rock Stars

Just because Deerhoof have put out better albums in the past doesn't mean their 2008 release isn't better than the vast majority of albums this year. Offend Maggie is a less focused and slightly more conventional effort than their masterpiece Reville, but it still features their signature angular guitars and oddball childlike melodies. And the album includes some of the band's best experiments in dissonance and contrast. Moreover, the band's extraordinary originality hasn't faded, and Offend Maggie makes it clear why Deerhoof have become one of the most venerated experimental acts of the decade.

Track pick: "Offend Maggie"


Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Subpop Records

If you haven't heard of the Fleet Foxes by now, just pick a random blog post from 2008 from any music blog and you'll probably get something about this band. I thought I would dislike them, but after I gave them a fair listen, I have to say, their album has certainly earned much (if not quite all) of its praise. A down-home folk album with definite roots in spirituals and hymns, Fleet Foxes is far more tame than most of what gets my attention. What's edgy and interesting is that no one else is making quite this kind of music these days, at least no one with a recording contract, a tour manager and some indie rock cred. The record is a confident and cohesive collection of songs, and though the band's vision may not do much to push the envelope, they execute it with such a polished ease that it's no wonder this has been one of the stand-out records of the year.



Foals - Antidotes
Transgressive Records

I'm jumping on the bandwagon again on this one, but I'm feeling increasingly confident in my decision to like this band - already Antidotes is in regular rotation on my iPod, not in consideration for this review but because I really want to hear it. The album is most notable for the constant, complex interplay between guitars, bass and drums, each of which play "lead" parts that could alone propel the songs. Together, the parts lock into tight tracks that never grow boring. And over it all soar pop-friendly but original melodies that make it hard to tear yourself away.

Track pick: "Red Socks Pugie"


MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Red Ink/Columbia

MGMT exploded into the mainstream in early 2008 for very good reason. Their super-catchy, radio-ready electronica has more rock sensibility than any club music since the early 90's Madchester scene. Catchy beats, irresistible melodies and masterful keyboards drive the whole richly-varied album forward. With obvious roots in psychedelic and Britpop music, MGMT has created an album lovable by everyone from club-rats to Flaming Lips junkies to anglophile rock snobs.

Track pick: "Kids"

NEXT>> Part 5: #5-1

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