Top Ten Albums of 2008

I present to you my favorite albums of 2008. The first five have been on constant shuffle in my iPod for the last few months. That’s not to say that the last five aren’t as solid, but listening to the first five has been as natural as breathing lately, but much more enjoyable. “More enjoyable than oxygen”– that’s a ringing endorsement if there ever was one, right?

  1. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound: I cannot say enough good things about this album and how much I love it. The first time I heard it, I was completely blown away, and I still am. They wear all their influences on their sleeve (Petty, Westerberg, and most notably Springsteen) yet still sound original and fresh. The singer’s voice is raw and tender in all the right places, scarred but healing. The songs are melodic but the lyrics have weight. I hope they tour again so I can finally see them live.
  2. The Fratellis – Here We Stand: I loved Costello Music, and this album is another set of fun singalong pub songs. I feel like I should be raising a pint and singing loudly in a bar with about 50 other people whenever I hear this. It makes me all kinds of happy.
  3. The Foxboro Hot Tubs – Stop Drop and Roll: Yeah, so I put the EP on my top 10 last year, but the full album is equally great. I’d put this on my favorites list just for the addition of “The Pedestrian” alone. (So far we’ve established that I like retro guitar pop/rock that sounds good in a bar and contains references to death and girls named Sally. Continuing in that vein…)
  4. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive: Picking up where “Boys and Girls in America” left off, another solid, melodic, guitar-driven (with piano accents), rocking album. Near and dear to my heart with the occasional local reference thrown in (they might live in Brooklyn but their hearts are still in the Midwest).
  5. Rick Springfield – Venus in Overdrive: The perennially underrated Rick Springfield rocks a lot harder than people give him credit for. Songs like “One Passenger” and “I’ll Miss That Someday” stand up solidly beside the rest of his pop catalog, while he isn’t afraid to lay on the guitar on “3 Warning Shots.”
  6. R.E.M. – Accelerate: R.E.M. is back in rock mode (and so am I, apparently). They can be delicate and mellow in a good way, but they’ve taken their anger at the past eight years and let out their frustrations lyrically and musically with urgency and intensity.
  7. James – Hey Ma: After several years where members of the band focused on solo projects, they reunited for this release. There’s a dark undercurrent to some of the songs (particularly the title track), yet it’s emotionally moving rather than simple political posturing. I also adore the haunting “Upside Down.” They’ve created some of the most beautiful music of their career and haven’t missed a step after taking some time away.
  8. Mike Doughty – Golden Delicious: This album begins with the politically-tinged “Fort Hood” which, like James’s “Hey Ma” counters the dark lyrics with a bright melody. It ends with a profoundly lovely cover of “Book of Love.” Also, bonus points for including “bacon” in the title of one of the songs, although it’s not my favorite track– it would be a toss-up between the two previously mentioned songs, “27 Jennifers,” and “I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress.”
  9. Duffy – Rockferry: A nod to soul sirens of the past (particularly Dusty Springfield), it has that whole retro vibe that I eat up like pumpkin muffins.
  10. Weezer (the Red Album): Although some of the songs venture into rock opera territory, overall it’s Weezer doing what they do best– putting out solid fun guitar pop songs while slinging just a little attitude.
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