Monday, December 22, 2008

YE-LID Year In Review: Top 50 Albums Of 2008 (50-41)

50. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster…

This was one of the most assured debuts of the year, which was a little surprising. EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets was indeed excellent, but it lacked a certain maturity; at that point, Los Campesinos! (exclamation point necessary!) seemed content to just sing what you liked as long as you shouted it right back at them.

That’s why Hold On Now, Youngster… was so shocking. The band was suddenly writing sincere songs about love, life, and heartbreak. As an early fan, I was expecting them to write this kind of album for at least a couple years. And it only got better from there (see farther up on this list for the reason).

- Your Ex-Lover

49. Bound Stems – The Family Afloat

After a solid debut with Appreciation Night in 2006, Bound Stems were ready to breakout onto the indie scene. Unfortunately, this album didn’t get nearly the recognition it deserved, but it wasn’t for lack of quality.

The Family Afloat toned down the intensity a bit this time around. Their song-writing is clearly sharper here, though, with more immediate hooks and higher production value. ‘Happens To Us All Otherwise’ was arguably the catchiest song of the year; I dare you to listen to it through once and not feel the need to hum “she says we’ve got one foot out the door” the first instance no one’s watching. This was a fantastic sophomore effort. It’s just too bad no one noticed.

- Your Ex-Lover

48. Cadence Weapon – Afterparty Babies

Cadence Weapon (aka Rollie Pemberton) is what everyone thinks Common is: a real rapper. While the definition of “real” rapper can and has been argued for decades, the point is that Pemberton is just, well, smart. You can hear it in his wordplay, you can feel it in his rhymes. Dude just knows what he’s doing; he clearly understands his influences and how they affect his music.

And while labelling someone as a “smart” rapper can also translate to “boring” rapper, Pemberton is no such thing. Tracks like ‘Getting Dumb’ and ‘Real Estate’ both have something to say, but they’re also fucking jams; especially with ‘Getting Dumb’, you’ll be popping your booty while at the same time thinking about what Pemberton’s saying about mass consumption. He finds a happy medium between preaching and partying, making Afterparty Babies one of the best rap releases of 2008.

- Your Ex-Lover

47. Nada Surf - Lucky

Nada Surf has come a long way since Popular and this is heard best in their February 2008 release of Lucky. Lucky pumps out a more matured, more emotive, more mellowed sound. But it's still the same pop/rock Nada Surf that you know and love.

Speaking of love, the track "Are You Lightning?"; it gets me every time. The songs on Lucky are each little anthems for life targeted at different groups of people in different situations. And that's why it's an album that can extend to and touch so many different audiences on a personal level. It's an album to listen when you're having a good day, and it's an album to listen to when you're having a bad day. Nada Surf has successfully found that medium in Lucky and that is why it is being
recognized as one of the top 50 albums of 2008.

- A Reminder

46. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna

If there's any album that came as quite a surprise to me this year, it was Gang Gang Dance's Saint Dymphna. The whole album is a colourful trip from start to finish, with each song flowing into the next lifting you to your next destination. From the yowling of "First Communion" to the hip-hop sounding, "Princes (featuring Tinchey Strider)" Gang Gang Dance pulled off some truly unique music that has moved me in several different directions.

- roygbiv

45. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles

You either love them or hate them. We here at YE-LID happen to love them.
This album truly should have sucked. Early leak ‘Alice Practice’ was killer, but there was no way that should’ve worked over an entire album. And yet somehow it did, somehow it never got old. It’s because that these aren’t just 8-bit ditties, these are real songs. Despite its eccentricities, Crystal Castles plays like a classic pop album, with some wicked singles (‘Courtship Dating’, ‘Crimewave’, ‘Air War’ just to name a few) surrounded by a bunch of solid tracks.

The album is weird, for sure, but it’s also a party album, the kind you put on when all your friends come over and get asked, “Who is this?” all night long.

- Your Ex-Lover

44. Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell

This was the closest we got to a new Strokes record in 2008 without actually receiving a new Strokes record. Elephant Shell is short (just past half an hour), but it doesn’t need to be any longer; the entire album is classic indie pop songs fit into under three minute packages.

As a voyeur of the hype machine, I was a bit surprised by how good this album really was. It’s not often that bands without a proper album under their belts and this much momentum actually make a stellar debut, but that’s exactly what they managed to do. Their career can go in so many different directions from here. TCP have already tasted mainstream success, especially in Canada, so it will be interesting to see if they try and parlay that into a more mainstream sound. In the meantime, though, I’m more than happy to continue listening to Elephant Shell, knowing that this is a band with a bright future.

- Your Ex-Lover

43. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig!!!

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! was the first Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album I had a chance to listen to. It won me over pretty quickly, and definitely deserves a spot on this list. The whole album has a very "western" feel to it. You can easily hear that the whole band is in sync on every track, and playing "together" very well. The music video for the title track isn't half bad either.

- roygbiv

42. Santogold – Santogold

What do you do when everyone just considers you an M.I.A. clone? You make a fucking killer record, filled with songs that either separate you from that image or try and do M.I.A. better than M.I.A. Welcome to Santogold’s world.

The comparisons were bound to be made. As a black, female rapper/singer, Santogold was pretty much stepping into M.I.A. territory the second she released this record. First single ‘Creator’ decided to give a big middle finger to the haters; instead of trying to distance herself from M.I.A. as much as possible, she made one of the best tracks of the year that would’ve fit in seamlessly on Kala. The rest of the album is more about making her own sound, but ‘Creator’ was a powerful declaration that she wasn’t going to take any bullshit.

Santogold is like a genre orgy, with pretty much everything making an appearance. This makes for an exhilarating ride, one you’ll want to take over and over again.

- Your Ex-Lover

41. Q-Tip - The Renaissance

After nine years, Queens based rapper Jonathan Davis (aka Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, aka Q-Tip) throws it all down and is gettin' it all up with his November 2008 release of The Renaissance. Q-Tip went on a nine year hiatus after releasing his debut album Amplified. He came back strong scoring many positive reviews and selling over thirty thousand copies within the first week of the album's release.

It's been said that The Renaissance is what Amplified should have sounded like. I wasn't a fan of Q-Tip in '99, but after hearing both albums this year I can't agree with that statement. Each album is a unique experience in a definite sense. Amplified is a powerful spanked up 90's hip-hop album. The Renaissance is more of a loungy, more chillin' album. This sound is best demonstrated in tracks like 'Gettin' Up', 'Official', 'You', 'We Fight/We Love', 'Dance On Glass', 'Life Is Better' which features Norah Jones, 'Believe' and 'Shaka'. I've pretty much put down the whole track list with that statement, but that's exactly my point.

- A Reminder

Stay tuned. Numbers 40 to 31 will be posted soon. Aren't you excited?

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