Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Music 2008, Part 2: Fresh Choices

Old farts weren’t the only ones making good music in 2008. The best of them was the debut by Vampire Weekend. This album took a little while to grow on me, but once it did it became a staple for me. I listen to it in the car, while working out, and while programming. Ten years ago I would have probably said it was the best of 2008, instead of Coldplay. Vampire Weekend was the best of the “young” artists, but hardly the only noteworthy album.

The Very Good
Attack & Release by The Black Keys is a very good album. These guys are both good songwriters and talented musicians. The album runs a little flat at times, but is thoroughly enjoyable. Definitely best listened to in the car, which for me means blaring loud.
For a more relaxing listen, try For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. The music is clever and enjoyable. The vocals can take some getting used to, but do not get in the way even if you are not a fan of the folk and falsetto.
Death Cab or Cutie has had a lot of success in recent years, and they only got better in 2008. Narrow Stairs is their best album to date. In fact “Cath...” was one of my favorite songs of 2008, but the album is full of beautiful songs.
The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow received a lot of hype in 2008, and it deserved it. These guys really know how to create space in their music. “Grounds for Divorce” and “Weather to Fly” were personal favorites, but the whole album received a lot of playtime for me. It is a better headphones album, good for programming.
Back to Black by Amy Winehouse was a 2007 release that was discussed ad nauseum in the past. Personally I did not really get into the album until this year. She really does have a remarkable voice and the album is full of memorable music.

Merely Good
Metro Station’s self-titled album was technically released in 2007. I did not listen to it until 2008. It spawned a number of pop hits, but you should not hold that against them. It is a quality release. These guys are definitely know a good beat and good hook. They remind me a lot of a less polished Garbage.
Another heavily hyped album from across the pond was Fed by Plush. The songwriting and production is excellent, but a little indulgent at times. It did not live up to the hype to me, but is a good listen nonetheless. The adjective “lush” is often used to describe it, and with good reason.
If Plush puts you to sleep, then throw on Santogold’s debut album. It is a very fun and exciting album. This is probably not the kind of album that you will find yourself going back to in a year or two, but it is a pleasant treat for now. Of course I once thought the same thing about The Gorillaz...
Finally a year-end retrospective of music these days is obliged to mention the most popular showcase of music: American Idol. This year’s winner, David Cook, was the first “rocker” to win the event. However, former finalist Chris Daughtry has had as much success as any winner with the exception of the new Queen of Country, Carrie Underwood. So it was not surprising at all for Cook to win. His self-titled album is par for the course. It is not as good as Daughtry’s debut, but that probably won’t matter. It definitely reproduces the “emo” sound that was Cook’s signature and has quality songwriting. In other words, if you liked Cook on the show, you will like his album. This may not seem like a notable accomplishment, but actually there have been very few Idol winners who you could say this about.

No comments: