Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Taylor Long’s picks

2008 was a year of many highly anticipated albums, from long-awaited follow-ups from big names to indie debuts. There were the albums I listened to most and felt left a lasting dent on the current musical landscape.

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. TV on the Radio: Dear Science
Brooklyn’s critical darlings hit it out of the borough again with their third full-length, Dear Science. They continue to defy even the most coherent explanations and descriptions. This is what the future sounds like – and it’s exciting.

2. Fleet Foxes: Ragged Wood
The Pacific Northwest is finally producing, once again, the caliber of music that its isolated atmosphere and gorgeous surrounds should be stimulating. Driven by front-man Robin Pecknold, but by no means a one man band, the Fleet Foxes have the best lockdown on vocal harmonies since a certain supergroup in the ’70s — and the songs do their fair share of standing out, as well.

3. Pattern Is Movement: All Together
Throw all notions of what a two-piece should sound like out of your mind. This Philidelphia duo is nothing like what you’d expect them – or anyone – to be. Avant-pop-rock meets classical form and textures in the most beautiful mess of an album. If, at first, you’re taken aback, don’t worry, just press repeat.

4. Dengue Fever: Venus on Earth
While there were bands that hit it bigtime with their exploration of international sounds (see below), Dengue Fever didn’t come nearly close enough to receiving the kind of attention they deserved. Boasting Chhom Nimol, a singer who actually sings in Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, the LA inhabitants’ mixture of Cambodian pop meets surfer pop and psych rock is not only legitimate but bred of some serious talent.

5. Wolf Parade: At Mount Zoomer
It could perhaps be argued that At Mount Zoomer, the follow up to Wolf Parade’s first album Apologies to the Queen Mary, doesn’t pack the same punch in terms of pop hooks. In many ways, this is true. In other ways, it doesn’t matter. The over-10-minute-long album closer “Kissing the Beehive” is just as memorable – if not more so – as any of their shorter tunes.

6. Deerhunter: Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
One of the weirdest yet most beautiful, comforting yet most alienating albums in recent memory – or double-album, if we’re getting technical. Get lost in the repetition, then find yourself in the breakdowns and freakouts.

7. The Notwist: The Devil, You + Me
The highly, highly anticipated follow up to the German group’s earnestly romantic and soothing electro-pop album, Neon Golden. The Devil, You + Me continues in the same vein as the album that they broke out with. What more could anyone ask?

8. Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
As pleasing as it might be to be able to deny the righteous climb of the afro-pop appropriating, stereotype-perpetuating ivy leaguers known as Vampire Weekend, the honest truth is, aside from its lack of emotion, their debut is pretty undeniable. And in a musical climate where one too many bands have been overly saturated in their feelings, perhaps a little break from them ain’t so bad.

9. Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs
Every year, there’s a band that gets the sentimental vote. This year, it’s this one. Seattle’s Death Cab for Cutie bounce back from glistening pop to a strangely inconsistent yet cohesive sixth album. Piano ballads, power pop and, of course, the experimental stalker jam first single – it’s all here.

10. Portishead: Third
The last slot is almost always the hardest. What pushed it over to Portishead were two things. Firstly, unsurprisingly, the group’s history. One of the most influential players in trip-hop, Portishead recorded a measly two albums (though there was nothing measly about the content). Secondly, they bounced back some 10 years later to deliver not just another album, but another groundbreakingly, strangely beautiful one. If only every long-term hiatus had such remarkable results.

Top 10 Songs From Albums Not On My Top 10 List

1. “Put On,” Young Jeezy feat. Kanye West
The video alone would have warranted the number one spot on this list, but as it just so happens, “Put On” is a completely unforgettable song, the kind I heard blasted on my Brooklyn block night and day. Also noteworthy: the only time Kanye West used a vocoder this year that didn’t sound stupid.

2. “A Milli,” Lil’ Wayne / “A Billi,” Jay-Z
Weezy arguably had the more successful summer jam over Jeezy, but truth is, his voice is still slightly irritating, no matter how many times I hear this. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that I like Jay-Z’s freestyle cover just as much as Wayne’s original.

3. “U.R.A. Fever,” The Kills
This is the sexiest song released in 2008. Really.

4. “L.E.S. Artistes” / “I’m A Lady,” Santogold
I refuse to choose between the two hottest jams on the debut from Brooklyn’s Santogold. So I’m not going to.

5. “Take My Love With You,” Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves
Why wasn’t this song blasted from the speakers of every single person who loved retro-revival acts like Amy Winehouse and the Pipettes over the last year? It should have been. Also: people in long-distance relationships, you have a new jam. Trust me.

6. “Mr. Alladatshit,” Kidz in the Hall
Kidz in the Hall made my mid-year list, but the second half was just too strong and knocked them out of contention. That said, this song from the Chicago rap duo is, to quote the song, “flyer than giraffe’s [privates].” Assuming they meant that as a good thing…

7. “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Pt. 1,” My Morning Jacket
The My Morning Jacket album was a little too uneven, but its high points were very high, including this lilting, sensual jam that’s exemplary of everything the band does right.

8. “Many Shades of Black,” Raconteurs
Without as much influence from Brendan Benson, the Raconteurs are starting to sound like another White Stripes… which would be ok if there wasn’t already the White Stripes. Having said that, this soul-infused break-up tune is not just more of the same.

9. “Lately,” The Helio Sequence
The duo from Portland continue to evolve their sound with Keep Your Eyes Ahead, their most memorable album to-date, which boasts the repeat-worthy lead off track “Lately.”

10. “Sensual Seduction,” Snoop Dogg (or “Sexual Eruption,” if you have the unrated version)
It’s as if Snoop Dogg heard any of R. Kelly’s recent albums and said, “That man knows what he’s doing.”

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Ed Murray’s picks

Perhaps due to the waning days of the mortifying political regime we’ve been burdened with for eight years, not to mention ongoing economic palpitations that finally erupted into a full-blown global meltdown, 2008 turned out to be a pretty fantastic year for music. Classic R&B/soul sounds seem to be making a comeback, the indie kids have finally figured out how to absorb ’80s music influences in a more meaningful, less derivative way, pop music (whether or not it’s actually popular) is everywhere, and hard rock is finally seeing something of a resurgence (albeit only slightly at this point). Maybe it has more to do with the death knell sounding for the record industry? It’s pretty obvious at this point that while the CD business is pretty hurting these days, the music business is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Top 10 Albums (New Releases)

Deerhunter: Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Most mature effort yet from this Atlanta-based five-piece, blending their shoegazer-noise art-rock into a more melodic and much mightier mix. It’s a two-fer as well, seeing as their third album Microcastle was co-released with the bonus Weird Era Cont., a move which, with all the drama surrounding this band, should surprise no one.

Airborne Toxic Event: Airborne Toxic Event
This band’s been compared to everyone from Springsteen to Franz Ferdinand, and I’m usually turned off by bands who sound like they’ve dug no further into rock history than 1983, but there’s something about this debut that keeps me coming back for more.

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
Joyous, hypnotic, neo-psychedelic and catchy-as-hell. It’s pure ‘80s-influenced indie dance rock, but beyond the sheer grooviness of it all, MGMT is deeply experimental and hard to pin down (in a good way, of course).

The Black Kids: Partie Traumatic
Beyond the vibe – a Robert Smith meets Tom Tom Club kind of thing – it’s the songs that stand out on this fun and highly danceable album. Anthemic sing-alongs either work or they don’t. Here, they work…despite the occasional inane rhyming couplets.

The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
Craig Finn, Tad Kubler & Co. just keep getting better – and achieving ever-bigger heights – with each new release. Okay, Springsteen comparisons still abound…but those only pertain to the lyrical nature of the songs and Finn’s vocal delivery. The music is riff-heavy cock rock most of the time…and if anything’s desperately missing from a lot of new music, it’s that classic rock connection. “Our psalms are sing-a-long songs,” indeed.

New York Dolls: Live at the Fillmore East – December 28 & 29, 2007
Fully expecting to dislike this live set from late last year because it wasn’t the “real” Dolls, I think what I like best about it is hearing all these tunes with an updated sound, a sonic blast of power that the originals just never had – at least as you hear them on the original band’s scant recorded output. Whatever Johansen’s motivation, I only wish there were more than 10 songs!

Clinic: Do It!
Maybe these guys aren’t doing anything differently because…they don’t have to! Their retro fuzzed-out garage vibe just plain works. Still. Though I am a little tired of the surgeon’s masks, heh-heh.

Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
A hell of a lot of noise for just two guys. Equally epic and spacey, they’ve actually achieved new heights with their blissed-out melodies, layered sonic wash and experimental but grounded approach. Beauty abounds here, even an acoustic side not always apparent on previous albums.

The Walkmen: You & Me
A great album from a great band. Softer than Bows + Arrows, but no less powerful. In fact, tempering the anger and bile (as in “The Rat”) has allowed them to find new depths in their fairly eclectic songwriting.

Spiritualized: Songs in A & E
Jason Pierce’s best since Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Blistering, blissful and beautiful. Welcome back.

Best Reissues of 2008

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006
Forget about all that folk-rock protest-song ancient history. And don’t even mention the mid-period born-again Zimmerman. Late Model Dylan is where it’s at, as this awesome volume in The Bootleg Series proves.

Various Artists: Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia
Oh yeah. This one was long overdue.

The Eels: Meet the Eels – Essential Eels 1996-2006, Vol. 1 and Useless Trinkets – B Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased 1996-2007
A decade of genius, really. Newbies should stick with Essential Eels, diehards can jump on Useless Trinkets.

Top 10 Songs (NOT featured on New Releases list)

In no particular order:

“The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty,” Dandy Warhols
If you think you’ve got this band pegged, one listen to this epic tale will set you straight.

Surprise,” Gnarls Barkley
Upbeat, but with a definite ‘60s surf-vibe. Not as instantly classic as “Crazy,” but what is?

Sure Hope You Mean It,” Raphael Saadiq
The opening track off this phenomenal album will blast you right back to Detroit (or Memphis) circa 1963.

You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds w/ Regina Spektor
Perhaps the best song on this uneven set, it’s more touching than bitter, which is probably why it rises above most of the rest. Regina doesn’t hurt, either.

Crawl,” Kings of Leon
A blistering slab of riff rock. Very nice.

Right as Rain,” Adele
Lots of great cuts on this New British Soul chanteuse’s debut, but this is the one that does it for me every time. A unique and amazing voice.

Dance with Me,” Old 97s
It’s been a while since I listened to Rhett Miller’s work. I guess it took amping up the volume, guitars and energy a bunch to do it for me again.

“Business Time,” Flight of the Conchords
This song about the monotony of married sex cracks me up every time I hear it, and it’s a good, well-played and -produced tune in addition to the laugh-out-loud funny.

“Wreck My Flow,” The Dirtbombs
Perhaps the best song on this not-their-strongest effort.

Salute Your Solution,” The Raconteurs
A powerhouse of a jam, it’s a gritty sonic blast that’s better than anything on Icky Thump, that’s for sure.

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Michael Fortes’ picks

This year has seen some extraordinary new music come our way. I’ve heard the opposite opinion from elsewhere, but for me, being on the West Coast has a lot to do with my enthusiasm. In fact, seven of the albums in my top ten are by West Coast artists, some more well-known than others. Not only that, three of the albums in my top ten aren’t albums at all. The “EP” is an anachronistic term that originally referred to a 7” vinyl record with more music crammed on each side (usually at the expense of volume and general sound quality) than what a normal single would hold. It’s an abbreviation for “Extended Play.” And yet, today’s EP is really just a half-length CD. They tend to be overlooked, either because they’re too short to warrant much attention or they contain songs not deemed strong enough for a full album, or both. But, like Bob Dylan said, “things have changed.” Our lives are busier, our attention spans are shorter, and our disposable income is shrinking by the hour. What better time for the EP to make a mini-resurgence than now?

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. The Parson Red Heads: Owl & Timber (EP)
There’s a timelessness to the sound and the vibe of the Parson Red Heads that’s beyond explanation. You can single out the familial harmonies, the guitar interplay that recalls the Byrds and the Dead, the irresistibly solid pop songs, or their flowery evocation of a bygone era. But when it comes down to it, this band’s music simply feels good. No other band has released music this irresistible and uplifting in years, and only a select lucky few up and down the West Coast have had the luxury of being able to see and hear them live. With a little luck, this may change, and we’ll be able to look back at Owl & Timber as one of the elements that made it happen.

2. Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun
Following up the 37-years-late Smile with another similarly built song cycle seemed like little more than a fantasy in 2004. But here we are in 2008, and Brian Wilson pulled it off. Mike Love would be proud to hear that there’s only one “downer” on the album (the beautiful, Pet Sounds-worthy “Midnight’s Another Day”), while all the rest are upbeat, aural murals depicting the sunny side of Southern California. It’s Brian doing what he does best, and outside of Smile, it’s easily his best, most enjoyable solo work.

3. Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
Technically, Tell Tale Signs is an archival release, but the recent vintage of the material (1989 through 2006), the abundance of never-before-heard songs, and the fact that most of it was recorded during the same period in which Guns n’ Roses’ 14-years-late Chinese Democracy gestated, qualifies it as new. And even if it didn’t qualify, it would still be listed here, since it does as good a job (if not better) as any of his last three records of proving that, even in his old age, Dylan has lost none of his power to inspire, confound, delight and move his audience.

4. The Gutter Twins: Saturnalia
Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli have collaborated in the past on a few tracks from Greg’s Twilight Singers albums, and while those duets were pretty good, they were never major stand-outs. Not until the two covered Massive Attack’s “Live with Me” on last year’s A Stitch in Time EP, anyway. As good as that cover was, this full album of originals by Greg and Mark is even better. Dulli stretches himself here, eschewing his usual rockin’ R&B swagger and falling under Lanegan’s dark, spiritual influence.

5. Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights: Movie Theatre Haiku
That straight-laced dude from Portland with the Harry Nilsson fixation strikes again, this time crediting his road band and turning in an even more confident record than last year’s The Drunken Dance of Modern Man in Love. If the 1966 Beatles were a young band today, they’d likely be playing songs like Robley’s “User-Friendly Guide to Change.”

6. Joseph Arthur: Vagabond Skies (EP)
Of the four EPs and full-length album Joseph Arthur released this year, Vagabond Skies rises to the top not only for bearing some of his most captivating and ethereal songs, but also for containing the year’s most memorable guitar solo, in the EP’s centerpiece “She Paints Me Gold.” Plus, the cover art is damn cool.

7. The Happy Hollows: Imaginary (EP)
They’re funny, they’re smart, they’re tight as a conservative’s behind, and they’re the most exciting live indie rock band in L.A. right now. Imaginary is just a short burst of five songs, but what a burst it is – from the simple exclamatory chant of “Colors” to the almost prog-like tour-de-force of “Lieutenant” with singer/guitarist Sarah Negahdari’s Eddie Van Halen-esque guitar tapping, Imaginary tantalizes and teases, just like you want it to.

8. Guns n’ Roses: Chinese Democracy
Yes, it’s bloated and overproduced. No, it’s not the old, sleazy Guns n’ Roses of the late ‘80s. Yes, it should have been out ten years ago, and would have sounded even more contemporary in 1998 than in 2008. But Axl Rose is still the king of tortured, overwrought power ballads and menacing rock n’ roll screams, and on these counts, Chinese Democracy more than delivers – it beats you over the head with its twisted logic.

9. Metallica: Death Magnetic
Metallica sounds like Metallica again! It may be clichéd to say this is their best album since …And Justice for All, but it’s true, and it bears repeating: Death Magnetic is Metallica’s best album since Justice.

10. My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges
Evil Urges goes to great lengths to prove that My Morning Jacket is no typical southern jam band. Not that they ever needed to go so far as to throw some Prince-like falsetto singing and funky R&B into the mix, but as it turns out, it sounds pretty cool.

Honorable Mentions

The Fireman: Electric Arguments
Rachel Taylor Brown: Half Hours with the Lower Creatures
Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
Portishead: Third
Neil Diamond: Home Before Dark
Juliana Hatfield: How to Walk Away
Randy Newman: Harps and Angels
Deerhoof: Offend Maggie
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Sunday at Devil Dirt

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Mojo Flucke’s picks

Old music critics never die; they just come up with more and more biting, cynical reinventions of the phrase “this album stinks.” Yet they persist, because every few years a truly all-time great release comes out. One wants to be there when it happens, and bear witness to the unveiling. Marah’s record knocked Mojo out upon first listen during 2008’s early days, and he’s happy to report that it remains as rich and beautiful almost a year–and a thousand plays–later. Here’s Marah and nine others worth checking out.

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Marah: Angels of Destruction
Out of nowhere comes a roots-rock, bluesy masterpiece, an Exile on Main Street for 2008. It’s that good. Perhaps the addition of new member Christine Smith made a decent band into a great one, or maybe Marah’s finally matured into a full-flowered band and are settling in for a decade of excellence and more records to which we can look forward. The comparison to Exile‘s apt; just as that seminal Stones piece fused blues, rock, country, and folky elements in a sloppy sonic stew that, somehow, sounds perfect. Forget 2008, this might very well be the album of the decade.

2. Lettuce: Rage
Fifteen years after these seven Massachusetts maniacs formed as Berklee geeks they come out with a new funk record. The thing is, these geeks were pretty darn good back in the day playing jam-band festivals. Then the individual members proceeded to get better, scattering to the four winds to become session musicians and touring sidemen for major pop and rock acts – and bandleader Eric Krasno went on to form Soulive. In 2008, the band returned as a hard funk outfit in the 1970s style of bands like Graham Central Station, Tower of Power, and the Edgar Winter Group. The original horn section remained intact, and the group’s advanced jazz knowledge keeps it tight and slick. If you pine for old-skool funk played by people who get it and aren’t just copying the old stuff best they can, this is the record you’ve been waiting for.

3. Joe Jackson: Rain
The old hand reunites with his original bassist and drummer to play classic, introspective, semi-acoustic pop songs. It’s Joe Jackson to die for: sophisticated, catchy, and a little jazzy music of which he’s always capable, but sometimes seems to nibble around the edges and miss the mark. This album’s a bullz-eye, the album for which his old fans have pined for years.

4. Raconteurs: Consolers of the Lonely
Jack White’s on borrowed time. The media establishment’s starting to hate him, and at some point his act will wear thin. But for now, man, his White Stripes output and this side project band (oh miracle of miracles, there’s a bass here for once) is white-hot good. Whether it’s a slow country ballad or a bashin’ rocker like “Salute Your Solution,” the Raconteurs’ latest is a must-have for your collection. That is if you’re a rock fan, and have a pulse.

5. James Hunter: The Hard Way
From busker to the big time – okay, he’s not exactly a household name, yet – this wonderfully powerful Brit soul singer loves Dion and pre-Motown Detroit soul. Not exactly a formula for finding success, but it happened: He was nominated for a Grammy for his debut. The Hard Way is his follow-up, recorded with vintage sound and production values to make the songs sound more like one of those old reissues that’s been cleaned up with 2008 technology from acetate masters or some such. It’s glorious, actually, and with acts like Amy Winehouse and others carrying the torch of old-style soul music, James Hunter has found a place in this world for performing the music he loves.

6. Beck: Odelay (Deluxe Edition)
Listen, I cringe at the thought of putting CD reissues into any top 10 of anything, including “Top 10 doorstops of the year.” This reissue, however, not only added a full second CD of bonus material, but the graphics and packaging were so good, liner notes so enlightening, that this great record became something greater in its reissue. Some people hate Beck because of his slacker demeanor, and others hate the Scientology portion of his rep. Still others just don’t get him. But when you put on the headphones and turn up the record, it’s clear he has command of the pop lexicon and can borrow any groove from any rock era and make a cool new tune out of it with arty, abstract lyrics and great rhythms. A white Prince, this kid is. Give him his due.

7. Medeski, Martin & Wood: Radiolarians I
Not always accessible and not always caring about it, MMW released something of a stream-of-consciousness record in November that may be one of the most accessible sets they’ve done. Without the heavy mixing, Radiolarians captures the band jamming out, in a New Orleans R&B mode for several tracks. There are some unstructured, free-jazzy, almost ambient tracks here that you gotta be a diehard to appreciate, but there’s also “Professor Nohair,” a Professor Longhair/Dr. John piano funk jam that has a wickedly catchy ostinato that literally etches itself into your DNA upon first play. You can’t escape it. It’s creative and cerebral instrumental rock, the antithesis of the prefab instant hip-hop-in-a-can most charting artists open up as backing tracks to their insipid vocals.

8. Black Diamond Heavies: A Touch of Someone Else’s Class
Standing in the shadows of the Black Keys and the White Stripes and following in the footsteps of the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies and the Flat Duo Jets, the Black Diamond Heavies are a primitive blues duo whose gimmick is a damn Rhodes-and-drum instrumental lineup with a lead singer who sounds a little R.L. Burnside and a lot Al Jourgensen. Great stuff, if you like noisy blues played on vintage analog instruments. Sounds like a tremendous formula to my ears.

9. The Caesars: Strawberry Weed
“Jerk It Out” was the Caesars’ song featured in an early 2008 iPod commercial, but sadly it’s not on this record. Nonetheless it’s a trippy, garageyy guitar-fueled festival of tasty melodies and catchy choruses. The enthusiasm and power of this rockin’ band typically exceeds the legal limit of awesome. If you like groups like Jet, the Hives, and Gringo Star, this record’s a fastball down the middle of your plate. Take a big swing at it.

10. Tommy Emmanuel: Center Stage
Steve Vai’s boutique label finally gave acoustic guitar monster Tommy Emmanuel his due, after the Aussie spent decades toiling in obscurity collecting the love of musicians and a couple of Grammy nominations but no notoriety in the mainstream. The new double-live CD shows Emmanuel for what he is: The Horowitz of the acoustic guitar and a consummate entertainer. Chances are it won’t be going platinum anytime soon, but the sound is exquisite and the performance is better. If you appreciate acoustic guitar music, this set’s a no-brainer.

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer James Eldred’s picks

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Fucked Up: The Chemistry of Common Life
Are they hardcore? Post-hardcore? Experimental? Post-experimental? Is that last one even a genre? Maybe it is now. Describing Fucked Up is as impossible as saying their name on the radio. Who else has combined flute solos with Black Flag-style hardcore vocals, ambient keyboards and just about everything else you can possibly imagine? It’s NOFX meets Hüsker Dü meets Fugazi meets everything awesome, dangerous and exciting about rock and roll. Also winner of the best cover of 2008.

2. Marnie Stern: This Is It…
Sleater-Kinney style riot-grrl rock by a guitar-playing chick who seems to base all of her chords off of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” It’s like someone randomly looked up two musical subgenres on Wikipedia (indie-rock and guitar virtuoso) and decided to mix them together. Marnie Stern is a guitar goddess whose unearthly ability at fingertapping and shredding her axe will one day be uncovered by future archaeologists, who will be in awe.

3. Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles
By combining the bleeping bloops from the soundchip of an old Atari with the frightening howls of petite lead singer’s Alice Glass’ powerful voice, Crystal Castles have taken the punk/dance thing to new and exciting places and shown us that the Chiptune scene is more than just a novelty scene capitalizing off of twentysomethings’ nostalgia for 8-bit video games. Also winner of the worst cover of 2008.

4. Portishead: Third
Wow, 11 years was worth the wait, who knew? Third goes to show that when you invent a genre (trip-hop), you can take as damn well long as you please to re-invent it. Third is a minimalist masterpiece that proves sometimes all you need is a drum machine and haunting vocals to make a dance track work.

5. Girl Talk: Feed the Animals
If Third is minimalism, then Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals is maximalism, hyperbolic remixing gone horribly right. Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) took over 170 different songs to craft his journey though the pop music landscape, making unlikely collaborations like Lil’ Mama and Metallica, Outkast and Roy Orbison, and Souja Boy and Thin Lizzy in the process. Gilis also proved himself to be a musical alchemist with Feed the Animals, turning shit like Arvil Lavinge’s “Girlfriend” and Fergie’s “XX” into pop gold by crafty remixing and moshing.

6. Be Your Own Pet: Get Awkward
Needless censoring by brain-dead American record labels couldn’t hamper this great follow-up to BYOP’s self-titled debut. Their subsequent break-up sure did, though. A bummer, but they sure went out with a bang. Black Flag reincarnated as a hot nearly-underage girl and her three best friends. Here’s hoping we hear more from them in future in some form or another.

7. Does It Offend You, Yeah?: You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into
LCD Soundsytem and their DFA label ilk may be responsible for the rebirth of dance-punk, but the British have been taking it to a whole other level, first with Hot Chip and now with this horribly-named foursome from Reading. DIOYY combine the bombastic arena-rock majesty of Britpop groups like Muse with undeniably catchy electronic hooks better than anyone has in recent memory. Doesn’t change the fact that their name still sucks.

8. TV on the Radio: Dear Science
When are they going to release a bad album? Seriously, it’s getting rather annoying because there’s nothing more to say about them. Dear Science is as good as Return to Cookie Mountain which was in turn as good as Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. They’re giving us cynical bastards nothing to work with here, nothing! How selfish is that?

9. Santogold: Santogold
The best indie-pop/new wave.punk/synthpop/electronic/rap record of the year. And yes, thanks to MIA, there was competition.

10. Kaiser Chiefs: Off With Their Heads
Remember when all those post-punk revival bands broke out? The Hives, the Strokes, the Vines, the Killers and these guys – who weren’t team players and willing to get behind the whole The Somethings name structure? Who had them pegged to be going three albums strong while the rest of the lot have either vanished or become washed up? “Never Miss a Beat” also wins for best single of the year.

  

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