One more list. It is the end of the year, after all. My favorite albums of 2008:
20. Asking for Flowers by Kathleen Edwards
It takes a Canadian songwriter, and a talented one, to put former hockey enforcer Marty McSorley into a song and make it work. From I Make the Dough You Get the Glory:
I'm a Ford Tempo,
you're a Maserati.
You're The Great One,
I'm Marty McSorley.
Awesome. Edwards deserves the top 20 for that line alone.
19. West Texas by Sleepercar
Impressive alt-country outfit fronted by Jim Ward of Sparta. Standout track: A Broken Promise
18. Consolers of the Lonely by the Raconteurs
Gotta give Jack White his due. He and Brendan Benson kick it old school, like Motor-City madmen of yesteryear.
17. The Hard Way by James Hunter
Speaking of old school, James Hunter seems, at first, like a 1960s retro-soul act but this album is the real deal. He sings like the love child of Van Morrison and Sam Cooke.
16. Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
A cool melding of psychedelic, electronica and pop - the song Time to Pretend is one of the standout tracks of the year.
15. Brighter than Creations Dark by the Drive-by-Truckers
Another solid album from one of the best bands in America.
14. The Felice Brothers
I learned of these guys from my favorite radio program, Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight. There’s a timeless storytelling and sepia-toned Americana here that recalls The Band and The Basement Tapes.
13. Acid Tongue by Jenny Lewis
An expressive singer and talented songwriter, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley is equally comfortable with pop, rock and alt-country – it’s all here.
12. Evil Urges by My Morning Jacket
Nice to see this excellent band finally getting its due.
11. Vampire Weekend
I was completely prepared to dismiss these Columbia grads as pretentious poseurs but their album delivers – it’s interesting, adventurous, catchy and fun.
Tom Petty reforms his original band from Gainesville Florida and puts out one of the best albums of the year.
9. Cardinology by Ryan Adams
Amazing to think that since the dissolution of Whiskeytown in 1999, this guy has released 11 albums without sacrificing quality for quantity. This album is one of his best.
8. A Swingin’ Christmas by Tony Bennett featuring the Count Basie Big Band
No kidding. This is simply terrific.
7. Viva la Vida by Coldplay
I used to think that Coldplay was bland and overrated but for my money this album, produced by Brian Eno, has them sounding their majestic best.
6. The ’59 Sound by the Gaslight Anthem
Bruce Springsteen meets Joe Strummer. Not the most original band in the world, but this album delivers a certain Gaelic swagger, Jersey grit and infectious pop-punk that’s irresistible.
5. Lust Lust Lust by the Raveonettes
Ronnie Spector meets the Jesus and Mary Chain. I’m going to go out on a limb and call the Raveonettes, Denmark’s greatest rock duo of all time.
4. Little Honey by Lucinda Williams
I don’t think Lucinda Williams is capable of making a bad album. Standout track: Jailhouse Tears, a duet with Elvis Costello.
3. Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo
This guy’s been flying under the radar for years. What a great rock n’ roll album.
2. The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell-Tale Signs by Bob Dylan
I figured that a collection of unreleased tracks from Bob Dylan’s recent period (1989-2006) would be less interesting than the bootleg recordings of his more iconic material of the 60s or 70s. I was dead wrong. For fans of Bob Dylan, this is as good as it gets.
1. Stay Positive by the Hold Steady
A Brooklyn band, by way of Minnesota, that combines Springsteen’s working class anthematic rock, the slacker sensibility of the Replacements, the word play of Leonard Cohen and the retro-rollicking booziness of Thin Lizzy. I don’t think there’s a band (or album) out there right now that better captures the redemptive power of rock n’ roll.
Gottta Stay Positive. See you in 2009!