Albums of 2008
- Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
Erykah Badu may well be the greatest thing to happen to Soul in the last decade. New Amerykah Part One is a beautifully strange collection of sounds, political lyrics and thumping beats bring together one of the most complete albums of the year. With “The Healer,” Badu quietly lauds the hip hop movement as chimes click quietly in the ether. “The Soldier” both grooves smoothly and juts lyrically by directly dealing with the current wars and chastising the world. I’m not usually one to pay much mind to lyrics, but with the interesting back beats and tunes, the quality lyrics are merely icing on the cake. Standing above the collection of neo-jazz and soul songs is “Honey,” which drops perfectly into that chill mode. No matter what else I hear, New Amerykah Part One will remain one of the best albums of the year.
- Fernando Otero – Pagina de Buenos Aires
I can’t say I listen to a lot of experimental Jazz, especially featuring a bandoneon player (an accordion-like keyboard), but Argentinian Fernando Otero’s Pagina de Buenos Aires does things with Tango and Jazz that are worth hearing. At times, evocative of the Tosca Tango Orchestra’s soundtrack to Waking Life, Otero’s compositions are fast, sharp and elicit an instantaneous reaction from any listener.
- Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
It’s difficult just to call Flying Lotus electronica, but it’s not quite the click hop of Aphex Twin or Squarepusher despite the similarities. Of course, given that Flying Lotus got his start making beats for Adult Swim, the same block of programming that gave us MC Chris, it’s no wonder things are a little weird. With a similar sound to Boards of Canada or Madlib, Los Angeles is a great new entry in the up and coming downtempo scene.
- Foals – Antidotes
The Foals are obviously students of the indie dance scene that produced bands like Pretty Girls Make Graves and Franz Ferdinand. Taking the style and mixing the clever guitar riffs of The Advantage and a touch of ska-style horns, Antidotes feels like a simple yet complete record. “Cassius” and “Balloons” call out to indie dancers while “Heavy Water” tries to capture the intellectual playfulness of Interpol. The bonus disc, which collects a few more cuts as well as some live tracks, is well worth the extra money if this is your kind of thing. Overall, though, Antidotes is nothing the indie crowd hasn’t heard before, though it’s a good addition to what’s already been done.
- Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
From their opening track of “The Modern Leper”, Frightened Rabbit comes across as a surprisingly upbeat indie rock band. They layer their instruments perfectly with the vocal sensibilities of Scotsman Scott Hutchinson. “Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms” showcases thier wonderful layering while “Heads Roll Off” could’ve been a Counting Crows hit.
- Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
Girl Talk is considered one of the kings of the mash-up, and with classic rap lyrics and hooks playing over classic pop of the 70s, 80s and 90s, it’s no surprise. Girl Talk uses everything from Sinead O’Conner to Temple of the Dog to punch up his first track “Play Your Part (Pt. 1)”. At times, the harsh rap and the pop play wonderfully into each others’ hands, but other times is almost too much. Overall, though, the album is an interesting commentary on the state of pop music, where it came from and where it’s going to. And at times mix is both entertaining and quirky (ie – Ace of Base and Black Street on “Still Here”) meaning Feed the Animals will strike just the right chord with some audiences.
- The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
The difficult to decipher layers of “Constructive Summer” don’t bode well for the latest from The Hold Steady, but Stay Positive ends up having its moments. “One for the Cutters” and the title track “Stay Positive” are fun and catchy, but not enough to redeem the album.
- Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
After finally listening to this highly heralded album, I have one thing to say: My Robot Friend is infinitely better.