Albums of 2008
- Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping
It’s a testament to Of Montreal that even with the strange Scissor Sisters-like sound they’ve adopted, they’re still producing excellent albums. With songs like “An Eluardian Instance” and “Wicked Wisdom” anchoring it, Skeletal Lamping is a big change but a solid showing for a band that’s normally sedate by comparison.
- Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
My friend Rob has raved about Okkervil River, but until this album I had never given them a chance. Now that I have, I surprisingly indifferent to the recording. While their music is somewhat reminiscent of the Decembrists with a kick, Will Sheff’s voice is slightly more tolerable, but the musicality isn’t quite to the same level. “Lost Coastline”‘s duet is a nice song with a surprisingly Detroit feel to the beat and “Calling and Not Calling My Ex” is heavily reminiscent of some of the best of Magnetic Fields. Unfortunately, the slow songs bring this album back to earth and make it good, but not quite great.
- Paul Gilbert – Silence Followed By A Deafening Roar
I have to admit my ignorance about Paul Gilbert, but just by the way Silence Followed By A Deafening Roar opens with its namesake track firmly plants Gilbert as a modern guitar god. Though occasionally more obsessed with fancy fingerwork, the album loses little quality to the artistry. “The Rhino” rocks like a song from Road Rage or the upper echelons of Guitar Hero. “I Cannot Tell a Lie” channels the ghost of Steve Vai, which is impressive since he’s still alive. For those jonesing for a taste of some classic guitar work, Gilbert comes through.
- Paul Weller – 22 Dreams
Paul Weller’s folksy voice was always a nice match for his rocking music and 22 Dreams, his first double disc in his 30 plus years of performing, captures it once again. From the grassroots style of “Late Nights” to the soulful “Have You Made Up Your Mind” to the traditional “Sea Spray”, Weller proves he’s still the rock god he always was.
- Portishead – Third
Starting with the anxious pseudo-70s beats of “Silence,” Portishead once again establishes themselves as trip-hop masters with their aptly named 3rd album, Third. It’s not as though anyone expected them to reappear 11 years after their last release, but with the lovely and strange melodies of “Hunter” and harsh sounds of “Machine Gun”, Portishead creates a an experience worth hearing start to finish.
- Protest the Hero – Fortress
My metal phase ended years ago, leaving me just enough love to appreciate goth and industrial. Protest the Hero crawls straight out of the tradition I left behind. Unfortunately, I wish it had remained left behind. The orchestral swells can’t match the beauty of Scandinavian metal bands like Nightwish and the playful beats don’t quite grab the interest like Tool has. I’m sure for those people who like this sort of thing, Fortress is a reasonable outing. After all, the vocals are good, the guitar work impressive, it’s simply not my thing.
- Q-Tip – The Renaissance
It’s hard to say that Q-Tip came out of nowhere with his first album since his debut in 1999, but The Renaissance was worth the wait. With subtle sounds, great beats and excellent lyrics, songs like “Won’t Trade,” “Gettin’ Up” and “Manwomanboogie” show why Q-Tip is still relevant and why The Renaissance just might be the best rap album of the year.
- R.E.M. – Accelerate
For the first time in nearly a decade, R.E.M. has released a great album. Unfortunately, it’s also a decade late stylistically. Songs like “Supernatural Superserious” and “Horse to Water” make me want to groove like it’s 1995 again, but overall the album is just that: a mish mash of old school R.E.M. music that doesn’t really stand out from itself.
- The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
For years, I’ve hated Jack White with a passion. The White Stripes have always eschewed a bass, my instrument of choice, despite that it would’ve improved their sound. But between the rave reviews the Raconteurs got and Jack White’s duet with Alisha Keys for the James Bond film, I felt I had to give the Raconteurs a chance. And I’m glad I did. Though its opening title track is nothing spectacular, often ranging into the weird White Stripes dissonance that doesn’t appeal to me, songs like “You Don’t Understand Me” and “Many Shades of Black” hit the spot perfectly. There’s even room to enjoy the Zeppelin-esque riffs on “Hold Up.”
- The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
With a little work the Raveonettes could be a great trip-hop group. Instead, they mix trippy, heavily reverbed riffs that sound like the lost stoner cousin of Dick Dale with the occasional wall of distortion and a touch of Cure-like simplicity. I found “Lust” to be a moderately enjoyable track, but I couldn’t tell the difference between most of the rest. “Black Satin” and “Blush” could be the same song for all intensive purposes. Lust Lust Lust may be worth a listen, but it probably isn’t worth a repeat listen.