Albums of 2008
- Thrice – The Alchemy Index Vol. III & Vol. IV Air and Earth
For a self-proclaimed post-hardcore group, The Alchemy Index series has been a breath of fresh air. Each Volume is not only a different element, but a different sound. Volumes I and II were Fire and Water, with Fire matching their hardcore sound of old and Water being slow jams of surprising quality. Unlike the previous release, Air is much more varied, ranging from the fast and rocking “The Sky is Falling” to the airy and whimsical “Silver Wings.” Earth, meanwhile, is exactly what would happen if prog rock and bluegrass had a bastard child, with an acoustic vibe that’s reminiscent of Days of the New and what sounds like a single mic set-up for some of the recordings. If Thrice returns to their old style, The Alchemy Index will be a successful experiment that varied their sound. If they continue to play with music, though, The Alchemy index could be the beginning of greatness.
- TV on the Radio – Dear Science,
When I saw TV on the Radio live a few years ago, I was surprised how accessible their sonic experimentation was, but I still wasn’t sold on them. Dear Science made many best of 2008 lists, so I came in with high expectations. As it turns out, TV on the Radio has improved and come together, but are still simply too out there for my tastes. While I adore the almost Prince-like vocals, the mix of loops and synthesized sounds behind them make songs hard to follow. All I can wonder is: what drug should I be on to enjoy this album?
- Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
As much as I love interesting experiments, Vampire Weekend is one experiment I don’t care much for. At times, their “Upper West Side Soweto” seems like something Paul Simon might have tried during his Graceland phase, but with a synth keyboard and a lack of musical sense. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” plays nice, as do most of their tracks, but there just seems to be something easily ignored about the entire sound. At times too sparse, at others too strange, Vampire Weekend simply doesn’t live up to the hype.
- The Walkmen – You & Me
The obsession with tossing mass amounts of reverb onto everything is starting to get to me. The Walkmen are guilty of this as much as any band, the echoing chords bouncing around the recording like a superball in a frictionless room. That said, if it weren’t for the reverb, this wouldn’t be a bad album. Though much of the album is wispy, The Walkmen are able to build on the classic garage rock sound on tracks like “In the New Year” and vocals in the style of Bob Dylan on “I Lost You.” That heavy reverb means I won’t go out of my way to listen to this album, but it’s still not a terrible album by any means.
- The Weepies – Hideaway
The Weepies are well known in musical circles though it hasn’t yet translated into popularity quite yet. That should change with Hideaway, their first release since penning tunes for Mandy Moore and turning her into a respectable artist. “Orbiting” shows off great harmonies and some great writing, as do many of their tunes. Other standouts on the album include the waltz “Little Bird” and “How You Survived the War.” With a wonderfully mellow sound, Hideaway is easily one of the best albums for relaxing on a quiet afternoon, a near perfect outing from The Weepies.
- Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
I’d write a review of this album, but I couldn’t pay attention. It must be ok since it wasn’t bad enough to grab me with hatred, but there didn’t seem to be anything there (besides another band overusing reverb) worth listening to. “Language City” was the only song that caught my attention besides the slightly grating “The Grey Estates.” Simply put, there isn’t anything interesting about this album.
- Yoav – Charmed & Strange
Where MGMT’s strange soundscapes failed for me, Yoav’s seemed to work. Charmed & Strange takes a combination of African drums and electronica sensibilities to create a trippy and groovy mix of sounds. “Yeah, the End” is almost perfectly Portishead with its horns while “Adore Adore” and “Live” use a much more danceable style. Though his closing cover of the Pixies “Where Is My Mind” doesn’t quite do the song justice, Yoav is definitely someone I want to keep an eye on.
Working at Barnes & Noble has its perks. When a major label rep dropped off some CDs for my boss, Tally Hall’s debut fell into my lap. Though it was only released in 2008 on the major label, I later found out that it was a minor indie release in 2005, so it technically doesn’t count to 2008, but seeing as it’s easily my favorite discovery of the year, I felt obligated to include it.
- Tally Hall – Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Tally Hall’s debut album is an eclectic mix of style and sounds. They range from sounding like Barenaked Ladies on “Be Born” and “Just Apathy” to Weezer on “Greener” and “Two Wuv” (an ode to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) and have the humor and quality of They Might Be Giants throughout. Some of their tracks seem obviously inspired by the classic wall of sound harmonies of the Beach Boys (“Good Day”) or the sweeling symphonic stylings of Electric Light Orchestra (“Taken for a Ride”). The entire album is beautifully produced and utterly listenable.
If you feel like I overlooked an album or artist, feel free to let me know by commenting. I will try and update as I get suggestions. Make sure to tell me why you think I should listen to whatever you’re recommending.