Robert Howell’s Top Albums of 2008

Posted December 17th, 2008 by eric

Robert runs The Daily Sabbatical and has contributed to Drawer B intermittently over the years.

1. DeerhunterMicrocastles/Weird Era Cont. (Kranky/4AD)

An album in the top spot should be difficult to describe, and this one certainly fits that ticket.  Deerhunter has thrown some elements of shoegaze in here, though without foregoing the crisp pop songs.   There are drifting, semi-psychedelic melodies as well as bass-driven tunes of a Sonic Youthy color.  This album just has everything.  Even without Weird Era Cont., the accompanying disc of outtakes and add-ins which would probably merit a place on this list on its own, Microcastles is the most complete album of the year.

2. Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

The most beautiful album of the year introduces us to Justin Vernon, the year’s most exciting new songwriter.  Sam Beam can relax–the gift doesn’t all rest on his shoulders now.


3. FoalsAntidotes (Sub Pop)

There’s definitely something Rapture-ous about these guys, but where The Rapture left the races and went off the tracks, Foals gets the checkered flag.  Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, with guitar and bass counterpoint.  Pitchfork desperately needs to revisit their review on this one.

4. DevotchkaA Mad and Faithful Telling (Anti)

Beirut and Calexico can put up their horns and balalaikas.  Devotchka wins the international sound award.  Take Roy Orbison, David Byrne, a Mariachi band and a polka band, put it all in a blender with a shot of vodka and you have Devotchka.  Transliterator might be the best song of the year.

5. Mountain GoatsHeretic Pride (4AD)

John Darnielle puts out his second best album–nothing will beat Tallahassee probably–but his second best is good enough to be one of the best of the year.  Darnielle’s songs give us a peek through windows we would otherwise never approach, in part because the folks inside might be playing with pistols.  Easily one of our best songwriters.

6. Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

I get tires of My Morning Jacket’s Jams despite my love of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.   (Jesus!)  Fleet Foxes comes to the rescue with a debut that introduces us to one of the best vocalist’s going: Robin Pecknold.  The Breugel cover of their album tells you something about their sound–let’s call it Feudal Folk and move on.

7. Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend (XL)

This makes private-school Robert, with a penchant for Peter Gabriel and Pennyloafers, very happy.  It makes public-school Robert very suspicious, in no small part because it is catchy as as an STD in Thailand.  Very difficult to dislodge from Car CD players.

8. Chad Van GaalenSoft Airplane (Sub Pop)

How can Chad Van Gaalen be Neil Young reincarnated when Neil is still alive?  Nevermind.  This Canadian’s third album sees him out of his small sophomore slump and expanding his songwriting horizons.  Best one man band I know of.

9. Marnie SternThis Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That (Kill Rock Stars)

Somewhat embarrassingly Ms. Stern is the only woman on my list this year, but she so clearly outrocks anyone else on the list that she’s an excellent representative for the ladies.  The innovative guitar work and the unrestrained vocals make this one of the year’s most energetic records.  (The album’s title may be annoyingly long, but it more than answers the question by posed by The Strokes.)

10. The NotwistThe Devil, You + Me (Domino)

Neon Golden was so good that any following album by Notwist will be crippled by the comparison.  Still, those head circling melodies are here and if there is a little less going on as far as song structure goes, sometimes simplicity is a good thing.

Tags: lists