Year in consumables: 2008 music

Viva la Vida Prospekt's March

Here it is, the last post in the series (games, movies) for the year and the one that no one cares about. Okay, maybe a couple friends on Facebook will care. Maybe.

So, this one works pretty much like all the others in that I write about what I consumed this past year. That said, this one does have a wrinkle. I also manage individual Top Ten lists in the Audio section of the site and these are strict to the album release year. As part of the exercise leading up to writing this post I finally went ahead and updated that lonely list for 2006 and added previously promised lists for 2005 and 2007. I even added a list for 2004 and will likely add lists for 2000 thru 2003 for fun sometime in the future.

During the exercise of putting together the lists, it did prove out that they would change over time. I’d like to think this is more due to picking up more albums for a year or giving them a better chance to sink in rather than taste changing. That said, I have been into more electro over the last 2+ years — not that I haven’t been prior to that — because it is super good to code with and that’s when I do the majority of my listening. I guess my point is if you look at the current lists for 2006 and 2007 and then compare them to the consumables post for each, you will see some differences. I think that is a good thing.

What does that mean to this post? Well, it means I am going to give you the list I have out there now for 2008 as my Top Ten right now, but it is subject to change. The list is all 2008 releases because anything I discovered this past year that would have made its way in there was put into another year’s list instead. I will mention them here though. Lastly, just as a count, I picked up 46 discs this year as well as ~10 others electronically.

Here’s the list:

  1. Coldplay: Viva la Vida / Prospekt’s March
  2. Bloc Party: Intimacy
  3. Snow Patrol: A Hundred Million Suns
  4. Nada Surf: Lucky
  5. Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs
  6. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: Cardinology
  7. Does It Offend You, Yeah?: You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into
  8. Shiny Toy Guns: Season of Poison
  9. Carolina Liar: Coming to Terms
  10. Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend and Santogold: Santogold

Okay, you will note that there are twelve discs in the list of ten. I am cheating. A little bit. Coldplay is obvious to keep together and the tie at ten is just too difficult to break, so I am rolling with it.

Now that you digested the list, here are some thoughts about each:

  • Viva and Prospekt’s: I can see why they took this tack. Viva la Vida is such a perfect collection of songs and length. Anything more or less might take away from it as a whole, but most of the new stuff — not remixes — on Prospekt’s March are just as good. In fact, I wish the two remixes weren’t there at all, particularly “Lost+” because I just don’t get some of these so called remixes where somebody just comes in and drops a rap in the middle. Okay, so Jay-Z disses on Bobby Brown — like that is hard — and shouts out to Biggie and Pac, so what? He says almost nothing of value here other than to drop some names which you can connect to loss, but so what? All he really adds is his name to sell a few singles on iTunes. Now, you might wonder if I think the same thing about Chris Martin collabing with Kanye West on “Homecoming”… and no, I don’t. That is the song and Martin is part of it throughout, not some drop-in. Is this band the *new* U2? Let’s see what the geezers bring next week.
  • Intimacy: This disc is what sophomore effort A Weekend In the City should have been. I consider this to be the follow up to Silent Alarm. Not that Weekend was that bad, but it wasn’t nearly this good. Their sound on this disc is more consistent with what I’d expect from Alarm. I think Weekend seemed overproduced to me; too slick. This disc has a definite electro type vibe to it. You could work up a sweat listening to it and I find it hard not to jam with it. I must sometimes look like a fool walking around the streets of Boston with my iPod, but so don’t you.
  • A Hundred Million Suns: I got nervous about this disc when I heard the first single, “Take Back the City.” I just wasn’t sure if this was going to be another “Chasing Cars” from Eyes Open and I definitely didn’t want that. The song eventually grew on me and I do like it a lot now, but the rest of the disc is very good. Here’s a case where evolution and production are working well for them whereas the same on Eyes Open wasn’t as good. I guess that’s just because I think Final Straw is just so damned good. This effort is better than Eyes and this is a trend I am starting see more and more where I don’t like a release between, err… releases.
  • Lucky: Not so with Nada Surf. They have now had three excellent discs in a row. I listened the crap out of The Weight Is a Gift and now I have listened the crap out of Lucky. While High/Low‘s “Popular” is a great song, I like it that they haven’t sounded anything like that since then.
  • Narrow Stairs: A solid disc end-to-end and this band is another example where I feel like an album wasn’t as good between releases. Transatlanticism is a great disc and Plans, again while good, wasn’t as good as its predecessor and now, its follow-up.
  • Cardinology: I finally like a Ryan Adams & The Cardinals disc! Yay! The previous two left me a little put off because they weren’t what I liked about Ryan Adams, not that they necessarily should be because he did still have solo discs at the same time. That said, I think this one is a good mix between what he does solo and what he does with his band. If it is like this going forward and he does decide to no longer do solo projects, I might be good with that.
  • You Have No Idea: …how good this disc is, but you better like crazy brit pop/electro. This past summer I think I listened to this disc and only this disc for two weeks straight and it didn’t drive me insane. Not as much since then, but it is a fun, fun album.
  • Season of Poison: I was less than thrilled when I heard the previous female lead singer was replaced for this album. However, Sisely Treasure is a capable replacement even if she does sound just a little bit different than Carah Faye Charnow, not that I really noticed a real difference until hearing the whole album rather than just the first single. She’s also apparently a cast-off from The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll reality ridiculousness. Anyway, I was worried that the band’s sound would change for the worse and it really didn’t. The mix of a lead male and a lead female vocalist is kinda what makes them special, so it is good they didn’t mess with it.
  • Coming to Terms: These guys write some damn catchy tunes, starting with “I’m Not Over.” I figured that was such an alt-pop-type single that the rest of the disc would suck. Well, the rest does sound a bit different in style from that first single, it is very good in its own right. Plus, I like finding new American bands to dig on rather than the seemingly continuous flow of great new UK bands all the time. It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t have just been born across the pond.
  • Vampire Weekend: How different is this band? How much do they love the Cape? Considering they formed going to school in NY, it is a little weird. This disc might be a little too short, but it is just so fresh and new throughout it is hard not to love it, except for the fact that FNX played the crap out of a couple of the songs and maybe kinda ruined them for awhile.
  • Santogold: So, much like Vampire Weekend, she is different than your typical chick rocker… okay, maybe MIA is similar in a way, but she is good. In fact, I kind of kick myself that I sorta listened to her set from the halls of the Garden instead of my seat when she opened for Coldplay. I had already heard the album quite a bit before that and wanted to hear her live, but somehow beer and food won out. Anyway, a good disc you should check out.

Okay, so what about the stuff that didn’t make the list. Well, the biggest one that isn’t here is Radiohead‘s In Rainbows because it was free on the internets in 2007 but not on plastic until the first day of 2008. I mentioned it in last year’s music consumable post but it grew on me a lot over the year. I feel like it might be my third or fourth favorite from them. Other established bands with discs worth mentioning are Beck, Ben Folds, Butch Walker, Filter (yeah, the T-2000’s brother is still around), Nine Inch Nails (thanks for the freebie Trent), Metallica (best release since the Black album), Oasis, The Verve and UNKLE. In fact, Oasis’s “The Shock of the Lightning” is probably one of my favorite singles of the year, alongside The Wombats‘ “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” Juliana Hatfield also put out a nice disc and it is too bad more people don’t care. Weezer‘s red album starts off so very, very strong and falls flat at the end. A very good disc though and it was close to cracking the list. R.E.M.‘s Accelerate is probably the first disc I have enjoyed from them in a very long time.

The debut of The Ting Tings is really good alt-pop stuff and “Great DJ” was another favorite single for the year. Konk by The Kooks was a good follow-up to their first release. The new Kaiser Chiefs disc was not as good as the previous, but probably better than their first. The new Fall Out Boy and Panic At the Disco albums weren’t as bad as they’d like you to believe, but neither is anywhere near as good as their respective first releases. The Gnarls Barkley disc was good, but definitely not as infectious as the debut. Tokyo Police Club‘s first full length release Elephant Shell is good, but not quite the lightning in a bottle that the A Lesson In Crime EP continues to be. Day & Age from The Killers was better than Sam’s Town, but I think the taint of “Human” kills my efforts to like this album more. That song just sucks. Hard.

What sucked? Well, the third disc from Keane was probably a little better than the second, but really, someone should just get the lead singer back on the smack because they just aren’t as good since he’s been clean. I gave Less Than Jake one last chance even though I think I swore them off last go around and I regret it, but at least I have a new coaster and they are now dead to me. I had high hopes for The Cure when I heard their first single very early on in the year. I mean, really, they released the thing like half a year before the album was to drop! It was good. The rest, not so much, but only because the songs don’t differentiate enough to me. More like their old sound, but overall, disappointing. Then, I saw fat ass Robert Smith in a concert film on Palladium (or whatever it is named… the MTV HD channel on Comcast) and felt very sad. All I kept thinking was when did he turn into Ron Jeremy?

What did I discover this year? Well, I can’t recommend The National enough to you. All four of their discs are awesome but their sound probably isn’t for most of you, not that they have a weird sound or anything like that. Their last two albums cracked my top ten lists for 2005 and 2007. For electro, how about Digitalism, Justice or Simian Mobile Disco? The first two also cracked the 2007 top ten list and Justice got me a moving violation on I-95. I also picked up Kate Nash‘s disc at the start of 2008 and it was really good.

For something completely different, check out Tugboat‘s Man of the Year collection. He’s out of the chiptunes game now and that is just too bad. At least we were left with a free gift. If you are a fan of video games at all, you owe it to yourself to download it and listen to it at least once.

That about covers it. I haven’t picked up anything the first two months of this year and that scares me a bit. I know U2 drops next week and I have heard about other releases, but nothing that has me pumped. It is early though.

As always, what do you think? Did I miss something great?