SOUND CHECK: Strongest releases from 2008
2008 was a subpar year in music. Big name artists put out mediocre records and the charts were full of re-releases, live albums and greatest hits collections, rather than new good material.
10. Bayside-Shudder- Normally, I’d prefer to listen to the bands that influenced Bayside. Shudder opened my eyes and ears to a band striving to stand on its own.
9. Idiot Pilot – Wolves – Blending lush landscapes of electronica and aggressive alternative rock, Idiot Pilot is poised to follow in Radiohead’s ambitious footsteps.
8. GZA – Pro Tools – My lone hip-hop entry, Pro Tools fell under the radar following the constant hype machine around popular breakout releases from Lil Wayne and T.I. GZA brings his post-Wu-Tang Clan solo effort taking full aim at the likes of 50 Cent and G-Unit.
7. Lemuria – Get Better – Proof that infectious indie-rock isn’t reserved for just major label flavor-of-the-month acts. Lemuria will only continue to get better.
6. Street Dogs – State of Grace – Thinking outside the Boston spectrum of Slap Shot, Gang Green and The Dropkick Murphys, Street Dogs put out its most personal and impressive effort to date.
5. Matt Pryor – Confidence Man – Pryor’s folk-songwriting is showcased nicely on his first solo record. Confidence Man is a combination of the best elements of The Get Up Kids and The New Amsterdams.
4. Dead To Me – Little Brother – This 5-song EP blows away most full lengths released this year.
3. Alkaline Trio – Agony and Irony – Not its best release, but a solid effort from a band that couldn’t make a bad record if it tried.
2. Tom Gabel – Heart Burns – For those who have questioned Gabel’s passion, Heart Burns is a raw reminder of how good Against Me!’s beloved frontman really is.
1. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound – By far the top record of the year from the best new act in all of music. Its sophomore effort is a career-defining album, which will be deserving of praise from years to come.
It’s hard to sift through all of the good albums released in a year’s time and narrow it down to 10. Keep in mind that 2008 still holds some great coming releases, including Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak and Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind. With that out of the way, here are my top 10 albums of 2008.
10. The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale – Chicago’s favorite hipster duo released one of this year’s most enjoyable hip-hop releases. Their back-to-basics approach made listening to hip-hop fun again.
9. The Gaslight Anthem – The 59′ Sound – These Jersey boys put out a fine release and made me regret not getting into them sooner.
8. The Game – L.A.X. – Assuming this is truly his last album, The Game really pulled out all stops and ended up releasing the best album of his career.
7. Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell – The Canadian quartet released one of the most energetic and fast-paced pop-rock albums in recent memory, and there isn’t a single song I’d skip.
6. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath – Enlisting the help of mastermind drummer Thomas Pridgen raised this band’s stock tenfold. That, and they started writing albums again.
5. Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That S--- Gold – Slug and company released their most cohesive and entertaining album since 2003’s Seven’s Travels.
4. Lydia – Illuminate – Lydia is a true underdog. This beautiful album deserves to be on everyone’s list.
3. Thrice – The Alchemy Index: Vol. III and IV – This release completed the very ambitious Alchemy Index project, and Thrice does not fail to deliver.
2. T.I. – Paper Trail – T.I. released what is probably his landmark album with Paper Trail. Chances are his comeback album won’t be nearly as impressive.
1. Nas – Untitled – After a few missteps, Nasir Jones reminds everyone why he is considered a top five emcee for many. Untitled was controversial and revolutionary, and features some of the emcee’s most thought-provoking.