Here are my picks for the best albums released in 2008. It pains me to agree with Pitchfork on #1, but alas… there can really be no other at the top spot.
10) Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us: This husband-wife hipster duo have been making catchy electro pop for a while now, but this album is perhaps their most consistently good. A great, cheerful album for sunny afternoons. Download now: “Help Help,” “Get Better.”
9) Sigur Ros, Me Su í Eyrum Vi Spilum Endalaust: It’s not as grandiose as some of their previous albums, but the latest from Iceland’s biggest cultural export is their most subtle, quietly complicated work yet. Download now: “Festival,” “Gobbledigook.”
8) Santogold, Santogold: The debut album from Brooklyn’s Santogold (aka Santi White) is one of the most interesting, musically diverse records of the year. Some rock, rap, dance, reggae and overall indie audacity make this one exciting party album. Download now: “Lights Out,” “I’m a Lady.”
7) Welcome Wagon, Welcome to the Welcome Wagon: The second husband-wife hipster duo to make this list, Welcome Wagon (made up of the Rev. and Mrs. Aiuto), have produced, with a lot of help from Sufjan Stevens, a brilliant, homespun album of folk hymns and Sunday school nostalgia. And the album art/packaging is not-to-be-missed! Download now: “Up on a Mountain,” “He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”
6) Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak: This is Kanye’s Sea Change. That is, it’s his against-type, melancholy masterpiece. This album is impressively cohesive and so different from anything he’s ever done. Download now: “Streetlights,” “Paranoid.”
5) M83, Saturdays=Youth: No album title better captures the mood of a record as this one does. Saturdays=Youth is an album of breezy, sun-drenched euphoria and 80s shoegazer nostalgia. It’s French, it’s fresh, and it’s fun. Download now: “Graveyard Girl,” “We Own the Sky.”
4) Coldplay, Viva la Vida: Hate them all you want (and I admit: Chris Martin has been on an annoying streak of late), but it’s hard to dispute the merits of this, their fourth album. The songs are just so epic, so sing-along-able. Download now: “Strawberry Swing,” “Lovers in Japan.”
3) Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend: This is one buzz band that proved to be worth the hype. This album of afro-tinged indie rock is endlessly interesting, sharply produced, and encouragingly happy. Still memorable, nearly a year after it came out. Download now: “Oxford Comma,” “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.”
2) The Walkmen, You & Me: I’ve always had a mild fondness for The Walkmen, but never a love. Until now. This album is a breakthrough for them—an atmospheric lament for simpler times and soon-to-be forgotten dreams. Simply stunning. Download now: “In the New Year,” “If Only It Were True.”
1) Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes: Seattle’s Fleet Foxes is the latest in a long line of trendy Sub Pop sensations, but their self-titled debut—full of wise, poetic, aged material—feels more Olde World than flavor-of-the-week. The band’s self-described sound (“baroque harmonic pop jams”) weaves together various threads of musical and cultural nostalgia—Beach Boys pop, Appalachia fireside folk, Romantic painting, Gothic literature, etc.—to effect a musical mood that is both classic (albeit anachronistic) and stunningly fresh. Download now: “White Winter Hymnal,” “Ragged Wood.”
Honorable Mention: Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago, Claire Holley, Hush, T.V. on the Radio, Dear Science, Flying Lotus, Los Angeles, Scarlett Johansson, Anywhere I Lay My Head, Ron Sexsmith, Exit Strategy of the Soul, Portishead, Third, Damien Jurado, Caught in Trees, Rachel Yamagata, Elephants… Teeth Sinking Into Heart, Grand Archives, The Grand Archives.