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The Cherry on Top …of 2008

24 Dec

No one really likes making “Top 10” lists, do they? I gave my team the option of making a list for 2008. Top 5, top 10, recommended, etc. and here’s what we came up with. You’ll notice there’s not much overlap, and to me that’s a good thing. We like variety. Hopefully you’ll find something on these lists you haven’t heard yet and can now go check out. It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t count for much, but here are CakeIn15 staffer’s top picks for the year that was (and is… for another 6 days anyway).

Staciaann

1.The Dodos, Visiter
Ridiculous trash can drums, excellent bleeding-finger guitars, and wonderful songs make this my top album of 2008. No matter how many times I put it on, I’m thrilled by the intricacies and emotion in this album.

2.Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Fabulous vocals that bring me back to groups like The Tolkens, Four Freshman, and Jan & Dean. An album any age can enjoy. Also a memorable live show with haunting reminders of the past.

3.Frightened RabbitMidnight Organ Fight
Continues my love of music from Scotland. Hell, I wrote about these guys back in June of 2007 here too. Since then they’ve only grown in their song-writing, and 2008 brought their best album yet. Well done boys.

4.Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
You’re lying if you say you don’t like this album. It’s summer wrapped up and rolled into a digital file.

5.Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us
Awesome harmonies from a husband and wife team who’ve only gotten better as they continue to create music. One of my favorite sing-a-long records of 2008.

6.Cloud CultFeel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes)
Fucking fantastic new stuff from one of my fav locals. Check out “Journey of the Featherless” or “Story of the Grandson of Jesus ” if you don’t believe me.

7.Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps, Backyard Tent Set
My best new local music find this year. Old-timey without overdoing it. Every time I’ve played this at work, someone’s picked up the album. No joke. Plus, her live show will pack them in and leave you sighing with pleasure.

8.Jeremy MessersmithThe Silver City
Messersmith again proves he’s one of the better singer-songwriters out there. Put that together with super producer Dan Wilson, and you have one hell of an album about Minneapolis.

9.City On the Make$1,000,000 EP
“Chicks on, chicks on, chicks on bikes” was my anthem for the summer as my girlfriends and I sang it repeatedly biking around the city. Lead poet Mike Massey is as fun to watch as he is to listen to, and with new bionic knees to keep him bouncing, I can’t wait for the new material that’s promised to come soon.

10.The Mountain GoatsHeretic Pride
Admittedly, John Darnelle has a voice that only a mother could love. Ok, that’s not 100% true, but it’s close. You either love him or hate him, but you can’t touch Darnelle’s dark lyrics mixed with lovely guitar rhythms and the driving force of his will.

*Side Note: While I would definitely put Bon Iver into my top 10, I owned the album in 2007, and so can’t put it in without feeling strange about doing it. Justin, I love ya, but last year was your year. xo

Dan O.

1.Cloud Cult, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes)
Having returned to this album again and again, it’s the rare album that never grows old – it always feels like you’re listening to it for the third time (the time when you finally decided that you really really liked it.)

2.Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
Of Montreal’s new album (as I reviewed previously) continues to confound me at times, but I re-visit it almost weekly – It’s ambition and scope place it in my Top 10 this year.

3.Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
I wasn’t actually sure if this album was released in 2008 – something made me feel as though it had been released earlier, but the back of the CD credits it as a 2008 release, so here it is! The buzz has faded, but it’s still an entirely interesting album – reminds me a lot of Paul Simon’s Graceland.

4.Grand Archives, The Grand Archives
What first brought me to this album was its Band of Horses side-project status, but it’s much much more – One of the most consistent and enjoyable pop albums of the year.

5. R.E.M., Accelerate
As any R.E.M. fan will attest – thank god they’re back to making relevant music. So long as it’s R.E.M. and even half-way decent, it’ll get on my top 10.

6.The Magnetic Fields, Distortion
I have heard murmurings that there are those who didn’t enjoy this album, but I find it to be the most listenable Magnetic Fields album yet – made up of equal parts shimmery distortion and odd-shorn lyrics, it’s a perfect summer album for a winter morning.

7.Liam Finn, I’ll Be Lightning
Son of Neil Finn (Crowded House), Liam’s debut album is a sort of Beatles hybrid that occasionally sounds like Elliott Smith. It’s raw and pretty at the time. More importantly, I bought it eight months ago and still listen to it – rare longevity for a shot in the dark.

8.Sigur Ros, Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust
Nothing different than before, but still – really frickin’ pretty.

9.Dosh, Wolves and Wishes
Andrew Bird didn’t release an album in 2008, so I’ll toss the orchestral sound-pop tiara to the handsomely bearded Dosh, whose album is always good to wind down to after work with a beer.

10. Spiritualized, Songs in A & E
Written during and after a death-defying bout with pneumonia, this album is a great for late nights and headphones – makes you feel happy to be alive.

Alexa

The Gaslight AnthemThe ’59 Sound
Chuck Ragan Feast or Famine
I realize this came out in ’07 but I didn’t discover it until ’08, have listened the sh*t out of it, so IT’S ’08 FOR ME!
Langhorne SlimLanghorne Slim
Parts & Labor Receivers
Alejandro EscovedoReal Animal

c.a.s.
(In no particular order)

TV on the Radio, Dear Science
Sonically, I still hold that Return to Cookie Mountain is a better disc, and if you think “Wolf Like Me” isn’t dance track, then you’re not trying hard enough. But Dear Science does for dance-pop what OK Computer did for rock and roll- inverted, electrified and re-invigorated it. Give it up for the band with the big ideas and the adventuresome spirit to follow. Live review here.

The Hold Steady, Stay Positive
We will, and we get jams that, even though they leave our fair state and Craig Finn’s familiar stomping ground, just get bigger and more brash. “Lord I’m Discouraged” is “How a Resurrection Really Feels” told from the other guy’s perspective, and that’s a great way to grow up without losing your edge. Bonus points for dirty jokes and double necked guitars. Live review here.

City On the Make, $1,000,000 EP
It’s easy to fall for chicks on bikes, as the grinding opening jam proved this summer. But it’s even better when we get into the disc- it is a million bucks, one hundred percent, and when he wails “Poor Mike Massey’s got eyes for your daughter” and Mischa Kegan tears the licks down behind him, it might as well be a lament for Savannah girls in their Nehi skirts walkin’ walkin’ walkin’ down the block. Ain’t they got no respect? Live review here.

Jeremy Messersmith, The Silver City
An exquisite journey through the the pop sounds of days of yore, deftly produced by Dan Wilson. It twinkles and shimmers, the starlight sharper for the darker underpinnings of Messersmith’s razor-sharp storytelling. This is a great disc to give to people when they ask you where you live and what it’s like. Interview here.

Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, A Larum
An out-of-left field surprise for me that has become one of my most-listened-to discs this year. Comforting Irish vox, pop-folk with some rock heft and strings, writing that is both sharp, funny and poignant. From “The Wrote & the Writ”: “They’re taking pictures of the man from God/let’s hope his cassock’s clean./The burden of being a holy fellow/is your halo better gleam, better gleam.” Kick up your heels and reel in your friends.

Kristoff Krane, This Will Work For Now
The earnestness, the fierce drive to make art work for the artists, to make it function, the need to make it and survive. This disc burns with it. Sometimes it over-extends, but it is always true to the artist as necessary creator- the disc runs from braggadocio to doubt and sincerity. And radio-friendly tunes like “Paul Still Loves His Daughter” and “Miracle” are the stuff of silver screen soundtracks. Review here.

Cecil Otter, Rebel Yellow
The poised counterpoint to Krane’s manic spin, this disc is just-as-if-not-more dark, introspective and driven. In a banner year for Doomtree, Cecil’s produced and written some of the most professional, honest and polished material. Plus, he played the Clapperclaw Festival. So he’s the shit.

The Dodos, Visiter
From start to finish, this is one of those records that long-play vinyl was made for. The manic drumming that keeps the base shifting, bending folk guitars layered on top of eachother to make them San Francisco punk, the duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber work their asses off to make one of the fastest moving, most satisfyingly layered discs of the year. Live review here.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
It is one of the continuing miracles of music that it always comes back around. Is it because of the moon, or the connection to orbiting planets? Or because sound is a wave, a sine and cosine along an axis that form perfect circles, whole, enveloping, harmonizing, sustaining circles? With the debut Sun Giant EP and the self-titled LP release in the same year, the Pacific Northwest bellows with beauty again.

Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall
Nonesuch Records sent me back to my first concert with this disc, to a moment when the world opened up to pulsing sound, unstoppable rhythm and pure joy. I think that every other concert-going experience is measured by that yard-stick for me, and it’s a tall order. When something measures up, it’s worth it. These records and the concerts given by these performers this year (among others) have made it a great 2008. Thank you.

Plus: These Singles Rock
Esau Mwamwaya, “Tengazako”- I defy you not to dance, I defy you to not believe in the power of globalization.
Blitzen Trapper, “Furr”- Turns stock animal noises into proto-mythical creation stories, makes you sing along.
Vampire Weekend, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”- “Do you want to fuck/like I know you do?” I do.
Atmosphere, “You”- Performed on Letterman wearing an Obama shirt, mid-July. Bless.
Diplo, “Reckoner Remix”- Breaks it all apart, bends in Beirut, kicks it to the dancefloor. Thom Yorke should be proud.
Santogold, “L.E.S. Artistes”- Watch it, Santogold is out there and she is coming for your ass.
Plastic Chord, “Thang Goin’ On”- A live staple put down for the groove-bustin’ record.
Cloud Cult, “The Grandson of Jesus”- Because you could be one of those billion saviors.
Mates of State, “The Re-Arranger”- For you and your lover to mix it up and get down, indie-rock style.
The Black Keys, “Psychotic Girl”- Buzzing like the underwater universe of your broken head.
MGMT, “Time To Pretend”- Distills the hubris of youth to it’s ebullient core.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, “Buriedfed”- He’s said if he had had his success at 19 instead of at 25, he’d be dead. It’s good to be alive.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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    […] Foxes were damn near ubiquitous on 2008’s Best-Of lists (including Cake In 15’s own) and they just played one of the best SNL musical guest spots since Prince- and by played, I mean, […]

  2. Cake In 15 » Blog Archive » Cloud Cult’s “No One Said It Would Be Easy” - March 23, 2009

    […] and their 2008 release,  Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes), made it on to our Best-Of lists, specifically for the breakout catharsis and unbridled joy that their music encompasses.  Not […]

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