Nick’s Top Ten of 2008

10. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

The Hold Steady create albums. They write stories and develop characters. And that’s mostly why I like them; I can return to a Hold Steady album like a familiar friend. Stay Positive is different though, it’s more a collection of songs then an album. They still self-reference, and Charlemagne makes his requisite appearance, but Stay Positive is judged more on the quality of the songs then the weight of the message. And for that reason, it’s not their best release. But “Constructive Summer” is still one of the best songs they’ve written, and the title track is a tear-jerking, fist-pumping epic.

The Hold Steady – Constructive Summer

9. M83 – Saturdays=Youth

M83’s previous albums are the embodiment of forward motion; cascading spires of analog synth churning against concrete backbeats that form some sort of crazy word that is beyond soundscape, but just short of heaven. Saturdays = Youth is a pop album that would fit nicely in the eighties. Dreamy vocals drip nostalgic over those same churning synths, backed by stadium drums and that feeling of sunset at the park when your fourteen and in love. Completely self-indulgent, completely awesome.

M83 – Kim & Jessie

M83 – Graveyard Girl

8. Death Vessel – Nothing is Precious Enough For Us

I’ve just dusted this album off after two months of it resting on my (proverbial) shelf, and it feels like an old friend. Death Vessel’s guitars jump through the decades, recalling the folkier side of early seventies Neil Young while maintaining a spot among his (freak) folk contemporaries like Devandra and Vetiver.  And goddamn, that falsetto is high. Don’t be alarmed if you think it’s a woman at first. It’s just like if Young sang in key. And maybe a bit prettier. (Note: Neil Young is a god.)

Death Vessel – Block My Eye

Death Vessel – Circa

7. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park

“No One Does it Like You”  is propelled by popping, baritone harmonies (that remind me of Ocarina of Time…anyone else?) and lead vocals from the darker side of Grizzly Bear. It’s halfway between sunset and pitch-black. “Phantom Other” straddles that same line, same popping, subterranean harmonies, same romanticized sense of impending doom. In Ear Park is the type of album that attaches itself to memories. Two months down the road, you’ll hear “Phantom Other” and have a vivid recollection of that one time at the park with perfect light and a duck walking with feet too big for it’s body. Well, that’s just me. But here’s hoping.

Department of Eagles – Phantom Other

Department of Eagles – Teenagers

6. The Raveonettes – Lust, Lust, Lust

Lust, Lust, Lust is, as the title implies, sexy. Twisted surf-rock leads wind their way through clouds of atmospheric fuzz, like a lucid stroll through a sleeping city. It’s hazy rock and roll done in the tradition of (obviously) the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Blended male and female vocals, anthemic surges of late-night guitar fuzz and a healthy dose of lust and longing.  (I got lazy and basically re-wrote what I’d written for a past review, but I’m ok with that.)

The Raveonettes – You Want the Candy

The Raveonettes – Dead Sound

5. No Age – Nouns

I saw No Age guitarist Randy Randall (is that name for real?) do a stage dive from the top of his amp, guitar in hand, into a thrashing pit at the Middle East Downstairs last year. The guitars were gnarled, the vocals hardly there and the drums felt their way up into your chest and squeezed tightly. And somehow that still manages to come across recorded: “Eraser” feels like a summer’s day, all swaying guitars at sea, and “Teen Creeps” is a punk epic, distorted vocals over a handful of disgusting, swirling chords. Easy listening recorded at the outskirts of a hurricane.

No Age – Eraser

No Age – Teen Creeps

4. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

“All the girls of note are crying” might be my favorite album-opening line of all time. Well, at least of the last five minutes. In Ghost Colours makes me want to dance happy. The synth tones are delightfully retro, the vocoder hooks brilliant. And when it isn’t borrowing from 70s disco, or late 80s synth pop, it’s taking swirling guitars from the shoegaze-era or abrasive power chords from the punks. I’m beginning to notice a trend where I look to favorite albums to emulate love, but um, this album makes me want to fall in love on a dance floor, drunk during the early morning. This list is becoming uncomfortably introspective.

Cut Copy -Feel the Love

Cut Copy – Lights and Music

3. The Walkmen – You & Me

The Walkmen make me want to believe in things. Love, life, glory, whatever. Their songs just give me a sense of aimless inspiration. They also make me want to twirl in the snow at 2 am in the middle of a city street. Which is great. You & Me is the new years resolution you forgot to make, evidenced by the cataclysmic crescendos of the aptly named “In The New Year,” and the triumphant, spiraling guitars of “Postcards From Tiny Islands.”

The Walkmen – In The New Year

The Walkmen – Postcards From Tiny Islands

2. Pretty & Nice – Get Young

I’ve freaked out about this album enough already this year, so I’ll keep it mellow. Get Young is a kaleidoscopic tour through the last thirty years of pop and punk, condensed into twenty seven minutes of unbridled kinetic energy. It’s like a workout for your brain. They may have slipped under the radar this year, but Pretty & Nice are destined for great things.

Unfortunately I can’t upload any of their songs, but you can find the album streaming here.

1. The Dodos – Visiter

The Dodos are often mistaken for (a more cohesive) Animal Collective, probably due to their tribal drumming and frantic instrumentation. Other times they get Sufjan Stevens, probably due to the vocals and the depth of instrumentation. So take the insanity of Animal Collective with the sagacity of Sufjan, sprinkle in some extraneous inspiration and you’ll have something like the Dodos. This album hasn’t made a single Best-Of list I’ve read, and I’m disappointed. It’s been my go-to album for six or seven months at this point, and every new listen reveals a new gem. And I listened to this a lot while driving through mountain ranges in New Zealand.

The Dodos – Winter

The Dodos – Joe’s Waltz

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About Nick

"Don’t ask me why I obsessively look to rock n’ roll bands for some kind of model for a better society. I guess it’s just that I glimpsed something beautiful in a flashbulb moment once, and perhaps mistaking it for prophecy have been seeking it’s fulfillment ever since. And perhaps that nothing else in the world ever seemed to hold even this much promise" - Lester Bangs 1977 That about sums up why I write about music. I go to school at Boston University with Akhil, one of the other indiemusers, and we share similar views on music. I just want people to hear stuff. Sometimes I wish I were more eloquent. I also write for Performer Magazine, and play in the band You Can Be A Wesley. And that's me!

3 thoughts on “Nick’s Top Ten of 2008

  1. never heard of pretty & nice prior. i definitely enjoyed listening to that album just now. granted, i’m in an excitable mood since it’s a short day at work followed by new year celebrations, but that is an album i will return to. probably even as early as tonight after i’ve had a few. (and by a few i mean many more than a few)

  2. it is really good ….i definitely enjoyed listening to that album just now. granted, i’m in an excitable mood since it’s a short day at work followed by new year celebrations,

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