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The Top 30 Albums of 2008

By ; December 22, 2008 at 8:24 PM 

20. Spiritualized
Songs in A+E
[Universal/Spaceman]

Jason Pierce is a very private guy in his personal life, but he allows himself complete emotional release on his albums. Its been awhile since we last got an album from Spiritualized due to Pierce’s illness. The album takes its name from the Accident and Emergency Ward, and is even dedicated to the staff at the Royal London Hospital. Most of the songs were written before his illness, but in a way they predict his pre-death experience. The album is more stripped-down and direct than past releases, with “Soul on Fire” being possibly the most uplifting song he’s ever written. His voice takes on a gospel tone, and some true beauty comes out on “Baby I’m Just a Fool” and “Death Take Your Fiddle”. Pierce bids us “Goodnight Goodnight” with one of his barest songs ever, a fitting end to a good return. –Nichols

Listen to the album on Lala | Spiritualized | Myspace

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19. Girl Talk
Feed the Animals
[Illegal Art]

Have you ever wondered what Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys” vocal would sound like set over Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”? What about “No Diggity” over the “Flashing Lights” beat? “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” over some classic Thin Lizzy? Gregg Gillis has your answers to these questions and more on Feed the Animals, a guaranteed party-starter that runs through over 300 unlicensed samples from everybody imaginable, resurrecting ’80s chestnuts like “Jessie’s Girl” and “Faithfully” and retooling modern smashes like “Since U Been Gone” and “Umbrella.” When Gillis combines the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ junkie anthem “Under the Bridge” with Lil Wayne’s AutoTuned sex jam “Lollipop” he creates something far beyond the some of its parts. Feed the Animals is consistently brilliant, hilarious, and revelatory, and will completely change how you look at your favorite songs, finding common ground between T.I. and Sinéad O’Connor. –Highkin

Listen to the album on Lala | Download for free (or donate) | Girl Talk | Myspace

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18. Why?
Alopecia
[anticon.]

Classifying Why? under a single genre can prove difficult. Alopecia is the Yoni Wolf-led outfit’s third full-length effort, and its second as a full band. The five-piece manages to blend a variety of genres ranging from indie rock to unconventional hip-hop to gritty pop, creating a musical melting-pot of sorts. This genre-mashing with main lyricist Wolf’s dark and humorous wordplay make Why?’s Alopecia 2008’s most unique and possibly overlooked release. –Kaloudis

Listen to the album on Lala | Why? | Myspace

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17. Destroyer
Trouble in Dreams
[Merge]

Dan Bejar’s voice and long-winded, verbose lyrical style are much more suited for the glam-meets-folk stylings of Detroyer than the power-pop of his other gig, the New Pornographers. Trouble in Dreams is markedly similar to Destroyer’s other work, but is not without its standout tracks. “Foam Hands” and “My Favorite Year” are among the strongest Bejar tracks to date. Openers on Detroyer albums are usually verbose, and “Blue Flower/Blue Flame” is no exception. It may not be on the same level as Destroyer’s Rubies or Streethawk, but Trouble in Dreams is another fine Bejar release. –Chris Woodall

Destroyer | Myspace

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16. Death Cab for Cutie
Narrow Stairs
[Atlantic, Barsuk]

On these indie-rock vets’ older albums, particularly their 2005’s Plans, there was a clear definition between each song, each one had its own beginning and end. On Narrow Stairs, Death Cab have made an album in the truest sense of the word, a cohesive collection of songs that go well together and create one big piece of work. From the Jack Kerouac-inspired opener ‘Bixby Canyon Bridge’ to the delicately poised closer ‘The Ice is Getting Thinner’ this album tells the stories of many different characters all brilliantly woven together through their feelings of loss and sadness. –Rob Hakimian

Listen to the album on Lala | Death Cab for Cutie | Myspace

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15. Coldplay
Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
[Parlophone]

Coldplay’s Viva La Vida was highly anticipated, because pretty much everyone was tired of that slower sound the band had given us for 3 albums straight. Working with the legendary Brian Eno, the band blew their aesthetic wide open, creating something more experimental while still holding a pop sound. The band got darker with songs like “Cemeteries of London”, and a lot louder on “Violet Hill” and “42″. The album’s gems are the two title tracks, “Viva La Vida” and “Death and All His Friends.” Coldplay will likely still attract the haters forever, but even their biggest detractors would likely find something to love here, be it the My Bloody Valentine-esque “Chinese Sleep Chant” or the afro-pop of “Strawberry Swing”. This was the year Coldplay ruled the world, and it was the year where their fans knew they would never have to hear that tired “You know how I know you’re gay…” bit again. –Nichols

Listen to the album on Lala | Coldplay | Myspace

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14. Mogwai
The Hawk Is Howling
[Matador/Wall of Sound]

Upon listening to The Hawk Is Howling for the first time, two thoughts should come to mind. First, “Wait, hold on, that’s not a hawk”, second, “Woah, is that Mogwai?”. The band drifts further from their signature “soft to loud” tension-breaking sound with each recurrent release, but with this release Mogwai has found a perfect balance between the old and the new. From the relatively upbeat “The Sun Smells Too Loud”, to the overdriven “Batcat”, Mogwai showcase their entire arsenal. The Hawk Is Howling not only captures all of the band’s strengths, but further displays Mogwai’s growth over the years. This is Mogwai at their finest. –Kaloudis

Listen to the album on Lala | Mogwai | Myspace

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13. British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music?
[Rough Trade]

Do You Like Rock Music? finds British Sea Power plunging full-on into arena rock, which is no easy task. Thankfully, the band pulls it off quite well. Songs like “Waving Flags” and “No Lucifer” boast rousing tribal chants reminiscent of Arcade Fire, and has similar cathartic qualities. Do You Like Rock Music? is the sound of a band stepping confidently into their identity, taking the best of Arcade Fire, early U2, and prime Clash and making one of the most thrilling, energetic rock records of the year. –Koepp

Listen to the album on Lala | British Sea Power | Myspace

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12. The Black Keys
Attack & Release
[Nonesuch]

Attack & Release is the veteran garage-blues band’s first collaboration with producer Danger Mouse. It carries a lot of historical weight, given that much of this music was originally intended for a Danger Mouse-produced Ike Turner record, a project cut short by Turner’s untimely death in late 2007. While the band continues with their blues-rock formula for most of the record, there are also influences from folk and psychedelic rock. With singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach’s voice in fine dorm and Auerbach’s and drummer Patrick Carney skilful playing and solid songwriting, the Black Keys prove their critics wrong and deliver a straightforward garage blues-rock with enough influences from other genres to avoid the feeling that they’re just going through the motions. –Alm

Listen to the album on Lala | The Black Keys | Myspace

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11. Department of Eagles
In Ear Park
[4AD]

Department of Eagles’ second album sees the former college roommates Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus maturing substantially following 2003’s The Whitey on the Moon. The themes of the songs cover well-trodden ground – life and death, love and lost love – but they manage to make it sound fresh. There are enough hooks, memorable melodies, and moments of pure exuberance to excite and intrigue the listener whilst not overwhelming them. It’s a simple but complex album that relaxes the mind with the help of Rossen’s angelic, soothing voice. –Hakimian

Listen to the album on Lala | Department of Eagles | Myspace

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