I’ve been busy and on the move over the last week, but not around the Internet a lot. So, I’ve got a lot to write about but before I cover all of that, I thought I’d take one last look at 2008 before cruising on into the new year. Every year, I do a review of the albums I bought in the previous year and name my favorites. They don’t necessarily have to have been released in 2008, just new to me in 2008. I got a couple things late in the year (like Copeland’s You Are My Sunshine) that I didn’t really have time to listen to so they aren’t on the list. I’m not much for ranking, so there’s not really an order to the list. With all that said, on to my favorites of 2008…
Matthew Perryman Jones – Swallow The Sea, Throwing Punches in the Dark
Swallow The Sea is probably my album of the year. I love it. MPJ kind of has a Pete Yorn sound with his slurring, relaxed vocals. The band behind him is top notch (I was totally unsurprised that one of my favorite guitarists, Paul Moak, was involved with the album) and he ranges from slow-dancing ballads like “Amelia” to a powerful anthemic drawn-out title song. It’s one of those albums that works no matter what kind of mood you’re in. I also really enjoyed his previous album, Throwing Punches in the Dark.
Coldplay – Viva La Vida, Prospekt’s March
I’ve got to admit that my expectations for a new Coldplay album were pretty low. I wasn’t too big on X&Y and I kinda felt like Coldplay was a little, no pun intended, played out. This album totally surprised me and I think Brian Eno’s influence is a big reason why I like this CD so much. It’s not drastically different for Coldplay, but it’s different enough to push themselves forward from their previous work. The EP Prospekt’s March that they released a little later in the year is even better with awesome syncopation in “Glass of Water” and augmented versions of “Life in Technicolor” and “Lovers in Japan” that are even better than the originals.
The 77′s – Holy Ghost Building
Great job by Mike Roe, Bruce Spencer, and Mark Harmon to go back and revisit old gospel spirituals and give them new life. Mike Roe does his best Dylan imitation, his best Jagger imitation, and his best Jimmy Page imitation on different songs for a rollicking good time. This is the best 77′s release in a long, long time.
Mike Farris – Salvation in Lights
Speaking of old gospel spirituals, Mike Farris was a new artist for me this year. It’s a fresh take on old Negro spirituals done with white boy soul, ala Taylor Hicks. The band behind him is top notch, but I’ve heard it’s even better live. I’m hoping I get a chance to see him someday in concert.
We Shot the Moon – Fear and Love
Nice piano based work with lots of teenaged angst and wistfulness. They have great vocals and nice harmonies. I took a flyer on this album not really having heard much, but recommended by a friend, and I’m glad I did.
Paper Route – Are We All Forgotten?
It’s a short EP, but I really hope Paper Route is on a trajectory towards becoming a big-name band. Their “folktronica” sound blends techno beats with heart-wrenching ballads and ponderous stories. They bring so many instruments to the table with xylophones, harmonicas, guitars, keys, drums, bells and more that each song is so dense musically.
Common Children – Delicate Fade
New to me, at least. It sounds a little dated now, but this album lacks the pretense of a similar sounding band like Collective Soul. It cranks up the intensity and emotion and also gives hints of Marc Byrd’s meandering ambient sound that he mostly produces now. This is another in a long line of bands that I am sad that I found after they broke up.
Andrew Osenga – Letters to the Editor, Vol. 2.
Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken – Ampersand
These are just short EP’s, but each has their own charm. Andrew Osenga releases his second set of fan-driven songs with all of the tracks inspired by letters, photos, and suggestions from listeners. “Staring Out A Window (My Confession)” might be my favorite song of the year and in many ways sums up where I am in life right now. Derek and Sandra combined their fantastic lyric-writing skills to put together a short album of essentially love songs. It’s not nearly as sappy as say, Sonny and Cher, but it does have a certain sweet romantic quality when they write songs to and for each other.