A brief look at the stuff from 2008 that surprised, disappointed, and impressed me. (See my 2007 list here.)
2. Katy Perry - One of the Boys
This is surprisingly endearing and ironic album. After listening to "UR So Gay", one would guess that "I Kissed a Girl" is supposed to be comedic - that it doesn't sound like it's funny is probably the album's biggest failing.
1. Scarlett Johanssen - Anywhere I Lay My Head
The high-water mark for celebrity vanity-projects - because it doesn't sound like a vanity project.
4. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
I am a huge fan of Dan Bejar and loved the previous two Destroyer albums. But one or two songs aside, this one left me absolutely bored.
3. No Age - Nouns
For weeks, I was reading and hearing that this album was fantastic. After three listen-throughs, I found myself totally incapable of remembering even one melody from it.
2. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
I recall hearing that this album was conceived of as a series of one-minute long songs. And it shows - it's jarring, abrasive, and at times feels as if it were made intentionally unlistenable on a structural level.
1. Guns n Roses - Chinese Democracy
Axl sounds old and tired. And his self-importance was only interesting when it was paired with a musical exuberance that subtly undercut his earnestness. The music for this album just sounds bloated and pained.
12. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
A dance-rock explosion.
11. Jason Collett - Here's to Being Here
In a year where nearly everything I liked was propelled by a beat that demanded you move to it, Jason Collett slips through the middle with an acoustic guitar and an affected country-twang.
10. Portishead - Third
A grower, for me. I expected another Dummy or Portishead. It took time for me to accept that they weren't going to go there again.
9. Deerhunter - Microcastle
I immediately want to compare this album to Yo La Tengo. Which is weird, because I've never really been a fan of Yo La Tengo, and I like this so much more than anything YLT recorded.
8. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
I've never found TV on the Radio affective or moving. But this album, at the very least, makes me want to move. And if you can do that well enough, well, that's enough.
7. Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
Goldfrapp moved away from glammed up electropop to this pastoral, electric folk just as the former was being taken up by people like Britney Spears. A canny move - and a great move for one of pop music's great voices.
6. Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood/Sun Giant
So totally unlike everything else. It sounds like it's emerged from somewhere not just in the past, but somehow outside of time. I'm also a sucker for great harmonies.
5. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
Best disco album I've ever heard. And I'm not a fan of disco.
4. Black Kids - Partie Traumatique
If nothing else, these kids manage to write and record music that perfectly captures the immediacy and constantcy of absolutely having-to-hook-up-right-now-at-this-very-moment. Which is just a little bit precious and a little bit awesome.
3. Santogold - Santogold
I like Gwen Stefani, but she's a bit too poppy for my tastes. I like MIA, but sometimes find her music grating. But Santogold sounds more than a little like both, and seems to provide the perfect balance.
2. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
I will admit to being mostly ignorant of the afro-pop influences that these guys are cribbing. I just know they make for some fantastic music.
1. M83 - Saturdays=Youth
A shoe-gaze album by a 26 year-old fuelled by nostalgia for his teens and grounded in 80s synth-pop, it sounds as if the past is speaking through the music itself - present but forever at a remove. Young enough that he's still a romantic, but old enough that he's forgotten just how unromantic it is to be a teen.