so tough to choose my favorite new music of 2008. i’m not even sure all of these were 2008 releases (actually, some of them i’m sure are older); but they were new to me in 2008. in absolutely no order — well, they seem to be roughly alphabetical, now that i look at them…
alanis morissette, flavors of entanglement. brilliantly creative, fascinating lyrics, hooks that surprise. i’m blown away to know that morissette doesn’t actually write any of her songs until she gets in the studio; she just tries to be extremely “ready”.
beck, modern guilt. i’m a long time beck fan. i have 9 of his albums in my itunes. i love his quirky, funky, surprising and weird approach to, i guess you could call it, pop rock.
ben taylor, another run around the sun. can’t remember how i stumbled onto ben taylor; but this is my 2nd of his albums. wonderful singer and great songwriter, with memorable and singable songs. sometimes makes me think of ben harper, other times of jack johnson or donovan frankenreiter.
bluegrass worship. i would not predicted this as being any good. but i couldn’t escape how much i enjoyed it. a double disc of standard modern worship songs that you’ll know, but done in a bluegrass style. not brilliant, but i really like it.
capitol lights, this is an outrage. an excellent christian modern rock group i never would have found were it not for my friend, annie crandall, of tooth & nail. i think this is one of my daughter’s favorite new groups also.
the cobalt season, fragile iconoclast. there are very few singer-songwriters who are as good as ryan sharp. the fact that he’s often singing poetry about his wrestling with god only adds to the perfection. honest and bare, with a musical quality beyond what one would expect from an independent release.
coldplay, viva la vida. yes, you know it. yes, you probably have it. so you know it’s just that good, right?
gnarls barkley, the odd couple. singer cee-lo has one of my favorite voices in any genre of music. clear and strong, with amazing range, and just a pinch of edge. this is one of those albums i can listen to over and over and over and not tire of the tracks.
gotan project, (all of their albums). what to say about gotan project (which i found through my amiestreet.com obsession). i downloaded one of their albums, and loved it so much, i went back and got two or three more. i think they’re an argentine band, which would explain the regular use of tango music and accordian. there’s a male vocalist who mostly raps in spanish, and there’s a female vocalist who mostly sings in english. it’s a little hip-hoppy, often jazzy, and a lot latin-infused world music, and mostly just very interesting and listenable pop.
imogen heap, speak for yourself and i megaphone. imogen heap has been around for a while; but i just discovered her this year. and, after getting one album, i went back and got her other one, as well as two albums of her (former?) band, frou-frou. an angelic voice, often layered in levels of harmonies that are rich like cream cheese frosting, and intriguing pop songwriting have made her one of the darlings of the alt-pop scene. and now i know why.
in the name of love: africa celebrates U2. i borrowed this stunning cd from a friend, and listen to it all the time. it’s a collection of U2 songs, performed by a variety of african musicians and bands. the songs have been given lots of re-interpretation, which is a great strength of the album (tribute albums where the songs just sound like the originals suck). so pickin’ cool.
king khan and the shrines, the supreme genius of king kahn and the shrines. amiestreet.com recommended this to me based on my previous purchases, and they were right. yes, it’s a bit rough on some of the lyrics (i was previously blasted for mentioning this band, since some of their lyrics are on the raunchy side). the music is funky and hooky, almost like a cross between blacksploitation funk and modern rock. whatever it is, i love the sound.
M.I.A, kala. yup, you’ve all heard paper planes (“all i wanna do is…” bang-bang-bang-bang), which got somewhat overplayed on a variety of radio formats. but that’s part of the brilliance of M.I.A. — they’re difficult to stick a label on. hip hop, rap, alt rock, pop, world music? maybe it’s because M.I.A. is the music of the daughter of sri lanken refugees who live in london, and her music is a blend of everything you can imagine. anyhow, the album has a whole lot more depth than that one song.
reeve oliver, touchstone inferno. found this band on amiestreet.com also. they popped up because i said i like bands like weezer and wheatus. reeve oliver is indi-pop with a pop-punk edge. i dig ’em. and i just found out they’re a san diego band, so i might have to try to find them performing somewhere locally.
serj tankian, elect the dead. i still likes me some harder edged stuff from time to time. having really liked the music of system of a down, this solo album from their lead singer was a natural for me. a few of the songs got a lot of radio play on alt rock stations. sometimes, it’s just the perfect music to blast through my noise-reduction headphones while i’m walking to or from the trolley.
the darjeeling limited, original movie soundtrack. it was a perfectly quirky movie, and it’s a perfectly quirky soundtrack. everything from claire de lune, to some annoying and catchy 50s or 60s songs you’ve never heard, to a few good classic rock songs, and quite a bit of indian music.
the peasall sisters, home to you. i have traditionally liked about every form of music other than country. but these days i’ve found that i like quite a bit more country than i would have expected, but need to qualify that a bit. i don’t like pop country. but i like bluegrass, i like alt-country, i like edgy stuff like old crow medicine show and br-549, i like psychobilly country like reverand horton heat, and some old school stuff like willie nelson and johnny cash. and, i really like what people seem to call “americana”, old timey stuff that sounds like it would be sung by the carter family singers or a few gap-toothed cousins somewhere in the appalachian mountains. the peasall sisters (another amiestreet.com find as i looked through americana music) are three sisters with innocent and beautiful voices who sing simple and beautiful songs. some gospel, some down-home stuff.
weezer, red album. you know who they are, so i don’t need to write much. i just really like weezer, and this is a strong album. my daughter and son like them a lot too, so it’s fun to share!