150 Best Albums of 2008

It was the Barack Obama of times, it was the Sarah Palin of times. In retrospect maybe we should have put two and two together and figured out where the potential first Black president on the top of one party’s ticket and the know-nothing Tea Party huckster on the bottom of the other party’s might be leading us. The former observed in April 2008 that disaffected rust-belters bitterly “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” (which pretty clearly does happen); the latter babbled in October that those same voters resided in “the real America, being here with all of you hardworking, very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” This from somebody who could have been one malignant brain tumor away from the nuclear button, with Russia visible from her porch no less. Okay, that was really Tina Fey, but still.

Add in predatory sub-prime mortgages and out-of-control derivative trading and the high-rolling global casino tanking banks and then the worldwide economy like they hadn’t been recessioned since the Great Depression, plus facebook’s all-encompassing viral influence catapulting from 50 million users in October 2007 to 100 million in August 2008 to 150 million in January 2009, plus Fox News’s dominance of cable TV for the seventh straight year, and it shouldn’t have taken a crystal ball to predict the window for authoritarianism was being pried open wider and wider. But with the end of the second Reconstruction still eight years away, not many noticed. Financial collapse or no, it was hard not to be optimistic after November 4.

Of course, it’s way beyond cheating to point out in retrospect what should have been foretold, after the future’s already arrived. At the time, the Great Recession had Ann Powers prognosticating thusly: “Maybe a 21st-century Woody Guthrie will emerge, countered by an art-for-art’s-sake movement based around bedroom studios run by hippies raising their own chickens. Maybe rappers will finally stop proselytizing about overspending on bling, and rockers will find a way to be relevant again” — not to mention “Maybe a new era of activism, with the Flobots in the lead (the kids sure love them!)” (I had to look them up! Oh yeah, those guys.) Not sure to what extent the rest of her prophecy eventually came true. The late ’00s, ’10s and early ’20s have spawned their share of protest songs, I’m sure, but what era hasn’t?

At the time, the song that felt the most like the front page to me came from ill-fated country dirger Jamey Johnson : “an inexorable six-minute drone called “High Cost of Living,’ which has as much to do with cocaine and whores and smoking pot beneath giant crucifixes as with the current U.S. economy, is as true and devastating a tour of mental depression as you’ll hear.” But if Johnson was ever slated to be the new Guthrie, the fact that he hasn’t put out an album of original songs since 2010 probably wrecked his chances. Not sure what other candidates might get nominated — Jason Isbell? Rhiannon Gibbons? Kendrick Lamar, maybe? Am I forgetting somebody obvious?

Jody Rosen, noting a plethora of ad-hoc youtubed Obama odes in the same end-of-2008 Slate Music Club series as Powers, observed that “21st-century technology may have doomed the record business, but it is reviving an old-fashioned kind of musical populism—teleporting us back to the 19th century, when amateur and professional balladeers greeted the news of the day with quick-and-dirty tailor-written songs.” And sure enough, the same thing would happen with Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter songs a dozen years later (though then again, I’d also sorted through hundreds of 9-11 songs seven years before).

Rosen added that he’d been binging on Great Depression music and, “based on this research, I have a provisional answer to Ann’s question about what the present economic crisis will bring us musically: Everything. For every Dust Bowl folkie, a dopey hillbilly novelty tune. For every ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,’ a decadent escapist anthem, such as Fred Astaire boasting ‘I’m fancy free, and free for anything fancy’ while gliding around a penthouse with a cocktail shaker.” I suppose all that happened? It’s too open-ended not to have.

Proclaiming 2008 the “Year of the Afro-Techno Voice” in the Village Voice thanks to Santigold, Erykah Badu, Beyoncé, and professed aliens Janelle Monae and Lil Wayne among others, Kandia Crazy Horse hoped “that Obama’s ascendancy translates into another golden era of assertive, intelligent, and transgressive Black art”; again, you be the judge of whether her wish materialized. She also christened Lil Wayne, T-Pain and Kanye West “the unholy AutoTune trinity.”

Framing their points in that obligatory quasi-chummy Slate Music Club conversa-tone that’s always struck me as forced (or maybe I’m just sore because I never got invited), Powers and Rosen and Robert Christgau also bantered an awful lot about AutoTune –“an ominously minor one,” Christgau scoffed, if it’s “the pop story of the year.” Rosen worried that “draining music of its natural dynamic range” could lead to both “ear fatigue” and “the erasure of eccentricity, of human frailty from pop singing.” It’d be easier to accuse such reactions of fuddy-duddiness if I didn’t share them myself, even 14 years later. None of which prevented Rosen or Christgau from approving of T-Pain.

More Music Club topics: the lost lamented monoculture which may or may not have ever existed in the first place; digital sales beginning to overtake physical units moved; the ubiquity of Lil Wayne (by then apparently widely considered the greatest rapper alive even if his best albums to my nervous system were long behind him and mostly slept on); the collage comedy of Pittsburgh’s pervy Gregg Gillis a/k/a Girl Talk; the procrastinating persistence of Guns N’ Roses (whose Best Buy exclusive Chinese Democracy I just finally got around to listening to after 14 years, which is almost as long as it took them to make the damn thing — hey, “I.R.S.” isn’t bad); the prolific populism of Drive-By Truckers (“kind of retro boogie, Skynyrd sans soloists,” Xgau admits, though he leaves out also sans Skynyrd’s rhythm section and skirts around their comparatively perfunctory vocals.) The one 2008 album all three Slaters see eye-to-eye on is TV On The Radio’s Dear Science.

“No other album this year came near to providing such rockist consensus,” Christgau notes. It did indeed win the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll, named on 154 out of 579 ballots, which by the way means almost three out of every four voters agreed it wasn’t one of the 10 best albums of the year — Just saying. Second place Vampire Weekend, shunned by four out of every five voters, were named on 105 ballots; otherwise, only Portishead (easily my favorite of the three albums) cleared the 100-voter hurdle. And if TV On The Radio were the purported “consensus” choice, Vampire Weekend’s debut, according to Simon Reynolds in a Village Voice essay, was “as close as our little community got to a polarizing controversy.” Reynolds loved the album himself, but at least conceded that not everyone did.

He commends how VW’s “European and African elements share an emotional tone (uplifting, rhapsodic),” just like Christgau praises TVOTR for “fusing Africa and Europe into music that is definitely ‘rock’ but just as definitely dance-, pop- and hip-hop-friendly.” Kandia Crazy Horse, in the same Voice issue as Reynolds, goes so far as to credit the band she doesn’t like much for conceivably inspiring the one she does: “If it took a kick in the booty from Vampire Weekend’s lame channeling of the Congo for Tunde (Adebimpe) and ‘nem to fully embrace their pan-African aural provenance and reach feverishly back into the techno-bush for such delights as ‘Dancing Choose,’ then VW have served their purpose.”

Dear Science is in the running for most boring album cover of the year (quite an accomplishment given the somnambulant state of indie-rock artwork), but I like both records okay: TV on the Radio and Vampire Weekend, like fellow critic picks the Roots and Fucked Up, just barely missed my Top 150 list below; Hercules and Love Affair, Lil Wayne and Drive-By Truckers, for what it’s worth, just barely made it. I even gave VW a fairly positive rookie-year review. But for 2008 hybrids of rock with pop, dance and hip-hop (and sometimes no doubt European with African) (and/or Latin-American and/or Caribbean and/or Balkan and/or Middle Eastern), I’d take not only Portishead (who have inspired a few dark gothic metal bands in years since), but also the Chap (two ’08 albums), Čankišou, the Fort Knox Five, Nomo, Poni Hoax, Dub Pistols, Karl Hector & the Malcouns, Morel, Transit, the Bug, Buraka Som Sistema, Electric Six, Beats Antique, Ladytron, Mexican citizens Quiero Club and Nortec Collective, old timers Was (Not Was) and Mark Stewart…Feel free to scratch from that list any you don’t think belong, as long as you add back any others below I might have missed.

And though the continent’s hardly my area of expertise, I should note 2008 stands as a rare year when three albums out of sub-Saharan Africa (Les Amazones De Guinée from Guinea, Kasai All Stars from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Orchestra Baobab from Senegal) place among my top 50. Maybe 50 of my 150 are some sort of indie guitar rock, not even counting the 25 or so legitimate metal albums. Hip-hop doesn’t fare as well: 11 albums total by my count, but none in the top 25. R&B lands borderline cases the Fort Knox Five and Little Jackie toward the lower reaches of the top 40, then gets shut out until four soul men (two neo-, one Ne-Yo, and Al Green) plus Labelle all squeeze in between 110 and 140. Jazz, in contrast, puts all eight of its albums in my top 60, most of those top 25. Country and pop do well too, at least in part because my favorite album of the year counts as both. My top three, and four of my top five and five of my top 10, are by women.

Here were my thoughts at the time about what remains my favorite single of the year (a year in which, by the way, I regularly contributed “song of the day” reviews to Rolling Stone‘s website): You wouldn’t think it’d happen this way, but the less people care about albums-as-such, the more they settle for “tracks” on hard drives and leave it at that, the less singles feel like singles anymore. Everything is just another song; here one month for its select target demographic, gone the next. But not Miley Cyrus’s “See You Again”, which seemed inescapable wherever you turned for long swaths of early 2008. Miley (including as Hannah Montana) never managed that before, and  — though her less indelible “7 Walls” later wound up reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100, beating this song’s No. 10 – maybe never will again.

But even if she does (as it turned out, “Midnight Sky” made my singles top 10 in 2020), this is the Miley you’ll remember: Eurodisco pulsation below, hard Duane Eddy surfabilly twang on top (a combo that equals “new wave” by definition), a recurring melody stolen outright from Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night.” And Miley, in this sleazy drawl that’s like another distant ‘80s memory (Juice Newton? Deborah Allen? Tiffany?), starting in total control of her faculties then going nuts: “The last time I freaked out! I just kept lookin’ down!” She might as well jump. She st-st-stutters, gets self-reflexive (“My best friend Lesley says, ‘Oh she’s just being Miley’”), vows vindication (“The next time we hang out/I will redeem myself/My heart can’t rest ‘til then”), packs more neurotic energy into three minutes than most acclaimed artists do into 60.  Hope she didn’t scare him away.

And now my favorite TV tune of the year — Daveigh Chase’s “The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A.” on HBO’s Big Love: So, why did they move that bojangle clock so far away from the bed? And what’s a bojangle clock, anyway? Mr. Bojangles, reportedly a Bill “Bojangles” Robinson-inspired white unhoused performer turned Jerry Jeff Walker’s jailcellmate, danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs throughout the South, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band told AM radio listeners in 1970. And in this remarkably unadorned, still-unavailable-on-mp3 rendition of still-a-schoolteacher-at-the-time Donna Fargo’s No. 11 1972 country-crossover pop hit, adolescent actress Daveigh Chase reminds us it’s a skippity-do-dah day, which sounds an awful lot like zip-a-dee-doo-dah (covered by Miley Cyrus on 2005’s pre-Hannah Disneymania 4!), so: Song of the South, right?

Except the excellent suburban-Mormon-polygamy drama Big Love has nothing to do with thinly veiled post-first-Reconstruction-era racism; Chase’s character Rhonda Volmer is just your usual vicitmized teen cult-compound underage-wife-to-be and iPod-burglarizing evil devil child, and with her aged fiancé Harry Dean Stanton looking on from his sickbed, she wears her plain old-timey dress and stares deadpan straight into the camera and bats this never quite trustworthy song out of the ballpark, sending shivers down spines even while pledging to share marital lunch-making duties. (And yeah, technically, Season 2 Episode 10 aired in late summer ’07, but we’re living on Netflix time here, ok?) Choice youtube-comment exchange: “When I saw this I thought this was by The Dixie Chicks.” “Which Dixie Chick did you think it was?” “The lead singer with the big mouth.” Choice youtube comment: “Vote no on prop 8.” (Back here in 2022, Wikipedia reminds that “Proposition 8, known informally as Prop 8, was a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment intended to ban same-sex marriage; it passed in the November 2008 California state elections and was later overturned in court.”)

As for the musician who disappointed me most, again my words in 2008 (like most of the four previous paragraphs contributions to the website Idolator — not sure whether they ever posted them): Here are Big & Rich, on the best album of 2004: “People getting’ mad on CNN/Who’s right, Democrats or Republicans?/I don’t care who’s right or wrong/I know a way we can all get along.” Well, the getting along didn’t last long, did it? John Rich actually spent the first half of 2008 on a promising mission, positing that Gone Country winner Julio Iglesias Jr. and Nashville Star almost-winner Gabe Garcia might suggest a way for Nashville to reach the Hispanic audience. A mercenary idea, but a potentially smart one. On August 1, though, he debuted his ridiculous (if competently riffed) “Raising McCain,” arguing the White House needs a “real man with an American plan.”

From there Rich was inseparable from the ugliest, most deceitful, most proudly ignorant presidential campaign in recent history, exhuming longtime anti-establishmentarian Johnny Cash from his grave for a fake endorsement until Daughter-In-Black Rosanne objected. Even Raisin McCain himself seemed perplexed by Rich’s RNC grand-standing. Then on November 4, reviving “I Walk The Line” with Hank Jr. for a crowd of rich white bigots in Arizona, Rich went down with the ship. All of which depressingly underscores a parallel between current country and the current GOP – In both cases, dumb quasi-populist dogma about the Real America tends to limit demographic reach. Darius Rucker, Cowboy Troy, Gabe Garcia, Gretchen Wilson, Michael S. Steele, Alan Keyes, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin? Probably not enough.

Remember all that, I guess, next time you get nostalgic for the GOP before Donald Trump came along. Just this week, excerpting his new The Deconstructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crackup of the Republican Party, Dana Milbank in the Washington Post traced the party’s current conspiracy-spewing, democracy-trampling, race-baiting state back to Newt Gingrich in 1994, if not Nixon’s ’60s Southern strategy. So while there was no way to know in 2008 just how much lower things could sink, things were pretty low already. And John Rich’s new single “Progress,” released July 22 via Trump’s Truth Social network and Rumble video site, suggests he’s only become a bigger dumbass since (even if 2009’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” was a admittedly righteous single about the financial crisis bludgeoning American automobile workers) . Well anyway. In October 2008, Spotify launched in Sweden, but I’d already started doing contract work for Rhapsody, which had already been streaming for seven years. Old ways of listening weren’t dead, though — in his year-end biz review for IGN Entertainment, Spence D. touted “the ‘re-emergence’ of vinyl…thanks to the likes of Beck, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and labels such as Sub Pop, Capital, Columbia, and numerous indies.”

Somebody using the handle Wow on Australia’s Stoney Roads site, introducing a “2008 Dance and Electro playlist” (featuring “Fedde Le Grand’s ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit’, ‘My People’ by The Presets and Proxy’s hard as nails ‘Raven’”), celebrated “a time where producers were competing to create the next big explosive phwoar moment in their songs. Music that would build to a bass drop that was designed to get crowds of thousands of people dancing”. Yet to Bob Bolen of NPR’s All Things Considered, 2008 “was an impressively bearded year — a year when many bands seemed to retreat to the woods, literally and figuratively, to make quieter, more personal recordings.” Hmmm. Bon Iver led Bolen’s playlist, which also featured TV On The Radio and Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes.

Personally, I still think it’s funny that both Fleet Foxes and Frightened Rabbit (who I still doubt I’ve ever heard) made 2008’s Pazz & Jop Top 40. Think about that for a second. And let’s throw in Deerhunter too while we’re at it — no wonder that poor bunny was scared!

  1. Taylor Swift Fearless (Big Machine)
  2. New Bloods The Secret Life (Kill Rock Stars EP)
  3. Carla Bley Big Band Appearing Nightly (Watt/ECM)
  4. The Chap Mega Breakfast (Lo/Ghostly International Europe)
  5. Ashlee Simpson Bittersweet World (Geffen)
  6. Woodbox Gang Drunk As Dragons (Alternative Tentacles)
  7. William Parker Double Sunrise Over Neptune (Aum Fidelity)
  8. Bible of the Devil Freedom Metal (Cruz Del Sur Italy)
  9. Carter’s Chord Carter’s Chord (Show Dog)
  10. Big Elf Cheat the Gallows (Custard)
  11. James Carter Present Tense (EmArcy)
  12. Half Man Half Biscuit CSI: Ambleside (Probe UK)
  13. Quiero Club Nueva America (Nacional)
  14. Les Amazones De Guinée Wamato (Stern’s Africa UK)
  15. TV Smith In the Arms of My Enemy (Boss Tuneage UK)
  16. Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis Two Men With the Blues (EMI)
  17. DJ/Rupture Uproot (TheAgriculture)
  18. Mr. Oizo Lambs Anger (Ed Banger France)
  19. Lazy Magnet Is Music Even Good? (Corleone)
  20. Opeth Watershed (Roadrunner)
  21. Kasai All Stars In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy By Magic (Crammed Discs Belgium)
  22. CSS Donkey (Sub Pop)
  23. Girl Talk Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
  24. Portishead Third (Mercury)
  25. Jessica Lurie Ensemble Shop of Wild Dreams (Zipa! Music)
  26. Čankišou Lé La (Indies Scope Czech Republic)
  27. Manilla Road Voyager (High Roller Germany)
  28. Homeboy Sandman Actual Factual Pterodactyl (Boysand Industries)
  29. Robert Ashley Concrete (Lovely)
  30. Kid Sister Dream Date (Downtown promo)
  31. Charlemagne Palestine From Etudes to Cataclysms for the Doppio Borgato (Sub Rosa Belgium)
  32. The Fort Knox Five Radio Free DC (Fort Knox)
  33. Rebecca Lynn Howard No Rules (Saguaro Road)
  34. William Parker Petit Oiseau (Aum Fidelity)
  35. 6 Ft Hick On the Rocks (Spooky Australia)
  36. Pumice Quo (Soft Abuse)
  37. Hector Zazou & Swara In the House of Mirrors (Crammed Discs Belgium)
  38. Diagonal Diagonal (Candlelight)
  39. Willie Nelson Moments of Forever (Lost Highway)
  40. Little Jackie The Stoop (S-Curve)
  41. Kid Koala Your Mom’s Favorite DJ (Ninja Tune UK)
  42. Miley Cyrus Breakout (Hollywood)
  43. Oneida Preteen Weaponry (Jagjaguwar)
  44. Indies Scope 2009 (Indies Scope Czech Republic)
  45. Vijay Iyer Tragicomic (Sunnyside)
  46. Was (Not Was) Boo! (Rykodisc)
  47. One More Grain Isle of Grain (White Heat UK)
  48. The Chap Builder’s Brew (Ghostly International)
  49. Orchestra Baobab Made in Dakar (Nonesuch)
  50. Prisonshake Dirty Moons (Scat)
  51. The Gates of Slumber Conqueror (Profound Lore Canada)
  52. Eddy Current Suppression Ring Primary Colours (Goner)
  53. Diplo Vs. Santigold Top Ranking (2share.net)
  54. Nomo Ghost Rock (Ubiquity)
  55. Montgomery Gentry Back When I Knew It All (Columbia Nashville)
  56. Poni Hoax Images of Sigrid (Tigersushi France)
  57. Kenny Garrett Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium Featuring Pharoah Sanders (Mack Avenue)
  58. Nortec Collective Presents Bostich & Fussible Tijuana Sound Machine (Nacional)
  59. Scorch Trio Brolt! (Rune Grammofon Norway)
  60. Mark Stewart Edit (Crippled Dick Hot Wax! Germany)
  61. Jucipher L’Autrichienne (Relapse/Alternative Tentacles)
  62. The Veronicas Hook Me Up (Sire)
  63. Grand Magus Iron Will (Candlelight)
  64. Dub Pistols Speakers and Tweeters (Defend Music Inc.)
  65. Noekk The Minstrel’s Curse (Prophecy Productions Germany)
  66. Keak Da Sneak Deified (Ace In Da Doe/Koch)
  67. Heidi Newfield What Am I Waiting For (Curb)
  68. Karl Hector & the Malcouns Sahara Swing (Now-Again)
  69. Sway The Signature LP (DCypha UK)
  70. Blood Ceremony Blood Ceremony (Candlelight)
  71. Mike & the Ravens Noisy Boys!: The Saxony Sessions (Zoho Roots)
  72. Ugly Stick Still Glistening (Hovercraft)
  73. The Fall Imperial Wax Solvent (Sanctuary/Castle Europe)
  74. Jamey Johnson That Lonesome Song (Mercury)
  75. t.A.T.u. Happy Smiles/Веселые Улыбки (T.A. Music/Tempstar Russa)
  76. Legless Finding Mr. Perfect (Legless Australia)
  77. Intronaut Prehistoricisms (Century Media)
  78. Amanda Shaw Pretty Runs Out (Rounder)
  79. Lil Mama VYP: Voice of the Young People (Jive/Zomba)
  80. Morel The Death of the Paperboy (Outsider Music)
  81. Dr. John and the Lower 911 City That Care Forgot (429/Cooking Vinyl)
  82. Transit Decent Man on a Desperate Moon (Karmakosmetix Norway)
  83. The Bug London Zoo (Ninja Tune)
  84. Girlschool Legacy (SPV/Wacken Germany)
  85. Vanessa Hudgens Identified (Hollywood)
  86. Megan Munroe One More Broken String (Diamond)
  87. Electric Six Flashy (Metropolis)
  88. Killola I Am the Messer (Our)
  89. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club Cipher (Alternative Tentacles)
  90. Slaraffenland Sunshine (Hometapes EP)
  91. E.M.C. The Show (M3 Macmic/Traffic Entertainment)
  92. Fennesz Black Sea (Touch UK)
  93. Buraka Som Sistema Black Diamond (Fabric UK)
  94. The Girls Yes No Yes No Yes No (Dirtnap)
  95. Dead Man Euphoria (Meteor City)
  96. Santigold Santigold (Downtown)
  97. Jesus H. Christ & the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse Happier Than You (Jesushchristrocks)
  98. Alphabeat This is Alphabeat (Charisma/Copenhagen Europe)
  99. Black Kids Partie Traumatic (Columbia)
  100. Boss Martians Pressure in the Sodo (MuSick)
  101. Robyn Robyn (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope)
  102. Marit Larsen The Chase (Virgin Europe)
  103. James McMurtry Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)
  104. T.I. Paper Trail (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
  105. Jay Reatard Singles 06-07 (In The Red)
  106. Fires of Rome You Kingdom You (The Hours)
  107. Virgin Black Requiem: Fortissimo (The End)
  108. Kathleen Edwards Asking for Flowers (Zoë)
  109. Jordan Pruitt Permission to Fly (Hollywood)
  110. Al Green Lay it Down (Blue Note)
  111. Black Diamond Heavies A Touch of Someone Else’s Class (Alive)
  112. Dornenreich In Luft Geritzt (Prophecy Productions Germany)
  113. Early Man Beware the Circling Fin (The End EP)
  114. Edguy Tinnitus Sanctus (Nuclear Blast)
  115. Karina First Love (Def Jam)
  116. Eric Benét Love & Life (Reprise/Friday)
  117. Uriah Heep Wake the Sleepers (Hip-0/Noise/Ume)
  118. Helstar The King of Hell (Locomotive)
  119. The Baseball Project Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (Yep Roc)
  120. Times New Viking Rip it Off (Matador)
  121. Elder Elder (Meteor City)
  122. Rick Springfield Venus in Overdrive (New Door/UME)
  123. Beats Antique Collide (Copeland International Arts)
  124. The Mother Truckers Let’s All Go to Bed (Funzalo)
  125. The Ting Tings We Started Nothing (Columbia)
  126. The Mighty Underdogs Droppin’ Science Fiction (Def Jux)
  127. Cynic Traced in Air (Season of Mist)
  128. The Gaslight Anthem The ’59 Sound (SideOneDummy)
  129. The Knux Remind Me in 3 Days… (Interscope)
  130. Ne-Yo Year of the Gentleman (Def Jam)
  131. Jex Thoth Jex Thoth (I Hate Sweden)
  132. Craig G and Marley Marl Operation Take Back Hip-Hop (Traffic Entertainment Group/Good Hands)
  133. Ashton Shepherd Sounds So Good (MCA Nashville)
  134. Raphael Saadiq The Way I See It (Columbia)
  135. Shame Club Come On (Small Stone)
  136. Amaseffer Exodus: Slaves for Life (Inside Out Germany)
  137. Talk Normal Secret Cog (Just For the Hell of It EP)
  138. Arkona Ot Serdsta K Nebu (Napalm)
  139. No Age Nouns (Subpop)
  140. Labelle Back to Now (Verve)
  141. Farmakon Robin (Candlelight)
  142. Demi Lovato Don’t Forget (Hollywood)
  143. Ladytron Velocifero (Nettwerk/Cobraside Distribution)
  144. Alejandro Escovedo Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan)
  145. Dolly Parton Backwoods Barbie (Dolly)
  146. The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band The Whole Fam Damily (SideOneDummy)
  147. Phil Vassar Prayer of a Common Man (Universal South)
  148. Hercules and Love Affair Hercules and Love Affair (Mute/DFA)
  149. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III (Cash Money/Universal/Motown)
  150. Drive-By Truckers Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)


  1. via facebook:

    Kevin Bozelka
    OMG! Your bottom two are hilarious!!!!!

    Chuck Eddy
    Bottom 4, even. Just wound up that way. And 3 close misses in the text.

    Kevin Bozelka
    “just wound up that way” my ass! That was a rhetorical strategy. But I love it! I forgot (maybe didn’t even know) that Hercules and Love Affair hit #19 on that year’s Pazz. P. S. Tha Carter you want is III, not II.

    Chuck Eddy
    Oops, yeah, that’s a typo. Will fix. To be honest those four albums at the bottom seemed like they should finish lower. But I gave them a break.

    Kevin Bozelka
    This is the Pazz I submitted that year with singles I forgot:
    1. Ghislain Poirier: Bring The Fire Mix (MP3)
    2. Steinski: What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective (Illegal Art)
    3. Raphael Saadiq: The Way I See It (Columbia)
    4. Belong: Colorloss Record (St. Ives)
    5. High Places: High Places (Thrill Jockey)
    6. Gang Gang Dance: Saint Dymphna (Social Registry)
    7. Royce Da 5’9″: Bar Exam 2 (Mixed by Green Lantern) (MP3)
    8. The B-52’s: Funplex (Astralwerks)
    9. Girl Talk: Feed The Animals (Illegal Art)
    10. The Service Industry: Keep The Babies Warm (Sauspop)
    1. Blackout Crew “Put a Donk On It” (All Around the World)
    2. T.I. feat. Rihanna: “Live Your Life” (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
    3. Alphabeat, “Fascination” (Copenhagen/EMI)
    4. Lil Wayne: “A Milli” (Cash Money/Universal/Motown)
    5. Grace Jones: “Williams’ Blood” (Wall of Sound)
    6. Kanye West: “Paranoid” (Roc-A-Fella)
    7. Tmberlee ft. Tosh: “Heels” (MP3)
    8. Burial: “Archangel (Boy 8-Bit’s Simple Remix)” (MP3)
    9. Nas: “Black President” (Def Jam)
    10. Royce Da 5’9: “Shot Down” (MP3)
    Invisible Conga People: “Weird Pains” (Italians Do It Better)
    Britney Spears: “Womanizer” (Jive)
    Janet Jackson: “Rock With U”
    Rihanna: “Don’t Stop The Music”
    Lazy Town REMIX feat. Lil’ Jon
    Adele: “Chasing Pavements” (XL 2008)
    Kings of Leon: “Use Somebody” (RCA 2008)

    Chuck Eddy
    This was my singles ballot that year:
    Miley Cyrus – “See You Again” (Hollywood)
    Phil Vassar – “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” (Universal)
    Sister Sin – “One Out Of Ten” (Victory)
    Buraka Som Sistema featuring PongoLove – “Kalemba (Wegue Wegue)” (Fabric)
    Kid Rock – “All Summer Long” (Atlantic)
    Cyndi Lauper – “Into The Nightlife” (Epic)
    Scooter – “The Question Is What Is The Question” (Sheffield Lab)
    Alphabeat – “Boyfriend (Pete Hammond Remix)” (EMI Europe)
    Sway featuring $tush – “F Ur X” (Dcypha Alliance)
    Blackout Crew – “Put A Donk On It” (All Around The World)
    And I like that Steinski compilation, but it was ineligible here.

    Patrick Hould
    Your #149 is my #1, and your #1 is my #2. Everything you’re saying about why Skynyrd is preferable to DBT is accurate, yet I enjoy Brighter Than Creation’s Dark way more than any Skynyrd album I’ve heard, all of which have high peaks and none of which make it past B+ for me. Maybe the problem is all the boogie filler – hell, even boogie non-filler (by anyone) has a way of testing my patience.

    Chuck Eddy
    DBTs just sound thin to me; have always thought they peaked with Southern Rock Opera — Which is still work to get through, something I’d never say about Pronounced, Second Helping or Street Survivors (for starters). Helped that ’70s albums weren’t twice too long (which is to say, not only do I prefer Skynyrd’s peaks, I prefer their filler. For one thing, it was funkier.)

    Steve Pick
    First, the obligatory list of albums on your list I actually heard – 15, 43, 71, 78, 92, 99, 100, 104, 107, 114, 130, 137, 142, 150. If Spotify had existed back then, and if I had the kind of job task I have now where I can listen to new stuff all day long, I would have heard and liked a lot more, I suspect. I’m pretty sure I played James McMurtry, LaBelle, and Alejandro Escovedo a whole lot that year, though only the first of those is a record that lives up to the best of what those artists can do.

    Chuck Eddy
    For future comment readers, in case I wind up moving any of the albums up or down (which is not unheard of), that’d be Willie/Wynton, Was (Not Was), Jamey Johnson, Dr. John, Santigold, McMurtry, T.I., Kathleen Edwards, Al Green, Baseball Project, Labelle, Escovedo, TV on the Radio.

    Steve Pick
    It’s hard to believe that was 14 years ago, the horrible financial times, the hope of Obama’s election, the first stirrings of a vinyl resurgence, the first loud stirrings of ignorance as a political selling point (as opposed to pretending to be serious while pursuing ignorant policies). Your essay does a great job of bringing it all back to me. Also, the bit about how many Pazz and Jop voters didn’t pick TV on the Radio is a point I’ve thought about many times – consensus doesn’t really exist among those of us who do this music critic thing.

    Steve Pick
    I just realized 2008, while I was 49 years old, was the first year of my life I was older than every Major League Baseball player.

    Chuck Eddy
    I totally get that! Growing up, 47 was my marker for “old,” because that’s how old Hoyt Wilhelm was at the time. And 59 (how old Satchel Paige was in 1965, the oldest major leaguer ever) was really really really old.


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