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Department of Eagles' Top Ten of 2008

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Photo by Amelia Bauer via Department of Eagles' Myspace

December is list-making season. And for us music journalists, it is a time to look back on scores of albums, reflect upon the music and recapitulate our favorites. But this year, just like the last, we took this opportunity to flip that tradition upside down, asking the artists that influenced us what influenced them. The prompt was not limited to albums that came out in 2008.

Fred of Department of Eagles

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1. Shugo Tokumaru: Exit
Four or five years ago Daniel heard about this guy and introduced him to me and our mutual friend Ian, who now helps run a label called Startime International, which released this record, which I wrote the press release for. Full circle style. Aside from all the family connections, it's an amazing album. Weird sped-up clockwork psychedelia sung in Japanese. Bizarre and brilliant.

2. El Guincho: Alegranza!
Kinda took me by surprise at the end of the year, but I'm really into it. I think Dan likes this too.

3. Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
A beautiful record. It's kind of awesome and insane that it's their first, considering how fully realized it is. I try not to express appreciation in terms of jealousy, but this record makes it hard not to.

Department of Eagles - "No One Does It Like You"

4. John Adams: Grand Pianola Music, Harmonium, Harmionielehre, Etc.
I've always been vaguely aware of John Adams but it wasn't until this year that I got really into him. He's brilliant. I find his whole mode of composing so appealing, this concept of loosening yourself from the strictures of a particular style and treating things like Minimalism and Romanticism as tools, not rigid codes. He's a very pragmatic composer, and I like that. We went over to England this year and I was trying to get a genre started there: Pragmatic Rock/Pragrock. It did not happen.

5. Rostam Batmanglij: Myspace version of the Vampire Weekend song "Campus"
I liked the album a lot too I'm just trying to be cool and obscure. But I do like this version, it's got a special charm to it.

6. The Walkmen: You & Me
Dan and I both liked this one.

7. Ahmad Jamal: Various
Dan has always liked Ahmad Jamal a lot, and over the years I've picked up an appreciation as well. I know Dan was was listening to that live album of his this year, as well as others.

8. Coldplay: Viva La Vida
Sometimes I worry that I only express admiration for this band and this album in the spirit of being contrary to the pervading indie notion that they're a joke. But I really do like it/them. I think they're genuine in what they do, and while they sometimes fall flat on their face, they aim high. And they've written a lot of undeniable songs over the years.

9. Why?: Alopecia
I really love the lyrics on this album. It's hard for something to be both deeply sincere and strikingly surreal at the same time, but that's what this is.

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10. Grizzly Bear: As-Yet-Untitled Third Album
I just want to be the first person to put this on a best-of list

This last year Department of Eagles shook our world with their distinctively lo-fi tone.