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LAist Staff Top Tens of 2008

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Photo by Julius Metoyer for MJR

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. This year we asked some of the staffers what inspired them. The prompt was not limited to albums that came out in 2008.

Lindsay William-Ross

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2008
Tina Dico: Count to Ten
Little Jackie: The Stoop
Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs
The Sea and Cake: Car Alarm
The Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Walter Meego: Voyager
Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree
Rachael Yamagata: Elephants
Jem: Down to Earth

And 2007 releases I loved in '08 (I guess I was late to the party)
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
AM: Soul Variations

Michele Reverte

Lisa Hannigan - "Sea Sew"
Of Montreal - "Skeletal Lamping"
The Rollo Treadway - The Rollo Treadway
Brazilian Girls - "New York City"
Peter Salett - "In the Ocean of the Stars"
Lykke Li - "Youth Novels"
Aimee Mann -- "@#%&*! Smilers"
Jonatha Brooke - "The Works"
Elbow - "The Seldom Seen Kid"
Morcheeba - "Dive Deep"

Bob Lee

1. War - Collector's Edition box set
2. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
3. Steinski - What Does It All Mean?
4. Rolling Stones - Singles Collection
5. Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
6. Void - Void/Faith split LP
7. Bikini Kill - The Singles
8. Thelonious Monk - Alone In Paris
9. Biblical Proof of UFOs - forthcoming new album
10. Creedence Clearwater Revival - various tracks from their reissue series

Ross A. Lincoln

1) Xanadu - OST.

Yes, I know, Xanadu came out in 1980 and it's not... ahem... the best movie. It's still awesome though, a definite special olympics sized A for effort and the credit goes largely to the amazing soundtrack. 2008 saw a brand new special DVD release that comes with a reissued, digitally remastered soundtrack album that is the best thing in the entire world, cures cancer and still had time to go back in time to help me lose my virginity 3 years earlier than I did.

It's number one on my list because honestly, you simply cannot get enough of ELO and Olivia Newton John.

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2) Colourmusic - F, Monday, Orange, February, Venus, Lunatic, 1 or 13.

This is my absolute favorite for 2008. Oklahoma doesn't get many good bands, since people with talent tend to get the hell away as soon as they can, and it's even harder for good bands to get exposure outside the state, since regional culture and media has been destroyed. For every exception like the Flaming Lips, there's tons of bands you've never (or barely have) heard of. Hopefully, Colourmusic will be one of the exceptions because they're astonishingly good, and not in the kind of special Olympics way where you let a regional band who's only so-so get a pass because they're better than the other dregs, but legitimately, measurably awesome.

They write hypnotic, shoegazery, synesthetic songs that sounds almost, but not quite, as if it were made for kids - think The Free Design meets My Bloody Valentine - and the chanting/marching/pressure bomb quality makes it feel like the soundtrack to an alternate universe Triumph of the Will that was about friendship and colors and art and sex, instead of about how Aryan Superman will rule the world.

Look, I know that's a strained analogy. It's a great record. Is that clear enough?

Particularly good bits: "Spring Song", "Rock And Roll Polar bear", and "Yes!". Also, the rest of the album.

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/user/colourmusicvideo

3) Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours.

Cut Copy's first album, Bright Like Neon Love, was just so-so - "Going Nowhere" was a fantastic single but the rest of the record felt like watered down microhouse combined with boring-ass Brooklyn dance rock. SnOOOze.

In the two years and change since that record, they must have sold their souls to Tony Wilson, because Cut Copy has morphed into the Australian tribute to Madchester, and their latest, In Ghost Colours, turns out to be the best New Order collection since Substance. It's packed from start to finish with wonderful, (and wonderfully derivative) dance pop songs that rock the party and also sound like the blizzomb in the car stereo.

Particularly good bits: the unfortunately titled "Feel the Love", "Hearts On Fire" (with an awesome bass driven melody during the fade), the melancholy mixed metaphor "Strangers in the Wind", and the hellaciously 80s Housey "Far Away".

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4SponDQDWw (hearts on Fire video)

4) Midnight Juggernauts - Dystopia.

This technically came out in 2007 but they really blew up in 2008 so I'm counting it. Australians made a lot of incredible music in the last year, because this marks the second Australian to appear on my list (but not the last). Instead of water, as far as I can tell Australia is coping with their terrifying drought by ignoring water and instead mining the history of awesome British music for sustenance.

Not as derivative as Cut Copy's homage to the Manchester dance scene, Midnight Juggernauts are still leering England's way, only to the 70s, as Dystopia is heavily influenced by ELO, if ELO spent most of their time at raves with Gary Numan and Bauhuas. There's not a lot you can say about an album this good except that it is just awesome, a creepy masterpiece that has doom and the apocalypse lurking under every melody, like a dance party in the middle of a nuclear war.

Particularly good bits: The Jeff Lynne influenced "Into the Galaxy", "Nine Lives" (featuring a awesome but subtle keyboard hook), and the best tribute to the end of civilization since Mad Max, "Tombstone".

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6SKNEYvZvQ (Into the Galaxy video).

5) The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age Of The Understatement.

I hate Arctic Monkeys and I hate The Rascals. Both bands seem to have distilled the worst tendencies in modern (especially British) rock music into precise, diamond like perfection - incomprehensible local accents; completely insular perspective; unapologetically influenced by Oasis; boring songs played with instruments that should make boringness an impossibility. It's all there and all lame.

Yet miraculously, the front men of both bands managed to combine their efforts into unmistakable genius - as it turns out, these guys have fantastic taste and are also very good, something they managed to conceal until now. The Last Shadow Puppets is their extremely successful attempt to create something very similar to the Walker Brothers, without being remotely lazy or derivative about it. Tight compositions, exquisite production, and witty, scornful lyrics, plus the album has a kick ass unrefined quality to it, like it was thrown together in less than a week and still managed to be brilliant.

Particularly good bit: The title track, and "In My Room".

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGV8xCkpXjE (Video for the Age of the Understatement).

6) Sebastien Tellier - Sexuality

For reasons I don't fully understand, this album has been vomited on by critics as being inferior to his previous album, Politics. Clearly, these alleged critics are communists who hate freedom and love Terror. Sure, Sexuality doesn't have an baroque-pop mindblower like Politics' "La Ritournelle", ht, but it has the song "Divine", and honestly, if you simply released an album and all 12 tracks were that song, it would still be better than 90% of the music that's come out in the last decade. Fortunately, the rest of Sexuality is just as much fun.

Particularly good bits: See above.

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz58Hw9hldw (video for Divine).

7) Working for a nuclear free city - Businessmen & Ghosts

This is another 2007 release that I'm counting as 2008, in this case because they toured the US earlier this year and they were incredible. They're hard to describe because they basically make mood music for run down, post industrial cities, which sounds depressing but really isn't. Imagine a musical potluck made with every important musical form to come out of Northern England since 1983, with a sort of queueing-for-the-dole moodiness, and you're close to describing these guys. Brilliant and, as I found out when they were in town, really nice guys too.

Particularly good bits: Put this on and don't press stop until the album is over.

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_573IIv81A (video for the song Rocket).

8) Kylie Minogue - Wow (from the album X).

This song is about as close to perfect as any dance pop since "Chewing Gum" by Annie. For some reason though, I'm apparently in the minority with this opinion. For instance, Alex Fletcher of Digital Spy wrote that the song's "disco swirls and whooshing synths are great fun", but said that "Wow" "doesn't have the 'oomph' factor to make us fall for her like we have in the past". I think Alex Fletcher's mom. He's wrong, this song rules. Case Closed.

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnTrZYHK_II (video for Wow).

9) Prototypes - Synthetique

How do I love Prototypes? French Language? Check. Hot lead singer? Check. Dirty, grimey disco? Check. People asking me who this is whenever I DJ, thus making me feel like a Very Hip Person? Check. They didn't quite blow up in 2006 (unless being featured in an iPod commercial counts as blowing up), but they did manage to make enough money to come to the states for a short tour, one I doubt will be repeated. Their new album, released last may, is a far dirtier and more complex take on the disco-sex-electro thing.

Particularly good bits: "Un Coup De langue", "Minimal Animal".

http://www.myspace.com/prototypes

10) Magazine 60 - Don Quichotte (1984)

I don't know how I didn't hear this song until 2008. Apparently it was a minor hit in the US in 1984. Since that precisely coincides with the peak of my obsession with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I can probably be excused for having missed this one. It's difficult to be cool and also know that on Orko's homeworld, they never show their faces except when it's time to get it on.

Anyway, this song is fucking awesome.

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxQnMNGDbKU

Molly Bergen

1. Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes
2. Sigur Ros Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
3. Darker My Love 2
4. The Felice Brothers The Felice Brothers
5. El Guincho Alegranza!
6. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
7. The Rumble Strips Girls and Weather
8. Blitzen Trapper Furr
9. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
10. Ezra Furman and the Harpoons Inside The Human Body

Heath Biter

Boston Spaceships - Brown Submarine
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
The Breeders - Mountain Battles
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Deerhunter - Microcastle
No Age - Nouns
Dungen - 4
Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Abe Vigoda - Skeleton
Sun Kil Moon - April
Times New Viking - Rip It Off

+ NOT the Elvis Costello - This Year's Model reissue (http://laist.com/2008/03/09/cd_review_sort_of_-_elvis_costello_-_this_years_business_model.php)

and you can't let a 2008 best of go without mentioning the Mission of Burma and Replacements reissues!

Michael Zampelli

T.I. - Paper Trail
Rivers Cuomo - Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo
The Chemical Brothers - Brotherhood (Compilation)
Q-Tip - The Renaissance
Ice Cube - Raw Footage
NIN - The Slip
Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Bauhaus - Go Away White
Lil' Wayne - The Carter III
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!

Anjali Taneja

The Dodos -- Visiter
Atmosphere -- When Life Gives you Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold
MGMT -- Oracular Spectacular
Sigur Ros -- Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
DeVotchKa -- A Mad and Faithful Telling
Conor Oberst -- Conor Obserst
The Raconteurs -- Consolers of the Lonely
Gnarls Barkley -- The Odd Couple
The Roots -- Rising Down
Nine inch Nails -- Ghosts I-IV