Sunday, December 7, 2008

Top 25 of 2008 - Alphabetically (Part II)

Yesterday I covered the first five of my alphabetical list of the best albums of the year; The Black Keys, Blitzen Trapper, Bon Iver, Calexico, and Cloud Cult. Today I'm continuing with part two of my "Best of 2008" list:

Coldplay - Viva La Vida

Viva La Vida made good on Coldplay's promise of an expansive new sound with ten arena-sized anthems incorporating a variety of bells and whistles. While the album isn't revolutionary by any stretch, it's refreshing to hear a band take chances when they very well could have coasted through another album or two and retained commercial success. The band's ability to mess around with time signatures and song structures while still delivering radio-friendly, sing-a-long choruses makes for a respectable and enjoyable record.

Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst (first names for the alphabetical list)

Ditching the Bright Eyes moniker and moving down to Mexico to record his latest album, Oberst manages to retain his songwriting edge while simplifying his alternative folk sound. It's far from a true solo effort, however, as he employs the help of "The Mystic Valley Band" to fill out his folk tunes with electric guitars, jangling piano, and backing vocals. It's a very organic and grounded album that, at times, displays something novel for Oberst; fun. From folk-rock rave-ups to the more familiar downtrodden ballads, Conor Oberst is a great singer/songwriter album.

Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine

Of all the retro-rock bands to release albums this year (Dr. Dog, Cold War Kids, etc.) Delta Spirit's Ode To Sunshine is easily my favorite, I mean the best. It's a gritty, earnest rock 'n' roll record with raw guitars, stomping percussion, and pounding piano serving as the background for the socially conscious lyrics sung with flair by front-man Matt Vasquez. The band's soulful sound is catchy, exciting, and frequently uplifting, all underlined by the sincerity and effort felt throughout each and every song.

The Dodos - Visiter

Guitar/drum duo The Dodos fit best under the label "freak folk," creating odd, offbeat tunes mainly using acoustic guitar and frantic drumming. Visiter is at times thoughtful, light-hearted, and intense, but always both strange and melodic. It's a sprawling record at 14 tracks and just under an hour of music, but the duo's ability to create many differing sounds with such a simple approach is remarkable and the album rarely seems to drag. Combining their experimental edge with pop sensibility, The Dodos easily make it into the top 25.

Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark

With a string of great albums under their collective belt, Drive-By Truckers continue to make fantastic Southern rock even after the departure of Jason Isbell. Taking his place on vocal duties is bassist Shonna Tucker, though Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood sing the majority of the tunes between them. At 19 songs and an astounding 75 minute run-time, Brighter Than Creation's Dark is probably too long, but it's hard to argue with so much of a good thing. Ranging from blazing rockers to country-folk tunes, the songs display uniformly solid songwriting and impressive musicianship.