Top 10 Records Of 2008

One of the big changes on this blog in the past year is the departure of music posts. I moved my music posts to my tumblog in late 2007, where I post a new song everyday. You can experience them here by clicking on the "radio" link in the upper nav links or by clicking on the black banner at the bottom of the page. I haven’t stopped blogging about music, in fact I am doing it more than ever, but I have changed the way I do it. I like it better and I hope you do too.

Every year since I started this blog, I have listed my top 10 records of the year on this blog and this year will be no different. But I am not going to generate a new post every day for ten days like I’ve done in the past. I’ve actually been doing that on my tumblog for the past two weeks and if you are an active reader of that or an active listener of, then you already know what is on the list.

This year, I’ll do a single blog post with all the selections in it. So without further ado, here’s the list:

1) The Stand-Ins – Okkervil River. This record is the back end of a two part effort that started with The Stage Names last year. Many people feel they should have released them both as a double album. You might ask,"why is this your number one record this year and yet The Stage Names didn’t even make your list last year?" Well like Kings Of Leon last year, this band snuck up on me and I got into them a bit late. I like both records equally but this is a 2008 release and so it gets on the list. Okkervil is the band of the year for me and this is the record of the year even though my personal favorite of everything they’ve done is the Golden Opportunities Mixtape that they’ve never really even released commercially. If you don’t get this band, you are like I was until this year, you just aren’t trying hard enough.

2). Oracular Spectacular – MGMT. From the opening of Time To Pretend to the line 15 seconds later about going to paris shooting heroin and fucking stars, you know this is going to be a fun ride. And it is. This record got more play in our family than any other this year. I am not sure who loves it most, but its likely to be my younger daughter or my son. Its not a family record by any means, its not even age appropriate for my son. But that has never gotten in the way of appreciating art in our family and this record is art, created by two young kids just out of Wesleyan. Listening to it makes me feel their age and that’s a good thing.

3) Here’s To Being Here – Jason Collett. The first of two solo projects on this list. Jason’s from Broken Social Scene, a personal favorite of mine, but honestly this record is better than anything they’ve ever done. Jason’s put out something that sounds like what a late 60s/early 70s folk-rock record would sound like if it was made today. I listened to this record non-stop this summer. Its not in heavy rotation anymore but when I do put it back on, I can sing along to the entire record and I probably always will be able to do that. Its a fun, easy, rocking record and its great.

4) For Emma Forever Ago – Bon Iver. If Jason Collett got me through the summer, Bon Iver got me through last winter. This record was made in a cabin in the northern woods the previous winter and it sounds like its still coming from there. Its getting cold again in NYC, and its time to make a hot cup of tea, curl up on the couch under a blanket, and put Bon Iver on.

5) We Brave Bee Stings And All – Thao. I discovered Thao as I was coming out of my Bon Iver phase and she literally pulled me out of it. Thao is a young asian woman with a wonderful voice and light quirky songs. The Gotham Gal bought into Thao bigtime and this record was a constant in our family room/kitchen for most of this year.

6) Little Joy – Little Joy. The second solo project on my top 10 list. This comes from Fabrizio Moretti, the Strokes’ drummer. I haven’t really loved anything the Strokes have done since their first record but I sure do love this record. It is a little joy. And its not as much a solo project as a collaboration between three friends. I can imagine them sitting around the porch playing these songs and deciding to record them. It reminds me a lot of Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch and David Lindley’s El Rayo Ex, two other little joys of mine

7) Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend. I remember late last year my oldest daughter played me a few Vampire Weekend tracks she’d found on hype machine. She said ‘this is my new favorite band’. And so it was and it became our family’s favorite band for a good while. One of the musical highlights of the year was going with the whole family to see Vampire Weekend at an outdoor music festival in Paris this summer. We knew all the songs and could sing all the words. So did all the parisian kids too

8) Only By The Night – Kings Of Leon. Another musical highlight from our time in Paris was the KOL show we saw at Le Zenith. MGMT opened but I got everyone on the wrong metro train and we ended up only seeing KOL. Oh well. I think I’ve finally lived that down. They were playing a few songs from the new record this summer but I didn’t hear it in its full incarnation until this fall. This record has been trashed by Pitchfork and others as a sellout. Its clearly an attempt to reach a mainstream audience and inherit U2’s throne at the top of anthem rock. I don’t like it as much as Aha Shake Heartbreak but then I don’t think any record made this decade beats Aha Shake Heartbreak. Only By The Night features the best singing of Caleb’s short but brilliant career and the songs are catchy and good. It may be mainstream but I still like it better than most of what I heard this year.

9) Volume One – She and Him. M Ward is one of my favorite musicians working today. When I heard he’d teamed up with the beautiful and sweet Zoe Deschanel to make a record, I was curious and a bit baffled. But the result came out great. The gruff Matt and the sweet Zoe made a perfect pairing and like Jack White did a few years back with Loretta Lynn, M Ward made sure the songs came out great. This one’s a real gem.

10) Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust – Sigur Ros. This was a late bloomer for me. The record came out late summer but I didn’t get into it until the past month. Sigur Ros is mood music and I guess I needed to get into the right mood. I did and this record delivered more Sigur Ros wonderfulness. If you like them, get this record.

There are six other records that I seriously considered for the top 10. So here’s the Honorable Mention list:

Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst. Really tough call. Deserved to be on the top 10 list but couldn’t figure out who to cut to get it there.

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes Will absolutely be on Gotham Gal’s list. It would easily be on our "most listens in our family room/kitchen list". Great record.

Konk – Kooks. My son’s favorite band. I am very partial to them too. This one has great songs but isn’t as good as their debut. The lead singer Luke is one of the most talented songwriters out there right now.

Consolers Of The Lonely – Raconteurs. Three or four great songs. If it were more consistent, it would have made top 10. Jack White is a guitar god.

Hometowns – The Rural Alberta Advantage. This one was suggested to me by a fellow tumbler who saw I was putting a top 10 list together last week. I bought the record that very day (on emusic, not on Amazon yet) and have been obsessed with it since. If I had more time with it, it might have made the list. My oldest daughter describes them as Decemberists meet Neutral Milk Hotel. I describe them as awesome.

That’s it. I hope you like the list and I also hope that you click on those links and buy some music. And if you’d like to listen first, go to I’ve been posting nothing but songs from these records for the past week and a half and you can listen to this list there. I just did while I was posting this and it’s great.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#My Music

Comments (Archived):

  1. fredwilson

    That’s good to hear. We gotta get it when we can

  2. fredwilson

    You won’t regret that purchase. Amazed you have the patience to wait. I just buy extra downloads

  3. alan p

    Fred, some good stuff there that even my kids hadn’t heard of – I got some kudos back :D.

  4. Ric

    Can’t pick too much wrong with this list (well – there’ll always be arguments at the margins, but I’ve enjoyed most of these this year) … Hometowns is an my ‘next-month’ list at eMusic

  5. David Noël

    Great picks, great list, Fred. Following your tumblelog, I got to know Okkervil River, Little Joy and (two days ago) TRAA. Thanks for that.Although I wouldn’t pick Vampire Weekend to my top album list (somehow I can’t get to like them), the Chromeo Remix of The Kids… would make it into my Top 10 ‘Song’ list (if you don’t know it, start the party with this:…On a side note: Every year, I have the same struggle putting together a list and most of the times I end up adding albums from the second part of the year to my list because I can’t remember the ones of the first part. On the other hand, I sometimes ‘discover’ older records that would make it to the list but were released years ago (right now: The National s/t and ‘Sad Songs…’). Any secret technique you’re applying to keep track?

    1. fredwilson is where i start. i go look at the most listened to records of the year and i put together a short list about about 25 records and then go from there

      1. David Noël

        Of course – thanks!

  6. BL

    check out:Cut Copy, In ghost colorsM83, saturdays=youthNo Age, NounsMy Morning Jacket, Evil urges

  7. Paolo

    Cool! I’ll check out Jason Collett and Thao then. But, do you really like the Vampire Weekend?!Well, today the Rolling Stone published its list too (was it supposed to come out on Christmas Day???)…Anyway, yours is much much better 😉

  8. Kenosha_Kid

    Fred, this may be counter to the youth appreciation thematic, but sometimes the old school can still teach the kids a few good things:Digg!!! Lazarus Digg!!! – Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsBerlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse – Lou Reed

  9. fredwilson

    It was on my short list of 25 records but it just didn’t stay with me like the ones on the list did. That said I love MMJ. Great live band!

  10. uwmryan

    Great list. Lots of good choices. That Thao record is underrated for sure.

  11. Dave Hodson

    I always love to read your Top 10 (although I like 10 posts better than 1 summarized post)If I could add just one, it would have to be My Morning Jacket’s disc Evil Urges.

  12. suesol

    yes, we’re pretty much in sync this year. raconteurs and jason collet could have been on my honorable mentions…

  13. daryn

    Despite the hype, I still haven’t gotten into Sigur Ros, although maybe I’m just not trying hard enough!Definite yes to Conor, thanks to seeing him play a couple great shows this year, and especially to the Fleet Foxes, who have really grown on me during the gray seattle winter :)Some other 2008 releases that may not be top-10 material, but are worth some play time:Dr. Dog – “Fate”Ra Ra Riot – “The Rhumb Line”Ray Lamontagne – “Gossip in the Grain”Blitzen Trapper – “Furr”Jenny Lewis – “Acid Tongue”

    1. kylec

      Must see Sigur Ros live. Oh. My. God. F’n brilliant. Perhaps the best live show of the year for me, and I saw quite a few.

  14. fredwilson

    Conflict of interest on that one seth. We love little jackie but we’ve got a vested interest in that record

    1. Seth Lieberman

      Ah, right forgot.

  15. Seth Lieberman

    No Little Jackie honorable mention?

  16. Matt

    Great list. 2, 3, and 10 would definitely be on my list. Would have added Hot Chip, Cut Copy, and new Ray Lamontagne. Caught Ray live at Radio City and it was like having chills for 2 hours…

    1. daryn

      Ray is amazing live. I had downloaded the new album but it didn’t really do much for me until after seeing him perform.

  17. fredwilson

    Well I listened a bunch and posted a track or two to but it didn’t ‘pull me in’ like these did. That’s the great thing about music. We all have different tastes and this is my list. Do you have one by chance?

    1. blake41

      You make a great point. It’s just an album I am pretty passionate about.I could go with this as a top 5 to start1. TV on the Radio – Dear Science2. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend4. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colors5. Kings of Leon – Only By The Night

  18. blake41

    Fred, you really missed out on TV on the Radio. Their new album is phenomenal all the way through

  19. Tony S

    Not a 2008 release – but I recently stumbled on The National. Both Boxer and Alligator are great albums.

  20. Patricia

    I’ve been following your blog (lurking) for a year, and finally I just *HAVE* to comment on this post. I will be picking up Hometowns as well. For me they are “local” – I’m from Alberta – and they have had NO local mainstream coverage here. Amazing that I would find out about them on a blog this far from home… Love the rest of the list too!!

  21. Yancey

    Fred, thanks for mentioning the Rural Alberta Advantage. It’s a great record, and it’s awesome that you came across it. One thing I wanted to note: I actually signed that band exclusively to eMusic as part of our eMusic Selects project, so Amazon will not be carrying it until a label signs them and re-releases our album (this happened previously with Deastro, High Places and Crystal Stilts). Anyway, just wanted to correct that. Glad you dig it. Try some of the other Selects bands, too, if you like that one!Two links: eMusic Selects and here’s eMusic’s list of the best records from the year. There’s a bunch of stuff in there I think a lotta folks here would like.

  22. josef

    nothing blew me away this year. really liked 3 songs on MGMT and She&Him hit heavy rotation. Also like some of Radiohead and Magnetic Fields. Bought the Bon Iver but it never popped. I think this is going to be the first year where I don’t make a mix for friends because I didn’t hear enough to fill one up.I will need to dig into your recommendations – thanks Fred.

  23. Chipotle

    As an old guy and music consumer (live and recorded) I think there is more good music being produced than ever. I just wish we’d hurry up and figure out some effective ways of compensating the artists.There are a bunch of records that could have made my list, but if 10 is the magic number is my list.1. The Midnight Organ Fight — Frightened Rabbit2. Furr — Blitzen Trapper3. Stay Positive — The Hold Steady4. Only By the Night — Kings of Leon5. Vampire Weekend — Vampire Weekend6. Gleam II — The Avett Brothers7. Asking for Flowers — Kathleen Edwards8. Mission Control — The Whigs9. On A Clear Night — Missy Higgins10. Wrecking Ball — Dead ConfederateSo, Fred what were your top live shows?

    1. fredwilson

      Good questionI think the ben kweller show I saw last month would be the top of my listThe vampire weekend show in paris was fun tooI’ll have to go back and look at all of them to do this rightThe Furr record is getting a lot of mentions, I need to check it out

  24. David Chaitt

    no love for ray lamontagne? he is the van morrison of my generation. and then there’s the black keys. dangermouse did magic making a two person band have an even larger sound. and when i saw it live without the overdubbing and studio magic, it was just as good if not better.

  25. Toronto

    Good list. I probably would have re-ordered the list. Here are some additional favs of mine this year:Army Navy Deerhunter – MicrocastleAnat Cohen – Notes from the VillageElliot Brood – Mountain Meadows (awesome)Fleex Foxes (of course)Jenny Lewis – Acid TongueLucinda Williams – Little Honey Plants and Animals – Parc AvenueSteve Bernstein – MTOThievery Corporation – Radio RetaliationMates of State – Re-arrange UsBlitzen Trapper – FurrSilver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout SeaVijay Iyer – TragicomicFinally, I have to also include “Sheperd’s Dog” by Iron and Wine. Ok, I know this was a 2007 release but I can’t stomach not having an Iron and Wine album on any year’s list. So there!

    1. Toronto

      Oops. I meant Fleet Foxes.

  26. tmarman

    Good list. A few on there are definitely in my top albums, though there are a few I still need to get to.One album that I’ve really been enjoying lately is The ’59 Sound by Gaslight Anthem (came out in Aug). Have you listened to this at all? Wondering if it made your top 25… I think they sound a lot like Kings of Leon (particularly their latest), but for whatever reason I find myself enjoying this more than KOL.The one other one I would definitely have to put in my top 10 is Beck – Modern Guilt. I liked TVOTR a lot too, but not sure if that would make the cut.

    1. thambone

      Fred, been reading the blog for years — “first time, long time”You have to include Black Keys, Attack & Release. great record. also, I would move Consolers of the Lonely up the chart. “How you going to Top Yourself”.

  27. josh guttman

    Nice. I feel way behind on my music review and will download these albums for holiday perusal. Did you listen to the Paul McCartney/Firemen disc I gave you? NPR/All Songs Considered mentioned it as a runner-up in their annual review:)

  28. Rich Ullman

    Thanks Fred. I’m still actually listening to the Shout Out Louds and a few other tracks from last year.

  29. whitneymcn

    As a late comment I’ll toss out one of my favorite 2008 albums–one that unfortunately hasn’t managed to break for some reason: Visiter, by The Dodos. Other than a couple of songs (“Fools” stands out in particular) it seems to take quite a few listens to really dig into it, but it’s totally worth it.I really pleased that I’ll be seeing them next week (at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn, with The Walkmen). They’ve been through NYC a couple of times this year and I’ve never been able to catch them.

    1. bombtune

      Dig the list Fred. Here’s the second part series of my favorite beats from this year:

  30. arjun

    Great list. I’m a fan of MGMT and the Fleet Foxes also. Didn’t know about the solo projects from Broken Social or the Strokes, but I’m checking them out now.Check out Passion Pit if you haven’t heard them yet…their EP is addicting.

  31. Kjell Nace

    Hi Fred, although having a fundamentally different investment model & areas of focus always try to catch up with your thoughts when I can as they are fundamentally well-thought through, interesting & more often than not thought provoking. Alas, I find myself catching up with your music list.. Although your top 10 was not to my full liking (to be expected, it is your list after all) I did notice a certain bias around style/theme/geography … in terms of catchment area so to speak. How about this one, all the way from Scandinavia (yes, it does favor certain moods but I believe is otherwise excellent):

  32. James Kurtz III

    Nice List. I’m really trying to get into the Bon Iver album but haven’t broken through yet. I do love the new Sigur Ros though.I put together a list on my blog too. Not of the best music of 2008 but of the best and worst album covers of 2008. Check it out by clicking on my name if you’re interested.Thanks.

  33. hunne

    this is a very typical list.bravo.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. I’ll check them out