BEST OF 2008: Blurt's Top 20 & More

Our toppermost of the
poppermost. Number One Album & Best New Artist: Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Complete Top 50 in December digi-mag.

 

BY THE EDITORS

 

Simply put, we thought 2008 was an amazing year for music – new, reissued, live, on film and in books
– and we hope our best-of picks reflect just what a stellar year it was. The
BLURT crew put our heads together, picked the brains of our contributing
writers, and listened to the comments of our readers and arrived at, not so
much a concrete consensus (that would be impossible, given the subjective
nature of list-making), but certainly a representative overview of the past
twelve months.

 

From the Top 20 album picks and best new artists to most
outstanding concert tours and, er, obsessions of the male-female variety, we
hereby present our Best of 2008. And to see the complete Top 50 Albums list
along with more pithy assessments, sleeve artwork and sexysassycool photos,
check out the brand new December issue of the BLURT digital magazine. Just
click on the magazine image (the one with the pic of Jessica Lea Mayfield) on
the right-hand side of the homepage and start browsing the pages.

 

And be watching this space for even more Best Of ’08 when we
publish the year-end lists of our editorial staff and our writers…

 

 

***

 

1) Jessica Lea
Mayfield

With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (Polymer Sounds)

“I always look at things from a dark point of view,”
Jessica Lea Mayfield advises BLURT. “I’m an upbeat person when you meet me, but
for some reason I cannot write a happy song.” Indeed, the Ohio native’s
long-playing debut is pitch-dark and emotionally-saturated, pulling from rock,
indie and folk music to create some mutant blend of alt-Americana. It’s her
singular vision, piercing like a southern gothic author, and haunting voice – a
slurrysexycool cross between Jolie Holland, Edie Brickell and PJ Harvey, if you
can dig it – that captivated the BLURT staff upon the album’s release (on
producer/Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach’s Polymer label) in September. And
as we lived with the album, the realization grew that we were witnessing the
flowering of a major artist; so much so, that in addition to picking With Blasphemy So Heartfelt our top
album of 2008, Mayfield must surely be our Best New Artist, too. That’s our own
imprimatur, certainly, but when you consider some of the musicians she edged
out – among them, Lykke Li, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and She & Him – it’s
nothing less than an article of faith, too. Don’t ever give up that darkness,
Jessica. It becomes you.

 

 

2) Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

WE SAID: “Folksy at its core, but unwilling to pledge
allegiance to either the freak-folk movement or the army of bearded porch-pop
players, For Emma is a unique piece
of elegiac elegance.”

 

3) Shearwater

Rook (Matador)

WE SAID: “The album heralds [Jonathan] Meiburg’s leap from
gifted song stylist to master conductor and arranger- he’s been building
towards this moment.”

 

4) Calexico

Carried to Dust (Touch & Go)

WE SAID: “Over the course of their career Joey Burns and
John Convertino have created a readily identifiable blend of mariachi,
spaghetti western, ambling country and desert blues, and Carried to Dust is another version of its perfection.”

 

5) Future Clouds
& Radar

Peoria (Star Apple Kingdom)

WE SAID: “Peoria does have a sonic immediacy, but like
its predecessor it’s also an ambitious, complex work that demands multiple
listening sessions for its many subtleties and nuances to reveal themselves.”

 

6) Alejandro Escovedo

Real Animal (Back Porch)

WE SAID: “Real Animal brings together Escovedo’s roots in punk (“Chelsea”), country (“People”),
chamber pop (“Sister Lost Soul”), and Stonesy blues-rock (“Smoke” and “Real
Animal”) in a cohesive musical and lyrical narrative tracing the course of Escovedo’s
thirty-year-long career.”

 

7) Lykke Li

Youth Novels (LL Recordings)

WE SAID: “22-year-old Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson ain’t your
average Swedish pop/dance star… she crafts fascinating musical vehicles for
her lithe voice and swelling choruses.”

 

8) Joseph Arthur
& the Lonely Astronauts

Temporary People (Lonely Astronaut)

WE SAID: “A widescreen collection of mini-symphonies as
memorable as they come. It’s a career-capper in every sense of the word, an
album that should permanently install Arthur in the minds of the public.”

 

9) Santogold

Santogold (Downtown)

WE SAID: “Pan-cultural, like M.I.A., but deliciously sautéed
in the melting pot of the U.S.A. Dub, poppy New Wave, electro/hip-hop and more
swirl around her lusciously chirpy vocals. You can dance your ass off to her,
too.”

 

10) Thalia Zedek

Liars and Prayers (Thrill Jockey)

WE SAID: “And that voice! The former Come frontwoman sounds
like a more gravelly version of Patti Smith on a few of these songs, and her
lyrical work, laced with subtle political commentary, results in some
fascinating takes on everyday relations.”

 

11) James McMurtry

Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)

WE SAID: “If you’ve heard ‘God Bless America,’ the bitter,
biting indictment of our political and corporate leaders first released in
2007, then all you really need to know about Just Us Kids is that it’s not even the best song on the album,
which is the best of McMurtry’s career.”

 

12) Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “Picture My Morning Jacket’s Jim James sitting
around a campfire with Crosby, Stills and Nash and you’ll get the idea. Fleet
Foxes can be beautifully intimate (‘White Winter Hymnal’) or create a sound
that seems as wide and open as the Plains (‘Ragged Wood’).”

 

13) The Black Keys

Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

WE SAID: “From the get-go, there’s a lot to assimilate. It’s
not like they got a bassist or anything, but the Black Keys entering a studio
to record their fifth long player is a big change. The end result is the Keys’
most expansive record. Crank it up.”

 

14) The Gutter Twins

Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “For all its sludgy slow electric pianos and
“Ohio”-like guitar squeak, Lanegan sounds like he’s having the time of his
life. That’s what hanging around your best pal (Dulli) will do for you.”

 

15) Lucinda Williams

Little Honey (Lost Highway)

WE SAID: “From the album’s opening track, the surging,
angular, almost punk-feeling riff-rocker “Real Love”; through several blues
compositions, country-honker “Well Well Well” and the swampy,  slide/ harp-fueled “Heavy Blues;” Little
Honey never falters.”

 

16) Dead Confederate

Wrecking Ball (Razor & Tie)

WE SAID: “Dead Confederate retain hints of Southern rock,
but where that genre can be predictable this cranks a left turn and crashes
into Nirvana-stained grunge and takes it to blurry new terrain where everyone’s
eyes are dilated and dark as wet pavement.”

 

17) Cold War Kids

Loyalty to Loyalty (Downtown)

WE SAID: “Cut to the chase: Loyalty to Loyalty is a scary fucking record, an indie rock version
of the Rolling Stones at their darkest, a whole album as harrowing as “Midnight
Rambler” or “Gimme Shelter… it haunts your dreams.”

 

18) Dr. Dog

Fate (Park the Van)

WE SAID: “It’s how they wear their inspirations on their
sleeve that makes them more than just the sum of some really cool record
collections. That, and the way they’ve filtered damn near everything that
wasn’t nailed down through their own distinct approach.”

 

19) Lil Wayne

Tha Carter III (Cash Money)

WE SAID: “The long-awaited album has finally arrived, and feel
free to rejoice: it was worth the wait. Don’t let the ‘Lollipop’ fool you.
There’s more to Lil Wayne than just candy-as-sex (see: Marcy Playground) puns.
In fact, there may be enough here to name him the new best rapper alive.”

 

 

20) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Dig!! Lazarus Dig!! (Mute)

WE SAID: Dig’s sneering, bleary-eyed tracks have a bold
potency to go with their fuzz-tone organ’s pop-psychedelic fizzle and frying
guitars. It’s positively cum-filled.”

 

 

***

 

BEST OF THE REST

 

 

BEST NEW ARTIST:

1) Jessica Lea Mayfield

 

Lykke Li

Bon Iver

Fleet Foxes

She & Him

 

 

 

BEST MUSIC
FILMS/DOCUMENTARIES:

1) Lou Reed Berlin,
dir. by Julian Schnabel  (Genius)

 

Control (Ian Curtis/Joy Division), dir. by Anton Corbijn
(The Weinstein Company)

Arthur Russell – Wild Combination, dir. by Matt Wolf
(Plexifilm)

Silver Jews – Silver Jew (Drag City)

Flaming Lips – Christmas On Mars (Warner Bros.)

 

 

BEST
REISSUE/ARCHIVAL:

1) Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean
Blue (Caribou/Legacy)

 

Rodriguez – Cold Fact (Light In The Attic)

Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc)

Replacements – catalog reissues (Rhino)

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (Epic/Legacy)

 

 

BEST BOOK:

1) Mike Edison – I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales
of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues,
American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World
(Faber & Faber)

 

Alex Ross – The Rest
Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
(Picador)

Danny Goldberg – Bumping
Into Geniuses: My Life Inside The Rock And Roll
Business (Gotham Books)

Thurston Moore and Byron Coley – No Wave Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. (Harry Abrams Publishing)

Juliana Hatfield – When I Grow Up (Wiley)

 

 

BIGGEST OBSESSIONS:

 

BEEFCAKE:

 

Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal)

Jay Reatard

Will Scheff (Okkervil
River)

Lil Wayne

Devendra Banhart

 

CHEESECAKE:

 

Lykke Li

Juliette Commagere

Lenka

Kaki King

Santogold

Zooey Deschanel

 

 

BEST LIVE SHOW:

1) Of Montreal

 

Avett Brothers

Alejandro Escovedo

My Morning Jacket

Sun City Girls

 

 

BEST TOUR:

1) Hold Steady + Drive-By Truckers

 

Radiohead

Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

 

 

COOLEST WHATEVER:

 

Finally! Democracy! (Obama gets elected)

Vinyl’s stubborn refusal to die

NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concerts

The “Wassup 2008” YouTube video

Radiohead’s webcasts

 

 

MOST ANNOYING
WHATEVER:

 

The death of print music magazines

Download-only tracks not available on disc

Kanye West

Camel and Rolling
Stone
‘s “Indie Rock Universe”

The overuse – use, actually – of auto-tune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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