My Top 40 Albums of 2008: Numbers 40 Through 33

As promised, here’s the first installment of my top albums of 2008. At the very beginning, I wanted to do a top 20; then it became a top 25; soon after, I made it a 35; eventually, it ended up as a top 40. Of course it now means that every Friday til the end of the year will feature a rather odd yet even eight albums. I will admit that I was still listening and arranging today. The inherent disclaimer in all this is that this list is of my top albums, in other words my favourites. That means that I didn’t listen to every major release this year, let alone every release (even music nerds need some silence once and awhile), so I may either be missing out on some potential top albums or I may just be disinclined toward them in the first place – feel free to let me know what your personal favourites of the year were.

Before I dive into the countdown, I’m going to remind you a little bit about what was released in the first two months of 2008. (I was originally going to go a la The Big Fat Quiz of the Year and review the music events of every few months of the year, but I realized that I’m no match for such an activity, especially when I have difficulty remembering what I ate yesterday.) The year kicked off with releases by British Sea Power, The Magnetic Fields, Cat Power, Lightspeed Champion, Sons & Daughters, Beangrowers, the soundtrack for the hipster film phenomenon Juno, and the infinitely bloggable Vampire Weekend, a band that still leaves me completely cold despite the year seemingly belonging to them. As much as their pretentious, arty lyrics and Afro influences should draw me in, they end up sounding like a watery Paul Simon to me. February brought Hot Chip’s highly anticipated third album and Goldfrapp’s unexpected pastoral turn along with releases from Robots in Disguise, Dirtbombs, The Mountain Goats, The Raveonettes and another Amy Winehouse substitute, Adele. There were also debut LPs by Antarctica Takes All!, Los Campesinos! and the less exclamatory School of Language. Justin Vernon’s first album as Bon Iver also made its official release in February.

On to the countdown:

40. The Penguin League – Anarctica Takes All!

As mentioned in the intro, The Penguin League released early in 2008, though it had been previously self-released by the Santa Cruz band. From the first burst of energy coming off the opening track I’m No Lover (featuring the great line “I’m not a lover, but a fighter”), the album cartwheels over itself like an even more puppyish Sufjan Stevens. Using glockenspiels, accordion, violin, harmonica and brass, the record is an eclectic mixture of folk, twee, and shambolic pop. Despite its rather frozen motif, its heart is warm enough to melt any ice shelf.

39. This Gift – Sons & Daughters

On their third album, the Glaswegian quartet turned to Bernard Butler for their production. The result is a blistering, whirling dervish of an album that takes the slightly dark folky bits evident on their excellent debut Love the Cup and transforms them into buzzsaw riffs and big choruses while the darkness continues to bubble beneath the surface like tar. Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson’s vocals play off each other and blend in haunting combinations while the pace never slackens. I was fortunate to see them live early this year and it was an absolutely raucous show that largely showcased this record.

38. Apocalypso – The Presets

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Modular record label – rarely is there an artist on their roster that I’m not excited about. Having said that, I didn’t pay quite as close attention to the Australian electro act The Presets as I did to many of their peers. It took their second album to really grab and shake my attention like ripe fruit from my skull. There’s a hard edge to their synthpop sensibilities, closer to labelmate MSTRKRFT than Cut Copy or Van She, and there are definitely viral melodies along with the relentless beats. The deep, often overwrought vocals can be both soulful and theatrical while the music leaps from grimy depths to soaring heights of melodrama.

37. Sea From Shore – School of Language

Also mentioned in the intro, this is the Sunderland group’s first album, but not exactly. School of Language was born as a side project of the band Field Music, which is composed of David and Peter Brewis and Andrew Moore, a group that had already released two albums of their own. It is also fitting that two of the tracks (Disappointment ’99 and Extended Holiday) feature members of The Futureheads not only because one of the Brewis brothers used to play drums for The Futureheads, but also because I detect a similar off-kilter jittery quality in some parts of the record, including the chorus of vowel recitation permeating the Rockist quartet, a group of four songs that bracket the album. Sea From Shore also shares the wry wit and wacky rhythms that seem inherent in bands from the Northeast while adding smoother melodic surfaces and laidback grooves.

36. The Colour of Snow – Polarkreis 18

This album is the fourth from these five friends from Dresden. It shares a similar dramatic, but atmospheric quality to Mew, and electronic elements are fused with gossamer vocals, creating a blinding panorama of translucence and light. There’s also a widescreen epic feel to the tracks on this record, ranging from a boundless energy akin to a child on a snow day to melancholic swathes of sound like wind-sculpted drifts. Listening to this record is a bit like staring through the spidery patterns of frost on windowpanes – with one breath it could shift like a kaleidoscope.

35. L’anthologie des 3 perchoirs – Duchess Says

I wrote a review of this album way back around the time of its release and I stand by my opinion of this Montreal band. This record is the perfect blend of violent electro and punk that screams through every bone in your body like electric shock therapy. Daisy Chainsaw-like banshee howls punch and pummel their way through distorted beats and ominous synths. It’s like a roller derby on a rink of broken glass.

34. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – David Byrne and Brian Eno

It was the duo that many music fans wished would team back up again. David Byrne and Brian Eno hadn’t worked together since their classic 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a mixture of tribal rhythms and experimental electronics. This time Byrne and Eno tackle gospel and create an uplifting journey, shimmering with reverb and redemption. Byrne’s vocals are bold and warm as burnished brass and the lyrics are optimistic yet ambivalent and witty enough for the cynical age we live in. At the same time, Eno’s characteristic experimental flourishes are still present. Tentative tendrils of hope poke through this record despite a mundane reality the colour of gunmetal and concrete. This album is the equivalent of a baptismal font for a human race that has just gone on too long.

33. For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver

This particular album is bound to be on many a year-end list. It has been critically acclaimed everywhere you look. Justin Vernon famously wrote this record while spending three months in a remote cabin in Wisconsin. For Emma, Forever Ago is a document of catharsis and healing, and it emanates a profound solitude and gentle desperation. Sung in a raspy falsetto over acoustic guitar, there is an undeniable intimacy and rawness to these songs as though Vernon was slowly chipping away at his pain-clad heart with weary, calloused hands. In the process, he created a universal spark that has now been nourished by thousands of people worldwide, making it a toasty bon hiver indeed.

For each part of this countdown series, I will also include one album that almost made my list. The honourable mention for this installment is Hot Chip’s Made in the Dark. Hot Chip’s third album was a colourful patchwork of styles, ranging from dancefloor anthems to vulnerable ballads. Notably, Ready For the Floor, with its goofy music video, was an enormous hit that I keep coming back to.

Shake a Fist – Hot Chip

Numbers 32 through 25 will be coming at you next Friday. And this Sunday is the dreaded CTRNR Christmas Mix.

6 Responses to “My Top 40 Albums of 2008: Numbers 40 Through 33”

  1. 1 Rol
    November 29, 2008 at 10:23 am

    An interesting list so far – some things for me to check out, I reckon. I only own one of them (Bon Iver, but I couldn't really get into it), though I've been meaning to pick up the latest Sons & Daughters for ages.

  2. 2 anglopunk
    November 29, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I like Bon Iver and think the album is definitely worthy of being a part of this list, but unlike in most other people’s lists, it is sitting comparatively low because I didn’t get into it as much as quite a large number of other albums.

    Not to mention, I constantly feel the need to re-shuffle my list now that’s it’s solidified. The doubts of a person who just loves too much music.

  3. 3 Taylor M
    November 29, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    When you get there, don’t forget to submit your Top 10 blog post to Hype Machine: http://hypem.com/zeitgeist/

  4. 4 TOPMAN
    December 1, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Great influences throughout…. if I didn’t know better, I’d swear YOU were ME!

  5. 5 dona
    December 2, 2008 at 4:00 am

    this blog is fantastic and you are an amazing writer. thank you so much for sharing this list! very good choices indeed. i can’t wait for the rest! =)

  6. 6 elliusbellius
    December 3, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    wow, and i was having a hard time with my top 10 list, while you are easily dishing out 35. :O

    I can’t wait to see what your top choices are. ;)

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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

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Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

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David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

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Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

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Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

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TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave


So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun


Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head


Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away


Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners


Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away


You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender


I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding


You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black


Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side


Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb


Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape


Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah


And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love


We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's


Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south


Running on


As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different


LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell


Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't


So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need


The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest


Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know


No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more


All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids


Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome

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