It’s 2008 and in this year you’ll find enough great music to make you forget about how terrible Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was. All bases have been covered: a Polaris Prize-winning hardcore record, the debut release from a quirky New York quartet, and everything in between. These albums are in no particular order and are just a few of the great albums from 2008.
Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
This self-titled release was the debut record to come from Toronto’s electro-duo Crystal Castles, and it was made available March 18th, 2008. The album was a mashup of a bunch of work from different time periods. It consisted of previously sold-out singles, unreleased tracks and then three newly recorded songs. The groups synth-filled and somewhat dark sound pleased the ears of many, getting them on the cover of NME Magazine. Three different people contributed to the LP’s production: band member Ethan Kath, Matthew Wagner, Squeak E. Clean. Samples used on the record include everything from fellow Last Gang artist Death From Above 1979 to Grandmaster Flash. The sixteen track album spawned three singles “Crimewave”, “Air War” and “Courtship Dating”.
Deerhunter – Mircocastle
The third record to come Deerhunter, Microcastle, was released on August 19th, 2008, though it leaked on the internet a few weeks before. The LP was recorded in just the span of a week inside Rare Book Room Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Deciding to differentiate this record a little more from their last, the band decided to rely heavily on all kinds of effects pedals. This album was very raw with only the occasional drum track and vocals on “Agoraphobia” being treated. The musical direction for the album was clearly much different with Bradford Cox stating, “I want things to be a lot shorter, I don’t want there to be as much long-windedness to it.” Black Lips singer Cole Alexander makes an appearance on album cut “Saved by Old Times”, which was recorded over an iChat session. The album was premiered by the band live at the Brooklyn’s Market Hotel and received a rating of 9.2/10 from Pitchfork.
The Walkmen – You And Me
You & Me is the 4th record to be be released by The Walkmen and was done so on August 19th, 2008. It was recorded in three different studios: Gigantic (Manhattan), Water Music (Hoboken) and Sweet Tea (Oxford). Production duties were handled by the band themselves as well as a little help from Chris Zane. The LP was made available a few weeks prior to the official release on a website called Amie Street. Cost of the download was $5 and all the proceeds went to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In the first week of sales it charted at #29 on Billboards Top Digital Sales list. Twangy guitars and the bluesy rock notes from singer Hamilton Leithauser shine on the record, witch critics praising the band for sounding “comfortable in their own skin”.
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
New York quartet Vampire Weekend, made their way onto the scene in 2008 releasing their debut self-titled record on January 29th. The album was produced by the bands bassist Rostam Batmanglij with mixing duties handled by Jeff Cutrin and Shane Stoneback. From start to finish the album is an energetic masterpiece; fun, playful and intelligent lyrics from Ezra Koenig are matched with infectious riffs, sharp drums and poppy synths. Upon release, the album sold over 27,000 copies in the first week and entered the Billboard chart as #17. The recording was done in a variety of locations including a basement, a barn, apartments band members were currently living in, and Tree Fort studio in Brookyln. The cover of the record is a polaroid picture from one of their very early shows at Columbia University. Time magazine named it the 5th best album of 2008 and Pitchfork has it listed as #51 on their Top 200 of the 2000s list.
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
This self-titled record is also the debut album to come from Fleet Foxes and was released on June 3rd, 2008. The Seattle band found themselves on local label Sub Pop with production of the LP handled by renowned producer Phil Ek. During the recording process of the album, the band had yet to courted by Sub Pop and thus they funded Fleet Foxes entirely from their own pockets. Their laid back folk sound pleased critics and fans all over the world, with this album becoming one of the most acclaimed releases of the year. Even Rush’s Geddy Lee sited the album as one of his favourites during an interview. The Guardian described the album as “A landmark in American music, and an instant classic”.
Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life
The second full length record to come from Toronto indie punks Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life was released on October 7th, 2008. The album got its title from a book by author James F. W. Johnston, which describes the hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms and plants. Thrashy guitars, raspy vocals and heart pounding drums fill the record and the band’s very intense live show. The album was recorded in Toronto at Halla Music Studios and Central Audio Studios from January till June 2008, with producer Jon Drew at the helm. The theme of the record has been described as, “an expansive epic about the mysteries of birth, death, and the origins of life (and re-living)”. Critics took note of the band’s sound as not just another flash in the pan hardcore act and the group ended up taking home the 2009 Polaris Music Prize.
TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Released on September 22nd, 2008, Dear Science was the third studio album from art-rockers TV on the Radio. Kyp Malone said the album got its name from a note producer Dave Stiek left in the studio that read “Dear Science, please start solving problems and curing diseases or shut the fuck up.” The album wowed critics in all media facets, becoming one of the most talked about albums of the year. The record gets its versatility from the frontman role being split by both Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. Dear Science comes across as a slicker and more polished record then its predecessor Return to Cookie Mountain. Their sound ranges from fierce to catchy, and even sexy at times. Rolling Stone has it as their 48th Best Album of the Decade and Pitchfork gave it a rating of 9.2/10.
Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
Scottish indie folk band Frightened Rabbit released their 2nd studio album, The Midnight Organ Fight on April 15th, 2008. The recording of the album was done in two very different locations; half in Tarquin Studios (Bridgeport, Connecticut) and the other half completed in Diving Bell Lounge (Glasgow, Scotland). The album is a product of frontman Scott Hutchinson’s heartbreak. Going through a rough separation brought raw, direct and honest lyrics to the forefront, with Hutchinson himself not able to listen to the record until months after its release. Peter Katis was brought in as the producer who brought their sound from basement indie rock into a more full and luscious sounding folky-soundscape. It’s hard to find a negative word about The Midnight Organ Fight – it’s found on a generous amount of year end lists with Pitchfork slotting in opening cut “The Modern Leper” at #78 on their 100 Best Tracks of 2008 list.
Santigold – Santogold
This is the debut album to come from Santi White aka Santigold, and it was released on April 29th, 2008. This LP is impossible to pin down to just one genre; over the course of her 11 tracks sounds rang from new wave to reggae, dub to electronica. The goal Santigold set for herself on the record was to “help breakdown boundaries and genre classifications.” Mission accomplished. Critics were impressed by the balance heard throughout the album, noting its “cross-genre confidence.” When she signed to Atlantic, Santogold was essentially finished and they “already loved it” and didn’t want to change a thing. The writing and recording process took place over eight weeks, with ten different people being accredited a producer title. Rolling Stone named it the 6th best album of the year and named the single “L.E.S. Artistes” the 2nd best track of 2008.
Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
This is the sophomore record from Australian dance-pop band Cut Copy.
M83 – Saturdays = Youth
The 5th studio album to come from francophone dream-pop band M83, Saturdays=Youth was released on April 11th. The record’s production was handled by three different individuals: M83’s Anthony Gonzalez, Ken Thomas who had worked with Sigur Ros, and Ewan Pearson. Gonzalez found inspiration for the album from listening to 80s music, he said, “I think that ‘80s music is such a brilliant period for music history.” Saturdays = Youth is both a tribute to the music he cherished from the 80s as well has being a teenager. The record has more of a structured and focused feel to it compared to previous work. Four singles were released including “Couleurs”, “Graveyard Girl” and “We Own the Sky”. The album made it to #4 on the US Electronic Album Chart but Drowned in Sound named it the best album of 2008.