Alas, it can't be 2007 every year. It's been a strange year for pop music, what with Chinese Democracy finally seeing the light of day and Kanye West's transformation into a ghetto-blastin' Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. The return of My Bloody Valentine and Portishead, and the long-awaited announcement of Blur's upcoming reunion brought the early 90's back with a vengeance, with its attendant climate of socioeconomic bad-vibes, and another black president-elect (WJC being the first). Without further ado (or, admittedly, a shred of authority) I present my humble selections as the best records I heard in 2008.
1. The Dodos - Visiter
Logan Kroeber acts every bit the capital-P "Percussionist" on the Dodos sophomore record, pounding out ramshackle, persistent rhythms which tumble smartly beneath an alternately intricate and thrashing acoustic. Singer Meric Long's crafty wordplay and surprisingly affecting sentiment sound out among the clamor, providing the best record of the year with a hefty emotional punch.
2. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
It's worth mentioning again, lest we forget: We're damn lucky Spencer Krug and Dan Boekner still set aside time from their day jobs for Wolf Parade. Their sophomore effort resounds with joyous cynicism from the first Casio strains of "Soldier's Grin," and finds Boekner coming into his own as a socially-critical songwriter while Krug works his effortless ethereal magic, all while managing to name-check the Mamas and the Papas.
3. The Walkmen - You & Me
The perpetually sepia-toned Walkmen pulled off a stunner this year with this smoldering firecracker of a record. Steeped in haunted acoustics, Hamilton Leithauser's mournful croon, and guitars/organs set to overdrive, You & Me could soundtrack The Great Gatsby. The band's vital rhythm section succeeds yet again in breathing fire into Leithauser's smoky lounge-act.
4. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls
Combining Spector harmonies, shoegaze chainsaw guitars, and punk thrash, Vivian Girls sprinted out of the gate with an arresting debut album bursting with contagiously energetic hooks that stick in your head like the best old Buzzcocks singles. At turns sunny and tragic, this is an immediately accessible noise-pop record that also rewards repeat listens.
5. That Ghost - Young Fridays
Soul-baring bedroom indie pop doesn't get much better than Young Fridays, the label debut from prolific self-releaser Ryan Schmale. C86 hiss and jangle filters through Daniel Johnston's desperate earnestness resulting in a record that is catchy, rich, and haunted.