CL's best - and most overrated - releases of 2008
From B.O.B to Wale, and from Coldplay to TV on the Radio
The year's best releases, listed alphabetically:
B.O.B., Hi! My Name is B.O.B. (LRG) – Rap rarely allows its practitioners the elbow-room to stretch beyond more than one dimension at a time. Somebody forgot to tell Decatur's B.O.B., who proves to be equal parts inane, insightful and vulnerable on his roller coaster of a mixtape.
Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (Kranky) – Deerhunter's third full-length is the work of a wiser and world-weary group fleshing out a greater sense of melody and refined sonic bliss than heard on its breakthrough album, Cryptograms. Microcastle and the accompanying Weird Era Cont. are creepers that work their way into your brain long after you've given them a listen and well before you realize their sparsely strummed, reverb-drenched songs have you hooked.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Primary Colours (Goner) – Primary Colours is an unexpectedly brilliant album from the Melbourne, Australia, foursome that finds inspiration in the brash, drunken punk and pop songwriting of such acts as Fall and Guided By Voices. It's fiery, primitive and absolutely alive with energy.
Gentleman Jesse, Gentleman Jesse (Douchemaster) – Gentleman Jesse delivered the definitive debut full-length of pure power pop that he's been promising ever since his first single, "I Don't Want to Know," rocked Atlanta's music scene in 2005.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam) – Kanye layered his lovelorn blues between T-Pain's auto-tune and a screwed version of Daft Punk's synth-pop to concoct a sympathetic ode to desire as cool and detached as it is unquenchable. Poor guy.
King Khan & the Shrines, The Supreme Genius of... (Vice Records) – The Supreme Genius of King Khan & the Shrines took America's garage-rock fascists by storm. The Shrines offer a more full-bodied, soulful sound than expected, based on Khan's previous outings with the King Khan & BBQ Show.
King Tuff, Was Dead (Colonel Records) – Witch vocalist Dave Sweetapple sidesteps the punk/grunge leanings to give up a cool, totally addictive batch of morphine glam-pop and power-pop rockers.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus, Dig!!! (Anti) – After a few mild stumbles, the Australian king of post-punk troubadours is back on his A-game, writing incredible songs and hamming it up in a way only Nick Cave can.
No Age, Nouns (Sub Pop) – The packaging alone made many elitists reconsider the burgeoning "Screw the CD, we want vinyl" mantra. Nouns relies less on the overused equation of Ramones-style songwriting smothered in Jesus and Mary Chain-like fuzz. Rather, the L.A. duo used those elements to underscore and further refine its own distinct sound.
Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl) – Of Montreal's ninth release is a patchwork of dreamlike fugues, bridging the gaps between disco, minimalism, twee pop and all points in between. The album defies categorization, raising the question, "What comes after post-modernism?" The answer lies somewhere in this mashup of disconnected narratives and discombobulated sounds.
Portishead, Third (Mercury/Island) – Who would have thought that after nearly a decade between records, the melancholy British trio that introduced the masses to trip-hop would return with a noisy, brilliant reinvention of its murky, mysterious plod?
Q-Tip, The Renaissance (Universal Motown) – After nine years in record-label purgatory, A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip gave fans the album that lives up to his promise as a solo artist.
Santogold, Santogold (Downtown) – Santi White's debut provided the soundtrack for 2008, full of swaggering audacity and electronic-fueled angst that made M.I.A. seem as if she was missing in action.
The Tony Rich Project, Exist (Hidden Beach Recordings) – Remember the late '90s when Tony Rich was LaFace Record's platinum-selling poster dude for overly sensitive R&B? Well, this year he returned with less hurt in his heart and more experience. Not since Sade's Love Deluxe has the combination sounded so lush and liberating.
Vivian Girls, Vivian Girls (In the Red) – Brooklyn's Vivian Girls draw inspiration from various disparate pop sources, combining equal parts Phil Spector's wall of sound with punk rock simplicity and the emotional palette of a '50s crooner. Their self-titled debut is distant, melancholy and ghostly; the soundtrack to heartbreak and empowerment ebbing and flowing.
Wale, The Mixtape About Nothing (10 Deep NYC) – D.C. representative Wale drops a "Seinfeld"-themed release about how trivial hip-hop has become and calls it The Mixtape About Nothing. Then, with one song ("The Kramer"), he fleshes out all the quandaries surrounding the N-word better than Nas did with an entire album.
2008's most overrated releases
Coldplay, Viva La Vida (Capitol)
Guns n' Roses, Chinese Democracy (Interscope)
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak (Def Jam)
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III (Cash Money)
My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (ATO)
Nas, Untitled (Def Jam)
REM, Accelerate (Warner Bros.)
She & Him, Volume One (Merge Records)
Sugarland, Love on the Inside (Mercury Nashville)
TV on the Radio, Dear Science (DGC Interscope)