While looking back at 2008's year in music, I decided that for the first time I didn't want to make a list of just albums. Now that most of the money I spend on music is either via vinyl or mp3s, it didn't make sense to keep it that limited. So far that reason, I've mixed up albums, singles and live performances into one list. Equal ranking, no handicaps.
Another first in this list is the addition of a lot of Columbus music to my overall picks. Previous years there might have been one or two locals that made appearances, but this time around there's a total of 5 Columbus hits out of 13. I was never was good at math but I think that's like 123.b3%. It's a great time to be a fan of music and living in Columbus.
With each entry you'll find buy/video/mp3 and stream links. Give 'em a click and maybe you'll find a new favorite too.
1. Florence and the Machine, Live @ SXSW & Kiss With a Fist (single)
It's been nine months since SXSW, and Florence and the Machine's performance still echoes in my brain. It was a demonstration of fire and energy, of putting all of your soul out there and giving the audience something to remember. Click here to see a video of the show.
Kiss With a Fist is a perfect song of rage and revenge without apology. Florence's voice reminds me Dorothy Love filtered through Karen O's artistis sensibility and goddamn if this song isn't catchy as hell. I think I read on the BBC website that in parts of London you can actually not be charged with assault if you tell the police that you were inspired by this song.
Kiss With a Fist Video
2. The Dodos, Visiter (album)
Visiter is such a rich album to listen to, it's hard for me to do anything else while playing it on my headphones. It's rare that I actually notice the drums or banjo or backup vocals in beautiful detail, and that's what helps makes this album such a standout.
MP3: Red and Purple
3. Times New Viking, Rip it Off (album)
The first time I saw Times New Viking was when they opened up for The Arcade Fire in Columbus. (To put it in perspective, the show wasn't even halfway sold out of a 400 capacity venue). My initial impressions were "okay i don't get it." Everything started to make much more sense as time passed and I was able to see them live more. Songs are fuzzy and distorted and recorded on equipment that might have been recovered from a basement flood, but they have enough kick in them to fill an arena. These damaged pop songs make up one of the most important albums in recent Columbus history. I can't wait to hear what they do next.
MP3: Drop Out | Donewaiting.com Interview
4. Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple (album)
It would have been easy for Gnarls Barkley to try and recreate the success of "Crazy", but instead they took an artistic and far more interesting turn. I love the slow burn of this noiry lounge album. Cee Lo's voice still goes down nice and smooth and Danger Mouse knows how to assemble the right beats and instruments to wrap around it. Don Draper approves.
5. Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (albums)
It's not fair to other bands when one band comes around and puts out two amazing records in the same year. The nerve! Anyway, both are a logical extension of the modern Belle and Sebastian discography but with more distortion and just slightly more energy. See.... music can be fun and challenging at the same time.
MP3: Don't Tell Me to Do The Math(s)
6. Columbus Discount Records, The Columbus Discount Singles Club Year 1
You've got to have a lot of confidence (and a twinge of insanity) to be a small label and decide to commit to a year-long vinyl singles club (run of 250 each). The gamble paid off both financially (the club sold out within weeks) and musically, with bands like El Jesus de Magico releasing some of their finest work. Still to come in the series: The Unholy Two, Psychedelic Horseshit, Mike Rep and many more. Forget trying to create fake slogans like "Indie Art Capital of the World," Columbus Discount Records should be looked upon as a true banner of inspiration to the entire
7. Langhorne Slim, Langhorne Slim (album)
When I was relistening to this album as a primer for the list writing, I finally realized that most of the songs on this album hover around the 2 and 3 minutes mark. It struck me as interesting because in each short song an incredibly detailed picture is painted with Slim's lyrics. Call it hit and run songwriting maybe. This album is a great example of a band living in the Americana genre but not sounding completely cliche.
MP3: Hello Sunshine | On Letterman
8. Alina Simone, Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware (album)
I can just imagine Alina's pitch... "Okay, here's my idea... I am going to do an album of all covers. And they're songs written by a Russian musician. And yeah, I am going to sing all the songs completely in Russian.... Oh and I am going to put her photo on the cover and not mine." While this album may be sung completely in Russian, it only enhances the impact. Desperation and longing and hope pour out of Alina's voice with each song, making it one of the most emotional albums released this year.
MP3: Half My Kingdom
9. Two Cow Garage, Speaking in Cursive (album)
On Two Cow Garage's fourth album, they've finally hit their side. You can hear the confidence in their songwriting and singing. Always on the road, in both Europe and the US of A, chances are Two Cow Garage is playing your home town this weekend. People need to throw away their Kings of Leon albums and listen to this instead.
MP3: Your Humble Narrator
10. Envelope, Shark Bolt (album)
Blueprint reigns supreme over the Columbus hip hop scene, but Envelope has quietly slid into the #2 spot. With the release of his second album, this blue collar rapper has shown he's got what it takes to mix it up in the big leagues. The national press are starting to take notice and things are coming up Envelope in 2009.
MP3: Straight Up (featuring Hugs and Kisses)
11. Vivian Girls, Vivian Girls (album)
This album makes me want to go drag racing and get tattoos and road trip to Austin TX and find those vampires from that one Tarantino movie and stab them in their undead, vampire hearts. While all the locals thank me for taking care of their vampire problem, the Vivian Girls will be blairing out of my vintage Mustang.
12. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (album)
Craig Finn's cast of characters are back in more episodes of discouragement, dead ends and hopeful dreams. I've totally bought into the world he's created. I want to know everything about the people he sings about and would pay at least $20 for a companion book that expanded upon the songs. And man, there's so many lyrics casually tossed off that just stick around my thoughts for a real long time.
13. Moon High, Moon High (album)
If you didn't know that Moon High was from Ohio, you might think they make their music somewhere on a secluded California beach, dividing time between recording and exploring the rock formations in the ocean. There's a casual beauty that sweeps the entire record that feels warm and breezy. A perfect album to get us through the winter.
MP3: Gathering Song