Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Year in Flats and Sharps: The Top 5 CDs of 2008

This year (well, last year) I picked up a ton of CDs. I'm actually not too sure why I continue to buy them, seeing as it's cheaper to buy them online and cheaper still to download them on Limewire. I guess I'm just a sentimental at heart, trying to savour these remaining days before they go the way of vinyl and Betamax. Anyways, here are the top 5 CDs of 2008 that, after listening to them, I think you should check out too.

Lykke Li - Youth Novels

I'll have to thanks iTunes' new Genius function for recommending this brilliant album. Lykke Li, who's real name is Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson, has a voice unlike any other that I've heard. It's almost childlike with its vulnerability and purity. Youth Novels, her debut album, is unclassifiable. It's not quite electronic, not quite pop, and definitely not your typical indie album. Her sound is completely and refreshingly unique. There are songs to dance to, songs to cry to, and songs to just hum along with. I can't wait to see how this cute, little Swede will follow-up.

My top songs would have to be "Dance, Dance, Dance", "Time Flies", and "My Love", but her single "Little Bit" seems to be getting rave reviews across the board.

Cat Power - Jukebox

I was really hoping to get Cat Power's (nee Chan Marshall) The Greatest for Christmas, but this one made for a pleasant conciliation prize. I sort of expected that I would like this album before I even tore it out of it's plastic covering. I'd heard many of Cat Power's songs before, and had fallen in love with her lazy, breathy voice and minimalist style that reminded me of a matured Feist (though she's only 4 years Feist's senior). Jukebox, mostly a collection of covers, really makes for easy listening. I've listened to the CD from the first song to the last without once feeling bored. One thing I will say is that, after the first 5 tracks, the songs just start to blend into each other, which is a definite turn-off, albeit a small one.

I'd have to recommend "New York", and "Ramblin' (Wo)man" which are, funnily enough, the first two tracks on the album.

Lady Gaga - The Fame

Our hair is perfect while we're all getting shit-wrecked.

No, this isn't an obnoxious Paris Hilton quote. It's a line from Lady Gaga's "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich". These are the types of lyrics that characterize this first album from Lady Gaga, the voice behind last summer's mega-hit "Just Dance". The song topics are superficial and crass, referencing riding on a guy's "disco stick", making out in the bleachers, and getting wasted among other things. Anyone would assume that these would make for an awful album but, surprisingly, The Fame manages to be very listenable and even got me to sing along unabashadely with it's shallow lyrics. Maybe it was the awesome, pop-electronica melodies, but what I think made the album so bearable was the fact that the lyrics were so absurd. They were just fun and, in this world of deep, profound lyricists, they offer a welcomed escape. Oh, and Lady Gaga, or should I say Stefani Joanne Germanotta actually has a pretty good voice, something that is really rare in this day and age. Who knew?

Check out "Pokerface" (as if you haven't already), "Just Dance", "Boys, Boys, Boys", and "Money Honey" for some campy, decadent fun.

The Black Keys - Attack and Release

Top record all the way. Attack and Release, which is the band's 5th album (7th if you count EPs), delivers the same blues-rock sound as its predecessors while still differentiating itself from them. Lead vocalist Dan Auerbach delivers on every song with the same emotion, and skill that characterized their past recordings. You could put this CD on and not have to press skip once because, as familiar as the sound is, the songs are not all the same. There's a healthy mix of faster songs ("Strange Times", "Oceans and Streams"), slower songs ("All You Ever Wanted", "Things Ain't Like They Used to Be") and those songs that make you just want to drift off to another place ("Psychotic Girl" does it for me).

My top songs would have to be "Strange Times", "So He Won't Break", and "Psychotic Girl". This is an album that I strongly recommend to any music lover.

Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty

Robbers and Cowards was probably my favourite CD of 2007. For that year I was hooked on this indie rock band from California. So when I heard that they were releasing their sophomore album, I was both excited and hesitant. I was hungry for more from the boys from Cali, but I was worried that their second effort wouldn't live up to their first. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed. Loyalty to Loyalty is just as intelligent and, to put it simply, just as good as its predecessor, though it is markedly more raw in terms of vocals and melodies. The album's best quality is that it tells stories that aren't usually told is music, which is what I liked most about Robbers and Cowards.

Best songs? "Dreams Old Men Dream", "Welcome to the Occupation", "On the Night That My Love Broke Through", and "Relief". I must also give honourable mention to "Golden Gate Jumpers", which showed me that yes, it is possible to mention crabs "having their way with you" in a serious song. Poetry.

Honourable Mentions

Shad (rap) - The Old Prince
Hits: "Old Prince Still Lives At Home", "I Don't Really Like To", "Exile"

Britney Spears (pop) - Circus
Hits: "Womanizer", "Blur", "Kill The Lights"

Uh Huh Her (electropop) - Common Reaction
Hits: "Dreamer", "Away From Here", "Explode"

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