i will offer some limited justification for my picks after naming each album, so i won't go on too much here in the preamble. But i feel like i should explain some of my decision making processes. Since really getting into good music in the last couple of years, one of the biggest changes i've gone though is to deeply respect the concept of an album. An album shouldn't just be a collection of songs thrown together haphazardly; an album should have an overall theme, a prevailing mood, a focused direction. Like any good story, an album should have a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It should feel like a completed project. In most cases, albums represent what a band/artist has to show for their talent and inspiration for that year. Often though (as for the group that takes the top spot on my list), bands put out multiple albums in a year. In these cases where the artists' muses are set to overdrive, you get to see a maturity and musical transition from a much closer viewpoint.
Most of my picks - the top 4, for example - were fairly easy decisions. The rest of my list however, required much more deliberation. i made this list about six times, and albums 5-10 changed form as much as Texas weather. With time running out, i forced myself to come to a final count. Some really good albums didn't make the cut - even some i was subconsciously rooting for. But i will stick by picks (for at least the next week).
10. Bombadil - A Buzz, A Buzz
4/29/08 ~ Ramseur Records
The guys in Bombadil were some of the first folks to reach out to this new blogger back in April. They thought i might be interested in their music and subsequently sent me a promo copy. What i heard was one of the most youthful and unique albums ever. Eight months later, A Buzz, A Buzz remains just as refreshing as day one; and just as unconventional as the first time i heard that Peruvian flute put to use. Read my original Bombadil post.
Julian of Norwich
9. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
4/14/08 ~ Fat Cat Records
One of the latest additions to this list, The Midnight Organ Fight obviously didn't require much getting used to. This Scottish band has found a perfect indie-rock sound that doesn't come out trite or overdone. Immediately impressive guitar licks provide a background for thoughtful lyrics sung with barefaced emotion. Read my New Digs from November 11th with a feature on FR.
Head Rolls Off
8. Horse Feathers - House With No Home
9/9/08 ~ Kill Rock Stars
Another late applicant for this list (read the same New Digs with a feature on Horse Feathers), House With No Home is a sparse, rustic folk album. The outward simplicity in the songs allows the true musical talents of this trio (sometimes a quintet+) to shine through. Horse Feathers toes the line between Classical and Bluegrass to bring you a sophisticated yet still earthy effort.
Purchase: [Amazon CD /Vinyl][Direct CD /Vinyl][iTunes]
7. The Dedringers - Sweetheart of the Neighborhood
7/10/08 ~ Dedcrow Records
My local pick for this year goes to Austin/Houston's own Dedringers. At first this album didn't seem like a year's best, mainly due to the fact the majority of the songs on Sweetheart had been floating around Sean and Jonny's setlists and Myspace page for the last couple of years. Finally finding a profitable avenue through which to release a full-length disc, The Dedringers grabbed the best of those older songs and combined them with a handful of new tunes (including #6 on my Best Songs List as well as a groovy cover from the side of Townes Van Zandt that is often overlooked). Their strong folk influences are sometimes clouded by other... dirtier, electric ones, but the guys found a perfect balance between the two on Sweetheart of the Neighborhood. If you've been a regular here for a while, you know you could have picked up the album FREE a while back.
6. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Rattlin' Bones
9/16/08 ~ Sugar Hill Records
One of my most anticipated 2008 releases did not disappoint. What was said to be Kasey (and husband) returning to their musical roots was just that. Often stripped down, always well-crafted songs center around themes of Heaven and Hell in this AIRA-winning album. The title track received the #2 spot on my Best Songs List. Check out Nelson's more in-depth review over at A Fifty Cent Lighter... If you don't know about Kasey, check out my Artist Spotlight.