Sunday, December 16, 2007

These United States


These United States
Tom Hnatow's Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Shearwater, Rook (Matador)

-This ended up being my favorite record of the year.  So beautiful and devastating – on paper the idea of a combination of Antony-esque vocals and obscure lyrics about the end of the world (and birds) sounds absurd, but the end results are nothing short of haunting.

 

2. Sun Kil Moon, April (Caldo Verde)

-With Mark Kozelek, the devil is always in the details.  And in a long career filled with subtlety, April might be the most subtle of the bunch – which says a lot.  Still, like a dreary, rainy day of the title month, the music has a way of quietly seeping into your consciousness until you're not sure if you're hearing his heart breaking or yours.

 

3. Calexico, Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)

-Shrugging off the misstep of Garden Ruin, Calexico return to doing what they do best – and create yet another cinematic, genre-blending masterpiece.  Despite their top-notch songwriting and impeccable musicianship, Calexico are always one of those bands that somehow slip under the radar, which I find consistently baffling. 

 

4. Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs (Columbia)

-There's not much else that can be said about Bob Dylan.  But what makes this set stand out is the musicians backing him up throughout – their willingness to follow Dylan's every whim makes the songs especially essential and revelatory.  The third disc of this set is worth seeking out just for the third version of Mississippi.

 

5. Beach House, Devotion (Carpark)

-This is the aural equivalent of the abandoned house in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – somehow both ephemeral and eternal, and constantly mysterious.

 

6. The Walkmen, You & Me (Gigantic)

-You & Me could be the hungover older cousin of Beach House's Devotion.  Every song feels like a hazy, shifting memory of the drunken evening before it.  Tempos rarely rise above a crawl and Hamilton Leithauser's weathered rasp calling out "Moonlight, oh moonlight help me sleep/There's too much weight on my mind" feels like a prayer for just one more hour of sleep before dawn.

 

7. Okkervil River, The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

-While not as immediate as The Stage Names, this companion piece doesn't have a weak song in the bunch – and Lost Coastlines, Pop Lie, and Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979 rank among their best.

 

8. The Felice Brothers, The Felice Brothers (Team Love)

-We bought this album on tour and listened to it incessantly.  There are a lot of bands who love Dylan and the Band circa the Basement Tapes.  But so few pull off that sound so casually and seemingly effortlessly that it transcends the mere "Revivalist" tag.

 

9. Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation's Dark (New West)

-Who would have thought that the loss of songwriting partner Jason Isbell would result in this band's strongest record yet?  Brighter than Creation's Dark is yet another dark-as-night but ultimately redemptive set of songs.  Featuring some of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley's strongest material (check out Daddy Needs a Drink and A Ghost to Most, respectively), the addition of  John Neff on pedal steel and Spooner Oldham on keys only broadens their musical palate.

 

10. The Notwist, The Devil, You + Me (Domino)

-Rather than the giant stylistic leaps made between previous records, The Devil, You + Me find the Notwist expanding the niche they discovered on their breakthrough Neon Golden. Despite their pop inclinations, I don't know of any band who arranges noises so beautifully – from burbling synths to glockenspiel to the 21 piece orchestra that accompanies them on some tracks, this is a band who are primarily interested in SOUND.  And vocalist Markus Acher's voice, much like Bernard Sumners of New Order, adds a distinctly human element over the sometimes alienating proceedings around him.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Wow..this is no lie..you are the only ones I've seen yet who picked the SAME top 3 CDs I picked, in the same order. Of course, I'm also a fan of These United States as well, thank to our friends in Jukebox the Ghost. Hope to see you in Charlotte in 2009.