My Twenty Five Favorite Albums of 2008

Ahhh, finally! It feels good to finish up my year-end lists while we’re still in January! I can see I started a little too late again, or maybe I added one too many last minute list ideas, but it’s certainly far more on time than the year before last. Anyhow, there was certainly a plethora of good albums released last year, so many that I could never hope to include them all in this list, but also not a whole lot of great ones (luckily, 2009 seems to be setting itself up for a serious explosion of greatness). I listened to many and inevitably failed to get to many others, but here are my twenty five favorite albums from 2008 (along with a fairly sizable list of honorable mentions). Enjoy and please feel free to post your own lists or accuse me of leaving out your favorite album from last year in the comments section.

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Marnie Stern - This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
25. Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
[Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

M83 - Saturdays=Youth
24. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
[Myspace] [Buy]

Santogold & Diplo - Top Ranking
23. Santogold & Diplo – Top Ranking
[Myspace] [Buy]

Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
22. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna
[Myspace] [Buy]

Lykke Li - Youth Novels
21. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
[Myspace] [Buy]

The War on Drugs - Wagonwheel Blues
20. The War on Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues
[Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

The Mae Shi - HLLLYH
19. The Mae Shi – HLLLYH
[Myspace] [Buy]

Wale - The Mixtape About Nothing
18. Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing
[Myspace] [Free Download] [Original Post]

WAVVES - WAVVES
17. WAVVES – WAVVES
[Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
16. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
[Myspace] [Buy]

White Denim - Exposion
15. White Denim – Exposion
[Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
14. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
[Myspace] [Buy]

Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
13. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
[Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
12. Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
[Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
11. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
[Myspace] [Buy]

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

10. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Wait, don’t stop reading here!! I know, I know… it’s the band that many love, but plenty of others love to hate (some because so many love them). And I can understand that. It’s easy to get caught up in a number of factors, especially those outside of Vampire Weekend‘s actual music, and disregard them as obnoxiously overhyped. I’ve wrestled with my own opinions of this album like someone on a twelve-step program, from initial excitement, to knee-jerk backlash, to gradual reacceptance, finally settling in complete conviction of its value. Yes, it may be very precious and bourgeois, but its with rich instrumentation, undeniable melodies, and genuinely interesting integration of new wave, chamber music, and African guitar-pop, their self-titled debut is also quite good. Maybe not for everybody, but within the rigid landscape of indie pop it’s a surprising achievement.

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Download: Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
Buy: Order Vampire Weekend from Beggars Group USA on CD or vinyl.

El Guincho - Alegranza

9. El Guincho – Alegranza

Technically self-released in 2007, this breakthrough sophomore record from Barcelona’s El Guincho largely spearheaded the momentous surge of tropical sounds of last year with an early, widespread leak and eventual worldwide release in 2008. With its relentless blend of electronics, tropicália, calypso, afrobeat, and psychedelia, Alegranza is primed to push any dance party over the edge for the duration of its entire 40 minutes. However, these party jams still hold up off the dance floor. In your headphones, Pablo Díaz-Reixa’s layered sample work strongly recalls the music of peers Animal Collective, Panda Bear, and The Ruby Suns, all the while obeying its own tribalist gravity with infectious, overlapping rhythms, dense percussion, and transcendent chants. [Original Post]

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Download: El Guincho – Palmitos Park
Buy: Order Alegranza from Beggars Group USA as CD, vinyl, or digital download.

Portishead - Third

8. Portishead – Third

Portishead‘s Third was perhaps the biggest surprise of 2008… not just on account that it even happened, but also because it was a surprisingly awesome record. After an 11 year absence, somehow they’ve returned with material every bit as good as that on their first two releases without really falling back on their past sound. While Beth Gibbons’ vocal work maintains its same allure and grounds Third in her typical hopeless alienation, the familiar trip-hop of Portishead is filtered heavily through lo-fi electronics, percussive industrial, and (most notably) spacey psychedelic rock. “The Rip”, a clear standout even amongst this collection of excellent tracks, is one of the most devastating in their entire discography; Gibbons’ tortured, ethereal voice floats gracefully like mist over a frozen lake, as the fragile guitar melody ultimately transforms into surreal, moody electronics. I don’t want to call it a comeback, but Portishead have certainly returned unexpectedly to fill the void they’d left that no one else seemed able to fill.

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Download: Portishead – The Rip
Buy: Third is available over at Insound on CD or vinyl.

Women - Women

7. Women – Women

One of the many exceptional debuts of 2008, Women‘s self-titled record is a murky swath of hissing ambience, crushing noise, clattering percussion, guitar jangle, and muffled psychedelia. Recorded on “ghettoblasters and old tape machines” by Chad VanGaalen in his basement and crawlspace, the album’s striking production ranges from profoundly spacious to claustrophobic, allowing melodies to soar and walls of static and feedback to suffocate. Women impressively balance these elements, jumping back and forth between, and at times blending, harmony and cacophony before devolving into the record’s dissonant, chaotic finale. Amidst this larger vision, they also managed to write one of the best songs of the year. “Black Rice” is at once catchy and off-kilter, leaving you feeling like this psych-pop gem was ripped from some slightly warped vinyl. Vocal melodies drone and bend as guitar riffs churn over driving glockenspiel, the song swelling and dissolving, barely allowing itself to resolve at its close.

It got a fair amount of attention, but I still feel like Women was underrated. If you haven’t heard it, make sure you check it out as soon as possible. I can’t seem to get enough it. [Original Post]

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Download: Women – Black Rice
Buy: Women is available from Flemish Eye (Canada) or Jagaguwar (U.S.).

The Very Best - The Very Best Mixtape

6. The Very Best – The Very Best Mixtape

Many aspects of the ongoing globalization of our world are ripe for criticism, but there’s no question that our increasing interconnectedness has distinct cultural benefits as well. The music of the world, both that of legends less-known in the West and currently rising stars, is rapidly becoming available with just a few clicks of a mouse, raising visibility and genuine interest in America and elsewhere. It’s difficult to imagine another world in which Esau Mwamwaya could relocate from Malawi to London, open a used furniture store, by chance hook up with U.K. producers/DJs Radioclit, and then take the world by storm with a pre-album mixtape (sung mostly in his native Chichewa) that pulls from Afropop, baile funk, dancehall, Western pop and indie music, electro, and hip-hop. Whether putting his own often more-compelling spin on African-influenced indie favorites, reinventing Beatles songs, or taking the listener to uplifting highs on his monumental original tracks, the ridiculously charming Esau has established himself as a refreshing and authentic voice in this new movement of “world music” (which actually lives up to that seemingly broad labeling). The Very Best plan to release an official debut in 2009, but right now it’s hard to believe it could be better than this. I’m looking forward to them proving me wrong. [Original Post] [#2]

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Download: The Very Best – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

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Download: The Very Best – Dinosaur on the Ark (Feat. Ben Brewer)
Buy: Like any self-respecting mixtape, The Very Best’s is available for free over at their myspace.

Deerhunter - Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.

5. Deerhunter – Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.

The most recent effort from Atlanta psych-rockers Deerhunter was, unfortunately, at the center of 2008’s most publicized leak drama. First, Microcastle was posted online in its entirety five months prior to its October release date, which is probably what prompted the band to make it available on iTunes well before the slated physical release. As if that wasn’t enough, frontman Bradford Cox then inadvertently directed readers of the Deerhunter/Atlas Sound blog towards his unprotected MediaShare folder, which contained an unmastered version of the album’s secret bonus disc (Weird Era Cont.) as well as unfinished recordings for the next Atlas Sound album and personal photos. However, no amount of drama could overshadow the sheer excellence of this record. Cox may share some of his vocal duties with guitarist Lockett Pundt this time around, but his hand is still obviously the guiding force of the band. With some of the most rewarding guitar work of the decade, Microcastle is defined by its rich layers of sound and enduring melodies. And even though Deerhunter is still traversing dark thematic territory, this record rises to more pop-friendly heights than previous works. Meanwhile, Weird Era Cont. submerges the listener into the depths of fuzz, most of its hooks buried underneath dense, foggy production. It operates as a perfect compliment to the brighter and smoother Microcastle; both albums could easily stand on their own, but become even stronger together. [Original Post]

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Download: Deerhunter – Nothing Ever Happened (Microcastle)

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Download: Deerhunter – Vox Celeste (Weird Era Cont.)
Buy: Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. is available from Kranky Records.

Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III

4. Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III

After spending his time flooding the mixtape market in 2006 and 2007 with a multitude of releases, including the acclaimed Dedication 2 and Da Drought 3, Lil’ Wayne returned last year with Tha Carter III. His latest creation is nothing short of classic, marked starkly by it’s impressive conceptual breadth as well as Weezy’s incredible performance as an MC. In these sixteen tracks, he’s able to touch on everything we might expect and more, moving from boastful verbal assaults, to shameless club anthems, to Hip-Hop 101 lectures, to meditations on Katrina and it’s aftermath, to quasi-experimental bizarro bangers and beyond, littering his remarkable vocal performances with mind-boggling rhymes and unmatched passion. Even the missteps on Tha Carter III, scarce as they are, are intriguing on at least a couple levels. And I’d like to say that 99% of the rap game can consider this album a lesson in originality, creativity, flow, candor, commentary, and marketability, but because Wayne is such an enigmatic figure it’s difficult to imagine what his peers could really gain from such lessons… other than a realization that they’ll probably never be able to balance this kind of commercial vitality and miles-ahead-of-everyone artistry.

RZA once characterized fellow Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard as “an expression of pure freedom”. With O.D.B. sadly gone well before his time, it seems that in many ways Lil’ Wayne is the heir apparent to his throne. Rumors are already circling around his upcoming releases: supposedly next up is the experimental “new version” of Tha Carter III, or maybe he’ll actually be making a rock record, or maybe it’ll be Tha Carter IV, which Wayne says he “wants everybody to love”. Whatever it is, we can probably assume that it’ll come straight from his ever-baffling core and be the most interesting thing going on at the time of its release.

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Download: Lil’ Wayne – A Milli

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Download: Lil’ Wayne – Let the Beat Build
Buy: You can pick up Tha Carter III over at Amazon.

Rafter - Sex Death Cassette

3. Rafter – Sex Death Cassette

A jarring pastiche of bubbly bedroom-pop blurbs, Rafter‘s Sex Death Cassette is perhaps his most successful and realized work to date. This aptly-titled opus strings together 19 tracks of introspective meanderings, both playful and pensive, like an unpolished mixtape. Ideas fade away almost as quickly as they appear while Rafter spews out candy-coated hooks awash in experimentalist tendencies and 4-track immediacy. Like a kid who can’t sit still, he adopts a number of approaches with wide-eyed wonder, interweaving supremely hushed, minimalist indie pop, lo-fi dance oddities, disjointed noise-jams, and the occasional plaintive, dreamlike dirge. Stream-of-consciousness is a risky undertaking; most of those who harness its strengths ultimately have to deal with its shortcomings as well. But here it all works brilliantly with the aesthetic of the record, giving Sex Death Cassette an affecting intimacy that provides both initial charm and lasting appeal. [Original Post]

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Download: Rafter – Zzzpenchant

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Download: Rafter – Chances

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Download: Rafter – No One Home Ever
Buy: Order Sex Death Cassette over at the Asthmatic Kitty website.

WHY? - Alopecia

2. WHY? – Alopecia

It’s pretty easy to get the sense that most listeners stand on either side of the fence with this band, perhaps with a smaller, confused middle ground all scratching their heads wondering if this is indie rock or hip-hop. Well, WHY? are back again to prove that they’re capable of capturing something from both genres, all the while becoming increasingly difficult to categorize. Like 2005’s Elephant Eyelash, it took me a few listens to really be sure of how I felt about Alopecia, but after it all sinks in this album reveals itself as another masterpiece of bleak absurdist-pop. Yoni Wolf’s dark, spoke-sung poetry swirls around cascading piano, catchy guitar riffs, droning synth, and an arsenal of intricate percussion. Beyond it’s genre-bending, the record seems to be engaged in a constant balancing act, whether between laughable hyperbole and painful honesty or the bright and humorous and the morbidly depressing. The results are like a walk through Yoni’s subconscious, at one moment worthy of a chuckle or beaming grin, the next of a shudder or legitimate concern, all framed within some of the most interesting and original indie pop being recorded right now. Let’s hope making records remains his therapy of choice for at least a little while longer. [Original Post]

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Download: WHY? – Fatalist Palmistry
Buy: Alopecia is available from Anticon Records on CD or vinyl.

No Age - Nouns

1. No Age – Nouns

In 2008, lo-fi was king. Like one concerted assault against a mass of worthless, overproduced pop music, they attacked in many forms: from fractured bedroom recordings, to sugary, fuzz-laden noise pop, to grating experimental punk anthems. Somewhere in between these styles sits No Age, an integral force in the thriving noise rock scene centered at Los Angeles’ D.I.Y. venue/artist’s center The Smell. On Nouns, their first proper album and excellent follow-up to 2007’s 7-inch collection Weirdo Rippers, Randy Randall and Dean Spunt display their deft ear for melody and push a simple guitar/drums line-up to its limits. Whether smothering their saccharine power chords with blankets of feedback and a forceful racket of drums and cymbals or constructing passages of tranquil, crescendoing ambience, No Age is clearly thinking bigger than their aesthetic might suggest. These aren’t just fantastic lo-fi punk songs, they’re dense soundscapes of noisy euphoria. [Original Post]

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Download: No Age – Eraser

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Download: No Age – Teen Creeps
Buy: Nouns is available in CD, vinyl and digital formats over at Sub Pop.

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Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):

Abe Vigoda – Skeleton [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) [Myspace] [Buy]
Flying Lotus – Los Angeles [Myspace] [Buy]
Girl Talk – Feed the Animals [Myspace] [Buy]
Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill [Myspace] [Buy]
High Places – 03/07-09/07 [Myspace] [Buy]
Paavoharju – Laulu Laakson Kukista [Myspace] [Buy]
Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
The Ruby Suns – Sea Lion [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
Subtle – ExitingARM [Myspace] [Buy]
Chad VanGaalen – Soft Airplane [Myspace] [Buy]
Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls [Myspace] [Buy]
Zazen Boys – Zazen Boys 4 [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]

Animal Collective Holdover

Animal Collective

While I put the finishing touches on my list of favorite albums from 2008 (look for that soon), I’m going to take a brief step into the world of 2009 which I may as well just deem the year of Animal Collective here and now. As we near the official release date for the monumental Merriweather Post Pavilion in all non-vinyl formats, we’ve been hit with a flood of even more music from the A.C. camp. First up, the much-discussed remix of Ratatat’s “Mirando”, which was spun during the band’s DJ sets at the U.K. listening parties for MPP, has finally surfaced. These ten minutes of hypnotic minimalist-techno were supposedly put together by on-hiatus member Deakin and will serve as a B-side for the upcoming “Mirando” 12-inch.

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Download: RATATAT – Mirando (Animal Collective Remix)
Buy: Available for pre-order over at the Beggars Group USA.

Also, Rough Trade Shops over in the U.K. is offering a free mix CD compiled by the members of Animal Collective, which includes tracks from Erykah Badu, Grouper, Justin Heathcliff (AKA Osamu Kitajima), Kode 9, plus four others, as a bonus disc when you order Merriweather Post Pavilion. Completists and music obsessives will definitely want to check out this extremely limited offer. But, even if you don’t want the bonus disc, MPP goes beyond essential listening for 2009… pick it up anyway you can. If you haven’t heard it yet, the album is streaming in its entirety over at Rhapsody for the moment and will be doing the same on NPR later in the week. (via GvB)

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Download: Animal Collective – My Girls

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Download: Justin Heathcliff – Life
Buy: You can order the album and bonus disc from Rough Trade Shops. Or, if you don’t feel like throwing down $10.99 in GBP, you can pre-order the CD from Domino Records (sans bonus disc).

And of course, they wouldn’t be Animal Collective if they weren’t already hitting us with new music before their album was officially released. Yep, they played a new track (for now dubbed “Blue Sky”) at their show in London on January 12th. Sounds pretty transcendent even from this meager recording. But, perhaps even more ridiculous, is that according to this article they plan to finish recording their next project (the more experimental “visual album”) in February. Apparently, it would have been completed already if ice storms in NYC hadn’t knocked out the power in the recording studio back in December! I don’t know how these guys get so much done living in separate cities and touring as often as they do, but they certainly believe in the principle of constant payoff. And we’re all better off because of it. (via Collected Animals)

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Download: Animal Collective – Blue Sky (Live)

My Five Favorite EPs of 2008

Well, the year is over, but I’ve still got a bit of reflection left. Whether they were leftover collections from established favorites or stunning debuts, lush baroque-pop or lo-fi trip-hop, noisy drone or melody-driven math rock, 2008 was littered with a range of excellent EPs. I managed to compile a short list of favorites (and some honorable mentions). Enjoy and feel free to leave your own lists, or perhaps some EPs you think I may have missed or should have been included, in the comments section. Next up… my favorite albums from 2008.

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Final Fantasy - Spectrum, 14th Century

5. Final Fantasy – Spectrum, 14th Century

The stronger of the pair of EPs released by Final Fantasy (solo project of Canada’s resident orchestral-pop genius Owen Pallett) last year, Spectrum, 14th Century is a logical extension of 2006’s He Poos Clouds. Like that record, Spectrum blends reality and fantasy, tackling present-day concerns while detailing an imaginary kingdom with ornate, antiquated language, modern slang, and references relevant only to the video game generation. Simultaneously indebted to chamber music, musical theater, contemporary avant-garde movements, and indie pop, Pallett’s compositions themselves are equally collisional — a kind of post-modern approach to the sounds of the 18th century.

Conceived as collection of so-called “fake field recordings”, Spectrum, 14th Century was recorded outdoors in Quebec with Zach Condon and the other members of Beirut (Pallett was a studio musician for 2007’s The Flying Club Cup), which is fitting since Final Fantasy’s music seems to conjure images of dramatic landscapes and wide open spaces in my mind. And the backing from these fellow Europhiles really fills out the sound of an EP that strongly delivers on its intended goal: whetting one’s appetite for Pallet’s upcoming Heartlands LP.

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Download: Final Fantasy – The Butcher
Buy: Spectrum, 14th Century is available as a digital download ($4.44), on CD ($8), or 10-inch vinyl ($8).

Air France - No Way Down

4. Air France – No Way Down

Air is from Paris, France, but Air France is from Gothenburg, Sweden. Alright, but if the latter were actually from France, they’d certainly fit comfortably in the celebrated tradition of French electronica. Though, come to think of it, with their nostalgic feel, bright melodies, and rich, layered approach, they also recall Australian forerunners Cut Copy and The Avalanches. Fortunately, one really doesn’t need to look beyond Sweden’s borders for the appropriate context in which to place Air France; with the release of No Way Down, they’ve established themselves as an integral part of their home country’s own burgeoning electronic scene.

Their second EP, released on the record label started by acclaimed Gothenburg peers The Tough Alliance, is an unabashedly triumphant dreamscape of soaring strings, rippling piano, walls of synth, vocal samples, handclaps, and stone-cold groove. Standout “Collapsing at Your Doorstep” begins with two statements on loop: “Sorta like a dream? No… better.” Bold, but accurate. This blissful song builds, soars, and (of course) collapses repeatedly, yielding a piece of head-spinning electro-pop that seems to lodge itself inside your mind and demand additional listens.

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Download: Air France – Collapsing at Your Doorstep
Buy: You can get No Way Down as a digital download over at Amazon.

Rafter - Sweaty Magic

3. Rafter – Sweaty Magic

Leave it to Rafter to create an EP that’s a crude construction of noisy, seemingly-disposable dance music and still have it end up in my top three. Touching on a myriad of dance genre cornerstones, Rafter Roberts filters the likes of Prince, Tom Zé, Zapp & Roger, and The Neptunes through his own prism of sugary avant-pop. The results are unsurprisingly hodgepodge. “Juicy” and “Salt” are most reminiscent of the fractured bedroom-pop of his previous album (Sex Death Cassette), albeit with added tinges of vocoder, synth, and the occasional driving beat or funked-out guitar riff. “Magic”, a kind of bizarro, lo-fi club jam, skews trashier, while closer “Heat” is a smooth, loungey track propelled almost entirely by upright bass and ramshackle percussion. And, as he always does, Rafter somehow makes it all work. [Original Post]

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Download: Rafter – Magic

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Download: Rafter – Juicy
Buy: Order Sweaty Magic directly from Asthmatic Kitty.

Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant

2. Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant

Sun Giant was Fleet Foxes‘ first official, harmony-drenched offering, quickly followed by their eponymous LP, and helped spark that serious initial buzz across forums, blogs, and zines alike. As it turns out that buzz carried and grew well into the year’s end, as their releases have topped a number of last year’s album lists, easy making them the most critically-acclaimed new artist in 2008. At once an exaltation and extension of the folk tradition, Fleet Foxes recall My Morning Jacket, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Simon & Garfunkel, bluegrass close-harmony groups, as well medieval minstrel and hymn music. Sun Giant covers both the sparse and the baroque in its compositions, but remains clearly centered on the rich vocal performances by Robin Pecknold and the rest of the band. Outside of Brian Wilson’s finally-realized SMiLE, you’ll have a hard time finding sweeter harmonies anywhere this decade.

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Download: Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
Buy: You can get Sun Giant from Sub Pop Records as a digital download or CD for $5, or you can order the Fleet Foxes self-titled debut as an LP for $14 and get Sun Giant on vinyl along with it (only way to get the EP on vinyl).

Animal Collective - Water Curses

1. Animal Collective – Water Curses

Perhaps one of the most obvious signs of a truly great band is when a collection of studio cuts that didn’t make it onto their last record can go critically toe to toe with other artists’ normal releases. Well, Animal Collective‘s Water Curses not only matches up with the other EPs released last year, but sits at the top spot on my list of favorite EPs from 2008. With three recordings from the Strawberry Jam sessions and one other song, A.C. begin with the excellent title-track and gradually, beautifully devolve into the relative formlessness of “Seal Eyeing”, giving us another offering of unparalleled, ostensibly effortless pop-explorations. And even though I know these guys spend time on their music, flushing out most compositions with live experimentation before committing them to record, somehow their songs feel very cerebral and emotional at once… as though these otherworldly melodies and rhythms have simply come flooding out of the very cores of their being in one dramatic rush. [Original Post]

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Download: Animal Collective – Water Curses
Buy: You can pick up a digital copy of Water Curses from the Domino Records online store for $4, or order the vinyl ($11) or CD ($8) from Insound.

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Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):

The Cool Kids - The Bake Sale

The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale

This much-hyped duo out of Chicago makes their contribution to the minimalist hip-hop movement with their satisfying debut EP. At least half of these tracks were all over the blogosphere months before this release, but surprisingly that fact doesn’t really detract from The Cool Kids‘ first concerted blend of contemporary thinking and retro-sensibility.

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Download: The Cool Kids – Black Mags
Buy: The Bake Sale is available on iTunes or, if you want a physical copy, over at Insound.

Crystal Stilts - Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts – Crystal Stilts

A collection of previous vinyl releases, the Crystal Stilts‘ self-titled EP pulls its bittersweet guitar-jangle from Buddy Holly, The Clean, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and nearly everywhere in between. If you’re into fuzzed-out guitars, haunting pop vocals, 60s/garage-style hooks, standing drummers, and gratuitous amounts of tambourine, then don’t miss out on this.

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Download: Crystal Stilts – Crippled Croon
Buy: You can order Crystal Stilts from the Woodsist mailorder (scroll down).

Flying Lotus - L.A. EP 1x3

Flying Lotus – L.A. EP 1×3

With his sophomore album Los Angeles released to widespread acclaim, 2008 was certainly a breakout year for Flying Lotus. The first in a three-part series of EPs, L.A. EP 1×3 is a great companion piece to that album, taking the listener further down the rabbit hole of FlyLo’s grimy glitch-hop.

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Download: Flying Lotus – My Chippy
Buy: The vinyl was limited to 2000 pressings and has been sold out for a while, but the EP is still available on iTunes.

Maps & Atlases - You and Me and the Mountain

Maps & Atlases – You and Me and the Mountain

Combining varied drum work that embraces woodblock and cowbell, intricate guitar play, and distinct, poppy vocal stylings, Maps & Atlases craft another awesome EP that would probably fit nicely somewhere in the Kinsellaaffiliated band canon. Here’s hoping that 2009 sees them finally release a full-length.

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Download: Maps & Atlases – Artichokes
Buy: You and Me and the Mountain is available at the Sargent House online store.

MRR-ADM - Untitled

MRR-ADM – Untitled

I got turned on to this San Diego duo on a recommendation from Jeannette Deron, a friend who actually appears as a guest on this untitled 10-inch EP to shred some serious wah-wah riffage. With some additional help from Malcom Catto of The Heliocentrics, MRR-ADM (formerly known as MHE) take a Portishead-inspired journey into the realm of spacey, drum-centric funk-hop.

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Download: MRR-ADM – 012 (Feat. Malcom Catto & Jeannette Deron)
Buy: MRR-ADM’s Untitled EP is out of print, so it may be difficult to find… but, hopefully we’ll get some new material this year.

Salem - Yes, I Smoke Crack

Salem – Yes I Smoke Crack

I think Salem was probably best described (over at Turntable Lab) as “Cocteau Twins on a dirty south kick”. Drenched in dark feedback and murky distortion, Yes I Smoke Crack is grounded by relentless beats. Definitely looking forward to more from them in 2009.

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Download: Salem – Redlights
Buy: Yes I Smoke Crack is sold out, but you can pick up their other EP on iTunes.