Best of 2008: Fense’s Top 33 & 1/3 Albums of the Year

Top Albums of 2008

Written by Fense

The year is over. We have a new president about to take office, a failing economy, and out of control weather. The good news is that last year saw some amazing albums hit and, thanks to the rampant oppression of hard times, next year should prove just as fruitful music-wise. After all, difficult times, depression, etc. can often breed above average achievements in the arts… right?

So here it is, my top 33 and 1/3 albums of the year and the last post of 2008. The 33 is for the top 33 albums (with a few EPs included) of the year, while the 1/3 is an honorable mention 7″ single. We’ll begin with the latter…

UPDATE (12/27/2008): OK, so I blew it. I included two albums from ’07, one of which I know was on the ’07 list. Well, I’ve gone and made the edits, but have kept the comments and writing. In the next few days watch for new numbers 32 and 33.

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Top 1/3. Topps 7″ Single by BOAT on Magic Marker

Topps by BOAT

David Crane of BOAT and I share a few things. First and foremost, in relation to this release, is our early love for baseball cards. D Crane sums this love up perfectly in “Topps”. I guess it’s also fitting to kick off this year’s best of list with a single for a song called “Topps”…

BOAT: Topps [mp3]

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31. Car Alarm by Sea & Cake on Thrill Jockey

Car Alarm by Sea And Cake

I’ve got a few Sea And Cake albums, but none of them gripped me as much as Car Alarm.

Sea And Cake: Car Alarm [mp3]

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30. From The Valley To The Stars by El Perro Del Mar on Memphis Industries

From The Valley To The Stars by El Perro Del Mar

El Perro Del Mar writes simple songs with overly-repetitive lyrics, but that’s what makes her music great. “Glory To The World” is no exception.

El Perro Del Mar: Glory To The World [mp3]

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31. In Our Bedroom After The War by Stars on Arts & Crafts

In Our Bedroom After The War by Stars

Stars always seem to release great music, but it’s music that doesn’t intrigue me right away. It tends to take about a year before the obsession hits. I’m sure this album will be no different — in a few months I’ll be regretting it’s low placement at 31.

Listen to Stars on their MySpace page.

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29. Rotten Apples by Voxhaul Broadcast on Retone Records

Rotten Apples by Voxhaul Broadcast

This is the first of several “surprise” albums on this year’s list. Rotten Apples by Voxhaul Broadcast continually pops up in my playlist. It’s great songs like the title track and “The Backrooms” that give this one a spot.

Voxhaul Broadcast: Rotten Apples [mp3]

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28. Partie Traumatic by Black Kids on Columbia

Partie Traumatic by Black Kids

OK, so Partie Traumatic by Black Kids was initially a great letdown. With the amount of hype generated thanks to Wizards of Ahhhs, that’s really not much of a surprise. Then the new songs started to grow on me.

So yeah, the song below is technically from Wizards of Ahhhs, but a clean, fresh version is on Partie Traumatic.

Black Kids: I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You [mp3]

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27. Escapements by The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra

Escapements by The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra

Just one of many anthemic bands out there, The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra will soon, I’m sure, be a household name. While nowhere near the power that is The Arcade Fire, their music is true and right and very, very good.

The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra: In A Dream [mp3]

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26. Weepy EP by Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

Weepy EP by Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

I guess it’s no surprise Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band has hooked up with Dead Oceans. Weepy is a damn great EP, and MSHVB is a damn great band that shows a monumental amount of promise.

Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band: Dull Reason [mp3]

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25. Falling Off The Lavender Bridge by Lightspeed Champion on Domino

Falling Off The Lavender Bridge by Lightspeed Champion

Falling Off The Lavender Bridge by Lightspeed Champion is a truly brilliant album. Full of British-tinged vocals backed by acoustic guitar and violin, this ex-Test Icicle finally found his true calling.

Listen to Lightspeed Champion on their MySpace page.

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24. The New Year by The New Year on Touch And Go Records

The New Year by The New Year

The New Year‘s self-titled release is filled with catchy pop gems any fan of Bedhead could be proud of.

The New Year: The Company I Can Get [mp3]

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23. In Case We Lose What We Have by Letters on Yoyo Recordings

In Case We Lose What We Have by Letters

Letters are one of many seemingly unheard-of bands on this year’s list. They’re a bit of a local favorite — from Olympia, WA — and their style of folk is both unique and memorable. Definitely a band to keep an eye on!

Letters: Ode To Yr Medicine [mp3]

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22. First Frost by The Lucksmiths on Matinee Recordings

First Frost by The Lucksmiths

First Frost may very well be The Lucksmiths‘ greatest collective work yet. Other albums have had noteworthy tunes, but you’d probably be hard pressed in finding one that holds together as well as this one. A masterpiece!

The Lucksmiths: The National Mitten Registry [mp3]

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21. Fear Of Flying by David Karsten Daniels on Fat Cat

Fear Of Flying by David Karsten Daniels

Yet another surprise in a year full of them. My seven month late review will be published soon, and I just couldn’t resist the power behind David Karsten Daniels‘ music. His style of folk blends various additional genres for something a bit different and totally amazing.

Listen to DKD on his MySpace page.

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20. Huggable Dust by Okay on Absolutely Kosher

Huggable Dust by Okay

Was it coincidence that I spilled my bike in front of three cars on a busy road while listening to Huggable Dust by Okay, or was it something else? After all, I hugged the dust, so to say, but was okay in that I ultimately came away without a scratch. Think Electric President gone folk.

Okay: Beast [mp3]

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19. Who Killed Harry Houdini? by I’m From Barcelona on EMI Sweden

Who Killed Harry Houdini? by I'm From Barcelona

The follow-up to their glorious debut, Who Killed Harry Houdini? holds together better than I’m From Barcelona‘s first and finds the group with a more standardized, accessible sound, but fails to have a true standout like “We’re From Barcelona”. Still, it’s a more than worthy release for the top twenty.

I’m From Barcelona: Music Killed Me [mp3]

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18. The Plum Album by Haakon Ellingsen

The Plum Album by Haakon Ellingsen

Haakon Ellingsen‘s style of pop may hint of classic artists like The Beatles and, perhaps less so, The Beach Boys, but despite tiny similarities his music is quite unique. This is definitely a pop artist to keep an eye on in 2009 and beyond!

Haakon Ellingsen: Sunshine Girl [mp3]

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17. Crystal Antlers EP by Crystal Antlers on Touch And Go Records

Crystal Antlers EP by Crystal Antlers

Crystal Antlers is the one “noise”-ish band to make this year’s 33 and 1/3, though there were several notables — HEALTH, Oneida, Crystal Castles, to name a few. These guys made it thanks to their wild solos and heart-wrenching screams.

Crystal Antlers: A Thousand Eyes [mp3]

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16. Sings Like A Priest / Smaller Constellations by The Sweetheart Parade

Sings Like A Priest by The Sweetheart Parade

The Sweetheart Parade popped up on random shuffles consistently this year and nearly every time I was astonished that it wasn’t fronted by Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. frontman Jason Molina. And each time the surprise faded to the duh factor. TSP’s music has the volume that Molina’s never seemed to achieve, though you always wanted it to.

The Sweetheart Parade: Crooked Crow [mp3]

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15. Second To The Last Frontier by Feral Children on Sarathan Records

Second To The Last Frontier by Feral Children

One part various hints of Modest Mouse and five parts the pent up angst of child locked in cage, Feral Children is a ferocious band that gives a par none live performance that simply must be witnessed to be believed.

Feral Children: Spy/Glass House [mp3]

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14. Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us by Death Vessel on Sub Pop

Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us by Death Vessel

Death Vessel is another surprise. The first few listens are a little strange due to Joel’s somewhat ambiguously gendered vocals. It’s an oddity quickly overcome, and thus elements like the solo in “Penninsula” and the lyrical prowess quickly come to dominate. Death Vessel was the band that launched FensePost 2.0 when we went live this past August.

Death Vessel: Bruno’s Torso [mp3]

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14. The Flying Club Cup by Beirut on Ba Da Bing

The Flying Club Cup by Beirut

It’s not that The Flying Club Cup by Beirut isn’t a great album — it very much so is — it’s just that the originality has dropped slightly since Gulak Orkestar. Still, it comes in at number 14, no small feat there. Beirut will always be a band to watch, listen to, and love.

Beirut: A Sunday Smile [mp3]

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13. If Children by Wye Oak on Merge

If Children by Wye Oak

If Children by Wye Oak is a simple album. After all, how complex can two individuals be when they’re up against groups that have ten times their number, like Dark Meat and I’m From Barcelona. Then again, there’s something complex here that makes Wye Oak pretty damn amazing. It’s easy to see what drew Merge to put out this album.

Wye Oak: Family Glue [mp3]

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12. The Stand Ins by Okkervil River on Jagjaguwar

The Stand Ins by Okkervil River

Part of Okkervil Rivers epic duo of albums (also including The Stage Names), The Stand Ins quickly replaced the group’s past library as their greatest work yet. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they’re ready for the bigtime — move over Colin Meloy and The Decemberists, you’ve got a right competitor in Okkervil River!

Okkervil River: Lost Coastlines [mp3]

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11. Everything Is Alive by Pomegranates on Lujo Records

Everything Is Alive by Pomegranates

I don’t know how I felt about Pomegranates the first time I heard them, but like many of this year’s top albums, they grew on me. And quickly at that. Around the same time as the year’s #3 album, they came to dominate my playlist. And I can’t wait to hear the release they’ve slated for next year…

Pomegranates: Thunder Island [mp3]

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10. In Field & Town by Hayden on Hardwood Records

In Field & Town by Hayden

Folk-pop is an interesting genre, and even within the realm of folk-pop, Hayden is a very interesting and unique artist. I was overwhelmed by his in-store at Easy Street Records this year, and even more so at how In Field & Town left behind the self-destruction of his early work.

Listen to Hayden via his MySpace page.

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9. Hospital Blossom by The Wailing Wall

Hospital Blossom by The Wailing Wall

As I’m wrote this I decided that Hospital Blossom deserved better. I’m listening to it in my headphones. From 14, it then jumped all the way to 9. Not only is The Wailing Wall‘s Jesse Rifkin’s voice very unique, he’s also an expert songwriter. That he surrounds himself with equally amazing songwriters makes a release like Hospital Blossom one of the most amazing folk releases this year.

The Wailing Wall: Hospital Blossom [mp3]

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8. Eight Golden Greats by The Old Believers

Eight Golden Greats by The Old Believers

The Old Believers‘ music draws reference to the most ancient of pop music, back with terms like their album title, Eight Golden Greats, were common. We’re talking the days of Lawrence Welk, or shortly thereafter. Well… maybe not that far back.

The Old Believers: Granny’s Song [mp3]

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7. This Is Ivy League by This Is Ivy League on TwentySeven Records

This Is Ivy League by This Is Ivy League

This Is Ivy League holds a special place in my heart — they were officially the first FensePost Feature artist, way back in 2006 — and their music still rings true. Filled with indie pop hinting of everyone from The Beatles to The Beach Boys to more contemporary artists like Kings Of Convenience, This Is Ivy League is a band to keep an eye on as we hit the 9th anniversary of Y2K.

This Is Ivy League: London Bridges [mp3]

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6. Grand Archives by Grand Archives on Sub Pop

Grand Archives by Grand Archives

Grand Archives‘ debut is probably the oldest album on this list, but even back then I knew it would be a top ten release for the year. For one, Grand Archives have been a favorite since first hearing them — I was such a large fan of Carissa’s Wierd, and the multiple harmonies they added to their pop instantly attracted my heart.

Grand Archives: Torn Blue Foam Couch [mp3]

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5. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes on Sub Pop

Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes seemed to take everyone by surprise this year. Their blend of folk-pop, with an emphasis on old-time folk, combined with perfect four-part harmony vocals gave this group’s debut release national attention. And it’s no surprise, as the album, and the band, are absolutely brilliant.

Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal [mp3]

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4. Soft Airplane by Chad VanGaalen on Sub Pop

Soft Airplane by Chad VanGaalen

Each year there seems to be a single album that astonishes even the list compiler. This year’s surprise is Soft Airplane by Chad VanGaalen. I am continually astonished at just how great an album this is, and I cannot say enough good things about it…

Chad VanGaalen: Willow Tree [mp3]

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3. A Certain Feeling by Bodies Of Water on Secretly Canadian

A Certain Feeling by Bodies Of Water

For a good two to three months, A Certain Feeling by Bodies Of Water literally took over my playlist. I listened to it in my car, at home and at work. I listened to it day and night. One of the most mysterious and delightful releases this year.

Bodies Of Water: Under The Pines [mp3]

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2. Bury The Cynics by The Lovely Sparrows on Abandoned Love Records

Bury The Cynics by The Lovely Sparrows

Bury The Cynics by The Lovely Sparrows was released on September 9, which happens to be my birthday. In my review of the album, I mentioned that it was one that would grow on you. Well, The Lovely Sparrows have grown so much, they’ve reached the number two spot in this year’s Best Of list.

The Lovely Sparrows: Department Of Foreseeable Outcomes [mp3]

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1. Na Na Ni by Fredrik on Jezebel Recordings/The Kora Records

Na Na Ni by Fredrik

There is no surprise here, as I’ve been saying that this album would be my number one pick for months. It was apparent when I first reviewed it, and had my prediction been wrong all those months ago, 2008 would have been a pretty amazing year for music. So, here it is, Na Na Ni by Fredrik, my number one of 2008…

Fredrik: Black Fur [mp3]

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