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Best albums of 2008

Kings of Leon, Only By The Night

Compiled by Jack Foley

THE time has come for the annual round-up of the year’s best albums – but while there are plenty to choose from (such as new releases from Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Oasis), we’ve decided to mix in some of the hidden gems that you may have missed out on buying.

Hence, while the likes of Snow Patrol, The Cure and Mercury Music Prize winners Elbow undoubtedly (and deservedly) get a mention, what of lesser known gems such as Laura Marling, Beth Rowley and Rogue Wave?

Keep an eye out, too, for outstanding albums from the likes of Lykke Li, Martina Topley Bird, MGMT, Nada Surf and Pop Levi. We’ve picked out 30 long-players to lead your life by… they’re not listed in any particular order of preference, though – just all good listens in their own right!

A Fine Frenzy

A Fine Frenzy – One Cell In The Sea

What we said: A Fine Frenzy is 22-year-old Seattle born singer-songwriter Alison Sudol and listeners should expect an album that reflects her early influences – from Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald – coupled with Beth Orton-style piano driven arrangements. In other words, a really good listen!
Best tracks: Come On, Come Out, Almost Lover, Last of Days, You Picked Me

Album review l Buy it

Beth Rowley

Beth Rowley – Little Dreamer

What we said: By turns breezy, melancholy, reflective and inspired, it also embraces a number of styles, from gospel and classic blues to shimmering pop. One of the most positive things about Rowley, however, is that she never goes for the obvious. Rather, she’s content to pay lip service to most of her influences and her album doesn’t feel engineered solely for chart success.
Best tracks: So Sublime, Nobody’s Fault But Mind, I Shall Be Released, Oh My Life, When The Rains Come, Almost Persuaded, Beautiful Tomorrow

Read the review l Buy it


Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends

What we said: Credit, then, to Coldplay and new collaborator Eno for delivering another near-masterpiece. It may take more time than usual to warm to (especially for fans of their early work), but expands their sound in career-enhancing fashion.
Best tracks: Life In Technicolour, Cemeteries of London, Lost!, Lovers In Japan, Violet Hill, Viva La Vida, Strawberry Swing

Album review l Buy it


Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

What we said: Even during the moments that don’t satisfy, The Seldom Seen Kid outperforms most other albums of its type. It is, in short, another masterpiece from Elbow that really ought not to be missed.
Best tracks: One Day Like This, The Fix, Mirrorball, Grounds For Divorce, The Bones Of You, Friend Of Ours

Album review l Buy it


Flobots – Fight With Tools

What we said: Their biggest hit single to date, Handlebars, is arguably one of the best hip-hop tracks of the year. Disarmingly simple, and built around a chorus of “I can ride my bike with no handlebars”, it builds from a lone, acoustic guitar strum into a sophisticated fusion of rap, horn, subtle beats and strings… not to mention one of the catchiest darn choruses of the year.
Best tracks: Handelbars, Rise, We Are Winning, Combat, MaydayIII

Album review l Buy it

Gramercy Arms

Gramercy Arms – Gramercy Arms LP

What we said: Gramercy Arms is a super-group of sorts, featuring members of Joan As Police Woman, Guided By Voices and The Dambuilders, as well as guest vocals from comedian Sarah Silverman, Lloyd Cole and past and present members of Nada Surf. Needless to say, it’s a pretty solid collection of summery indie-rock songs that take the term “sunshine vibe” and run with it.
Best tracks: Automatic, Looking At The Sun, Since Last September, Fakin’, Wander On, I Believe

Album review l Buy it


Guillemots – Red

What we said: Red was written by all four members of the band – Dangerfield, Magrao, Aristazabal Hawkes and Greig Stewart – and co-produced with their long-standing engineer Adam Noble (George Michael, U2 and Paul McCartney). But while in most walks of life Red means stop; we’d urge you to throw caution to the breeze and rush out and buy this album.
Best tracks: Big Dog, Falling Out Of Reach, Words, Clarion

Album review l Buy it

Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon – Only By The Night

What we said: Kings Of Leon are rapidly defining themselves as one of the biggest rock bands of this generation. As bands continue to reappear out of the woodwork long after their heyday has expired, Kings Of Leon just keep on growing.
Best tracks: All of them

Album review l Buy it

Laura Marling

Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim

What we said: Laura Marling is an artist who keeps surprising me, always pleasantly. Each time I think I have the measure of her, she does something different to convince me she’s a very exceptional artist… At a time when everyone is predicting great things for female singers such as Duffy and Beth Rowley, Laura Marling is another name that’s every bit as worthy of being added to the breakthrough acts of the year list.
Best tracks: Ghosts, You’re No God, Cross Your Fingers, Crawled Out Of The Sea, My Manic And I, The Captain And The Hourglass, Shine

Album review l Buy it

Leon Jean Marie

Leon Jean Marie – Bent Out Of Shape

What we said: East London hot prospect Leon Jean Marie has confidently lived up to expectations with his debut album Bent Out Of Shape, a funky wonky pop hybrid that’s capable of appealing to fans of artists as diverse as Beck, Gorillaz, Alphabeat and Prince.
Best tracks: Glow, Bed Of Nails, Bring It On, Bent Out of Shape, Scratch, Jumping Off The Block

Album review l Buy it

Lykke Li

Lykke Li – Youth Novels

What we said: Youth Novels marks the debut album of 22-year-old Swede Lykke Li and it’s a disarming blend of minimalism and sweetness that should help to propel her firmly into the pop limelight… It’s unusual diversity is reflected in the instruments she has assembled to help realise her vision, as there are harpsichords, flutes and theremins throughout the album, all designed to compliment and bring out the best in Lykke Li’s brittle, candy coated vocals.
Best tracks: Dance, Dance, Dance, I’m Good, I’m Gone, Breaking It Up, Let It Fall, Time Flies, Little Bit, Everybody But Me

Album review l Buy it

Martina Topley Bird

Martina Topley Bird – The Blue God

What we said: The Blue God is an LP that intoxicates with moments of shimmering beauty, spreads joy with its effervescent pop beats and which takes all the contradictions of Martina’s past and wraps them up in live instruments and DM production values. We’re talking a little Hollywood chic, some psychedelic pop riffs, ambient interludes and her trademark futuristic pop noir.
Best tracks: Carnies, Something To Say, Razor Tongue, Poison, Da Da Da Da, Baby Blue, Phoenix

Album review l Buy it

Mercury Rev

Mercury Rev – Snowflake Midnight

What we said: By the time you reach A Squirrel And I (Holding On… And Then Letting Go) you’ll be wondering why all albums can’t be this inventive and amazing. Mercury Rev may have had their detractors in the past, but the praise and accolades are certain to roll in on this one. It is, quite simply, mercurial.
Best tracks: Butterfly’s Wing, Senses On Fire, Runaway Raindrop, Faraway From Cars, Snowflake In A Hot World

Album review l Buy it


MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

What we said: Oracular Spectacular is the first major label studio album from Brooklyn based outfit MGMT (aka The Management) and it announces their arrival in some considerable style. Combining elements of epic space rock and Muse-style grandeur (not to mention some of the Scissor Sisters’ flamboyance and The Flaming Lips off-mainstream beauty), the LP whisks you off on a pretty wonderful journey from the start and seldom hits a dud note..
Best tracks: Time To Pretend, Weekend Wars, Electric Feel, Of Moons & Monsters, The Handshake

Album review l Buy it


Mogwai – The Hawk Is Howling

What we said: Mogwai paint pictures in sound. As artists, they truly deserve to be remembered among the greats. Sixth studio album The Hawk Is Howling is another majestic piece of work. A moody, atmospheric, yet achingly beautiful collection of instrumental tracks, the album conveys more without words than a lot of bands can muster in any of their lyrics.
Best tracks: I’m Jim Morisson, I’m Dead, Batcat, Danphe And The Brain, The Sun Smells Too Loud, Thank You Space Expert

Album review l Buy it

Nada Surf

Nada Surf – Lucky

What we said: Nada Surf release their fifth album Lucky and it’s truly a musical blessing for anyone lucky enough to hear it! The record is crammed with songs of restlessness, longing and the elusiveness of love. Yet, in its inimitable way, the band beautifully counterbalances its signature lyrical wistfulness with its singular musical buoyancy..
Best tracks: See These Bones, Beautiful Beat, Here Goes Something, I Like What You Say, Ice On The Wing, The Film Did Not Go Round

Album review l Buy it


Nelson – Revolving Doors

What we said: It’s rare for a band’s first album to deliver a fresh, experimental sound that raises eyebrows and is laced with confidence, but Nelson seem to have done just that with the release of Revolving Doors. The post-rock quartet dive into a fusion of sounds and shapes which form a set of enjoyable and interesting songs.
Best tracks: SeSlow Falling, The (Over) Song, Inside, Seasons, Freakshows

Album review l Buy it


Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul

What we said: Oasis frustrate and impress in equal measure. Their arrogance is no longer matched by the scope of their ambition, but their music remains strangely compulsive. Dig Out Your Soul, their latest long-player, does exactly what you’d expect from an Oasis album… and does it very well… It may not captivate and excite in the same way that Oasis did in their glory days, but it remains a slick, satisfying listen that confidently ticks all the boxes we have come to expect.
Best tracks: Bag It Up, I’m Outta Time, Falling Down, To Be Where There’s Life, The Turning

Album review l Buy it

Plain White T's

Plain White T’s – Big Bad World

What we said: In short, then, Plain White T’s have come up with a really, really, really great album that enchants, inspires and generally makes you feel a little better about the world today. And that’s no mean feat given the times we’re now facing.
Best tracks: Natural Disaster, Serious Mistake, Rainy Day, 1, 2, 3, 4, Sunlight, Someday, Meet Me In California

Album review l Buy it

Pop Levi

Pop Levi – Never Never Love

What we said: The most impressive thing to emerge from Never Never Love, though, is the fact that it barely puts a foot wrong no matter how many times Pop Levi changes pace or style. In that sense, it’s a consistently adventurous attention grabber that solidifies Levi’s position as one of the brightest new acts of the day. Now, let the public finally catch up and take notice…
Best tracks: Never Never Love, Dita Dimone, Semi-Babe, Mai’s Space, You Don’t Gotta Run, Everything & Finally, Love You Straight

Album review l Buy it

Ra Ra Riot

Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line

What we said: Ra Ra Riot’s excellent debut album The Rhumb Line may have been born from tragedy… but it’s very much a triumph; and a life affirming one at that… Lyrically and instrumentally, The Rhumb Line – named after a bar that lay close to Pike’s home in Gloucester, Massachusetts – is a fine example of how positivity and even fulfilment can come from even the darkest, most trying of times. It’s a terrific album.
Best tracks: Ghost Under Rocks, Winter ’05, Dying Is Fine, Can You Tell, Oh, La, Run My Mouth

Album review l Buy it

Rogue Wave

Rogue Wave – Asleep At Heaven’s Gate

What we said: The quality of Asleep At Heaven’s Gate is all the more remarkable given the turbulent events that went into realising it. In the past year, drummer Pat Spurgeon had a kidney transplant, keyboardist Gram Lebron lost his father, frontman Zach Rogue had a daughter, and the band recruited a new bass player in Patrick Abernathy. They also enlisted Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws and John Vanderslice for guest appearances. It all adds up to a cracking listening experience that fills you with hope, whilst leaving a decidedly warm glow. It deserves to be hailed as an instant classic.
Best tracks: Harmonium, Like I Needed, Lake Michigan, Ghost, Fantasies, Cheaper Than Therapy

Album review l Buy it

Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns

What we said: Having established themselves as one of the biggest bands in Britain with their last album Eyes Open (which became the biggest selling album of 2006), Snow Patrol return with A Hundred Million Suns and expectation cranked up to max. Needless to say, they appear to be taking it in their stride. The album builds on the platform established by its seven-times platinum predecessor to deliver the same astute mix of emotionally-rich, stadium-filling rock. Fans will lap it up, even if the sceptics continue to ponder what the fuss is all about.
Best tracks: The Lightning Strike, Set Down Your Glass, Crack The Shutters, Lifeboats, The Golden Floor, If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It

Album review l Buy it

The Cure

The Cure – 4:13 Dream

What we said: It’s been four years in the making but now that the wait is finally over The Cure’s 13th studio album turns out to be the stuff of dreams rather than nightmares. It’s a glorious reminder of why we’ve come to love them so much rather than a boundary-pushing re-think. Robert Smith’s vocals are as crisp, and dare I say whiney, as ever, while the guitar work continues to be exemplary
Best tracks: The Only One, The Hungry Ghost, The Perfect Boy, The Reasons Why, Underneath The Stars, Siren’s Song

Album review l Buy it

The Killers

The Killers – Day And Age

What we said: Further highlights come from the cheesy pop of The World We Live In, the seven-minute grandeur of Goodnight, Travel Well and the joyful exuberance of the foot-stomping final track A Crippling Blow, which contains one of the most urgent, appealing vibes The Killers have ever produced. It guarantees that you finish listening to this excellent new album on the highest of highs.
Best tracks: Human, Spaceman, Joy Ride, A Dustland Fairytale, This Is Your Life, A Crippling Blow

Album review l Buy it

The Kooks

The Kooks – Konk

What we said: If anything, their brand of catchy songwriting bears comparison to the likeability of bands like The Beatles and The Kinks. And so it is with sophomore album, Konk, that the formula continues to winning effect. Comprised of 13 songs, the new long-player endears itself from the very first listen and just continues to get better. It’s guitar-based indie-pop that’s packed with melody, overloaded with simple but effective choruses and a feel-good vibe that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and leave it there (is it any coincidence that the last line on the LP is “I feel fine”?).
Best tracks: Sway, Love It All, Shine On, One Last Time, Tick of Time, Always Where I Need To Be, Do You Wanna, Mr Maker

Album review l Buy it

The Little Ones

The Little Ones – Morning Tide

What we said: Morning Tide, the debut album from LA sunshine heroes The Little Ones, is a masterful little gem packed with shimmering feel-good hits. If they had a mission statement, it would probably be to write songs that celebrate life, rather than angst and suffering. And that’s an impressive achievement given the difficult history of the band, which saw them dropped by former label Astralwerks just when they seem poised to break big
Best tracks: Morning Tide, Ordinary Song, Boracay, Tangerine Visions, Everybody’s Up To Something, Waltz, Farm Song

Album review l Buy it

The Vines

The Vines – Melodia

What we said: The Vines may not be as “in demand” as they were when their debut album Highly Evolved first dropped and saw everyone comparing them to the likes of The Hives, The White Stripes and The Strokes in terms of world-dominating capability. But they’ve had a lot to deal with since then… and yet continue to be a great band… Melodia, their fourth and newest album, is a triumphant return to form that confidently mixes power with tenderness and plenty more besides.
Best tracks: True As The Night, He’s A Rocker, She Is Gone, Kara Jayne, AS III, Get Out, Braindead, Hey

Album review l Buy it

The Shortwave Set

The Shortwave Set – Replica Sun Machine

What we said: YOU have to hand it to Danger Mouse. The man is prolific. Just weeks after delivering his latest album as part of Gnarls Barkley, and having recently worked with both The Black Keys and Martina Topley Bird to positive effect, he now teams up with psychedelic outfit The Shortwave Set for their sophomore album, Replica Sun Machine. The result looks set to propel The Shortwave Set into the limelight in a major way.
Best tracks: Now Til ’69, No Social, Yesterday To Come, The Downer Song, Yesterday’s To Come, Glitches ‘N’ Bugs

Album review l Buy it


Weezer – Weezer (The Red Album)

What we said: Weezer’s sixth studio album – the third to be called Weezer – plays like a pick ‘n’ mix of their finest moments – and that’s not a bad thing. Ironically, it’s the first to feature all four members contributing songwriting credits and singing lead vocals. But fans anticipating a new sound or a change of direction can rest assured, this is still the sound of the Weezer they know and love.
Best tracks: Troublemaker, Pork And Beans, Heart Songs, The Weight, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), Thought I Knew

Album review l Buy it

  1. missing….
    Jim Noir

    Brian Fleming    Dec 22    #
  2. Oasis… over-rated; Snow Patrol and Coldplay… obvious and hardly classics. What about Keane? Or Kanye? Or Duffy… more to the point!

    Bryan    Dec 23    #
  3. I agree with both comments…

    *Foals- Just do their own thing. *Kanye- Once you start listening to 808s & Heartbreak you have to finish. *Hadouken!-A band that can completely grow on you…give them a listen and even if you don't like…wait a while and give them another shot! *Beyonce - Completely wowed me with her new album. *Cobra Starship - Have a lot of fun with their music… well worth a listen

    I know some of these aren't newly released but i’d suggest checking out *Mystery Jets *Alphabeat *Death Cab For Cutie *Fionn Regan *Get cape. Wear cape. Fly *Santogold *New young pony club *Pendulum *Uffie

    Kellie C    Jan 5    #