Posted by: ericclark | December 16, 2008

My favorite albums of 2008

Frightened Rabbit

1. “The Midnight Organ Fight” by Frightened Rabbit 

Don’t be, um, frightened by Frightened Rabbit’s fey name and blurry album cover. This Scottish foursome put out one of the most brilliantly heartfelt rock albums of the year. Singer Scott Hutchison sounds like a drunken poet as he sings about falling in love, breaking up and doing it all over again, while his band churns out scrappy arena rock with shades of U2.

Hutchison definitely has a way with words, dropping bon mots like “While I’m alive, I make tiny changes to earth” on “Heads Roll Off,” “Poke at my iris, why can’t I cry about this” on “Poke” and “My clothes won’t let me close the door, my trousers seem to love your floor” on “Backwards Walk.” “The Midnight Organ Fight” is a major breakthrough from a band with seemingly unlimited potential. By the way, Frightened Rabbit is scheduled to play at The Maintenance Shop in Ames on Jan. 23.

“The Modern Leper”

2. “The ’59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem

 If Bruce Springsteen had grown up on punk rock, he might sound something like The Gaslight Anthem. This New Jersey group’s songs are drenched in allusions to “the good old days,” a time when boys greased their hair, girls wore long dresses and everybody danced all night by the light of the moon.

While this might seem like an odd thematic goal for a contemporary rock band, The Gaslight Anthem pulls it off, with singer Brian Fallon’s slight Southern accent leading the way. “We could run all night, and dance upon the architecture,” Fallon sings on “Casanova, Baby!” The Gaslight Anthem makes me want to do just that.

“Casanova, Baby”

3. “Re-Arrange Us” by Mates of State

 Husband-and-wife duo Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner keep getting better with every Mates of State album. Hammel drums and sings, Gardner plays piano and sings, and the result on “Re-Arrange Us” is heavenly. Anyone who thinks marriage equals boredom needs to listen to Mates of State.

Domestic issues usually aren’t a hot topic for a pop band, but Mates of State not only tackles these subjects, they make them sound catchy as all get out. “Bought a home, we bartered right/Two kids two cars, delight,” Gardner sings on “My Only Offer.” And all the cool kids sing along.

“My Only Offer”

4. “Heart Burns” by Tom Gabel

Tom Gabel is the frontman for political-punkers Against Me!, and “Heart Burns” is his first solo outing. Gabel quickly is becoming this generation’s Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer rolled into one, here singing about John McCain (“Cowards Sing at Night”), the election (“100 Years of War”) and sacrifices made by soldiers (“Amputations”). 


5. “III” by The Bronx

 Anyone disappointed by Axl Rose’s over-the-top “Chinese Democracy” might want to check out The Bronx. The Los Angeles band’s searing boogie-rock has been getting some comparisons to early Guns N’ Roses (although overall The Bronx’s sound is a bit heavier). “III” finds The Bronx streamlining its hard-rock sound but maintaining its intensity.


6. “Conor Oberst” by Conor Oberst

On “Cassadaga,” Conor Oberst’s 2007 album with his band Bright Eyes, a symphony orchestra appeared on several songs. Here, on Oberst’s solo debut, there’s nothing nearly as pretentious, as Oberst settles down with some solid roots-rock musicians and puts out an album that’s nearly perfect in its simplicity. 

“Souled Out!!!”

7. “Float” by Flogging Molly

 Flogging Molly slowly has become one of the world’s most popular Celtic-rock bands, with fourth album “Float” debuting at No. 4 on Billboard’s album chart in March. Singer Dave King’s displaced Irish brogue is the band’s biggest strength, and his songwriting reaches new heights on this album.

“The Lightning Storm”

8. “Acid Tongue” by Jenny Lewis

 “Acid Tongue” is Jenny Lewis’ third album in three years, counting 2006’s solo “Rabbit Fur Coat” and 2007’s “Under the Blacklight” with main band Rilo Kiley. “Acid Tongue” finds Lewis embracing the famous Laurel Canyon, Calif., sound of the ’60s, updated for the new century with some hints of snark.


9. “Alas I Cannot Swim” by Laura Marling

 U.K. soul singers Duffy and Adele got all the attention this year in the wake of Amy Winehouse, but here’s betting U.K. folk singer Laura Marling will be the name that lasts the longest. Marling’s voice is a treasure, and her beautiful, world-weary songs belie the fact that she’s only 18.


10. “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay

 Coldplay accomplished the nearly impossible with “Viva La Vida” by creating an album adored by both mainstream listeners and snooty music critics. Brian Eno’s production heightens Coldplay’s artistic tendencies, while the band still reaches for the sky on songs like “Viva La Vida” and “Violet Hill.”

“Viva La Vida”

What are your favorite albums of 2008?






  1. Thanks for the great list. I’ll have to check out The Bronx. I love love love that Gaslight Anthem album. A couple of my favorites:

    Portishead, “Third”
    Dead Confederate, “Wrecking Ball”
    Drive-By Truckers, “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark”
    Wolf Parade, “At Mount Zoomer”
    Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, “Cardinology”

  2. Melvins-Nude With Boots
    After taking on a second drummer for their last effort; A Senile Animal, the Melvins seem to have settled inon their new sound. The change has resulted in an entirely new style of songwriting for this band who undoubtedly find relief in that having largely been confined to the sludge metal genre foe most of their 20-year career. It is unfortunate that despite their interweavings with Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, they never garnered enough publicity to atract a larger audience. Fan repellant material like the Prick record show that they don’t mind being out of the spotlight as they understand that theirs is a different kind of music that doesn’t satisfy the radio friendly palate. Go listen to this disc and be amazed at this new product that is redefining the band in their waning years.
    PS- all this other stuff above is garbage, Emo-love songs (yeah right the world needs more songs abou tlove and loss because we don’t have enough of THAT already, throwback themed, “bring-on-the-night” cliche anthem rock, gimmicky happy marriage band,yech! Gabel gets a pass, Bronx?-Cheap Fugazi rip-off wihtout the integrity, Oberst? what can you say that hasnt already been said. The Pope of the Me-music crowd. You know the type “nothing in the world is as important as me and my girl” self-important ego feeding mope-rock YECH! The song featured goes away from that but still isnt very good whats with the “oh cool i can hear them talking and they dont seem to know when the chorus comes up background stuff and that completely unnecesary radio sample thing? thanks but no thanks on that song to nowhere! And if you like to drink Guiness and feel like something youre not then Flogging Molly is for you. so put down that mike ness record andputthis crap on for now. Congratulations! youre irish for a night! try not to talk with an accent after drinking to this stuff all night. Do you love “I’m geting older adult rock with a light country twinge? Well here you go jeny lewis. if i want to hear some fem rock i will go with pj harvey or bjork not this, i’m not ready to become my parents just yet. Laura Marling needs beter songwriters, decent voice but the tempo of the verse is hurried and creates bad tension and then when she starts tripping on the ghost the ghost the ghost i wanted to shoot my computer in the face. NO THANKS! Coldplay-SAFE CORPORATE ARENA-ROCK U2 BLATANT RIP-OFF GABAGE FEST! a gaggle of unoriginal so and so’s. Thanks for reading skot’s little corner of hatred for “SAFE” music. Aside from the Melvins i would recommend picking upanything be Jesu. great band allthe way from Birmingham, Justin Broadrick’s great post-Godflesh project continues to amaze. May the road rise!

  3. oops! i got my wires crossed somehow i said mike ness when i meant shane mcgowan. can’t explain that one away i just had a stupid attack!

  4. Dude, Coldplay? Yikes.

    1. Portishead – Third
    2. Vampire Weekend – self-titled
    3. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
    4. Black Kids – Partie Traumatic
    5. Sigur Ros – Med suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
    6. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
    7. Marnie Stern – This Is It…..
    8. Dodos – Vister
    9. The Kills – Midnight Boom
    10. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line

  5. 1. The Gaslight Anthem- The 59 Sound
    2. Jesse Malin- On Your Sleeve
    3. Tom Gabel- Heart Burns
    4. Jenny Lewis- Acid Tongue
    5. Ryan Adams- Cardnology
    6. Mudcrutch- Mudcrutch
    7. Jesse Malin- Mecury Retrograde

  6. oh I forgot The Hold Steady- Stay Positve

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