Man, 2008 was a real beeyotch of a year. I'm glad to see it go. But although it was a tough year for the world, it was a pretty good year for music, at least the music I was listening to. So here are my favorite 15 albums (yes, I still listen to albums) of 2008:
1. The Gutter Twins--Saturnalia
I was already a huge fan of Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan through their previous work apart and together in the Twilight Singers, so I knew this was gonna be good. I wasn't disappointed. A dark, brooding masterpiece featuring two of the greatest rock singers of their generation.
Video: All Misery/Flowers
2. King Khan and the Shrines--The Supreme Genius of...
This compilation of King Khan's European releases showcases the in-your-face garage rock/R&B/soul stylings of this crazy Canadian-born Indian dude now living in Germany. A real kick in the pants, this album will liven up the dullest of shindigs.
Video: Welfare Bread (live)
3. The Hold Steady--Stay Positive
The Hold Steady's fourth album is another solid effort, adding to their Springsteen-meets-Thin Lizzy sound with bigger production and more instrumentation. But at the heart of it all, the band still kicks butt, especially on rockers like the title track, "Constructive Summer" and "Slapped Actress."
Video: Stay Positive
4. Black Mountain--In the Future
These Canucks took stoner rock to new heights with this mix of '70s hard rock and indie attitude. At times very heavy, at other times very trippy, at all times very cool.
Video: Tyrants (live)
Another group of Western Canadians who kept things interesting in '08 with this collection of Stonesy rockers. Ladyhawk has a raw, rootsy sound that rewards after continued listens. My only regret is I never caught them live this year.
Video: I Don't Always Know What You're Saying (live)
6. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks--Real Emotional Trash
The former Pavement frontman delivers his best solo effort yet with a series of full-on rambling jams that feature his sly lyrics and ridiculously good guitar solos and Janet Weiss' powerhouse drumming. This is not Slanted and Enchanted 2, but that's okay.
Video: Baltimore (live)
7. Sloan--Parallel Play
More power pop goodness from Sloan, albeit a tad stripped down from their previous effort, the 30-song opus Never Hear the End of It. As always, all four band members contribute memorable songs, but the prime cuts this time around are Jay Ferguson's '70s AM radio homages "Cheap Champagne" and "Witch's Wand."
Video: Witch's Wand (live)
8. TV On the Radio--Dear Science
While not as powerful as their previous album, Return to Cookie Mountain, TVOTR's latest is still an excellent effort that veers more toward the dance-rock side of the ledger. Without a doubt, one of the best bands of our time.
Video: Dancing Choose (live on Letterman)
9. Dead Meadow--Old Growth
Dead Meadow moves into a mellower stoner rock space on this album, going for more of a mid-70s Neil Young groove instead of Sabbath. Another excellent guitar album, just quieter.
Video: What Needs Must Be
10. Drive-By Truckers--Brighter Than Creation's Dark
A 19-song effort encompassing all of this band's stylistic moods: rockers, bluesy numbers, quieter old-school country. Although Jason Isbell's contributions are missed, this is still a fine and rewarding album.
Video: That Man I Shot (live)
11. The Raconteurs--Consolers of the Lonely
Jack White and Brendan Benson turn this band into more than a side project, as this second effort amps up the energy from the band's debut. Great songs delivered by a bunch of guys who sound like they're having a blast.
Video: Salute Your Solution (live on Jools Holland)
12. The Raveonettes--Lust Lust Lust
A sublime mix of girl-group vocals with distortion that harks back to the Jesus and Mary Chain and one-ups it. Great stuff.
Video: Aly, Walk With Me
13. Eagles of Death Metal--Heart On
Jesse Hughes and boys deliver one of the most fun albums of the year. Just pure, silly sleaze-rock that's guaranteed to make you smile while you rock out.
Video: Heart On (live)
14. Frightened Rabbit--The Midnight Organ Fight
This is a bristling, emotional, intense album from the Scottish indie-pop act. Gets better with each listen.
Video: Head Rolls Off
Yeah, I know this came out in 2007, but I didn't pick it up until after Christmas last year, well after the music bloggers went gaga over it but well before MIA had a huge smash hit with the Clash-sampling "Paper Planes" after the song was used in trailer for the movie Pineapple Express.
Video: Paper Planes
On the bubble: The Kills--Midnight Boom; Fiery Furnaces--Widow City; Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel--Dual Hawks; Destroyer--Trouble in Dreams; Santogold--s/t; Elvis Costello and the Impostors--Momofuku; Julie Ocean--Long Gone and Nearly There; Jay Reatard--Matador Singles '08; Okkervil River--The Stand Ins; The Night Marchers--See You in Magic; The Dirtbombs--We Have You Surrounded; REM--Accelerate; Black Francis--Svn Fngrs; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds--Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!