Monday, December 22, 2008

Favorite new music of 2008

Oh for cryin' out loud, I can almost hear you thinking--not another year-end "best of" list!

Well, I can't help myself. We're all prone to a little nostalgia now and then, and in this case I can at least excuse the exercise by noting that it's my way of sharing some awesome tunes with everyone.

Frankly, ever since I was but a wee lass, spinning my mom's old 45's on a little plastic Fisher Price record player, I've been a huge music nerd who wanted nothing more than to share great music with other people. I used to record myself on tape cassettes, pretending to be a radio DJ and playing everything from "My Blue Heaven" by Fats Domino to "Turtle Power" by Partners In Kryme (the K and Y stand for awesome, and also jelly) from the TMNT movie soundtrack. Boss!

Anyway, a friend of mine recently introduced me to the year-end mix tape concept, wherein you compile your favorite songs that came out in the year past and then hand them out as a gift to all of your friends and such. Good idea, I thought! But since I can't hand you said mix tape through the internet (that would probably be illegal or something), I thought I'd at least give you the list and some handy links, so you can choose whether or not to check out some of my recommendations--or just deride me for having no taste. Your pick!

Here we go: Emily's Favorite New Music of 2008!
(in no particular order)

1. "Pluto" by Clare and the Reasons, from the album The Movie (on Frog Stand Records).
I first heard this beautiful band live, when they opened for My Brightest Diamond. Both adorablely sweet and many-layered, their music is infectious and lovingly crafted. This particular song, more-or-less about the cast out planetoid, is a great example of their overall work.

2. "The Romance of Wolves" by Roma di Luna, from the album Casting the Bones (indie).
Thanks to the Just Sayin' Is All blog, I now have this wonderful little band from Minneapolis in my life. With resonant female vocals, and a cross between gypsy and indie country sensibilities, I wouldn't be surprised to see this band taking off in the near future.

3. "Bus Bus" by Amy Ray, from the album Didn't It Feel Kinder (on Daemon Records).
Good ol' Amy Ray. It wasn't enough for her to be one-half of the always popular Indigo Girls, she had to break out the electric guitar for some very fine solo work, too. This is just solid, fun, foot-stomping rock and roll right here.

4. "Lights Out" by Santogold, from the album Santogold (on Downtown/Lizard King Records).
I have NPR to thank for introducing me to Santogold. And I love this album. It goes from super catchy, well thought out indie rock (with definite hints of early 80's new wave like Siouxie and the Banshees) to crazy awesome dub electro without skipping a beat.

5. "People Not Places (ft. Abeer)" by Invincible, from the album Shapeshifters (on Emergence Records).
Who cares if Invincible is a female rapper? She's just damn good. This particular song is a great mix between deft rhymes, lovely guest vocals, and expert production work.

6. "Thou Shalt Always Kill" by dan le sac vs. Scroobius Pip, from the album Angles (on Sunday Best).
Scroobius Pip deserves heaps of credit for coming up with a hilarious and poignant commentary on popular culture, but the unsung hero is definitely dan le sac, who puts together some really fantastic beats and bloops to accompany it with. Thou shalt not question Stephen Fry.

7. "Magic Doors" by Portishead, from the album Three (on Island Records).
Sigh. Oh how I love this group. And it had been quite a long while since their last record. Perfection takes time! On their third release, Portishead manages to maintain their signature sound without rehashing old ground, producing music that is both innovative and comforting. Seriously, if you don't have this record yet, why not?

8. "Harry Potter" by El Guante, from the album El Guante's Haunted Studio Apartment (on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records).
Yeah yeah, so El Guante is something of a friend of mine, but I can honestly say that I really, really like his music. This most recent effort shows a great deal of maturity, both in Guante's vocal stylings and the production work. The Twin Cities agree with him. Plus there's some amazing beat box work by See More Perspective. This particular song, though, gets extra credit for working in Harry Potter references without becoming corny.

9. "Electric Bird" by Sia, from the album Some People Have Real Problems (on Hear Music).
How does such a beautiful, soaring, intense voice come out of such a cute little blonde Englishwoman? I have no idea, but I'm glad it does. Sia has the rare talent of being the producer of finely crafted, epic-seeming music that never takes itself too seriously. And her music videos are always highly entertaining. In this song, though, it's the horn section that takes center stage, and to great effect.

10. "Skinny Bones" by the Ditty Bops, from the album Summer Rains (on the Green Witch Society).
I have a crush on the Ditty Bops. I've been fortunate enough to see them live every time they've swung through Madison, and every time they've put on some of the best stage shows I've ever seen. With elements of swing, jazz, folk, pop, and more, they create incredibly catchy, heartfelt tunes and promote excellent social causes all along the way. And hey! They've been nominated for a Grammy for the jacket design on this album, which they should totally win.

11. "Gobbledigook" by Sigur Rós, from the album Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (on XL Recordings).
Known mostly for creating elaborate and painfully beautiful soundscapes, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sigur Ros's new album branches out a bit into some more up-tempo work--all without losing the core of what makes the music great.

12. "Ojo de Culebra (ft. La Mari)" by Lila Downs, from the album Shake Away (on Manhattan Records).
Lila Downs will own your soul!

13. "Freeway" by Aimee Mann, from the album Smilers (on Superego Records).
Solid. Good. Some people are still stuck on the whole 'Til Tuesday thing, but c'mon, Aimee Mann has put out a ton of far better music since then and those folks really ought to get with the times. Her new record, and this song especially, is just lovely stuff.

14. "Creature Fear" by Bon Iver, from the album For Emma, Forever Ago (on Jagjaguwar).
The new hotness for the latter half of '08, Bon Iver may be one of the rare instances of a next-big-thing actually deserving of the praise. It doesn't hurt that he wrote this album while cloistered away in the woods of northern Wisconsin (woo! woo!).

15. "Apple" by My Brightest Diamond, from the album A Thousand Shark's Teeth (on Asthmatic Kitty Records).
Two words: thumb piano. Plus, MBD's Shara Worden possesses one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices of anyone making pop music today. With deft string arrangements, interesting lyrical stories, and enchanting (yeah, I said it) melodies, this is a fabulous record and a really cool song.

16. "Something In My Mind" by One-Two, from the album The Story of Bob Star (indie)
I stumbled onto this song completely at random and fell in love with it. This is what pop is supposed to be. Plus, the song is part of a larger rock opera. A rock opera! Awesome.

17. "The Horror" by Aporia, from the album Aporia (indie).
Faux-paux! This is totally my band, and that's totally me screaming lines for classic horror flicks. I don't care. I like this song and think it's tons o' fun.

So, this certainly isn't a comprehensive list - it's just new music that I happened to stumble onto and/or know about this year, and liked very much. Feel free to make your own recommendations in the comments section! I love nothing so much as being lead to other fabulous music. And please, if you dig any of these songs, support the artists by buying the records!

(cross-posted at


Cam said...

where is the metal?

Emily said...

Dude, I didn't want to bogart your turf.

But I will say, TURISAS 4EVA!

The Lost Albatross