Music Box: Best And Worst of 2008

It’s another year for the self-involved, pretentious, wannabe critics to compile their Best & Worst lists across the blogosphere, the tabloids, the social networks, the TV screens and the mirrors.  So, why shouldn’t I partake?  I mean, I’ve been doing it for too many years to recall an exact time frame, but I’m sure longer than many of you were even alive

As it is, my listening experiences in 2008 haven’t been so prodigious as norm.  Usually devouring hundreds per year, I’m lucky if I’ve spelunked dozens; living without an iPod (R.I.P. 2004-2007) severely limited myself to sonic pleasures I’ve yet to behold.  While I’m “old-school” enough to adore the physical CD and all that it entails (reading the liner notes, the lyrics, the credits, etc…), it was more efficient to swallow everything I could while living in the solitude of MP4s swirling inside my head via Apple’s global power sword.  I make my living in the music industry by way of music television, having to view dozens of music videos a week, most of which I can barely stomach.  You’d surmise correctly if you thought that I’d have any CD at my fingertips (for the most part I do – I do love my label contacts!).  But you’d be mistaken if you think I’ve listened to most.

I’m a man with a more mainstream musical mindset than most blogs I read (I mean, have you even heard of half the CDs on Pitchfork’s list?  Didn’t think so…), so, for better or worse, here’re 20 of my favorite CDs of the year (affectionately listed as “la Belle”) followed by 10 abominations (“la Bête”).  They’re in no particular order of importance of love or loathing.  If ya wanted to, you could list any of my favorites in varying degrees of hierarchy.  I guess I could have listed them alphabetically, but I much prefer stream of consciousness…

(Oh, yeah – I’m always up for suggestions, so shoot me an e-mail or a comment to let me know what I’m missing.  I just might review it on my upcoming music review blog!)~

La Belle…

K’NAAN – THE DUSTY FOOT PHILOSOPHER Maybe I’m just an aging ol’ coot, but while I was scratching my head at the heralded Lil’ Wayne, I reveled in this lyrical, fluent, and exuberant Somalian-cum-Canadian poet~

RANDY NEWMAN – HARPS & ANGELS Still a persnickety lil’ curmudgeon.  Oh, yeah, and the legend (and genius) thrives~

GIRL TALK – FEED THE ANIMALS Fucking brilliant~

RAPHAEL SAADIQ – THE WAY I SEE IT You can have Ne-Yo and his multiple Grammy nods.  By spelunking the fragments of the past, Saadiq creates soul for the here and now. And maybe tomorrow~

MAGNETIC FIELDS – DISTORTION Even when Stephen Merritt ain’t singing them, he’s living them – and so are we/am I~

MAVIS STAPLES – LIVE: HOPE AT THE HIDEOUT A live companion piece of sorts to 2007s masterful “We’ll Never Turn Back”, adding a depth and guttural fortitude that shakes you to the core~

CONOR OBERST – CONOR OBERST Finally deserving the ‘New Dylan’ moniker hipsters have been pinning on him for more than a decade.  Not that there was anything wrong with that~

PRETENDERS – BREAK UP THE CONCRETE As imperfectly perfect as their canon suggests, this time with a hillbilly slant~

SHELBY LYNNE – JUST A LITTLE LOVIN’ Magnificent Dusty tribute by the most criminally underrated and unappreciated vocalist of the past 20 years~

AMADOU & MARIAM – WELCOME TO MALI Thrilling follow-up to their wonderful “Dimanche a Bamako”~ as import only, for now, but own it when it arrives domestically in March 2009~

TV ON THE RADIO – DEAR SCIENCE One-upping “…Cookie Mountain” in songcraft and sonics?  That’s gotta be a miracle~

DUFFY – ROCKFERRY Dusty Springfield? Give me a break. She’s Lulu by fiat, and that’s the next best thing~

DRIVE BY TRUCKERS – BRIGHTER THAN CREATION’S DARK Overkill might not be their usual métier (“Southern Rock Opera” notwithstanding) but who cares?  These 19-tracks prove to be their most melodious and fluid~

AL GREEN – LAY IT DOWN The sexiest mothereffin’ voice of all time’s still inspiring (and perspiring and panting and loving) at 62, this time sans Jesus (woot!), with loving support from John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae and Anthony Hamilton (Green’s closest heir apparent).  And praise be to whatever for stealing the Dap Kings’ horns back from the evil clutches of Amy Winehouse~

ARTHUR RUSSELL – LOVE IS OVERTAKING ME Taken by AIDS in 1992, this is a lovingly harvested gift from Audika, chronicling his early 70s Country/Pop/Folk tone poems right up until near-death~

VAMPIRE WEEKEND – VAMPIRE WEEKEND Actual truth in hype. Go figure~

SANTOGOLD – SANTOGOLD Usually avoiding the hipster-blog syndicate, I was struck by the songcraft over the visual (and the voice)~

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM – GIFT OF SCREWS Replacing the acoustic splendour of “Under The Skin” for his avant garde innateness.  And still one of the greatest guitarists.  Ever.

KINGS OF LEON – ONLY BY THE LIGHT Sure we knew the Kings of Leon had a great sound. But who would’ve though that Caleb Fallowill would morph into a great singer?

BLITZEN TRAPPER – FURR And The Band played on~


…et La Bete

LEONA LEWIS – SPIRIT A voice so emotionless and sterile she makes Sade sound like the Queen Of Soul, it will be an injustice if Lewis’ rise were anything more than a laconic lapse of the public’s judgment~

BON IVER – FOR EMMA, FOREVER AGO Justin Vernon whines mumbles whines. Shut the fuck up, bitch!

T-PAIN – THR33 RINGZ Minstrelsy is alive and well.  And as my friend Jim so eloquently intoned, innately irrelevant~

JANET JACKSON – DISCIPLINE As sexy as skid marks on an ivory velvet rope~

FLO RIDA – MAIL ON SUNDAY Section 8 Hip Hop for white boys who love dem some ring tones~

DAVID COOK – DAVID COOK Endearingly refreshing in an Idol realm, sure, but diluted Daughtry (which is diluted Nickelback, which is execrated grunge)?  I demand an Idol recount~

SCARLETT JOHANSSON – ANYWHERE I LAY MY HEAD Mrs. Ryan Reynolds. Quasi actress. Earwig.


 plies PLIES – DEFINITION OF REAL Rarely has the moniker ‘goon’ been so clearly defined, which we’d let pass if there were an iota of talent, which there isn’t ~

DANITY KANE – WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE Ring! Ring! Hello? Is this Ashton Kutcher?  What?  You DIDN’T? It was DIDDY?!?!

DAY 26 – DAY 26 Danity Kane wasn’t enough. Pimp Diddy punk’d us again.

Happy 2009!!!!! (I hope…)


  1. Wow. That was refreshing. And informative. I hadn’t heard anything from Raphael Saadiq in years. Good to know he still has it. And it’s nice to know we both love Shelby Lynne. I disagree about Duffy, though. She definitely takes me back to Dusty Springfield. Arthur Russell did country/pop? Is this the same Arthur Russell of Dinosaur and Loose Joints? And thanks for the best of. Now I can backtrack and pick up some good stuff.

    • Hey luv – so much I haven’t listened to yet, and that includes Kanye’s CD! So many people have e-mailed me about so many CDs I need to hear. Who knows, maybe I’ll post a Post-New Year Best of 2008 List!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s