When I first started my favorite albums of 2008 list, I didn't realize how difficult it would be. How difficult was it? Well, my list of honorable mentions has eight albums on it and there are three EP's I would include if this were not a list of albums. I also did not properly listen to some great 2007 releases until 2008.
Thus, in the spirit of those re-releases record companies love, this is a Deluxe Edition of my favorite albums of 2008 list and is full of extras. As always, this list isn't ranked. Everything is presented in alphabetical order by artist name.
Now, my 10 favorite albums of 2008:
Black Milk – Tronic: I first noticed this producer/rapper from Detroit with an Internet release (see honorable mentions below) that came before this commercially released album. I didn't hear this album until only a month before 2008 ended but it left an impression on me. The production is top-notch, the lyrics pretty strong, and the guest appearances (what few there are) are solid. It's a great hip-hop album that deserves your attention.
Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends: The best way for me to describe this album is audio comfort food. Excellent production, wonderful melodies, and pretty good songwriting lead to a very enjoyable album. From the celebratory atmosphere of “Viva La Vida” to the infectious beat of “Lost!” and the beauty of “Lovers in Japan,” there is a lot to like. While it may be reminiscent of a certain Irish rock band, I'd rather they acknowledge their influences instead of over thinking their music to mush.
Girl Talk – Feed The Animals: It takes a lot of talent and skill to take artists as diverse as The Jackson Five, Lil Wayne, Nirvana, and The Beach Boys (among countless others) and merge them together into a great party album that's part mix and part mash-up. No matter what genre you enjoy most, there is something to like here. You'll never think of your favorite songs the same way after you finish listening to this.
Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple: Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse's follow-up to St. Elsewhere doesn't have an instant crossover hit like “Crazy.” Instead, this album is a richer experience overall. Whether it's the haunting “Who's Gonna Save My Soul,” or the upbeat craziness of “Run,” there is just so much good stuff to be found here. While it's more of a pop album than their last one, it gets better with every listen.
Hot Chip – Made In The Dark: This is an album that I started to like a bit more after I wrote my review. There's a nice mix of great dance tracks (“Ready For The Floor,” “Shake A Fist”) with more delicate, slower songs (“Made In The Dark”). I've been following this group since their first album, Coming On Strong, and it's something to see how much they've grown.
Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak: You know an artist is great when their failures are this good. This ambitious combination of 1980's-esque electropop and hip-hop doesn't entirely work. When it's bad, it's kind of frustrating and silly. However, when it's good, it's really good. Tracks like “Paranoid” and my personal favorite, “Welcome To Heartbreak,” are some of the most interesting music I heard in 2008. I wish more artists were willing to “fail” as beautifully as Kanye did.
N.E.R.D. – Seeing Sounds: This underrated album is one of the more purely enjoyable albums I heard in 2008. The group's hip-hop/rock hybrid sound is played with a bit more here. “Spaz” manages to feature rock guitars, speedy electronic drums, and hip-hop beats without feeling like a disjointed mess. There are times when it's a little ridiculous (“Everybody Nose”) or self-indulgent (“Sooner or Later”) but it's never boring, which is more than I can say for some albums.