Punknews.org
Best of 2008 - Anchors' picks (Cover Artwork)

Best of 2008

Best of 2008: Anchors' picksAnchors' picks (2008)
staff picks

Reviewer Rating: 5


Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

.gh-artwork { background: url('/images/icons/albumborder.gif'); padding: 5px; float: left; margin-right: 0px; border: none} .gh-name { font-variant: small-caps; border-bottom: 1px solid #C5C5C5; width: 400px; padding: 1em 0 0em 7em; } .gh-label { font-variant: small-caps; padding-left: 7e.


Jordan Rogowski is a staff reviewer here at Punknews.org. Check back next week for year end lists from the Punknews editorial, and soon after the lists decided by your votes. - ed

Intro

This year was?well, interesting. I graduated from college in May, and it took me about a week of the "real world" to make me regret not putting myself on the seven-year plan.

Regardless, I have a job that I love as a sports writer for a local newspaper, and I'm excited to see where that takes me. It's also the reason my reviews here this year have been less than frequent (hey, sounds like last year), but hopefully as I strike a good balance between the working world and free time, I'll be able to write as much as I'd like.

Musically, this year was one of the most interesting I can remember. While incredible albums filled the indie, hip-hop, pop, electronic and post-rock realms, such albums were much harder to come by in punk and hardcore. Heavyweights like Verse and Have Heart turned in ultimately forgettable efforts, and I'd be lying if I said I heard more than a handful of debut punk records that warranted so much as a second spin. Chalk it up to the cycle of music or me simply not hearing the "right" albums, but the fact remains it's been an unfortunate down year.

Now, this is where I normally try to be clever or talk about Buffalo sports teams, but since the Bills ripped my heart out and stepped on it this year and the Sabres are maddeningly inconsistent, I'm going to get this show on the road to I can start drinking beer and playing video games.

Maybe I'll even wrap a present or two.

Top 20 Albums

#20. Anberlin - New Surrender
Universal Republic
Stephen Christian has one of the most powerful voices in pop-rock, and the music he and his bandmates have created is more mature and more layered by the album. Anberlin just have that uncanny knack for writing terrific songs with the utmost ability in staying power.
#19. Akon - Freedom
Universal Motown
This may be the most fun album of the entire year. The Senegalese singer has matured in both voice and songwriting, and the undeniably positive spirit of these songs is nothing if not refreshing. "Keep You Much Longer" is a serious song-of-the-year contender.
#18. Papermoons - New Tales
Team Science
After releasing a demo and a 7", Papermoons dropped their delightful full-length this year and it couldn't have been better. A decidedly earnest affair, the album hits all the right notes.
Shai Hulud
#17. Shai Hulud - Misanthropy Pure
Metal Blade
If you look around at how many hardcore bands from 1997 are still around and putting out music, you're not liable to find many. Shai Hulud, though, defy the convention. Not only are they still putting out music (albeit with some new members) but that music is as dynamic and powerful as it ever was. Songs like "Four Earths" don't lie -- this band has never lost a step.
#16. The Gaslight Anthem - The ??59 Sound
SideOneDummy
I was admittedly late on this hype train, but since getting on, I've moved up to the conductor's booth. This album is a brilliant slice of Americana that embodies the spirit of rock 'n' roll. The first three songs on The ??59 Sound are as good a 1-2-3 punch as you're liable to ever hear.
#15. The American Dollar - A Memory Stream
Yesh
It's about time more people became familiar with the best-kept secret in ambient/post-rock music. The American Dollar excel in all facets of songwriting, from sweeping crescendos and fevered bridges to the most basic and delicate sounds. They quite simply do everything right.
#14. Young Widows - Old Wounds
Temporary Residence
Heavy on distortion and light on repetitiveness, Young Widows drive through 11 songs with a brash songwriting style that impresses with each passing moment There's something new to hear with every single listen.
#13. Beach House - Devotion
Carpark
This male/female duo croon through an album chock full of slow-churning rhythms and plaintive instrumentation. Pianos, organs, guitar, drums -- it's all fair game and it's what really gives the album its charm.
Thrice
#12. Thrice - The Alchemy Index: Volumes III & IV: Air & Earth
Vagrant
Naysayers will tell you that Thrice has been in decline since The Illusion of Safety, but I will politely say those people could not possibly have less of a clue what they're talking about. No band is expanding and exploring new territory with the speed and success of Thrice. Heavy? They can do it. Electronic? They can do it. And as these two EPs prove, they can do acoustic and soft rock too. There is no ceiling on this band.
#11. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Sub Pop
It's tough to pin down one singular element that makes Fleet Foxes' album succeed. The folksy album is driven by multi-layered harmonies and larger-than-life-sounding instrumentation, and because of that level of variance each song is unique and each song tells its own story.
The Mountain Goats
#10. The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
4AD
John Darnielle continues to be the most engaging storyteller in all of music. His tales of love and redemption backdrop Heretic Pride, but there is so, so much more.
#9. Elzhi - The Preface
Fatbeats
Elzhi represents the best part of hip-hop; you know that every year, no matter what, at least one new rapper is going to come through and blow you away. Elzhi did just that this year. Rapping on the palate that is Black Milk's production, Elzhi's introspection and clever wordplay is a cut above the rest. The best part? This is only the beginning.
#8. M83 - Saturday Nights = Youth
Mute U.S.
From the first somber piano strokes of "You, Appearing," it's clear that M83's fifth studio album will be a fine addition to its catalog. Nobody else can make electronic music soundingas human and as emotional; the group continues to be a portrait of consistency and Saturday Nights = Youth might be their best brushstroke yet.
Polar Bear Club
#7. Polar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just Disappear
Red Leader
The pressure for Polar Bear Club to put out a good full-length after the terrific The Redder, The Better was immense. Luckily, the Rochester, NY five-piece delivered. Powerful melodies, dynamic guitar work and throaty vocals that drive it all -- that's what you'll find on this album, and you'll find it in spades. One listen to "Hollow Place," and you're liable to never stop.
#6. Jacaszek - Treny
Miasmah
It's almost surreal how something this simple can be this elegant. Simple hums and string arrangements mix on "Rytm to Niesmiertelnosc I" create something so hauntingly beautiful words will defy you. Music's power to put images in the head of a listener is one of its greatest strengths, but until Treny, those images had never been so vivid.
#5. Nas - Untitled
Def Jam
The biggest knock on Nas the past few years is that he's lost his drive. That hunger, that ferocity that made "I Gave You Power" and "Halftime" such grit is back, and Nas' lyricism has never been better. Nas' conviction on "America" is even more spellbinding than the beat on "Hero," and I didn't think that would even be possible. Nasty Nas is back.
#4. Century - Black Ocean
Prosthetic
I've been (not so) patiently waiting for a new Buried Inside record since 2006, and this album has really helped to tide me over. Both unfailingly intense and oddly serene, Century hit the mark right on the head, because the phrases "rage" and "reckless abandon" have never fit an album so well.
#3. Moscow Olympics - Cut the World
Lavender
Shoegaze is not dead just yet. Moscow Olympics have come out of nowhere with an engrossing, textured album that rivals anything I've ever heard from My Bloody Valentine (I said it). There are albums to enjoy and there are albums to take in, and this is one of the latter. Gorgeous, swirling guitar tones and low, muffled vocals set the stage for what is a half-hour trip you won't ever want to end.
City and Colour
#2. City and Colour - Bring Me Your Love
Vagrant
What a voice. Dallas Green has brilliantly parlayed his success in Alexisonfire to a solo career, and this is by far his best work to date. Lyrically, vocally, musically, Green has crafted 12 gorgeous and memorable songs. From the heartbreaking "What Makes a Man?" to the stark look at death of "Body in a Box," there's just so much to love about this record.
#1. GZA - Pro Tools
Babygrande
Hip-hop takes the #1 spot for the second year in a row. While there were an infinite amount of great emcees releasing jaw-dropping mixtapes on the underground, 2008 is a year that saw some of hip-hop's legends re-staking the claim to their throne. Eventually, it was GZA who took the crown and scepter. The Genius' unbelievably smooth delivery has never sounded better, and his metaphors and analogies hit on even deeper levels than I had thought possible. From the bounce of "0% Finance" to the aptly-titled "Cinema" and the venomous "Paper Plate," every single track on this album hits the mark and hit it hard. All hail the Genius.


Honorable Mentions

Rick Ross - Trilla; RZA - Digi Snacks; Able Baker Fox - Voices; the Loved Ones - Build & Burn; Tinder Sticks - The Angry Saw; Cut Copy - In Ghost Colors; Lords - Fuck Ya'll Motherfuckers; Akimbo - Jersey Shores; Cursed - III; Okkervil River - The Stand Ins; Bon Iver - For Emma; Forever Ago; Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III; Fennesz - The Black Sea. 


Biggest Disappointments

#3. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Atlantic
This album isn't bad by any means, but after how solid and well put-together Plans was, I expected more, frankly.
#2. Less Than Jake - GNV FLA
Sleep It Off
I've loved Less Than Jake since middle school, and that's why this is so disappointing. I don't know if these guys had a "hey, we're 30 and in a ska band writing songs about malt liquor and leaving town" mid-life crisis, but this album lacks any sort of punch.
#1. Alkaline Trio - Agony & Irony
Sony
Again, not an album that's so much bad as one that lacks replay value. And this from somebody who staunchly defends Crimson as one of their better records. "Help Me" was a great choice for a single, but for an album with 12 songs, one good choice isn't going to cut it.


Pleasant Surprises

#3. Weezer - The Red Album
Geffen
I don't know if I'm writing this strictly for nostalgia or I actually did enjoy this as much as I tell myself I did, but save the awful single "Pork and Beans," Rivers and Co, found their songwriting niche again. So long as you're not expecting another Blue or Pinkerton, you should enjoy this record.
#2. Anthony Hamilton - The Point of It All
La Face
One of the most soulful and enjoyable voices in all of music only finds himself in this section because I had thought he stopped recording altogether. So, you can imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I heard this a couple weeks ago. Gorgeous record.
#1. Underoath - Lost in the Sound of Separation
Tooth & Nail / Solid State
It's really incredible how much this band has matured while so many of its contemporaries from the early '00s either faded into obscurity by releasing awful albums or didn't release any albums at all. This is a fluid and devastating record with a tactful melodic side -- exactly the kind of balance so many bands strive for and fail to achieve.


Criminally Overrated

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Vagrant
I don't get it. I really don't. People describe this as indie rock meets Springsteen, and I would never, ever, ever insult the Boss with a comparison like that.


Best Album to Listen to While Smoking a Cigar and Drinking a Gin & Tonic

Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
XL
It's Sigur Rós; what else do you need to know?


Top Eight Mixtapes of ??08

#8. Fabolous - There Is No Competition
self-released
Fabolous has long garnered acclaim with his multi-syllabic flow and a bevy of punchlines, and his latest mixtape was no exception. Few rappers possess the ability to rap without sounding like they're trying at all, but Loso is one such emcee.
#7. Wordsmith - The Revolution Begins with a Takeover
self-released
Aptly named, Wordsmith weaves through songs like "That Feel Good Flow" with an assured delivery and compelling rhymes.
#6. Termanology - Politics as Usual
self-released
More than anything, Termanology sounds hungry. After riding the wave of success that came with his 2006 song "Watch How It Go Down" (which appears again on this tape), Termanology has been working with established acts like Sheek Louch and Bun B in hopes of breaking his career wide open. This tape should do just that. Term has a quick flow to begin with, but when he lets loose the raps come so fast it'll make your head spin. Do not, I repeat, do not sleep on Termanology.
#5. Hell Rell - Black Mask, Black Gloves
self-released
The self-proclaimed ??hardest out' won't be winning any awards for his lyricism anytime soon, but he's got a real charisma that commands attention and his raps are endlessly quotable. In a crude sort of way.
#4. Charles Hamilton - Death of the Mixtape Rapper
self-released
Charles Hamilton has a completely unique sound in a genre where that's a rarity. The understated beats he raps over are entrancing, and Hamilton uses that to his advantage in crafting some truly creative rhymes.
#3. Joell Ortiz - Who's Nice?
self-released
Who's Nice? is a mixtape meant to hold people over while he's searching for a label to record and release his next album with, only, this is much more than a holdover. Joell's ferocious delivery is as impressive as ever, and he's improving as a songwriter too. Kool G. Rap joins Ortiz in detailing the dangers of a life revolving around cocaine on "China White," and Ortiz sounds incensed on "50 Shots," a tribute to the late Sean Bell, who was wrongfully gunned down by NYPD officers on his wedding day last year.
#2. Crooked I - The Block Obama
self-released
Crooked I is the West Coast's savior. Far removed from the days of Death Row's dominance, Crooked is the voice of the west and there's no mystery as to why. His wordplay is frequently astonishing and his ability to make any type of beat sound great is a rarity. His freestyle over Kanye West's "Stronger" makes Kanye's own rap sound like something written on a lunch table napkin.
#1. Joe Budden - Halfway House
Amalgam
Hands down, Joe Budden is the best lyricist in hip-hop. I won't say he's the best rapper, he hasn't been around long enough to enter that discussion yet; however, his ability to rap with unparalleled introspection puts him in a class all his own. And it's not just the introspection -- it's the storytelling, the punchlines and the wit with which he raps. He's the gold standard.


Resolution

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, unless I was resolving to drink more or play more video games, but I'm resolving right now to write more for Punknews than last year. Not that that'll be a difficult feat considering I wrote about 20 last year, but it's better than nothing, right? Right. Glad we had this agreement.

Thanks for reading,
Jordan

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Smoking Popes - Destination FailureLagwagon - TrashedShook Ones - Facetious Folly FeatPlanes Mistaken for Stars - MercyMinus The Bear - Menos El OsoSolea - SoleaThe Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in AmericaSex Positions - Sex PositionsEnvy - A Dead Sinking StoryKillswitch Engage - The End of Heartache

Please login or register to post comments.What are the benefits of having a Punknews.org account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on the stories that interest you
  • Rate music and bands and help shape the weekly top ten
  • Let Punknews.org use your ratings to help you find bands and albums you might like
  • Customize features on the site to get the news the way you want.
Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Jelone (December 29, 2008)

Hafta agree with ya on Weezer. How the hell did they become a fun band?

But alas, I must violently disagree with your feelings towards The Hold Steady. Oh, I was like you once. Angered over the Springsteen comparisons. Annoyed by the fan boy and/or girl gleam in people's eyes when they spoke of the band. But after a friend hogtied me and forced me to give the band time, read their lyrics, and, above all else, just ignore the Bruce hype, I found something to love. Maybe you will too.

Or, ya know... not. You could still hate it.

TROOF (December 29, 2008)

Pro Tools is #1 for me as well.

damnitsderek (December 29, 2008)

Nailed it with the Trio album. Not bad, just unmemorable.

mikexdude (December 28, 2008)

Have Heart and Verse aren't forgettable.

*throws x's at you*

14theroad (December 27, 2008)

Your admiration for the Boss amongst the others mentioned quelled my rage toward the rest of your list, which seems more "Spin" ,or even "XXL", than ".Org". Initially I felt "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about" until I read that.

Touché.

Archangel (December 27, 2008)

Agreed on many counts, but Have Heart and Verse put out AMAZING shit this year. Forgettable?!

Anchors (December 27, 2008)

I love Rick Ross and will make no apologies about it. He's not a good lyricist by any means, but I like him for the same reason I like Hell Rell. He's just got a real charisma about him, and he's just fun. It's that simple.

Nas' tape with Green Lantern was great, but I stick by the album being better. The only shitty song is 'You Can't Stop Us Now' and the beats are the best he's had since Stillmatic. And 'Nazi sled' is pretty common slang for a German car, so it fits the theme of the song.

Rastid (December 27, 2008)

ok good, basically no overlap with my list--i must be doing something right. ;-)

chrisafi (December 27, 2008)

I agree totally about Thrice, definitely in my top 20, maybe even 10 for the year.

And I also agree about Hold Steady - not in my top 20.

Agreeing with Anchors...a new experience...

SydBarrett420 (December 27, 2008)

Anchors, I thought for sure you would put the sountrack to The Wackness on your list. It has pretty much every decent song from the golden age of hip hop plus Mott The Hooples only killer track.

cyborgfrance (December 27, 2008)

Dude, Rick Ross? Officer Rawse? Really? Aside from his questionable rapping skills, he's a beached whale. Easily the unintentionally funniest dude in hip-hop today. And I disagree with you on Nas - the mixtape with Green Lantern was killer, the best thing he's done since "God's Son". The album was my big disappointment of '08, with moments of insane lyricism against horribly "meh" beats. He just didn't put his all into it - look at "America", which he decimates on everything apart from THE FIRST VERSE. Seriously? "Nazi sled"? And finally, the Clipse are missing from your top ten mixtapes.

Phew, dude. Aside from the disagreements about certain hip-hop releases, good list. I can't stand Fleet Foxes (I just DON'T GET IT) but thank you for pointing out the latest Thrice - that band's recent output has been so goddamn underrated it's ridiculous. "Dadaelus" is one of the best songs of '08. Polar Bear Club, M83, Gaslight - I can roll with that.

ps. You get a lot of flak here but as long as you keep on putting Akon albums in your top 20 (btw, the T-Pain album is better. and funnier) because you genuinely like the album, I'll be co-signing.

eazyd2 (December 27, 2008)

haha akon? fleet foxes? mate you are more of a faggot than i thought. check out some real aussie fuckin hip hop not this fake ass seppo shit http://www.myspace.com/mcpegz

ps: your review lacks cowbell

skolarx (December 27, 2008)

awesome to see Elzhi make one of these lists. along with Guilty Simpson, Black Milk and Invincible it looks like Detroit hip hop is finally moving past eminem and d 12

TeaEssAre (December 27, 2008)

yOuRE Lyk3 s3w 0o0oPen-miNdEd w1Th aLL da HiP-h0p

consider_the_ravens (December 27, 2008)

i agree with your statements about narrow stairs, the alchemy index and agony and irony fully!

bluexmaslights (December 27, 2008)

glad to see the mountain goats made it on

elliot (December 27, 2008)

We've disagreed before, and I disagree with a couple things here, but it's very comforting to know that at least someone else doesn't understand the hype over The Hold Steady. The first time I ever heard of them was having to watch them for an hour at Lollapalooza, and it was one of the most miserable hours of my life. "Fuck that band," I thought. "They'll drop off the face of the earth soon." And then critics are all of a sudden tripping over their own dicks to lavish praise on these guys. Like you, I just....don't....get it.

Wesley_Snipes (December 26, 2008)

Ah hahaha, you lose 10,000 Internets for mentioning City and Colour ! ! ! Better have a look at Greg0rb's picks.

danperrone (December 26, 2008)

"Best Album to Listen to While Smoking a Cigar and Drinking a Gin & Tonic"

...

......

................

Torgo (December 26, 2008)

I have to give my hip-hop album of the year award to Kanye, even though you could argue it's not a hip-hop record. The problem with mainstream rap is that no one takes chances - yes, we've heard that 21 song 79 minute CD with 6 skits before. Kanye went into heavy lyrical territory, copied T Pain's Auto-Tune and made his beats based in electro-pop, killer.

Exclusive Streams

Sponsored


Newest Reviews

Punknews.org Team

Other Places to Go