Best of 2008 - Scott's picks (Cover Artwork)

Best of 2008

Scott's picks (2008)

staff picks

Scott Heisel is a former news and reviews editor here at, and is the current music editor at Alternative Press. Check back next week for year end lists from the Punknews editorial, and soon after the lists decided by your votes. - ed

We're gonna build something this summe--er, winter.

Hi, and thanks for taking the time to read my year-end countdown. My hope is that any record you haven't yet checked out you might give at least a cursory listen due to my recommendation below, as I truly believe in the following 20 records (and 20 songs).

The Top 20 Albums of 2008

#20. The New Trust - Get Vulnerable
This release snuck out under the radar this past September, and it shows a band in constant metamorphosis -- now a three-piece, singer/bassist Josh Staples is lashing out at everything from shame-filled sex (the title track) to accepting dirty money for your art ("Make Me Deaf") and even at himself for stealing a friend's bass guitar ("Song for Ben Henning"), and the music his band are creating is appropriately brooding, pensive and discordant. A true sleeper release of '08.
#19. Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light
This British trio's U.S. debut is an exercise in youthful exhuberance -- each song sounds like the strings are about to snap and drumsticks are about to break. A killer post-punk disc in the vein of Bloc Party meets Pretty Girls Make Graves.
#18. The Matches - A Band in Hope
Oakland's weirdest band get even weirder on LP3, with mini-musicals ("Darkness Rising"), Modest Mouse-lite ("Wake the Sun"), sarcastic sing-alongs ("Yankee in a Chip Shop") and oh so much more. Their ideas don't always translate well, but the hits on this disc (basically the first six tracks, plus "Yankee") are home runs.
#17. Phantom Planet - Raise the Dead
Fueled by Ramen
Phantom Planet called it a day last month but not before this album cemented their status as a grossly overlooked act when it comes to inventive, catchy pop-rock. The first half of this record is just massive.
#16. Jack's Mannequin - The Glass Passenger
If the Gaslight Anthem wrote slightly slower songs and added a piano player, it would essentially sound like this record. Consider Jack's Mannequin the softer side of Springsteencore.
#15. Family Force 5 - Dance or Die
Transparent Media Group
Mock if you must (trust me, I know how terrible this band's first album was), but Dance or Die, while lyrically hokey, is chock-full of the best dance-punk you haven't heard yet. On this disc, FF5 mix up Bloc Party, the Faint, Death from Above 1979, Marilyn Manson, Self and so much more, and it's a delicious sonic stew.
Jaguar Love
#14. Jaguar Love - Take Me to the Sea
I used to love the Blood Brothers, but Young Machetes was wholly underwhelming to me; you could tell the band were on their way out just by listening to it. Thankfully, co-vocalist Johnny Whitney and guitarist Cody Votolato caught their second wind and delivered a skewered take on pop music with Take Me to the Sea. Download "Jaguar Pirates" immediately.
#13. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Another stellar outing from Ben Gibbard & Co., with a wide variety of songs ranging from dark, slow burners ("I Will Possess Your Heart") to more traditional indie pop fare ("Your New Twin Sized Bed"), all with outstanding lyricism.
#12. Torche - Meanderthal
Hydra Head
I wish all metal were this pop. Shit rules so hard.
Smoking Popes
#11. Smoking Popes - Stay Down
The long-delayed comeback album (this thing sat in record-label purgatory for what seemed like forever) from this Chicago-based mope-punk quartet is easily on par with their '90s output, with some songs ("If You Don't Care," "The Corner") being their best work to date. Josh Caterer, please never break the Popes up again, no matter what Jesus says.
#10. Anthony Green - Avalon
Photo Finish
Screamo's golden boy locks himself in a beach house and makes an indie-folk solo record that's better than almost everything he's previously recorded (minus the first Saosin EP, of course). I do like me some Circa Survive, but if given the choice, I'd pick Anthony Green solo over them any day.
#9. Underoath - Lost in the Sound of Separation
Tooth & Nail / Solid State
One word: Relentless.
#8. Butch Walker - Sycamore Meadows
Power Ballad / Original Signal
This is what I wish Ryan Adams records sounded like. A picture-perfect mixture of Tom Petty and Rhett Miller, with a boatload of autobiographical songs that will make you love this guy.
#7. Bayside - Shudder
I was never a fan of Bayside before; I respected them and what they've gone through in their career, but none of their records ever grabbed me before. Which is even all the more surprising that I was completely blown the fuck away by Shudder -- it's raw, dark, intense pop-punk with a strangely positive lyrical outlook, and I seriously cannot get enough of it.
#6. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
We gotta stay positive.
#5. Norma Jean - The Anti Mother
Solid State
Tech-metal band gets shit their entire career for sounding like Botch, so then they make a more progressive (yet deceptively straightforward) metalcore release with the help of Helmet's Page Hamilton and Deftones' Chino Moreno, and their fanbase turns on them. Go fuckin' fig. At any rate, this album is a huge leap forward for this band, and I for one am excited to see them progress upon it.
#4. Gods Reflex - When It's Down to This
The first local band for me that transcended the "local band" (aka "shitty band") tag, this Rockton, Illinois-based emo-rock band quietly reunited after a half-dozen years away from the scene, put out this phenomenal comeback album, played two or three shows then went straight back into hibernation. Guys, if you're reading this: Stop fucking around. Your songs are great. Let people hear them.
Person L
#3. Person L - Initial
Kenny Vasoli of the Starting Line is dead; long live Kenneth Vasoli of Person L. This record sounds like American Football playing Jawbox songs. Or maybe the Dismembement Plan covering James Brown. Either way, shit is awesome, and their live show is a sight to behold.
#2. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
What's left to write about this record that hasn't already been said (and argued with) on this site over the past six months or so? Either this record clicks for you and you can't live without it (like me), or you're too hung up on the hype to let yourself enjoy the music for what it is: Incredibly quality Americana-punk with fantastic (and dare I say Springsteen-esque) lyricism and quivering vocals. I hope this band takes over the world.
Polar Bear Club
#1. Polar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just Disappear
Red Leader
Technically, this came out in March, but the label was shipping out pre-orders as early as December 2007, and as such, I've had this record for a solid year, maybe even longer -- and it's rarely not been on my car stereo in that time. Like Small Brown Bike covering Third Eye Blind songs, PBC have an innate grasp of melody and dissonance, and how to make them work hand-in-hand without making the listener uncomfortable. "Burned Out in a Jar," "Our Ballads," "The Bug Parade," "Hollow Place," "Convinced I'm Wrong" -- every single song on here is energetic, well-structured and 100 percent unique. The band who made my album of the year are also responsible for one of my most anticipated albums of 2009 -- if anyone in PBC is reading this, email me some demos already; I wanna hear new jams!
My Mixtape, 2008 edition
    Side A
  1. Anthony Green - She Loves Me So
  2. The Loved Ones - The Inquirer
  3. Alkaline Trio - In Vein
  4. Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma
  5. Foals - Cassius
  6. The Night Marchers - Bad Bloods
  7. Gods Reflex - A Chance in a Disaster
  8. Good Luck - How to Live Here
  9. Weezer - Miss Sweeney
  10. The Gaslight Anthem - Say I Won't (Recognize)
    Side B
  1. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
  2. Sigur Rós - Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur
  3. The Streets - Heaven for the Weather
  4. Norma Jean - Self-Employed Chemist
  5. Bayside - The Ghost of St. Valentine
  6. Dillinger Four - Gainesville
  7. LaGrecia - In the Grass
  8. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
  9. The Matches - Yankee in aChip Shop
  10. Polar Bear Club - Convinced I'm Wrong
In Closing

Thanks for reading. I hope your 2008 was good, and that your 2009 will be even better.