grey marble

December 31, 2008

Favorite music of 2008


David Bryne/Brian Eno, Everything that Happens
I had given up on David Byrne. His past few albums failed to reach me, and it was without much enthusiasm that I press play on his latest collaboration with Eno. Given their previous collaboration, I was shocked by what I heard. Here was a surprisingly easy return to pop form, with lushly produced music backing up Byrne's hopeful cries.

Toumani Diabate, The Mandé Variations
A beautifully recorded album of solo kora, played by a Malian master.

Fleet Foxes, Sun Giant EP
There's a moment in the Coen brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou where the protagonists stumble upon a baptism by a river. As figures approach robed in white, an trio of female voices harmonize a hymn to their coming salvation. This entire EP conjures up the beauty of that scene, with Neil Young standing in the shadows of the trees.

Lonely China Day, Sorrow
An alternative Chinese rock band that plays with electronics, this moody rock album evoked what I would imagine to be the quiet cold of winter weekend mornings spent in the Beijing hutongs.

Max Richter, 24 Postcards in Full Color
As introduced by Richter, these short 24 short compositions were designed as cell phone ring tones. Some are frustratingly short, hinting at the larger pieces they could have become; others seem just about right, completing their ideas in the limited time they're allowed. It's not as successful or as coherent as his other albums, but the pieces suggest sonic balms to the chirps and pop hits that otherwise interrupt our lives.

Santogold, Santogold
Although it was a bit of a misnomer, Santogold was reportedly this year's M.I.A. She was all that and more.

Sigur Ros, Med Sud i Eyrum
The lighter side of Sigur Ros. It's as if the sun came out from behind the clouds and the band decided to take off all their clothes and bask in its warmth (which is exactly what the characters do in the lead-off video).

Suarasama, Fajar di Atas Awan
A beautiful album from a husband and wife team from Indonesia, the music mostly acoustic draws upon influences from around the world, veering between Middle Eastern and Asian rhythms and instrumentation and western folk songs.

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
This was the hip hop album that sustained me before 808s and Heartbreaks. In a weird way it seemed to sum up all the good things about popular hip hop trends right before West's album took a left turn into something else.

Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreaks
Marrying the voice of hip hop past (the 808 drum machine) to the voice of hip hop persent (autotune), West fashions an album that departs from the hip hop sounds and productions he made popular while sythesizing a new sound that's appropriately cold and hollow.

Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle, Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle
A collaboration between French actress Emmanuelle Seigner and the duo Ultra Orange, the album sparkles with pop rock guitars and Seigner's insouciant vocals.


Shafqat Amanat Ali, Shankar Mahadevan, Caralisa, "Mitwa," from the Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna soundtrack
The love song of the film, the song follows the leads as they cavort around New York. It's as much the visuals as the song itself, culminating in dance sequence filmed in the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.

B. B. King, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," from One Kind Favor
At 83, B. B. King still seems to be going strong. This, the lead song on his 24th studio album, begins with a loose free-flowing organic vibe that I wish continued throughout the entire album (not to say the album isn't wonderful). Recorded by T-Bone Burnett with an all-star cast, it brought the blues back into my life.

Crystal Stilts, "Cripple Crown," from the Crystal Stilts EP.
It seems like the list wouldn't be complete with at least one Jesus and the Mary Chain, Phil Spector-type descendent and this is it, with an almost countrified air.

MGMT, "Time to Pretend," from Oracular Spectacular
A summery rock jam that sends up the rock star lifestyle, bouncy and irreverent.

Passion Pit, "I've Got Your Number," from Chunk Of Change
There was a time I worshipped at the electronic altar of Morr Music. This song reminds me of those times. "Have you seen me cry tears like diamonds?"

Shaan, Udit Narayan, Shreya Goshal, Sunidhi Chauhan & Rahul Saxena, "Deewangi Deewangi," from the Om Shanti Om soundtrack
Another song that makes it almost as much for the visuals of the film. A centerpiece of the film, featuring cameos from a number of famous Bollywood stars, the song celebrates the main character's entry into the rarefied world of stardom. The upbeat tune introduces character after character as each does a little dance with each other.

Jordin Sparks, "Tattoo," from Jordin Sparks
I heard this on a plane either to or from California. I hadn't heard of her before, and it was later that I learned she was an American Idol contestant. It was one of those pop songs that enters my psyche and usually departs after a few plays, but for some reason I found myself returning again and again to this in the months to come.

Kanye West, "RoboCop," from 808s and Heartbreaks
Opening with an electronic upheaval that wouldn't be out of place on a Bjork single, the song goes on to introduce strings that wouldn't be out of place on the St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack, all anchored by the bass beats of the 808. It builds to a symphonic climax replete with bells before heading to a chorus filled with mechanical sound effects. It's a surprisingly hopeful bit of music for a song about breaking up, and I couldn't help but put this on repeat play. What can I say? I'm a spoiled little L.A. girl.

Ultra Orange and Emannuelle, "Don't Kiss Me Goodbye," from Ultra Orange and Emannuelle
This song was introduced to me via the soundtrack for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (which also re-introduced me to U2's "Ultraviolet" to glorious effect). Ringing electric guitars, insouciant female vocals, and just enough reverb to be on this side of the Jesus and Mary Chain . . . What's not to love?
Posted by eugene at


Recent Entries