Home > Lists & Favorites > * Favorite Vocal Albums of 2008 *

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2008 *

24th Dec 08 (Wed) Leave a comment Go to comments

Disclaimer section shamelessly plagiarized from Andy Whitman at Paste

Disclaimer #1: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000 albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. But hey, this isn’t math class, and I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2008. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2008. And you might be right.

Disclaimer #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get it out of your system now and be done with it. I am deliberately trying to be obscure. Who the hell has even heard of these people? I am a sell-out who includes ridiculously well-known artists such as Metallica on his list. Who the hell actually believes that Metallica could make a great album after their atrocious efforts post-1996? So go ahead and vent, then read Disclaimer #1 again.

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

As I start this post, I will say that this is the first year (ever) that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs (though after 12/31/07, 2007 instrumental albums have since overtaken 2007 vocal albums in the CD racks).  For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round… and now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Jude ChristodalCuba (indie) :: 2008 marked the first time in 8 years or so where I had the absolute pleasure to see Jude live.  He came through Portland in June, and absolutely blew me away.  This Cuba record didn’t necessarily “blow me away,” but it is full of some gems that for some reason or another never made their way onto a real release.  Call it a “b-sides” record.  Since Jude is totally independent these days, it’s available on CD Baby.  Favorite tracks are the title track and “One of These Days.” http://www.judemusic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/judechristodal
Praxis – Profanation: Preparation for a Coming Darkness (Columbia Japan) :: Bill Laswell’s supergroup with Buckethead & Brain on just about every track with guests spots by Iggy Pop, Mike Patton, Serj Tankian, Killah Priest, Tatsuya Yoshida, Otomo Yoshihide, and more… It’s a veritiable onslaught of sound.  This is definitely on the heavier side of things, with a touch of the avant-garde.  As far as I know, it’s only available in Japan (or cool outlets like the Downtown Music Gallery in NYC). Favorite track is “Larynx” with Mike Patton. http://www.innerhythmic.com/
MetallicaDeath Magnetic (Warner Bros) :: Ever since May of 1996, I never thought I’d really care that much about another Metallica record again. Load, Re-Load, St Anger, and all of the crap in between was utter rubbish. St Anger being the absolute nadir of their recorded work, in my opinion.  Well, somewhere inside I hate to say it, “Death Magnetic is a great record.”  I don’t know if the band (specifically Lars Ulrich) can pull it off live… nor do I plan on spending a brazilian dollars for a nose-bleed seat to find out.  Anyway, it was good to hear the band in good form again (even with their ridiculous lyrics).  Sometimes it’s like it’s a comedy record with shreddin’ guitars behind it.  Favorite track is “Broken, Beat & Scarred.” http://www.metallica.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/metallica
Ty TaborBalance (Molken Music) :: A late release… just got it a few weeks ago.  Ty Tabor is one of my favorite guitarists around.  He’s got the whole “volume swell” thing down to a science, and while he can do some flashy work, he’s more of the subdued genius.  Being in King’s X, he’s one of the founders of the grunge sound (though rarely gets credit).  Anyway, he’s got the chops, but when he puts out a solo album… it’s usually more of a subdued affair.  Well, not this time… it’s definitely more rocking and shows off some of his great guitar work while still maintaining the balance of his usual songwriting.  I could totally skip the opening track (“Money Mouth”), but he recovers from it greatly (IMO).  My favorite track is “Good that Way.” http://www.tytabor.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/tytabor
OpethWatershed (Roadrunner) :: My favorite Swedish death metal band, Opeth, is known for their blistering drums, shredding guitars, cookie monster vocals, and… their softer side?  Eh, since 2006’s Damnation album of slower tunes, they’ve had that option to expand into more genteel tunes.  The two videos from Watershed thus far (“Porcelain Heart” and “Burden”) have (IMO) been a mockery of their sound.  I mean, regardless of Damnation, these videos are totally butchered into ballads that I don’t think are giving a good representation of Opeth’s sound.  Anyway, with that being said, the nearly hour-long 6.5 song album finds great favor to my ears.  My favorite tracks are “Heir Apparent” and the aforementioned “Porcelain Heart.” http://www.opeth.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/opeth
Mike PattonA Perfect Place (Ipecac) :: While Mike Patton has had some silver screen exposure (he “acted” in the indie flick Firecracker and was the voice of the evil animals in Will Smith’s I Am Legend), this was his first time scoring anything (though he’s on the docket to score the feature-length Crank 2).  Released as a double-disc (soundtrack CD and short film on DVD), this was a great way to get a small budget indie short film by Derrick Scocchera out to people who may never have seen it.  It’s got a twist of murder, idiocy, and humor.  Mike Patton’s score suits it well, and it also fits his eclectic back catalog fairly well also.  Favorite tracks are “A Little Poker Tomorrow Night?” and the title track. http://ipecac.com/
King’s XXV (Inside Out) :: King’s X rarely disappoints (2003’s release fit that rare disappointment category).  Anyway, getting beyond the opening track “Pray” (what is it with both King’s X and Ty Tabor leading off with doozies?) it gets into the great rockin’ groove that King’s X is known for.  Doug Pinnick covers most of the lead vocals on this album, but Ty handles a few, and drummer Jerry Gaskill also pulls out his excellent lead vocals this time around on “Julie.”  I also got to see them in August in Cincinnati (my review with pictures), and they were a tight 3-piece unit.  They’ve been making music together for more than 25 years.  I hope they continue for a little bit more.  Favorite tracks are “Move” and “Alright.” http://www.kingsxrocks.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/kingsx
NoctalucaStill the Wicked Rest (indie) :: I bought this thinking it was just some live CDR or something (I don’t pay attention sometimes).  When it showed up, I was all like, “holy cow, they went all out on packaging a live CD.”  Well, my mind was blown when I heard the first bursts from the newly recorded “Monkey Moon,” which didn’t make it on their last stellar album (2006’s Towering the Sum).  Let’s just say that I hope Jason Ludwig and Noctaluca can continue to make great music.  This sophomore studio record doesn’t disappoint at all.  It’s a great mix of grungy hardrock with dreams of Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Alice in Chains with Rage Against the Machine meets Operation:Mindcrime lyrics.  And, yes, I’ll continue calling them one of my favorite local bands.  I still own property in Cincinnati (under duress due to the whole housing bubble elephant dump in Ohio); so they still count as local to me here in Eugene, Oregon. :)  Favorite tracks are “Monkey Moon” and “Hegemaniacal.”  And the vocal work by Jason at the beginning of “Doomed are the Killers Who Hide Behind the Banner of God” totally pwns me. http://www.noctaluca.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/noctaluca
Kaki KingDreaming of Revenge (Velour) :: Venturing more and more into singing… Kaki’s 4th album shows off her songwriting in addition to the reason I found her music – her superb fretwork.  She’s on my list of “why does she keep swinging through town when I can’t go see her” artists.  Anyway, excellent songwriting, excellent guitars… a beautiful record.  Favorite tracks are “Bone Chaos in the Castle,” “Life Being What It Is,” and “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be A Bad Person?.” http://www.kakiking.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/kakiking
Carla Kihlstedt’s 2 Foot YardBorrowed Arms (indie) :: Carla Kihlstedt almost made it on here with another album as well (her collaboration with Matthias Bossi & Dan Rathbun called Ravish and Other Tales for the Stage).  She’s an outspoken violinist from the SF Baby area, who works in the chamber music, avant-garde jazz, and experimental metal scenes with Tin Hat Trio, Book of Knots, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Fred Frith’s Cosa Brava, and many more.  2 Foot Yard is more of her string rock band with Charming Hostess’s Marika Hughes and avant-world guitarist Shahzad Ismaily (who has worked with the Secret Chiefs 3 & Marc Ribot to name a couple).  2 Foot Yard is a supergroup of sorts.  Anyway, their 2nd album, Borrowed Arms, is a tour-du-force… my favorite track “Octopus” grabs you with it’s first lyrical sting of confusion, pizzicatto strings, and reverse-sounding effects on the drums in spots… “I have three hearts and one’s for you.  It’s only big enough for two.” fwoup fwoup fwoup http:/www.2footyard.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/carlakihlstedt -and- http://www.myspace.com/2footyard
Greydon SquareThe CPT Theorem (indie internet release) :: As if being a rapper doesn’t bring you drama enough… Greydon is also an atheist who tends to have beefs with his own group of people (Brian Sapient and the Rational Response Squad).  Anyway, major drama notwithstanding, Greydon put out a great follow-up to 2007’s The Compton Effect.  With content like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and style like Eminem (and some say Germaine Williams aka Canibus, of whom I haven’t heard), Greydon’s music really pops with me.  Favorite tracks are “Cubed” and “Judge Me.”  This album was an internet-only release; so it’s only available on iTunes and other e-music shops. http://myspace.com/greydonsquare
Hotel LightsFirecracker People (Bar/None) :: I loved Ben Folds Five… a lot.  One of my favorite songs of theirs wasn’t one of the quirky tunes, it was the sentimental “Magic” written by their drummer Darren Jessee.  Well, after Ben Folds Five broke up, Darren went on to form Hotel Lights.  He’s traded the skins in for a guitar and the vocal duties.  2006 brought the excellent self-titled debut.  Last year brought a great EP, goodnightgoodmorning.  And this year brought their sophomore record, Firecracker People.  My favorite track is the lead-off “Blue Always Finds Me.” http://www.hotellights.net/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/hotellightsmusic
Ani DiFrancoRed Letter Year (Righteous Babe) :: Ani DiFranco played a few tunes that made it on this record for us in Eugene in April.  It was a fantastic show, but it doesn’t take an accountant with a spreadsheet fetish to tell you that she was bound to release that album 9.38 months after her previous release, Canon.  Oh wait, yeah, it might take an accountant with a spreadsheet fetish to get that detailed.  Anyway, this is yet again a solid product put out by her indie empire build on car tires and chicken wire.  Sometimes her detractors think her albums have too much filler (and she shouldn’t put out so much music).  Well, with every song that doesn’t work like (IMO) “The Atom” (it might work better as a poem), she has gems like “Alla This,” “Present/Infant,” and the horn-driven “Red Letter Year Reprise.”  I think if she had a new album every other month, it’d still be more geniius than what’s hovering at the top of the Billboard charts. http://www.righteousbaberecords.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/anidifranco
Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL) :: With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly… Sigur Rós continue to deliver excellent music in superbly and lovingly crafted packages.  This album might be their most “accessible.”  It took a bit to grow on me, though.  While it doesn’t seem as compelling as their earlier albums, I still dig it a plenty.  I also got the chance to see them in Portland in October (excellent show!).  It baffles me how this group of non-conformist, non-mainstream musicians from a small country like Iceland seem to have taken the indie rock scene by storm since 2001.  I mean how does it happen?  I guess I’m just glad that it did happen.  My favorite tracks are “Gobbledigook” and “Við spilum endalaust.” http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/sigurros
CelldwellerSoundtrack for the Voices in My Head (FiXT) :: OK, this one actually fits my rules for an instrumental album… most of the tracks are instrumental industrial jams that Scott Albert (aka Klayton aka Circle of Dust aka Celldweller) has been kicking around since working on the follow-up to his utterly superb debut (under the Celldweller moniker).  However, one of the lead off tracks and other tracks intertwined in the CD have lyrics.  So, I’m making a judgment call and including it in this list rather than the instrumental list.  The truth is that my instrumental top list is getting jammed up and I needed to flip this one to the vocal list to make room.  I make the list… I can break my own rules.

I’ve been a fan of Scott/Klayton since, oh, 1995?  His music is mezmerizing, full of powerfully rhythmic industrial music with a very heavy dose of pop sensibility.  “Celldweller” is my favorite project of his, though his other musical work (even with magician Criss Angel) rank high in my music collection.  I hope the long-awaited sophomore Celldweller release sees the light of day before 2012.  Oh, this album is available for free in mp3 format (though the CD is cheap and comes with extra bonus tracks).  Favorite track is “Birthright.”  Check out his webpages for more info. http://www.celldweller.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/celldweller

Plover (Glen Phillips / Neilson Hubbard / Garrison Starr)Plover (indie freebie on the internets) :: I’m a big fan of Glen Phillips, whether with Toad the Wet Sprocket, solo, or side projects.  Well, this year saw him release a solo EP (which is grand), tour on his own (of which I saw when he came through Eugene), tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket (which I sadly didn’t see this time), collaborate with nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot, tour again with Jonatha Brooke (which I missed due to work schedules changing), sit on and break a glass coffee table and shred up his arm (he’s recovering nicely, I hear), and put out two solid A++ side-projects.  Plover is the more subdued side-project (compared to RemoteTreeChildren further down the list), but it really fits in well with Glen’s music.  I’d never heard Neilson or Garrison’s music before, but I like what all three artists brought to the table.  Also, it‘s absolutely free (if you want).  You can pay what you want for better quality 320kbps or FLAC (and you should, as it’s also the only way the artists get money).  Favorite tracks are “Wishing You Were Somewhere Instead of Wishing You Were Somewhere Else” and “All Eyes.” http://plovermusic.com/
ExtremeSaudades de Rock (Open E) :: What can I say?  I spent more than words on this band this year… I flew to Cincinnati to see them put on a kick-ass show at Union Center Blvd Bash.  Go here for my review with many pictures of King’s X and Extreme.  While I think there are a couple of snoozers on this record, overall it’s still a very solid record.  I hope Gary, Nuno, Pat and whatever drummer they bring along (sorry KFigg) continue to make great music.  And I hope it’s not another 13 years until their 6th studio album comes out.  Favorite tracks are “Comfortably Dumb” and “Interface” (one of Nuno’s from Dramagods). http://www.extreme-band.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/extreme
Steven WilsonInsurgentes (indie) :: I felt guilty paying for this limited edition release.  The original pressing was only 4,000 copies, complete with in a special coffee-table book photo edition. Well, I felt guilty until I got it and saw how beautiful it it turned out.  Great job Steven!  And the music is pretty damn kick ass as well.  For those familiar with Steven Wilson (and his many bands: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion, IEM, et cetera), this first solo album hit the spot for me compared to the most recent PT & No-Man releases.  It’ll be out in a “normal” version in Feb 2009.  My luck is that Steven will tweak it or add stuff to the Feb 2009 (or later) release(s) and I’ll have to buy it again.  He’s like that… hmph.  Favorite tracks are “Harmony Korine” and “Insurgentes (Mexico).” http://swhq.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/therealstevenwilson
My Brightest DiamondA Thousand Shark’s Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty) :: When this album first came out, I liked it.  But I didn’t think it’d rise to be in the top 2.  I mean, I like it, but I liked her debut (Bring Me the Workhorse) a lot better right out of the gates.  This one was more of a slow burn.  I suppose seeing her play a lot of these tracks live last month also helped solidify the album in my mind as a gem.  Shara is charming, witty, powerful and sublime.  This is a great record, and there has also been a plethora of other MBD activity on the internets (iTunes EPs, remixes, etc) to keep me happy this year.  My only complaint… she needs to get her buddy Sufjan back in the studio and on the road.  Favorite tracks are “Inside a Boy” and the deliciously cute “Apples.” http://mybrightestdiamond.com -and- http://myspace.com/mybrightestdiamond
Remote Tree Children (Glen Phillips / John Askew / others?)Veteran of the Loudness Wars (indie freebie on the internets) :: OK, first off, this may seem totally unfair to the albums that were in my collection for longer… but as of December 9th, I had no idea about the impending pwnage of this record.  Then Glen Phillips posted a blog and dropped it on top of the internets’ head.  Then I downloaded it… and it’s such a slut, it made sweet love to my ear holes.  I think I spun it about 10 times that first day.  Actually, maybe my ears are th sluts.  Never one to not be hyperbolous, I think it’s great and it wins as my favorite vocal album of 2008.  And the kicker?  It’s absolutely free (if you want).  You can pay what you want for better quality 320kbps or FLAC (and you should, as it’s also the only way the artists get money and can continue to make sweet love to ear holes all around the world).  Favorite tracks are “You Will Be Pwned” and “Blood Pressure Rise.” http://remote-tree-children.com/

OK, so 3 of my top 6 are ones you can nab for free (legally).  So… go on… get some great music!

Top 25 instrumental albums coming up later… before year’s end, I promise.

~Dan – np: Goddamn Electric BillTopics for Gossip

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  1. Xulap
    8th Jan 09 (Thu) at 11:33 pm

    Where can I download the Celldweller album for free(legally)? I can’t find it. :(

    By the way, nice list.
    Metallica is my favorite band of all times, gotta love their new album. My second favorite is Trivium, their new album “Shogun” was also great.

    Oh, and… Where’s your instrumental list?!

  1. 28th Dec 10 (Tue) at 6:28 am
  2. 29th Dec 10 (Wed) at 6:11 am
  3. 30th Dec 10 (Thu) at 12:50 pm
  4. 29th Dec 11 (Thu) at 2:34 pm
  5. 29th Dec 11 (Thu) at 7:19 pm

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