BMOWP’s Top 10 Albums of 2008, kind of

New music, to me, is a foreign concept. Being outside of the music release scene, I rarely grasp onto new music during the year it’s released. Instead, I discover and rediscover music only after I’m unable to forget it. After three singles have washed through the Sirius XMU cycle, or after a book reminds me of its relevance.

Which makes a “top 10 albums of 2008” list a little difficult.

What I’ve done in the past with my end of the year reading lists (coming tomorrow!) is review my year in listening. I dive into the entire catalog, bringing up new favorites, discovering forgotten gems, finally getting around to listening to something I picked up last years. My favorite books of 2008 weren’t actually published in 2008, for the most part, and my favorite music follows that same

Which is to say, in an off-handed way, that years do nothing for me. I understand the value of a top albums of 2008 list, but that’s not how I listen to music; year by year, with a conscious knowledge of when an album came out. Instead, I know of three types of music: music I just got, music I’ve had for a while, and music from a long time ago.

With that said, my top 10 albums of 2008 are all over the place, from all sorts of years, and they prove two things:

1. The nature of shuffling an iPod. It brings back old favorites, and, like my personal tastes, it knows no time frame. One song on shuffle might lead me to finding the entire album, listening to it several times and, without fail, wondering how I had ever forgotten about it.

2. My lag in discovering new music. Regardless of how religiously I read Largehearted Boy or Paste, I am desperately behind on discovering new music. Chances are, if a great album came out in 2007, I’m just finding out about it now. Or, more importantly, just caring about it. (Not always the case, but indeed common.)

The Albums

Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007)
As is the case with a good majority of the albums on this list, Band of Horses forced me into submission after numerous plays on Sirius XMU. Something about the guy’s voice reminds me of Doug Martsch’s dreamy alto stylings, and the reverb sends me back to last year’s awesome Neon Bible. I had always loved “Is There A Ghost,” but it wasn’t until I heard the entire album (twice) at Michelle’s in downtown Sioux Falls that I made it my own.

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
Through research for a book proposal for Continuum’s 33 1/3 book series, I picked up four of the series’s most interesting selections. Before reading each book, I went back and lightened to the album again and – lo and behold – found myself completely re-in-love with both Paul’s Boutique and Doolittle. They’re brilliant albums, and the insight gleaned from the books make both albums even better, creating a nagging longing for a re-do back in 1989: as I was listening to Def Leppard and Poison, this ridiculously great underground (and not so underground) music was being released. I missed out.

Ween – Chocolate and Cheese (1994)
And, in listing the two albums most affected by 33 1/3 research, I’d be remiss in leaving out the actual 33 1/3 research subject – Chocolate and Cheese, Ween’s most sprawling and brilliant album (though, for the record, not my favorite – The Mollusk, thanks.) To say that this research got me back into music would be an understatement. I’ve re-learned more about music writing – and about music itself – over the past two months to qualify for reintroduction into the scene.

(Just kidding. I went to a show the other night and felt more out of place than ever.)

Beck – Guero (2005)
I’ve gone back to Guero a few times, but this time it’s for keeps. Better than Odelay, more fun than Modern Guilt and more accessible than Sea Change. It’s the perfect Beck album because it’s totally awesome.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
Okervill River – The Stand-Ins (2008)
I guess I’m showing my indie rock love by putting these two albums on the list, and one might think I’m doing so in order to claim whatever small piece of relevancy is left in the Best of 2008 market. But I really like both of these albums for their killer songwriting – Bon Iver writes from the insides of an abandoned whale, and Okervill River is as meta as you can get – songwriting about songwriting, I guess.

Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (2008)
Me likey mashups * giggle *

Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
“The Underdog” is song of the year for me – both because I love it and because iTunes refuses to make a Genius play list without it.

They Might Be Giants – Flood/Apollo 18 (1990/1992)
It’s not cheating if I give each album only ½ of a place on the list, right? I went through this nostalgic 1990s alternative kick this past summer, led by the geekitude that is They Might be Giants. They’re irrelevant and silly and not something an adult should listen to, but Sierra loves them and, I guess, so do I.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 30th, 2008