White soul is not the stuff Amy Winehouse does. That’s not really soul. Nor is Duffy. And Adele is just woeful on every level. Jamie Lidell is the white soul pioneer of our times. He’s probably the soul pioneer of our times. The only soul album to come close this year was Al Green, and the race wasn’t even close.
09. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim
The Noah and the Whale album may have been quite good, but it wasn’t the best folk album to come out of the UK this year. Laura Marling, who lends her vocals to the previous record, made a stunning debut of her own, which was the most charming albums of recent times. Her live show is thrilling, and she looks set to be a major star in years to come.
08. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
The only band to out-Hold Steady the Hold Steady this year was the Gaslight Anthem, not only did they release one of the EPs of the year (more on that later), but they also gave us this stellar debut. Rock in the Springsteen mould, with a polite nod to Counting Crows – back when they were good!
07. Hayden – In Field and Town
My favourite discovery of the year was an artist that’s been around a while. 2008 was the year where I finally embraced Hayden, and hugged him to death. This album is a joy to behold, and luckily for the rest of the world, got released outside Canada just last month. I urge you to get a copy.
06. Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Yes, you are right, that is everyone’s favourite regal elephant, Babar, on the cover. The music contained within is just as glorious. In addition, this was the year that David Berman came out of isolation and toured the world. He hurt his hand in Ireland, but that didn’t stop these songs from coming to life live. This album may even be the one to match Tanglewood Numbers. yes, it’s that good.
05. TV on the Radio – Dear Science,
The one album that seems to be in everyone’s list, and rightly so. The bastard love child of Prince and Bowie is TVotR’s most cohesive statement yet. It’s verging on a masterpiece, but some of the songs aren’t quite there yet. However, that masterpiece record is imminent…
04. Fight Like Apes – …And the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
It could be the best Irish album since Mic Christopher’s Skylarkin. It’s an astounding follo-on from their EPs, which were great but lacked sheen. Here however, the songs really come together and are much more perfect than every imagined. The best Irish album of the year. By sixteen country miles.
03. Destroyer – Trouble in Dreams
At the beginning of they year, there was no album that got more listens to than this. Every morning on the way to work I would listen to it. If it wasn’t for the fact that it sometimes reminds me of that dreaded commute, I’d probably rank it higher. Maybe even #1. It’s not quite as good as Rubies, but it’s still a five-star record. Also that album art is horrible too.
02. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
Jason Isbell leaving the Drive-By Truckers could possibly be one of the best things to ever happen to rock music. Not only do we get Jason solo records (his second next year will be amazing), but Drive-By Truckers are re-invigorated, and Shona Tucker gets a chance to shine on her own steam. Fantastic. Plus ’3 Dimes Down’ is one of the songs of the year. “Rock n Roll means well”.
01. Okkervil River – The Stand-Ins
The second part of a proposed double album, which definitely would’ve been one of the best doubles of all time. The first hald, The Stage Names was fantastic, but here Okkervil River really outshone themselves. It’s hypnotically brilliant, and each listen brings out something new, something brilliant. The best album of 2008. Bar none.