Everyone balked at me a few years back when I said I couldn’t wait for the new Neil Diamond album. I was confused, I must have meant Neil Young, they claimed. But no, after seeing what Rick Rubin had done with Johnny Cash, I knew that he could do something similar with Neil. But whereas Johnny reworked other people’s songs, Neil reworked himself, and this, the follow-up to the delectable 12 Songs gave him his first ever UK #1 record.
39. Jay Reatard – Matador Singles Collection ‘08
For me, Jay Reatard came from nowhere. I’m not well-up on the punk scene, nor the singles scene. I’ve thousands of albums, but barely over a hundred singles. Thus it wasn’t until he released this collection of everything he released this year that Mr. Reatard caught my attention. He did not just catch it, however, he shook me, assaulted me, turned me upside down and emptied the change from my pockets. Oh, and left me breathless.
38. Kaki King – Dreaming of Revenge
Kaki King is another artist where I arrived late to the party. I could appreciate the beautiful guitar-work on her earlier records, but they were never this accessible. The instrumental songs never overstay their welcome, and the remainder shows that she has a pretty voice to go with that astounding guitar playing.
37. Randy Newman – Harps & Angels
Yes, Randy Newman is that guy from the ‘Da Bomb’ episode of Family Guy (yes I know the names of the episodes, what else was there to do in college when Countdown wasn’t on?). He’s also that guy from Disney soundtracks. But as anyone who has listened to his pre-Soundtrack era can attest, he makes the blackest comedy of music. Forget your Steven Colbert albums, this is the funniest record you’ll hear this year.
36. Sigur Ros – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
The “one with the bums” was Sigur Rós’s most commercial album to date. It’s not that they sold out, but instead they just moved to widescreen, and embraced the public adoration. ‘Gobbledigook’ (which borrows from Dave Matthews Band’s ‘Grey Street’) was their most out-and-out pop song ever, and set them on a course to fill bigger fields and tents throughout Europe. Oh and have you seen the Heima DVD from last winter? Incredible.
35. Neon Neon – Stainless Style
As a kid growing up, the DeLorean DMC was (strangely enough) an important part of my life. From watching it travel through time in both the Back to the Future films as well as the cartoon series, to the fact that my Dad’s company was responsible for creating the panels that made up the car, the myth of John DeLorean always loomed somewhere in the background. Now Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip have made not just a concept album about the concept car designer, but a brilliant dance (technically synth pop) record at the same time.
34. Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts
Everything about Feel Good Ghosts just draws you further in. The album cover draws you in to the music. The music draws you in to really listen to the lyrics, and then the lyrics draw you in to yourself, where you can’t leave the house without listening to this record beforehand. Well not quite, but after typing that first line, I wasn’t sure where to go next. That said, music and lyrics are fantastic. But what the hell is going on in that album cover?
33. Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Lisa Hannigan’s debut album showed us something that some of us thought but were afraid to say: Lisa was the talented one on O and 9. It was her haunting voice that gave those albums their poetry. 9 especially, where she was missing on some of the tracks, and they suffered as a result. This album, on the other hand, did not suffer one bit from a lack of Damien Rice. In fact, it was all the better for it.
32. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
On their second album, The Raconteurs became more than a mere side-project. They became a fully-fledged band in their own right. The music was much more cohesive, and Brendan Benson really got a chance to shine, much like he does on his solo records. And I’m not forgetting Jack White, this was the album where he wrote the song of the year: ‘Carolina Drama’. It’s like Cormac McCarthy through song. Incredible.
31. Rachael Yamagata – Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart
Most double albums have one good side and then another that’s so-so. This is not one of those albums. The first half is more of the same from Yamagata, which is definitely not a bad thing, as anyone who loved her debut Happenstance can testify. The second half is heavier, perhaps indicating where she’ll go next. And it really shows her power as an artist when she can have two versions of the same song (one with lyrics, one without), and make them both beautiful and interesting, without having to resort to strange punctuation.