Here are my picks for the best albums released in 2008. It pains me to agree with Pitchfork on #1, but alas... there can really be no other at the top spot.
These songs alternate between a sort of shiftless urban malaise and a midwestern harvest-time sturdiness.
It’s stifling hot in L.A., gas prices are surpassing $5/gallon, and the L.A. Film Festival is going on down the block in Westwood Village. This can only mean one thing: Summer is here!
In honor of this wonderful, extreme season, I’ve put together my annual summer music mix (I actually make several of these, to help pass the time in my new hour-plus commute). This year’s mix—comprised entirely of songs released within the last several months—is heavily electronic, 80s-nostalgic, more happy than morose, and a guaranteed good time.
Thanks to iTunes (and I promise they are not paying me to say this), you can locate and download these songs ala carte, with ridiculous ease. Hooray digital capitalism! Anyway, here’s the playlist. My soundtrack to the summer of ’08.
Coldplay, “Strawberry Swing” – Arguably the best overall song on Coldplay’s new album, this track—with its cheery rhythms and sunny guitar riffs—waxes nostalgic about blue skies, swings, and young love.
The Radio Dept., “Freddie and the Trojan Horse” – Sweden’s new-wave shoegazer outfit presents the perfect summer song from their wonderful new EP. It’s sweet like a popsicle.
Mates of State, “Help Help” – This bouncy, synth-bass-heavy pop gem from the husband/wife duo known as Mates of State is the best song off of their recent album, Re-arrange Us. You’ll love it, I promise.
Weezer, “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” – This song is a goofy good time. Borrowing a melody from a familiar Shaker hymn, Rivers Cuomo throws down a rock-opera of a pop song that features about a dozen kitschy mutations of its catchy chorus. Lots of fun. M83, “Graveyard Girl” – If you haven’t heard the new album from French electronica geniuses M83, I highly recommend you check it out. The new single, “Graveyard Girl,” is a blissful shoegazer anthem with a hilarious video (see below).
Sigur Ros, “Festival” – My favorite song off their new album, this 9-minute opus builds from nothing to a grandiose climax that will doubtless shake the rafters in concert. Truly breathtaking.
The Notwist, “Good Lies” – The first track off this German electronic band’s new album is perfectly joyful, even in it’s solemnity. Cut / Copy, “Hearts on Fire” – Listen to this song and you’d think you were listening to New Order or something else from the dancefloor 80s. But no, this is 2008 music from Australia. And it’s super cool.
Vampire Weekend, “Mansard Roof” – The Afro-pop hipsters from NYC may be a little overrated, but their bouncy tunes, like “Mansard Roof,” are absolutely perfect for summer. Check out the summery vid:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlgNFwoApec] Wolf Parade, “California Dreamer” – What’s a summer mix without a song about California? This new Wolf Parade song (from their just-released, At Mount Zoomer) is an epic anthem that alternates between delicate balladry and headstrong rock energy.
The National, “You’ve Done it Again, Virginia” – Every summer mix needs a few somber entries, and The National is always good for that. This new song from their recent Virginia EP features more luxuriant Sufjan piano and their usual "Gatsby with a cocktail" tragic elegance.
Cat Power, “Ramblin’ (Wo)Man” – This song from her recent Jukebox album is a sweetly feminine riff on Hank Williams’ song, “Ramblin’ Man.” A jazzy, sexy song for humid summer nights.
Ladytron, “Ghosts” – Britain’s favorite electro-goth-pop band’s new album, Velocifero, is fantastic. And this song is the first breezily haunting single. See below for the trippy video:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yaEwcmrR4Q] Matt Wertz, “5:19” – This first single from Matt’s upcoming album, Under Summer Sun (to be released in August) is a lovely acoustic number with hyper-melodic hooks, perfect for summer love and heartbreak.
Fleet Foxes, “Ragged Wood” – One of the best discoveries of 2008, Seattle’s Fleet Foxes offer Beach Boys-esque harmonies with Appalachian and Irish traditional ancestry. It’s gorgeous, and the formidable “Ragged Wood” is a perfectly sweet/somber track to sample.
Nine Inch Nails, “Discipline” – For something edgier, try this fantastic new single from NIN’s The Slip—the album Trent Reznor gave away for free online this spring.
Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” – This 8 minute song is slow to build and mostly instrumental, but there is something quite dreamy about it. Its travelogue video is a perfect accompaniment to those of us traveling abroad this summer: