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Top CDs of 2008

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Everyone listens to different music and to each his/her own opinion. So, why compile one list of the top 10 albums, when each writer can have his or her own say? You'll notice few albums overlap from list to list. Here we present to you our lists (alphabetically by author) for the top 10 albums of 2008, and a brief defense of our top pick of the year:

Taj Mahal Maestro Maestro is a fitting title. Specializing in blues and soul delivered in his froggy, spirit-channeling voice, Taj Mahal has no equal. Live and on record, Mahal is always way over the top, just whomping the piss out of the material. Though not a retrospective, this disc encompasses the sounds of his career from the West Indian stylings of '74's Mo' Roots through his blues excursions with the funky Phantom Blues Band. It's the real thing, done real good. (Heads Up)

Ike and Tina Turner Sing the Blues (Acrobat)

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (Anti)

Magic Slim & The Teardrops Midnight Blues (Blind Pig)

Michael Burks Iron Man (Alligator)

Ike Reilly Poison the Hit Parade (Rock Ridge)

Tab Benoit Night Train to Nashville (Telarc)

Eric Bibb Get Onboard (Telarc)

Sonny Landreth From the Reach (Landfall)

The Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter Anthology (Disc one) Old Records Never Die (Shout Factory)

— Grant Britt 


Torche Meanderthal About two years after I thought I might be over the stuff for good, along comes this rumbling riff leviathan to once again bring out the bloodlust in me. The sheer ferocity (and poignancy, and even humor) of the record aside, Meanderthal is harmonically progressive as hell, sinus-clearing as a snort of wasabi and aurally the equivalent of Superchunk on a big ol' smear of the clear and the cream. (Hydra Head) (Close honorable mention to two similar rekkids: Endless Boogie's Focus Level and Big Business' Here Come The Waterworks ... strange, ain't it, that heavy rock and metal seem to be the two genres with the most ideas these days?)

Al Green Lay It Down (Blue Note)

David Byrne and Brian Eno Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todomundo)

Rodriguez Cold Fact (Light In The Attic)

The Hold Steady Stay Positive (Vagrant)

Lambchop OH (Ohio) (Merge)

Conor Oberst Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (Merge)

R.E.M. Murmur Deluxe Edition (A&M)

Dexateens Lost and Found/Singlewide (Self-Released/TBD)

Fennesz Black Sea (Touch)

— Timothy C. Davis 


Benji Hughes A Love Extreme – I'm not picking this as my fav because Hughes is local and I know him. I'm picking this double record because when I clocked total hours played, A Love Extreme easily beat out the rest, including my man Jack White. This record is everything: It's funny, it's groovy, it's sincere and it's beautiful. It's great in the car or at work, or I can even have a dance party in my living room with my 6-year-old to it. It's so extreme yet it's so subtle. It is my record of the year. (New West)

The Raconteurs Consolers Of The Lonely (Warner Bros.)

Kings of Leon Only by the Night (RCA)

The Black Crowes Warpaint (Silver Arrow)

Coldplay Viva La Vida (Capitol)

Beck Modern Guilt (Interscope)

My Morning Jacket Evil Urges (ATO/Red)

Mudcrutch Mudcrutch (Warner Bros.)

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks Real Emotional Trash (Matador Records)

Van Morrison Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)

— Lynn Farris 


Kings of Leon Only By the Night – This is one of those albums that hasn't left the CD player since I bought it and keeps getting better with every listen. Some people claim it's too commercial, but as a fan of KoL since the first album, I'd say the band's only gotten better with age. Sure, it's a little more polished and offers a fuller, arena-rock sound than previous efforts, but, to me, the band has kept its style intact and Caleb Followill's vocals are as strong as ever. Rarely have songs that can seem so mellow also felt so charged with electricity, energy and emotion. (RCA)

The Black Keys Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals Cardinology (Lost Highway)

The Whigs Mission Control (ATO/Red)

Rachael Yamagata Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart (Warner Bros.)

Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend (XL)

Mars Volta The Bedlam in Goliath (UMVD)

The Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely (Warner Bros.)

John Mellencamp Life Death Love and Freedom (Hear Music)

Santogold Santogold (Downtown)

— Jeff Hahne 


South San Gabriel/Centro-matic Dual Hawks This split double-disc highlights prolific Texas songwriter Will Johnson in his protean projects: South San Gabriel's processionals circle above in arrangements as vast and lonesome as the Southwest sky, while Centro-matic (SSG minus pedal steel and cello) gleefully slaps together big-hearted rock hooks with fuzzy guitars and Young-ian feedback, swinging stick-work and keyboard torrents. Johnson's elongated vowel-yowls and defiant, imagistic narratives ride shotgun, bleeding hearts and raising spirits with the same unflagging conviction. (Misra)

Pontiak Sun on Sun (Thrill Jockey)

Micah P. Hinson Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (Full Time Hobby)

Calexico Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)

Talkdemonic Eyes at Half Mast (Arena Rock)

Sera Cahoone Only As the Day Is Long (Sub Pop)

Plants & Animals Parc Avenue (Secret City)

Shearwater Rook (Matador)

The Ruby Suns Sea Lion (Sub Pop)

J. Matthew Gerken, Christian Keifer, Jefferson Pitcher Of Great & Mortal Men: 43 Songs For 43 Presidencies (Standard Recording)

— John Schacht 


The Gutter Twins Saturnalia – Put two sinister rock mofos together, Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs), and let the guitars, strings, drones, mellotrons, vocals and a slew of eerie instrumentation do the talking, and the sky will open and the gods will scream out for mercy. These cats lurk in a world where the shadows have shadows. Dark, brooding, tense, and add to that Lanegan's devil drunk on whisky vocals and the result is the brilliant gothic blues-rock record Saturnalia. (Sub Pop)

Coldplay Viva la Vida (Capitol)

Shastriya Syndicate Syndicated (Sense World Music)

Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV (Null Corporation)

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Elvis Costello & the Imposters Momofuku (Lost Highway)

Carla Bley Appearing Nightly (ECM)

The Roots Rising Down (Def Jam)

David Byrne and Brian Eno Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todo Mundo)

Black Mountain In the Future (Jagjaguwar)

— Samir Shukla 

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