Top 10 Albums of 2008

2008's been an exceedingly good year for music, and compiling this list was a tough, tough process. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who takes perverse pleasure in attributing arbitrary relative values to songs and fitting them into a meritocracy (as evidenced by the weekly Top Fives). It must be noted that a lot of my favourite music from 2008 didn't come from an actual album, so I will be writing a Top 10 Songs of 2008 post probably nearer to the actual end of the year.

So here it is - the moment we've all been waiting for since January:

Adendum: There are eleven records in this "top ten" list. That's because I'd already written the full list before discovering Frightened Rabbit, who promptly jumped straight to the top. It felt mean to actively remove an album, so eleven it is! It actually feels fitting for a year that's been packed with so many great albums.

  1. Number: 11

    Alas I Cannot Swim

    Artist: Laura Marling

    Back in December last year it seemed as if this girl was all set to be the "big thing" of '08. What with her impressive WtOTVS appearance, guest BV slots with Noah and the Whale and The Mystery Jets (both of whom released goodish albums this year too), and her song Night Terror being an iTunes Single of the Week, world domination seemed to be a certainty. She did okay, but sadly not well enough to live up to the hype. Alas I Cannot Swim is a super album, but lacked the necessary lyrical oomph to push it further up this list; there were some great songs on it, but too many of the tracks sounded like "filler". Her next album, I'm sure, will be something really special.

  2. Number: 10

    When the Haar Rolls In

    Artist: James Yorkston

    This album has almost exactly the same texture as his past few records, but when you sound this good consistency is no bad thing. Every time he releases a new CD there's loads of press chatter about how this'll-be-the-one-that-breaks-him-into-the-mainstream, but his records always seems to slip under the radar, which is a darned shame.

  3. Number: 9

    Vampire Weekend

    Artist: Vampire Weekend

    A rarity in that it was lauded by both the music press and the popular press, this little record did rather well for itself in the early part of the year. It's stuffed full of great songs, but the most enjoyable part of it is that the listening experience changes over time. After repeated listening the songs that initially grabbed your attention now seem somewhat flat and predictable, and it's other songs from the record that grow into true favourites.

  4. Number: 8

    The Seldom Seen Kid

    Artist: Elbow

    I guess this is the only properly Radio 1 friendly record on this list, and as a rule I normally try to steer clear of all the populist nonsense that those peddlers of filth and payola try to ram down our throats. Sadly I was sucked in, but not really with any regret, as this album is quite deserving of all the accolades that have been heaped upon it. It contains no great songs as such, but the sheer quality of the production (all done by the band themselves) more than takes the load.

  5. Number: 7

    Poor Man's Heaven

    Artist: Seth Lakeman

    Seized upon by the Radio 2 folky brigade following his Mercury nomination for Kitty Jay, Lakeman had been threatening to become successful for ages, but was held back by the sorely disappointing Freedom Fields (his second album, and the first to be made since he came into the public eye). Poor Man's Heaven is by no means Lakeman's magnum opus (I believe his best work is still to come), he has finally delivered on all the potential he displayed in his first album. Bad news for agoraphobes, however, as Lakeman is only truly in his element when seen live, when the songs are injected with far more energy and passion than he is capable of delivering in the studio.

  6. Number: 6

    Falling off the Lavender Bridge

    Artist: Lightspeed Champion

    Another act that showed great promise early in the year, Lightspeed Champion, a.k.a. Dev Hynes (né Test Icicles) was the darling of the music press (particularly the NME) when he released a series of free-to-download EPs from his website. The album proper was produced in Omaha by Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes fame) who is a god in my eyes, so I was sure I was going to love it. Despite, or maybe because of, all this expectation, on first listening I was left a little wanting. The standout songs (of which there are quite a few) seemed to be quite sparse on the ground. After about a week of repeat listening, however, the album began to coalesce into a definite set; that is, the songs worked as an album, and I'd strongly recommend that this record be listened to from start to finish.

  7. Number: 5

    A Larum

    Artist: Johnny Flynn (& the Sussex Wit)

    Full of all the Shakespearean, archaic turns of phrase that one would expect from a dedicated thespian (Flynn is a regular touring actor and fell into music almost by accident) this album was released in a blaze of absolutely no publicity at all. Many of the songs had been kicking around on mp3 blogs for a while before the record was released (the Sussex Wit was dropped from the moniker for the official release, but the band playing on the record is still the same group of players). As a result you can get almost the whole record for free, which has obviously harmed the CD's sales as I imagine readers of music blogs would be Johnny's core fan base.

  8. Number: 4


    Artist: Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

    This record puts me completely out of my comfort zone. British Hip-Hop (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) has never been my first choice of listening material, but I stumbled across the Thou Shalt Always Kill single a year or so ago, and loved it so much that when this album came out I bought it straight away. If I'm honest I was expecting little more than a mildly diverting comedy record, but Angles is so much more than that. Engaging and effecting in equal measure, this is a rare album that delivers on virtually every front.

  9. Number: 3

    Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues

    Artist: Meursault

    I reviewed this record quite recently, so I shan't blather on about it too much here. Needless to say it's pretty damn super, and your lives will all be enhanced greatly by its presence in your life.

    Read the full review
  10. Number: 2

    For Emma, Forever Ago

    Artist: Bon Iver

    This one will be on everyone's end of year lists, but deservedly so. It's one of the best albums I've heard in ages. All the hype and praise still hasn't spoilt the listening experience, which is a danger with universally loved records. As a result of its success there's not all that much left for me to say about it, other than that if you haven't heard it yet then you really should.

    Read the full review
  11. Number: 1

    The Midnight Organ Fight

    Artist: Frightened Rabbit

    A late addition that's jumped right to the top of the pile. Every track on this LP is simply breathtaking, and I've never before been so smitten with a record (especially after spending such a short amount of time with it). Filthy and beautiful in equal measure, this honestly feels like a classic for the ages.

    Read the full review

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Top 10 Songs of 2008 Published on