Here are my favorite albums of 2008. Leave your favorites in the comments if you’d like, we’d love to see them. Make sure to check David’s list at the bottom of the post. Thanks for reading the blog this year, guys.

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20. Diplo & Santogold | Top Ranking

There were a handful of arguably groundbreaking mixtapes this year (Wale, PRGz, Kid Cudi, the Very Best, etc.) that showcased their respective artists’ best work, so it’s not too suprising that I ended up loving Top Ranking considerably more than Santogold‘s proper debut LP. Like everyone else, I got tired of hearing Santi’s stuff in every third commercial on TV in ’08, but this mixtape is refreshingly all over the place, and of course, the presence of Diplo as beat selector doesn’t hurt. “Icarus” is possibly Santogold’s most stunning piece of work yet. [buy]

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19. Lykke Li | Youth Novels

With Youth Novels, Sweden’s Lykke Li put out one of the most self-assured pop debuts of the year. She’s still finding her way, sure, but the girl’s got swagger, and with the assistance of PB&J sage Bjorn Yttling, she was responsible for some of the most interesting and evocative pop singles that came out this year (see “Little Bit,” “I’m Good I’m Gone,” “Breaking It Up,” and “Dance Dance Dance“). [buy]

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18. Department of Eagles | In Ear Park

In Ear Park definitively establishes Department of Eagles as much more than a mere Grizzly Bear side-project, as Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus have created an expansive and deeply personal collection of vibrant psych-pop gems. The record almost has an old-timey feel at times, which Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes nicely articulates on his blog:

More progressively Brothers Grimm jams from Dan o’ Grizzly Bear, best album of the year easy. I feel like this is what people in the 30′s thought music would sound like in the future. If there was a music section at ‘Tomorrow’s World’ during the 1939 New York World’s Fair this would have been the main example…” [buy]

mp3:
department of eagles :: no one does it like you

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17. No Age | Nouns

In a year steeped with imitators, Nouns is set apart by No Age‘s unreal knack for melody and their inimitable ability to craft a genre-bending pastiche of layered, delay-laden ambience, and fuzzy, lo-fi thunder punk. Dean and Randy have an innate sense of how to effectively pace an album and get to the point without ever being afraid of ending a song as quickly as it begins. [buy]

mp3:
no age :: teen creeps

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16. Flying Lotus | Los Angeles

Admittedly, I was a latecomer to this one, only turned on to Flying Lotus‘ vivid futuristic jams months after the proper release of Los Angeles, thanks to a couple of tight remixes and a pair of decent headphones. Repeat listens reveal a dense, intensely soulful soundscape that is best experienced as a cohesive whole, a la Donuts or Untrue. Also, you can’t not love this clip for “Parisian Goldfish“; not necessarily the best song on the record, but probably the most insane (NSFW) video of ’08. [buy]

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15. Air France | No Way Down

Air France‘s self-proclaimed “Socialist roof top music” was a staple for me this summer, and as the weather cooled and these jams got better, it became apparent that it’s a pretty perfect autumn record too. While I’m definitely a fan of both the new M83 and Cut Copy records, No Way Down has them both beat in terms of blissful, sweetly nostalgic, wistfully romantic dance pop. Sweden still holding it down. [buy]

mp3:
air france :: collapsing at your doorstep

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14. Harlem | free drugs;-)

“the album free drugs;-) isn’t really about drug drugs. we used to go swimming at venice beach all the time and it was how we described the feeling after you swim all day and you still feel the waves after you get out.”Harlem (source)

After a cursory listen to their dirty, eerily authentic throwback garage rock, you sort of get the sense that Harlem really doesn’t give a fuck about anything but girls and drugs. This value system apparently serves them well, because their debut LP, Free Drugs;-), holds some of the most consistently tight, infectious, and endearingly scuzzy tunes I’ve heard all year. “South of France” is without question one of the best rock songs of ’08. [buy]

mp3:
harlem :: south of france

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13. Quiet Village | Silent Movie

I was pretty obsessed with this record early in the year, even attempting at one point to track down all of the incredible, often decades-old source material that Quiet Village utilized in crafting this impossibly mellow collage (which, by the way, has drawn comparisons to classic efforts from DJ Shadow and the Avalanches). It’s faded just a little since then, but every time I revisit the record, I’m sort of blown away by the fact that the duo was able to construct something so seamlessly original and modern-sounding from what is essentially a bunch of stylish re-edits based on their myriad influences (“Italian film soundtracks, BBC library music, disco edits, acid rock, vintage soul and easy listening”). [buy]

mp3:
quiet village :: circus of horror

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12. The Very Best | Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit are the Very Best

Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit are the The Very Best, and their mixtape is one of the most genuinely joyous, uplifting things I’ve heard in a long time. Feel-good jams of the year, hands down. Since I first wrote about Esau’s glorious “Chaloback in March, he’s become one of my favorite new artists, and the group’s proper debut LP (due in Spring) is one of my most anticipated releases of ’09. [download for free]

mp3:
the very best :: dinosaur on the ark

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11. Gang Gang Dance | Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna detractors bemoan the fact that this record is far more accessible and song-based than Gang Gang‘s previous output, and they’ve got a point. But I’m a big fan of the relatively pop-focused direction the band took on this LP, and the fact that these infectious, kaleidoscopic tribal dance jams are immediately engaging and somewhat accessible doesn’t make them any less thrilling. [buy]

mp3:
gang gang dance :: desert storm

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10. Paavoharju | Laulu Laakson Kukista

Paavoharju is Finnish and they creep me out a little, but for some reason I find Laulu Laakson Kukista one of the most inviting and enchanting (in a bizarro-Disney way) albums I’ve heard in years. As I stated back in May, the record often evokes some “distant AM radio transmission, fading in and out from some hazy, psychedelic ether,” making it equally suitable for atmospheric late night background noise, or an intense, focused listen on headphones. Plus, their label’s description of the album is awesome:

“Sounds of raindrops falling on sheet metal roof melted together with old television’s random-dot-pattern-noise. Leena Uotila’s soft voice echoes in empty, dusty rooms. Catowls gathered to the sky, appletrees were blooming and waves rocked a barrell against the pier. Suddenly all this started to form esoteric mildew to cassette’s magnetic tape. I finished our work with prayer only a moment before the cold winds rose from Saimaa.” [buy]

mp3:
paavoharju :: kevätrumpu

09. Beach House | Devotion

More consistently haunting, utterly elegant dream-pop from B-more’s Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. Legrand’s voice is at once seductive and heartbreaking, making it an ideal complement to Scally’s ghostly slide-guitar. The shimmering, Motown-informed “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.” is perhaps the duo’s crowning achievement (although their new single comes pretty close). [buy]

mp3:
beach house :: gila

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08. The Walkmen | You & Me

I still feel as strongly about You & Me as I did the first time I wrote about it, so I’ll just repost that. One of the most moving albums of the year, and definitely one of my most listened to. My original sentiments, from July of this year:

“I’ll preface this by saying that after A Hundred Miles Off, I probably couldn’t have been any less excited about a new record from the Walkmen. So, with no expectations going into the band’s new You & Me LP, I’m a little shocked that it’s quickly become one of my favorite albums of ’08. There’s no “The Rat” here, but that’s alright; the majority of this record is made up of woozy, intimate, often heartbreaking slow jams about fucked up relationships, and Hamilton Leithauser’s worn, damaged growl is more affecting than ever.” [buy]

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07. WAVVES | Wavves

“wavves are exemplifying every musical pastiche of what anyone in their mid 20′s has been through, and somehow, some that they have not…”destijl, on Wavves

As you might’ve gathered from my excessive posting about this dude over the last two months or so, I can’t get enough of Wavves‘ radical “lo-fi beach punk.” Listening to Nathan Williams’ noisy, fuzzy, endlessly hummable melodies as they hiss out of my barely serviceable tape deck fills me with an inescapable urge to move back to Southern California immediately. Prone to vaguely appropriate/slightly unfair No Age comparisons, although I’ve heard rumblings that the two are now labelmates. Look for a new LP in February ’09 on Destijl. Sidenote: Nathan also has a great rap blog where he posts Jeru tha Damaja videos and other cool shit. [cassette is sold out :: buy on LP/CD]

mp3:
wavves :: wavves

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06. Little Joy | Little Joy

I think we’ve said this a couple times, but Little Joy‘s ridiculously charming self-titled debut is one of the most unsassuming, tastefully executed and perfectly timeless sounding records of the year. Influenced in part by Sam Cooke and early Bob Marley, Fabrizio Moretti‘s already stellar collection of instantly classic melodies is elevated to another level by the vintage warmth of “unofficial fourth member” Noah Georgeson‘s uncanny production. Best experienced on vinyl. [buy]

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05. Q-Tip | The Renaissance

“Your dubious style may rock for right now / but in the long run you really lost one.” –Q-Tip, on “Move

While not necessarily overtly political, it feels pretty fucking awesome and fitting that The Renaissance was released on November 4, 2008. The Abstract’s first official solo effort in years recalls A Tribe Called Quest‘s final LP, 1998′s sorely underrated The Love Movement, in that both records are smooth, breezy, feel-good joints whose overwhelming depth is almost lost in their laid-back subtlety. Also, like that record (and all Tribe efforts, for that matter), I’m pretty convinced that I’ll still be spinning The Renaissance regularly in 10 years. The J Dilla-produced “Move“/”Renaissance Rap” is one of the best hip-hop singles of the year. [buy]

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04. Vivian Girls | Vivian Girls

I could go on and on about why I love Vivian Girls‘ irresistibly imperfect self-titled debut LP, from their charming, wilfully lo-fi/scuzzed-out production, to the girls’ deft ability to incorporate their own obvious influences into something that feels new and exciting, etc. But it really comes down to two things that set Vivian Girls apart from other bands trying their hands at this steez: the group’s unstoppable vintage girl-group harmonies, and a grip of insanely infectious songs that never, ever get old. [buy]

mp3:
vivian girls :: where do you run to

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03. Erykah Badu | New Amerykah Part I (4th World War)

Dallas’ own Erykah Badu made her triumphant return early this year with New Amerykah Part I, a collection of soulful, heartfelt jams that, while at times a little messy and uneven, is one of the most adventurous and emotionally resonant albums of the year (and probably Ms. Badu’s best). Seeing an extremely pregnant Badu perform these songs at ACL was one of the weirdest, greatest things I saw all year, and only reinforced how mindblowing and out there her ideas can be at times. Also: “The Healer” might be my favorite song of ’08. [buy]

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02. Grouper | Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

2008 was a banner year for hazy, ethereal dream-pop (see Beach House, Fight Bite, High Places, School of Seven Bells, Chairlift, etc.), with Grouper‘s devastatingly beautiful Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill firmly implanting itself at the pinnacle of the broad genre. And while they’re obviously nothing alike sonically, Dragging replaced Untrue as my go-to late night soundtrack for a good part of ’08, which is probably the highest praise I could give it. [buy]

mp3:
grouper :: heavy water/i’d rather be sleeping

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01. White Denim | Exposion

While Workout Holiday was garnering praise from just about everyone in the UK (the BBC, The Independent, Rough Trade, the Observer, et al.), White Denim quietly released their U.S. debut LP, Exposion, here in the states on Austin’s fledgling Transmission label. To be real, I love both records immensely and either could be in this spot, but the slightly different sequencing and the addition of “You Can’t Say,” “Migration Wind,” and the new extended version of “Sitting” (a song of the year candidate) give Exposion the slight edge, and offer a glimpse at the band’s transition into slightly smoother waters without sacrificing a bit of the raw power, intensity, and sheer athleticism of the WD live show. Any and all conceivable hype aside, these guys were the best band in America in ’08. [buy]

mp3:
white denim :: sitting

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Check David’s list after the jump…

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David’s Top 12 of 2008:

12. Vivian Girls | Vivian Girls
11. Quiet Village | Silent Movie
10. Gang Gang Dance | Saint Dymphna
09. Sunset | Bright Blue Dream
08. Beck | Modern Guilt
07. Animal Collective | Water Curses EP
06. No Age | Nouns
05. White Denim | Exposion
04. Various Artists | Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds, and Nigerian Blues 1970-6
03. The Walkmen | You & Me
02. Little Joy | Little Joy
01. Beach House | Devotion

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