Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Best Albums of 2008

Just as I did a year ago, I present to you my favorite albums of 2008. In 2007, Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything, and Bayside made the list, this year who is the top of the crop? These are not the critics’ picks, these are mine. These are works I picked up and could not put down, for the reasons I will explain below. Please add your own in the comments, respond to my views, and enjoy the artists who impacted my mood so many times this past year.

#5 – Senses Fail – Life Is Not a Waiting Room

I almost forgot my fifth album on this list was being release this year. Senses Fail is a talking point, or was, about what production, stage presence, and “scene” means versus quality rock and the actual music when it comes to popularity. Over the past few albums Senses Fail have been accused of carrying audience through sheer clique appeal and for every reason but the music. Through it all, the record label issues, cred wars, and the inner questions of relevance, they have made albums that float above the plane. I have always seen them as a standard setting band, one who may not do it the best or the longest, but the changes they make to the screamo scene on an album by album basis are trends copied by the industry.

With Life Is Not a Waiting Room you hear and feel the traditional Senses Fail vibe. The album is about love lost, self torture, the black, the dark, the evil inside of us all. Songs about drinking, death, scorn and love fill the tracks just as the three previous releases all did. The one transcending message through this record and found hidden in each song is hope. You leave the album feeling empowered, uplifted to a degree, and ready to kick the crap out of whatever pains you. The music is not any more complex, changed or important than what you know of Senses Fail. The tracks could seamlessly be placed in the previous album or in my guess, the next. Possibly the production values have improved and possibly Buddy has found more range in his voice, but you should not expect a new sound. That is totally fine with me. I want to put a Senses Album in my CD player and scream while I drive, and with this effort the screaming can be a little more uplifted than before.

#4 – Jack’s Mannequin – The Glass Passenger

It is hard for me to write about The Glass Passenger for so many reasons. I can’t relate to the cancer Andrew faced prior to writing this. When thinking about Jack’s I am forced to relive the loss of a relationship that was so short but so important to me. I am also just completely enthralled in the work, to the point I don’t know how best to describe it. Jack’s Mannequin has always been the sappiest pop in my music collection. These are songs girls swoon over and men just wish no one catches them listening to. The composition is beautiful, the lyrics meaningful. Fans of Something Corporate never fully assimilated into the Jack’s fold, and I think that simply can be characterized as an issue in maturity.

The Glass Passenger picks up where Everything in Transit left off. The album is hopeful, as it should be. It is released after Andrew’s conquering of leukemia and stands as an emblem in the battle against cancer. The album strives to not be pigeonholed by that memory though. Lyrics on love, family and friends pull you to personal places in your own life, and away from where Andrew has been. The music continues to be beautiful and fluid. His mastery of the piano sounds that much more complete, and the tracks truly have taken time to marinate. This is the album I fall asleep to on the airplane, even in the worse turbulence.

#3 – Kings of Leon – Only By the Night

There was a time I would have never listened to an artist like Kings of Leon. Call it ignorance, lack of culture, or just stupidity, but the aesthetics of the music would not have charmed me. Thank god that is not today and I did not miss Only By the Night. This album can be summed up in one word: Sex. This is attraction, passion, movement. If rock and roll were to be dance floor motion, Kings of Leon captured it here.

With the tracks Use Somebody, Sex on Fire and Be Somebody, Kings have brought three forceful rock tracks to the mainstream. Each of these manages to leap at you when played on the radio among your standard rock tracks. The vocal power, the composition, the feeling is all there. The album fills in its singles with solid efforts following the trends of the album. If more stood out I might have bumped them up to number two this year, but considering I’d have passed on them altogether in the past, I think third is mighty fitting.

#2 – Rise Against – Appeal to Reason

For me, the first exploration of a Rise Against album involves a lot of intent listening, a staring at the wall and a really focused kind of listening. I consider the lyrics and songs that Tim Mcllarth composes to be poetry. There really is not a better punk rock band at painting vivid images and stories in your mind. Appeal to Reason does not venture too far from messages that The Unraveling first made for the band back in 2000, but it provides a needed and valid update.

Full of political theories, statements and hope; Appeal to Reason audibly is exactly what you knew you would find in a Rise Against album. The vocals are a little more polished and timing more fluid. Overall the production values are representative of experience and a better budget. What you really come away with is the message and the emotion of what the band wants to talk about. The big opening single Re-Education is a hard hitting, jump around thrash fest. Dig into Hero of War and feel its message. A true poem of what kind of pain a soldier experiences emotionally in this day and age, it is a timeless testament to the relevance of Rise Against.

#1 – Weezer – The Red Album

Weezer is quickly becoming a new generation’s Metallica. A band can be technically sound, innovative and yet if it garners too much acclaim, too much success, a certain percentage of the population becomes sick of the recognition and success. This is not a Nickelback or Creed type of saturation and hate; this is reserved for quality bands that just become over exposed.

With Weezer’s return to colors, The Red Album took me a bit to jump on. At first I felt like Pork and Beans got overplayed on the radio, but then I dug into Troublemaker, Heart Songs, and The Greatest Man That Ever Lived and I fell in love. My brother is right; they do sing about being famous and being the best, and that can be alienating, but it works for me. A tongue in cheek exploration is fine for me when someone has been to the top, then the bottom and now back to relevance. The melodies are friendly, thrashes are head-bang-worthy, and the lyrics classic. With that, Weezer comes in as my most played, most loved album of 2008.

Some honorable mentions this year that I enjoyed and just didn’t make my cut: The Offspring – Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace and Anberlin – New Surrender.


Juxtaposition Design said...

Why? - Alopecia deserves to be on this list! It was epic!
If you haven't checked it out yet, please do so ;)

Jason said...

Ya know, I had heard a track or two from them and it just didn't click for me. The list comprises my personal favorites and not realistically the BEST in music for the year. So they could possibly be worthy of an indie top 5 or some other list, but not quite what was going to land on my radar.

Thanks for your comment though! Keep Detroit rockin with your blog!