Best albums of 2008: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Now that we’re firmly into 2018, I thought it time to start back in again with these album of the year series. If you remember the scoop from last year, I finished off my list of 2017’s best albums in December and then, in the new year, I travelled back in time, decade by decade, from 2007 and 1997 back to 1987 to deliver my favourite ten albums of each year. And yes, the plan is to do the same over the course of this year.

The year 2008 was very memorable for me musically because it marked the year I went to V fest (at which the above photo was taken) on Toronto island for the first and only time. Believe it or not, this was also the first music festival I ever attended (check my list of concerts here if you are on the not believing side). Of course, this is the flurry that started the avalanche. The following year, I attended two of the days of Ottawa’s Bluesfest and the year after that, I attended a full week of the same festival and also put in an appearance at Winnipeg’s renowned folk festival. I’ve attended some sort of outdoor music festival every year since. There is just something about being out in the elements, in a field or forest with a beer or two in your hands, wandering from stage to stage and soaking in the music.

And yeah, the music. Let’s get back to that.

This year 2008 was also a great one for releases. So many great albums that it was difficult narrowing things down to just the ten. However, I persevered. Below you’ll find albums ten through six of my favourite albums of 2008 and for the next five Thursdays, I’ll be posting the next five albums until I get to my favourite album of the year. Enjoy!


#10 Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes”

I remember being at Toronto’s V fest in September of 2008 and this album playing between live sets. I recognized it but didn’t immediately put a name to it. I felt more compelled to do so when my friend Mark asked me about it, noticing that I was tapping my foot. I described Fleet Foxes to him then as the current ‘it’ band, which was accurate, given that praise was being heaped on this self-titled debut from all corners. It is all deserved, of course. Robin Pecknold and his band of merry men seamlessly blend old and new, minstrel music wrought with acoustic picking, big band sounds, and all for one harmonies. This particular blogger feels this album ushered the indie folk genre to the masses.

Gateway tune: White winter hymnal


#9 The Submarines “Honeysuckle weeks”

I came across this Los Angeles-based indie pop band by way of the soundtrack for “Nick and Norah’s infinite playlist”, which I loved on first watch and listen. They formed in 2006 around the duo of Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti, a married couple who met through a friend but stayed for the music, and are rounded out by Jason Stare and Scott Barber when they perform live. “Honeysuckle weeks” was the album I first listened to by the band, tuned in on the strength of “Xavia” from the aforementioned soundtrack. It is ten songs of shiny happy pop goodness, reflecting the yellow, sunny days of summer, the season in which it was recorded.

Gateway tune: You, me, and the bourgeoisie


#8 School Of Seven Bells “Alpinisms”

I’ve already told the story on these pages of how Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis met twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza of the band On!Air!Library! and they decided to form a band. Well, “Alpinisms” was their debut album and of course, I had to check it out immediately after I learned of it to see what it was that could coax Curtis away from such a promising band. It turned out to be a good choice because this is some great stuff. A little bit more electronic than his former work but no less dreamy and hazy and beautiful and the twin vocals by the Deheza sisters are mesmerizing. The whole package is rife with magic and mysticism and otherworldly sounds.

Gateway tune: My cabal


#7 Glasvegas “Glasvegas”

It’s a bit unfortunate about their name and the fact that their second and third albums lacked the punch of the debut because this self-titled album by Glasvegas was fantastic. It is ten reverb-drenched and fuzzed out tracks that scream for a Phil Spector encore and paired with frontman James Allan’s emotive and passionate delivery in his thick Scottish accent, they become that much more beautiful and vibrant. And other than positing that this album might just suggest enough romance to celebrate today with, that’s all I have to say about that.

Gateway tune: Geraldine


#6 Spiritualized “Songs in A & E”

The two albums that followed Spiritualized’s “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space” were slight (and slighter) disappointments around these parts but there were likely doomed, given the lofty expectations heaped upon them. So when Jason Pierce resurfaced after a five year absence and a near death experience in 2005 (that inspired this album’s name and overall theme), the fact that his sixth album as Spiritualized was so good was a bit of a pleasant surprise. It is less rock noise and more orchestral expansion and gospel salvation. And yet at 18 tracks, it is just a hair over three quarters of an hour in duration. The album also gave me one of my first “I’m getting old” moments back in 2008 when I saw Pierce and company performing at V fest: I was standing beside a father and his toddler child, who sang loudly along with every word to the song below.

Gateway tune: Sweet talk


Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 2018: #1 The Decemberists “I’ll be your girl”

After The Decemberists’ relatively recent hiatus from recording and touring, I found myself very surprised to learn in January of this year that a new album was forthcoming so soon after their seventh release. Indeed, it had felt like “What a terrible world, what a beautiful world” had just been released, when in fact it was actually three years before. My initial miscalculation was likely because I had just seen the group the previous summer and they were still out supporting that previous album. So yeah, surprised I was but it was even greater when I heard the first single, “Severed”.

Much has been made in the press and otherwise about the Portland-based indie folk group’s change in sound on their latest, this album, “I’ll be your girl”. Frontman Colin Meloy, himself, has admitted that they drew from their teenaged crushes on Depeche Mode and New Order when they decided to add synthesizers to their already large arsenal of instrumentation for this album. Indeed, at first listen, it is almost jarring to a long time listener but the more you listen, the more you realize that this is still the Decemberists you know and love. And really, the band has never shied from experimentation and dabblings in different styles and genres. They’ve done the sea shanties, twee and indie pop, prog rock, and run the folk gamut from American to British to Eastern European traditions. Synth pop à la Decemberists is the welcome and next logical progression, no? Just nod yes.

The Decemberists are also known for their songwriting, especially the clever lyrics by Colin Meloy, and this is still very much a touchstone of this album. He’s been less esoteric and more accessible on recent works and here, he continues the trend, though there are still a few moments that will please longtime fans and cause casual listeners to scratch their heads. What I love about this album, though, like a few others we’ve already seen on this list, is that our songwriter addresses the madness that seems to be increasing around him but chooses to face it with positivity rather than hatred and anger. It’s an album that makes me happy whenever I put it on and I think that’s a great reason for it to be considered the best album of the year.

Have a listen to the three selections below and perhaps they will make you happy as well. However, if cheeriness is not the main quality by which you choose your favourite album of the year, I’d love to hear what you’ve got at the top of your list in the Comments section after the post.


“Sucker’s prayer”: This first pick is actually an exception to the upbeat rule of the rest of the album. I mean, really, just listen to the chorus: “I’ve been so long lonely and it’s getting me down. I wanna throw my body in the river and drown.” It’s so over the top that we know this can’t possibly by Colin Meloy singing autobiographically. It’s also thematically prototypical to what we used to imagine Country music to be, down in the dumps where nothing can go right. And the music is right there with it, downtrodden blues buried deep within Americana piano tinkles and sustained organ. And that aforementioned chorus begs to be sung along with, come on in, have a drink, cry a little, and join us in prayer.

“Severed”: As I mentioned above, this one here was the first single and teaser we got from this new album and what a shock it was to some. I admit myself to playing it and still being surprised even after hearing the whisperings on the internet. My wife Victoria was sitting across the living room on her tablet and asked “Is that The Decemberists?!”. I could only nod and play it again. The synthesizers set the tone right from the start and throw you off the scent but once you find it again, you definitely remember why you love this band. It’s a song that rocks. It roars along like a black car on an old deserted road, its bright lights laying down the path on its suicide mission.

“Once in my life”: This final selection was the second single released off the album and also its opener. It begins with Meloy singing solo to the strum of his guitar, making a plea to universe not unlike that of Morrissey in a certain Smiths classic. Yet this is The Decemberists and things pick up from there, the bass slides in, backing vocals join in, instruments are added, including the surprising but welcome synthesizers, and the piece becomes joyful. The accompanying video is one that continues the theme of hope and it was while reading Colin Meloy’s statement upon it that I learned his son Hank is autistic. In his words: “When I’m out in public with Hank, I’m acutely aware of the world’s attachment to social and behavioral norms; in these situations, Hank’s otherness can suddenly be put in stark relief. Through the lens of Jacob’s [the video”s protagonist] joyful and defiant movement in Autumn’s video, we see a man shrugging off the constraints of an unaccommodating and judgmental world and truly reveling in his body and mind.” Yep. I need say no more.


In case you missed them, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”
4. Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”
3. Nap Eyes “I’m bad now”
2. Frank Turner “Be more kind”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 2018: #2 Frank Turner “Be more kind”

I’ve been something of a Frank Turner fan for so long that I can no longer remember when or how it started. There’s a bunch of likely sources but there’s no way I could tell you for sure. And yet, to be honest, up to this point, it’s mostly just a bunch of his songs that have caught my fancy, shiny gems scattered across a slew of his albums. This one here is the first of his albums that I’ve loved through and through.

Frank Turner cut his teeth in a few bands, most notably post-hardcore band Million Dead, before striking out in his own in 2005. Almost from the beginning, he has been backed up on the road and in the studio by The Sleeping Souls, made up of members of Dive Dive, whom Turner had befriended while out on tour. He has become known as a folk punk singer/songwriter, whose lyrics are informed, intelligent, often socio-political in nature, and so much fun to sing or shout along with. I’ve likened him to a younger Billy Bragg and the similarities go beyond those already mentioned and the English accent that he refuses to let go of while singing. He is also very passionate, usually angry sounding, which gives a bit more of an edge than Bragg, not that this is better or worse.

“Be more kind” is Frank Turner’s seventh studio long player and marks a bit of a shift for him. The title and really, the ethos for album was inspired by a line in the poem “Leçons des Ténèbres” by Clive James, which suggests that poet found out too late that he should’ve been more kind. As soon as I read about this, I searched out the poem myself because it’s an idea that I love. That of kindness in the face of all this madness we are facing. And though, Turner hesitates to call the album a political one, I would say it would almost be impossible for someone like him not to write about what he sees happening, especially as his own personal life has moved towards happiness.

I’m doing something a little different for my three picks for you and this album. Rather than describe the sound or lyrical content of the songs, I’m going to provide a chunk of lyric for each. Because primarily, I try to keep politics out of this blog (though it’s hard with artists like this) and secondly, I couldn’t possible say it better than Frank. Enjoy…

…And yeah… be more kind.


“1933”: “If I was of the greatest generation, I’d be pissed. Surveying the world that I built slipping back into this, I’d be screaming at my grandkids: ‘We already did this’. Be suspicious of simple answers. That shit’s for fascists and maybe teenagers. You can’t fix the world if all you have is a hammer. The first time it was a tragedy. The second time is a farce. Outside it’s 1933 so I’m hitting the bar.”

“Make America great again”: “Well I know I’m just an ignorant Englishman but I’d like to make America great again. So if you’ll forgive my accent and the cheek of it, here’s some suggestions from the special relationship. Let’s make America great again by making racists ashamed again. Let’s make compassion in fashion again. Let’s make America great again.”

“Be more kind”: “History’s been leaning on me lately. I can feel the future breathing down my neck. And all the things I thought were true when I was young, and you were too, turned out to be broken and I don’t know what comes next. In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind, be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind.”


Check back next Friday for album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”
4. Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”
3. Nap Eyes “I’m bad now”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.