Best of 2008

Anne Briggs-Anne Briggs Stunning first album by British folksinger Briggs, who is like PJ Harvey doing ancient folk ballads

The Magnetic Fields-Distortion: More great songwriting from Stephen Merritt, and I especially like the ones the girl sings

The Raveonettes-Lust Lust Lust They borrow liberally from J&M Chain, but then who doesn’t? Feedbacking guitar, spooky vibe, overall sexy and mysterious feel

Rosie Flores-Rosie Flores “Rockabilly Filly” makes her debut in the late ‘80s, one of the best albums of its kind, ever. When Rosie tells her man “God may forgive you, but I won’t,” she means it.

Rodriguez-Cold Fact Sixto Rodriguez is like a Hispanic Lou Reed. Stone-cold lost classic from ’71 here

The Grip Weeds- Infinite Soul: The Best Of Excellent power pop from New Jersey. The Kinks meet Cheap Trick meet The Posies

Matthew Sweet-Sunshine Lies Speaking of power pop . . . many of the tracks just lie there, but on the best few he revisits his “Girlfriend” peak

Bobbie Gentry-Ode to Billie Joe/Touch ‘Em With Love 2-for-1 Gentry is an enigmatic character who has not performed or given interviews for ages. This set collects her startling debut with her best album

Beach House-Devotion Baltimore’s answer to Opal/Mazzy Star improves upon their impressive first album

The Searchers-Love’s Melody The Searchers have never really gotten the credit they deserve for being at the forefront of mid-‘60s jangle, and here, in ’81, they showed they could handle power pop just as masterfully; they covered Big Star years before the rest of the world caught up

Dennis Wilson-Pacific Ocean Blue The truth is that the effort was more than the end product here, as Dennis just really wasn’t a good singer and could never match brother Brian (who can?) in songwriting and arranging; still, there’s some movingly moody and evocative stuff here, done by a troubled soul who was on the way down

N.E.R.D.-Seeing Sounds On the first listen I was dancing around the house and raving to friends that it was the record of the year. On future listens I heard the lyrics more closely and thought, aren’t these guys out of junior high yet? I would love to hear it as all instrumentals.

Sean O’Hagan-Musical Paintings Part of a complicated and interesting collaboration the High Llamas’ main main has done with a Belgian visual artist; as music it just sounds like really good High Llamas instrumentals

Jorge Ben-Jorge Ben Tropicalista heavy and guitar wizard at his best, in 1969 

The Chevelles-Barbarella Girl God (Best Of) The Ramones from Down Under, with a little more pop sensibility

Flamin Groovies-This Band is Red Hot: 1969-79 The Groovies recorded two of the most memorable tracks in pop/rock history- “Teenage Head” and “Shake Some Action.” As this comp. proves, they did a whole lot more, as well. Swampy, greasy rock and roll with a boogie kick.

Various-Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story Eye-opening 2-CD collection shows that Alex Chilton and Big Star weren’t the only band doing interesting stuff around Memphis in the ‘70’s

Colin Blunstone-Ennismore/Journey Doesn’t match up to Blunstone’s post-Zombies masterpiece One Year, but still two solid records that are better than Argent

T. Rex-The Best of the BBC Recordings Marc and friends doing their thing on John Peel’s and Bob Harris’s radio shows during their Electric Warrior-era heyday

Various Artists-Halloween a Go-Go I generally loathe holiday-themed compilations, but Little Steven and Wicked Cool did one that includes Roky Erickson, The Stems, Howlin’ Wolf, and a Tegan and Sara track that has become a household favorite here on Watts

The Notwist-The Devil, You + Me Boards of Canada if they incorporated more melody into their noises

R.E.M.-Murmur (Expanded Edition) The ’83 show on disc 2 finds them in their best form and is a reminder of what all the hoopla was about to begin with

Neil Young-Canterbury House 1968 Neil doing an intimate show playing acoustic versions of Buffalo Springfield favorites, as well as stuff that would appear on his underrated solo debut, etc.

Windy & Carl-Songs for the Broken-Hearted Give them credit for sticking to their guns and doing the space rock stuff almost a decade after it became passé; moody, eerie sounds that can help you let your head go

Reuben Wilson and The Cost of Living-Got to Get Your Own B-3 master and jazz hipster Wilson does cool breeze soul

The B-52s-Funplex I have to disagree with all the music writers who have trashed this in print. I keep cueing up “Hot Corner” and “Deviant Ingredient” when I’ve had a couple rounds and feel like moving around in the music room.