2008 in Music (So Far)

I’m finally starting to find some new music that’s rocking my world effectively, which is nice, since I was beginning to get worried that 2008 was really going to be a bust year, tunes-wise. I’d previously mentioned BauhausGo Away White and The RaveonettesLust Lust Lust as the albums to beat thus far this year, but the following albums have also popped strong on my radar screen over the past month:

Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple: Nothing as insanely catchy as their big hit, “Crazy,” here, but I actually think this is a stronger album than their debut. It’s dark and woozy, and the arrangements are less big beat or hip hop than straight up soul and funk. Cee-Lo Green is such an amazing vocalist, and “Blind Mary” has got “Song of the Year” potential written all over it.

Snoop Dogg, Ego Trippin’: It’s rare that I like an edited/clean version of a track better than the raw original (if you want to cuss, then cuss, and don’t edit it out . . . if you can edit a cuss out, then it didn’t need to be there in the first place), but “Sensual Seduction” (the clean version of “Sexual Eruption”) is the best single I’ve heard in ages and ages and ages. There’s nothing else quite as strong on this record, but overall, this may still be Snoop’s best since his debut Doggystyle. “My Medicine” finds him pimping over a country back track, and the closing triptych of “One Chance,” “Why Did You Leave Me” and “Can’t Say Goodbye” is as fine a 10 minutes of music as I’ve ever heard, anywhere. There’s some fluff and dreck on this one, too, but with some judicious CD programming, you can get one heckuva 40 minute album out of these tracks.

The Teenagers, Reality Check: Sort of a French version of Art Brut, merging impossibly catchy riffs with nearly spoken vocals, mostly about rocking out and meeting girls and making out with girls and rocking some more. Completely raunchy and one-dimensional for the most part, but somehow charming because of that. The sexual bravura doesn’t come across as being too terribly offensive, since you get the sense that it’s analogous to the kids in the chess club sharing made-up tales of their exploits with the opposite sex, right before having their lunch money stolen by the football team.

The Dodos, Visiter: An interesting duo who craft their clever, unusual songs around drums and acoustic guitars, and nothing else. Much better than most of the modern neo-folk or anti-folk dreck that has become so popular over the past few years. These guys rock hard, acoustically, and often eschew typical verse-chorus song structures, offering numbers that just seem to flow along without predictable, repeatable structure. Challenging and rewarding.

So there’s at least six 2008 albums that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to put on a year-end best of list in December.Hopefully four more pop up before then.

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