2008 was a big year. The country elected a new president. Britney Spears suffered several nervous breakdowns and a subsequent reclaiming of dignity. The stock market, economy and job market plunged with impending graduates wondering how they can avoid the real world, all the while being thankful that gas prices dropped more than 50 percent. As far as music is concerned, there were many, many great albums released, perhaps too many for anyone to possibly have collected them all. However, depending on preference, here is a compiled list of some of the best and most accessible albums of 2008.
1. For the indie-enthusiast:
While there were a handful of surprisingly pleasant debuts, most impressively Bon Iver’s For Emma and Laura Marling’s Alas, I Cannot Swim, 2008 was the year of anticipation and delivery. Tried and true indie bands proved to have long-term staying power for the public. The Walkmen’s You & Me married a powerful, melancholy experience between listeners and Leithauser’s wailing lyrics, while The Hold Steady continued to excite and stir-up fans with Stay Positive. Both bands have the talent of narrative in their songs, but tell such different stories that both albums become invaluable for listeners that want to claim bragging rights.
The Walkmen’s album best compliments those stay-up-late-nights riding out dark, romantic moods. The band’s unique approach to vintage instrumentals and their telling of stories tinged with nostalgia are classically Walkmen, but updated. The Hold Steady plays up the cynics, stoners and drunks of a young generation hell-bent on self-destruction, reminiscent of the generation the Who sang so famously about.
2. For the bar-hopping club connoisseur:
Feeding right into our frenetic generation, the year was full of singular dance hits. Few albums are genuinely perfect in their entirety as well-done club songs. The perfect backdrop for a party calls for a recipe of beats with originality, a track listing that can read as a list #1 Greatest Hits, or club songs that celebrate the decadence and depravity that is college partying. Luckily, three artists managed to drop albums that fulfilled each of the requirements, beginning with the quirky, catchy Girl Talk album Feed the Animals. Yet again, Girl Talk managed to merge old classics with the same tired rap further still with a few indie songs for flavor. Made for live shows and big crowds, the album is one track after another of songs that will make especially the worst dancer break it down on the floor.
On a completely different genre that serves the same purpose, Lil Wayne dropped Carter III, which released song after song of number one singles. Almost every song on the album stands alone phenomenally as an EP. His success is in the unbeatable beat, and his distinct voice delivering catchy, witty and provocative lines such as “Rodney King baby, yeah I beat it like a cop.” Born in his music is the perfect rap because of his sense of dirty rhythm paired with a tongue-and-cheek lyric.
Finally, Lady Gaga is the new icon of overindulgence and consumption with The Fame. Most famous is “Just Dance,” and though she has a handful of clichéd, romantic filler on the album, her successful songs do not disguise what sells in sweaty, booze-saturated environments. Sex and money are the vices that Lady Gaga recognizes as the most enticing for a current generation that is looking at record high unemployment in the real world. Her escapist music works perfectly to help any club connoisseur forget they may still be in Oxford five years from now working that late-night shift.
3. For the fraternity aficionado:
Another honorable mention must go here for Lil Wayne’s Carter III, which not only works for girls wanting to grind with their best girlfriends or that special guy of the month, but for stereotypical business major, beer-drinking fraternity boys. Again, Lil Wayne’s ability to take lyrics that are dirty and witty at the same time creates accessibility to everyone wanting to live large like him.
Along the same vein of well-done rap, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool features Lupe’s smoother voice and steadier delivery, but with well-crafted lyrics that are more narrative. Lupe prefers the message, and when the vehicle for that message is a hot beat, that makes it even more palatable for critics and college kids alike.
For lazy Sundays and late nights, or even to frame a relaxed evening with that special “skirt,” Ben Folds’ Way to Normal is a perfect choice. More traditionally his sound, the album is more energetic than some of his previously more melancholy tracks, but still has that homespun, sincere sound that has given Folds his career.
Finally, the biggest album to own of 2008 is Viva la Vida. Coldplay’s album did not disappoint any fan of their previous sound. Slightly more amped, Coldplay experimented with more than just their traditional instrumentations, with large payoffs. The best part of the album is the duality of enjoyment; for some, the lyrical quality with their anti-authoritarian and celebratory secular life tones give them the most substance, while others are content with their swelling, climatic sound that culminates in the very rich sound of Chris Martin’s voice.
There ends a productive year in music. For a generation that lives very much in the moment, and has managed to be both apathetic and frenzied in their attention spans, the production quality of music has remained high.
The year’s not over yet, and many of the albums are still hot on the market and iTunes playlists all over campus. Treat yourself to a Christmas present and make sure you’re stocked in some of the best 2008 had to offer.