Many pundits seem to think that the iPod has killed off the “album”. I disagree. I listen to FAR more complete albums since I got my iPod than before. I think having my entire collection with me at all times, so I can play the album that fits my mood, has the most to do with it.
So, the album is NOT dead, and here are my favorites from 2008!
1. Pink – Funhouse
I’ve been a fan of Pink for a while, but she really outdid herself on her latest album. Who else could make a painful divorce song so fun in “So What.” The rest of the album is no exception. The lyrics are often intensely personal, and often surprising in how they are delivered. The album is incredibly cohesive; an amazing feat considering it goes from uber-polished pop rock to acoustic flavored ballads to very organic bluesy-rock ala Aerosmith. Hands down my favorite album of the year, and better yet… I sense the best might still be yet to come from this artist!
2. Coldplay – Viva la Vida
This has received no shortage of attention, and it deserves it. But the beauty of this album is how it flows as an ALBUM. Individual songs from the album popping up at random on your iPod might all be good, but the creative majesty of this project is how it unfolds over the course of 50 minutes or so. Spend the time to sit down and soak it all in; then you’ll see that this album is worthy of the hype.
3. Katy Perry – One of the Boys
One of the most criminal oversights with the Grammy Noms this year is failing to nominate Katy Perry for Best New Artist. I don’t know if I could name ANY debut pop album that was as cohesive a project as this. Personality also oozes through the CD with fun and distinctive lyrics and no shortage of hooks. She is not just a singles artist, for all the candy-confection majesty of “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot and Cold” they sit in well with the entire CD as a whole, one that won’t disappoint fans of her singles.
A combination of the lush electronica of Delerium and the hypnotic vocals of Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer) is an unexpected combination that results in sonic magic. Very relaxing, the cd never deigns to give in to being simply a background, “texture” CD, instead, whether vocal or instrumental, they know that melody is king. Yet, they don’t stoop to the typical with fresh and suprising chord progressions that never feel too smart for their own good. Shake off that stressful day with the journey that Faulige takes you on with their debut (and hopefully not last) CD.
5. Arden Kaywin – Elephant in the Room
I have often said that there is nothing sadder than an independent pop artist. Pop never gets any love from the underground supporters, and can’t compete with the budget of Major Labels. On this CD, indie artist Arden Kaywin, seems to have accomplished the impossible. She has crafted a perfect pop album with hooks and melody, but somehow gives it an indie appeal that should garner her support with all the mainstream-haters as well. Natalie Merchant was embraced by the pop and indie community, and Arden fully deserves to step into that spot with her sophomore set… a CD that is both more mature and more youthful than her debut.
6. Keane – Perfect Symmetry
This probably isn’t the CD to win over new fans (Their debut is still a peerless classic), but the entire CD is enjoyable. It ventures into new territory, but still anchors itself with some classic sounding Keane to keep the old fans happy.
7. Taxi Doll – Here and Now
I can’t believe this is actually their debut CD, as I have been following this group for almost 4 years. They’ve taken some of the best tunes from their previous EPs and brought in a bunch of good new tunes. Glorious Pop/Electro/Glam kitchy catchiness follows. The production is shimmering and surprising throughout, the songs are memorable, and a good excuse to have a party. This CD is essential if you would like to hear the following artists jam together: Madonna, Blondie, No Doubt & Pet Shop Boys.
8. In the Heights – Original Cast Recording
This CD is so full of hight energy salsa and whip smart rapping from composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda that you hardly notice that there aren’t really any memorable *songs* here. The CD is a fun listen and the stage production is super, but I can’t help but think there would be a longer life overall for the production if there were a couple standout HITS on this CD. Still, I never thought I would have a cast recording that does great double duty as a workout soundtrack!
9. Kamera – Resurrection
Kamera outplayed the Killers at their own game this year. For your eighties retro/glam rock fix this year, put down the Killers ho-hum new CD and pick up this gem of a CD absolutely PACKED with hooky songs. It’s not too often I hear a band with this much attention to the craft of pop writing. Better yet, they don’t let the craft get in the way of an energetic and fun CD.
10. Delta Goodrem – Delta
This Australian songbird gets to show off her amazing pipes on perhaps one of the best engineered CDs of the year. This is a true sonic tapestry that really only reveals its brilliance on a great set of headphones. The songs are consistantly good, if not great, but the detail of the production and her captivating voice keep you hooked. If she can come up with a CD filled with SONGS worthy of her voice and this production, it will trule be a classic for the ages, until then, this is a nice bookmark.