Initially published on December 8, 2008…
10. Revelation, Third Day – I’ve loved these guys for a long time, but their last couple of records have been a little bit of a let down. This one is a return to form in my eyes.
9. Bebo Norman, Bebo Norman – Speaking of a return to form, Bebo comes back with his best album in years! He seemed to be sliding into an adult contemporary mold tailor made for radio stations like The Fish; actually, his last outing was a downer to me. But his self-titled effort packs a little more of an edge and keeps his folky-side intact.
8. The Foundation, Zac Brown Band – This would actually be higher if I hadn’t gotten the first version of it back in 2007. In fact, a few of the songs are on ZBB’s first independent album back in 2005. Right now, they’re pigeonholed in the Country genre, but Zac Brown Band’s music is so much more. I think these guys are in for a long career.
7. Gossip In The Grain, Ray LaMontagne – What can I say? Folk, country, jazz, and vintage soul come together, guided by Ray LaMontagne’s smoky whisper of a voice. There’s even a loving (if slightly tongue-in-cheek) tribute to White Stripes’ drummer Meg White, proving that Ray is not 100% serious and introspective. A real treat.
6. Konk, The Kooks – My favorite scruffy, rowdy, straight-up-rock-and-roll British band released their second album this year, and it’s full of irresistible, infectious songs that demand repeated listens. No messages and no navel gazing here…just pure fun.
5. 19, Adele – Wow. Adele is one talented young lady. Whether stripped down to just her voice and a piano or guitar or backed by a full band and string section, she does not disappoint on her debut. 19is an incredible slice of British soul/folk/pop, and I can’t wait to hear more from Adele.
4. Love On The Inside, Sugarland – I was a little disappointed in the choice for the first single, and not so sure about the choice for the second one, but for me Sugarland’s latest effort is about the gems buried inside the record. The breakup (or post-divorce) lament of “Keep You,” the U2-esque bombast of “Love,” the literary references in “Genevieve,” the haunted what-if’s of “Joey”…these and the other songs on this album add up to far more than the sum of their parts.
3. Rockferry, Duffy – Much like Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black last year, Rockferry sounds like a recently uncovered gem of 60’s pop; one can almost hear the pops and cracks of the record needle! Duffy shows that she can wrap herself around a song, and I believe she’ll get even better as she gains experience.
2. Viva La Vida, Coldplay – Probably one of the most anticipated albums this year was one of the most unexpected. For all the purported stylistic changes, Coldplay is still Coldplay, and their songs are still solid. This is one record where, every time I hear it, I pick up on something new…some sonic texture, lyric, or vocal inflection…and I feel truly rewarded for the experience.
1. Albertine, Brooke Fraser – Imagine if Tori Amos weren’t so angry all the time. Imagine if Sarah McLachlan or Norah Jones sang about faith. Brooke Fraser’s expertly written and exquisitely performed meditations on love, faith, and life in general create a cohesive, rewarding whole and make for my favorite collection of songs this year.