Best of 2008

Best of 2008: J. Freedom du Lac on Pop Albums

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The album format is dead? Hogwash. Here are 10 album-size arguments against that notion. Ashton Shepherd is a tough, twangy traditionalist with a mission statement: "I like a pint of C rown and a country sound and stayin' out all night." Somewhere, Miranda Lambert is breakin' out the kerosene. James McMurtry's literary-rock masterpiece mixed political screeds with trenchant character sketches set in the vast nothingness of rural America. Egocentric rap perfectionist Kanye West crafted the year's most emotionally honest (and gloriously imperfect) R&B album, and Jamey Johnson did some brilliant brooding of his own, channeling ache, anger and angst on his harrowing, open-hearted country gem. Soul sorceress Erykah Badu ciphered her own curious cosmos to spellbinding effect. Ne-Yo's R&B atavism was refreshing. Fleet Foxes channeled CSNY. Rapper Rhymefest feted Michael Jackson with a mix tape. Reggaeton genre-busters Calle 13 added Afrobeat to their arsenal. And Thao Nguyen came across like Edie Brickell fronting Modest Mouse, only better.

1. Ashton Shepherd, "Sounds So Good"

2. James McMurtry, "Just Us Kids"

3. Kanye West, "808s and Heartbreak"

4. Jamey Johnson, "That Lonesome Song"

5. Erykah Badu, "New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)"

6. Ne-Yo, "Year of the Gentleman"

7. Fleet Foxes, "Fleet Foxes"

8. Rhymefest/Mark Ronson, "Man in the Mirror"

9. Calle 13, "Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo"

10. Thao Nguyen with the Get Down Stay Down, "We Brave Bee Stings and All"

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