Knee Meets Jerk: In Which a Beleaguered Music Journalist Attempts to Identify Ten Albums Released Between December 2007 and December 2008 That Were Better Than All the Other Albums Released in the Same Time Period. Listed in no particular order. (Results Subject to Change.)
Capsule – Blue (Robotic Empire)
Lithe, vicious hardcore. A monolith of aggression and power. A panic attack gone horribly, horribly right.
Foals – Antidotes (Transgressive)
Fuck Vampire Weekend: This is the indie rock record of the year. Gorgeously twitchy and mathematically adept, Antidotes is the best thing by four pre-quarter-life-crisis Brits since John, Paul, George and Ringo came across the Atlantic.Come for the indie-rock bounce of “Red Socks Pugie,” stay for the much better deep cuts (“Balloons,” “Olympic Airways,” “Heavy Water”).
Torche – Meanderthal (Hydra Head)
Heavy and catchy don’t always have to be diametrically opposed, as proves this Atlanta-by-way-of-Florida quartet. Tracks such as “Grenades” explode with shining swaths of Florida sunshine cutting through the impossibly low and preternaturally heavy din; stoner rock has never sounded this accessible, and brutality has never sounded this beautiful.
Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord)
Bees is dark, thick and heavy, and its exquisite, glacially paced drone sounds like cascading tides and shifting tectonic plates.
Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
In which Yoni Wolf combines the honest in-rhyming and lyrical enjambment of backpacking underground rap — Anticon’s calling card — with cryptic, esoterically accessible indie-folk arrangements and wears his incredibly dark neuroses on his sleeve.
The former is the underground hip-hop record of the year; Rollie Pemberton spits insanely genius gold while his beats shit diamonds. The latter is the mainstream rap record of the year: When it comes to the modern rap game, can’t nobody touch Weezy’s flow or psycho sense of humor.
The Field – The Sound of Light (Dealers of Nordic Music)
While fellow Scandanavian Hans-Peter Lindstrom was building epic dance grooves, this Swedish superproducer Alex Willner was musing on the aural qualities of Northern Lights. In doing so, he created a glimmering work of ambient techno that unfolds gorgeously, as if guided by unseen mathematics and programmed to burst into one million tiny pieces of light on a night sky.
Al Green – Lay it Down (Blue Note)
In a year filled with reunions both welcome (see: Portishead, Q-Tip) and unwelcome (see: Guns N’ Roses), nobody came back stronger than the world’s reigning king of soul.
No Age – Nouns (Sub Pop)
Weirdo Rippers was great; Nouns is greater. Los Angeles punk hasn’t been this relevant — or this good — in nigh on three decades.
Sawhorse – Cover It With Asphalt (Blackjaw Records)
Note: This will destroy you. Baltimore sextet Sawhorse does post-apocalyptic post-rock right, beginning with a cryptic, haunting Charles Manson soliloquy and subsequently traversing through chiming bridges and fuzz-laden freakouts. America’s answer to Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy)
Four working-class Jersey punks make the record The Hold Steady always wanted to make, but couldn’t. Springsteen would be proud.
Honorable mentions/Apologies To:
1000 Robota, Die Nicht Er Nicht Sie Nicht EP; Erykah Badu, The New Amerykah Part I; David Banner, The Greatest Story Ever Told; The Baseball Project, Vol. I: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails; Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago; Boris, Smile; Citified, The Meeting After the Meeting; Colour Revolt, Plunder, Beg and Curse; Crooked Fingers, Forfeit/Fortune; Don the Reader, Humanesque; Flying Lotus, Los Angeles; Genghis Tron, Board Up the House; Grails, Doomsdayer’s Holiday; Harvey Milk, Life … the Best Game in Town; The Heist and the Accomplice, Connections Work (Fork and Spoon); Let’s Wrestle, Let’s Wrestle; Lindstrom, Where You Go I Go Too; Lupe Fiasco, The Cool; Mogwai, The Hawk is Howling; North, What You Were; Q-Tip, The Renaissance; Russian Circles, Station; Taylor Swift, Fearless; Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend; The Vandermark Five, Beat Reader; The Walkmen, You and Me; The Whigs, Mission Control