5. DeVotchKa- "A Mad and Faithful Telling"
As written about in an earlier post, Denver band DeVotchKa are certainly an acquired taste. Blending horns, polka, orchestral rock and pretty much everything else imaginable, their sound is unlike any other band. On first listen, they sound like a really cheesy lounge band that belongs in the dark backrooms of Reno (yes, not even Las Vegas). But damn if their sound didn't grow on me. I've since gone back and purchased their earlier stuff and they're truly mad geniuses.
4. The Gutter Twins- "Saturnalia"
As a fan of The Afghan Whigs since the mid nineties, I'll pretty much follow front man and lyricist Greg Dulli anywhere. His vocals are ear shatteringly off-key sometimes, but one can't deny the power and dark hurt in many of his lyrics. After bouncing around with his superior and under appreciated band The Twilight Singers, '08 saw him team up with former Screaming Trees guitarist Mark Lanegan and release this collaboration on Sub Pop! Not only does it encompass the morbidity of Dulli's lyrics, but the album reaches some pretty damn nice heights of music.
3. M83- "Saturdays=Youth"
Absolutely stunning collection of songs ripped from the 80's and stylized into moody, atmospheric synthesizer rock. Eerily reminiscent of every groundbreaking eighties band from Vangelis to My Bloody Valentine, M83 is really the brainchild of mix maestro Anthony Gonzales. Not only has he created one of the best albums of the year, but an album that would fit right at home on top of the charts in 1988. The tracks "Coleurs" and "We Own the Sky" are especially great. I urge any fan of electronica 80's music to give this a spin.
2. Kings Of Leon- "Only By the Night"
I can remember when these guys were considered alt-country (a genre I just never can get into), so I guess it was time for an image shift. Well they did a fantastic job with reinventing themselves. Taking their cue from the late 70's FM rock (made popular again by My Morning Jacket), this is a stellar album without a single bad track. While "Sex On Fire" is the single of the year, there are hidden gems on this album such as "Use Somebody", "Revelry" and "Manhatten" that are jaw droppers as well. Lead man Caleb Followill's voice is crisp and soulful which lends a credibility to their raw sound. A perfect album all around.
1. Sigur Ros- "Med Sud i eyrum vid spilum endelaust"
Translated as With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly. I know... I know.... it all sounds very pretentious, but Sigur Ros generates the exact type of music that gets me soaring. For their fifth album, they do lean a bit to the mainstream, even singing some lyrics in English! Simply put, their sound coalesces into a momentous explosion of strings, guitar and sobbing vocals that puts you in a melancholic mood. Fresh, beautiful and startling from first track to last.