'World Cafe' Picks 2008's Top 10 CDs

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It wasn't the best year for music, but 2008 sure churned out a lot of it: In a marketplace flooded with more music than ever, there's rarely been less of a consensus. Your neighbor's iPod was most likely playing a different tune than yours was. Maybe it was a matter of listeners having less time to fall in love and more time for serious flirtations. Either way, here are the 10 albums that best kept me interested through multiple listens.

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'World Cafe' Picks 2008's Top 10 CDs

Kings of Leon art 200

1. Kings of Leon

  • Artist: Kings of Leon
  • Album: Only by the Night
  • Song: Manhattan

It's fascinating to me that the current great rock hope doesn't come from the indie side of the aisle, but from what passes for mainstream nowadays. Europe embraced Kings of Leon well before the U.S. did, and now this band of brothers has sneaked up on us. I love at least seven songs on this album, and that is not the norm.

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Song
Manhattan
Album
Only by the Night
Artist
Kings of Leon
Label
Control
Released
2008

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Vampire Weekend art 200

2. Vampire Weekend

  • Artist: Vampire Weekend
  • Album: Vampire Weekend
  • Song: Mansard Roof

We'll have to wait and see if these post-collegiate wonders have staying power, but there's more going on here than just blogger love. Those snaky guitar lines and yelped vocals were catchy enough to function as a summer soundtrack for many, myself included.

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Song
Mansard Roof
Album
Vampire Weekend
Artist
Vampire Weekend
Label
XL
Released
2008

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TV on tjhe Radio 200

3. TV On The Radio

  • Artist: TV on the Radio
  • Album: Dear Science
  • Song: Halfway Home

I love that when this album was released, TV on the Radio's members did interviews saying essentially what this album says quite eloquently: "It was never our intention to be simply critics'-darling art-rockers." A few strong melodies, and they have what we can call a hit album.

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Song
Halfway Home
Album
Dear Science
Artist
TV on the Radio
Label
Geffen
Released
2008

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The Hold Steady 200

4. The Hold Steady

  • Artist: The Hold Steady
  • Album: Stay Positive
  • Song: Constructive Summer

Stay Positive may not be the best of all possible Hold Steady albums. But, combined with the band's no-holds-barred live shows, it shows that the group certainly "built something this summer." People talk about singer Craig Finn's wordiness, but really, his belief in rock 'n' roll values is what's built The Hold Steady's avid following.

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Song
Constructive Summer
Album
Stay Positive
Artist
The Hold Steady
Label
Vagrant
Released
2008

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Death Cab for Cutie art 200

5. Death Cab For Cutie

  • Artist: Death Cab for Cutie
  • Album: Narrow Stairs
  • Song: Bixby Canyon Bridge

This one held up since the beginning of the year. Writers jumped on calling it "prog," probably because "I Will Possess Your Heart" opens with a long instrumental section. But there's no noodling on this tune-filled album, which demonstrates once again that sales and substance aren't mutually exclusive.

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Song
Bixby Canyon Bridge
Album
Narrow Stairs
Artist
Death Cab for Cutie
Label
Atlantic/WEA
Released
2008

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Fleet Foxes art 200

6. Fleet Foxes

  • Artist: Fleet Foxes
  • Album: Fleet Foxes [Bonus Tracks]
  • Song: White Winter Hymnal

Members of the Pacific Northwest band Fleet Foxes seemed surprised by their own success, but this lush, gorgeous record is just undeniable. The group was ready to break out from the moment it released its debut, and it's gratifying to see that happen.

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Song
White Winter Hymnal
Album
Fleet Foxes [Bonus Tracks]
Artist
Fleet Foxes
Label
Cooperative
Released
2008

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Felice Brothers

7. The Felice Brothers

  • Artist: The Felice Brothers
  • Album: Felice Brothers
  • Song: Frankie's Gun!

Maybe I have a thing for music made by brothers who seem a little unreconstructed. I'm betting that the next Felice Brothers album -- coming early in 2009 -- will be a major breakthrough. But for me, it's enough to soak in this introduction to the Band-like group of storytelling rough-housers.

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Song
Frankie's Gun!
Album
Felice Brothers
Artist
The Felice Brothers
Label
Team Love
Released
2008

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Thievery Corporation art 200

8. Thievery Corporation

  • Artist: Thievery Corporation
  • Album: Radio Retaliation
  • Song: Numbers Game

The D.C. duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have been making this exact sort of dubbed-out roots/rock/reggae for years. But, oh, is this record good. With guests ranging from go-go superstar Chuck Brown (of Soul Searchers) to Femi Kuti, Radio Retaliation feels like a house-rocking event.

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Song
Numbers Game
Album
Radio Retaliation
Artist
Thievery Corporation
Label
Eighteenth Street Lounge
Released
2008

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The Walkmen art 200

9. The Walkmen

  • Artist: The Walkmen
  • Album: You & Me
  • Song: Canadian Girl

I find myself playing this Brooklyn band's latest over and over again, soaking in its subterranean guitars and only occasionally decipherable lyrics. I can't find a "hit" for the radio on it, but it works so well as a whole that it may be my favorite full-length "album" experience of 2008.

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Song
Canadian Girl
Album
You & Me
Artist
The Walkmen
Label
Gigantic
Released
2008

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Raphael Saadiq art 200

10. Raphael Saadiq

  • Artist: Raphael Saadiq
  • Album: Way I See It
  • Song: 100 Yard Dash

I could have swapped out this fine, retro-leaning soul record for any number of great debuts -- by Santogold or The Ting Tings or Little Jackie. There were a lot of fun, frothy 2008 releases that hearken back to mythical lost summers. But Raphael Saadiq had the best album cover.

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Song
100 Yard Dash
Album
Way I See It
Artist
Raphael Saadiq
Label
Sony
Released
2008

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Featured Artist

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Fleet Foxes

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Album
Fleet Foxes
Artist
Fleet Foxes
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2008

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