'World Cafe' Picks 2008's Top 10 CDs

fromWXPN

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.

Click here for more entries in the Best CDs of 2008 series.

Visit the World Cafe.

'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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Manhattan"
  • Album: Only by the Night
  • Artist: Kings of Leon
  • Label: Control
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Mansard Roof"
  • Album: Vampire Weekend
  • Artist: Vampire Weekend
  • Label: XL
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Halfway Home"
  • Album: Dear Science
  • Artist: TV on the Radio
  • Label: Geffen
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Constructive Summer"
  • Album: Stay Positive
  • Artist: The Hold Steady
  • Label: Vagrant
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Bixby Canyon Bridge"
  • Album: Narrow Stairs
  • Artist: Death Cab for Cutie
  • Label: Atlantic/WEA
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "White Winter Hymnal"
  • Album: Fleet Foxes [Bonus Tracks]
  • Artist: Fleet Foxes
  • Label: Cooperative
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Frankie's Gun!"
  • Album: Felice Brothers
  • Artist: The Felice Brothers
  • Label: Team Love
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Numbers Game"
  • Album: Radio Retaliation
  • Artist: Thievery Corporation
  • Label: Eighteenth Street Lounge
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Canadian Girl"
  • Album: You & Me
  • Artist: The Walkmen
  • Label: Gigantic
  • Released: 2008
 
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.

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "100 Yard Dash"
  • Album: Way I See It
  • Artist: Raphael Saadiq
  • Label: Sony
  • Released: 2008
 

Featured Artist

Purchase Featured Music

Fleet Foxes

Purchase Music

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: Fleet Foxes
  • Artist: Fleet Foxes
  • Label: Sub Pop
  • Released: 2008
 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.