NPR logo WNYC's Genre Mix: Top 10 Albums Of 2008

WNYC's Genre Mix: Top 10 Albums Of 2008

Scroll Down To Hear Songs From All 10 Albums

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This is a list for the Age of the iPod Shuffle, as more people listen to more types of music than ever before. For me, music has always been like food: No matter how much I like pizza, I still want to have sushi, or tandoori, or coq au vin. So, yes, my iPod may be an insane musical smorgasbord, but that's not so unusual these days. My "Recently Added" folder includes these Top 10 gems from 2008.

Click here to hear John Schaefer recommend his pick for Top Classical DVD of the Year.

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

WNYC's Genre Mix: Top 10 Albums Of 2008

Cover for The Bairns
Blackbird
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1. The Bairns

  • Song: Blackbird
  • by Rachel Unthank

A quietly extraordinary album from a well that you'd think would have run dry by now. Rachel and Becky Unthank and their friends resurrect old English and Scottish folk songs, and extend the tradition with some surprising new ones. The arrangements are largely acoustic and spare, but still full of mystery and/or excitement. And the sisters' harmonies are just beautiful.

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Song
Bairns
Album
Bairns
Artist
Rachel Unthank
Label
Real World
Released
2007

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Cover for Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac - Angles
Thou Shalt Always Kill
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2. Angles

  • Song: Thou Shalt Always Kill
  • from Angles
  • by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

Finally, a full-length album from London's bearded poet/rapper/spoken-word artist and his slightly less bearded musical mate. Dan Le Sac creates his own beats and provides the musical backing and whatever singing is required, but it's all about Pip's wordplay, which can be funny, angry and emotionally true, all at the same time. Pip's first single, "Thou Shalt Always Kill," set the bar high, but he's gone from strength to strength, and all of his buzz-building songs are here.

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Song
Angles
Album
Angles
Artist
Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
Label
Strangefamous
Released
2008

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Cover for Santogold
L.E.S. Artistes
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3. Santogold

  • Song: L.E.S. Artistes
  • by Santogold

Don't dismiss her as a poor man's M.I.A. -- that might arguably apply to one or two songs on her debut, but the impressive thing about this album is the absolute confidence with which Santogold handles indie-rock, electronica and global hip-hop sounds.

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Song
Santogold
Album
Santogold
Artist
Santogold
Label
Downtown
Released
2008

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Cover for In Rainbows
Nude
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4. In Rainbows

  • Song: Nude
  • from In Rainbows
  • by Radiohead

Yeah, I know: It seems as if this record has been around for years. But its official release date in the U.S. was Jan. 1, 2008, so it qualifies. It also qualifies as an instant classic -- accessible but still edgy, it satisfied the band's rabid fan base and reached listeners who'd once found some of the band's work to be cumulatively tiresome.

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Song
In Rainbows
Album
In Rainbows
Artist
Radiohead
Label
Radiohead
Released
2007

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Cover for Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit
The Box
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5. A Larum

  • Song: The Box
  • from A Larum
  • by Johnny Flynn

Another dip into the vault of English folk, this time from a Southerner who writes his own, very contemporary folk songs. Johnny Flynn is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and singer who likes to sing surrounded by company; there's a certain back-of-the-pub quality here, despite the professional arrangements, and a bit of an echo of American country and blues, too.

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Song
A Larum
Album
A Larum
Artist
Johnny Flynn
Label
Lost Highway/Vertigo
Released
2008

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Cover for The Hold Steady
Constructive Summer
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6. Stay Positive

  • Song: Constructive Summer
  • from Stay Positive
  • by The Hold Steady

Craig Finn has taken some singing lessons, so the new Hold Steady record has a new sound. Rather than back Finn's quixotic speech-song with Springsteen-inflected indie-rock, the Brooklyn band scatters genuine singalong moments throughout its latest.

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

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Cover for Bartók: Les Violons du Roy
Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta: IV
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8. Bartok: Les Violons du Roy

  • Song: Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta: IV
  • by Various

Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was at his best when writing in the style he called "Night Music" -- dark, moody pieces built around sound rather than traditional classical forms. Parts of MPSC are the darkest and moodiest of his Night Music. Still, there are plenty of great recordings of this work. The surprise here is how convincing this Quebecois ensemble, best known for its classy, sparkling interpretations of Baroque and early classical music, sounds in this 20th-century work.

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Song
Bartók: Les Violons du Roy
Album
Bartók: Les Violons du Roy
Artist
Various
Label
Atma Classique
Released
2008

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Cover for Glass Box
Koyaanisqatsi, film score
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7. Glass Box

  • Song: Koyaanisqatsi, film score
  • from Glass Box
  • by Philip Glass

Nothing new here, but what a terrific, comprehensive overview of one of the most influential and controversial composers of our time. From the genuine Minimalism of the early works to the landmark operas to the lush symphonic and cinematic scores, this 10-CD extravaganza also sports portraits, photos and essays that add to the appeal.

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Song
Glass Box
Album
Glass Box
Artist
Philip Glass
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2008

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Cover for Not For Piano

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Two Minds One Sound
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9. Not For Piano

  • Song: Two Minds One Sound
  • by Francesco Tristano

A Luxembourgian classical pianist hangs out in Barcelona clubs, hears ambient electronica and wonders, "Why can't I play that?" He answers his own question with a piano, piano-and-electronics and two-piano collection of original works, covers and improvisations. It could've been a mess, but it works.

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Song
Not for Piano
Album
Not for Piano
Artist
Francesco Tristano
Label
Sunnyside
Released
2007

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Cover for The Mande Variations
Elyne Road
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10. Toumani Diabate: The Mande Variations

  • Song: Elyne Road
  • by Toumani Diabate

The master of the West African kora (the traditional lute-harp of the royal court musicians of the Malian courts) goes solo, for the first time in almost 20 years. These exquisite compositions use the traditional but highly sophisticated tuning and interplay of the instrument's dual sets of strings to masterful effect.

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Song
Mande Variations
Album
Mande Variations
Artist
Toumani Diabate
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2008

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In Rainbows [Special Edition]

Purchase Music

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Album
In Rainbows [Special Edition]
Artist
Radiohead
Label
MapleMusic/Fontana
Released
2008

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