Best of 2008 Staff Picks

Our favorites from what we put on the radio.


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Claudia Marshall | Darren DeVivo | Dennis Elsas | Corny O'Connell | Rita Houston | John Platt | Pete Fornatale | Vin Scelsa | Russ Borris | Sarah Wardrop | George Evans | Alisa Ali | Ben Jones | Rich McLaughlin | Jeff Kuprycz | Eric Holland | Ceol na nGael | Laura Fedele | Ben Guhin | Shari Rosen Ascher | Joey Delvecchio | Brandon Smith

Claudia Marshall

FUV Weekday Morning Host

The top ten records your friends won't know... but you will:

  • Ed Harcourt - The Beautiful Lie
    Harcort has more charisma than is probably healthy - especially accompanied by a dark sensibility. That darkness is belied by deceptively lovely melody. Great modern pop. Download: Visit From the Dead Dog. No really.
  • Jamie Lidell - Jim
    His live shows are notoriously uneven, but there are at least two, absolute gems on this release. For fans of neo soul.
  • Little Jackie - The Stoop
    Along with Lidell, this disc made my summer this year. The title track is great fun but keep going - it gets even better!
  • Joan as Police Woman - To Survive
    Joan Wasser is the real thing: a gifted session violinist, fearless songwriter and absolutely riveting onstage.
  • Randy Newman - Harps and Angels
    His humor is as biting as ever. Newman knocked us out a Carnegie Hall this year and made one of the few albums I was willing to spend actual dollars to own.
  • Aqualung - Words and Music
    It's taken me years to get beyond Matt Hales' annoying nom de rock. Somehow, his latest CD got stuck in my changer and I listened again and again. Yes, he's a sad sack. But he writes a killer melody and check out the homage to Brian Wilson on track 7.
  • Loudon Wainwright - Recovery
    Loudon revisits his early songs with producer Joe Henry and some of the best session guys in the biz. It's a gorgeous setting for these great songs.
  • Jonatha Brooke - The Works
    Using the words of Woody Guthrie has somehow paved the way for Jonatha to make a quintessential Jonatha record! Rich and varied, full of feeling and texture, this may be among the best releases of the year and among her best yet.
  • Phil Roy - The Great Longing
    How a great, blue-eyed soul CD gets so criminally overlooked is beyond me. I love you, Phil! Download: - "Busy Thinking 'Bout Today" (with Amos Lee) and "I Love Everybody"

Honorable Mentions:

  • TV on the Radio - Dear Science
    Turn it up and dance
  • Michael Franti - All Rebel Rockers
    Change the world while dancing.
  • Vampire Weekend
    It's hard not to grumble over a bunch of privledged college kids, but get over it. They're here and they're bringing AfroPop (and a whole lot of fun) to a whole new generation.
  • Nikka Costa - Pebble to a Pear
    Sly and the Family who??
  • Aimee Mann - Smilers
    She just keeps making great records. Not to be overlooked.
  • Joseph Arthur
    He made six records this year. Pick one, enjoy.

Darren DeVivo

FUV Weekday Host

My top ten albums, I think! (in alphabetical order):

  • Lindsey Buckingham - Gift Of Screws
    Lindsey's second 2008 album (Live At The Bass Performance Hall was issued earlier this year) is a bit better than his last studio album (2006's Under The Skin) and holds up well with his best solo output, but falls just short of being legitimately "great."
  • Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
    This was the album that made me a fan of the band, so, in a way, its presence here is an acknowledgement of the band's entire output, which I need to investigate. "Long Division," one of my favorite songs of the year, and the sprawling, eight and a half minute "I Will Possess Your Heart" pushed this into my top ten.
  • The Fireman - Electric Arguments
    Paul McCartney and Youth return for their third album (after 1994's Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest and 1998's Rushes). Unlike the two earlier albums, which were collections of ambient house/techno dance music, Electric Arguments is more song oriented, but the songs retain the loose, improvised approach of the earlier albums. To some, this is an unusual album for McCartney to be involved in, but those who have followed his career, know that he usually exposes his experimental side from time to time. This may be the best "left of center" album of his career.
  • David Gilmour - Live In Gdansk
    I usually don't include live albums on my list, but David Gilmour's fourth solo album is a majestic, sonic wonder. It combines a live performance of his album On An Island along with tons of Pink Floyd material. In Gilmour's band is his former band mate from Pink Floyd, Richard Wright, on keyboards and vocals. Richard's death just days before the release of Live In Gdansk adds a somber atmosphere to the album.
  • Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters
    Herbie Hancock pays tribute to Joni Mitchell with the assistance of guest vocalists Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen and Joni herself. Besides the vocal tracks, Herbie also mixes in instrumental interpretations of Joni's songs. Well deserving of the Grammy award for album of the year.
  • Joe Jackson - Rain
    Simply put, this is another winning collection of songs from rock's answer to George Gershwin and Cole Porter! The songs bear all the trademarks of classic Joe Jackson. This is a guitar-less trio album featuring two of the members of his original band (who reunited in 2003) - bassist and vocalist Graham Maby and drummer and vocalist Dave Houghton.
  • Pat Metheny with Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez - Day Trip
    I've said this before, I love everything Pat Metheny does, so, it's a safe bet that one of his albums will be on each of my year end album lists. Here, Pat returns to the trio setting, playing with bassist Christian McBride and Pat Metheny Group drummer Antonio Sanchez. To get the complete picture, check out the companion release, "Tokyo Day Trip Live EP", an album length EP of additional material.
  • Bob Mould - District Line
    I have always admired Bob Mould - with Husker Du, with Sugar and solo. His seventh solo album might be the best one he's done in some time and features his trademark molten pop with roaring guitars combined with some sonically adventurous material and even disco! "The Silence Between Us" was one of my favorite songs of the year.
  • R.E.M. - Accelerate
    Definitely an artistic comeback for the trio following the disappointing 2004 album, Around the Sun (which I liked and didn't think was as disappointing as some felt). This is a short, to the point album of songs that attack the listener and are more aggressive then most of the stuff the band has done in recent years. Not quite up there with R.E.M.'s best, but a very solid, welcome addition to their discography.
  • S.M.V. (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten) - Thunder
    I admit that this album probably would have been lost in the shuffle had I not seen this year's reunion tour of the classic lineup of the jazz fusion mega-group Return To Forever (of which Stanley Clarke is a member). It also benefitted from the fact I interviewed Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten (who released his latest solo album, Palmystery, this year). This is a meeting of some of the great bassists in the world and is a truly great fusion album. I'm glad it didn't remain lost in the stacks of CDs in my house! Let's hope these three do another album together.

Honorable mentions, sentimental picks, guilty pleasures and other albums that flew just under my top ten (again, in alphabetical order):

  • Asia - Phoenix
    This is the first studio album by the original lineup (Geoff Downes, John Wetton, Steve Howe and Carl Palmer) in twenty five years. It's better than I expected it would be!
  • Walter Becker - Circus Money
    This is the second solo album by Steely Dan's Walter Becker, released fourteen years after his first. I was all geared up for this album, but then Steely Dan totally ignored it during their 2008 tour and to make matters worse, I couldn't find it in the stores, even weeks after it's release. What was once an anticipated album for me was becoming an after thought. These were two primary reasons why my interest in the album waned a bit.
  • The Pete Best Band - Haymans Green
    Sure, why not. I'm a Beatles fan!
  • The Black Keys - Attack & Release
    Very possibly album number eleven for me for 2008. It could easily have been in my top ten. This was the album that turned me on to the duo from Akron, Ohio.
  • Jack Bruce and Robin Trower - Seven Moons
    This is a very good collaboration by two of rock's greats. This is the first time since the early 1980s that Bruce and Trower worked together. I wanted this in my top ten, but it fell just short.
  • Coldplay - Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
    Not quite as good as their last album, 2005's, X&Y.
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - CSNY/Deja Vu Live
    A great live show, a fine film, but only an okay live album.
  • Dion - Heroes: Giants Of Early Guitar Rock
    After two great acoustic blues albums, Dion pays tribute to the vintage rock and roll he was a part of. Good, fun stuff, but not as exciting as his recent forays into the blues.
  • Richie Havens - Nobody Left To Crown
  • Jesse Malin - On Your Sleeve
    There are some really terrific renditions of other's songs on this covers collection. Another one to come close to my top ten list.
  • Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
    Before there was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, there was Mudcrutch. In the mid 1970s, they morphed into Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 2008, Mudcrutch returned to release their debut album. Check out the new EP "Live!". "Crystal River" and "Scare Easy" were two of my favorite songs of the year.
  • My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
    This is the album that sold me on My Morning Jacket.
  • The Pretenders - Break Up The Concrete
    A little too much twang for me. I don't listen to the Pretenders for American roots influences. That said, the songs are pretty darn good!
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
    Hey, the physical album was released in traditional retail outlets on New Year's Day 2008!
  • Rush - Snakes & Arrows Live
  • Ringo Starr - Liverpool 8
    Some of you are probably shocked that this isn't in my top ten! Honestly, as much as I liked this album, it was a disappointment when compared to the great albums Ringo has been making since his 1992 rebirth, Time Takes Time. I hate to say this, but, Liverpool 8 is probably Ringo's weakest studio album in twenty five years.
  • Al Stewart - Sparks Of Ancient Light
  • Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
    Here is another album I wanted to put in my top ten. This album was much better than I expected it to be, but it was hampered by some poor lyrics and occasionally shaky singing by Brian. Still there are a number of terrific moments on the album. Not as good as Smile (2004) and Brian Wilson (1988), but better than Getting' In Over My Head (2004) and probably Imagination (1998), too.
  • Edgar Winter - Rebel Road
    He was great in the last two tours with Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band, so, why not!
  • Steve Winwood - Nine Lives

Dennis Elsas

FUV Weekday Host

My favorite tracks from this year's albums (in no particular order):

  • Coldplay - Viva La Vida
    lived up to the hype: "Lost," "Viva La Vida"
  • Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
    great combination of lyrics and melody: "Cheapest Key," "I Make the Dough (You get the Glory)"
  • Hold Steady - Stay Positive
    rock n' roll like it ought to be: "Sequestered in Memphis," "Stay Positive"
  • Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
    powerful pop return: "Always a Friend," "Sister Lost Soul"
  • Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
    favorite new artist: "He Doesn't Know Why," "Ragged Wood," "White Winter Hymnal"
  • Elvis Costello - Momofuku
    back to what he does best: "No Hiding Place," "American Gangster Time"
  • Joan Osborne - Little Wild One
    consistently strong albums: "Hallelujah in the City," "Cathedrals"
  • REM - Accelerate
    they're back: "Supernatural Superserious," "Hollow Man"
  • Richie Havens - Nobody Left to Crown
    still wonderful: "The Key," "Nobody left to Crown," "Won't Get Fooled Again"
  • The Fireman - Electric Arguments
    Paul(McCartney) is alive and well: "Sing the Changes"

Corny O'Connell

FUV Weekday Host

Albums:

  • Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
    This album held the top spot on the charts for two weeks in July. Veteran producer Brian Eno helped shape the sound of the record, replacing piano recitals and guitar riffs with dramatic orchestrations of sound.
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
    Guitarist and producer Chris Walla describes Narrow Stairs as "having teeth." Indeed, it's Death Cab's darkest and noisiest release, yet. And it's the first number one album for this band that emerged from the indie music scene in the late '90s.
  • Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
    Kathleen says, "My hope for this record was...to see through a sonic vision living in my head.... To have bare-bones folk songs, but also lush instrumental pieces. Most importantly, I wanted to write songs that tell a story, be it mine or someone else's with honesty and integrity. These songs came from a very true place in my heart." The result is an album you'll return to over and over.
  • Al Green - Lay It Down
    It's that classic Al Green sound from the Seventies updated with younger guests like John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae. You'll also hear the production of Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson from The Roots and James Poyser, who's worked with Erykah Badu and Common. And add to that the Dap-King Horns who've backed Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones. So it's really a soul dream team fronted by one of the most expressive voices in the business.
  • Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain
    This is Ray Lamontagne's most creative album so far with Ray touching on a range of styles and arrangements. He says, "It was time to open up a little bit more, not be quite so reserved in my choice of songs that I wanted to record."
  • Amos Lee - Last Days at the Lodge
    Amos Lee's songwriting has never been better than on Last Days at the Lodge, and his voice is just as sweet and soulful as ever. Production by Don Was and a top-notch group of session musicians is the icing on the cake.
  • Little Jackie - The Stoop
    I love how all the different influences come together on this CD: the classic girl group sound of the '60s with hip-hop and pop. It's the first collaboration of these two experienced music makers: multi-instrumentalist Adam Pallin and vocalist and songwriter Imani Coppola.
  • Shelby Lynne - Just a Little Lovin'
    Covering the Dusty Springfield songbook is not something just any singer can pull off. But Shelby Lynne can and does. Though she acknowledges, "You can't ever fill [Dusty's] shoes....I just sang and let the songs do the work." Veteran producer Phil Ramone kept the tracks lean, no strings or horns, just Shelby and her band.
  • Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It
    Raphael Saadiq says, "While I was making the album, I watched videos by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Al Green, The Four Tops...and fused them all together." The result is a brilliant homage to old school soul by this former leader of the R&B trio Tony! Toni! Tone!
  • Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation
    On Radio Retaliation DJ and production duo Thievery Corporation keep it interesting by collaborating with a global roster of guests who bring in grooves from Jamaica, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It's Thievery Corporation's most progressive album yet.

Rita Houston

Music Director/The Whole Wide World Host

  • David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
  • Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
  • Duffy - Rockferry
  • Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold
  • Little Jackie - The Stoop
  • Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
  • Jaymay - See Green, Sea Blue
  • Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - Two Men with the Blues
  • Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It
  • The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement
  • Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain

I also loved: Q Tip, Rachel Yamagata, Alejandro Escovedo, TV on the Radio, The Heavy, The Heavy Circles

You can also see Rita's picks for the Best Vinyl of 2008 on the NPR Music site.

John Platt

Sunday Breakfast Host

The CDs that most sustained me this year:

  • Angel Band - With Roots and Wings
    The trio led by David Bromberg's wife Nancy Josephson proves to be no vanity project with this album full of harmony and attitude.
  • Joan Baez - Day After Tomorrow
    Steve Earle provides organic production for this elegiac collection of covers of Tom Waits, Eliza Gilkyson, Patty Griffin, and Steve himself.
  • Jonatha Brooke - The Works
    Who knew Woody Guthrie wrote love songs? After rummaging through the Woody Guthrie Archives, Jonatha came up with gorgeous melodies to fit these unrecorded Woody lyrics.
  • Jackson Browne - Time the Conqueror
    A mature take on love and politics from one of the all-time great songwriters.
  • Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
    With an assist from onetime Bowie producer Tony Visconti, Alejandro echoes the 70s without sounding dated.
  • Joe Jackson - Rain
    What we really wanted from Joe - a great trio album.
  • The Kennedys - Better Dreams
    Pete and Maura conjure up solid songs inspired by dreams, including their dreams for America.
  • Kathy Mattea - Coal
    The granddaughter of coal miners, Kathy uses her intimate voice (and Marty Stuart's spare production) to interpret mining songs by Jean Ritchie, Billy Edd Wheeler, and others.
  • Maria Muldaur - Yes We Can!
    With funky help from Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, and other musical sisters, Maria offers up Allen Toussaint's great title track (the unofficial Obama theme song), and timely anthems by Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, et al.
  • Joan Osborne - Little Wild One
    Joan reunites with the Relish production team of Rick Chertoff, Rob Hyman, and Eric Bazilian for an album of love songs - to her new boyfriend and New York City.
  • Red Molly - Love and Other Tragedies and Abbie Gardner/Anthony daCosta - Bad Nights/Better Days
    Dobro player and singer Abbie Gardner is featured on two CDs released the same week - one with New York's favorite female trio, Red Molly, and one a duo project with the Pleasantville phenom, Anthony daCosta.
  • Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It
    Once known as a member of Tony! Toni! Tone! and a producer for Macy Gray and D'Angelo, Raphael comes into his own with an album of retro soul echoing Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.
  • Darrell Scott - Modern Hymns
    Nashville singer/songwriter/sideman Darrell Scott records tasty (and occasionally unconventional covers) of essential songs by Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot.
  • Sloan Wainwright - Rediscovery
    Another covers album. This one finds Sloan digging to the heartfelt core of songs like "Every Grain of Sand," "All Things Must Pass," and "Mercy me (The Ecology)."

These were also good company: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cardinalogy; Rodney Crowell, Sex and Gasoline; Vance Gilbert, Up on Rockfield; Eliza Gilkyson, Beautiful World; Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to be; Richie Havens, Nobody left to Crown; Gary Louris, Vagabonds; Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, Two Men with the Blues; Randy Newman, Harps and Angels; Railroad Earth, Amen Corner; David Wilcox, Airstream; Natalia Zukerman, Brand New Frame.

Pete Fornatale

Mixed Bag Host

Best releases of 2008:

  • Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun (Capitol)
  • The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Vagrant)
  • James Taylor - Covers (Hear Music)
  • John Mellencamp - Life, Death, Love and Freedom (Hear Music)
  • Jackson Browne - Time the Conqueror (Inside Recordings)
  • Van Morrison - Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)
  • Todd Snider - Peace Queer (Aimless)
  • Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain (RCA)
  • Boz Scaggs - Speak Low (Decca)
  • Richie Havens - Nobody Left to Crown (Verve Forecast)

Vin Scelsa

Idiot's Delight Host

Vin Scelsa favorites for 2008, in no particular order:

  • Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs The Bootleg Series Vol, 8
    even his outtakes and rejects are exquisite; this is my album of the year!
  • The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
    rounding out my personal trifecta of roots revisited bands along with Avett and Felice Brothers
  • Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine
    what comes after trifecta? whatever it is, these guys are that ...
  • Melody Gardot - Sweet Memory
    beautiful modern jazz voice and sweet songwriting
  • Hungrytown - Hungrytown
    old school Carter Family bluegrass folk music duo, stepped out of a cloud from another time and place
  • Southside Johnny with LaBamba's Big Band
    Grapefruit Moon: The Songs Of Tom Waits
    the album John has been waiting his life to record; LaBamba's horns summon up the spirit of the great Basie band horn sections
  • Boz Scaggs - Speak Low
    his transformation to smoky-room film-noir Chet-Baker-vocal-ville saloon singer completed
  • Michael Franti & Spearhead - All Rebel Rockers
    the one I put on whenever I'm low! makes me glad I'm alive
  • Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
    bless this old soul for this sound picture of long ago beach and boy days
  • Phillips Glass - Book Of Longing: A Song Cycle Based On The Poetry And Images Of Leonard Cohen
    with Leonard reading some of his short pieces, but mostly choral work that haunts, aches, soars ...
  • Rebecca Martin - The Growing Season
    a woman at the peak of her composing talent; compromise is not in her musical vocabulary
  • Joan Osborne - Little Wild One
    her ode to New York City reflects what we've always known about her: she is a kindred spirit and a force of nature

Russ Borris

Assistant Music Director and FUV 24/7 Host

Albums (alphabetical):

  1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
    The beauty and simplicity of this album is remarkable.
  2. David Byrne/ Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
    This collaboration works on every level and props to both for the means by which it was released.
  3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
    One of the finest albums of his career, here Cave puts Lazarus into modern day Manhattan. Brilliant.
  4. Flight Of The Conchords - Flight Of The Conchords
    The long awaited full-length debut from New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo does not disappoint.
  5. The Heavy - Great Vengeance and Furious Fire
    This UK export has been described as "Stax on acid." Imagine Curtis Mayfield fronting The Stooges.
  6. Ray LaMontagne - Gossip In The Grain
    Plenty of heartache here mixed with some soul and even a little wit. Possibly the most passionate singer out there.
  7. The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust
    Fuzzy and fun with a big Jesus and Mary Chain vibe.
  8. The Shivers - Beaks To The Moon
    Very cool NYC band that Ben Jones got me into. Must have been his bass playing or something. Check them out at theshiversnyc.com
  9. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
    They've been favorites on the indie scene for a few years now, but more will come to know them with this masterpiece.
  10. Kanye West - 808's and Heartbreak
    A lot has been made of Ye's (over)use of Auto-Tune on this record, but I dig the '80s feel a lot.

A few songs that still stick with me every time I hear them:

  1. "Sometime Around Midnight" - The Airborne Toxic Event
  2. "You" - Atmosphere
  3. "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be" - The Black Keys
  4. "White Winter Hymnal" - Fleet Foxes
  5. "Sensual Seduction" - Snoop Dogg

Sarah Wardrop

FUV 24/7 Host and Interview Producer

Albums (alphabetical):

  • The Black Keys - Attack & Release
    The drums-and-riffs duo adds Danger Mouse as producer and expands its "keep it simple" sound without sacrificing their musical core. Banjo in The Black Keys? Who woulda thunk it? But I like it.
  • Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine
    San Diego roots music does exist. An edgy mix of the beach and The Band that stays soulful and loose, but isn't afraid to yell to be heard.
  • Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
    Humor, poignancy, attitude, heartbreak... and whiskey. More proof you don't want Kathleen writing a song about you 'cause you'll either regret that you crossed her, or weep hearing how she captured your hard luck tale. The lyrics dig a little deeper and Kathleen delivers again.
  • Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
    See the list above, only the whiskey is in Alejandro's past. The rest of his rock 'n roll history is told through this inspired batch of songs, which make me very thankful for his rock 'n roll future.
  • The Felice Brothers - The Felice Brothers
    Maybe it's genetic. Maybe it's something in the Catskills water. Say what you want about the originality of The Felice Brothers' sound, but music has rarely felt so unforced and natural.
  • Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers
    Aimee had me at "@#%&*!" and was one of my favorite interview edits this year. Repeat-worthy songs like "Freeway" do Ric Ocasek proud, but it was "Stranger into Starman" that had the crossword fiend in me lyrically hooked.
  • My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
    I don't rank myself among the MMJ-obsessed, but after Z provided the spark, this record made me a full believer in the genius of Jim James. "I'm Amazed" to say the least, and I relish the fact that I have no idea what he's going to do next.
  • Jennifer O'Connor - Here With Me
    A friend asked me to describe Jennifer O'Connor's voice and I had trouble, mainly because it's so unaffected. There's a simple, easy strength to this record, which almost made me sigh with relief when I realized there were no extraneous layers to dig through. Face value and present: that's what you get.
  • Amy Ray - Didn't It Feel Kinder
    Don't expect acoustic folk, but also don't expect a solid block of the lo-fi punk that flavored Amy's first two solo records. 20+ years as an Indigo Girl means she's been singing for awhile, but with this album and a big step outside her musical comfort zone, she really finds her voice.
  • Thao with The Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All
    With Thao Nguyen, The Get Down Stay Down, and Tucker Martine signed on, songwriter, band and producer fit together in the best of ways on this one. The tunes are full of raw, sleepy intensity, and a playful side that you can not only hear but see in the video for "Bag of Hammers."

Songs:

  • Ryan Adams - "Magick"
    "Turn the radio up loud and get down." Not his most compelling lyric, but I did as I was told.
  • Arizona - "Whiskey or Wine"
    Always a dilemma, and the strong closing track from a record that also provided one of my favorite album covers of the year.
  • Michael Franti & Spearhead - "(Say Hey) I Love You"
    I challenge anyone to stand still or frown listening to this.
  • Jaymay - "Sea Green, See Blue"
    Lyrics were part of it, but really...that melody. I could NOT get it out of my head.
  • The Kills - "Cheap and Cheerful"
    A little different sound for The Kills, but they still know how to do haughty & naughty.
  • Dawn Landes - "Bodyguard"
    A sweet voice paired with bass on the melody and a slow banjo roll in between. Cool sound, true story, and a good choice for an opening track.
  • Santogold - "L.E.S. Artistes"
    Ditto on the opening track factor as it's a knockdown introduction, but it's also a mere starting point for what Santi White can do.
  • She & Him - "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"
    The actress-turned-singer move is no fluke on this one as Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward turn up the melodic nostalgia.
  • Vampire Weekend - "Oxford Comma"
    One of a few tunes on the record that got people hooked, but this was the culprit for me. Bouncy, lyrically bizarre, and damn catchy.
  • Martha Wainwright - "You Cheated Me"
    A girl-group vibe chorus was one of last things I expected after hearing the opening acoustic chords. A nice surprise.

George Evans

Director of Technical Operations/FUV 24/7 Host

Albums:

  1. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
  2. Aimee Mann - Smilers
  3. David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
  4. Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
  5. Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain
  6. Thao With the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All
  7. Elvis Costello - Momofuku
  8. Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
  9. Ryan Adams - Cardinology
  10. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
  11. John Hiatt - Same Old Man
  12. Jaymay - Autumn Fallin'
  13. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
  14. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
  15. The Kooks - Konk
  16. Tift Merritt - Another Country
  17. Jackson Browne - Time the Conqueror
  18. American Music Club - The Golden Age
  19. Cowboy Junkies - Trinity Revisited
  20. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Other favorites: Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue; Lucinda Williams, Little Honey; The Pretenders, Break Up the Concrete; Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!; Nada Surf, Lucky; Death Cab For Cutie, Narrow Stairs; Mavis Staples, Live: Hope at the Hideout; Ben Folds, Way to Normal; The Watson Twins, Fire Songs; Michael Franti & Spearhead, All Rebel Rockers; Liam Finn, I'll Be Lightning; Amos Lee, Last Days at the Lodge; Bob Mould, District Line; Paul Weller, 22 Dreams; Calexico, Carried to Dust; The Cure, 4:13 Dream; Griffin House, Flying Upside Down; Jesse Malin, On Your Sleeve; Joseph Arthur, Temporary People; Ben Lee, Ripe

Alisa Ali

The Alternate Side Host and FUV Weekday Morning Producer

The order of these might change depending on mood - but all of these are great albums from 2008:

  • The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
  • The Black Keys - Attack and Release
  • DeVotchKa - A Mad & Faithful Telling
  • Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
  • Emiliana Torrini - Me and Armini
  • Lykki Li - Youth Novels
  • Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
  • MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
  • Santogold - Santogold
  • Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Ben Jones

FUV 24/7 Host and Music Manager

Twenty Records That I Liked (in alphabetical order):

  • Ryan Adams and The Cardinals - Cardinology (New West)
  • The Black Keys - Attack and Release (Nonesuch)
  • David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todo El Mundo)
  • Calexico - Carried To Dust (Touch and Go)
  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (Anti)
  • Deertick - War Elephant (Partisan Records)
  • Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
  • Lil' Wayne - The Carter III (Cash Money)
  • The Magnetic Fields - Distortion (Nonesuch)
  • Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (Matador)
  • The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride (4AD)
  • The New Year - The New Year (Touch and Go)
  • Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)
  • Portishead - Third (Mercury)
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows (TBD)
  • Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaus (XL)
  • Spiritualized - Songs in A&E (Sanctuary)
  • Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation (Eighteenth Street)
  • TV on the Radio - Dear Science (Interscope)
  • Weezer - The Red Album (Geffen)

Special Mentions:

  • Boris - Smile (Diwphallanx)
    LOVED this every time I heard it, but didn't listen enough to put it in the top twenty.
  • Guns 'N Roses - Chinese Democracy (Geffen)
    The year's best hot mess. Both fascinating and embarrassing, this is worth a purchase for the liner notes alone.
  • Sebadoh - Bubble and Scrape Reissue (Sup Pop)
    Can't really put something from 1993 on a "best of 2008" list, but this reissue really introduced me to the amazing Sebadoh cataloge.

Rich McLaughlin

Content Director and Host, The Alternate Side

Albums, in alphabetical order:

  • Bell X1 - Flock (Yep Roc)
  • Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (Geffen)
  • Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
  • Menahan Street Band - Make The Road By Walking (Daptone Records)
  • R.E.M. - Accelerate (WB)
  • Roots Manuva - Slime & Reason (Big Dada)
  • Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (XL)
  • Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation (ESL)
  • TV on the Radio - Dear Science (Interscope)
  • Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (XL)

Jeff Kuprycz

Technical Director and Host, The Alternate Side

Albums:

  1. Calexico - Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)
  2. David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
  3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (XL)
  4. Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (XL)
  5. Menahan Street Band - Make the Road By Walking (Daptone)
  6. Portishead - Third (Island)
  7. Santogold - Santogold (Downtown)
  8. Nada Surf - Lucky (Barsuk)
  9. The Black Keys - Attack and Release (Nonesuch)
  10. Medeski, Martin and Wood - Let's Go Everywhere (Little Monster)

Eric Holland

FUV Guest Host

Albums:

  1. Racounteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
  2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig
  3. Amos Lee - Last Days at the Lodge
  4. Black Keys - Attack and Release
  5. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
  6. Beck - Modern Guilt
  7. Stanley Jordan - State of Nature
  8. The Roots - Rising Down
  9. Portishead - Third
  10. Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty

Ceol na nGael

Celtic Sunday afternoons, Noon-4pm

Albums:

  • The High Kings - The High Kings
    This is the debut album from a talented group of young male vocalists. The album features beautiful harmonies on classic ballads like The Wild Rover, and Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore. Since two of the group members are sons of legendary balladeers, Bobby Clancy and Finbar Furey, we wouldn't expect anything less!
  • Gaelic Storm - What's the Rumpus?
    What's the Rumpus is the 7th album from the group. The band's signature style includes a combination of upbeat, feel-good music and creative lyrics that tell stories about bizarre characters. We agreed with the band when they described What's the Rumpus? as a "wild party of an album".
  • Jameson's Revenge - Straight from the Bottle
    This is the debut album from a group of New York musicians including members of Shillelagh Law and Sullivan's Jack, as well as other well known musicians. The album is best described as traditional music with a flare, and is a great sampling of all of the fantastic Irish music New York has to offer.
  • Lunasa - The Story So Far
    The title of the album says it all. The Story So Far is a gathering of some of the best Lunasa recordings to date. These are some of our favorite instrumental pieces.
  • Damien Dempsey - The Rocky Road
    Damien wanted to pay tribute to some of his favorite Irish folk artists on this album. He sings fantastic renditions of classics like The Rocky Road to Dublin, The Foggy Dew, and A Rainy Night in Soho. The album also features Sharon Shannon, and The Dubliners, John Sheehan, and Barney McKenna.
  • Solas - For Love and Laughter
    There is a good mix of songs and upbeat instrumental pieces on this album. The group is heading into their second decade of playing. Individually, they are all brilliant musicians, and with the addition of a brand new singer, Mairead Phelan, this album is a beautiful display of their shared passion for Celtic music.
  • Billy McComiskey - Outside the Box
    Billy McComiskey is a Brooklyn Born All Ireland accordion player, and this is his first solo CD in almost 25 years. We love his selection of tunes on the album, and the guest appearances from Liz Carroll, Mick Moloney, Joanie Madden, and John Doyle. As a bonus, the liner notes are some of the most informative and interesting we've ever seen!
  • Lau - Live
    This trio won the 2008 BBC Radio 2 Folk Group of the year for good reason! They take traditional Celtic Fiddle and Accordion music in a new, exciting direction on this album which was recorded live at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh in December 2007.
  • John Spillane - My Dark Rosaleen & The Island of Dreams
    We fell in love with John Spillane's music when he visited our studios last year. His music, like his personality, is animated, passionate, and warm. Our favorite tracks this release are Rise Up Lovely Molly, and Beautiful Ballincollig, the sequel to one of his hit songs, Johnny Don't Go to Ballincollig.
  • Great Big Sea - Fortune's Favour
    Great Big Sea's tenth release, "Fortune's Favour," continues with their tradition of nitty-gritty music with Celtic roots that is entirely forged in the spirit of their native Newfoundland. With a style reminiscent of the Saw Doctors or even the Pogues, Great Big Sea is one of the more powerful contemporary Celtic groups and "Fortune's Favour" is definitely a testament to that fact.

Laura Fedele

New Media Director

Hmm, how to put this... These are the albums that contained a lot of the songs I loved this year:

  • Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
    Alejandro and his stellar band accounts for probably three of my favorite live shows of the year, too.
  • Amos Lee - Last Days at the Lodge
    I don't know if any of his stories are true, but they sure ring true.
  • Ani DiFranco - Red Letter Year
    The whole mom thing didn't turn her into a complete mushball, thank goodness.
  • David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
    David Byrne is just as fearless as he was 30 years ago.
  • Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
    "...your brain can't keep up with your beak." Nuff said.
  • The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
    These guys are responsible for a lot of beer drinking. In mostly a good way, I think.
  • Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
    She makes me want to be a teenage girl so I could want to grow up and be like her.
  • Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
    Listen to enough of her, and you don't feel as bad about not having time to read books any more.
  • My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
    Such a dark title. Not such a dark record. For them, anyway.
  • Rachael Yamagata - Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart
    This one's as dark as its title. Masterfully dark. It should come with Kleenex.
  • The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
    I'm not going to listen to the whole album at once, but I'm always glad when they're on the radio.
  • Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain
    Someone has to say it: The Meg White thing should have been an outtake, or free download. The rest is so, so solid.
  • Ryan Adams - Cardinology
    It doesn't sound like all the other Ryan Adams records, which is a nice change, not that there's anything wrong with those.
  • Santogold - Santogold
    Another one I was happy to hear every time a song popped up. Very curious to hear more.

Note: If we can count Radiohead's In Rainbows as a 2008 release in some way, you can disregard everything I've said here and just repeat that one ten times.

Ben Guhin

Web Manager

Albums:

  • Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
    Put the album on repeat and get excited when "Lovers in Japan," "Viva la Vida" and "Strawberry Swing" come around.
  • Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons - Cabin Ghosts
    There's a lot to love about the six tracks on this disc. "See it My Way" harmonizes Chisel's born-in-the-woods demeanor with Adriel Harris's raspy, angelic voice. "Home in the Woods" rocks an introspective supplementary banjo - enough said.
  • Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos - Not Animal
    I recently asked a friend if he'd heard of Margot - his reply was a quick, excited "They're doing really cool stuff." Particularly involving rhythms and song structure, here's the newest from an innovative new indie band.
  • Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
    Speaking of innovation, Danger's duo provides the world with 13 more tracks of extreme talent released as psychedelic pop in The Odd Couple. Greatness is fully asserted in "Going On," "Surprise" and "Neighbors."
  • John Mayer - Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles
    I'm on and off with John Mayer, but here's a live album that'll both explain why he's so popular and make you happy for his success. Over a dozen really good songs and some great audience interaction particularly during "Bold as Love" make the DVD an interesting option as well.
  • Beck - Modern Guilt
    Put best by Jim DeRogatis of Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions, "I've learned to stop worrying and love me some Beck." Praise goes to Mr. Mouse as well for producing an album with the word "modern" in its name that really sounds like fresh and true 2008.

Songs:

  • Conor Oberst - "Cape Canaveral" from Conor Oberst
    The first track of an otherwise disappointing first solo album, Cape Canaveral is Oberst at his best - just enough instrumentation, innovative melodies and lyrics that surprise and impress.
  • Kanye West - "Bad News" from Heartbreak and 808s
    I think the auto-tune sounds cool, but it might get old: it's only been a week. No one should be surprised to hear that Kanye's put together another collection of catchily fantastic riffs, and Heartbreak and 808s is certainly well-equipped. "Bad News" exhibits the new album's heartbreak motifs as well as Mr. West's newfound connection with acoustic piano.
  • She & Him - "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" from Volume One
    The disappointing aspect of M. Ward's collaboration with Zooey Deschanel this year is that he wasn't able to release a solo album as well. This track exhibits the talents heard in Post-War.
  • Ra Ra Riot - "Oh, La" from The Rhumb Line
    What the album lacks in substance it makes up with catchy orchestration and quasi-reflection in songs like "Oh, La." Indulge.

Shari Rosen Ascher

Underwriting Director

Albums:

  • Elvis Costello and the Imposters - Momofuku
    No great shock that I would pick and Elvis Cd as my favorite of the year. But this is Elvis for Elvis lovers! This is reminiscent of Armed Forces and Taking Liberties. Witty, sophisticated, rockin' and SEXY as ever!
  • Joan Osborne - Little Wild One
    Her music soothes my soul. No only is her voice beautiful, but it's as if she is singing only for me. When I saw her perform at a Marquee Member Show, my face hurt from smiling. Love her!
  • R.E.M. - Accelerate
    This is one that both my 14-year-old and I could listen to together. Pure R.E.M., pure rock, pure fun.
  • The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
    A real rock band with a unique sound. I also started to love them when I saw them at a Bruce Springsteen tribute show. You gotta hear them do "Atlantic City."
  • James Hutner - The Hard Way
    Fun, jazzy, pop, dancy, upbeat. You gotta love it. Once again, seeing him live at the FUV Holiday Cheer won me over even more. A great performer.
  • Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
    I love this woman! She has the sweetest voice and very innocent melodies that mask a tough, cynical, liberated force to be reckoned with. You go, girl!

But, without a doubt and without comparison, my favorite song of the year was Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Possess You Heart." It is haunting, beautiful and addictive.

Joey Delvecchio

Traffic and Continuity Director

Albums:

  1. Justin Currie - What Is Love For?
    The former lead singer of the band Del Amitri that brought us the hit "Roll To Me" awhile back returns solo, and he's calling it like he sees it. Not only was this the best album of 2008, but Justin Currie was the best surprise of the year, too. Sure, "Roll To Me" was a fun ditty I'd sing in the shower from time to time, but it was not exactly "quality". On his solo disc, however, every track is stellar. From the title track opener and throughout, what really shine through are his soaring vocals, and brutally honest lyrics. "If I ever loved you / Shouldn't I be crying / Shouldn't I be cracking up / And drinking all the time?" The answer, of course, is "yes". And you've just gotta admire a guy who admits that despite everything that's happened, "I'm still in love / I'm still in love / I'm still in love / with nothing but myself." It's this lyrical bluntness and heartfelt brooding that makes Justin Currie's What Is Love For the best album of the 2008. What can I say? I appreciate people who call a spade "a spade".
  2. R.E.M. - Accelerate
    I really couldn't think of a more appropriate title for R.E.M.'s latest record, as it has the band literally "accelerating" out of a meandering, superfluously artsy slump. It's a solid return to guitar, drums, and bass for the band. And if you've been waiting for Michael Stipe to break out of the daze he's been in, you'll get your wish on Accelerate: Mike is mad as hell, and he's not gonna take it anymore! Welcome back!
  3. Counting Crows - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
    Given a choice, I've always preferred chewing gum over hard candy. Chewing gum is softer and it helps to calm my nerves. So I should've known that when the Crows - one of my favorite rock bands of all-time - released Hard Candy several years back, it could only end badly. And it did. That album was by far the band's worst, although they'd been on a steady decline since what I believe to be their best record, Recovering The Satellites. Maybe it was my hopelessness in the band that makes their latest effort seem all the more rewarding. And the album's a good mix of music, too, with the band showcasing some of their heaviest rock to date on tracks like the opener "Hanging Tree", and "Cowboys", but also harkening back to the roots-rock sound of their acclaimed debut August and Everything After on tracks like "Washington Square", which closes with a beautiful piano solo, and the harmonica work in "On Almost any Sunday Morning". To be sure, this is a redeeming record, and I am hopeful once again.
  4. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
    Although not as immediately gratifying (us Americans love immediate gratification, you know, but, doesn't everyone) as Boys And Girls In America, The Hold Steady still manage to deliver the goods on their latest record, and in my opinion are still the best rock 'n' roll band in America, the world, and maybe even the universe! From the storming opener "Constructive Summer", to "Both Crosses", to "Magazines" all the way through, the band takes on the tough issues: boozing and partying, partying and boozing, and a little good ol' fashion Catholic guilt thrown in for good measure. Throw away the rest, this is a true great American rock band.
  5. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
    Oh, sure, I liked Coldplay's debut record Parachutes just fine. I've always thought Coldplay was a good band, but vastly overrated in the music world. I never understood the hype surrounding them, and yet all around me, people were dropping like flies. And, ya know what? I still think they're overrated, but Viva La Vida is a solid record nonetheless, and whereas I've always thought their sound so similar that one song seems to seamlessly blend with the next, Coldplay takes far more artistic license here. And I think that's what makes this such a good record: here's a wildly popular band that refuses to sell out, and in fact, seems to have grown stronger and more dynamic along with their popularity.

Songs:

  1. Death Cab for Cutie - "I Will Possess Your Heart"
    Good wine and Joey D. are not the only things that get better with age. Not only do I never grow tired of this track, but I like it more every time I hear it. Maybe it's the long, haunting intro, or perhaps it's the obsessive lyrics. Whatever it is, it makes for a sweet, sweet single.
  2. Bob Mould - "The Silence Between Us"
    Just a "catchy-as-all-hell" rocker. I like my rock served up with some meat and potatoes.
  3. Goldfrapp - "A&E"
    No one has ever sounded this good as they yearned for another.
  4. Snoop Dogg - "Sexual Eruption"
    First of all, it's Snoop, and that means it has to be good. And Snoop, as only he can, at the end, feels the need to decode the title for us. I swear I laughed out loud the first time I heard it.
  5. Big Head Todd and the Monsters - "All the Love You Need"
    It had me at "Here we go..."
  6. Drive-By Truckers - "The Righteous Path"
    A brilliant portrait of the struggles we face in American life.

Brandon Smith

Production Assistant

In no particular order (besides #1!):

  • Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
  • Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
  • The Dodos - Visiter
  • Blitzen Trapper - Furr
  • MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
  • Elliot BROOD - Mountain Meadows
  • Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
  • Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
  • Dr. Dog - Fate
  • Port O'Brien - All We Could Do Was Sing

Honorable Mention:

  • Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer