I’m an old soul. I’ve been reading reports about how the album format is dead, and that more and more people are choosing to buy a couple of singles from iTunes than cop a full album from your local mom and pop record store. Times have changed, and I’m sure that writing is on the wall for the album format, just like it is for newspapers, magazines, and broadcast television.
But as much as I love tracks and remixes, there is nothing that substitutes for an album. Sure, ANYBODY can create a track these days, but it still takes a true artist to create an album.
My top 50 albums of the year might surprise some of y’all. First off, there is a scarcity of hip-hop in the top 15 albums. Also, the biggest album of the year, Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter III is at 49. And finally, the album is missing some critical favorites, such as Black Milk’s Tronic. But hey, it is what it is. These albums are the one’s that I’ve listened to in 2008, and unfortunately Tronic slipped through the cracks. Also, to those who lament the lack of hip-hop, I offer no apologies. This list is compiled from how many spins each album got on my iPod, and just like that female at the club, I can’t help what I’m attracted to.
Without further adieu, here is the list. The top 15 is here with the rest after the jump.
15.) Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing
Even though he didn’t even drop an album, Wale has had a big year. The DC rapper has been on everybody’s “it” list in ’08, and the 2009 debut is going to be massive. This year, the dude had the nerve to create a Seinfeld (a show which I’m boycotting because of you know who), and still retain his swag. Even if you question his 90s television refrences, you have to agree that he’s one of the best upcoming rappers in the game right now.
14.) Brittany Bosco – Spectrum EP
Brittnay Bosco is going to tear s*#t up in 2009. The Savannah/Atlanta artist’s EP showed a creativity and versatility that most R&B singers lack these days.
13.) Estelle – Shine
Performance wise Adele blows Estelle out the water, however, I found myself enjoying Estelle’s album Shine even more than 19. Producers like Kanye, Will.I.Am, and Wyclef created an album that not only had pop hits like “American Boy,” but more mellow tracks like “Back In Love.” This album isn’t no Miseducation, but a classic nonetheless.
12.) Solange – Sol Angel and The Hadley Street Dreams
While Beyonce was busy being Sasha Fierce, her little sister crafted one of the best R&B albums of the year. Whether Solange’s love of Dilla and Zero 7 is genuine or a record company ruse is yet to be known. However, Solange is taking the place of Kelis as the left-field R&B chick everybody wants to get with.
11.) Santogold – Santogold
Santi White’s first solo album carries over her rock sensibilities from her punk days while incorporating that Brooklyn hipster swag that is the big thing in music nowadays. This was a big year for Santi, who not only got sampled by Kanye (a feat usually reserved for 70s era soul singers), but also by licencing every track of her album for TV shows, movies, and commercials, ensuring that she will be getting paper well into 2009.
10.) The Black Keys – Attack and Release
Attack and Release started out as collaboration with Ike Turner until his death in 2007, which would have been off the chain. However, what remains is The Black Key’s finest album to date. The Danger Mouse produced disc is their first studio-recorded album and their best selling so far.
9.) Danny – And I Love Her
Danny Swain is still the most underrated hip-hop artist of the past decade. The Couch Sessions Approved artist has been creating hot tracksfor years now, and he’s past dude for his shine. And I Love H.E.R. is a concept album that was better executed than most, with Danny’s nonchalant rhymes and incredible beats (with some of the most random samples imaginable), make this album a hip-hop lover’s dream.
8.) Lykke Li – Youth Novels
I initially dismissed Lykke Li, but she had me at this one line from her track “Little Bit”: “For you I keep my legs apart/and forget about my broken heart.” From that moment I was sold. The album itself is a stripped down, organic affair with Lykke’s voice being the main instrumental. And the girl has cred with fans like David Banner, Kanye, and Q-Tip among others.
7.) TV On The Radio – Dear Science
As someone who simply hated TVOTR’s disjointed musical style and downright depressing lyrics, I was so presently surprised by their new album that it made the top 10. TVOTR made a downright upbeat and danceable album that still retains their trademark vocal styling and instrumentation.
6.) Kanye West – 808 and Heartbreaks
I had REAL low expectations for Kanye’s venture into experimental avant garde emo and thought that this album would be a dud. However, Kanye not only knocked this one out of the park but AGAIN flipped the script on Black popular music in America. You may hate Kanye all you want (and I still do), but let’s face it: Kanye West is Steve Jobs. He’s a outlier (props to Malcom Gladwell) who sees the future and where music is headed way before we can comprehend it. Just like Job’s said we wouldn’t be using floppy drives way back in 1998.
5.) Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple
Even though Gnarl’s sophomore release didn’t get the attention or sales numbers it deserved, the Atlanta duo’s return marked their best work so far. Their lead single “Run,” couldn’t match the juggernaut that was “Crazy,” but songs like “Can You Save My Soul?” and “Going On,” have cemented the duo as a musical force.
4.) Q-Tip – The Renaissance
Q-Tip’s return to the rap game marked a return to the golden era rap that hip-hop needs right now. Q-Tip never really changed his formula from Amplified, yet crafted an album that that the grown and sexy can cling to without being ultra nostaglic about the past.
3.) Jazzanova – Of All Things
Jazzanova makes music for people who love music. I’m not talking about people who love to dance to music or those who simply just cop CDs or go to concerts, but for those who are simply obsessed with the art of music. The German collective has arranged some of the greatest heard and underheard talent this year–Phonte, Dwele, Jose James, Bembe Segue and Ben Westembach to name a few and created music around each artists’ personal style. This album should be in every music lover’s collection.
2.) Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
When I heard Raphael Saadiq was doing a Motown album, I dismissed it outright. I thought that he was yet another artist jumping on the bandwagon. Even if The Way I See It could be called “bandwagon jumping,” Saadiq has not only set a standard for what a revival album should sound like, but raised the bar so high that I doubt any artist will ever come close.
1.) Foreign Exchange – Leave It All Behind
When Foreign Exchange dropped their latest album, I almost felt like it spoke to me. Phonte’s soulful voice, combined with Nicolay’s always organic, smooth beats, made this album a must own for frustrated rap fans like myself that wanted something deeper in their music. Instead of played out cliche’s about poppin’ champange in the club, the duo made an album about breakups, and self deprecation. Billbord chart topper? No. But do we really care anymore?
Albums 50-16 after the jump.
50.) Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
49.) Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III
48.) The Game – LAX
47.) Guns and Roses – Chinese Democracy
46.) Thievery Corporation – Radio Retaliation
45.) Tittsworth – 12 Steps
44.) Femi Kuti – Day By Day
43.) Hot Chip – Made In The Dark
42.) Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
41.) Portishead – Third
40.) Coldplay – Viva La Vida
39.) T.I. – Paper Trail
38.) MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
37.) People Under the Stairs – Fun DMC
36.) Sam Sparro – Sam Sparro
35.) Slakah The Beatchild – Soul Movement Volume 1
34.) The Roots – Rising Down
33.) 10 Deep Presents The New Deal
32.) Mickey Factz – Heaven’s Fallout
31.) N.E.R.D. – Seeing Sounds
30.) The Constellations – Southern Gothic
29.) Ludacris – Theater of the Mind
28.) Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Pt. One (4th World War)
27.) Common – Universal Mind Control
26.) Jazmine Sullivan – Fearless
25.) Daedalus – Love to Make Music To
24.) Various Artists – The Food Chain Collective
23.) 88 Keys – The Death of Adam
22.) The Knux – Remind Me In 3 Days
21.) Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
20.) Clipse – Road Till When The Casket Drops
19.) Tawiah – In Jodi’s Bedroom EP
18.) Kid Cudi – A Kid Named Cudi
17.) Tricky – Knowle West Boy
16.) Adele – 19