Top 50 Albums Of 2008


The Verve – Forth. It’s fair to say that prior to ‘Forth”s release, the concept of a new Verve album felt about as likely as finding Morrissey and Marr booking a gig together at Salford Lads’ Club. But as their album title suggested, the Northern soul myth-makers were back where they belonged.
Pic – Guy Eppel

Laura Marling, Union Chapel, London. 6th March 2008

Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim. Folk siren Marling didn’t yell for your attention, but she sure as hell got it. This softly-spoken debut was one of the year’s strongest musical statements.
Pic – James Quinton


Los Campesinos! – We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. Originally intended to be an EP, the Welsh indie pups decided the tracks they’d recorded were too good to whittle down to four, so released them all. It’s a revelation: a sexy and sussed 22-year old to their debut ‘Hold On Now Youngster”s snotty teenager.
Pic – Andy Willsher


lykke li

Lykke Li – Youth Novels. A fabulous, airy, seductive puppy-eyed temptress, Lykke Li’s debut was tinkered with by Peter Bjorn And John’s Bjorn Yttling to brilliant effect. The highlights were fragile, stylish and, above all, many.
Pic – Ed Miles


Neon Neon – Stainless Style. Initially the the idea of a Super Furry Animal working on a concept album about the life of playboy engineer John DeLorean sounded like a stoner student cliche up there with Pot Noodle feasts and losing your virginity to a traffic cone. But it soon became clear that Neon Neon were no joke – ‘Stainless Style’ made the ’80s sound cool again.


Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul. In 2008, Oasis not only revitalisted themselves as a musical force and wrote the second best song (‘I’m Outta Time’) and album of their career, they actually made the most punk rock album (if you associate punk with passion, danger, fire and skill) of the year too.
Pic – Dean Chalkley

Bobby Gillespie

Primal Scream – Beautiful Future. Mooted as their ‘pop’ album, Primal Scream’s ninth record proved to be far less disposable than that suggested. Guest-starring CCS’ Lovefoxxx and some of Bobby Gillespie’s best-ever lyrics, it’s an altogether evil kind of fun.
Pic – Dean Chalkley



Spiritualized – Songs In A&E. Understandably, yet inaccurately, received as a macabre report from the edge of death, ‘Songs In A&E’ was far more than the story of Jason Pierce’s near-fatal double pneumonia. An album of electric mainlines from a songwriter who makes everyone else look like toddlers playing with the contents of their own potties.
Pic – Andy Fallon

scarlett johansson

Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head. It should have been a damp squib; a hipster vanity project that saw its star punching above her weight, but of course it was something else entirely. Hands down the most surprising and misunderstood album of the year.
Pic – Dean Chalkley


Santogold – Santogold. Considering her previous efforts as an A&R for Epic Records and songwriter for Lily Allen and Ashlee Simpson, it was hard to act surprised when the majestic Santi White became one of the hottest musical mavericks of 2008. Her debut was a high-powered seminar on how to craft the perfect future-facing sonic smasher.
Pic – Ed Miles


Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend. The Ivy League-educated, punctuation-obsessed four-pieces’s debut album remains as enveloping, compelling and charming as on its first listen nearly twelve months ago. It makes you think, but more importantly it makes you swing your hips. Vampire Weekend are in love with rock’n’roll – and a lot more besides. Pic – Pieter M Van Hattem


the last shadow puppets

The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement. Whilst probably not one of 2008’s most forward-thinking musical platters, Alex Turner and Miles Kane’s string-swept debut at least ensured music fans the world over discovered forgotten Lee Hazelwood albums and Ennio Morricone soundtracks – and that can’t be a bad thing. Above all, proof that if you’re going to do anything, do it properly or not at all.
Pic – Dean Chalkley

British Sea Power Festival in The Yorkshire Dales 2008

British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music? BSP’s third album came along early in January, but we didn’t forget about it. A euphoric, gung-ho career best, it put the nature-loving rockers amongst the big boys of skyscraping alternative guitar rock.
Pic – Sonia Melot

Style: “P 45 Product – Ultra sharp”

Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life. Eleven smartly penned attack-anthems that propelled this awesome Canadian bunch into the big league and made punk interesting again, ‘ChemCom”s combination of clever lyrics, roaring guitars, pianos, horns and – yes! – flutes became even more revelatory with each listen. Fucked Up were the breakthrough band of the year, no question.
Pic – Danny North

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! Fourteen albums on and they haven’t reached the end of their inventiveness. Cave’s language remains unique in current music: literate, lascivious and tongue-in-cheek, mixed with a potent blend of classic American folk and the fury of The Stooges. Not to mention the best ‘tache in the business, too.


Beck – Modern Guilt. Everyone’s favourite alt.everything wonder contined with his chameleonic ways. Short, fuzzy, sonically meandering and lyrically baffling in places – but what else could we expect?
Pic – Tom Oxley


Bloc Party – Intimacy. The cluttered lead single ‘Mercury’ foxed everyone, and the Radiohead-lite download-only release backfired when it took everyone so by surprise it was barely noticed, but Bloc Party’s third album was still well worth a listen. It was textbook stuff from Kele and co: dark, troubled, paranoid and screaming with tension.
Pic – Andy Willsher

Hercules and Love Affair

Hercules And Love Affair – Hercules And Love Affair. Whilst ‘Blind’ may be a sumptous masterclass in disco revivalism, dismiss HALA as lightweights taking a sniff at Studio 54 leftovers at your peril. Ancient Greece may have had some parties, but they were nothing on this.
Pic – Pieter M Van Hattem

Hot Chip

Hot Chip – Made In The Dark. We all know Alexis Taylor’s mob can do massive, inescapable dance-pop bangers, but ‘Made In The Dark’ proved they’ve got more soul than Barry White’s ghost, too. ‘Over And Over’ may have made them public property in 2006, but this album heralded a year where they showed their infinitely more interesting softer side.
Pic – Tom Oxley

Ida Maria

Ida Maria – Fortress Round My Heart. Far too busy being herself and fucking everyone else to bother with being explicitly feminist, Ida’s I-am-Norsewoman-hear-me-roar slant on grungy guitar pop nonetheless offered hope to musical womankind. Uncomplicated music from a classically trained musical prodigy.
Pic – Tom Oxley

the kills

The Kills – Midnight Boom. With the help of a new drum machine, R&B influences and a sprinkling of Spank Rock’s production skills, Alison Mosshart and Jamie ‘rocker boyfriend’ Hince managed to deliver the best album of their career. Released in March, ‘Midnight Boom’ could easily have been forgotten by now – but it gets better with every listen.
Pic – Dean Chalkley

Kings Of Leon

Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night. The album where KoL finally learned to write choruses and promptly ‘went stadium’, this sounded like cash falling from your speakers in the most toweringly anthemic way possible.
Pic – Jo McCaughey

Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires. A coolly diverse melding of uber-hip dance, walls of guitar and loopy sex-pop, ‘Friendly Fires’ instantly wormed its way into your brain and has since proved to be an album that doesn’t stop licking your penal gland for months. Most excitingly, you sense there are no limits to what this St Albans band can now do in the future.
Pic – Tom Oxley


Black Kids – Partie Traumatic. Short, bittersweet and relentlessly infectious, ‘Partie Traumatic’ arrived on a wave of hype and high expectations from Jacksonville, Florida, bringing a deluge of indie pop dancefloor-fillers to discos across the land.
Pic – Guy Eppel


Coldplay – Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. "Everyone might not like this," Chris Martin declared of his band’s forth album, but he needn’t have worried, as no such Coldplay counterblast went down and ‘Viva…’ managed to fetch platinum discs the world over. Martin may doubt his band’s supermassive stature, yet it was his compulsive desire that resulted in Coldplay’s gutsiest record to date.


Cass McCombs – Dropping The Writ. It’s been a while since we’ve had a singer-songwriter as beguiling as 31-year-old Baltimore wanderer Cass McCombs. Modern folk doesn’t come any more inspiringly beautiful or harrowingly bleak – truly, an album that will truly last a lifetime.


Chairlift – Does You Inspire You. It was a smart move for perhaps the least-hyped of the Brooklyn contingent to put such a fully-formed debut out so swiftly. Chairlift could easily have become one-iPod-advert hit wonders (thanks to the gorgeous ‘Bruises’) or just another bunch of Williamsburgers clinging on to MGMT’s coattails, but no: the 11 songs here proved this was a group bursting with ideas and emotion.
Pic – Pieter M Van Hattem

Style: “70’s look”

Blood Red Shoes – Box Of Secrets. This indie duo’s debut’s premature leakage onto the internet made it anything but a box of secrets on its release, but it still sounded as fresh as the wind whipping around Brighton Pier. The effortless raunch of the musical chemistry also made this pair 2008’s most gossip-worthy ‘have they/haven’t they’ indie couple. Pic – Ed Miles

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles. These Canadians hooded synth terrorists’ debut was a musical curveball for sure, but it remains one of the year’s most intriguing releases. Let’s face it, 2008 would have been a hell of a lot less fun without Alice Glass.


Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid. Dedicated to a ‘Friend Of Ours’, Bryan Glancy, Elbow’s fourth album was not just a fantastic epitaph for their sadly-departed best mate, but also the best record of their career. A more than worthy winner of the Nationwide Mercury Prize it’d be difficult to find.
Pic – James Quinton


Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes. Magical, enchanting, spectral – words that actually should never come within a million miles of this album, as we’re not talking about some wizard bullshit here, but an album that should be wriggling through to the mainstream. Fleet Foxes are among the best bands to release an album in years.
Pic – Pieter M Van Hattem


Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight. They may be the latest in a long line of Scottish miserablists, but Frightened Rabbit’s second album was way more than a collection of witty, clever lyrics. If you lost the love of your life this year, this was the album to comfort you through the times spent crying into your pillow. Without doubt the heartbreak album of 2008.


Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago. Rather than going insane and having to resort to burning his stockpile of plaid shirts for warmth before eating his own feet, when Justin Vernon locked himself away in a cabin in the wilds of Wisconsin he decided instead to lay this down. DIY love ballads have rarely sounded as devastating or heart-rendering.


Deerhunter – Microcastle. This represented the moment that American visionaries Deerhunter stuck their head out from the beneath the alt.weird parapet. A thrilling document of a band refining their craft and expanding their audience without compromising their ingenuity.



School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms. While Secret Machines were heavy on the histrionics, SVIIB (featuring SM’s guitarist) were light and airy, melding krautrock propulsion with South American psych percussion and mixing My Bloody Valentine guitars with Cocteau Twins’ otherwordliness. The pop music of the future.


Spiritualized – Songs In A&E. Jason Pierce’s latest took in loss, jealousy and fear, but was never far from love’s saving graces, thanks to the two songs at its core, ‘Sweet Talk’ and ‘Soul On Fire’ – these two tracks make everyone else look like toddlers playing with the contents of their own potties.