Signs of Life 2008: Best Music

Music  |  Features

10. Deerhunter - Microcastle [Kranky]
Following its often noisy predecessor, Cryptograms, Microcastle mostly eschews rage for atmospherics, offering a gentler and more meditative Deerhunter. Whether it’s due to Bradford Cox’s time spent touring and releasing records as Atlas Sound or simply stylistic evolution, the gorgeous pop melodies paired with fuzzy, laidback guitars suit his proper band just fine.

9. Lucinda Williams
- Little Honey [Lost Highway]
After a career of breaking our hearts with lovelorn laments, Williams kicks off her ninth LP with unbridled glee. It’s her most sonically and emotionally diverse record ever, and her best since Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

8. Sun Kil Moon - April [Caldo Verde]
Mark Kozelek’s comforting voice floats on a blanket of ringing guitars, a ray of golden solace peaking through dissipating springtime thunderheads;?a harbinger of struggled-for inner peace.

7. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals [Illegal Art]
Gregg Gillis creates giddy friction between disparate moods, tempos and genres—all of which hook up like drunken college kids. In an apocalyptic year, Animals sounds like the last party on Earth, one final chance to cram in every great beat, hook and riff before the whole planet goes poof.

6. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes [Sub Pop]
Merely calling this Seattle band’s debut “pastoral,” eliminates countless opportunities for fun with psycho-topography: Opener “Sun It Rises” shimmers like a silvery mountain lake, “Oliver James” howls up from a glorious harmonic canyon, and “Meadowlarks” best embodies the romantic rolling knolls Fleet Foxes’ sound is most associated with.

5. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins [Jagjaguwar]
Rough, lush and magniloquent, this album is far more than a postscript to 2007’s The Stage Names. Singer Will Sheff wails “we have lost our way,” but the claim couldn’t be further from the truth on this brilliant, cacophonous cataloging of fame and misfortune.

4. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago [Jagjaguwar]
Justin Vernon’s rags-to-riches story only adds to the beautiful depth of this folky debut. Stitched together during a self-imposed winter isolation in a Wisconsin cabin, this nine-song heartbreaker brims with a quiet intensity and a hushed vibrato that’s raw and addictive enough to leave Sam Beam jealous.

3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend [XL]
Proudly trumpeting its Afro-pop influences, this scholastic quartet of Columbia grads made the year’s most rambunctiously inventive (and hyped) debut. From its pulsating symphonic flourishes to frontman Ezra Koenig’s sprightly falsetto, Vampire Weekend’s infectious pop rock never strikes a false note.

2. Sigur Rós - Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust [XL]
This record’s most exhilarating peaks are found in its hushed sonic valleys, especially the anguished opening strains of “Festival.” The first half of the song scrapes away all sonic clutter, featuring a minimalist aria of keyboard swells and lead singer Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto soaring beyond heaven to an even more blissful plateau.

1. She & Him- Volume One [Merge]
Maybe it’s just a sweet little folk record—a tiny, flawless diamond. Or maybe it’s a pristine distillation of harmony and craft; 50 years of songwriting experience served up on a spinning silver platter. Either way, it’s our album of the year. Produced with touches of girl-group splendor and arranged with a dreamy, old-fashioned vibe, She & Him’s debut couldn’t be more adorable.

Read the Paste cover story on our album of the year.
Check out Paste's top albums of 2007

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