1) Kings of Leon – Only By the Night
The Followill clan released their fourth studio album, Only By the Night, last year to huge critical and commercial acclaim. It is the album that has turned them into an arena-filling band the world over. The lead single, ‘Sex on Fire’ is one of the most original pop-rock songs of the past few years, refreshing a tired genre. The record is exceptional, with most tracks on the album worthy of being released as singles. Stand out tracks include ‘Sex on Fire’, ‘Be Somebody’, ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Crawl’. Buy it. Or if you have bought it, listen to it again.
2) The Killers – Day & Age
One of the most eagerly awaited albums of last year, the Killers’ Day & Age was somewhat overshadowed by the runaway success Kings of Leon’s latest offering. It is, however, a mesmerizing record, arguably their best to date. Brandon Flowers’ lyrics get better with every album, notably illustrated on the singles, ‘Human’ and ‘Spaceman’, as well as album tracks ‘The World We Live In’ and the epic ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’. A third album is important for a band, as oftem it signals a different sound to before, an experimentation. Day & Age is certainly a new direction for the band, but a welcome one. Quite simply, it is a fantastic album, from start to finish. Stand out tracks include ‘Spaceman’, ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ and ‘I Can’t Stay’.
3) Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Bon Iver, an indie-folk American band, fronted by Justin Vernon released For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007, but they really started to get noticed for the beautiful music they have made, in 2008. Bon Iver’s sound is similar to that of Damien Rice’s O or Ray Lamontagne’s Trouble. They have a large cult following, mostly in America and the UK. One listen to ‘Flume’ or ‘Skinny Love’ and you will be swept away by a gorgeous record. Stand out tracks include ‘Flume’, ‘Skinny Love’ RE: Stacks’ and the unique ‘The Wolves’.
4) MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
The New York band’s popularity exploded in 2008, with lead single ‘Time to Pretend’ gaining huge amounts of radio airtime across the globe. It is undoubtedly the feel-good album of last year, even the last few years. ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Kids Oracular’ quickly followed the success of ‘Time to Pretend’, expelling fears of MGMT having one great track on their hands and no more. Moreover, the strength of the singles in addition to an exhaustive string of sell-out tours catapulted the band into the mainstream, where we now wait in suspense of their second offering. Oracular Spectacular is a great, original record from one of the most exciting bands of recent years. Listen to ‘Time to Pretend’, ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘The Youth’.
5) Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Another band to take an unconventional route, using African music throughout the record. But it works, it works very well indeed. ‘A-Punk’ is the single that gained them the most recognition and they haven’t looked back. An upbeat, infectious number, it is complemented by more reserved tracks such as ‘Mansard Roof’ and the outrageously catchy ‘Oxford Comma’. The album does not let up, with no notable filler tracks on there. Other upcoming bands would do well to look at this band. 2008 was certainly Vampire Weekend’s year. They will undoubtedly hope to build on their success in 2009. Listen to ‘A-Punk’ ‘Oxford Comma’ and ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’.
There are so many albums of a particularly high quality, released in 2008. Other records to consider are Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, Fleet Foxes self-titled debut album and Santogold’s self-titled record. Fleet Foxes and Santogold are two artists in particular whom have been lauded in the music press for their albums of last year.