What's Good 08?!

Ah, 2008. As gas prices rose and the nation squabbled over who would be our next president, artists like Wolf Parade and Land of Talk worked to both entertain and inspire the weary  masses. TV on the Radio expressed the sentiments of a people, tired and economically desperate while MGMT just tried to make them dance. 
While it is difficult to define this past year musically, I believe that these selections serve as the best examples of talent and downright ingenuity. 
In no particular order, I give you the albums, tracks and videos that I consider the best of 2008.

Best Albums

Some are Lakes – Land of Talk

Oh, Canada. Home of hockey, maple syrup and really, really, rocking female vocalists. Lead singer Elizabeth Powell carries this album places nobody ever expected.  While Land of Talk lead singer is not quite as vocally talented as Canadian singers Alanis Morissette and Leslie Feist, with a bit of practice, the young singer will be running circles around these aging vocalists. The band’s sophomore album, “Some are Lakes” grabs you from the very first track, with the pounding drums of “Yuppy Flu” and doesn’t drop you till the closing, half-French, ballad, “Troubled”. Reminiscent of Cat Power’s “You Are Free”, Rilo Kiley’s “Execution of All Things”, and a little bit of Aimee Mann, Land of Talk has developed a unique sound despite a variety of widely popular influences.

Oracular Spectacular – MGMT

The duo experiments with psychedelic hooks and lyrics that pound more energy into one verse than most bands can fit into an entire song. MGMT is simply delicious, making this album impossible to turn off until the very last chord stops reverberating.

Feed the Animals – Girl Talk

Pittsburgh DJ Greg Gillis showed that he was able to make a series of samples sound like an altogether original art form. His intricate layering allowed songs to take on all new forms, exposing emotions never visible in the original form. This album is both fun and functional, artistic and downright amazing.

Pershing – Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

This album is technically simple but downright perfect in it’s simplicity. These songs cement themselves into your brain, a perfect combination of catchy pop lyrics and great hooks. While not exactly the most memorable collection, it’s a prime example of what an indie rock record should look like.

The Bake Sale – The Cool Kids

Reminiscent of 1980’s rap, this duos beats are complex without smacking you in the face. It’s quite easy to miss the perfectly timed drum machine but when you pay careful attention, it becomes evident that the Cool Kids understand the formula to construct catchy yet laid back beats, giving them plenty of time to spit genuinely individual lyrics. Their lyrics deviate from most modern day rap and focus on how “hip” they are as opposed to how tough they are. Never has 80’s revival, hipster friendly rap been so good.

Something for Everyone – E-603

 E-603’s mash ups have more variety and flow together better than those of Greg Gillis. With samples from Wolf Parade, The Strokes and the Postal Service, this album was like a big Easter egg hunt. The first time I heard it, I was sitting in the back of a friends car, freaking out as the mix got more and more intricate. It seemed to combine absolutely every song I enjoy into one big, danceable track. Sweet deal.

In Rainbows – Radiohead

 Dec 27, 2007 is close enough! 

 Full of up tempo guitar solos, uniquely Radiohead sound effects and acoustic ballads that exhibit all of Thom Yorke’s vocal capabilities, this album might be my second favorite of all time.

At Mount Zoomer – Wolf Parade

 Mostly unintelligible and chock full of catchy, danceable rhythms, this album is the poster child for downright musical chaos. Thrilling breakdowns and frenetic guitar parts will make any listener stop dead in their tracks.

Tha Carter III – Lil Wayne

 A collection of grade-A beats intermixed with a variety of moods, prove that this album is chock full of imagination. The “best rapper alive” proves that there is indeed, no way that you can “get on his level”.

Dear Science – TV on the Radio

Honestly, this album is too good for words. Every explanation I could dish out would not suffice. I consider this album the beginning of a musical revolution. It defined 2008 in a way that no other artist could even begin to try. A chronicle of hopelessness, this album is simply thrilling, boiling all of the horrors currently facing humanity into eleven rock solid tracks.

Top Tracks 

Boring Fountain – Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

 One of the happiest songs I have ever heard.

Bassment Party – The Cool Kids


Electric Feel – MGMT

This song is musical ecstasy.

In Step – Girl Talk

Beach Boys + Nirvana + Salt N’ Peppa = Sheer Genius

Single Ladies – Beyonce

The change in time signature in this song = amazing. (As a side note, I am absolutely enamored with the video)

Bangers and Mash – Radiohead

Perhaps one of my favorite Radiohead songs. That’s saying a lot.

Halfway Home – TV on the Radio

Perfect intro to a near perfect album. Sets the tone better than most opening tracks. Downright catchy. Can TV on the Radio do wrong?

Some are Lakes – Land of Talk

Vocalist Elizabeth Powell’s talent carries this relatively simple track to new heights.

L.E.S. Artistes – Santogold

 I can’t explain. I just can’t. The sing along song of the year.

A Milli – Lil Wayne

 The day I can accurately rap along with this song will be the very best day of my life.

American Boy – Estelle feat. Kanye West

Damn catchy. Estelle certainly didn’t need Kanye to spice this up but his vocal styling doesn’t hurt.

Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? – She & Him

So. Damn. Cute.

Skinny Love – Bon Iver

 Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Mutha’uckas – Flight of the Conchords

 Falsetto and fake swear words = Hysterical!

Enter the Wu Tang

Last night, I, Andrea Kszystyniak, a white girl, born and raised in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island, saw Wu Tang Clan live and in concert.

Despite the absence of RZA and GZA, the whole family was there, putting on a spellbinding performance with hits like “Bring Da’ Ruckus”, “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Reunited”. It was just perfect.

Except for one thing.

Never in my life have I felt so out of place. I have moshed with 300 pound men at Dropkick Murphys shows, been embarrassed by drunken friends during an interview with Fake Problems and been rendered utterly speechless by Rhett Miller from the Old 97’s. None of the above compared to how awkward the initial fifteen minutes at Wu Tang was for me.  I love the group but for some reason, I felt it was inappropriate for me to be present and try to become a part of a culture that I admittedly and quite unfortunately, know very little about.

I squirmed, unsure if it was appropriate for me to dance. I awkwardly tossed my “W” in the air, putting it down anytime someone else in the crowd gave me a sideways glance. I outright refused all responsives.  I hid the fact that yeah, I know most of the lyrics to most of the songs performed. I spent half the time trying to decode what the people in front of me were talking about, using slang that I have never, ever run across previously.

However, as time went on, I became accustomed to the thickest layer of cannabis smoke I have ever seen, coating Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel. I ignored the two couples getting really really really really really physical in front of me. I stopped focusing on my own inadequacies and just let go. 

I must say, I am a damn good Wu Tang fan. I bopped. I danced. I rapped. I chanted "WUUUUUUU TANNNNGGG" at the top of my lungs. I pounded my fist, screaming along with everything I could. 

And I had the time of my life.

This leads me to my next point:

Wu Tang Clan should take me on as their tenth member.

Reason 1Wu Tang needs new perspective.  – Now, of course, I know nothing about the streets of Staten Island. I have never shot a gun. I am not a member of an affluent, underground and sometimes brutal society. But, I do know a great deal about the Midwestern corridor, Shakespearean plays and the 1960’s. I feel that this would allow Wu Tang to not only expand their lyrical allegories but also, add a new layer to their lyrical possibilities.

Reason 2I am a halfway decent freestyle rapper. – I could definitely hold my own in a rap battle. Granted, the raps I produced would be ridiculous and rhyme things like “kumquat” and “dog squat”, I think a bit of humor would certainly help the Wu.

Reason 3I can write beats – I have been drumming on and off for about seven years. Wu Tang needs ill beats? I’m on it like... Timbaland.

Reason 4 - I’m enthusiastic and a fast learner. – Zealous and eager to achieve stardom in the rap world, I would give every performance everything I had. You need to make act tough? I’ve got the meanest, grizzly bear, ‘I’ll cut your throat’ face this side of the Atlantic Ocean. If I’m doing something wrong, just spend about 30 seconds explaining how to fix it and I’ll be just grand. I know how to rile up a crowd. I also have public speaking skills. I mean, c’mon, I was captain of my high school debate team…

Reason 5Diversity? – Look at me. Look at Wu Tang. ‘Nough said.  

Reason 6Money. Money. Money. - As a poor college student, I have 70 dollars in my bank account and have yet to buy books. A budding career in rap will certainly help me out on my quest to become a “cash money millionaire”. At least, more than this degree in journalism…

There you have it.

Wu Tang, feel free to email me at andrea.kszystyniak@gmail.com

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