The best tunes of 2008 |

The best tunes of 2008

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” It was a good year for music. OK, maybe not 1971 good, but there were some solid albums released by talented artists, despite the deluge of dung the industry keeps trying to shove down our throats. Knowing full well that you can only please some of the people, some of the time, we did our best to compile the true gems of 2008 for your listening pleasure.

Read on and rock on.

Bitter music critics often like to shake their heads and write off bands with statements like “I used to like them when …” or “Their early stuff was good but I don’t like their new stuff.” Kings of Leon put those words to rest with the release of “Only By The Night,” an album both grand in scale and simple in structure. It captures the exponential maturity of a band that formed in this decade and could quite possibly be the next U2. The Kings have become masters of big-sounding arena rock arrangements that don’t pander lyrically and still draw from subject matter other than partying. Just check out the songs “Use Somebody” or “Crawl” if you don’t believe me.

Every so often an album comes along that so perfectly captures the mood and feel of a certain period of life that it can’t be forgotten. That album is “Furr” by Oregon’s own Blitzen Trapper, an experimental folk-rock six piece. Only with “Furr,” unlike their previous three records, Blitzen Trapper pretty much does away with the experimentation and allows the simple, beautiful songs they crafted to be just that. Gone are the ultra-technical arrangements that made their earlier work almost too challenging for most to call catchy. “Furr” sounds a lot like “American Beauty”-era Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan before he electrified his guitar and ’60s rock group Love. It’s great storytelling through great music, and it shouldn’t be overlooked.

This indie rock band from is from New York and its first full-length album is as good as they come. Eleven deceivingly simple songs that aren’t afraid to utilize odd instrumentation and strange lyrics fill “Vampire Weekend” to the rim with danceable melodies. The perfect party album.

Beck’s eighth major label record is a collection of short, sweet and snappy songs heavily influenced by ’60s psychedelic, surfer rock and garage bands and produced by Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley fame. There’s still plenty of Beck’s signature word play and electronic rock but not as much as on previous releases like “Odelay” and “Midnight Vultures.” Clocking in at just over 30 minutes it’s a great listen that won’t take up too much of your time.

It’s really hard to peg TV On The Radio as one kind of band. They dabble with electronics, guitar distortion, hip-hop beats and complicated time signatures. Vocally they’re all over the place, from falsetto doo wop to a cappella harmonies. They set the bar high with 2006’s “Return To Cookie Mountain” but followed it up admirably with “Dear Science.” A little more straightforward in approach than “Return,” “Dear Science” is the best of all worlds from a band that can do it all and do it well.

I’m still holding fast to the opinion that “Golden Delicious,” by former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty is the feel-good album of 2008. Doughty’s simple acoustic guitars backed by a full band and lots of silly lyrics delivered in up-tempo songs keep things moving quickly, and songs like “27 Jennifers,” “I Just Want the Girl In the Blue Dress,” and “Put It Down” are impossible to listen to without smiling.

The Chap, a five-piece experimental electronic-rock band from London, sound like the distant future of pop music ” say around the year 3015. And their album “Mega Breakfast” captures the future perfectly. From jagged guitar-driven dance tunes like “They Have A Name,” to garage rockers like “Uss Wuss,” “Mega Breakfast” will satisfy any hunger for futuristic grooves and spacey lyrics while keeping your toes tapping.

The Neil Diamond who crafted “Home Before Dark” is a long way from the Diamond who put together radio hits like “Sweet Caroline” and “Cherry, Cherry.” No, this Diamond doesn’t shine as bright any more, but damn if he doesn’t know how to write some really dark, depressing songs about love and life. It’s mostly down-tempo piano and acoustic guitars but it sounds beautiful, urgent and true.

The Eagles of Death Metal are the furthest thing from a death metal band you can get. What they are is an awesome band that knows how to rock out and have a good time doing it. “Heart On” could almost be considered a concept album in that it constantly refers to being sexy and cool in any situation and pretty much stays with the theme of rock n’ roll sins ” sex, drugs, booze and more sex. For a two-man band, they make a lot of noise ” the good kind.

With blazing guitars and all the rock and roll attitude you can stand, these boys from Kansas City, Missouri put out an album that sounds a lot like AD/DC meets Johnny Cash. “Vice” is about just that, vices and the lives they affect for good or bad. From pill poppers to murderers to drug dealers and corrupt law enforcement, the Architects leave no stone unturned when it comes to the bad things in our lives. It’s basic rock and roll and it’s very refreshing to know that a band out there still knows how to do it right.

High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

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