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The Best Albums of 2008

The Top of the Class

The Bay Area was a good place to be for music fans in 2008. San Francisco was ripe with high-profile music festivals and a nearly endless stream of quality performances at local venues. Outside Lands made history with three days of music in Golden Gate Park, and the Treasure Island Music Festival came of age in its second year with a lineup that couldnít be topped. Nationally, there was also no shortage of music as bands jumped from obscurity to international stardom in a matter of months (see: Vampire Weekend, MGMT, etc.). Here are our music writers' picks for the class of 2008:

Matt Crawford

1. Tha Carter III - Lil Wayne
When Lil Wayne says he is the best rapper alive, he is right.

2. Donkey - CSS
Dance rock at its finest.

3. Modern Guilt - Beck
Beck + Danger Mouse production = thirty minutes of perfection.

4. Top Ranking - Diplo x Santogold
All of the best songs from Santogoldís excellent debut album remixed and paired with reggae, punk, rap and new wave classics.

5. Saturday = Youth - M83
If the Donnie Darko soundtrack was not already flawless, this would be a good replacement.

Lynne Angel

1. Dog's Hymns - Low Red Land
This SF-based trio are by far one of the best local live acts and their energy and raw passion transfers nicely into album form. Go see them now before they begin opening for Guns-N-Roses...or something equally as, um, fortuitous.

2. Scandal Scandal Scandal Down in the Wheat Field - Paper Airplanes
These guys are amazing. Producing innovative, layered, orchestral arrangements and striking movements while still being able to have enough of a hook to keep the ear ready for more - and all from the fields of Wichita. One of the most thrilling and unclassifiable albums I have ever had the pleasure to experience.

3. In Ear Park - Department of Eagles
A lush and weighty release and the overall production is simply stunning.

4. Thing of the Past - Vetiver
Silky smooth folk covers and an all-star line-up of players makes this yet another supremely pleasant and heartwarming listen from Andy Cabic and Co.

5. Offend Maggie - Deerhoof
Amazingly, these guys just keep on keepin' on...and getting better with each release. Somehow, managing to avoid the tedium of a much referenced "signature style" - the album is fresh, raw, and rockin'.

Martin Malloy

1. Waiting for the Sunrise - David Vandervelde
I may be the only person who loves this album, but I think Vandervelde showed his true sound on this sophomore album.

2. Recovery - Loudon Wainwright
Wainwright is like a fine wine - he only gets better with age. He revisited his past on this release and proved just how well heís matured.

3. Raise the Dead - Phantom Planet
It appears that this is their last album. After a four-year hiatus, a final album wasnít expected, but itís one of their strongest albums and it ainít a bad way to bow out.

4. Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleases 1996-2007 - Eels
A wonderful 2-disc collection of B-sides, remixes and live cuts, this was the year of the Eels who also released a first Greatest Hits compilation and a book chronicling leader Mark Oliver Everettís amazing rise to (almost) stardom.

5. Devil on our Side: B-Sides and Rarities - The Anniversary
An all but forgotten Lawrence, KS band that only released two wildly different albums (one emo and one classic rock influenced) rose from the dead, five years later, to release this 2 disc collection of rarities and demos. Itís not perfect, but it reminded us fans of just how underappreciated they were and still are.

Chris Ellis

1. Cafe Cubano - Putumayo Presents
There are some amazing gems on this album. Upbeat and authentic songwriting by a diverse mix of artists representing Cuban music that deserves to be heard.

2. Hercules And Love Affair - Hercules And Love Affair
Rumor has it some members of Hercules will be joining members of LCD Soundsystem to form a new band in '09. Look for whatever this new crazy disco experiment comes up with in 'best of' lists next year.

3. In Ear Park - Department of Eagles
Fans of Devotchka and Fleet Foxes (another notable release) would enjoy this melancholic and expansive album.

4. Third - Portishead
They're back and I'm kinda glad they were gone for so long. The album stays true to Portishead's spooky soundtrack past while still sounding fresh - they've been listening, we've been waiting, but not anymore.

5. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
An incredibly surprising album, there were some duds but for the most part these guys really seemed to have worked hard at making Oracular Spectacular an album to remember for years to come.