If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that my taste in music is pretty eclectic, if not eccentric at times. As such, my take on this past year's releases veers slightly off the beaten path.
While Fleet Foxes, TV On The Radio and Bon Iver topped many critics' lists this year, you're likely to find a few albums you haven't heard -- and haven't even heard about -- on this list of favorites from 2008. Are you ready? I think you are.
Here we go.
- Ice Cream Spiritual by Ponytail
The noisy, experimental sugarcubes of Deerhoof's Offend Maggie were a good start this year, but the hyperactive energy and incredible vocal maneuvering of Ponytail's Ice Cream Spiritual was flavor of the month just about every month since the album's June release.
- Robyn by Robyn
Musically speaking, the Swedes took the cake this year: Lykke Li's addictive Youth Novels definitely gets an honorable mention, and The Tallest Man On Earth made one of the most captivating folk albums of the year. One of my favorite Nordic exports, though, was the U.S. release of Robyn's 2005 self-titled breakout album after Pandora got me hooked on "Cobrastyle."
- Tie: Third by Portishead and The Golden Foretaste of Heaven by Alec Empire
After getting over the shock that Third is not Dummy redux but a challenging and forward-thinking piece nü-electronica, it became a favorite, while Alec Empire's latest piece of digital hardcore has been in heavy rotation on my iPod since January and isn't likely to leave anytime soon.
- The Cross of My Calling by The (International) Noise Conspiracy
Sweden wins again: This year the garage-punk band that formed out of the rubble of Refused took sharp hooks, politically potent lyrics and jolt of funk, folded them together and served up something that's greater than the sum of its parts -- and packed with anthems for a new era.
- Tie: Los Angeles by Flying Lotus and Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles
Yeah, yeah, enough with the ties already, I know, but I couldn't choose between the wacky hip-hop beats of Los Angeles and the electropop-hardcore tug-of-war of Crystal Castles. What's more, both take the sounds of your Atari and Nintendo machines and recycle them in addictive new ways.
- Tie: Tronic by Black Milk and Everywhere at Once by Lyrics Born
Black Milk's Tronic balanced killer hooks with jaw-dropping rhymes, breaking new ground along the way, while Lyrics Born's positive -- and positively hilarious -- Everywhere At Once sounds like the best new hip-hop album of 1988 (in a very good way).
- Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
The psych-pop cool kids didn't disappoint with their first full-length album, and they got me dancing in all over town, from the farmer's market to the Number 4 bus.
- You Cross My Path by The Charlatans
Whether or not you think Britpop is dead, The Charlatans' 2008 release is one of their best in years, blending a vintage '90s sound with a wealth of great new songwriting ideas from the band.
- Microcastle by Deerhunter
Deerhunter's done a great deal to resurrect the shoegaze genre with albums such as 2007's Cryptograms. Microcastle veers into spacey dream-pop territory, turning out some great tracks such as "Nothing Stops" and "Agoraphobia."
- Exit by Shugo Tokumaru
The complex and charming acoustic folk-pop of Japanese musician Shugo Tokumaru makes the list for its skillfully layered melodies, its off-the-wall instrumentation and its sheer guts. You won't even mind that Tokumaru doesn't speak a word of English.
Honorable mentions: Quaristice by Autechre, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Gang Of Losers by The Dears, The Feel Good Record Of The Year by No Use For A Name, Street Horrsing by Fuck Buttons, New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War) by Erykah Badu, Nouns by No Age, Acid Tongue by Jenny Lewis, Doomsdayer's Holiday by Grail, In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy, Consolers Of The Lonely by The Raconteurs, and Santogold by Santogold.