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Archive for the ‘year end lists’ Category

Paul Newman, 83, actor and philanthropist. 09/26

David Foster Wallace, 46, author ( Infinite Jest). 09/12

Isaac Hayes, 65, singer, songwriter, actor. 08/10

Jerry Wexler, 91, music producer. 08/15

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, 89, author and Soviet dissident. 08/04

George Carlin, 71, comedian and actor. 06/22

Cyd Charisse, 86,  dancer and actress. 06/17

Tim Russert, 58, anchor of ” Meet the Press”. 06/13

Bo Diddley, 79, guitarist, one of the godfathers of Rock and Roll. 06/02

Yves Saint Laurent, 71, famed fashion designer. 06/01

Dick Martin, 86, comedian and host of ” Laugh-In” with partner Dan Rowan. 05/24

Sydney Pollack, 73, Oscar winning director and actor. 05/26

Robert Rauschenberg, 82, artist. 05/12

Eddy Arnold, 89, musician. 05/08

Charlton Heston, 84, actor and Conservative activist, President of the National Rifle Association. 04/05

Richard Widmark, 93, actor. 03/24

Paul Scofield, 86, Oscar Winning actor. 03/19

Arthur C. Clarke, 90, author ( 2001: A Space Odyessy). 03/19

William F. Buckley, 82, famed Conservative pundit. 02/27

Roy Scheider, 75, actor. 02/10

Heath Ledger, 28, Oscar nominated actor. 01/22

Suzanne Pleshette, 70, actress. 01/19

Van Johnson, 92, actor. 12/12

Bobby Fischer, 64, chess prodigy turned eccentric. 1/17

Steve Fossett, 64, billionaire adventurer. Declared dead on 2/15, though missing since September 2, 2007, and his remains were found September 2008.

Will Elder, 87, artist and satirical cartoonist ( MAD, Playboy). 5/17

Mildred Loving, 68.

This fascinating woman was a pregnant eighteen year old when she married Richard Loving in Washington D.C. The year was 1958, and they would have been like any other normal Virginia couple if the police hadn’t arrested them under arcane miscegenation laws. This black woman married to a white man would in 1963 ask the ACLU to take her and her husband’s case to the Supreme Court, where the Warren Bench overturned their convictions. The woman at the heart of Loving v. Virginia would toward the end of her life never give interviews, but would later release a statement supporting gay marriage, as she, better than most, understood that marriage is not always about children and religion, but always, always about human rights and love. 5/2

Levi Stubbs, 72, singer ( The Four Tops). 10/17

Harold Pinter, 78, playwright. 12/25

Eartha Kitt, 81, singer and actress and Catwoman. 12/25

Mark Felt, 95, Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal. 12/18

Bettie Page, 85, legendary pin up girl. 12/12

Odetta, 77, folk singer. 12/2

Miriam Makeba, 76, singer and anti-apartheid activist. 11/9

Michael Crichton, 66, author and co-creator of the TV series ER. 11/4

Studs Terkel, 96, journalist, author, and radio host. 10/31

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Michael Phelps, the 2008 Summer Olympics

Seriously, it’s an achievement that transcends nationality. Eight gold medals in the pool, and the guy becomes an instant celebrity.

Kristy Yamaguchi, Dancing With the Stars

The spring season was far superior to the recent fall one, despite the telegraphed ending. There was no way Kristy could lose outright, as she had the poise, elegance, and flexibility engineered into her figure skater’s soul. But the touching back story presented made me shed a tear, and her beautiful family made me smile. No one deserved it more. And her dancing? Phenomenal.

Heath  Ledger as the Joker, The Dark Knight


I finally saw it people. And it blew me away. Never big on Batman ( I prefer Batman, though, to Superman, but the X-Men rock my universe), But Ledger’s deliciously over the top, yet oddly restrained mad man just made me smile, then I remembered what we lost, and the sadness can be all consumming.

Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

3

An astonishing comic performance from start to finish, a man blessed with impeccable timing and a fastidiousness that puts Niles Crane and Felix Unger to shame. But most crucially is despite Sheldon’s arrogant and haughty demeanor, we adore him, mostly because he really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about social mores and conventions, but also because he is actually surprisingly sweet in his own geektastic way, as the Saturnalia miracle hug he gave Penny indicated. It’s enough for this reviewer to admit that, yeah, I have a bit of a crush. I would not, however, give him a healthy ovum to grow his own Leonard Nimoy. That borders on supervillain-esque. And yet, I like how supervillain-esque Sheldon is. Jim Parsons is a comedic gem, and damn it, he deserves that Emmy slot currently taken up by Charlie Sheen ( I know I’m digressing, but the Emmys voted the wrong Chuck Lorre comedy into the awards- The Big Bang Theory is far superior).

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10. My Winnipeg

Canadian oddball surrealist Guy Maddin creates a masterpiece about his hometown, leading me to believe that if you live in Winnipeg, you must think like this man. Astonishing visuals and a surprisingly warm feeling.

9. Standard Operating Procedure

Errol Morris takes on the current mindset that torture is okay because the ends justify the means. Or do they? Morris, the legendary documentarian, makes a strong case that maybe, just maybe, what happens in Iraq should not stay in Iraq, and that those who excuse the methods as necessary need to think about what is ultimately more important- humanity or being right.

8. In Bruges

A sleeper, this droll little film about two hit men in the titular Belgian city is honestly one of the most charming, funniest films of the entire year. And Colin Farrell is actually good in this one!

7. Wall-E

It’s brave to use silence in film. It’s braver still when you use it in an animated film designed to get kids thinking. Entire stretches of Wall-E have no dialogue. But visually, it makes an impact that no Pixar film has done since Toy Story.

6. Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist

So sue me, I love this joyful little film about two people connecting over music. Possibly because that’s how I meet everyone myself. Charming, funny, and perfectly shot. Kat Dennings is one of this years great discoveries.

5. Rachel Getting Married

This tragic tale of family and pain remains the one film that truly made me feel all year long. Anne Hathaway’s Kym is a revelation. Rarely have I wanted to be a part of such a family. But I really wanted to be there. Props to Bill Irwin’s devoted, broken father, and Debra Winger’s astringent, vicious mother.

4. Tropic Thunder

Yes, the plot is more confusing than a Joyce novel. But I enjoy Joyce. And the performances are as such as I didn’t care the film made no sense, particularly Robert Downey Jr.’s amazing performance as method man extraordinaire Kirk Lazarus, Matthew McConaughey’s surprisingly sharp turn as the world’s most devoted agent, and a stunning Tom Cruise cameo that made me forget I now hate him.

3. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan has done the impossible- make an accessible superhero film that doesn’t distract from the mythology, but actually adds to it. Christian Bale is by far the best, most believable Bruce Wayne in cinema history, and Heath Ledger’s Joker is a villain for the ages.

2. Slumdog Millionaire

This delightfully charming film tells a story of class and achievement, hope and despair, and game shows. An Early front runner for best picture during this award season, it would have been my number one, if not the fact I had more fun and totally adore one other film more. No other list will have it at number one, but I can’t help myself.

1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Jason Segel did the impossible- he took the Judd Apatow formula and made it sweeter, raunchier, and funnier. This charming little love story/ break up disaster tale balances the sad story of Peter with the destructive overtures the world throws at him. Mila Kunis shines as the girl he meets in Hawaii, Kristin Bell is a perfect bitch, and Russell Brand’s star making turn is the greasiest, funniest thing on the big screen all year.

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”It’s very simple. Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and, as it always has, rock crushes scissors.”
—Sheldon (Jim Parsons), explaining his new game of Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, on The Big Bang Theory

” I never have any normal fans.”

Dr. Spencer Reid ( Matthew Gray Gubler), lamenting the fact yet another serial killer is a fan of his work, on Criminal Minds

“I hate New York! I’m sorry, but it’s true! Today, I was walking around PriceCo. Have you been there? It’s huge! All the stores in New York are so cramped! Every time I turn around I knock something over. I’m like some huge monster that came out of the oceans to destroy bodegas! …I’m too big for New York, okay! I’m always trying to fit into cramped little subway seats, or duck under doorways that were built a hundred and fifty years ago. “Hey, people are bigger now! Build bigger doorways! What the hell is wrong with you?” …And it’s so loud. All the time. Yes, I know it’s the city that never sleeps, but guess what? I like to sleep! I’ve been tired for eight years! Tired and scared, with black and blue marks on my elbows from trying to fit into all these tiny elf doorways! New Jersey’s great! It’s got huge stores, and lawns, and you never have to carry a cup again! For the rest of your life! I’m not afraid to say it: I love New Jersey! ”

– Marshall ( Jason Segel), ranting after spending time at Stella’s New Jersey home, on How I Met Your Mother

” I can see Russia from my house.”

-Sarah Palin ( Tina Fey), giving a press conference with Hillary Clinton ( Amy Poehler), on  SNL

”I am Shiva the destroyer and your harbinger of doom for this evening.”—Kym (Anne Hathaway) in Rachel Getting Married

Penny: Sheldon, it’s me.
Sheldon: You’re in my bedroom.
Penny: I need your help.
Sheldon: People aren’t suppose to be in my bedroom.
Penny: Well, can we talk in the living room?
Sheldon: I’m not wearing any pajama bottoms.
Penny: Why?
Sheldon: I spilled grape juice.
Penny: Well, can’t you put on other pajamas?
Sheldon: I can’t put on other pajamas, these are my Monday  pajamas! Penny, people really aren’t supposed to be in my bedroom!

– Penny ( Kaley Cuoco) and Sheldon ( Jim Parsons), after she enter’s his room in the middle of the night for game playing advise, on The Big Bang Theory

Penny: I know this is none of my business, but I just… I have to ask — what’s Sheldon’s deal?
Leonard: What do you mean, “deal”?
Penny: You know, like, what’s his deal? Is it girls…? Guys…? Sock puppets…?

– Penny ( Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard ( Johnny Galecki), after witnessing a girl fawning over an oblivious Sheldon ( Jim Parsons), on The Big Bang Theory

Penny: Sorry the napkin’s dirty, he wiped his mouth with it.
Sheldon: I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!
Penny: Well…yeah, I guess. But look, he signed it!
Sheldon: Do you realize what this means?!?! All I need is a healthy ovum and I can grow my own Leonard Nimoy!
Penny: Okay, all I’m giving you is the napkin, Sheldon.

– Sheldon ( Jim Parsons) and Penny ( Kaley Cuoco), after Sheldon opens his Christmas gift, on The Big Bang Theory. This is followed by Sheldon giving her a half dozen gift baskets and the funniest hug in the history of television.

” I kissed a girl and I liked it/ the taste of her cherry chapstick.”

– Katy Perry ” I Kissed A Girl”

 “Denny is my best friend. I love him with all my heart. If I could yank that horrible disease out of his body, I would fight it and I would win. I would use every ounce of my strength and I would win, if I could — but I can’t.” 

– Alan Shore ( James Spader), in front of the Supreme Court, on Boston Legal

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10.  The season nine premiere of CSI

I stopped watching after Tarantino made a mark and other shows popped up. But the news Gary Dourdan was leaving was enough to make me tune in and see the cast actually act for what seems like the first time in four seasons. Emotionally charged, and William Peterson reminding me that at one point, he was an awesome actor.

9. Flashpoint

Every once in a while, a Canadian television show gets it right. this is one of those occasions. The thrilling SWAT team drama dazzles with it’s complex moral dilemmas, and Hugh Dillon is amazing as the aging hot shot with a chip on his shoulder. And Toronto is fucking TORONTO!

8. Top Chef

Food. Reality show. Anthony Bourdain. Knives. I’m surprised that no one has died. And did I mention food?

7. American Idol Season 7

The talent was astonishing even if the show itself was not. The gaffes made by Paula and clearly biased Randy made the show more controversial, and the Davids made it more exciting than most hockey games.

6. Project Runway

Like Top Chef, only with fabric swatches, and Tim Gunn, who is my hero for being able to put up with Kenley as well as he did. And Kenley was the best villain on television this year.

5. Life On Mars

As someone who loved the original BBC series, I was sure I would hate what ABC would do. I don’t. On the contrary, it’s the only new show I love this year. P.S.- best supporting role this year to Michael Imperioli’s ‘stache.

4. House Season Finale Parts 1 & 2

The first part, ” House’s Head”, was more of House trying to self destruct while looking for answers, but the second part ” Wilson’s Heart” is probably the shows greatest emotional moment.

3. How I Met Your Mother

It just keeps getting funnier. Not to mention Barney is still scum, but he’s evolving scum. And Marshall is still sweet, but he’s working for a huge corporate entity. And Lily is still the trash talking kindergarten teacher, but is contemplating motherhood. Robin is still more guy than the guys, but she’s lost in a sea of self doubt. And Ted? Well, he’s still searching for the mother. Some things just do not change.

2. The Big Bang Theory

It started off odd with a sperm bank, but it found it’s stride and is now the most consistently funny sitcom on television. Jim Parsons as Sheldon is possibly the funniest character on television.

1. Criminal Minds

The show has quickly become the best police drama on television. Exquisite acting and well thought out story lines make for the best hour on TV.

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Five fiction, five non-fiction, ten great. These are not in order, because I simply cannot choose.

Beautiful Children ( Charles Bock)- an astonishing debut novel, set in Las Vegas, about a missing child, the seedy underbelly of America’s city of sin is a character in it’s own right. Stunning, searing prose makes a slightly leaden premise shine, and the mixed up teens that populate the novel are colorful and believable.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination ( Elizabeth McCracken)- the loss of a baby prenatally at any stage is painful, but to lose on in stillbirth has got to be beyond anguishing. McCracken’s personal tale is alternately heartbreaking and touchingly funny, as she tries to put together her life after the loss of her baby. Devastating.

The Lazarus Project ( Aleksander Hemon)- the fears of immigrants and anarchists in early 20th century America meet with the search of self, as the steeped in the Balkans culture author creates a world in which everyone is suspicious and everything is crucial to being at peace with oneself.

Lush Life ( Richard Price)- Price is one of my Favorite authors, as he is a master of dialogue, and i appreciate dialogue above all else. This novel, set in post- 9/11 Lower East Side New York City, is astonishingly detailed and richly written. He does lose some of the plot as he feeds his bigger themes, but damn it, when has being a big idea guy been a bad thing?

My Revolutions ( Hari Kunzru)- a former 60s radical lives a quiet suburban life with his wife before memory and blackmail turns his world upside down. A marvelously written tale about idealism gone awry, and the life long consequences of action.

Netherland ( Joseph O’Neill)- Another New York City in a post 9/11 world novel, certainly, but this novel about class, displacement, transplants, and rootless lives makes for a great companion to Price’s novel.  But it’s more than that. It may be one of the great love stories of the decade.

Outliers: : The Story Of Success ( Malcolm Gladwell)-  I admit to finishing this book approximately fourteen hours ago. The famed writer of people and social structure has created a book that makes you go ” Huh. ” As he observes the habits of highly successful people, Gladwell reminds us that the obvious sometimes is the only thing that leads us to fulfill our dreams.

Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And the Birth of New Hollywood ( Mark Harris): 1939 may have been the pinnacle, but the year everything changed forever remains up to debate. The 70s has been used extensively, as has 1969, but Harris’ ruminations on 1967 may be the most compelling argument of them all, that the best picture nominees of 1967 ( The Graduate, In the Heat Of The Night, Bonnie And Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and Dr. Doolittle) are the snapshot of the upcoming cinematic revolt.

The Post-American World ( Fareed Zakaria)- the famed pundit gives his views on a world in which the U.S. role will shrink, but as opposed to being a pessimist, he seems encouraged by the decentralization of power- as long as it goes right.

The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare And How It Changed America ( David Hajdu)- a painstaking history of how pop culture is apparently to blame for society’s ills ( some things never change…), this book is possibly my favorite of the year. The history of William
Gaines, who was the center of the controversy, leads us to the ultimate prize. After losing his comic book empire, he went counter culture and gave us MAD. Brilliantly told.

Would be on the list if not written by a friend: The Real McCain ( Cliff Schecter).

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25. Constatines ” Hard Feelings”

Canadian art-punks bring us a grinding, hard charging about the difficulty of emotions.

24. Ne-Yo ” Closer”

Usher’s heir apparent delivers on a R&B-hip hop jam that is smoother than creamy peanut butter.

23. T.I. ” Whatever You Like”

He’s such a generous guy, over trippy hio hop beats and a surprisingly warm chorus.

22. Jordin Sparks f. Chris Brown ” No Air”

Gorgeous, soaring vocal gymnastics by two teen sensations as they sing about the importance of oxygen, but the devastation of love.

21. Kings Of Leon ” Sex On Fire”

Southern gothic melodrama, with ringing guitars, as the Followills literally set things a flame.

20. Kid Rock ” All Summer Long”

Someone had the courage to do what I always thought about- put ” sweet Home Alabama” and ” Werewolves of London” together and see how similar they are. Add lyrics about partying and booze and sex, you have a classic summer jam.

19. Vampire Weekend ” Oxford Comma”

Bouncy African beats mixed with lyrics about sex and punctuation. I’m not joking.

18. Flo Rida ” Low”

Inescapable spring jam about Apple Bottom jeans and Reeboks with the straps.

17. Adele ” Chasing Pavements”

Soulful ruminations about being torn between love or happiness.

16. Kanye West ” Love Lockdown”

Autotune works for the master, and he creates a song about loss and love that is for the ages.

15. Rihanna ” Take A Bow”

“Disturbia” got the glory, but this song about kicking his ass to the curb remains her strongest single.

14. Sam Roberts ” Them Kids”

More folk country rock from the Canadian master of the guitar, with a charming SIMS inspired video mixed with 50s nostalgia.  A song about the fact kids don’t dance to rock and roll anymore.

13.  P!nk ” Sober”

” So What” maybe the typical hard rocking kiss off we expect from her, but Pink’s second single from her album is a more mature, honest song about divorce, alcohol, and love.

12. Katy Perry ” I Kissed A Girl”

Bouncy fun about same sex experiments and old fashioned button pushing. Not as jaw dropping as Jill Sobule’s track of the same name, but this grimy flirty track is a delight.

11. Estelle f. Kanye West ” American Boy”

Soulful British song stylist asking for a trip to NYC. Girl knows her shit. Discofied brilliance.

10.  Ting Tings ” Shut Up And Let Me Go”

Duo of punk inspired dance artists sing about how you are never gonna hit this again.

9. City And Colour ” Waiting…”

Quiet acoustic jam about waiting for the end of everything. Depression sounds almost peaceful.

8. David Cook ” Bar ba Sol”

Grinding punk guitar stylings mixed with lyrics about regretting the night before, where alcohol and possibly blonde skanks played a role in humiliation. Did I just say that?

7.  Billy Talent f. Rise Against ” Turn Your Back”

Two of the modern punk bands of note dress us down for ignoring the ecological disasters looming in the near future.

6. Duffy ” Mercy”

Sixties style pop soul with a Dusty vibe, and a girl with a voice grittier than gravel.

5. Hedley ” Old School”

Jacob Hoggard reminisces about setting tires on fire and the days where little mattered except getting wasted behind the old school.

4. Coldplay ” Violet Hill”

” Viva La Vida” has gotten all the glory, but this first single remains their grittiest, gungiest track. And the lyrics are mysteriously baroque and the vocals soar.

3. Metro Station ” Shake It”

Eighties inspired dance rock. God, how I’ve missed this stuff. Vaguely reminds me of Flock of Seagulls and Loverboy. Weird, but wonderful. And frickin’ catchy.

2. R.E.M. ” I’m Gonna D.J.”

Alt rock fore fathers come back to form with raging guitars and a plan for the end of days. I wanna be at that party.

1. M.I.A. ” Paper Planes”

I want to thank Seth Rogan and David Gordon Green for allowing this song to explode after the trailer for Pineapple Express introduced it to the world. Clash inspired guns and cash registers mixed with trip hop beats and the idea of exceeding what your borders permit. Stunning.

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20. David Cook David Cook

The mysteries of life. Idol winner’s first albums as a rule are supposed to suck hardcore. Except if you’re Kelly and manage to sneak ” Low” on yours.
Or Carrie and you luck out with ” Before He Cheats”. But David C. managed to do something surprising- delivering a rather cohesive ( more shocking considering the group think writing) rock album that was among the best rock albums of the year. ” Bar Ba Sol” is simply one of the best rock songs of 2008 period, and ” Light On” has grown on me significantly over the last several weeks.

19. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago

I picked up this album simply because it has one of my daughter’s names in the title. I love it when I discover something in the process, though, of picking up crap stuff with my kids names on it. Spare acoustic tacks that feel like winter in Canada ( or Wisconsin, where it was recorded in a cabin), Justin Vernon’s elegant isolation remains bleak and unrelenting.

18. Ne Yo Year Of The Gentleman

I try to avoid flavor of the month hip hop soul stars. Couldn’t resist ” Closer”, though, and this album shows a maturing I didn’t expect.

17.  Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

It’s not as accessible or fun as St. Elsewhere, but I deign for people to tell me this album isn’t going to be regarded as a classic in ten years time.  Cee-Lo remains one of the most underrated singers in music, and Danger Mouse is a musical genius.

16. Billy Talent 666

A Live album from the St. Catherines punk purists with a matching DVD. They are fantabulous live, and they hit all the right notes and sing the hits as well as fan faves. ” Devil In A Midnight Mass” still remains scorching.

15. MGMT Oracular Spectacular

Experimental yet somehow classic, the Brooklyn duo create magic on their second full length album, and believe me when I say we are all better off to just buy it. Influenced by New Order and space rock that would make Bowie proud, I recommend just listening to ” Kids” and reminding yourself of happier times.

14. Adele 19

Duffy had the big hit, Amy the big headlines, and Leona the big benefactor ( Simon Cowell), but Adele has the big voice, and her songs are not written by frickin’ Jesse McCartney. Simply stunning.

13 Rise Against Appeal To Reason

More punk purists, this time with an decidedly Marxist lean. They are passionate and surprisingly successful- this album debuted at 3 on te Billboard charts.  Political and rocking.

12. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III

He’s a wordsmith that would make Eminem smile, and his prolific bootlegs and internet releases make him a tad over exposed, but he is quickly becoming the MC to listne to. ” Lollipop” is hook filled fun.

11. Coldplay Viva La Vida

Their previous album was so controlled, I wished for some imperfect note to remove the museum like quality. This album is messier, sonically more diverse, baroque and the punkiest we’ll ever hear them. Lyrically as pretentious as ever, at least it rocks harder. Which is still not much, granted.

10. Girl Talk Feed the Animals

Danger Mouse started the internet mash up, but Gregg Gillis perfected it. ” Set It Off” indeed. Brilliantly wacky.

9. Black Keys Attack and Release

Highly recommended to me by a good friend, I finally picked it up about three weeks ago and have been grooving ever since.  With Danger Mouse producing ( what, him agian?), the Akron duo create a world of spare, historical guitar noodling delta blues minimalism. And if that all seems to be contridictory, you’re right, but it works.

8. My Morning Jacket Evil Urges

Blow my mind, moutain men, why don’t you? The soul brothers of my beloved Flaming Lips, these guys mix a gorgeous falsetto, southern rock, space jams, and veiled political references . Why am I coming to them so frickin’ late? Someone? Anyone?

7. TV On The Radio Dear Science

Funk is awesome. Team it with apocolyptic lyrics and the general feeling of doom, you get this masterpiece of an album.

6.  Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend

I can see how people can hate this Ivy league, hyperliterate band with a fondness for Paul Simon’s Graceland and the solo work of Peter Gabriel ( who is namechecked in “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”). But I love the fact they can simply create gently African melodies while asking ” Who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma?” More fun that it should be.

5. Kings Of Leon Only By the Night

They are becoming one of my new faves, as they take the best of Skynyrd and add some U2 and becomebetter. They always seemed inauthentic in their southern gothic style, but this album launches them out of parody and into the forefront of the Southern rock revolution happening right now. My Morning Jacket has competition…

4. City and Colour Bring Me Your Love

Dallas Green’s solo side project is quickly eclipsing his day job in Alexisonfire. This album, a natural evolution from Sometimes acoustic heartbreaks, is by far the best Canadian album this year ( no one comes close- sorry, Nickelback). All those comparisons to Neil Young’s Harvest are justified.

3. Kanye West 808s and Heartbreaks

The man is broken. His mama died tragically and his fiancee dumped his ass. He has put the bravado aside and created an emotional, adult album with little hip hop braggacio. Stunning and suprising.

2. R.E.M. Accelerate

Whether it’s the hugley catchy vocal hook of ” Supernatural Superserious” or the quiet rage that seeps into ” Houston”, the end of days grandstanding of ” I’m Gonna DJ” or the dressing down given in ” Living Well Is The Best Revenge”, this album says two things. R.E.M. is not fine, and you know what, they still have it.

1. Jenny Lewis Acid Tongue

It’s becoming clear to me Jenny Lewis can do no wrong. I adore Rilo Kiley, her day job band, but her solo work impresses the hell out of me. This album, simple, folksy, county, rock, psychedelic, often all at the same time, remains my favorite this year.

Worst of the year- Scarlett Johannsson Anywhere I Lay My Head

She can’t sing. Not in the charming way Tom Waits can’t sing. She lacks charm as a vocalist, and this album of Tom Waits covers offends the Tom Waits fan in me.

Biggest relief: GNR finally releases Chinese Democracy

Biggest disappointment: GNR’s Chinese Democracy. I’ll never be okay again. It made me cry. Not in a good way. Flashes of genius are overshadowed by an over produced mess.

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Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ album and Radiohead’s album are both actually 2007 releases. I’ve decided to post my top ten list from 2007 as a reminder- as it’s written on Bitten By A Cougar ( Growlin’ To The Groove, y’all, since May 2008), so no yelling at me when they do not appear on the 2008 list. I never said which year end list they would appear on.

10. Patti Smith Twelve– a cover album from the queen of poetic punk, with tracks that are personal to her in one way or another, Patti Smith cemented her position as one of the great non- traditional singers ( which is a nice way of saying, crappy voice, but compelling). My version actually has thirteen song- as I have a bonus track of her singing ” Everybody Hurts” ( and WOW!), but included are covers from Hendrix through to Tears For Fears and Nirvana.

9. Radiohead In Rainbows– it’s not about the revolutionary album release that allowed fans to pay whatever they could or would. It’s not about the band’s reluctance to share Internet sales or the fact everyone also went out and bought it on CD as soon as it was available. It’s about ” Nude”, the longtime live favorite finally put on an album, or ” Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, or ” Bodysnatchers”, or ” House Of Cards”… the album is one of their best.

8. Tegan and Sara The Con– twin sisters from Calgary make pretty pop songs, with help from Matt Sharp, Jason McGerr, and Hunter Burgan. With jangly piano matched with dark lyrics about crumbling relationships, this album sounds like the most happy nervous breakdown in music since Brian Wilson.

7. Mika Life In Cartoon Motion– I think it may be clear I have a soft spot for dance pop i refuse to acknowledge. But from the moment I first heard the bass and piano lines that open ” Grace Kelly”, I was hooked on the classically inspired Mika’s new brand of clubland fun. This album is what I listen to when I’m doing housework or I just need to feel alive.

6. Amy Winehouse Back To Black– oh, the voice- perfect for neo jazz soul. But as we watch the train wreck that is Amy Winehouse on CNN, we might forget that underneath Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi’s exquisite production is a girl with an incredible voice. The sly ” You Know I’m No Good”, the mournful title track, and the horns and demons ” Rehab” all stick out, but then there is ” Tears Dry On Their Own”, with musical references to Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, that remains my favorite song.

5. Alicia Keys As I Am– a child prodigy who skipped Columbia University for a record deal at J, she made a huge splash with her debut, only to keep the momentum up with her follow up. Nobody has strung three quality albums off a debut like that since… well, the Beatles. So as her third studio album hit the store, a lot of critics sharpened knives only to discover she just gets better ( at least, most of them. Some people just do not like her). First single ” No One” is still astonishing in it’s musical maturity, and ” Teenage Love Affair” is expert storytelling.

4. Foo Fighters Echos, Silence, Patience, and Grace– from the fierce guitars on opener ” The Pretender” and the more sunshine pop with death knell lyrics of ” Long Road To Ruin” ( which was teamed with one of the bands trademark hilarious videos), to the emo slamming ” Cheer Up Boys ( You’re Make Up Is Running)”, and the acoustic, mournful instrumental ” Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners”, the band is at top form. I love ” Home”, the album closer.

3. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand– seriously, this was not supposed to work. The Ultimate Cock Rock God mashed with the ultimate Bluegrass Queen? The gentle voice of a sweet girl mixing with the wild expense of the king of hard rock? But from the moment they start on ” Rich Woman” and nail songs from Sam Phillips, Gene Clark, The Everly Brothers ( huge hit ” Gone, Gone, Gone”), Townes Van Zandt, and Tom Waits, you realize that they are actually made for each other, and you enjoy the subtle mix of two music worlds.

2. The White Stripes Icky Thump– I am in awe of Jack White’s talent, and this album, stepped in British influence ( due to Jack’s marriage to model Karen Elson, who is from Northern England, where the album title hails from as a colloquialism), is amazing. It’s not the type I’ll listen to once a week ( I believe I’m in agreement with Robert Christgau on his assessment that it’s a grand monument, but I wouldn’t wan to settle there), but when I do pull it out and listen, I’m always amazed.

1. Arcade Fire Neon Bible– they wrote a song about Joe Simpson, named it ” ( Antichrist Television Blues)”. They threw into their hodge podge orchestra a hurdygurdy. They sing of cars, Americana, french fables, Haitian troubles, and escaping. They aim for grandiosity and achieve it. A magnificent album, one that has yet to leave my CD changer in eighteen months.

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Whatever.

Yes, let us start with an obvious list. Read about them after the jump. (more…)

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