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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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