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Albums 2008 as of mid-November
Was going to do this October 1st, then November 1st, now here it is.

1. Danity Kane Welcome To The Dollhouse
2. Ashlee Simpson Bittersweet World
3. María Daniela Y Su Sonido Lasser Juventud En Éxtasis
4. Vanessa Hudgens Identified
5. Buraka Som Sistema Black Diamond
6. Willie Nelson Moment Of Forever
7. Ne-Yo Year Of The Gentleman
8. Santogold Santogold
9. Cansei De Ser Sexy Donkey
10. Marit Larsen The Chase
11. Jamey Johnson That Lonesome Song
12. Taylor Swift Fearless
13. Lil Mama VYP Voice Of The Young People
14. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III
15. Jordan Pruitt Permission To Fly
16. Solange Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams
17. Keak Da Sneak Deified
18. Karina First Love

These could jump around even more than usual seeing as how First Love at #18 has almost as many good songs as Bittersweet World at #2 - the difference between the two being the live and imaginative dreampot who carries #2 every which way in comparison to the predictable r&b adolescent at #18.

Was worried until just this month that I'd have a totally shitty albums list, but of course every year I worry that I'm going to have a shitty list, and then by December I'm upset at what I have to leave off. That Lonesome Song is strong for an 11. 16 or so seems right for Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams , but Dollhouse is weak for the top: Blackout or Paris would romp over any of these, as would See You Next Tuesday and Dangerous And Moving, not to mention I Am Me and Autobiography. Ashlee's least consistent album shouldn't be up there at #2, but I've been waiting so far in vain for a charismatic attention seeker to jump to the top and take her and the Danitys down a peg. Cassie's been postponed, Taylor fell short of tunes, Mariah had a couple of great moments but not enough, and from the recent singles I'm not putting my hopes on Britney. Maybe t.A.T.u. will come through, though we'll see if they can keep up the quality without their old songwriter.

Danity Kane Welcome To The Dollhouse: I've yet to find a way to give a shit about the Danitys' sexy sensibility (or that of the PCDs or the Stupid Shits, either), though maybe if I get around to taking in lyrics something will strike me. I'm genuinely thrilled by the way the Danitys' baroquely show-offy harmonies and polyphonies work in the supposedly slutty context. Quite beautiful, the harmony floating in blobs and then voices adding intricate little cries on the side. The beauty and intricacy make the sass and funniness sassier and funnier (even if the idea of their sassiness remains strictly standard-issue, and even if they only sustain their beautiful mindsass for half the album).

Ashlee Simpson Bittersweet World: Her singing is as loose-limbed and quickfooted as any of the dance beats the Timbo franchisees throw at her. Totally at ease doing reggae and retro forties fun, makes all the r&b retro divas seem constricted in comparison. Alb runs out of melodies, eventually, and the fact that nu-Ashlee dances free doesn't mean she shouldn't have gone old-Ashlee and inserted more terror into the Broadway moll-bunny routine.

María Daniela Y Su Sonido Lasser Juventud En Éxtasis: The only good indie dancepop act ever, maybe 'cause the music is by a disc jockey so the hooks and riffs and beats never waver. María's got a fine Italodisco lilt on their cover of "Duri Duri." Elsewhere, she gets more shouty and punky than she needs to - she underrates her own singing and tries to compensate, I'd guess.

Vanessa Hudgens Identified: Has the three best Luke tunes since "Nothing In This World." I'm totally flabbergasted that I'm ranking Miss Sweet 'N' Blank so high. Add in past glories like "Breaking Free" and "Don't Talk," and she's got her name on a whole hunk of great songs. Do I continue to credit all this to her luck in producers and songwriters, refusing to think she has anything to do with it?

Buraka Som Sistema Black Diamond: Heard this for the first time last week. It could rise to the top or fall out altogether. Beats have a virulent twistedness that dates back to mid-Eighties acid house, and the vocals add the live-wire international jumprope spirit of Piracy Funds Terrorism on top. Not enough of the latter, though, since the Sistema are dependent on guest artists to fill the spotlight for them. Pongolove does best; they need her more.

Willie Nelson Moment Of Forever: His singing is so off-hand that at times it seems barely to be hinting at melody and feeling. Pulls it off here: a casual world full of melody and feeling.

Ne-Yo Year Of The Gentleman: Ne-Yo's voice is eerily consistent, the same slightly desperate sweetness whether he's pleading or being grateful. Maybe that's the point, that you can't tell the two apart.

Santogold Santogold: While Ashlee rides the waves, impassioned and free, Santogold is struggling deep in the depths, not trusting melody unless it's drowning in dub. Jury's out as to whether ultimately it'll be worth what she gives up.

Cansei De Ser Sexy Donkey: Emotional rock guitar, never lets the brat singer stray far from passion. Surprise of the year.

Marit Larsen The Chase: Once again Marit goes childlike yet delivers strength, uses lots of strings and a bevy of mandolins and such while retaining her tremulousness. I don't think she has as many good songs as last time but I could change my mind. Maybe I just resist the idea that I'm loving someone so arty and precious.

Jamey Johnson That Lonesome Song: Dark passion, heavy sorrow, though each song goes about 30 seconds too long, and the baritone bathos becomes wearing. Baritone bathos is fine but not after you've reached the four-minute mark. Strong stuff, however.

Taylor Swift Fearless: So far nothing stands out as a special melody, but I'm loving her voice as much as ever. Like Marit she's tenuous and tough. How do they do that?

Lil Mama Voice Of The Young People: She gets serious amidst all the full-fun yammering, and it works, even if there is a shortage of new boffo tracks.

Lil Wayne Tha Carter III: So many mixtapes and guestspots in the last three years; he's become king of the genre, so you expect an astonishing statement when the official album actually appears. Instead it's just another bunch of songs, as even/uneven as always. Wayne shows up, twirls his cane, here and gone. Probably as it should be.

Jordan Pruitt Permission To Fly: Warm and fetching with a fluorescent crack in her voice, best singer on this list. Learns her craft while hiding out on the B lots.

Solange Sol-Angel & The Hadley Street Dreams: A little sister (like Ashlee!), and like nu-Ashlee she goes retro without being reverential and she mixes up styles so as not to sound locked into any of them. Problem is that underneath it all her voice is rather blah. However, she certainly puts a lot of energy and thought into the music.

Keak Da Sneak Deified: Way too many songs. The good ones go eerily minimal while Keak natters about in his cloak of a throat croak, saying stuff like "Baby needs an ass chauffeur/How ya tote that ass so fer?"

Karina First Love: She wanted to be our official girl, but they gave the job to Cassie. It's rough being a teen.

Strikes me that my prose today isn't the fiercest or funniest I've ever written; this probably says something about the year in music. There's lots of good humor on the list, but not a lot of music beyond Ashlee's that sounds really unleashed (though I recommend CSS's "Rat Is Dead (Rage)" for living up to its title).

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Not a fan of the new Montgomery Gentry, or you haven't heard it yet? (personally I haven't heard it yet)

I'm amazed at how much I am still loving Damaged from Danity Kane and stay totally amazed that it didn't do better when compared to that crapfest of When I Grow Up by the Pussycat Dolls.

Haven't gotten much into the DK besides Damaged, but I haven't really given it a fair shot. Damaged is massive though...a total earworm.

I agree that Taylor's album is missing something, but I'm not sure if melody is it. It all seems a bit slick compared to the first album, even when she's letting go and rocking out. But melodies are there and the girl has an ear for the transcendent chorus. Fearless, Hey Stephen, Forever & Always, White Horse and Love Story are probably the strongest tracks after a day of listening.

Taylor's gone from hanging out in country fields in pick-up trucks counting stars and fireflies to dancing and kissing while it rains on her in parking lots and bedrooms when you're here and when you're gone. Moved on from high school dreams and fairy tales that mom and dad tell her on her best days - she was a dreamer, but it's a small town, and you and your white horse can fuck off. Which makes it a more measured album, contemplative where the s/t was alternatively giddy and pissed-off, but her voice and her words are still great.

Most listened to out of these are Ash, Santi, Wayne and Solange, but there's no clear front runner on my list yet, unless it's Erykah, who's cryptic and entrancing and insane even if her batting average on the album is probably a .67 or something. She shatters glasses like Ella and changes octaves to opera.

Yeah, seems like a fairly lame year in music -- maybe it's a culture lube year, people are cooling off while the world heals. There certainly weren't any fites I can think of that raised my eyebrow, certainly none that I was personally involved in. I think there was even general consensus and relative silence on BRITNEY for chrissakes. I've got some Xtian pop in my top 20 somewhere and I really just don't care. The most contrarian choice on my list this year is probably RANDY NEWMAN, and even then I'm not sure who I'm contrarianizing. The contrarians, maybe.

Contra all of you, I think 08 has been absolutely stellar for albums. I've got a rock solid top 3 (which I still expect to be gatecrashed by late-in-the-year pop releases, Beyonce and Ciara specifically) (though have decided that all Dec releases will now be counted in the following year b/c it makes more sense.)

And after that I really have a tail of around 30 albums which would ALL have made my top 10 last year, which are all impressive and non-disappointing in different ways, whether the Danity harmonic whirl or Kanye's solipsistic loneliness or Wiley's casual genius or The Bug's murky cacophony or Nappy Roots reminding me how good pre-crunk Southern bounce was or Ashlee having a riot or Solange's lightness or Jazmine's gravity or The-Dream's dreaminess or Luomo's pretty love cocoon or Gang Gang Dance's bold, clean precision...or or or.

Yeah, I have a lot still to listen to. We'll see.

Yeah, it has been a solid year in albums. But I still feel like the peaks (and ebbs) are subdued.

I think it's been much much more than solid! I could name another 30 albums which are solid, below the 30 which are really good to amazing. It's felt subdued b/c there haven't been many arguments or even conversations, there's been a lot of consensus within the various genres. Kanye (and maybe Beyonce) look like they could be divisive, but they're also not out yet.

AP: Kanye West says he's 'voice of this generation'

LONDON - Kanye West is to music what Michael Jordan was to basketball - at least that's what West thinks, in his humble estimation.

"I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice," he said in an interview on Wednesday. "It's me settling into that position of just really accepting that it's one thing to say you want to do it and it's another thing to really end up being like Michael Jordan."

Oh, Kanyepaws. I'm pretty sure that, by and large, I'm now taking his various pronouncements as wildly entertaining mentalism, but I'm listening to New Amerykah right now - a record which, for all his chutzpah, Kanye simply cannot approach, and just thinking, voice of this generation? SHUT UP KANYE.

Some stuff I wrote to Frank about Solange in a few emails a couple weeks ago (which I may or may not still agree with):

1. Solange has *something* going for her. I like the overall sound, and I like (for instance) the spoken soul-rant part in "Valentine's Day." Some of the "jazzy" parts work up some semblance of a lush groove, and the hooks stolen from the Supremes are still hooks. But I can't say the songs are really clicking for me as songs -- Her voice is just serviceable, so yeah, maybe that's part of the problem. And I *really* don't get where people are hearing her as a crazy wacky weirdo, at all. Like I suspected, she just strikes me as the latest in a long line of r&b singers with conceptual ambitions toward a certain kind of classiness I've never really cared about. (Teena Marie had similar ambitions, of course, but she had a lot more than that.) For the most part, the music strikes as amorphous, hard to grasp ahold of. Lalena compared the first song to Portishead (who she also likes sometimes, but who I've also never had a use for, though some people on line claim
their 2008 album is a big deal.) So... I dunno.

Given the choice, I'd definitely rather listen to the new Nickelback.

2. Wait, so Solange's "hoot"ness = arty stuff toward end of album? I like "Cosmic Journey," in a Marvin Gaye doing Hawkwind space disco sort of way. But even that seems more arty than weird to me. Hmmm.

3. And by "ambitions toward....classiness," I probably mean..."Ambitions toward bohemia." Though the bohemia that post-disco/house/Teena/etc r&b so often seems to aim for is such a decades-old (Harlem Rennaisance? I dunno) *brand* of bohemia that classiness is somehow inherently implied in it.

Also not sure what I mean about the Badu/Macy/ Lauryn/India/Solange bunch being "arty." I spend some time in that interview with Scott talking about how "arty" is always a silly and imprecise adjective (or, really, pejorative) for critics to use, but I guess that doesn't stop me from falling back on it myself when no better word comes to mind.

And fwiw, weasel_seeker calling Badu "entrancing and insane" when to me she just sounds "tedious and pretentious" irks me in pretty much the same way as Frank calling Solange a crazy hoot (or whatever he said along those lines). They're art-rockers, is all. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but conceptual pretension doesn't turn into craziness just because somebody's an r&b singer, right? (And of course craziness isn't necessarily entertaining in its own right, even if they *are* crazy -- which they well be; how would I know, I'm not their therapist -- and that goes for Solange and Badu no less than, I dunno, Wesley Willis or Daniel Johnston or whoever.)

Also don't get why people are suddenly so hot on Gang Gang Dance when their new album is so much piddlier than the albums they made three years ago, but that comment probably belongs somewhere entirely differnt on this thread, so never mind...

I would also call Erykah "entrancing and insane", but more to the point is her righteousness and compassion; she puts so much humanity into the conceptual pretension that it stops being conceptual pretension, and ends up being deeply relevant and meaningful to me, as an individual, and me, within society. It's so minutely detailed, and every one of those details is resonant on some level - like the ghostly backing vocals coming in on the line "baptised when the levees broke" in 'Soldier', or the sequencing ('Me', on which she claims her people as herself, followed by 'My People'), or that 'My People' ends (and 'Soldier' starts) with that sampled "Did you have a dream?" question, and it's both the American Dream already referred to in 'Amerykahn Promise' and MLK's dream, embodied in the Obama-esque character in the first verse of 'Soldier'...

As for Solange, there's a lightness and a flippancy there, a pouty don't-give-a-shit element to her (she is a bratty lil' sis after all) which makes her seem slightly off the wall; but she plays it a lot straighter on record than on her blog, in interviews and on stage.

Otherwise: (1) Don't think I get Danity Kane. Or Vanessa Hudgens, for that matter. (2) Wish I liked the second half of Ashlee's album half as much as the first half. (3) Frank definitely likes the Maria Daniela album more than I do, though I should listen to it more. (4) He also likes several other albums more than I do. (Willie, Santogold, etc) (5) Though not Jamey Johnson, which I like a lot more than he does. (6) Damn, I think I got rid of my CSS advance already. Single is good though. Album, when I heard it, didn't seem to (even) stack up to their (very spotty) debut, but I definitely wasn't concentrating on the guitar, so I may well be wrong. (7) Now I want to hear Buraka Som Sistema's album. (8) Still haven't heard Ne-Yo or Taylor Swift. Among other things here.

Frank's thoughts and Jamey Johnson's dragginess (which he'd mentioned to me before) inspired a discussion about the album (my own favorite of the year) on Rolling Country on ilx. Frank should read it (among my other reappraisals of country albums from this year, among other people's ditto etc etc etc):

I wrote about that CSS single here:

My own current top 10 for the year:

1. Jamey Johnson – That Lonesome Song (Mercury)
2. Ross Johnson – Make It Stop! The Most Of Ross Johnson (Goner)
3. Rose Tattoo – Blood Brothers (Wacken)
4. Rick Springfield – Venus In Overdrive (New Door/Universal Music Enterprises)
5. The Knux – Remind Me In 3 Days… (Interscope)
6. The Tonic Rays – The Tonic Rays ( ’07)
7. Woodbox Gang – Drunk As Dragons (Alternative Tentacles)
8. Carter’s Chord – Carter’s Chord (Show Dog Nashville)
9. Phil Vassar – Prayer Of A Common Man (Universal)
10. New Bloods – The Secret Life (K EP)

Actually, now that re-read what he wrote, Frank and I agree more than I implied about the Maria Daniela Etc album. "Duri Duri," if it was a single, would almost definitely make my year-end singles top 10. But the rest of the album has been drawing a big blank me, mainly because of Maria's big blank singing. Maybe I'll like it more if I concentrate on the synth hooks. (Still not sure what makes them "indie dancepop," though. They just sound like dancepop without the indie to me. And aren't CSS indie dancepoppers themselves? They used to be. Or were they maybe "indie dance-rock" instead? I'm confused.)

How I replied to Frank's Jamey Johnson complaint (which I'd mis-stated earlier) today on the rolling country thread (though I give more details about all this further upthread):

Neither Jamey's baritone nor his bathos is as nonstop as it seems. (And I've never been a big baritone bathos fan myself, and I find the album easier to get through than any other album I've heard this year. Never really noticed that the individual songs outwear their welcome, either -- at least, no more than anybody else's songs I can think of lately.)

And wait, come to think of it, aren't M.I.A. and Santogold and Annie -- for instance -- "indie dance pop acts" too? I guess I don't understand what distinction Frank's trying to make there...

Well, I'd place M.I.A. and Santogold in the int'l dance bohemian left, though I suppose I'm logic chopping, and there's a similarity in sensibility between the int'l dance bohemian left and indie which I've called attention to myself, but I don't think it's the same thing. It might take me a while to articulate why it isn't, and I don't have the energy to do so right now. Annie is Scandipop (except when she suddenly turns into neo-garage-rock of all things, and I think I'm ready to give her album more of a chance than I have heretofore, by the way) and I'd place that also in the dance bohemian left with Robyn and the Teddybears STHLM*, and again the sensibility is in range of indie (I'd say the same about Fannypack, dance bohemian left that is in waving distance of indie but isn't the same thing). OF COURSE MAYBE I SHOULD THEN SAY MARIA DANIELA Y SU SONIDO LASSER ARE IN THE DANCE BOHEMIAN LEFT TOO, since the male part of the duo is a DJ, as I said. But maybe I think of them as indie rockers who are going dance, rather than disco babes with a too shouty singer. I don't know. The B-52s were a good indie dancepop band, come to think of it (though not all that good to dance to); so were the Talking Heads, but fortunately their original day was pre-indie. (Heard a couple of tracks from the B-52s' 2008 album and I shrugged, though Jimmy Draper likes it.)

But anyway, what I had in mind as indie dancepop would be The Kooks and The Pipettes and the Ting Tings (whom I haven't made up my mind about despite having innumerable opportunities) and people like that, and the Gossip I suppose (who have some good moments, so there goes my contention about María Daniela Y Su Sonido Lasser anyway, which I really need to shelve, though for the sake of further "clarifying" my "ideas" I suppose I should still make an effort to figure out what was on my mind), and Alphabeat (who've had a great moment, but I credit it to the remixer).

And I surely can hear similarities between CSS and María Daniela Y Su Sonido Lasser (in fact when I wrote about the latter on poptimists I compared them to the former), but CSS are basically rock not dance at this point. (Yeah, I know, more logic chopping.)

*Er, question for Brits who are reading this: should Girls Aloud be considered part of the dance bohemian left? (By the way, I'd put almost all of techno and house and minimal and bassline in the dance bohemian left too, so it's not a category I'm being precise with.)

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