NPR’s “Best Albums Of 2008″ Poll: All Songs Considered, Especially If You’re Into Self-Reinforcing Stereotypes About “NPR Music”

Jun 23rd, 2008 // 50 Comments

npr_asc_image_300.jpgWhy am I surprised-to-the-point-of-gagging by the “best of ’08 so far” poll put forth by NPR’s All Songs Considered, which allows users to cast a ballot for Colin Meloy’s live album (41 votes so far!) but not for Erykah Badu’s astonishing New Amerykah Vol. 1, the Ponytail album, or the High Places album? And currently shows lone hip-hop representative Lil Wayne trailing Fleet Foxes, Wolf Parade, and the aforementioned Meloy collection? (Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and Vampire Weekend’s album are currently in a slapfight for first place.) Could it be that I figured a kinda-important broadcast outlet like NPR would at least try to, I don’t know, engage with music that ran beyond the safest parameters of “indie” and “rock” once in a while? Are we really becoming a nation of niches? What does this mean for future pledge drives? And finally, can I ask any more semi-rhetorical questions with obvious, depressing answers? After the jump, the poll, in all its milquetoast glory.

Please, for the love of God, tell me your favorite albums of the year so far. It’ll make me feel at least a little better.

What are your favorite albums of 2008 so far? Please, choose ONLY FIVE albums. [Quibblo via muSick in the head]

  1. Dead Air ummm Dead Air

    “Crystal Castles” by Crystal Castles
    “One Too Many Hearts” by The Bird and the Bee
    “Red of Tooth and Claw” by Murder by Death

    Although I own a few of the albums on the masturbatory radio list, I don’t think any really qualify as “favorite”, even the Hot Chip album which everyone creams jeans for.

  2. SteveHy

    I thought we only had to read these tireseome “Let’s complain about indie rock music lists!” stories on Idolator in December. Why do you guys feel the need to constantly go after “indie yuppie” (your term, not mine) types on this blog? Honestly, who cares about NPR or EW? Instead of telling us (again) how annoyed you are by these irrelevent lists, why don’t you focus on telling us about all the great music they’re not telling us about? Don’t you see? You have the power to bring the gloriously diverse music coverage that these other pubs supposedly don’t have! You have a microphone! Now use it (or use it more)!

  3. MayhemintheHood

    I don’t think I could really pick any of those.

    I had to think hard about this one, maybe it’s been a slow year for my music taste:

    Born Ruffians-red yellow and blue
    Dan Friel-Ghost Town
    Mudhoney-Superfuzz Bigmuff Reissue
    Robert Pollard-Robert Pollard is off to business
    Terrible Twos-S/T

  4. Anonymous

    @SteveHy: Whoa-ho-ho, whoa-ho-ho, whoa-ho-ho, we gotta stay positive!

  5. MayhemintheHood

    Also, a soundtrack (Juno) shouldn’t be in consideration…and the Flight of the Conchords album was made up of mostly old material. I’m sure it’ll get lots of votes from female Urban Outfitters employees.

  6. Maura Johnston

    @SteveHy: You may have missed this while getting all huffy, but I did I recommend three albums and ask you, the people, to write in your picks. (If your pick is Bon Iver, that’s totally fine!) I think the point that the title “All Songs Considered” should mean that, you know, more than one demographic’s desired music should be considered in a “best of the year” poll.

  7. Anonymous

    @SteveHy: I agree with Maura’s criticism of the poll. The selections available in the poll are extremely narrow to indie rock.

    That said, my favorites of the year are Frightened Rabbit “The Midnight Organ Fight” and Bon Iver.

  8. SteveHy

    @Maura Johnston: Not getting huffy. Just killing time at work. But that Badu record you mentioned, have you written about that before now? Or any of the other records your mentioned in passing? All I’m saying is that you guys often complain about “Artist X” or “Album Y” was totally ignored by “Tastemaker Z,” but often “Artist X” hasn’t really shown up on Idolator, either. Personally, I like it when you guys expose me to something new versus telling me that NPR is skewed toward indie rock fans.

  9. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    If I had to pick from this list, I guess I’d go MGMT, Hot Chip, She & Him, The Black Keys and Mates of State.

    My favorites not listed are probably Santogold (is that 2008?), Gilt Complex by Sons and Daughters or perhaps the EPs put out by The Bird And The Bee. But really, I’m still waiting for this year’s kickass album. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve heard it yet.

  10. Anonymous

    Hip-hop fans ain’t be dontatin’ to NPR pledge drives, yo. Word.

  11. Maura Johnston

    @SteveHy: yes to all three (although my comments about the Erykah record have been fleeting, it’s true, because I’m still processing it and am waiting for the right opening to really go in-depth on it). we do mention a lot of bands around here — just not at the ‘a new awesome band for every day’ rate of other outlets for varying reasons that include at their forefront the rate at which i process music, which is “kinda slow and prone to listening to nothing but the maybe it’s reno album for extended periods of time.”

    also, since one had to vote in order to see the results of the poll i voted for black mountain, coldplay (it’s quite good!), nick cave, portishead, and magnetic fields.

  12. SteveHy

    @Maura Johnston: Well then, I guess I need to read you a little more closely! Sorry bout that!

    I cast my votes for Drive-By Truckers and Sun Kil Moon, neither of whom made the list I see.

  13. Dead Air ummm Dead Air

    @Maura Johnston: @SteveHy:

    Why did you two have to be reasonable and discuss differences and resolve issues!? I was looking forward to a flame war that would be comprable to when we make fun of the Emos.

  14. amandacobra

    I actually have to say that I guess I was a little surprised that this wasn’t a little more old dudes and world music dominated. I mean, I am still equally bored by the list but I thought there was a little more James Taylor and a little less Weezer listeners sending money into National Public Radio. Apparently I was wrong. Also, I have made a personal rule to only get involved in wandering-the-streets-shoeless-and-sunburned-wearing-sunglasses-with-only-one-lens type rants about how awful every aspect of Juno is one ONE blog per day and Jezebel gets me today. Sorry.

  15. Maura Johnston

    @avoncobra: Awww. Well, I’ll be sure to try and post something to goad you into talking about the utter craptasticness of that flick soon.

  16. MayhemintheHood

    @Maura Johnston: I like the new Coldplay too. It is probably my favorite of ones i’d have to choose from that list. There is a song on it called “Lost!” that I have listened to about a million times the past couple weeks.

  17. bcapirigi

    is it a typographical error or meaningful statement by chris martin that viva la vida’s not in quotes?

    i’d vote for distortion and portishead. besides that my favorites are probably new amerykah, the kills, and, um, maybe silje nes (which i only actually heard for the first time today, but holy cow is it good.)

  18. righteousmaelstrom

    This poll is ridiculous if only for the fact that is way too early in the year to even have a “Best of So Far!” poll. I’m still trying to process a lot of releases from 2007 that I missed (Georgie James, especially), let alone 2008 releases that I haven’t even purchased yet (Martha Wainwright, Spiritualized, etc.).

    Having said that, I have only heard of couple of the listed albums all the way through and they ranged from dreadful to meh, so perhaps this poll is not for my demographic. If it were, they would’ve put These New Puritans, Sun Kil Moon, Cut Copy and, maybe, Tilly and The Wall (I can’t believe I like a band called Tilly and The Wall).

  19. Anonymous

    Black Mountain is the only one on that list that I can co-sign with.

    Otherwise, Nick Cave, Robyn, Santogold, and Portishead.

  20. revmatty

    My favorites of the year thus far:
    Blood Red Shoes – Box of Secrets
    The Kills – Midnight Boom
    MC Paul Barman – Thought Balloon
    NIN – The Slip
    Mike Patton – A Perfect Place (soundtrack)

  21. Bob Loblaw

    Lykke Li’s EP is two dollops of magic and a teaspoon of fuck yeah.

  22. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    @righteousmaelstrom: Tilly and The Wall (I can’t believe I like a band called Tilly and The Wall)

    Forget about the name, you should be more shocked that you like a band whose defining characteristic is tap dancing as an instrument. That’s what I think everytime I cue up Tilly and The Wall.

  23. Anonymous

    Titus Andronicus’ “The Airing of Grievances” has hit hard for me this year, but I think it also wins the “Boxer” award for “shit I really like that will suffer an inevitable backlash by December”. Great live show as well.

    And Carter III, obviously.

  24. graeffufighting

    @Bob Loblaw: You know, as much as I’ve tried to get into that Little Bit EP, all of the tracks sound to me like someone glorifying infantilization. Or, to put it in less Freudian terms, I do not care for Lykke Li’s singing style. “Everybody But Me” indeed.

    With that, my favs:

    The Dodos, “Visiter”
    Fuck Buttons, “Street Horrsisisis” (sic, obviously).
    Dallas Orbiter, “The Motorcycle Diagrams” (MPLS space-rock)
    Head of Femur, “Great Plains” (Chicago orch-pop)
    High Places
    Atlas Sound

    And, although I’ve not heard it yet, I suspect that I will love, love, love the Ponytail album. I am also looking forward to Doomtree’s (MPLS hip-hop collective that isn’t Rhymesayers) first album.

    I’m done.

  25. Chris N.

    It’s Flight of the Conchords for me, despite the fact that I am neither female nor an Urban Outfitters employee.

  26. Bob Loblaw

    @graeffufighting: I hear you about the
    actual sound of her voice, but her songwriting / delivery is
    deceptively confident. If she sounds like a 5 year-old but delivers
    like a jazz vet, is it really infantilizing?

  27. righteousmaelstrom

    @How do I say this … THROWDINI!: Yup, that too. It’s the one thing that kept me away from that band until I heard ‘Pot Kettle Black’ from the new album.

  28. Poubelle

    Heck yes to Santogold. And I might say Tha Carter III, except I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet (hey, someone’s gotta buy it this week, so it doesn’t drop too far on the charts. Also, I didn’t get my latest paycheck until this weekend, and sometimes I need to spend money on non-music things). I also like the singles well enough I might try the whole Viva La Vida album.

    And I don’t know if I’d call it the best of the year, but Foxboro Hot Tubs is pretty much a perfect summer soundtrack. (Y’know, when I need something that’s not Lil Wayne or Santogold.)

    (Last Shadow Puppets might belong on a “Most forgettable, besides lead single” list. Or a “Still Better Than The Last Arctic Monkeys Album” list.)

  29. RaptorAvatar

    Los Campesinos are the major omission in my mind. However, they may have been omitted for being too white, literate, and rockish for even NPR to flog. That said, I love them and will probably not shut up about their work when year end arrives (just like with Marnie Stern last year).

  30. Nunya B

    My faves:

    Ting Tings, Kleerup, Aimee Mann, Lykke Li, Goldfrapp, Hercules and Love Affair, Santogold, Beach House, Ladytron.

    Criticize away!

  31. Chris N.

    I’d be glad to, if only I had heard any of those records.

  32. Anonymous

    While I agree the list NPR gives is extremely narrow to indie music, I can’t help but notice that 90% of the omissions mentioned in this blog are indie as well. Erykah Badu? While kind of R&B and kind of a lot of things, she’s definitely off the beaten path indie stuff. Sun Kil Moon? Tilly and the Wall? Etc. Am I the only one that sees this?

  33. Anonymous

    disappointed to see no M83 anywhere.

    that said:
    M83 – Saturdays = Youth
    Portishead – Third
    Santogold – s/t
    Spiritualized – Songs in A&E
    Erykah Badu – New Amerykah

    and honorable mentions to:
    Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
    Hercules and Love Affair

  34. Marth

    I didn’t see Opeth or Xiu Xiu on the list, so I just had to go with Flight of the Conchords.

  35. moomintroll

    I’m so entrenched with the NPR gang it’s not even funny. I easily picked five from that list.
    Yep I liked Spiritualized, Elbow, MGMT, Hot Chip, and Flight of the Conchords this year. (Even though Greg Kot said it was lame!)
    So I’ll just take a sip from my “This American Life” mug, grab my NPR tote bag and get out the new David Sedaris book…in anticipation of your derision.
    Is that a pledge drive I hear?

  36. graeffufighting

    @Bob Loblaw: Sorry for replying so late. Odd thing is, as I was listening to it again on the train ride to work, I definitely started to pick up on what you were talking about. But I still only hear that confidence on half of the EP (“Dance, Dance Dance” and “Everyone But Me”). The other half sounds like the adventures of Saddoes McBreathes-a-lot. So, to answer your question, part of the time.

    Have you seen her live? Might that change my perception?

  37. Bob Loblaw

    @graeffufighting: I haven’t, but she’s high on my list.

  38. RaptorAvatar

    @Tauwan: Wasn’t HEALTH 07? Either way, I will second that rules. “Girl Attorney” forces me to rebuild my spine every time I get done listening to it.

  39. Nunya B

    @Bob Loblaw: Tickets to her August NYC date (if you are in NYC?) are SUPER CHEAP. Like, scary super cheap because they’re not being sold through Ticketmaster.

  40. GiantPanda

    fleet foxes – fleet foxes
    boris – smile
    clark – turning dragon
    bon iver – for emma, forever ago
    health – health

  41. Tauwan

    Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Vol. 1
    The Kills – Midnight Boom
    The Black Keys – Attack & Release
    Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.
    Gnarls Barkley- The Odd Couple
    Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
    MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
    She & Him – Volume One
    Vampire Weekend -S/T
    Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

  42. Bob Loblaw

    @Nunya B: GAH! Such a tease, I’m on vacation that week. But thanks for the info.

  43. Poubelle

    @Nunya B: Ladytron! I keep forgetting I need to get that one.

  44. graeffufighting

    @Bob Loblaw: Cool. I think she’s coming to Chicago (my place of living). I might check her out then.

  45. loudersoft

    Two glaring omissions here: Santogold which, to be sure, is one of the best albums of the year. The other is Aimee Mann’s @#$%! Smilers, an album deserving of every single one of Mojo’s 5 stars. Isn’t Aimee Mann an NPR darling? What gives?

  46. loudersoft

    Oh yeah — and lest I be so quick to forget Al Green’s Lay It Down which has got to be big with the NPR crowd (unless I’m out of touch with the NPR crowd, in which case I’m royally screwed)

  47. papercoversrock

    That Nick Cave record would probably be it for me.

  48. Anonymous

    TOP SONGS 2008
    The Subways – all or nothing ( all or nothing )
    Tilly and the Wall – pot kettle black
    Wolf Parade – language city ( at mount zoomer )
    The Duke Spirit – the step and the walk ( neptune )
    Mudhoney – inside out over you ( the lucky ones )
    Islands – the arm ( arms way )
    The Night Marchers -you`ve got nerve ( see you in magic )
    Silver Jews – suffering jukebox ( lookout mountain lookout sea )
    The Young Knives – Fit 4 U ( superaboundance )
    The Raconteurs – Carolina drama – Many shades of black ( Consolers of the lonely )
    Why ? – Fatalist palmistry and These few presidents ( alopecia )
    Nick Cave – Jesus of the moon and Todays lesson ( dig Lazarus dig )
    Peter and the Pirates – Mr. understanding ( little death )
    Lenny Kravitz – I love the rain ( it`s time for a love revolution )
    Black Mountain – Angels ( in the future )
    Dengue Fever – Tiger phone card ( venus on earth )
    Madrugada – Our time won`t live that long and Whats on your mind ( madrugada )
    The Ravonettes – Aly walk with me ( lust lust lust )
    Sons & Daughters Split lips and The nest ( this gift )

    Read more here

  49. Anonymous

    The Magnetic Fields – Distortion
    Blood Ceremony – S/T
    Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Lie Down in the Light
    GZA/Genius – ProTools
    Noa Babayof – From a Window to a Wall

  50. AnaMariesLover

    My list (in no particular order) — including cheats — using EPs and Radioheads 2007 Dec. release.

    Death Set “Worldwide”
    Thao Nguyen “We Brave Bee Stings and All”
    Santogold “Santogold”
    Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson “Self-titled”
    Joseph Arthur “Temporary People”
    The Jealous Girlfriends “The Jealous Girlfriends”
    Emily Wells “The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties”
    David Holmes “The Holy Pictures”
    Sarah Jaffe “Even Born Again (EP)”
    White Lies “Unfinished Business (EP)”
    Record Hop’s “Untitled”
    Duke Spirit “Neptune”
    Bon Iver “For Emma, Forever Ago”
    WHY? “Alopecia”
    Portishead “Third”
    Deerhunter “Microcastle”
    TV On The Radio “Dear Science”
    Radiohead “Rainbows”

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