eMusic Turns On Its Gaslight

Dec 11th, 2008 // 34 Comments

Indie digital music vendor eMusic has released its year-end list, and I gotta say…wow! This is the deepest and most balanced list I’ve seen so far, and it throws consensus out the window for a broad analysis of the year in music. Sure, there are a Santogold and Deerhunter and She & Him here and there, but I don’t recognize half the stuff on here, and that’s a good thing. There are tens of thousands of records released every year, so I find attempts to quantify the best of anything—and the ensuing “this list sucks” arguments—downright futile. Some might grouse about two reissues occupying two of the top five positions (Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-76 at No. 4 and Rodriguez’s Cold Fact at No. 3), but I don’t see a problem with highlighting superior reissues, particularly from artists and themes that aren’t mainstream enough to feel like redundancies. Though the list is rank-ordered, it feels less like a competition and more of a celebration. It’s true that eMusic’s indie-swung catalog will necessarily make it more inventive than most, but still could have made Vampire Weekend No. 1 like everybody else. I guess I need to hear this Gaslight Anthem (their No. 1), huh?

THE GOOD: The list’s enthusiastic write-ups make me want to buy everything, which I guess is sorta their job, as they are a music store. Still, it doesn’t feel that way. The little summative taglines for each release are nice, too. I’m happy to see Swedes like Fredrik from The LK (No. 78) and Studio (No. 58) on there. Macca rolls in with his surprisingly good Fireman album at No. 52.
THE BAD:Well, I guess some people think that Vampire Weekend sucks or that Titus Andronicus sucks or that She & Him sucks or whatever. I’ll leave that up to the commentariat to decide. Any list is gonna have some things on it I don’t like and you don’t like. If forced to say one, mine would have to be British Sea Power. At SXSW, their viola player was so out of tune it hurt me. I couldn’t believe the crowd didn’t hear it! I looked over at this one guy and he was plugging his ears, too, and he looked at me and mouthed “What the hell?” and pointed at the woman sawing away at the viola. He and I were like Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live, the only ones in on the truth. I had to leave! This has nothing to do with that record. I haven’t heard it much. It was okay, kinda bland. I just wanted to tell y’all about that bad string player.
THE WHAAAA? This is a good Whaaaa? There are actual classical and opera records and records made by actual non-white people and actual jazz and world records (Miles of India at No. 5!) and records made by actual women represented here. That’s not something I’m used to seeing! But why is the list only a top 88?

88 DJ/rupture, Uproot
87 Benoit Pioulard, Temper
86 Bobby Watson, From the Heart
85 Mr. Scruff, Ninja Tuna
84 Friendly Fires, Friendly Fires
83 The Avett Brothers, The Second Gleam
82 Zomby, Where Were U in ‘92?
81 Olof Arnalds, Vio og vio
80 Jenny Scheinman, Jenny Scheinman
79 The Mole, High As the Sky
78 Fredrik, Na Na Ni
77 Juana Molina, Un Dia
76 Various Artists, Nigeria 70
75 twi the humble feather, Music for Spaceships and Forests
74 Rainbow Arabia, The Basta
73 She and Him, Volume One
72 Bang on a Can All-Stars, Music for Airports Live
71 Otis Redding, Live in London & Paris
70 James Blackshaw, Litany of Echoes
69 Ladyhawke, Ladyhawke
68 Black Mountain, In the Future
67 Cut Off Your Hands, Happy As Can Be
66 Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson at Emmanuel
65 John Ellis, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow
64 Boduf Songs, How Shadows Chase the Balance
63 Huun-Huur-Tu, Mother Earth! Father Sky!
62 Headlights, Some Racing, Some Stopping
61 Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles
60 Simone Dinnerstein, The Berlin Concert
59 Studio, Yearbook 2
58 Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson
57 Okkervil River, The Stand Ins
56 The Kills, Midnight Boom
55 Kurt Vile, Constant Hitmaker
54 2562, Aerial
53 Breathe Owl Breathe, Ghost Glacier EP
52 The Fireman, Electric Arguments
51 Titus Andronicus, The Airing of Grievances
50 Blacklisted, Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God
49 Eliza Carthy, Dreams of Breathing Underwater
48 Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80, S/T
47 Top Choice Clique, Reel Chemistry
46 Army Navy, Army Navy
45 Chris Knight, Heart of Stone
44 Paul Lewis, Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol. 4
43 Elzhi, The Preface
42 Fuck Buttons, Street Horrrsing
41 Avishai Cohen Trio, Gently Disturbed
40 Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza
39 British Sea Power, Do You Like Rock Music
38 Kayhan Kalhor, Silent City
37 Liam Finn, I’ll Be Lightning
36 Marco Benevento, Invisible Baby
35 Horse Feathers, House With No Name
34 Crystal Stilts, Alight of Night
33 Valery Gergiev, Mahler Symphony No. 3
32 The Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust
31 Richard Swift, Ground Trouble Jaw
30 She Keeps Bees, Nests
29 The Rural Alberta Advantage, Hometowns
28 Let’s Wrestle, In Loving Memory Of…
27 Atlas Sound, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
26 Beach House, Devotion
25 Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
24 Pete and the Pirates, Little Death
23 Osmo Vanska, Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 7
22 Madvillain, Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix
21 Carl Craig, Sessions
20 High Places, 03/07 – 09/07
19 Hauschka, Ferndorf
18 Portico Quartet, Knee-Deep in the North Sea
17 Jay Reatard, Matador Singles ‘08
16 John Eliot Gardiner, Brahms Symphony No. 1
15 Siah & Yeshua dapoED, The Visualz Anthology
14 Santogold, Santogold
13 Deerhunter, Microcastle
12 Shearwater, Rook
11 Grouper, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
10 Thao, We Brave Bee Stings and All
09 Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
08 The Walkmen, You and Me
07 Terakaft, Akh issudar
06 Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
05 Various Artists, Miles From India
04 Various Artists, Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-76
03 Rodriguez, Cold Fact
02 Deastro, Keeper’s
01 The Gaslight Anthem

The best albums of 2008 [eMusic]


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

    I guess some people think that Vampire Weekend sucks or that Titus Andronicus sucks or that She & Him sucks or whatever. I’ll leave that up to the commentariat to decide.

    I, a member of the commentariat, votes that She & Him does not suck.

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

    In a list of the top 88 records, you would guess that the album by The 88 would make it. Not that The 88 put out one of the top 88 albums. But you know, symmetry and all that.

  3. bcapirigi

    ooh, and someone finally (FINALLY) remembered that the awesome kills and raveonettes albums exist.

    it’s lists like this (that have three of my top 5 for the year, plus a bunch i don’t know) that make me curious…

    i forgot benoit pioulard put something out this year, too. anybody heard it?

  4. Weezy F Baby

    gaslight anthem is definitely in my top 10.

    also, where’s that Why? record that everyone was losing their shit over 6 months ago? I haven’t seen it on a single year end list.

  5. bg5000

    I think what you really wanted was the chance to compare yourself to Roddy Piper.

  6. Al Shipley

    You gotta remember that eMusic lists only include music available on eMusic, so a lot of the consensus getting thrown out of the window is a direct result of a lot of more obvious list fodder being on major labels (or indies that haven’t put their catalogs on eMusic). Still, yeah, those limitations have forced out a more interesting result.

    Does anyone know if eMusic’s user poll list is up yet? I voted in that and am interested to see what the results are, especially since only 1 album I voted for is in this list (Gaslight Anthem).

  7. Maura Johnston

    @Weezy F Baby: this is the only poll i’ve seen it on so far:


    (it was no. 13)

  8. Nunya B

    Hold up, the Studio album is available in the US?

    Oh and the Ladyhawke record is so great.

  9. Anonymous

    Is there a publication/blog that lists the top 50 year-end lists?

  10. Lucas Jensen

    @Al Shipley: Yeah, I noted that above. It’s an important clarification to make, but I don’t know how much it would change, except maybe in regards to hip-hop and R&B?

  11. yancey

    Al, the user poll starts tomorrow. It’ll take a week to get through the full results. We’re gonna show Top 100 albums, Top 20 artists and then Top Ten votes for most overrated and most underrated.

    Also, this poll is 88 albums long solely because we decided that we’d just stop whenever we ran out of records that we rly rly rly rly cared about. And so that’s where it was.

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

  12. bcapirigi

    @2ironic4u: Largehearted Boy did it last year, but I don’t think they’re doing it again.

  13. bcapirigi

    @Maura Johnston: I just read the comments on that Stereogum list. Now excuse me, I have to go murder something cute.

  14. Michaelangelo Matos

    Largehearted Boy is totally doing it this year: [www.largeheartedboy.com]

  15. februarymakeup

    @bcapirigi: The Benoit Pioulard record is aiight. Although, FD: it’s also the only one of his that I’ve heard.

  16. bcapirigi

    @Michaelangelo Matos: Yeah, I just noticed that. I’m dopey.

  17. Maura Johnston

    btw, those of you who are interested in the gaslight anthem album but are not emusic subscribers/out of downloads can get it for $3.99 from amazon (via absolutepunk):

  18. Anonymous

    I’m very happy to see that someone didn’t forget about Black Mountain, Beach House, and Seun Kuti. Also, I love that Rodriguez album and am happy to see it turn up anywhere, even if it was actually released years and years ago. I don’t recognize a lot of the others, but finally, here’s a list that makes me want to buy!

  19. MayhemintheHood

    I have been listening to Gaslight Anthem lately, mostly due to Idolator. Someone kept mentioning their name every now and then in posts, and even though I initially hated it, it has definitely grown on me.

  20. TheContrarian

    Yeah, British Sea Power weren’t very good at SXSW. I thought I was the only one who noticed/cared.

  21. Dan Gibson

    @MayhemintheHood: Hey, that was me! You actually made my day a bit, Mayhem.

  22. iantenna

    holy crap. i’ve gone and found everything i could on seeqpod and some of these unknown (to me) bands ain’t bad. frightened rabbit, pete and the pirates, and let’s wrestle are all a good bit of fun and i’m only 1/3 of the way up the list at this point.

  23. the rich girls are weeping

    People, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to Let’s Wrestle on this list. SERIOUSLY!!!!

  24. the rich girls are weeping

    @the rich girls are weeping: er, to see Let’s Wrestle on this list. Ugh.

  25. Anonymous

    Nice to see the Thao shout-out at number 10. Both she and Gaslight made my top 10 this year.

  26. Lucas Jensen

    @TheContrarian: Were you the person in the audience?!

  27. fabulousrobots

    This is my favorite year end list I’ve seen because it more clearly represents what I actually listen to: a little bit of everything, but maybe a little indie/electro-heavy. It has given me so many suggestions for things to add to my save for later/pick up for cheap at record store lists.

    And I actually like that Benoit Pioulard record a lot, especially “Ahn,” which is one of my favorite songs all year. So happy about its inclusion.

  28. Murk

    It’s not so strange that She & Him are the most annoying act in the entire history of popular music – what’s strange is that their coevals should include Fleet Foxes, the second most annoying act in the entire history of popular music. I would rather listen to the Osmonds.

    So is that Franco comp not available on emusic? Because if you’re going to put African reissues on your list, that Franco comp should occupy positions 1-17.

  29. Marth

    #23… Minnesota Orchestra woot woot!

  30. Anonymous

    God, that Bon Iver album is everywhere, and high on everyone’s list! I’m surprised that The Walkmen are up so high, especially in relation to some of the more WTF (in a good way) placings. This is certainly the best year-end list that I’ve seen so far, which is aided by the choice to select 88 albums.

    The Onion AV Club’s list is out, too- no real surprises there, although they cited Flying Lotus (and Flight of the Conchords).

  31. Murk

    As much as I hate to admit it, that Bon Iver record really got to me. I think it’s pretty beautiful. But I like Chet Baker a lot, so, you know.

  32. infinit Loop

    is it really fair to fault a band’s recording because they had a (really) bad show? i wasn’t at sxsw but i enjoyed their album.

  33. Labtheque

    @bcapirigi: I like the new Pioulard, but it’s missing a little bit of the wonder of the first release, probably because it’s a bit more crisply produced

  34. Lucas Jensen

    @infinit Loop: That was a bit of a joke there. Sorry it didn’t come off. I just wanted to tell people about that viola player.

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