Also known as the five best albums of 2008. And not that I advocate riding your bike with your ipod blasting away, but I do like to listen to music when I train, and I don't like to train indoors. So take that for what you will.
5.The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
Yes, when I mentioned I liked this album my friends all made fun of me for liking an emo-punk band (mostly because I've spent a good part of the past decade ridiculing emo-punk bands). But these guys channel their HotWaterMusic roots straight through an FM radio in an old Chevy in Jersey. And it's great. Really good, Boss-heavy rock n' roll. Now they just need a piano player that doesn't play in minor keys, a big guy playing tenor sax and a song that starts like this: "The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves......"
4.Estelle - Shine
I've been on a big R&B girl trip now for a couple months, and this is one is tip-top (oi, mate?). Estelle's English, so she brings in a bunch of dancehall influence along with solid R&B chops and can even rap really well, for a Brit. Producers like Will.i.am and John legend keep the songs top notch. The duet with Kanye on American Boy is one of the best songs of '08 hands down.
3.Dragging an Ox through Water - The Tropics of Phenomenon
Full disclosure, Brian who is DAOTW, is a good friend of mine from way back. That said, I don't see him much these days because he is a REALLY committed artist, who has made his work the center of his life and won't compromise a damn thing for it, and does staggeringly great work because of that. And I'm a middling bike racer, so we don't cross paths too often. While DAOTW sometimes gets lumped into the alt/deconstructed/folk scene that is so big in Portland, it's so much more than that. His songs play more like dreams, some coming to an abrupt halt, just when you think they're getting going. Lyrics read like conversations you only half remember 'cuz you were too drunk. It's all washed over in electronic trickery that sounds like a tv with bad reception that got left on when you passed out the night before, making no sense, and so much sense at the same time.
2.Lil Wayne - Carter 3
The Weezy has really been on top of his game this past year. Nobody thought he could top the flood of mixtapes he released throughout '08, but he did. Jay-Z coming on down to pass the torch on 'Mr. Carter' is sick. Yeah, he'll drop a goofy couplet here and there, but nobody's pushing hip-hop like Wayne. His wicked purple habit will probably catch up to him before long, so Carter 3 might be the last we see of Wayne at the top of his game.
Honorable Mention: T.I. - Paper Trails. This is the party record of '08: Ready for Whatever, Live Your Life w/ Rihanna, Whatever You Like,the first 2/3rds is hit after hit. But then it bogs down a little, and T.I. doesn't quite have the personality of a Lil Wayne to bring it all together.
1.Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
People like to talk about Oasis like some old timers band out on the casino circuit. If some unknown band came along and released an album this full of swaggering psyched-out rock n' roll, the Earth would shake as millions of people ran towards them to declare them the new kings of rock n' roll. Liam sounds like a sneering asshole, Noel sounds like a Beatles loving dork and all is as it should be.