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Radio Free Irish: WVFI Looks Back on The Best of 2008

Greg Dutcher, Lisa Floran, Brooke Healy, Chris Laus and Teresa McGeeney | Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let the learned listeners at WVFI guide you through their choices for the top releases of 2008. Listeners can check out the station at AM 640.

Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend came out of nowhere to release this glorious album about roofs, college, grammar, and Cape-Cod. Recent Columbia grads, these guys make undeniably fun, catchy music. A mix of afro-pop, chamber pop and new wave, Vampire Weekend have constructed an album with a definitive sound all their own.

Flying Lotus: Los Angeles

Flying Lotus takes the glitzy, superficial ethos of Los Angeles and somehow makes instrumental hip-hop out of it.  Fractured, but somehow smooth; gritty, while still maintaining a slick feel. The songs show an obvious talent for both production and songwriting – experimental enough for headphone listening, while still remaining in the realm of hip hop.

Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes 

Fleet Foxes proves that while genres come and go, classic folk will never go out of style. This debut album is filled with beautiful instrumentation and harmonies. Fleet Foxes evoke sounds of generations before without sounding dated, and have created something that will be remembered for years to come. Upon first listen, the gorgeous vocal work and classic acoustic sounds will leave you stunned, and the rich melodies and haunted lyrics will keep you coming back for more.

The Dodos: Visiter

Continuing in a similar psych-folk/freak-folk vein as such bands as Animal Collective or Akron/Family, the Dodos are comprised of only two members – Meric Long (guitar/vocals) and Logan Kroebler (drums) – who also relish in their country blues and African influences. Long’s voice croons and yelps in ways that will leave you humming or whistling these tunes long after the album ends. 

At times delicately beautiful and at others vigorously and intensely driving, the Dodos have created an album featuring a number of twists and turns that make “Visiter” a must-listen. 

TV On The Radio: Dear Science

While definitely distinct from their other albums, “Dear Science” is nonetheless excellent and cohesive. TV On The Radio is great at mixing high with low and throaty vocals, synthesized beats, horns, and the classic handclap from sounds that could be bleak into an epic orchestra. The result is super catchy, danceable, and one of the most innovative and enjoyable records of the year.

Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago

Purists will argue that this album actually came out in 2007, but anyone who has listened to “For Emma, Forever Ago” knows better than to argue such petty points. Put into wide release in 2008, Bon Iver delivered a heart-wrenching record of northern winter nights spent with a fire, a guitar, laments, and maybe even a little flannel. 

Quiet, but far from boring, romantic, but never nauseating, the album is a heartbreaking beauty. 

Fennesz: Black Sea

At its core, you could call this album guitar music modified with computers – but it’s actually much more than that.  Combining static, noise, drones, and, of course, guitar, Fennesz creates eight evocative songs, filled with grimy, bleak harmonies and overtones that reveal themselves after repeated listens. Brilliantly constructed, wonderfully arranged, masterfully done.

Raphael Saadiq: The Way I See It

Did you hear that?  It’s motown, making a sneaky comeback. The Amy Winehouses, Duffys, and Adeles have helped it along, but this year’s top retrospective prize goes to Raphael Saadiq. On “The Way I See It,” Saadiq hits all the stops: doo-wop beats, a cameo by Stevie Wonder, and charming, cheeky lyrics that capture the soul of the 60s with a modern twist.

Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours

Of all the dance-rock 80s revival albums of this year, “In Ghost Colours” rose to the top of the pile. Instead of relying on irony or self-awareness, Cut Copy focuses on writing good music in the vein of Depeche Mode and New Order. 

The record’s strength lies in its heartfelt delivery, good production values, and habit of taking the best from its influences: synth-pop and disco, for the most part. Great stuff.

Los Campesinos: Hold on Now, Youngster…

Another buzz band from the blogging world, this young group from Wales captured the humor, energy and emotion surrounding the hype and turned it into an unassuming and incredibly fun record.

It’s a witty and smart album, whose upbeat handclaps, sloppy guitars, glockenspiels, and seven person sing-alongs balance out the dark lyrical content.

The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact WVFI at [email protected]