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Home > Magazine > Article Archive > News

Editor Picks: Top 25 CDs of 2008
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2008 @ 21:27:33 UTC
Topic: Editor's Picks

For most of the year, Indie-Music.com is a great place to work. Then suddenly it's December, and the review staff has to somehow choose a Top 25 list of CDs from the year's submissions. Only 25. We argue. We agonize. During particularly heated moments, someone has to call the cops. Finally we emerge, bruised and exhausted, with our favorite picks, still muttering under our collective breath about the ones we couldn't include. So to the artists who made our Top 25 CDs of 2008, you are true champions. Our review writers went to the mat for you. You're that good.

Compiled By the Review Staff at Indie-Music, Jennifer Layton, Editor

Here they are, in no particular order. These are the Best Indie Releases of 2008. Also check out our Top 25 MP3s of 2008.

Ronnie Kelly: New York Behind Bars

Ronnie Kelly: New York Behind Bars
He's got great stories surrounded by simple pop-folk arrangements centered on his acoustic guitar. His warm tenor has a pleasing Dublin accent, the production is clean and the musicianship, superb. When I reviewed this a few months ago, he had plans to buy a bar in Crete. It looks like he might have done that since his website doesn't show a tour schedule. It's a shame that we can't hear him live but heck, it might be a good reason to go to Crete. (Reviewed by Jamie Anderson) Read this review

Esthema: Apart from the Rest

Esthema: Apart from the Rest
This disc features a sharp blend of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies with American jazz, played on oud, bouzouki, violin, bass, drums and more. Some cuts make me want to order a few beers and dance; others, sit still and nod my head, a martini in front of me. I love that there's a very in-the-moment feel with some songs, like a good jazz jam. I'll bet Coltrane and Parker would have loved this release. (Reviewed by Jamie Anderson) Read this review

The Bobs: Get Your Monkey Off My Dog

The Bobs: Get Your Monkey Off My Dog
The Bobs are a stellar a cappella group whose harmonies and chemistry are solid due to their 28 years of performing and whose sense of humor is fresh and invigorating. The listener forgets this is an a capella record due to the tight well done arrangements, but will never forget some of the zingers on this clever piece of joy. (Reviewed by Jana Pochop) Read this review

Clay McClinton: Son of A Gun Clay McClinton: Son of A Gun
Straight up country-blues-rock is McClinton's game on this record, and he does it exceptionally well. Son of a Gun puts Clay's songwriting and guitar chops on display, and the top-notch production and musicians round out this recommended listen. (Reviewed by Jana Pochop) Read this review
Laura Pursell: Somewhere in this Room Laura Pursell: Somewhere in this Room
Backed by lush instrumentation, this jazz performer pours her buttery vocals over each phrase. She wrote the lyrics too, with gorgeous melodies by Andrew Bonime. It's a beautifully designed package, from the creative and interesting liner notes to the elegant photos by Mark Robert Halper, within a warm monochrome design. It's so lovely I'd hang it on a wall. It perfectly matches the music too so if you saw it in a store or on line, you'd know that inside was jazz so smooth you could spread it on bread. (Reviewed by Jamie Anderson) Read this review
The Caledonia Mission: The Name of the Horse The Caledonia Mission: The Name of the Horse
The Caledonia Mission is an extremely good act for nearly an infinite number of reasons. The Name Of The Horse is like an album with all your favorite American elements, yet self-contained in one lone CD ... This is one excellent band, and it's not rock & roll blasphemy to list its name with the likes of Bob Dylan, The Band and Beach Boys. And don't be surprised if the group makes a name for itself in the Americana scene soon. (Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh) Read this review
The Tell: Where Two Roads Meet The Tell: Where Two Roads Meet
The two roads meeting on this album are Alex Michaud and Dave Krusch, and the album they make at the crossroads is full of life and energy. This is an attention-grabbing collection of folk/rock that hooked me from the very first track. Michaud brings his soulful, Tracy Chapman-like vocals and percussive style of acoustic guitar, and Krusch provides the kind of percussion that doesn't just keep the beat, it provides atmosphere and spine-tingling vibes. (Reviewed by Jennifer Layton) Read this review
Royal Jones: A Dear in the Headlights Royal Jones: A Dear in the Headlights
The Royal Mr. Jones is back, and this trip is more polished and sophisticated. The music has taken a massive step up, with killer piano, funky horns, demanding bass, and Motownish female backup vocalists with harmonies to die for. It would be classy enough for the Upper East Side, if Mr. Jones would just put on a tux and behave himself. Fortunately for all of us, he doesn't. (Reviewed by Jennifer Layton) Read this review
Id Guinness: Cure for the Common Crush Id Guinness: Cure for the Common Crush
Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say it: This is one amazing piece of art. If I were forced to narrow him down to one particular genre, I'd say Guinness falls into the progressive, psychedelic rock category reminiscent of 70s art rock acts like David Bowie and (more blatantly) Pink Floyd. Although trying to pin his work down to a specific label defeats the sprit that embodies it. The beauty of this CD comes in its ability to completely break down genre walls and incorporate a variety of different styles into one respected album. (Reviewed by Thomas D. Szewc) Read this review
Charles Theodore Zerner: A Suitcase Life Charles Theodore Zerner: A Suitcase Life
This CD is gentle and profound. The music runs nice and easy throughout but it is the sentiment and feel of each track that really grips you. The intelligence of the lyrics should come as no surprise, since Zerner is a Harvard grad, but he does something that can be very difficult to do. He can rhyme lyrics without sounding campy. This is no simple task, and as someone who even avoids buying cards if they have a singsong feel to them, I must say that I am impressed by this fact alone. (Reviewed by Catherine L. Tully) Read this review
Doe Deere: Supernatural Doe Deere: Supernatural
Deere locked herself in her bedroom, accompanied only by her trusty 80s issue Yamaha keyboard and a modern Korg Triton keyboard, and came out with some very impressive dance tunes. While the five tracks on this EP all owe something to the sounds of 1980s dance beats, rhythms and sounds, they are more than just reproductions. Deere definitely has planted her own compositional voice and originality amongst the clichés. This is more than just dance music, and you can tell that Deere has a wide listening pallet. Deere's chord progressions owe more to a folk rock tradition than disco, and her voice is emotive and sexy. (Reviewed by Darryl Gregory) Read this review
Beware Fashionable Women: Self-Titled Beware Fashionable Women: Self-Titled
Remember when you were a kid and went on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the carnival? As the car in which you rode flew through the air at breakneck speeds and you were thrown against the tight harness that held you in all you could do was giggle and scream. But despite all the hiccup-inducing elation, all you could say to describe the experience afterward was that it was "fun." Well strap yourself in again now that Beware Fashionable Women has released a self-titled, 10-track CD that's the adult audio version of the Tilt-A-Whirl. (Reviewed by Nancy Dunham) Read this review
Billy Harner: The Human Perkulator Billy Harner: The Human Perkulator
I'm listening to it right now, feeling that kind of epiphany I only experience every few decades when I hear that real American music which first woke me up to the possibility of life having meaning. It feels so right and familiar; it courses through my veins like the soul classics of Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett and O.V. Wright that long ago became embedded in the core of my being. (Reviewed by Barney Quick) Read this review
The Birthday Suicide: One Year Wasted The Birthday Suicide: One Year Wasted
A dark collection of introspection. It's what I would consider a concept album, best listened to start to finish ... I can't help but wonder about the inspiration for this sorrowful body of work. My hope is that, as it is now a snapshot of time, there is a sense of relief and pride in the culmination of this accomplishment. Not all-great art is happy and shiny, it's not all for the masses, but it moved the soul and touches the heart. I think this has been achieved and even a little surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it. (Reviewed by Rachel Sedacca) Read this review
No Needz: Feel Good Musik No Needz: Feel Good Musik
I cannot say enough good things about this CD; it is absolutely fantastic. NoNeedz makes hip-hop the way hip-hop is meant to be. His delivery is smooth at the same that it is rhythmically driving. The music is upbeat and playful. The lyrics are clever and interesting to listen to. The message is positive and intelligent. Rappers like NoNeedz reclaim hip-hop as a meaningful, respectable art form, as opposed to so much of the (c)rap we all hear on the radio. The combination of amazing flow and meaningful lyrics will satisfy any underground hip-hop aficionado, while the catchy hooks and fun vibe of the album make it "commercially viable." If there were any justice in the world, NoNeedz's "Git 2 No Me" would be playing on every radio station in the country. (Reviewed by Silas Durocher) Read this review
A. Rex: Who Said I Was Running? A. Rex: Who Said I Was Running?
It's a good sign when the first thing I think to myself upon throwing on a new disc is "Why haven't I heard of these guys?" ... At only 22, Espinola shows amazing restraint with both the songwriting and the arrangements, preferring tasteful guitar and piano flourishes rather than self-indulgent solos. These are quick and dirty power pop songs, and they get in, make their point, and get out - like good radio songs should. (Reviewed by Travis Dow) Read this review
The Pet Ghost Project: Cheer Up, It's Raining The Pet Ghost Project: Cheer Up, It's Raining
Any album that features an Ebow, a didgeridoo, a trumpet, and what sounds like tap dancing is quite alright with me. If you're not familiar with an Ebow, look it up-it's uber-cool. If you're not familiar with The Pet Ghost Project, it's time. Mainly the brain-child of Justin Stivers, TPGP gets loud and also disturbingly quiet on its third offering. Stivers did just about everything on this release but form the plastic for the CD itself, and yet there's a great dynamic range to the music, as though it was created by several minds and not just one. (Reviewed by Travis Dow) Read this review
Bootleg Tonic: Volume 1 Bootleg Tonic: Volume 1
The group grooves together in a manner rare for a debut CD and is a great sign of a style as natural as leaves on a tree ... This band has a knack for edgy blues. In fact, the entire album feels like it was recorded in a dark jazz lounge where only tea lights illuminated the stage. I can't wait to hear what else Bootleg Tonic has in store. Reviewed by (Skott Freedman) Read this review
Brian Butler: Axuality, Volume 1 Brian Butler: Axuality, Volume 1
In an age in which the guitar is too often used to display feigned attitude or to show off chops as though they were some kind of medals won for heroic ardor, Butler reminds us that making great sounds come out of these exquisitely crafted pieces of wood is, most importantly, a sheer joy. Let us hope he has a lot more Axuality in him. The world could use it. (Reviewed by Barney Quick) Read this review
Brian Mazzaferri: All Roads Lead to Roads Brian Mazzaferri: All Roads Lead to Roads
Part time philosopher, part time musician; Brian Mazzaferri blends them both together ... Mazzaferri executes all the songs on this CD with beautiful soul and effortless musicality. The songs make us think without getting too standoffish and high fallutin'. The instrumental accompaniment is right in the pocket and keeps our attention as it weaves around the words. Looking forward to more from Brian Mazzaferri on down the Road. (Reviewed by Darryl Gregory) Read this review
Emily Asen: Proof Emily Asen: Proof
Merge the beauty of Judy Collins' voice, the confessional introspection of Melissa Ethridge's lyrics, and the stellar musicianship of Bonnie Raitt, and you have the latest offering by Emily Asen. Proof is filled with delicious neo-folk songs that just beg for candlelight, a glass of wine, and quiet talk with friends. But don't think that Asen's music is only for the croissant and latte crowd. Yes, the songs tug a bit at sentimental memory banks but they aren't pretentious or overly syrupy. (Reviewed by Nancy Dunham) Read this review
Symon's New Blue Diamonds: One Hundred Nights of Passion Symon's New Blue Diamonds: One Hundred Nights of Passion
It's strange that Michael would dedicate this disc to anyone who has ever fallen in love. That's because it's certainly not sweet and tender, as are most love songs. Maybe Michael sees love like a circus funhouse, where mirrors make shapes look all out of proportion. Love takes a simple relationship between a man and woman, and sometimes turns this into an endless rollercoaster ride to hell. I think that's what Michael means by his dedication. If so, love is not all it's cracked up to be. Instead, it's all about getting cracked up, and as Michael might say, managing to "get through it in one piece." (Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh) Read this review
Neil Robertson: Wake the Dead Neil Robertson: Wake the Dead
A great example of social commentary in music with a clever approach. Neil has shown a real knack for presenting characters and scenarios that ring universal for all of us, our struggle for balance and refusal of mediocrity in the pursuit of ourselves. (Reviewed by Rachel Sedacca) Read this review
Art Ruprecht: At the End of the Day Art Ruprecht: At the End of the Day
Definitely a CD worth getting for those that are jazz guitar aficionados and those who are into the George Benson approach to smooth jazz. Ruprecht's playing is superb, and his arrangements just make the guitar melodies float easily on top. This is definitely a CD worth buying and then playing more than a few times. (Reviewed by Darryl Gregory) Read this review
Connor Desai: Self-Titled Sick of Sarah: Self-Titled
Sick of Sarah reminds me somewhat of Paramore, with their infectious pop that is laced with rock aspirations. Their songs are tight, well-written, and to the point. Lead singer Abisha Uhl cites Michelle Branch as an early inspiration, and you can hear the influence in Uhl's vocal inflection ... These talented chicks know what they're doing, and they don't take themselves too seriously. (Reviewed by Beeb Ashcroft) Read this review












 
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