Around this time last year, in my annual year-end music post, I was complaining about the primacy of “hyper-literate geek rock”. I worried that too many indie musicians were concerned more with wit and intellectualism, at the expense of what I feel is the primary purpose of popular music—raw emotional expression.
I don’t mean to overstate it, but I think in 2008 saw at least partial answer to the sterility of hyper-literate geek rock. Unlike my favorite music from 2007, which all tended to be lyrically dense but emotionally dull, my favorite albums of 2008 were all about emotional expression and unbridled creative experimentation.
Without further introduction, here are my favorite albums from the year 2008:
1. Bon Iver – For Emma. For Emma was a pleasant surprise for me. I never thought I could ever again like an album like this. Essentially one man and a guitar, it’s the kind of rustic music—austere in instrumentation and song structure—that I thought I had surely outgrown. But Bon Iver reaffirmed the expressive range of this quaint arrangement, demonstrating that you don’t need keyboards, layered samples or bright lights to make powerful, affective music.