Houston Calling

Houston Calling‘s favorite releases of 2008

December 25th, 2008 · 10 Comments

From impressive debuts, reissues, and reunions to the long-awaited release of Chinese Democracy and the redemption of Metallica, 2008 was an excellent year for music. I am always baffled by those who say there’s no good new music anymore—narrowing my favorite releases of the year down to only 20 was difficult.


Houston Calling‘s 20 favorite albums of 2008

The Duke Spirit, Neptune
1. The Duke Spirit, Neptune
I never paid much attention to these Brit-rockers until their live performances at 2008’s South By Southwest. The English band’s spacey guitars and catchy songs instantly won me over, but singer Leila Moss’s sexiness doesn’t hurt either. I repeatedly returned to Neptune throughout the year—and was never bored by it. Watch: “Lassoo”

British Sea Power, Do You Like Rock Music
2. British Sea Power, Do You Like Rock Music?
I have been a casual fan of British Sea Power for years (the band’s 2005 release, Open Season, was one of my favorites), but the songs on this album–and the band’s incredible live shows–kept me coming back throughout the year. With each new listen, I discover something new to like about this batch of songs. Watch: “Lights Out For Darker Skies”

Local H, 12 Angry Months
3. Local H, 12 Angry Months
Scott Lucas could have gone the way of many mid-90s alt-rockers and faded from memory. Instead, with drummer Brian St. Clair, he continues to combine his love of classic and indie rock into a powerful formula. On 12 Angry Months, he tells the story of a failed relationship with typical angst and an intelligent sense of humor, which is all-too-lacking in today’s modern rock music. This is Lucas’ best album since As Good As Dead. Also, his side project with former members of Fig Dish and Caviar–The Prairie Cartel–comes in at number 11 on my list. Watch: “The One With Kid”

Sleepercar, West Texas
4. Sleepercar, West Texas
Sparta frontman Jim Ward is a little bit country and a little bit rock’n’roll. To go from over-the-top stadium rock to the moody Americana of West Texas is a stretch, but Ward is a fantastic songwriter with a gift for brokenhearted storytelling. Watch: “A Broken Promise”

Austin Collins, Roses Are Black
5. Austin Collins, Roses Are Black
I first caught Collins while in Austin a few years ago watching Tody Castillo and Arthur Yoria at an icehouse during SXSW. I was immediately impressed with his songs, which are often dark, depressing, and worldly–the perfect combination for alt-country music. With Roses Are Black, he’s crafted his masterpiece. The backing band, The Rainbirds, is superb as well. Watch: “Roses Are Black”

Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind
6. Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind
Former Houston-area musician Carll won himself a ton of new fans with this major-label release, and while it’s more countrified than I’d normally go for, Carll’s humorous lyrics and penchant for storytelling kept me listening (heck, “Beaumont” alone kept me listening). The album is on a few year-end best-of lists, so he’s definitely got a hit on his hands. I recommend picking up the vinyl. Watch: “Beaumont”

Paul Weller, 22 Dreams
7. Paul Weller, 22 Dreams
While Wild Wood sticks with me more than any of Weller’s solo efforts, this could be the record he’s wanted to make his entire life. It is an accomplished album by a classic songwriter. The fact that Weller’s solo work sometimes impresses me more than his songs with The Jam speaks volumes. Watch: “Have You Made Up Your Mind” | Watch: “Echoes Round The Sun”

Flowers To Hide, Down The Stairs
8. Flowers To Hide, Down The Stairs EP
These Houston-based rockers rely heavily on the glam and showmanship of the best Britrock and shoegazer bands–and it works wonders. “503,” “Lady Snow,” and “Sometime Maybe Never Again” each resonate with the same swagger as Echo & The Bunnymen, Oasis, and early Cult songs. I listened to the three songs on this EP more than any other Houston album this year, and that’s saying a lot about the quality and catchiness of these songs. Watch: “503”

The Verve, Forth
9. The Verve, Forth
It’s incredibly difficult not to judge a reunited band based on its earlier work, and while Forth is a good album, it’s not a great album. However, there are enough good songs on the band’s latest to outweigh most other 2008 releases–“Judas” and “Sit And Wonder” are two of my favorites. Watch: “Love Is Noise” | Watch: “Rather Be”

Spiritualized, Songs In A&E
10. Spiritualized, Songs In A&E
Delightfully morose, Jason Pierce once again scores with grandiose songs about drugs, love, and death. The fact he spent much of the year before recording this album in a hospital bed fighting for his life helps set the mood perfectly. Watch: “Soul On Fire”

The Prairie Cartel
11. The Prairie Cartel, EPs

Listen: “Cracktown” (Hey Champ Remix)

The Futureheads, This Is Not The End
12. The Futureheads, This Is Not The World
Watch: “The Beginning Of The Twist”

Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains
13. Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains, Self-titled
Watch: “(I Am Like A) River”

The Drift, Memory Drawings
14. The Drift, Memory Drawings
Download & listen: “Uncanny Valley”

Unwed Sailor, Litle Wars
15. Unwed Sailor, Little Wars
Watch: “Copper Islands”

Shapes Stars Make
16. Shapes Stars Make, Self-titled
Watch: “The Bear”

Buxton, A Family Light
17. Buxton, A Family Light
Watch: “Holy Water Revival”

The Raconteurs, Consolers Of The Lonely
18. The Raconteurs, Consolers Of The Lonely
Watch: “Salute Your Solution”

Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul
19. Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul
Watch: “I’m Outta Time”

Mando Saenz, Bucket
20. Mando Saenz, Bucket
Watch: “Wrong Guy”

I will post my top 10 local favorites soon. Be sure to check back. Also, please post your favorites or any comments below.

Have a great Christmas and a happy new year!

Tags: Miscellaneous · Music · Reviews · SXSW

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 bford // Dec 25, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks for the list. I’m going to check out everyone that I haven’t heard over the next couple of days.

    I really like the latest Oasis. They have really made a nice comeback with this album and Don’t believe the truth.

    Hayes Carll’s cd is also tremendous.

  • 2 DAC // Dec 27, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I will post a mix soon.

  • 3 Best of…2008 | sellthekids.com // Jan 3, 2009 at 2:09 am

    […] anyway, better never than late as i like to say. without further ado, my Best of…2008 list! eat your heart out Otter! […]

  • 4 bcd // Jan 3, 2009 at 2:36 am

    sorry i have neglected your list till now…i wanted to get mine out without having to rely on seeing yours. you are the shaper….

    as expected, you picked some tasty stuff. i knew you would list Sleepercar, Austin Collins, and Hayes Carl…all three are damn good albums. see, makes me wanna go back and revise mine!

    was tough for me to leave Local H off, but in the end, i just didn’t play it enough. i still like it a lot and of course, wish Scott and Brian the best. as far as concept albums go, it will be a keeper.

    surprised to see Oasis and Raconteurs on your list, if only b/c they are so mainstream (can i say that about Mr. White?) that Raconteurs release is damn strong…it was so early in the year i have almost forgotten it. sad for me.

    look forward to enjoying my Shapes Stars Make; hope that pretty green Songs in A&E LP made your 2007!!

    thanks for the list!

  • 5 Hayes Carll back in town // Jan 18, 2009 at 8:48 am

    […] Carll, whose Trouble In Mind was No. 6 on my 2008 favorites list, plays two shows in Houston at the Mucky Duck this Friday night […]

  • 6 Houston Calling’s top Houston releases of 2008 // Jan 20, 2009 at 10:46 am

    […] album this year–and enough to have it come in at No. 8 on my top 20 favorites of 2008 list (which you can read here). Flowers To Hide relies heavily on the glam and showmanship of the best Britrock and shoegazer […]

  • 7 Unwed Sailor at Super Happy Fun Land this Wednesday // Dec 1, 2009 at 8:28 am

    […] may recall that Unwed Sailor’s album, Little Wars, was among my favorites of 2008. Be sure to come out to see this great […]

  • 8 Ishi, Unwed Sailor, and more at Dallas fundraiser this Saturday // May 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

    […] party for Dallas band Ishi, and also includes performances from Unwed Sailor (which had one of my favorite releases of 2008), True Widow, New Fumes, and a slew of […]

  • 9 Tanisha Deitrick // Jan 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I believe you mentioned some very interesting details , regards for the post 🙂

  • 10 Sparta plans reunion show in El Paso + new Jim Ward solo release and more… // Aug 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    […] Ward spouts off about what he’s been up to lately and upcoming plans (none of which involve Sleepercar, unfortunately — but there’s the Sparta show and new album, a new venue (Tricky Falls), […]

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