Who will make it to number one?...
jason gregory

14:20 10th December 2008

After the tidal wave of hype that brought so many new band's to the worlds attention last year, 2008 was always going to be the year that welcomed the return of established names. And with new releases from Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Lil' Wayne and Kanye West to name but a few, that was certainly the case.

But, as our Top-50 albums of 2008 shows, there was still a considerable surge of new talent which, alongside the big-guns, helped provide yet another unforgettable year of album releases.

  • 50. Mystery Jets – '21' - So now that daddy has left the band, Mystery Jets are going all 80’s - how ironic. Honestly though, ‘21’ might be slightly retro, but it is also innovative, creative and thoughtful. Embracing more mainstream synth melodies, and getting rid of their indulgent hippie sound masturbation of the past, results in a renewed vigour and urgency. No more faffing about with endless guitar solos, but only in-your-face tunes is the album’s success recipe proving that Mystery Jets are not afraid to write shamelessly radio-friendly pop songs and are all the better for it. [Linda Aust]

  • 49. Ludacris - 'Theatre Of The Mind' - Always being someone with a way with words, Ludacris needed to come off the back of his Grammy Award-winning 'Release Therapy' with an album even stronger than the previous. Enlisting the help of DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, and DJ Paul & Juicy J on production, as well as The Game, Chris Rock, and Lil’ Wayne to co-star, Luda’s sixth studio album is one not to be taken lightly. ‘I Do It For Hip Hop’, ‘Last Of A Dying Breed’, and ‘MVP’ are the album’s killer cuts. [Will Lavin]

  • 48. Fuck Buttons - 'Street Horrrsing' - Fuck Buttons 'Street Horrrsing' proved to be a rather special release. Rich with experimentation, the record took the listener from the spiritual rhythms of ‘Sweet Love for Planet Earth’ to the bizarre clap-a-long of ‘Ribs Out’. They might only be a two-piece from Bristol, but 'Street Horrrsing' proved that, for Fuck Buttons, absence of manpower imposes no limitations.

  • 47. These New Puritans - 'Beat Pyramid' - The moment 'Beat Pyramid' makes sense to you, there's the awful feeling that you might be going insane. How on Earth could tales of Michael Barrymore masturbating and infinity not being as fast as the lead figure of Jack Barnett, make the slightest bit of sense? As Barnett's cold, mysterious figure continues to repeat nonsensical yet confidently implied phrases, it becomes difficult to get comfortable with such a jaunty, under-produced album. Once you do though, it improves upon each listen. [Jamie Milton]

  • 46. The Hold Steady - 'Stay Positive' - The Hold Steady’s fourth album consolidated all of their previous albums central themes (drinking, dysfunction, faith, drinking, dancing, American history, parties, loss of identity, drinking) and fashioned them into an almighty and uproarious celebration of rock n roll. Craig Finn sang “Let this be our annual reminder that we can all be something better” on the opening track with a conviction that strangely fell somewhere between evoking Randy Newman and Barack Obama, making you rejoice for the existence and expanding popularity of this special band. [Paul Reed]

  • 45. Mr Scruff - 'Ninja Tuna' - Since the world’s economy went belly up, value for money has been an integral part of everyday life. ‘Ninja Tuna’ has the lot. Effortlessly combining jazz, breakbeat, deep house and inbetween, guest vocalists range from the majestic Alice Russell (‘Music Takes Me Up’) to the irrepressible Roots Manuva (‘Nice Up The Function’). Play it before you go out, when you come back, in the bath, at your desk or when you’re doing it doggy. ‘Ninja Tuna’ is a whole lot more for your hard-earned spondoolies. [Alastair Thompson]

  • 44. Lightspeed Champion - 'Falling Off The Lavender Bridge' - In all, Gigwise saw Midnight Surprise from this alt-county energizer for over 90 minutes at this summer's festivals – it must be decent, then. Following the wise demise of Test Icicles, Dev sodded off to America, picked up Bright Eyes' mates and came back with an album better than anything Oberst has done for ages. Patchy, scratchy and with too many crunk references (one), it is all the richer for its blemishes, like a fiver out of the washing machine. [Greg Rose]

  • 43. Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – 'Angles' - Thought they were just a band? With ‘Angles’, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip proved they were more than just a double act with an annoying song about being a commercial scenester. Their debut album was an eye opening listen; a look at life through the eyes of a street poet and his best friend. So good, they even managed to get away with using a Radiohead-endorsed sample. [Jason Gregory]

  • 42. Teenagers - 'Reality Check' - The stylish sounds and sultry spoken-word of The Teenagers debut album could only mean two things: firstly, that they were French, and secondly, that they were destined to divide opinion. Whatever your preconception of the group, it was hard to ignore the brave experimentation and sheer imagination of ‘Reality Check’ – which lived up to it’s name in every way. [JG]

  • 41. Glasvegas – 'Glasvegas' - Lauded by critics as the most important new band since Oasis, Glasvegas lived up to their billing with their self-titled debut. On a musical canvas of shoegazing guitar riffs, frontman James Allen painted a stark picture of 21st century life with songs about family, death and knife crime. It was sombre but almost beat Metallica to number one - now it just remains to see if they can create a follow-up to match. [JG]

  • 40. Eugene McGuinness – 'Eugene McGuinness' - Cruelly overlooked, McGuinness has crafted one of the years finest LP’s to limited fanfare and pomp. That may well suit him down to the ground though- this self titled album is a beautiful collection of understated brilliance. From the rockabilly freak outs (‘Rings Around Rosa’, ‘Fonz’) to the moments of serene beauty (‘Knock Down Ginger’, ‘Those Old Black And White Movies’) barely a foot is put wrong here. He may not be big or flashy but Eugene McGuinness is a true star. [David Renshaw]

  • 39. Nas – 'Untitled' - So much was written about Nas’s album before its release (most of which centred on his decision to name it ‘Nigger’, before later dropping the title) that when it arrived in mid-summer it didn’t make the splash it deserved. A record that was powerfully of the moment (Nas even foresaw Barack Obama’s election victory on ‘Black President’), the album’s production helped showcase Nas’ best asset: his vividly raw and resonant voice. Certainly one for the years to come. [JG]

  • 38. Kings Of Leon - 'Only By The Night' - 2008 really has been the year for Kings of Leon, with their chart topping hits, sell-out tours and an outstanding Glastonbury performance. The release of 'Only By The Night' just seals the deal. As REM and Foo Fighters before them, the sound is big and ferocious, propelling the Fpllowill's to the attention of everyone and anyone. Anthemic tracks like 'Sex on Fire' and 'Use Somebody' have taken the band to a completely different level - separating the men from the boys. [Lynsey Ure]

  • 37. Slipknot - 'All Hope is Gone' - Despite being on the verge of self destruction since their second album, Slipknot returned this year with their fourth effort and a renewed brotherly love. The result was an album of unashamed brutality with Pantera riffs strewn over death metal blast beats. Corey Taylor even finds time to demonstrate the Iowans’ softer side later on with an acoustic number. In the end though the final word is the devastating track ‘All Hope is Gone’ which pummels you into permanent submission. [Chris Reynolds]

  • 36. Goldfrapp - 'Seventh Tree' - After leaking onto the internet late in 2007, fears were raised about the Goldfrapp’s change of direction long before ‘Seventh Tree’ hit shops in 2008. They were dispelled, however, once the album was heard as a body of work. A huge step from the disco-inspired tones of its predecessor, the it proved to a hypnotic and thoroughly self-indulgent listen. [JG]

  • 35. N.E.R.D. - 'Seeing Sounds' - After a short break, it was time for the hip-hop/rock boys to get back on their job and put out an album that topped their previous two. Combining hip-hop, rock, soul, and even electro, Pharrell, Chad and Shay put together a project with everything for everyone. From clever tales of girls powdering their nose with the white stuff (‘Everybody Nose’) to stories of crazed groupies-turned-stalkers (‘Yeah You’), 'Seeing Sounds' is an offering of hip-hop not really explored before. It’s genius. [WL]

  • 34. Lykke Li - Youth Novels' - Lykke Li, a tiny Swedish minx, combines youthful popsongs, breezily intoned with a girlish voice, and minimalist and modest arrangements that really let her fragile songs shine. Her introversion is as appealing as her coyness and there is light-heartedness and charming simplicity in ‘Youth Novels’, which is hardly to be found in contemporary clinical pop overproduction. ‘Youth Novels’ honesty and intimate playfulness is the greatest guarantee for its accessibility and immediacy. Twee at its best! [LA]

  • 33. The Last Shadow Puppets - 'The Age of the Understatement' - Much more than an Arctic Monkey in a suit, this pair made one of the year's most refreshingly different records. It wore its influences on its well-tailored sleeves and swaggered down an altered avenue with its lush instrumentation and breezy experimentation. Though it includes misses, the schoolboy lollop of 'Meeting Place', the bombastic blast of its title track and the Bond-theme-that-never-was of 'My Mistakes Were Made For You' make this a worthy creation. [GR]

  • 32. Hot Chip - 'Made in the Dark' - The geekiest, most affable electro-indie-pop band on the scene excelled themselves with their third album 'Made In The Dark'. A mish-mash of styles, the album starts off techno-tinged and buoyed with phat beats but by the end the boys from London reveal their soft underbelly and emotional side. A record that never seems to tire, it will be interesting to see if Hot Chip can top it with album number four. [SC]

  • 31. The Dodos – 'Visitor' - With their second full release, acoustic-percussion duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber executed clattering folk-pop that reverberated with cold, expansive cross rhythms and echoing melodies.  It was with the crash and whoop of 'Fools' that they became best known, but it is by the quieter corners of 'Visiter', like 'Ashley' and 'Winter', that those who loved the album will best remember it. [Hazel Sheffield]

  • 30. Ladyhawke – 'Ladyhawke' - The combination of sultry electro dance beats and sumptuous vocals made for an outstanding debut from Pip Brown, better known has Ladyhawke. From the infectious 'Paris Is Burning' to the majestic 'Dusk ill Dawn', she created a thoroughly consistent debut that soundtracked both dancefloors and indie clubs alike. [JG]

  • 29. Oasis - 'Dig Out Your Soul' - Take off the label and ‘Dig Out Your Own Soul’ is like that first fag on the back of the bus. The opening is mind-blowing. Bolshy psych-rock (Bag It Up, Waiting For The Rapture) rips of a band starting out. There’s no need for their staple terrace chant or big piano anthem and for 5 tracks it’s as good as it ever has been. In the middle ‘Falling Down’ is arguably the pinnacle of Noel’s career before admittedly it tails off. It might’ve been embarrassing getting thrown off the 107, but you’ll definately be smiling all the way home. [AT]

  • 28. Santogold – 'Santogold' - Like a hybrid of Kanye West and M.I.A., Santgold arrived in 2008 and promptly reignited popular music with her sel-titled debut. From the devilishly dirty beats of Creator’ to the dancehall of ‘SayAha’, ‘Santogold’ was a telling reminder of how, when done properly, underground can sound so refreshingly mainstream as well. [JG]

  • 27. Gang Gang Dance - 'Saint Dymphna' - Big, bold and brash tribalism, which evokes the spirit of a 3am dancefloor, is not what typically originates from New York’s borough of Brooklyn. That was one of the reasons why Gang Gang Dance’s ‘Saint Dymphna’ proved to be such an indie treasure in 2008. Although it was their fourth album, it was the band’s first effort that had really captured the imagination of a wider market – and deservedly so. [JG]

  • 26. Bon Iver - 'For Emma, Forever Ago' - Break-ups have always been the a-ok for writing a classic album, but they're never given this much inspiration. Although under a different name prior to this release, Justin Vernon changed his acoustic-based into something more haunting, more sentimental and more effective. 'For Emma...' may have been praised primarily because of its recording process (Vernon hibernating in a snow-covered cabin to record the album), but even though that story is now of old, the record is just as impressive. [JM]

  • 25. MIT – 'Coda' - The Berlin based trio crafted easily one of the best electronic albums of 2008. Dark, throbbing and equally punk and post-rock as it is techno, 'Coda' is an aural onslaught on the senses from start to finish. The abrasive, shouty German vocals perfectly accentuate the songs and make the record tense and unpredictable. It's criminal that this album hasn't sold more copies. [Scott Colothan]

  • 24. Crystal Castles - 'Crystal Castles' - One of the most exciting live acts of 2008 thanks to the hyperactive and absolutely fucking mental Alice Glass, the Canadian duo's debut album had a lot to live up to. While it's impossible to capture the visceral rush of the live shows, the tunes (with a healthy nod to early 90s computer games) on 'Crystal Castles' more than make up for it. A breathtaking debut. [SC]

  • 23. Fleet Foxes - 'Fleet Foxes' - What a year for self-titled albums. Fleet Foxes look more like lumberjacks than angelic voiced songsmiths, but they conjured a record of varied textures and luscious harmonies unrivalled for pure prettiness. It never gets too complex but still buries layers to be unearthed through a lyric or beat. There's some grit in there too, all twisted romanticism and epic nothingness, but it’s the subtle rising vocals that swallow up hours. A real grower that feels a new discovery every time. [GR]

  • 22. Deerhunter - 'Microcastle' - Bradford Cox et al released their most complete and accomplished long player to date in Microcastle, which saw their songwriting honed for some surprisingly melodic tracks.  Both Microcastle and it’s bonus disc ‘Weird Era Cont.’ leaked several months before scheduled release, but the impact Cox made with his pop sensibilities and sexually perverse subject matter was impressive nonetheless. [HS]

  • 21. Portishead – 'Third' - Machine gun drumbeats. Ethereal vocals. At times Portishead’s ‘Third’ was like finding yourself stuck in the deep wilderness of a World War Two battlefield. Only, this wasn’t an album steeped in the past. The trio’s first album in more than a decade was very much a present day affair packed with warnings, doom and lashing of gloom. Beautiful. [JG]

  • 20. Laura Marling - 'Alas, I Cannot Swim' - Alas, I Cannot Swim blew the large majority of the music press away, even earning Miss Marling a Mercury nomination. (“I’ve no idea what all this is about,” she later professed at the awards ceremony.) Though by no means definitive, this astonishing debut resounded with Marling’s quivering vocals and a mesmerising lyrical ache which marked her as gifted beyond her years. [HS]

  • 19. The Raconteurs - 'The Consolers of the Lonely' - The Raconteurs took on new frontiers in 2008 - and with second album ‘Consolers of the Lonely’, managed to trump their debut. Their decision to release the album with none of the usual press lead-time (in a bid to get it to the fans first) was vindicated by the quality of the music, which juxtaposed urgency (‘Hold Up’, ‘Salute Your Solution’) with southern blues serenity (‘Top Yourself’). And to think it was meant to be the year of the White Stripes. [JG]

  • 18. Coldplay - 'Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends' - Coldplay could have spent the last two years recording nothing but white noise and still achieved the multi-million sales figures of their previous three albums. Thankfully, however, with the help of Brian Eno they created ‘Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends’, Although Eno’s production role was not as radical a departure for Coldplay as many had expected, the album still contained instant singles in the shape of ‘Viva La Vida’ and ‘Violet Hill’. Coldplay dressed for war in 2008 and, with arenas as their battlefields, they delivered again. [JG]

  • 17. Foals – 'Antidotes' - You have to be confident to leave the two songs people know you for off your debut album as well as ditching a Dave Sitek production job. ‘Antidotes’ though is the sound of a band that controls their own destiny. At no point does the Oxford quintet’s album let us down, from the immediacy of ‘Cassius’ to the emotive ‘Red Socks Pugie’ through a myriad of idiosyncrasies this is one of the finest debuts a British band has made in years. [DR]

  • 16. Late of the Pier - 'Fantasy Black Channel' - Less an album more a smorgasbord of ideas ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Donnington’s finest hit us with enough rambunctious energy and manic breakdowns to fuel most bands careers. A group that refuse to be pigeon-holed LOTP blend a mix of electro, prog, metal and dance with tracks like ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Focker’ causing sweat and adrenal glands to go into overdrive. If ever a band surmised the multi faceted nature of modern music its Late Of The Pier. [DR]

  • 15. Spiritualized - 'Songs in A+E' - 18 years and six albums into his turbulent career and Jason Pierce is still as relevant and capable at pulling at the listeners' heartstrings as ever. The first album released after Pierce nearly died of pneumonia in 2005, the emotion in this album is palpable with the singer at times sounding as if he is singing from his deathbed. Stunning and passionate, 'Songs in A & E' is yet another Spiritualized classic. [SC]

  • 14. Bloc Party – 'Intimacy' - Spiky guitars and Kele Okereke’s vulnerable drawl has been an established formula over the past years for Bloc Party but now they saunter almost unrecognisably against an electronic, skittish backdrop. Carried forth once more by the massively underrated, Matt Tong their drum-led sound bounds forth as the menacingly punchy ('Mercury', 'One Month Off') contrats the delicate ('Signs') and atmospheric ('Zephyrus'). The East London backdrop may be the same but the mythical undercurrent to ‘Initmacy’ ensures it lays waste to their last. [AT]

  • 13. Roots Manuva - 'Slime and Reason' - By hooking up with the likes of Metronomy, Roots Manuva made his intentions more than clear with 'Slime And Reason': he was ready to push boundaries once again. A truly fantastic body of work, the album provided a chilling account of life in 2008 – from the burden of responsibility ('The Show Must Go On') to the war and peace messages of 'C.R.U.F.F.'. The South London rapper once again proved that he was a true force in hip-hop – and one that should never forgotten. [JG]

  • 12. Vampire Weekend - 'Vampire Weekend' - Have a listen to this record again now and you'll find you like it. The buzzsaw silliness of A-Punk, the jingly joy of Walcott, it's all back. For a while there, they were everywhere, their shirts were too crisp and their album too gimmicky. Now, the slick wittiness of Oxford Comma sounds fresh again and the songs relax the listener in with their calypso friendliness. Feeling so unnatural, Peter Gabriel too, has never been so jolly. [GR]

  • 11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - 'Dig! Lazarus! Dig!' - Nick Cave continued to expand his cocky rock star persona, not to mention his incredible gift for producing compelling narratives rather than merely songs on Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! It speaks volumes about Cave and the Bad Seeds that the nearest reference point for this latest cinematic opus is their own work, albeit in their Grinderman guise. Like fine wine, Cave gets better with age and we’re privileged to be able to marvel, laugh along with and be deeply moved by this great storyteller. [PR]

  • 10. Sebastian Tellier – 'Sexuality' - Deviating massively from his masterpiece and signature tune 'La Ritournelle', the amiable Frenchman returned with a sexed up, throbbing erection of an album in 2008. Produced by Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, his influence is transparent throughout on the electro-tinged songs, yet it's Tellier's lustful, groaning vocals that give this album vital character and make it one of the records of the year. [SC]

  • 9. Mogwai - 'The Hawk Is Howling' - The Scottish post-rockers delivered their first wholly instrumental album this year; a record that's arguably their most complete work since their 1997 debut 'Mogwai Young Team'. Extremely subtle, on first listens it seems forgettable, but after more the intricate, beguiling melodies work their magic. Some listens more and you'll realise it's one of the greatest albums of 2008. [SC]

  • 8. Metallica - 'Death Magnetic' - There was no other album in 2008 that arrived with quite the same level of fan expectation as ‘Death Magnetic’. After almost a decade in the (quality) recording wilderness, Metallica’s ninth studio album was truly make or break. You can tell they knew it as well. ‘Death Magnetic’ was a return to the Metallica of old; a return to the Metallica that broke boundaries in the 80s and crucified festivals in the 90s. The kings of metal had arrived…again. [JG]

  • 7. Friendly Fires - 'Friendly Fires' - Friendly Fires made a brilliant thinking man’s pop record, an audacious blend of old school dance melodies and insistent rhythmic falsetto, effortlessly outclassing Klaxons at their own game. It is a rare creature, exhibiting unashamed mainstream pop sensibilities, credibility, fun and an abundance of great tunes. [PR]

  • 6. Neon Neon - 'Stainless Style' - When Gruff Rhys announced he was working on a concept album about American engineer magnate John DeLorean, the music world raised a suspicious eyebrow. Rhys needn’t have worried; the final result, Stainless Style, is an electro-pop masterpiece – full of songs stuffed with sheen and vigour that skilfully unfurl DeLorean’s coloured past. With American producer Byran Hollen, aka Boom Bip, at the controls and excitable cameos from Yo! Majesty, Cate Le Bon and Har Mar Superstar, Neon Neon were the slickest side-project of 2008. [Michael Took]

  • 5. Kanye West - '808s and Heartbreak' - After a trilogy of albums inspired by the ups and downs of a college student, Kanye West stripped it back in 2008 and laid himself bare on ‘808s and Heartbreak’. A painful and frank account of his past 12 months – including the death of his mother and split from his fiancée – the album was nothing like his back catalogue, fusing minimal beats with West’s own auto-tune enhanced singing voice. As West himself claimed, this really was “pop-art” – an album that deserved a place in just about any music (and art) installation. [JG]

  • 4. MGMT - 'Oracular Spectacular' - Rarely has an album’s name so aptly described its content. This 10 track rollercoaster sound tracked the past twelve months everywhere from the grimy streets of London to the grassy fields of Glastonbury. ‘Oracular Spectacular’ was bursting with acid drenched psychedelic anthems which made the rest of the music industry seem like dreary clones. Wouldn’t life seem that much worse if we weren’t blessed with the 80s keyboards of ‘Kids’ or the Utopian bliss of ‘Time to Pretend’. [CR]

  • 3. TV On The Radio - 'Dear Science' - After twiddling the nobs for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals and Scarlett Johansson, Dave Sitek returned to his (supposed) day job of TV On The Radio band member. Their third album, Dear Science, was another kaleidoscopic journey through do-wop, soul, electro, funk and anything else they could cram into eleven beatific tracks. Every song is unique; from the shoegazing histrionics of opener Halfway Home to the downright barmy skit that is Dancing Choose - TVONR created an album that had originality scrawled all over it - no wonder Bowie's a fan. [MT]

  • 2. Lil' Wayne - 'Tha Carter III' - Tipped to be the year’s hottest hip-hop album before it even dropped, Lil’ Wayne was under a lot of pressure to deliver. Many rescheduled release dates later 'Tha Carter III' finally arrived… and boy was it something special. Featuring Kanye West, Robin Thicke, and Jay-Z, Wayne lyrically assassinated everyone in his weight category and above. Highlights included: ‘Dr. Carter’, ‘A Milli’, and ‘Let The Beat Build’. [WL]

  • 1. Elbow - 'The Seldom Seen Kid' - As critics and fans of the band had long proclaimed, commercial success for Elbow was only a matter of time. All of their previous releases had hinted at impending greatness for Manchester’s Guy Garvey. But that it eventually arrived with ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, an album made without a record contract, without, indeed, much hope at all, made it even more special. Poetically informed by the death of friend Bryan Glancy, the album conveyed humanity at its rawest: hope (‘One Day Like This’), death (‘Friend of Ours’) and fear of corruption (‘The Fix’).  Such was the quality of the material that ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ seemed to end before it had begun.  Which, armed with a Mercury Prize, is certainly something you couldn’t say about Elbow. [JG]

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