Who will make it to number one?...
jason gregory
14:20 10th December 2008
  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

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.