The 50 Best Albums of 2008: Nos. 50 to 26

47. Randy Newman: "Harps and Angels"

"Harps and Angels" finds Randy Newman is in a grumpier mood than ever. His tongue is still sharp, his trademark wit is still intact and he's still not afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way. Whether he's discussing death, politics, immigration or "kids today," he gives his listeners his unique perspective. On warmer, softer numbers like the not-so-new, frequently-covered "Feels Like Home" and fresher "Losing You," he proves he can still be touching as well. There have always been two sides to Randy Newman. Sometimes he's a biting social critic and sometimes he's a sweet songsmith. "Harps and Angels" finds him more in the former category, but it also shows that both sides are still very much alive and kicking. He's still one of our smartest songwriters. No doubt, this album gives its listeners a great deal to contemplate. Read my original review.

Favorite Tracks

"A Few Words In Defense of Our Country"

"Harps and Angels"

"Laugh and Be Happy"

"Feels Like Home"

"Losing You"

46. Brain Eno & David Bryne: "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today"

Brian Eno had a pretty amazing year. Not only did he help produce the latest album by a band called Coldplay (perhaps you may know them) but he also got back together with one of his most-valued collaborators, David Byrne. Back when Byrne was leading the Talking Heads, Eno helmed some of that band's most challenging work. "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" is the duo's second proper record together under their own names following the 1981 album "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts." While that record was a strange whirlwind of beats and sounds, this record is happy and pop-driven while still remaining somewhat surreal. It's not without its odd detours (see "Wanted for Life" and "I Feel My Stuff") but it still for the most part sits comfortably in a pop universe. It's very reminiscent of later-period Talking Heads records. Simply put, this is the work of two musical geniuses coming together to create something unique and innovative yet still comfortably familiar. The end result is oddly uplifting.

Favorite Tracks

"Life Is Long"

"One Fine Day"

"Strange Overtones"

"Wanted for Life"


45. M83: "Saturdays = Youth"

Do you remember the mid-'80s? Imagine if the soundtrack to an '80s teen movie was reworked today by the acts on the "Lost in Translation" soundtrack. Somehow, the French electronic group M83 have found a balance between these two worlds. "Saturdays = Youth" is simultaneously retro and unbelievably fresh and hip. Everything goes in cycles and so everything old is once again new. The record simultaneously recalls Kate Bush, Air, My Bloody Valentine, the Cocteau Twins and "Disintegration"-era Cure. In exploring the past, M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez has created his best work to date.

Favorite Tracks

"Skin of the Night"

"Graveyard Girl"

"We Own the Sky"

"Kim & Jessie"

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