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

28. The Fireman: "Electric Arguments"

"The Fireman" is the moniker used by ambient/rock producer Youth and Sir Paul McCartney. It's an unlikely but thoroughly effective pairing. Youth has served time in ground-breaking bands like Killing Joke and the Orb. His hard-rock and electronic backdrops wouldn't at first seem like they would suit McCartney. But at 66, Paul has resurrected his inner innovator. Remember, this is the man who 40 years ago wailed on "Helter Skelter." Back when he was a Beatle, during their highly psychedelic later period, he freely experimented with fully malleable sonic elements. Listening to him now belt out a hard-edged blues like "Nothing Too Much Just out of Sight" is downright revolutionary. He's buried in a mighty load of echo in "Sing the Changes" and is singing a spooky, low-voiced hymn on "Light From Your Lighthouse." This album is the duo's third and highest profile collaboration. It's an album that proves McCartney still has a great deal of innovation in him. Combined with his last two (excellent) solo albums, "Memory Almost Full" and "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," this continues McCartney's long-overdue awakening.

Favorite Tracks

"Sing The Changes"

"Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight"

"Traveling Light"

"Dance 'Til We're High"

"Highway"

27. Bell X1: "Flock"

European readers are probably saying, "Wait, didn't that album come out two years ago?" In the United States, it didn't see release until January 2008. It also came with a slightly altered track-list. Members of Bell XI used to be in a band called Juniper. Back then, Damien Rice was their lead singer. When Rice left the band, Bell X1 came to be. They are a mighty Irish band writing literate songs that somehow revel in their own importance. Tracks like the utterly magnificent, "Eve, the Apple of My Eye" and "Rocky Took a Lover" make bands like Keane and Snow Patrol seem like side-players. "Eve…" is the most beautiful love ballad you will hear this year, period! (For those of you who find the track to be familiar, it's because three years ago, an earlier, different, less-developed version of the track appeared on one of the soundtracks for "The O.C.") Bell X1 is definitely a band you need to hear.

Favorite Tracks

"Eve, the Apple of My Eye"

"Rocky Took a Lover"

"Natalie"

"Bigger Than Me"

"Bad Skin Day"

26. Thievery Corporation: "Radio Retaliation"

The still expanding "chill" scene has seen many noteworthy groups, such as Air and Zero 7. The members of Washington, D.C.'s Thievery Corporation belong in the company of those groups, but they have always been more upbeat with a wider-ranging international flare. "Radio Retaliation" is quite possibly the duo's best album. It's not often you can find a group that possibly appeals to indie-hipster snobs, dancehall-reggae fans and hip-hop heads. In Thievery Corporation's world a sitar sits comfortably inside a Latin rhythm. Indian and Middle Eastern influences merge with such beats with ease. Add the reggae element and you get one of the biggest international musical melting pots releasing records today. Guests range from Brazilian singer Seu Jorge (yes, of "The Life Aquatic" and "City of God" fame,) Femi Kuti, Anoushka Shankar (Ravi's other famous daughter besides Norah Jones) and others. It's obviously a heavily political record dealing with various issues of global unrest, but it also serves as a grooved-out party soundtrack.

Favorite Tracks

"Sweet Tides"

"Mandala"

"Vampires"

"The Numbers Game"

"Sound The Alarm"

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