The 50 Best Albums of 2008: Nos. 25 to 1

The year 2008 may be over, but its music is definitely still worth a listen. Start off the New Year with some of the best tunes from the one that just passed. Check out my picks for the top 25 albums of 2008.

25. The Cure: "4:13 Dream"

The Cure began the promotion of their 13th studio album with the advance release of the album's four singles. They were released on a monthly basis counting down to the album's arrival. Each packaged with an additional B-side, these recordings were mandatory listening for any Cure fan. By the time the album dropped, all these songs were familiar. Indeed, "4:13 Dream" is one of the band's most accessible records. It's radio-friendly with few embarrassingly cheeseball "Friday I'm In Love" moments. For the past decade and a half, Robert Smith and company have obviously been struggling with finding that balance. Their last album was excellent but murky, whereas this album revels in the band's pop side. Of course, they do jam out a little from time to time, and that's where the true equilibrium lies. The album actually plays best with the four singles' B-Sides tacked onto the end as bonus tracks. Really, this is what the band should've done. (But never mind the needless remix EP the band also released. Oh, well, they can't all be winners!) That being said, "4:13 Dream," as is, is one of the band's most consistent song-cycles to date. The Cure released their first album back in 1979. How come they haven't yet been put into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Favorite Tracks

"Perfect Boy"

"The Only One"

"Sleep When I'm Dead"

"The Real Snow White"

"Underneath the Stars"

24. Danny!: "And I Love Her: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

As far as I know, there is no actual movie attached to this album. I first became aware of this album when I was bemoaning the lack of quality hip-hop to one of my co-workers. In response, I was asked if I'd ever heard of Danny! This album is hard to find in hard copy but is available as a download from Amazon and iTunes. Danny! hails from South Carolina. He's as rapid-flowing a lyricist as he is a top-notch producer. It's evident listening to this record and the numerous references that he's sick of being compared to Kanye West. The truth is Danny! doesn't compare. He's a billion times better than Kanye. This album brings to mind the vintage Native Tongues records from the late-'80s and early-'90s. De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest leave large, evident shadows here. Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are also obvious influences. Danny! is a gifted beat-maker, bringing to mind luminaries like Prince Paul, the Dust Brothers and J Dilla. He also has an interesting Beatles fixation. The album's cover and title make this clear, as does the track, "Yoko Ono." All together, this makes Danny! one of the most interesting new, still up-and-coming figures in hip-hop. I hope more people continue to check this album out or hear about it from word-of-mouth, as I did. It's obvious not only that he's an excellent rapper but also a very talented musician.

Favorite Tracks

"Jet Set"

"Never Change"

"Yoko Ono"

"Misery"

"Wanderland"

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