10. Lil Wayne. Tha Carter III.
Tha Carter III makes a case for itself from virulent opener "3Peat" all the way to the amusing political piece "Don't Get It." The concept is simple: fill an entire album with songs that sound like singles, paired with worthwhile guest-appearances and Lil Wayne's singular, codeine-laced style. The voice of hip-hop in 2008 was Weezy, not Ye. -Brian Contratto
9. Sun Kil Moon. April.
By now, Mark Kozelek fans know what to expect from his music. The Ohio-born musician makes the case for classic songwriting. April is stripped down, instrumentally sparse–just as, if not more, honest and powerful than anything else in 2008 and as good as anything from his past two decades of music-making. -Andrew Hibbard
8. Vampire Weekend. Vampire Weekend.
Had Jack Kennedy skipped out on politics and moved to Africa, this could be the soundtrack to his life. Vampire Weekend is marked by its catchy vocals, catchy guitar, catchy drums—hell, even the album cover is catchy. Don’t believe the hype and don’t listen to the backlash; these four gentlemen deserve an honest listen. -Kevin Lincoln
7. The Streets. Everything is Borrowed.
The Streets' performance on his fourth album, Everything is Borrowed is the equivalent of winning gold in rap's decathlon. Mike Skinner beautifully mixes both genres and subjects, using jazz and rock influences to discuss everything from his female obsessions to the future of the human race. With Everything is Borrowed, Skinner leaves little doubt that he is one of music's most versatile (and intelligent) figures. -Jordan Axt
6. Lykke Li. Youth Novels.
Breathy vocals. A spoken monologue. Quirky instrumentation and coos. You've heard it before. But Lykke Li has range and can manipulate her airy voice to make it sound electronic, separating her from other artists. Bjorn Yttling injects his chipper sounds (think "Young Folks'" whistling) with eclectic percussion, distorted woodwinds and electronica beats, capturing the minimalistic essence of indie pop. -Baishi Wu
5. The Walkmen. You & Me.
The Walkmen have crafted a masterpiece, a soaring paean to intimacy that builds until the final ride cymbal fades away. The album's soggy guitars and ancient organs hum under grainy howls about long-lost friends and far-off islands, showcasing booming waltzes, haunting ballads, maraca-and-woodblock stomps, and the furious "In The New Year." -Nate Freeman
4. The Dodos. Visiter.
The guitar-drum duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber combine breakneck strumming and violent drumming to produce Visiter, one of the most beautiful compositions of the year. Aside from spirited singles "Fools" and "Jodi," Visiter includes folk-y arrangements in "Walking" and "Undeclared," displaying the subtle harmonies present underneath cacophonous melodies. -Baishi Wu
3. Why? Alopecia.
Genres bend and blur on this release from avant-garde hip-hop collective Anticon. Yoni Wolf sings, raps and waxes philosophical over clanking beats and organic instrumentation, and his lyrics—think a little death, a little yearning and a whole mess of twisted imagery—are in turns wrenching and impenetrable. Like many great albums, Alopecia rewards repeated listens, as every spin reveals a new verse to decipher or a different sound that asserts itself. This is a group that cannot be labeled. -Kevin Lincoln
2. TV on the Radio. Dear Science,.
The Brooklyn band strikes gold on its follow up to the eccentric (read: confusing) Return to Cookie Mountain. Dear Science, is a product of the perfect balance between experimentation and experience: catchy, more accessible and—as Tunde acknowledges—more regular. Their signature syncopation is fully realized in energetic opener "Halfway Home" and "Crying," but slower songs including ballad "Family Tree" and "Love Dog" are also noteworthy. Simply put, TV on the Radio's ode to modernity is far from regular and one of the year's best. -Jessie Tang
1. Bon Iver. For Emma, Forever Ago.
For Emma, Forever Ago is, at its core, a break-up album. But if all break-ups resulted in such beauty, I would want to have my heart ripped out every day. Justin Vernon’s debut charts the course of his catharsis. From the harsher “Wolves” to the inward turn that comes on “Blindsided,” Vernon draws us into his personal life, guiding us as he comes to terms with whoever Emma is, ending not with “realization” but a “lift-away.”
It is not about simply love, but different kinds of love. Musically stunning, the album is more about the feelings it evokes. It transcends music. For Emma, Forever Ago is an experience. And one of the best any of us could have had in 2008. -Andrew Hibbard
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