The Decemberists - Always The Bridesmaid: Volumes I, II & III (Capitol Records; released Oct. 4th, Nov. 4th and Dec. 2nd)
Probably my favorite band over the last decade- since this wasn't a proper album (or even an EP) it deserves some kind of special handling. Upon the first listen I think I said something like "ugh, thank god these songs aren't going to be on the next album..." but upon repeated listens, it's actually quite nice. These are intended to be stand-alone tracks, each one a nice little story about Colin Meloy's assorted fictional characters (and real people with fictional storylines: see Valerie Plame). An homage to New England, Portland's propensity for precipitation (Record Year For Rainfall was one of the year's better songs), a song about some chick named Elaine, etc. These were recorded during sessions for the upcoming Hazards Of Love album, (to be released March 24th) the record I'm the most psyched for next year.
Ladytron - Velocifero (Nettwerk Records; released June 2nd)
I used to really love Ladytron. Part of me still does; Light & Magic and The Witching Hour are rad electro-pop records with that patented minor-key darkness and that dead-panned, glazed-over eyes Euro-trash delivery. I love that about these ladies (and dudes, but they assume a minor role). So out of respect I still love Ladytron but they're not reinventing the wheel with their newest, Velocifero. If I can assert myself (again) through my biggest knock on most albums this year it's that they're sticking to their "formula", and that's a part of their appeal- they make dance music, it's for dancing, it's Euro-trashy; and it's completely derivative of their prior body of work. Which isn't a bad thing, it's just an electronic thing. The up-side (and my favorite thing about this bad) is Mira Aroyo's two songs in Bulgarian; that shit is just plain sexy...
Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III (Cash Money Records, June 10th)
I was resistant of this album until I saw the all-star contributions on tracks featuring Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and Juelz Santana with production credited to the likes of Kanye West, Swizz Beatz and David Banner; I had to check out Tha Carter III- or should I say Grammy-nominated approaching triple platinum Tha Carter III? The best album cover of the year, hands down. Lollipop and Got Money are sick cuts, A Milli is infectious, and Jay-Z's verse on Mr. Carter is another highlight, but there's also some weak songs that detract from the overall awesomeness of this record- sixteen tracks is about four too many. I'm not a fan of R&B crooner Robin Thicke either, leave that shit for the expanded/exclusive bonus track album sold at BestBuy or Target.
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (Columbia Records; released January 22nd)
I was wrestling with this record from the outset- I didn't want to like it but god-damn, it's really catchy. The hooks are all over this album; it's one of those "nod to the past but futuristic in feel" jams somewhere between David Bowie's glam phase and Michael Jackson's pre-Thriller phase. No wonder the Brits were all over this; this was NME's #1 record of 2008. Also, since it was released digital-only in 2007, I figured it didn't qualify for an '08 release, just like I did with Bon Iver's record. Anyway, Electric Feel was one of the best songs of the year, along with The Youth, Time To Pretend & Kids. A fine "pure pop" record.
...and under no circumstances should you listen to the following:
DragonForce - Ultra Beatdown (Roadrunner Records; released August 26th)
Take any Bruce Dickinson-era Iron Maiden record, speed it up to 45 rpm and throw Yngwie Malmsteen's how-many-notes-can-I-stick-into-this-solo lightning fast technical delivery and you have DragonForce, that annoying band featured on GuitarHero. I read a review saying this was "the metal album of the year" and downloaded it promptly. There are no words to describe how utterly disappointed I was; this isn't metal- this is shit. Pure, unadulterated shit. I thought these guys were a tongue-in-cheek send up of metal music, kind of like a spoof of bands like W.A.S.P. (a la The Darkness or SpinalTap), but sadly, these ass-clowns are dead serious. I'm sticking to Dethklok for laughs, this record was both tragic AND ludicrous, an all-time low rating for The Musicologist. A monkey pissing in its own mouth would be too good a review for this crap...
More on the way...