Christopher Muther's top CD picks of 2008
VAMPIRE WEEKEND, "Vampire Weekend" (XL) In concept, this mind-boggling mix of indie punk, Afro-pop, and Ivy League pretentiousness should be unlistenable. But despite name-checking Peter Gabriel and falling into the dreaded Upper West Side Soweto category, Vampire Weekend's aggressive pop is dangerously addictive.
GIRL TALK, "Feed the Animals" (Illegal Art) Former biomedical engineer Greg Gillis seamlessly weaves more than 300 samples into 50 minutes of musical exhilaration. Calling this a mashup is like calling Versailles a crash pad.
JAMIE LIDELL, "Jim" (Warp) A former electronic musician, turntablist, and scat (!) singer discovers blue-eyed soul - and creates an album that is more Motown than Terence Trent D'Arby. Listen up, Joss Stone, this is how it's done.
SANTOGOLD, "Santogold" (Downtown) Perfectly channeling the disaffected voice of 1980s dance music, Santi White plays the part of pouty pop princess surrounded by sexy electronics and expressionless back-up dancers.
LADY GAGA, "The Fame" (Interscope)/TING TINGS, "We Started Nothing" (Columbia/Red Ink) The Ting Tings can easily take credit for creating the year's catchiest single ("That's Not My Name"), while Lady Gaga emerged as the love child of Madonna and Gwen Stefani with a collection of unapologetic dance music.
LOS CAMPESINOS! "Hold On Now, Youngster" (Arts & Crafts) The seven-piece Welsh ensemble makes boisterous pub music with boy-girl harmonies, violin, and lots of glockenspiel.
PACIFIC! "Reveries" (Astralwerks) A Swedish duo that sounds as if its members split their days listening to the Beach Boys and Gary Numan. Danny Högberg and Björn Synneby's harmonies stretch lazily over synthesizers, taking dance pop out of the club and onto the beach.
CUT COPY "In Ghost Colours" (Modular/Interscope) These smart, danceable, and genuinely catchy songs may sound like they've been pulled out of the 1980s recycling bin, but the confident, well-crafted pop gems are remarkably fresh.
FLEET FOXES "Fleet Foxes" (Sub Pop) There's more than a hint of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young on this debut, but don't let that scare you away from these woozy, harmony-loving hippie rockers. Their album is a little bit folk, a little bit rock, and a lot of wonderfully melancholy songs that John Fogerty probably wishes he had written.
LYKKE LI, "Youth Novels" (Atlantic) It's easy to imagine Sweden's beguiling and breathy Lykke Li levitating like a more talented David Blaine over her delicate songs. She plays the part of the intriguing wallflower so perfectly that you're constantly left wanting more.