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James Reed's top CD picks of 2008

December 14, 2008
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BEACH HOUSE, "Devotion" (Carpark) As if recorded by candlelight in a haunted house at midnight, the gauzy sophomore album from Baltimore's Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally featured yet more songs that are as much about mood as meaning.

SANTOGOLD, "Santogold" (Downtown) Straight outta Brooklyn, Santi White steamrolled indie-rock fans this year with her infectious blast of fierce electro-pop and hip-hop perfect for the dance floor or the nearest block party.

EL GUINCHO, "Alegranza" (XL) Like a summer walk along the boardwalk after a hit of acid (so I'm told), the debut from Barcelona-based musician Pablo Díaz-Reixa was an exhilarating roller coaster ride through Afrobeat, Tropicalia, and psychedelic pop.

JENNY LEWIS, "Acid Tongue" (Warner Bros.) And for her next trick, the Rilo Kiley singer turned the lights down and the guitars up for a bluesy set of country rock that bore all the Lewis hallmarks - clever wordplay, precious vocals, and an effortless charm.

FACES ON FILM, "The Troubles" (self-released) Local singer-songwriter Mike Fiore released this album on his MySpace page, but it deserved a broader audience. From a tea kettle that whistles on "Natalie's Numbers" to Fiore's elusive lyrics, "The Troubles" sounds like a private affair straight from the heart.

LARKIN GRIMM, "Parplar" (Young God) No doubt this year's only folk album to sound like it was made by a witch huddled over a bubbling cauldron, Grimm's debut on Michael Gira's Young God label was by turns creepy, feral, and evocative.

THE RAVEONETTES, "Lust Lust Lust" (Vice) Another year, another underrated gem from this Danish duo who cranked up the fuzzed-out distortion and girl-group vocals for some of the heaviest and most melodic indie rock of 2008.

ESTELLE, "Shine" (Atlantic) Top 40 radio was abuzz with the hit "American Boy," featuring Kanye West, but the British MC really shone on her sassy kiss-offs and soulful love songs forged in the Lauryn Hill school of hip-hop.

RODRIGUEZ, "Cold Fact" (Light in the Attic) Splitting the difference between Dylan and Donovan, this long-lost classic from cult '60s singer-songwriter Rodriguez was reissued and sounded as evergreen as ever.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND, "Vampire Weekend" (XL) / DELTA SPIRIT, "Ode to Sunshine" (Rounder) The Vampire Weekend backlash lasted longer than the initial love-in, but all hype aside, the band made an addictive pop record propelled by its African influences. Meanwhile, Delta Spirit flew way under the radar, but it too captured a youthful vitality in a ho-hum year for indie rock.

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