Headphone Commute’s Best of 2008

What a great year! As I began my survey of the music that has left its imprint on my mind in the last twelve months, the entries quickly grew from ten, to fifty, and to one hundred and twenty five! How can I reasonably classify, rate, or group all of this music? And have I actually listened to all of the below entries? I have… Numerous times… Which is why it is especially difficult to compare one album to another. Each, a small macro universe of its own, a message wrapped into an auditory communication protocol, a memento of time embedded in memory. And what about all the music that I missed? By now I am completely convinced that it is not possible to keep up. Even for someone like me, who consumes on average five new albums a week. That is why lists like these are essential. A little stamp on a date which forces to reflect. And even it’s not final. Revisits and addendums will continuously warp the entries, imploring to come back and listen one more time. I would be absolutely grateful, if you find an album on here that speaks uniquely to you. Than my job has been complete. Meanwhile, I begin my long journey into albums that I failed to notice, as I pour over other recommendations and numerous lists.

This year saw an astonishing development in modern classical and ambient. It could be that the genre has grown on me more. But judging by the overall international appeal, it’s surely picking up. 2008 saw many artists familiar with the edgy breaks and micro-programmed beats drop the percussion altogether and recede into the realms of bliss and calmness. Dubstep continues to evolve, with the world looking towards UK for the latest and the greatest. Electronica and IDM keep getting crunchier and more experimental with a touch of melody for taste. Breakcore and drum’n’bass is becoming even more complex and definitely louder. Minimal techno has receded a bit into tech-house, restraining from the pounding grinds. And post-rock blended into shoe-gaze, into instrumental rock, and into indie, with a flavor of its own. Or at least that’s my take on it, and the direction that I’ve been heading in.

To present a list without ratings, I offer you the albums grouped in tiers, and sorted alphabetically. The 1st tier of 10 albums are the absolute must of 2008. They are all rated #1 in my mind, and can’t compete for that one desired place. In the 2nd tier I introduce the 25 albums that are truly the very best of 2008. I could rate them all #2 as they make up the top of the crop of the releases. In the 3rd tier of 40 albums, I go over the essentials of 2008 – the music that this year couldn’t be without. In the 4th tier are all the honorable mentions and compilations spanning another 50 albums. I assure you, that all of these are still getting playtime on my rotations. The 5th and final tier, is an aggregation of all the additional albums (not mentioned above) that have come from my readers. This list of 50 albums has been compiled from over 1200 entries with over 600 being unique. Lets just say that I spent a few hours in Excel to pivot, aggregate, and sort. The resulting entries are unique on their own, and many even new to me.

So enough of my chatter. Dig into the lists, the music, and its essence. Feel free to send your comments my way, submit something that I missed, or let me know if you’ve found something here that has left an impression on you. It is truly what keeps me going. And one more final thought. The digital age offers unlimited capabilities of distributed piracy. And I’m not here to preach. But if you truly love the music, then please go out and buy the album. Support the artist and the label. Without them this would be empty. And they give us so much more then a dirty cash can buy. Thank you. See you in 2009!