As 2008 draws to a close, I would like to look back at the year of new releases. Some bands released their best album of the last 10 years, while other bands continue to improve upon each new album. Here I present my favorite albums of 2008.
1. Metallica - Death Magnetic: This is the album that Metallica fans have been waiting for since "And Justice For All". A return to their heavy metal roots. This album features some of the best music the band has made in almost 20 years. Producer Rick Rubin helped the band find their direction and reaffirm their identity as the premier heavy metal group. James Hetfield's voice and Kirk Hammett's guitar playing is the best it's been in years. The rhythm section of Lars Ulrich on drums and Rudy Trujillo on bass gives these songs the energy that has been lacking from prior albums. Every song on the album surpasses the five minute mark and allows the listeners to get involved in the songs.
2. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology: Ryan Adams continues to make some of the best music of today. His song writing is second to none. This his 10th album in 8 years and his fourth with The Cardinals. The album is dubbed as "alternative country", but finds similarity to the sounds of the Grateful Dead. A great album to relax and absorb.
3. King Of Leon - Only By The Night: I know I've said it before, but this band keeps getting better with each album(this being their fourth). While the band has not taken off in the US as they have in other countries, their albums are some of the best albums made the last five years. This is the band's most successful album debuting at #5 and it also received 3 Grammy nominations for the band. Lead singer Caleb Followill's song writing and singing have improved as well as the band's instrumentation.
4. The Raconteurs - Counselors Of The Lonely: This is only the second album by this band led by the White Stripes' Jack White. The album was recorded, produced and released in a matter of weeks. The combination of Brendan Benson and Jack White on vocals and guitars are the best rock duo in music today. The album touches upon alternative rock, classic rock, country rock and blues. While their last album was only 30+ minutes long, this one more that makes up for it was its storied lyrics and unforgettable sound.
5. Guns 'N Roses - Chinese Democracy: It's the band's first album of new material in over 17 years. It also cost over 13 million dollars to make. On top of that, the album was sold exclusively through Best Buy. The album debuted at #3 in November and has since sold over 300,000 copies. The sound of the album ranges from Hard Rock to Blues to Orchestrated Ballads. With over a dozen different musicians on the album, the only constant is Axl Rose. It does feature some amazing song writing and performing as in the songs "Better" and "Madagascar". Was it worth the wait? No, but it is still one of the best albums of 2008.
6. AC/DC - Black Ice: AC/DC returned in a big way. Their album "Black Ice" debuted at #1 selling over 700,000 copies in its first week of release. The band made a deal with Wal-Mart to sell the album exclusively which did not seem to hurt the sales at all. While first half of the album is as good as anything the band has ever recorded, the second half seems to lose some of its power. After 33 years together, AC/DC still know how to rock better than anyone.
7. Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch: The band Mudcrutch was the name of Tom Petty's band before the formation of the Heartbreakers. Originally formed in 1970, the band released one single back in 1975 which failed to make the charts. After reviewing the documentary "Runnin' Down A Dream", Tom Petty decided to reform Mudcrutch and record an album. The album was a surprising success and the mini-tour was even more of a success. The fun of making this album is heard in the songs. This is how country rock albums should sound.
8. The Black Crowes - Warpaint: The band began recording this album in July 2007, after a 5 year layoff from each other. The Robinson brothers created some of their strongest work since their debut album. The Black Crowes brand of blues-rock is like nobody else. Songs like "Oh Josephine" and "Whoa Mule" help make this album a keeper. With very minimal overdubs, it makes the listener feel like their in the studio with the band. One of their best albums ever.
9. B.B. King - On Kind Favor: At 83 years old, B.B. King made one the the best albums of his career. With the help of producer T Bone Burnett, B.B. King took blues songs like, "See The My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Blues Before Sunrise" and made them feel like brand-new originals. The album carries a very basic sound that allows B.B. King's guitar playing to become the focal point and breathes new life into this blues legend.
10. R.E.M. - Accelerate: This is R.E.M.'s best album in over a decade. It debuted at #2 back in April, but quickly fell off the radar. The album is only 35 minutes long and is a very up-tempo album without any long, drawn-out ballads. I hope the band continues in this same vein of music writing.
2008 was the seventh consecutive year for a drop in CD sales. With slow first half sales, not even some of the biggest names in rock music could save the format. Universal Music Group declared that digital music sales surpassed CD sales. Even vinyl music saw an increase in sales this year. So, is this the end of CDs? With a grim outlook, the coming years will be crucial if the compact disc expects to have an extended shelf life or not.