I won't call these my favorite albums of the year, because the word "favorite" would lead you to believe that I liked these albums more than others. This is not true at all. There were several albums released in 2008 that caught my attention. Let's just say these were in the heaviest rotation at the Layne house, how 'bout that? So, in no particular order:
Metallica - Death Magnetic
Imagine if you woke up one day and realized you had been asleep for twenty years and someone says to you, "Dude! The new Metallica album came out today!" Then you went to the record store and bought this album and realized that this is just another in a long line of great Metallica albums. However, you'd never heard the Black Album, Load, Reload or St. Anger. In fact, you didn't even know those albums existed (especially the last three). This would be what you would expect of the next Metallica album.
My Morning Jacket - Evil UrgesIf you like My Morning Jacket, you will love this album. If you like Prince, Radiohead, Gov't Mule, Phish or any number of laid-back seventies love songs, you, too, will love this album. With Evil Urges it seems that My Morning Jacket really couldn't decide what kind of album they wanted to release, so they just threw everything they had at it and the finished product came out sounding like an old jukebox on random. Normally, this would piss me off. But that is exactly what I dig so much about it! Although I must say I like Z and It Still Moves much better.
R.E.M. - Accelerate
Normally, I really have to be in the right mood to listen to R.E.M. This is a band I have always respected, appreciated and paid attention to, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that they are one of my favorites. As much as My Morning Jacket ran the gamut of musical styles with their latest effort, R.E.M. did just the opposite. They stuck to the "two-to-three-minute-rock-song formula" and it worked for them. Less is certainly more in some cases and this is one of those cases. I guess the reason I really dug this album is that I didn't expect it! It might be the surprise album of the year for me.
Whitesnake - Good To Be Bad
I think everyone has things from their youth they carry around with them well into their adult years. For me, it's music and movies (i.e. Metallica and Star Wars). Back in the late '80's, Whitesnake released a self-titled album with those classic rock anthems "Still Of The Night" and "Here I Go Again". I still love that album. In fact, every time I hear "Still Of The Night" I have to crank it up! As Donnie Baker would say, "You have to crank it up, man. State Law!" "Here I Go Again", on the other hand, wore out its welcome years and years and years ago, in my opinion. The only thing I'll say about Good To Be Bad is this: If you play guitar and are heavily influenced by hard rock riffs that can tear the roof off an arena, this is your album. I think I've stated on here before... this is a 59-minute riff fest. It's just a solid rock guitar album. It won't go down in history as one of those albums that changed the world or anything, but its a great guitar album. Every time I play it, it takes me back to that self-titled Whitesnake album from the '80's and reminds me of a simpler time before mortgages, car payments, actual responsibilities, etc.
Ray LaMontagne - Gossip In The Grain
Sometimes we all just need to chill out and unwind for a bit, right? This was my chill out and unwind soundtrack of 2008. I love it when you hear an artist and immediately know who it is. Ray is the man, OK? He has a playing style and voice that are his and his alone. There is no mistaking Ray when you hear him. Great album from start to finish. Two thumbs up.
Kings Of Leon - Only By The Night
The only clever thing I can say about this album is that this is what I think U2 would sound like if they were from Nashville instead of Dublin. Great album from beginning to end. It's one of those few albums that you can put in, push play and get lost. Awesome!
I guess that'll do it for this year's list. I tried not to put any live albums on the list, although I really really really wanted to put Pearl Jam at Bonnaroo on there. But since it was only released on their website and wasn't really an official release, I opted not to include it. Also, because I was staying away from live albums, Dave Matthews Band at the Mile High Music Festival didn't make the cut, either.
I'm really anxious to see what 2009 has to offer music-wise. I know we're getting new albums from Chris Cornell, U2 and Dave Matthews Band (I'm sure at least two of the three have their spots reserved on next year's list already). But I want to be impressed. I want to be amazed. I want something new to move me. Where is the next great musical genius? I hope I find him/her in the coming year.