The Best So Far, Revisited

Criticism and chronic listmaking seem to go hand and hand; we reviewers tend to jump at any excuse we can get to rank our top ten of pretty much anything. A couple of weeks ago, at the old blog, I posted a list of my ten favorite records of the year so far; but since I’ve moved to this locale; since it’s now July 1st, and we are officially halfway through with 2008; and since my friends David Kennedy and Jeffrey Overstreet have recently turned in halfway-point top ten lists of their own– it seems like a good time to do it again.

But actually, I have still another, even more significant reason for reposting this. This is the time of the year when I tend to gain some clarity and perspective on those albums released in the earlier months, which can sometimes lead to some major altertions in my picks. There are always a few albums that I deeply appreciate for their artistry, their vision, and their technical skill, but, for whatever reason, they don’t quite sink their teeth into me on a gut level. They don’t come to mean anything to me personally, and so, while I still regard them as superlative recordings, they’re just not finding much space in my regular rotation. I’d put the new Fleet Foxes and Portishead both into this category. Likewise, there are meaningful works of art that simply don’t move me because of where my own life happens to be. I don’t think poorly of these albums at all; they simply didn’t come along at the right time to become personal favorites for me– think Sam Phillips and Tift Merritt.

So, all that to say… these are the ten albums that I find myself coming back to, again and again, playing over and over. They entertain me, they move me, they give me perspective. They’re all strong contenders for my end-of-the-year list, and they’re all albums that aren’t just great, but meaningful to me personally.

1. The Tallest Man on Earth, Shallow Grave
(A Swedish man gets to the heart of American music better than any yank has in years.)

2. Ron Sexsmith, Exit Strategy of the Soul
(Review coming soon!)

3. Joan as Police Woman, To Survive
(Review coming soon!)

4. Marco Benevento, Invisible Baby
(Is it jazz? Classical? Pop? Yes, no, all and none of the above.)

5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
(The apocalyptic court jester of rock digs deep for a riotous album about sex, religion, growing old, and the end of the world.)

6. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive
(Review coming soon!)

7. Coldplay, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
(Chris Martin and Co. make good on their promise– finally!– with an album that’s expertly crafted and often thrilling.)

8. My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
(Southern rock meets Prince? Must be heard to be believed)

9. Barry Adamson, Back to the Cat
(Through the gates of hell and down to the beaten side of town.)

10. Shearwater, Rook
(Fables and fairy tales from rock’s most graceful ornithologist.)

So what am I missing?

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