Adventures In 2008: Top 40 Albums (#40-30)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yes, it's that time again. Time for yet another obligatory end-of-the-year wrap-up of all that was grand in the year of 2008. All the blogs and "elite" music sites and publications are doing it, so why can't I? Thus, I folded into peer pressure and decided to compile a list of my 40 favorite songs and albums from the year and the reasons why I chose them. These are honest lists and since I love a shameless list...I had a whole lotta fun compiling them!

The Top 40 Albums of this year were albums that I personally enjoyed from beginning to end and kept on costant rotation all year long. Just like with the top songs, I had a tough time narrowing the list down...but the Audio Diva has prevailed! So if you haven't heard of something...just click on the titles and read more information on some great albums that you missed out on!

40. Gravity At Last-Ayo: After hearing Ayo’s lush 2006 debut, Joyful, I was pretty darn psychic in knowing that the Germany born vocalist/guitarist would be back and ready to hypnotize once more. On her sophomore release, Ayo gives us a riveting blend of Soul, Blues, Reggae and Folk and avoids the sophomore slump at all costs. The horn peppered opener "I'm Not Afraid" is worth the price of admission alone as well as the rousing "Maybe (Ayo's Blues") as both tracks show Ayo in a vibrant light. She remains true to her ballad formula though, as the haunting ode to her drug addicted mother will bring a tear to your eye.

39. The Point Of It All-Anthony Hamilton: Mr. Hamilton is so darn slick on this effort that it was hard for me not to include him on this list. He is clearly a smooth operator as he glides effortlessly through a tapestry of 70's inspired grooves that showcase his Southern Soul and Gospel roots wonderfully. Songs like the angelic, "Diamond In The Ruff" and an ambitious two-part gut bucket soul number called, "Prayin' For You/Superman" show that Anthony continues being the honest soul trooper he is.

38. Pocketful of Sunshine-Natasha Bedingfield: You must know that I loved Natasha's 2005 debut album, Unwritten so mucho much that anything released after it will no doubt be under my critical ear. Well, I stand corrected as Pocketful of Sunshine is Natasha back in her groove, delivering that warm pop n' soul with lyrics that seemed ripped from your personal journal. Songs like the whimsical "Backyard", electrifying thuds "Not Givin' Up" and Reggae tinged, "Happy" make for a solid set. Taking her favorite songs from her 2007 overseas only release, N.B. and mixing in new material, POS is what you love from Natasha and then some.

37. Purpose-Algebra: Algebra is a type of math that I seriously loathe. On the other hand, Algebra Blesett is a singer whom I seriously adore. The Atlanta native bounced into 2008 with her debut album, Purpose in tow and got me excited for some fresh new blood in the neo-soul circuit. Talented in voice and in writing credits, Algebra is guided brilliantly by producer Kedar Massenburg and the outcome of Purpose is a 14 song collection of songs that divides it's time between updated Philly Soul ("Halfway" and "Run and Hide") and club ready R&B joints (a shoulda been hit in bouncy, "Tug Of War").

36. Day & Age-The Killers: Horn sections! Sax solos! Oh, my! The Killers go Duran Duran Rio-esque and drift away from the gristle grit of 2006’s Sam’s Town and the stark new wave of their 2004 debut, Hot Fuss. This is a more light-hearted, poppy and spiffed up Killers. It fits them well as the album glitters and gleams with gems like the high charged first single, "Human", a spooky chant march called, "This Is Your Life" and a song suited for the crooning on stage at the Copa ("I Can't Stay")...serious. On their third outing they literally "smile like they mean it".

35. 19-Adele: The first thing you notice about 19 is of course Adele's searing jazz meets folk songstress vocal tone. It's the real attraction on this stirring collection of songs. Adele made a splash in the States with her debut album this year and engaged everyone with hit track, "Chasing Pavements" and her ability to turn a ballad into an art form again. Adele is not all somber and tissues as the infectious bop of "Cold Shoulder" grooves in all the right places. Surely an artist to watch in 2009 as she preps for her follow-up, and makes room on her mantel for those Grammys she's sure to win.

34. Sol Angel and The Hadley Street Dreams-Solange: Shockwaves hit the world when Solange was freed from the Knowles dungeon and unleashed an album that is more inventive and engaging than anything her older sister has tried to cook up on three albums. Solange’s 60’s revival is a nice blend of what was good about Motown and Phil Spector era pop. The snazzy percussive ditty of “Sandcastle Disco” is at the helm but a throw in an tribute to Marvin Gaye, a swinging “Dancing In The Dark” and a finger-snapping ode to one night stands (“T.O.N.Y.”) and you’ve got something quite enchanting. Oh, and with production by The Neptunes, Cee-Lo, Mark Ronson and Soulshock & Karlin put Solange in good standing. Considering I began 2008 thinking Solange was just another lousy star sibling, it's quite monumental that I'd be praising Solange for a job well done...Beyawnce who?

33. Still…-Conya Doss: Conya is now on album number four and she erm...still manages to be neo-soul's best kept secret. As I wait for Conya to get some Jill Scott-esque exposure, it's nice that she kept the music playing in '08. On Still..., Conya is just plain poetic as she draws you into her sultry and sweet domain. There are so many good things going on here that it's hard to pick a winning moment. Still if was forced, tracks such as the charming "Can't Stop", jazz club come on "Emotions" and the UK Garage of "Right On Time" are just too irresistible not to mention.

32. Songs For You, Truths For Me-James Morrison: My love for British lad James Morrison runs deep that I think in 2009 my BFF Brittany and I will be doing daily ritualistic chants over James's "You Give Me Something" in hopes that he'll tour the States...but for now we will just settle for playing his sophomore effort twice a day. "Undiscovered" no more, James continues to put his gruff soulful vocals to brilliance as Songs For You...picks up where his debut left off. The best moments are when James gets Donny Hathaway-esque on tracks like the cracklin' "Nothin' Ever Hurt Like You" and the melodic street corner doo-wop of, "Save Yourself".

31. Chasing Lights-The Saturdays: Sure The Saturdays can be viewed as the poor record producer’s answer to Girls Aloud but the UK bred gal group is just as engaging and their debut album is FUN with the Caps Lock button on…oh, and a few exclamation points at the end. Caffeine charged pop-dance awaits the ears and since I've been jonesing for what was so girl power friendly about the Spice Girls in the 90's this was right up my ally. While electro-shock singles "If This Is Love" and "Up" are perfect pop cheesecake, I adored the snarky, "Issues"right off the bat for one lyric: "Can't decide whether to stab you or kiss you"...whoa. Me loves.

30. Black Rose-Hil St. Soul: One of my 2008 resolutions was to finally catch up to what London based duo, Hil St. Soul were doing for neo-soul...and let's just say it was a resolution I had no problem accomplishing (cause that "stop drinking carbonated drinks" thing didn't work). So when popping in Black Rose for the first time and hearing the first chords of "Wash Away", I knew members, Hilary Mwelwa and Victor Sawyerr were going to be apart of my collection for years to come. Neo-soul never sounded so elegantly put together and with intricate word play on love and current times, Black Rose is a musical journey worth taking. Stops to take are the reflective relax of "Sweetest Days" and the beautiful string driven "Gravity".

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