Billy Bragg Mr Love & Justice - in this momentous election year, the man who has dedicated his life and music to political action gave us his most intimate and introspective record yet, without losing the passion that has characterized this beloved firebrand 's career.
- "Classic Bragg: frequently fantastic folk-rock that keeps both the faith and your attention." -Village Voice - "Rather than being a return to form, it 's a leap forward in maturity, depth and nuance." -Paste
Bob Mould District Line - It is near impossible to calculate the level of impact or influence that Bob Mould has had on the last two decades of modern rock, from the Pixies to Nirvana, to Green Day to Daft Punk. District Line combines the fire of Mould's earliest work in Husker Du, the accessibility of his alternative rock, genre-defining trio Sugar, and the introspection found in his solo releases.
- "District Line is a Â¬focused, gripping zigzag between fury and woe, scorched rock and folk-pop distress, much like the HÃ¼skers' best records--now with a longer view." -Rolling Stone
- "He's rarely been more compelling." -Spin
DeVotchKa A Mad and Faithful Telling - 2008 found the Denver indie band -- who beautifully combines Eastern European bohemia with American prairie rock and south of the border melodies -- coming into their own with sold out tours, festival appearances at Coachella, Lollapalooza and Red Rocks, and a record that charmed everyone from the Eastern bloc (a rare appearance in Moscow) to the online community (the much-discussed use of a DeVotchKa track on the Gears of War trailer)
- "Huge indieâˆ’rock anthems and luteâˆ’driven ballads defined by infallible melodies, heartbreaking arrangements, and dark, funny lyrics. It leaves you wondering whether to weep or dance." -Esquire
- "Cheerful, eclectic lunacy with a heart as big as the world * * * * " -Spin
Islands Arm 's Way - the 2008 release found the young, critically-acclaimed Montreal sextet heading in a surprising new direction. Their 2006 release, Return to the Sea, was heralded as a stunning work of impulsive outbursts and emotional explorations. Arm's Way saw the band naturally evolving a more lavish yet centered sound that showcased songwriter Nick Thorburn's astounding talent.
- "Freaky, transcendent stuff." -Filter
- "A rich tapestry of pop from a band that has fully coalesced under his [Nick Thorburn] self-proclaimed benevolent dictatorship. Their latest Arm 's Way is a sophisticated, majestic and visceral journey into the limelight." -Village Voice
Jolie Holland the Living and the Dead - the young songwriter with the incomparable voice adds rock n roll to her impressive resume that already includes folk and country and jazz on her third studio album with help from co-producer M. Ward and guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello). The results are hailed as a career best from critics and widely embraced by fans.
- "Jolie Holland's voice beguiles like something from an old 78.... she channels the folky, sultry, blues Joni Mitchell trademarked and conjures her own stunning takes on lost lovers and sly approaches." -Elle
- "Her fourth - and perhaps best - album foregoes the smoky speakeasy atmosphere of 2006 's Springtime Can Kill You for a more contemporary roots sound, which provides a more evocative backdrop for her signature vocals." -Paste
Lyrics Born Everywhere At Once - not just the title of Lyric Born's Anti Records debut but a statement about this most industrious multi-tasker's vida loca. The lyricist, producer, label exec, and non-stop live performer (2008 saw world tours, festival appearances and television gigs) never rests on his laurels and is always changing sh*t up and Everywhere is a perfect example: bored with the drum machine and over licensing rights, LB gathered a crew of top musicians and made a real live record, full of funk and feel, grooves and guts, topped off with Lyrics Born's unmistakable signature smoothness and loquacious flow.
- "Near-perfect party record...propelled by sweet soul melodies and rumbling funk grooves reminiscent of the Gap Band and the Ohio Players...crunchy, unstoppable beats that will have you coming back from more." - Mother Jones
- "On his second solo album, he sounds transformed - festive and celebratory, his smarts undiminished." -Vibe
Man Man Rabbit Habits - Part swampy juke joint brawlers, part smooth Philly warehouse doo-wop crooners, with a sprinkling of wild-eyed, demon-haunted art hustler, and a hint of punky kindergarten playroom Pollyannas, Man Man brought their incomparable vision of "pop music" to bear with Rabbit Habits. 2008 saw the roustabouts on tour non-stop with labelmate Tim Fite, indie darlings Yeasayer and at every festival ever conceived (Coachella, Bumbershoot, SD Street Scene, ACL, Voodoo)
- "While the band still has its head in the clouds, or beyond, it has made its finest, most listenable album to date." -Filter
- "One of the year's best rock albums (devoid of nearly any guitar parts, mind you)." -Pitchfork
Mavis Staples Live: Hope at the Hideout - Mavis Staples saw her life 's work singing alongside Dr King and marching for civil rights redeemed with the 2008 election results, and suddenly this live record, full of gospel classics and freedom songs, is a testament to the uplifting hope and certainty of success that has marked her 50+ year career.
- "Whether fronting the Staples Singers or on her own, Mavis Staples has always fared best in a live environment, where her powerhouse of a voice can take any lyric and transform it into an inspirational anthem...this is Mavis Staples at her fiery best." -Relix
- "She sat in at lunch counters and marched with King..now Mavis' marvelous new Live: Hope at the Hideout revisits that era with personal recollections and brilliantly evoked songs from (or recast for) the movement... if this concert doesn't get your heart pumping, check your pulse." -Philadelphia Daily News
Michael Franti & Spearhead All Rebel Rockers - 2008 saw some well-deserved recognition for the indefatigable Micheal Franti and Spearhead. Their sixth studio album cracked the Billboard Top 40 (debuting at #39) for the first time. They drew an unprecedented 70,000+ fans and activists to Michael 's Power to the Peaceful festival in San Francisco and closed out the acclaimed KCRW World Music festival at the Hollywood Bowl, keeping the 17,000-strong crowd dancing through the set. Television appearances, 130 tour dates, film festivals and more kept the hardest working band in rock cheerfully occupied for the year.
- "An album of shimmying, pop-reggae...it 's a well deserved holiday in the sun." -Rock Sound
- "More specific, hopeful, and incendiary than ever....All Rebel Rockers represents his most canny mixture of political topicality and musical accessibility." -Utne Reader
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! - if there was a single record that came out to universal acclaim this year, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is definitely a top contender. Nick and mates kicked off the year as Plug Impact Award honorees, and high profile nominations from the Q Awards and Mojo and two wins at the Austrailian Age awards (Best Band and Best Album) fueled the international recognition. The record has already made the "Best Of" lists of Blender, Mojo, The Guardian UK, The Times UK, Uncut and Paste magazines. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have been tapped to curate the inaugural Australian All Tomorrow 's Parties, their Hollywood Bowl performance was one of the shows of the year and Nick talked smack with Terry Gross on NPR 's "Fresh Air." It was a very good year.
- "The album is a triumph from first to last." -Observer Music Monthly
- "t's not every goth-punk fiend who can celebrate his fiftieth birthday with an album as loud, filthy and brilliant as Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" -Rolling Stone
One Day As A Lion One Day As A Lion - the reemergence of the year was less about Axl Rose and all about Zack de la Rocha. His incendiary partnership with Jon Theodore in One Day As A Lion set the music community aflame with some of the most aggressive and original recordings heard all year. The two are currently at work on their full-length release, coming soon.
- "Wrathful and unyielding, the music pushes Rage's revolutionary essence further into the faces of listeners, eliminating any chance at misinterpreting these calls to arms as mere boogie-down rock." - LA Times
- "One Day as a Lion bristles with the street-level vigor that band [RATM] once embodied." - Time Out New York
- "There isn't any filler here; it's all the aural ignition of a gasoline bomb going off in your ears." -All Music Guide
Tim Fite Fair Ain 't Fair - Fair Ain't Fair is a collection of the most seasoned, reflective and charming work the genre-defying Tim Fite has ever produced. On it he growls about greed and avarice, topics manifest in last year's Over The Counter Culture (the acclaimed, free, web-only release which has topped 100,000 downloads this month), but told here with more empathy, more human-ness - perhaps signs of a deeply engaged artist growing up.
- "His new album confirms that this enigmatic, genre-bending songwriter is one of rock 'n ' roll 's most subversive renaissance men." - Esquire
- "One of those albums that defies anyone to categorize or ignore it." - Chicago Tribune
Xavier Rudd Dark Shades of Blue - dusky and cool, the album is more sober than any work Xav has ever done, though it should not be mistaken for temperate. Guitar-driven jams, mixed by Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age), expand on a sound only hinted at on previous releases, and distortion often supplants the pretty jangly guitars heard on earlier work. Xav spent 2008 touring the world and scoring surf films like Matthew McConaughey 's comedy Surfer, Dude and the documentaries Highwater and Between the Lines.
- "Occasionally I encounter a work that so eloquently describes the human condition that my futile attempts to capture its essence in a review seem almost absurd. This album is one such work. Xavier Rudd's Dark Shades of Blue is an absolute tour de force and unequivocally his most powerful work to date." -Jambase