There's just one last piece of unfinished business to clear up before we proceed any further - the top 10 albums of 2008. These, for my money, were the best and brightest, smartest and most sublime releases of last year. Here they are, from bottom to top.
10 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes: A great band that treads the same dangerous ground as Arcade Fire without seeming so pretentious about it. Yes, the arrangements are complex and the '60s influences obvious, but the band churns through those murky waters with such aplomb that everything old seems new again.
9 Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It: Another collector of sounds, Mr. Saadiq conjures up classic soul and R&B that sound at once like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding while remaining rooted in contemporary culture. A courageous and infectious collection.
8 The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely: Initially, despite his protests to the contrary, this band seemed to be little more than a side project for White Stripe Jack White. The band's second release finds the group much more cohesive, and the unique musicality of Mr. White is an essential, rather than odd, element of the band's arena-ready guitar rock.
7 TV on the Radio - Dear Science: An amazing amalgamation of pop, post-punk rock and electronica, Dear Science is built on a clear and complicated gimmick. It's a gamble that could well collapse under its own weight. In the assured hands of this Brooklyn band, however, it flourishes, offering unexpected sonic treats at every tuneful turn.
6 Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell: One of the early pioneers of country-pop crossover returns to his roots with this album of unexpected covers. The erstwhile Rhinestone Cowboy turns in takes of tunes by the likes of Green Day, Foo Fighters, the Replacements and Velvet Underground, making each sound like the rich, beautifully produced sequel to classic songs such as Galveston and Wichita Lineman.
5 Dead Confederate - Wrecking Ball: The fact that this band has local ties has nothing to do with this album's inclusion on the list. The fact that it melds slow-burning psychedelic grunge with a Southern gothic sensibility does. A great record from a band clearly on the rise.
4 Alejandro Escavedo - Real Animal: A collection of songs that serves as both excellent entertainment and memoir, this record traces the prolific Mr. Escavedo's musical evolution from the primitive punk of his mid-'70s band the Nuns to his current role as the grand master of alternative country. It's a breathtaking album, in terms of both scope and skill.
3 The Black Keys - Attack & Release: Stripping away much of the heavy electric blues of its early work, this innovative duo produced an album of expansive and sometimes spacey songs while retaining the full sound that continues to win fans. The Black Keys remain the act that the White Stripes want to be when they grow up.
2 The Knux - Remind You in 3 Days: This brother act could well represent the future of American hip-hop. A blending of Outkast grooves, roots rock and Prince-heavy guitar, the group innovates and reinvents the structures and strictures of rap on every track. What's amazing is that the tunes never sound forced or experimental. Instead, they seem to be the natural extension of musical interests and inspirations.
1 The Hold Steady - Stay Positive: A band that could have easily neutered itself with such a studio-slick record, the once raw-and-ready Hold Steady instead pleases former fans with a wall of punk-via-arena rock guitars and wins over the uninitiated with a series of surprising story songs built on the idea of character. This is a record I liked initially and learned to love over time. Give it a couple of spins. It's a classic creeper.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626or email@example.com.