Santogold, Santogold (Downtown/Atlantic)
6. The Foals, Antidotes (Sub Pop)
7. T-Pain, "Chopped 'N Skrewed" (Jive)
8. Tapes 'N Tapes "The Dirty Dirty (Recession Remixes)"
9. Jamie Lidell, Jim (Warp)
10. Hottub, "Man Bitch" (LeHeat)
THEO SCHELL-LAMBERT'S TOP 10 OF '08
10. The Kills, Midnight Boom (Domino)
Hince and Mosshart's latest was forceful and impressively consistent, which, yes, meant it was professional, and which, no, didn't mean it was soulless. The pair spotted the rhythmic snap and hypnotism in '60s playground sing-alongs. Working with these features instead of nostalgia or camp, they had the basis for a percussion-driven '00s rock.
9. Steinski, What Does It All Mean? 19832006 Retrospective (Illegal Art)
Steve Stein's influential '80s tracks were extreme hip-hop: not only any song, but any sound that society had made could be sampled and woven into his boom-box fabrics. Of course, this made for legal nightmares. In 2008, we got the gift of a straightforward packaging.
8. Benga, Diary of an Afro Warrior (Tempa)
The Croydon dubstep man shoved the movement forward with Warrior, but he played it as a nudge. An eclectic, graceful, and terrifically undogmatic outing, it seemed to stroll along the Thames, picking up a new rhythm in each neighborhood. Through that, it remained fierce.
7. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
When you head off to the cabin in the woods to record your masterpiece, it doesn't tend to work out well. You realize the woods are cold and boring, and that you are missing some helpful equipment. Justin Vernon's excursion into the Wisconsin snow should inspire a new crop of such failures, because it polishes the myth. In its austerity and bone-cooling effect, Emma recalls a more focused Bonnie "Prince" Billy.
6. The Magnetic Fields, Distortion (Nonesuch)
In 2008, soaking an indie album in Jesus and Mary Chain noise was about as original as what Bon Iver did (see above). Yet it too worked. Critically, Stephin Merritt never let his latest become a disc about texture: he knew that the key to noise pop is the pop. And Distortion delights in the girl-group drums and pert melodies while dramatically cringing at the feedback it pretends is just part of every record. "Drive on, Driver" is more indebted to Fleetwood Mac than anyone else.
5. Lucinda Williams, Little Honey (Lost Highway)
We extend the same sort of charity to Lucinda Williams as we do Chan Marshall we just really want those gals to be in a happy place. For the first time in a while, Lucinda cut a studio set with optimistic poetry, and Honey not only warmed anyone who got close to Essence or West (both Lost Highway; 2001, 2007), it even matched the elegance of those discs and with a way juicier palette.
4. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (XL)
The culture-jamming ("Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa") wasn't as deeply meaningful as some held, but the light touch with which it arrived made the record a bit of a marvel. It was sweet, it was for parties, and it had nothing to do with Paul Simon. And the lyrics cribbed from freshman classes at Columbia were remarkably workable and unsophomoric.
3. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III (Cash Money)
Wayne has a monopoly on ink. What doesn't make it onto his neck goes into his paeans. Both outlets the tats, the praise can seem excessive, but the latter just keeps on being reasonable. Wayne is the rapper as post-rapper, deliciously self-aware. Rapping is a funny thing to do, and rap albums are increasingly funny things to make. He's getting inside it: looking with awe at that thing he just said, then riffing off it, then riffing off that, wheezing and grunting until his syllables morph, and enjoying himself.