The Best Albums of 2008

Our music writers list their favorite albums of the year

AC/DC, Black Ice (Columbia)

While I'm still furious at AC/DC for making an exclusive deal with the corporate devil that is Wal-Mart, I can't deny that Black Ice delivers. Every song follows the AC/DC template, and they've honed it to a science. "Big Jack" would be even more brilliantly sophomoric if you substituted the name Dick in the title. I'm sure that's exactly what the band had in mind, too. Not a guilty pleasure; Black Ice is a required course. (John Sewell)

Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (Universal Motown)

Finally following up the stoned, extended huh-wha? of 2003's Worldwide Underground, mystery soul queen Erykah Badu goes further, and deeper, shucking off half-hearted attempts at contemporary radio bait for her own coalescing mix of moody boom-bip, incense smoke, and hip-mama wisdom. On the gamelan-flavored "The Healer," she proclaims hip-hop "bigger than religion" and "bigger than the government." Quiet as it's kept, she's getting pretty big, too. (Lee Gardner)

Beach House, Devotion (Carpark)

Hipster Nation predictably yawned at Baltimore's Beach House this year after fawning over their self-titled 2006 debut, but this is a band that thrives in the shadows, anyway. Classically trained singer Victoria Legrand and slide guitarist Alex Scally look and sound like they wandered off the set of There Will Be Blood, but they're not just setting moods with their trademark spooky organs and weepy minor chords. This album stays in the rotation because it's just as melodic as it is hypnotic. It exists in no particular time at all, and shows no signs of getting old. (Andrew Clayman)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (Anti-)

A lot more fun than Nick Cave's usual white-trash-blues caterwaul. On Dig, Cave inhabits the persona of an aging but still lecherous lounge lizard with several darkly funny tales to tell. Combining the schmaltzy sounds of Neil Diamond and Lee Hazelwood with a rock 'n' roll backbeat, Cave and company deliver a simpler sound that's literate but stripped of pretense, accessible but still menacing. (J.S.)

El Guincho, Alegranza (Beggars XL)

Imagine the reverb-drenched Beach Boys harmonies and hypnotic rhythmic obsessiveness of Animal Collective's Panda Bear combining with the sunshine-y pan-cultural pop bustle and whomp of Manu Chao. OK, you're done. There was no more happy-making recording released in 2008. (L.G.)

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

My Morning Jacket got weird this year, and their hired replacements Band of Horses were missing in action. Enter Fleet Foxes, the new saving grace for fans of not-quite-country reverb and Beach Boys mega-harmonies. This a pretty damn mind-blowing debut album, as modern pop efforts go. (A.C.)

Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna (The Social Registry)

Vampire Weekend got kudos (and scorn) for recasting Paul Simon's Graceland for a new century, but Gang Gang Dance reach back more to Talking Heads' Fear of Music. Which is another way of saying, yes, this is another gang of arty New Yorkers with great record collections, but their mash-up of club sounds, polyrhythms, wiggly guitars, gauzy veils, and siren songs feels organic, earned even, and completely of its time. (L.G.)

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III (Cash Money/Universal)

The year's biggest album—the first since 2005 to move more than a million copies in its first week—is also one of the best, a wildly ambitious, often unfocused and delirious tour through Lil Wayne's herb- and cough syrup-addled brain. "A Milli," in particular, a tripped-out, stream-of-consciousness bass-and-snare exercise, has changed the rules for radio airplay, or so one hopes. There's never been anything like this. (Matthew Everett)

Motörhead, Motorizer (Steamhammer/SPV)

Motorizer has all the requisite elements of the band's patented formula: thunderous drums, driving bass, ZZ Top-on-steroids guitars, and Lemmy's unmistakable amphetamine rasp. There's nothing new here, but Motörhead seems hungrier and more aggressive than they have in years. Watch your speed limit if you play this while driving. (J.S.)

TV on the Radio, Dear Science (Interscope)

It's no fun being obvious, and it's damn near shameful to draw the same conclusions as the geezers at Rolling Stone. C'est la vie. This was the year of TV on the Radio—again. It doesn't matter that Dear Science is probably only the third best record of the Brooklyn quintet's career. Nor does it matter that half the people who praised this little gem probably never actually listened to it more than once. We're trying to nominate a soundtrack for a little chunk of human history here, in our pathetic, overanalyzed way. And that's why TVOTR is winning so much this year. Nobody sounds like this band, and yet nobody touches on more aspects of what's great about current music, either. Dear Science is punk, funk, hip-hop, new wave, and rave. It's heavy like Radiohead but more pre-apocalyptic than post—kind of like Prince's 1999 when it's too close to be a joke anymore. (A.C.)