The 25 Best Albums & Singles of 2008

7. M83, Saturdays=Youth

M83’s Saturdays=Youth is a nebulous haze of an adolescent fairy-tale nightmare, beginning with a wispy cloud of a song (“You, Appearing”) and the repeated refrain “It’s your face/Where are we?/Save me,” moving fluidly into the dreamy detachment of “Skin of the Night” and the exuberant “Graveyard Girl,” and ending with a somber Lynchian drone. Anthony Gonzalez’s most mature and accessible album to date perfectly embodies the drama and the heightened sense of practically everything that defines youth. Cinquemani

8. Erykah Badu, New AmErykah: Part One (4th World War)

Like her Worldwide Underground, Erykah Badu’s New AmErykah: Part One (4th World War) is a promise and benediction, lush with big beats and even bigger ideas, braving to suggest that hip-hop has become a mode of learning more crucial than religion. Grandiose and intense, it pays homage to the teacher, the solider, the dreamer, the healer, the telephone—which is to say, the messenger. Gonzalez

9. Santogold, Santogold

Santogold, née Santi White, has a plan. The new new-wave sound of Santogold recalls the Pixies, Blondie, Siouxsie & the Banshees, even Grace Jones, and across a sea of slippery, incantatory, and wise little songs, this immaculate dabbler ruminates on the forces of change, understanding the political significance of personal action and creating a pop record full of startling emotional doubt and great musical scope. Gonzalez

10. Why?, Alopecia

With Alopecia, Why? fashions a bizarre storybook of twentysomething anxiety out of equal parts vivid lyricism and cavernous, hip-hop-indebted instrumentation. Yoni Wolf’s gift for unsettling, super-precise images is on brilliant display here, and one can only nod fervently along to the bathroom-stall revelations, jokes about sexual idiosyncrasies, and scenes of blowing chunks in the parking lot behind Whole Foods. Wilson McBee

11. Islands, Arm’s Way

It’s not that no one thought Nicholas Thorburn was capable of an album as sprawling, death-obsessed, and gorgeously overproduced as Islands’s Arm’s Way, there was just little reason to expect it would come so soon. Layering on the pop daredevilry that often appears dangerously close to crashing and burning—even while singing extremely catchy songs about crashing and burning—Thorburn solidifies his spot as one of music’s bravest auteurs. WM

12. Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights

An album of Sleepless Nights’s caliber would stand as career-best work for just about any other mainstream country music star from the ’90s, but Patty Loveless has set the bar for herself entirely too high over the course of her celebrated career. Still only her second-or-third-best album, this is nonetheless a testament to Loveless’s mastery of traditional country forms and an indictment of how too many of the genre’s current stars have diluted that music’s soul. Keefe

13. Jamie Lidell, Jim

There’s nothing groundbreaking about Jamie Lidell’s shiny new time capsule of a second album, and while that’s kind of the point, it’s also probably why it didn’t make much of a broader impression. Songs like the gospel-tinged sex-strut “Wait for Me” and the hushed ballad “Rope of Sand” are sparely produced and structurally faithful iterations of timeless forms. Progressive soulman Lidell has demonstrated his facility with funk and soul before, but Jim finds his songs stripped of any customary futurism. DH