Defined by artists whose sound is different from the mainstream, Indie music has evolved into a wide and varied sound, typified by the best Indie albums of 2008. From punk-infused rock to college radio favorites, Indie artists have broken new musical ground by introducing a wide range of sounds. From the retro 60’s pop of She & Him to the haunting, folk-laden melodies of Bon Iver, these artists have injected new life into music’s primordial ooze. What follows is a list of the best Indie albums of 2008.
- “For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver. Following the breakup of his previous band, Deyarmond Edison, along with the heartache of a failed relationship and a devastating liver infection, Justin Vernon retired to his father’s cabin in the woods of Wisconsin intent on recuperating. He would emerge from his period of isolation was one of the best Indie albums of 2008, "For Emma, Forever Ago." Armed with basic recording equipment, Vernon wrote all lyrics and music on the album and played all the instruments, editing the album with a large number of overdubs. Poignant and personal, the album covers the gamut of human emotions by reflecting the pain of loss and heartache with tracks like “For Emma, Forever Ago,” as well as the struggle to pick up the pieces and see the light at the end of the tunnel with bittersweet ballads like “Re: Stacks.”
- “Volume One” by She and Him. Actress Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter M. Ward, better known as She & Him, created what is arguably one of the best Indie albums of 2008, "Volume One." Touching on a shared nostalgia for California greats like Brian Wilson, "Volume One" features catchy 60’s pop tracks like the single “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” while also delivering slow, dreamy covers like Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” M. Ward’s amazing arrangements compliment Zooey Deschanel’s sweet and soulful vocals from start (with the stirring opening track, “Sentimental Heart”) to finish (with the delightfully charming ender, “Sweet Darlin’”) allowing Deschanel’s inspired lyrics to shine throughout the album that placed She & Him on the Indie map.
- “Fleet Foxes” by Fleet Foxes. The critically acclaimed debut album of Seattle-based Fleet Foxes, the self- titled album "Fleet Foxes" was one of the best Indie albums of 2008. Reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, "Fleet Foxes" was ranked Album of the Year by Billboard’s Critics Choice. In "Fleet Foxes," breezy, folk melodies punctuated by gentle acoustic guitars, keyboards, and kettle drums combine with flawless vocal harmonies in songs like “Sun it Rises” and “Meadowlarks,” to produce what the band has called “baroque, harmonic pop jams.” An amazing and solid album from start to finish, "Fleet Foxes" is a stirring and hauntingly lovely addition to the Indie genre.
- “Brain Thrust Mastery” by We Are Scientists. Following the success of their 2005 album, "With Love and Squalor" and the departure of drummer Michael Tapper, We Are Scientists produced one of the best Indie albums of 2008 with "Brain Thrust Mastery." A lyrical transition from "With Love and Squalor," the album featured fast and poppy singles like “After Hours” and “Chick Lit,” along with slower, edgier tracks like the opener, “Ghouls.” Serene love ballads like “Spoken For” tend to bring the album down a notch, only to be picked up again by tracks like the 80’s pop infused “Lethal Enforcer” which blends echoing drums with the driving tempos and lean guitars for which We Are Scientists have come to be known.
- “Grand Archives” by Grand Archives. Led by former Band of Horses guitarist Mat Brooke, Grand Archive’s self titled debut was one of the best Indie albums of 2008. Punctuated by echoing guitar strums and haunting vocals in songs like “Sleep Driving,” "Grand Archives" is certainly reminiscent of Band of Horses while deviating dramatically from Brooke’s previous band with country leanings in songs like “George Kaminski” and 60’s pop infusions like “Miniature Birds” and “A Setting Sun.” Overall, the band carved out a signature sound with carefully crafted instrumentals and rich vocals that defined "Grand Archives" as an album, and have continued to define the band ever since.