In which I increase my music cred by 0.00002%

Here in the waning days of 2008, I have been occupying my time by reading those “best of” lists that the end of the year always brings. I was especially interested in the music ones because hey, I actually have six albums that came out in 2008. This is not normal for me. I don’t usually follow or care about what is going on in current music, but I don’t suppose that I have to tell you that 2008 was not a year of usual or normal.

Not surprisingly, a list that included some of my favorites from 2008 was voted on by NPR listeners. I was however surprised (albeit delightfully so) to find Amy Ray’s Didn’t It Feel Kinder on the Chicago Sun-Timeslist of the 50 best albums of 2008.

I’m not kidding myself that my personal list of the best albums of 2008 has any clout. I mean, I already confessed to owning only six. (Guess how many are on my list? Hint: Six.) The long NPR list (I think it was 100) had only fifteen or so albums I had ever even heard of, let alone heard, but I found 2008 to be a good year for music so I’m going to share, in no particular order.

Detours Sheryl Crow I bought this album right before I went to see the Indigo Girls in Richmond back in May so I didn’t really listen to it until about three or four months later. Like Wildflower, it took me awhile to get Detours. Now that I understand, though, I love it. I especially like the way that “God Bless This Mess” sounds (as in sound quality) like a 60s protest song recorded on vinyl. “Drunk With the Thought of You” is my favorite on this album, but “If It Makes You Happy” is still my favorite Sheryl Crow song of all time, in case you’re keeping track.

Funhouse Pink I first became aquainted with this album when Pink sang “So What” on Ellen. She had barely finished the song and I was already asking Andy to find a torrent. While I didn’t love this album enough to buy it, I do love it a lot. It became my end-of-the-semester soundtrack. I mean, with lyrics like “I’m the instigator of underwear/ showing up here and there,” how could I not turn it up and dance around the living room while I put up the Christmas decorations?

Juno Soundtrack This is pretty much a universally-liked movie, but the soundtrack is delightful in its own right. It has the same earnest, quirky indie feel that the movie has. It is utterly, unavoidably likable. It makes me happy in a pure-and-simple way, not a complicated, I’m-glad-there-is-art-like-this way.

Didn’t It Feel Kinder Amy Ray What a surprise this album was! I didn’t know what to expect because the internet was swirling with rumors that she was experimenting and pushing boundaries. I’m pretty much a status quo kind of music listener. I don’t do too much branching out so I was nervous. But I should have had more faith in Amy Ray. This album is a masterpiece. She does challenge herself musically (lyrically she was already amazing) but she never stops being Amy Ray. As long as she stays Amy, I’ll stay with her.

Glowing Bird Arizona I bought this album because Arizona opened for Amy Ray when I saw her in Chicago. They also play on some of the songs on Didn’t It Feel Kinder so that means they actually know Amy. They have to be cool, right? They are. I met one of the guys from the band after the concert. I know, I’m such a groupie. Anyway, it’s a really fun album. There is a song called “Swimming Hole” that I can’t get enough of. There is also an interesting song about Heath Ledger, and one called “Whiskey or Wine” that gets at a universal situation: sometimes you want whiskey, sometimes you want wine.

19 Adele I had heard of Adele, but I hear about a lot of things that I don’t pursue. (People talked to me about Barbara Kingsolver for years before I picked up The Bean Trees. I come at things in my own time.) Then Adele was on Saturday Night Live and I couldn’t ignore her anymore. She is like a less-tragic Amy Winehouse, which is nice because I find myself always holding my breath when I listen to Winehouse, just wondering if she will make it through the song without going nuts or falling over dead. All similarity to Amy Winehouse aside, Adele has an old-fashioned yet timeless quality in her voice and her style. “Best for Last” is my favorite one this album because of the way she combines vulnerability with stubborn independence as her voice pleads, pushes, and cracks just a little.

So you can talk to me about 808s and Heartbreak, and I am familiar enough with Britney’s new album to crack a few jokes. But the above five albums represent mostly what I was listening to in 2008 (plus a little a lot of Indigo Girls) so try not to expect a lot.