Columnist adds to the soundtrack of her life with favorites from 2008

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By The Staff

There is a quote by Erasmus that reads “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

If you change this quote to read “books, music, movies, and highly uncomfortable, yet lovely, shoes”, this could perhaps be my life’s mission statement. 2008 was the year I was on a first name basis with the clerks at my local music and book stores. Always a voracious reader and lover of music, I had apparently made it my mission to stimulate the economy by handing over most of my disposable income to the cashiers of FYE, Barnes & Noble and Half-Priced Books. What was left usually went to our local movie theater for several hours of entertainment and a large popcorn, no butter.

In an effort to justify my expenditures and share some of my favorites that I’ve found over the past year, I present to you my Best Music of 2008 list.

I’ve always loved music. I remember being 3 or 4 years old standing in the back seat of our car with my head in the back window between the speakers, listening to what was probably WAKY. My first favorite performer was Elton John, and not just because he had been on the Muppet Show and was obviously friends with Kermit the Frog.

I’ve gone through all the musical genres over the years, and both significant and small moments of my life have their own soundtrack. Middle school? The English New Wave and Duran Duran, whom I’ve never outgrown (check out their latest release, 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre). Senior Year? Cinderella, Randy Travis and singing “Grandpa” by the Judds while riding in my cousin’s car. Dating my husband? Roxette and Van Halen. The former artist reflecting his bad taste and the latter being my suggestion for improvement.

Most recently, I have rediscovered vinyl records and so my current soundtrack has the accompanying scratch and hiss. This past year has brought me amazing music, both live and recorded, and here are my favorites.

I love music from new artists, and 2008 had some outstanding debuts. English singer Adele released “19,” an album of songs that are fresh, but feel timeless. In the vein of Duffy, Amy Winehouse and Dusty Springfield, Adele brings a sweet voice to powerful pop melodies. “Chasing Pavements” is my favorite track and Garth Brooks fans will enjoy her surprising re-working of “To Make You Feel My Love.”

Israeli singer-guitarist Yoav released “Charmed & Strange,” a collection of haunting guitar and percussion driven songs. “Club Thing” is a hook-laden delight and Yoav’s voice is by turns angelic and dark on “One by One” and “Adore Adore.”

“Shine” by Estelle was danceable, groovable fun. While she teams up with several guest stars on this disc, most notably John Legend (“You Are”) and Kanye West (“American Boy,” the radio-friendly single), Estelle truly “shines” on the title track.

“May I Be Excused” by Trampled Under Foot, a trio from Kansas City, is a powerful album from such a young group. Bluesy and soulful, singer Danielle evokes the spirit of Janis Joplin while brothers Nick and Kris channel BB King and the Mississippi Delta. Listen to “Fog” or “Hot Headed Woman” and just try not to nod your head and tap your foot.

The last of my music picks for 2008 is Your Vegas and their debut “A Town and Two Cities.” This release is a hit from start to finish. Your Vegas, a young group from Leeds, England, creates pop-rock that is, in a word, amazing. Lead singer Coyle Girelli sounds a bit like a young Bono, and Mark Heaton on piano is heartbreakingly beautiful on “The Way The War Was Won.” Jon Langford on bass guitar and Mal Taylor on drums provide a strong percussive base for guitarist Mat Steel, especially on“Aurora.” This album is an instant classic and has been on heavy rotation at my house. If you get a chance, check out Your Vegas in concert this spring; they rock live!

An honorable mention to my favorite music of 2008 is Dom Brown’s “Touch the Flames” and “Between the Lines.” An English guitarist, Dom has released two albums of cool blues and hot rhythms. Echoing with the sounds of Buddy Guy, Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Steely Dan, these are two of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. Must-listens are tracks “Open Road,” “Rise” and the Radiohead-influenced “Stay” on “Flames.” On “Lines,” “Crocodile Tears” and “Chocolate Fever” are stellar picks from an exemplary work.

2008 has added some excellent discs to my music collection, and quite a few tracks to my personal soundtrack. Here’s to 2009 bringing us even more!