Amanda Hu/the Gauntlet

Best in show - Music

As the holiday season draws near, the Gauntlet is here to provide you with our music and movie top-10s for 2008. Read on for great stocking stuffer ideas and more!

Publication YearIssue Date 

This year saw wide musical variability with its musical offerings from folky riffs to poppy licks. There were also a ton of new players on the scene, making some tight competition for established groups.

10. Lykke Li-- Youth Novels

Swedish cutie Lykke Li mixes delightful vocals with some familiar drum grooves-- from producer and Peter Bjorn and John's Björn Yttling-- and various electronic accents in Youth Novels. "Dance, Dance, Dance" takes the album's theme and colours it with floating string interludes, bouncing on top of simple bass and rhythm while "Little Bit" sees Li singing about her love in the most endearing way, all held together with a background pulse growing into the chorus with synth backing and random percussive hits.

9. Bodies of Water-- That Certain Feeling

Few bands who all learn their instruments to be in the band experience the success Bodies of Water has this past year. That Certain Feeling includes Ghost Bees-esque female harmonies leading into full-sounding gang vocals with ease and mixes conventional guitar riffs with surprisingly simple drum beats. "Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey" features powerful wailing with horn accents and a chugging groove, setting the tone for the whole album. Tracks like "Darling, Be Here" take a slightly more rock sound with distorted guitar and driving bass lines, acting as a good counterpoint for the more folk offerings.

8. Department of Eagles-- In Ear Park

An audio representation of the autumn season if there ever was one, Department of Eagles takes a melancholy and personal turn in In Ear Park, channeling the sound and talents of its shared members from Grizzly Bear. The album makes positive light of slightly muddy production and an almost old-fashioned feel. "Herring Bone" takes affected vocals over heartwrenching piano parts while "Balmy Night" features completely overtaking banjo picking with airy vocals and accent whistling sounds.

7. TV on the Radio-- Dear Science

TV on the Radio's highly-anticipated 2008 release sees the group, yet again, undergo a highly successful reinvention of sound while still showcasing their undeniable musical talent. Tunde Adebimpe's vocals are in fine form throughout the album, interacting on a familiar but still perfect level with Kyp Malone's cutting falsetto. "Halfway Home" features a sneaky and catchy, endearing double-time groove shift from verse to chorus setting the tone for the rest of the album, while "Dancing Choose" sees Adebimpe's energized rapping before it breaks into a boppy chorus, complete with simple yet effective guitar picking and underlying baritone sax.

6. Born Ruffians-- Red, Yellow & Blue

Toronto trio Born Ruffians make some of the most fun music to listen to. Luke Lalonde's boyish looks and vocals drive the peppy offering, interplaying with perky, sporadic guitar strumming and unconventional melodic bass and drum lines. "Hummingbird" holds all the energy of twee without the unappealing saccharine sweetness, as Lalonde's voice bounces on top of a head-bopping bass part, rim hits and scale-climbing guitar, all culminating in a perfect gang vocal climax.

5. Chad VanGaalen-- Soft Airplane

Chad VanGaalen's third full-length release shows most of the Calgary staple's quirky charm with a noticeably refined and pulled-together sound. Gone are the days of scattered collections of tracks like in Infiniheart and Skelliconnection, making way for Soft Airplane's cohesive sound. VanGaalen delves into a more electronic feel for tracks like the perfectly danceable "TMNT Mask," but manages to pull it back to his audio roots with "Willow Tree," adeptly using simple banjo, understated accordion and accenting vibraphone in perfect harmony.

4. Beach House-- Devotion

Beach House's 2008 offering starts off with the shaker-driven, pseudo-tropical track "Wedding Bell," beckoning thoughts of waves washing over a pristine audio beach. Victoria Legrand's ethereal vocals paint the entirety of Devotion with a slightly melancholy and haunting feel, working well with the sparse drum machine beats and flowing guitar parts. "Gila" encompasses Devotion's laid-back feel with octave keyboard parts and floating background vocals permeating the track through out.

3. Women-- Women

Calgary indie darlings Women came onto the scene with a vengeance in 2008 with their Chad VanGaalen-produced, self-titled offering. Women is the result of running tracks through shitty tape recorders and megaphones, featuring an endearing and dirty-sounding lo-fi aesthetic. Flegel brothers Pat and Matt channel Pet Sounds with their Beach Boys-esque vocals, especially in "Black Rice," and present the best use of completely out of tune guitars in the delightfully atonal "January 8th." The track goes further in its excellence with understated drum rolls underneath ongoing twangy hits. Women's variability makes it no surprise the band has garnered such high praise from gorillavsbear.net and indietastic stalwart Pitchfork Media.

2. Marnie Stern-- This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That

Marnie Stern shreds on guitar harder than nearly anyone. This Is It features Stern's signature crazed guitar riffs and riot grrl-esque vocals mixed in perfect harmony with Zach Hill's (of Hella) superhuman drumming. Stern's creations take a decidedly math rock tinge before she melts your face away with an insane solo or two. "Simon Says" takes mind-bending time signature shifts and mixes Stern's insane riffs and Hill's fills with complete ease and demonstrates the sheer amount of musicality and adeptness on This Is It.

1. The Dodos-- Visiter

Mixing hearty blues riffs and tom-driven grooves, duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber create a surprising and delightfully full sound in their first LP. Long's folky finger picking and pitch-perfect voice flawlessly interacts with Kroeber, who uses his knowledge gained in the surprising arena of heavy metal to his advantage as well as contributing various yelps and falsetto vocals. "Red And Purple" displays the Dodos' virtues well with Long scrambling all over his guitar strings with thundering tom beats, trash can hits and mini piano tinkling accenting underneath. Visiter is a variable offering that maintains an impressive level of coherence as an album.