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'World Cafe' Picks 2008's Top 10 CDs

It wasn't the best year for music, but 2008 sure churned out a lot of it: In a marketplace flooded with more music than ever, there's rarely been less of a consensus. Your neighbor's iPod was most likely playing a different tune than yours was. Maybe it was a matter of listeners having less time to fall in love and more time for serious flirtations. Either way, here are the 10 albums that best kept me interested through multiple listens.

Click here for more entries in the Best CDs of 2008 series.

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1. Kings of Leon

It's fascinating to me that the current great rock hope doesn't come from the indie side of the aisle, but from what passes for mainstream nowadays. Europe embraced Kings of Leon well before the U.S. did, and now this band of brothers has sneaked up on us. I love at least seven songs on this album, and that is not the norm.

2. Vampire Weekend

We'll have to wait and see if these post-collegiate wonders have staying power, but there's more going on here than just blogger love. Those snaky guitar lines and yelped vocals were catchy enough to function as a summer soundtrack for many, myself included.

3. TV On The Radio

I love that when this album was released, TV on the Radio's members did interviews saying essentially what this album says quite eloquently: "It was never our intention to be simply critics'-darling art-rockers." A few strong melodies, and they have what we can call a hit album.

4. The Hold Steady

Stay Positive may not be the best of all possible Hold Steady albums. But, combined with the band's no-holds-barred live shows, it shows that the group certainly "built something this summer." People talk about singer Craig Finn's wordiness, but really, his belief in rock 'n' roll values is what's built The Hold Steady's avid following.

5. Death Cab For Cutie

This one held up since the beginning of the year. Writers jumped on calling it "prog," probably because "I Will Possess Your Heart" opens with a long instrumental section. But there's no noodling on this tune-filled album, which demonstrates once again that sales and substance aren't mutually exclusive.

6. Fleet Foxes

Members of the Pacific Northwest band Fleet Foxes seemed surprised by their own success, but this lush, gorgeous record is just undeniable. The group was ready to break out from the moment it released its debut, and it's gratifying to see that happen.

7. The Felice Brothers

Maybe I have a thing for music made by brothers who seem a little unreconstructed. I'm betting that the next Felice Brothers album -- coming early in 2009 -- will be a major breakthrough. But for me, it's enough to soak in this introduction to the Band-like group of storytelling rough-housers.

8. Thievery Corporation

The D.C. duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have been making this exact sort of dubbed-out roots/rock/reggae for years. But, oh, is this record good. With guests ranging from go-go superstar Chuck Brown (of Soul Searchers) to Femi Kuti, Radio Retaliation feels like a house-rocking event.

9. The Walkmen

I find myself playing this Brooklyn band's latest over and over again, soaking in its subterranean guitars and only occasionally decipherable lyrics. I can't find a "hit" for the radio on it, but it works so well as a whole that it may be my favorite full-length "album" experience of 2008.

10. Raphael Saadiq

I could have swapped out this fine, retro-leaning soul record for any number of great debuts -- by Santogold or The Ting Tings or Little Jackie. There were a lot of fun, frothy 2008 releases that hearken back to mythical lost summers. But Raphael Saadiq had the best album cover.

Copyright 2008 XPN

David Dye
David Dye is a longtime Philadelphia radio personality whose music enthusiasm has captivated listeners of World Cafe® since 1991. World Cafe is produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania.