The year 2008 found me actually buying less music than in years past, although I’m sure my wife would disagree. While 2K8 wasn’t a stellar year for me musically speaking, it did have some standout moments, with some coming unexpectedly.

For instance, I was sure I was going to hate the 808s & Heartbreak album. That damn autotone has been played out this year. I had heard the lead single on the MTV awards show when Kanye premiered the song and liked it, but I wondered how he would pull off an entire album of it. The guy isn’t exactly Percy Sledge; for that matter, he’s not even Chris Brown. Then I heard the album and was blown away. For an artist to give a middle finger to what convention says they have to release, those are the moments that people remember. The minimalism of the 808s album gave the music room to breathe. I’m not sure another “hip hop star” could have pulled off an album like this.

James Pants: Cosmic Rapp
From Welcome (Stones Throw, 2008)

The second album I thought I was going to hate but ended up being one of my favorites of the year was the James Pants debut. When I saw the initial press release about Mr. Pants and heard the lead single, if I’d had a remote control, the channel up button would have been pressed right away. Electro hip hop isn’t typically my bag. But Egon was kind enough to sneak in a promo of the album, and I couldn’t just throw it away. So one day on my drive to work, I popped it in. Had I not been driving, I’d have busted out some cardboard and cut some moves – even if I can’t really breakdance. Something about this album makes me wanna pop and lock.

Then there were the albums I never would have given a chance had it not been for more surprises in the mailbox. Both came courtesy of World’s Fair, the distribution group that releases Daptone material.

Curumin: Misterio Stereo
From Japanpopshow (Quannum, 2008)

This gem is a hypnotizing little number. Brazilian native Curumin serenades his objet du coeur. I’d never heard of Curumin previously, although this was his sophomore effort. Chief Xcel and Gift Of Gab liked him so much after meeting him during a tour stop that they were able to help him get signed. This song goes to show they knew what they were talking about. Such a beautiful song.

Postmarks: One Note Samba
From By The Numbers (Unfiltered, 2008)

When I saw last month’s femme pop post, I immediately thought of this album. Lead singer Tim Yehezkely and her ethereal voice took me somewhere I hadn’t been since Goldfrapp’s “Pilots (On A Star).”

Q-Tip ft. Norah Jones: Life Is Better
From The Renaissance (Motown, 2008)

On the hip hop front, Q-Tip roared back from the majors ostracizing his previous efforts. Some of the material was combed from shelved projects Live At The Renaissance and Open and either used as-is or re-recorded. However, one of the standout cuts was his shout out to hip hop history with the haven’t-heard-her-this-funky-since-maybe-ever Norah Jones. Tip shouts out Dilla, Busy Bee, Rakim, Nikki D, and Lauryn Hill to name a few over a slinky keys and plucky bass guitar.

People Under The Stairs: Anotha BBQ
From Fun-DMC (Gold Dust Media, 2008)

Perhaps one of the most criminally underrated and consistent hip hop acts, Thes One and Double K released another funky outing. “Anotha BBQ” is the perfect way to describe their music. It truly feels like the soundtrack to a Saturday barbecue. You can always expect PUTS to cook up something funky. While word wizardry might necessarily be their strong suit, the lyrics perfectly marry the music.

And although this artist normally wouldn’t get categorized for this blog, John Mayer has really been doing some great bluesy styled work over the last couple of years getting nods from legends such as B.B. King and Albert King. If you were fortunate enough to catch one of his shows this summer, you got to hear him perform a sweet blues version of the Duffy hit “Mercy” with the backing band doing some nice brass work.

John Mayer: Mercy
Unreleased (but recorded with the artist’s permission for

Top Albums (in no particular order):

1. Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
2. The Final Solution – Brotherman OST
3. Q-Tip – The Renaissance
4. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band – Take your pick of their reissues on Warner UK or the live set and jams albums that Rhino Handmade issued
5. Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreaks
6. People Under The Stairs – Fun DMC (honorable mention to their Om Years 2-disc set)
7. James Pants – Welcome