Okay, so I actually have no idea if Todd and Brian have heard these records, but if they did they would surely agree that they're awesome.
If after Christmas you have a little extra money in your pocket, I would recommend trying to purchase a Senate seat in Illinois. Or investing in Bernard Madoff's latest endeavors.
Barring either of those, though, you could always spend the cash on these four records. These are, in my limited experience, four of the five best albums of the year--the previously discussed Fleet Foxes being the other.
They're exactly the type of records you'd like, if you liked this type of thing. (Arranged in alphabetical order.)
Lie Down In the Light by Bonnie "Prince" Billy
His best record since I See a Darkness. Mr. Oldham's most country-based record to date finds him crafting songs that celebrate, rather than mourn. The near-perfect counterpoint to the masterpiece that was Darkness, it's basically a big wet sloppy kiss on life's stubbly neck.
Cut: "Easy Does It"
Jams: "For Every Field There's a Mole"; "I'll Be Glad"
Furr by Blitzen Trapper
Not only is this the best album of 2008, it's in the running for the best record of the 1970's. It's warm, playful, and poignant. It's modern, but rooted in much of the music rock and roll fans hold dear. They trust the overwhelming strength of their songs and just let them be. It's not a collection of songs, it's an honest-to-goodness album. And a terrific one, at that.
Jams: "Not Your Lover"; "Lady On the Water"
North Star Deserter by Vic Chesnutt
Let's get this out of the way: Vic Chesnutt is brilliant--and criminally underrated. He came back this year with two wonderful releases, this being the proper solo release. Where his last two albums have fallen slightly flat, North Star Deserter does the flattening. Joined by a raucous Thee Silver Mt. Zion (and its offshoots), Chesnutt couples his distinctive croon with the orchestra to mesmerizing effect, creating an album full of musical twists, turns, and surprises--which are only fitting considering the nature of Mr. Chesnutt's lyrical content. The album is consistently as rewarding as it is challenging. It gets very quiet at times, and very very loud at many others. But it never ceases being good. Very, very good.
Cut: "You Are Never Alone"
Jams: "Everything I Say"; "Splendid"
Rook by Shearwater
Rook will not make you happy. But luckily, music doesn't need to. This is a haunting, fragile album with songs that are dynamic and gripping. Moving from a near-operatic falsetto to a rough-hewn belting out between verse-and-chorus, or even within them, Jonathan Meiburg gives his songs an emotional heft not heard since Jeff Buckley. The thing is, Shearwater's better.
Cut: "The Snow Leopard"
Jams: "Rooks"; "The Hunter's Star"