Posted by: Nar Williams | January 2, 2009

THE NERDVANA AWARDS: Best Music of 2008

Introducing the first annual Nerdvana Awards! For the first week of 2009, I decided to look back at all the things that helped me Achieve Nerdvana in 2008. There was no voting or complicated algorithms involved. These are simply the things I geeked out over the year: movies, tv, music, technology, books, and people included. Today’s category: Music!


This is the only Nerdvana Award category that I had to settle on a tie…. 

Modern Guilt by Beck


First up is my Godfather of hip/cerebral/geeky/electronic/folk/rock: Beck.  Modern Guilt is his best record since Mutations, and that’s saying a lot, considering his work over the last ten years has all been great. Co-produced by Danger Mouse, Modern Guilt features Beck’s signature psychedelic sound coupled with some pretty apocalyptic lyrics  (“If I could hold hold out for now/ With these icecaps melting down”).

My favorite cut on the record is “Chemtrails”, a mesmerizing song unlike any I’ve ever heard before. If a spaceship landed tomorrow and an alien dressed like Klaatu came out holding a guitar, I’m pretty sure this is what it’s song would sound like. From Rolling Stone: 

 Beck imagines jets flying above a sea full of dead people. The song title comes from a conspiracy theory that holds that some jet trails are actually chemical sprays engineered by the government for secret purposes. But you don’t have to know the reference to feel the dread. Staring at the corpses, Beck sings, “So many people, where do they go?”

Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes


An instant classic of indie/folk rock, Fleet Foxes was the record I played on repeat the most this year. Gloriously retro in sound, the band sings the kind of harmonies not heard since Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and soaks them in reverb for an album that is only missing the hiss of an old vinyl LP.

The Seattle five-piece delivers 11 songs that are pastoral, Celtic, Americana, classic rock, hippie, and pop. But most impressively, it transports you to another place — a place with lots of grass, trees, and birds. The lyrics and music are so steeped in nature I’m surprised they didn’t record it in a cabin in the woods. 

My favorite song on the album is “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”, an eeire ballad that sounds like it could of been written and performed by a traveling bard from a George R.R. Martin book. It’s a beautiful record and a dazzling debut for undoubtedly the most exciting new band of 2008.

Here’s a live video of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”:

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