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Jonathan Perry's top CD picks of 2008

December 14, 2008
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VARIOUS "Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-6"; "Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria"; "Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound of the Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-79" (Soundway) It's impossible to overstate the significance of these volumes documenting some of the most vital examples of Nigerian Afro-beat, funk, rock, and blues to be found anywhere.

GASLIGHT ANTHEM, "The '59 Sound" (SideOneDummy) Coming on like the bastard sons of Bruce Springsteen on a Replacements bender, this New Jersey outfit hit hard with a fistful of fiercely affecting anthems about broken heroes and hard-luck dreamers. Tough and tender rock 'n' roll for those who still care about such things.

NEIL YOUNG, "Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968" (Reprise) We're still waiting (and waiting) for the box set. In the meantime, this time capsule documenting one of Mr. Soul's earliest solo outings is an intriguing snapshot of the artist as a young man. Was Neil ever really 22? Here's the proof.

DUNGEN, "4" (Kemado) The Swedish outfit headed by Gustav Ejstes continues to delight with a universe of transmuting tones and textures that shape-shift from chilled-out instrumentals to fiery rock as quickly as Ejstes switches instruments.

BLACK ANGELS, "Directions to See a Ghost" (Light in the Attic) It makes perfect sense that a band named after a Velvet Underground song would make such a darkly delicious album full of fog, menace, and a woozy sense of narcotic oblivion.

JOSEPH ARTHUR, EPs "Could We Survive," "Crazy Rain," "Vagabond Skies," "Foreign Girls" (Lonely Astronaut) Arthur's ambition - releasing four EPs inside of a year - was matched only by his stylistic reach: lo-fi bedroom pop, questing folk-rock laments, space-rock. And that doesn't count the full-length he also issued this year.

MGMT, "Oracular Spectacular" (Columbia) When they were at Wesleyan University, these guys actually set out to write bad songs and alienate people. But this time, with disco dance beats rubbing up against freaky psych-pop painted Day-Glo colors, MGMT failed at their goal miserably.

CENTRO-MATIC/SOUTH SAN GABRIEL, "Dual Hawks" (Misra) Will Johnson, who leads both the noisy indie-rock combo Centro-matic and the contemplative South San Gabriel, lavished listeners with a terrific double album showcasing both outlets.

DAVID BOWIE, "Live in Santa Monica '72" (Virgin) For years a beloved bootlegged radio broadcast, this remains an essential document of an essential era for both Bowie (his first US tour in support of his monumental "Ziggy Stardust" LP), and rock music, whose face was changing as dramatically as Bowie's alter-ego was.

A.A. BONDY, "American Hearts" (Fat Possum) A decade after his '90s band Verbena turned into a Nirvana clone, the songwriter (formerly Scott Bondy) returns to form with a folk-blues album long on great songs and short on hype.

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