Top 10s for 2008: It's a Trap! (albums)

We liked a lot of albums in 2008, but there weren't so many that we loved. In fact, quite a few of us had trouble filling out a full top 10, myself included. Some of us didn't even bother. Personally, aside from a few notable exceptions as you'll see below, I found myself drawn to the past far more often than the present. And yet, here I am again, with yet another year-end list. Go figure.

So with a rather large grain of salt, let me present to you It's a Trap's 2008 top albums of the year.
- Avi Roig

10. Siena Root - Far from the sun (Transubstans)
Graveyard and Witchcraft get all the acclaim, but Siena Root is the better band.

09. Nitad - Ibland kan man inte hindras sig själv (Kranium/Deranged)
Fucked Up, another band who put out one of 2008's best releases ("The chemistry of commmon life"), have moved far beyond the realms of hardcore. Nitad have stepped up to take their place.

08. Park Hotell - Free for friends (Ultra Radio Records/BD Pop)
I can't stand Morissey, yet somehow some Swedish acts are able to take his influence and turn it into something wonderful. If only more indiepop bands were as good as Park Hotell.

07. Katzenjammer - Le pop (Propeller Recordings)
I fully expected Detektivbyrån to be my favorite folk-crossover act, but these ladies from Norway snuck in ahead of them.

06. Hello Saferide - More modern short stories from Hello Saferide (Razzia)
Even better than I hoped. The perfect follow-up to the first album.

05. Johan Heltne - Vetenskapliga bevis för att Jesus lever (Raffaella)
A beautiful and beguiling album. So weird and mysterious, so absolutely entrancing.

04. Montys Loco - Farewell Mr Happy (NONS)
Of all the bands on my list, these ladies are the only ones to truly create something new and unique sounding. Sweden's most consistently underrated and underappreciated band.

03. Haust - Ride the relapse (Fysisk Format)
If there's a more pissed-off, evil sounding album in 2008, I haven't heard it.

02. Lukestar - Lake Toba (Phone Me Records)
A full year later and I still love this album just as much when it first came out.

01. The Goner - H-Trilogy: Hind hand, Hallartrallar, Haven (Svarta Markaden)
I realize it's pretty lame to put a series of limited cult releases at #1, yet no other artist this year has intrigued me as much as The Goner. "Hind hand" blew me away when I first heard it, the following two were even better.

Jonas Appelqvist

10. Wildbirds & Peacedrums - The Snake (Caprice Records)
This headstrong indie duo got me convinced at a festival gig this summer. And when I heard "The snake" for the first time I was hooked. It's that good.

09. Frida Hyvönen - Silence is wild (Licking Fingers)
Frida goes from strength to strength and with this album she has established her status as one of the finest songwriters in Sweden right now. Don't believe me? I dare you, listen to "Dirty dancing" and you'll know what I'm talking about.

08. Paper - An object (Novoton)
A homage to Suicide, Joy Division and monotonous kraut rock. The mix between The Bear Quartet and Audionom is a win-win. Literally.

07. Satyricon - The age of Nero (Roadrunner)
With massive walls of sound this Norwegian old school combo decided to continue to piss off black metal fans that claim they're not "true" anymore. Hell, when it sounds this good, I couldn't care less.

06. David Sandström Overdrive - Pigs lose (Razzia)
David Sandström and Oskar Sandlund went into the studio and came out with an astounding album only surpassed by early career move Refused.

05. Lack - Saturate every atom (Play/Rec)
2008 turned out to be the year of resignation for Lack. At least they got to resign at the peak of their career; "Saturate every atom" is proof of that.

04. Britta Persson - Kill Hollywood me (Amigo)
Britta released this album with a somewhat secluded approach and it was received with open arms by almost everyone. Sounds contradictory? It's not, just pure genius.

03. Cult of Luna - Eternal kingdom (Earache)
It just goes to show, these guys don't know how to fail. Top notch!

02. Division of Laura Lee - Violence is timeless (I Made This)
Göteborg's finest spent three years in the studio. The result, Fugazi-esque punk rock, shows that it was worth the wait.

01. Lukestar - Lake Toba (Phone Me Records)
Indie rock at its best - edgy, melodic and, at the same time, raw and hard hitting as hell! The number one spot was, even in January, Lukestar's spot all along.

Matt Giordano

06. Vapnet - Döda fallet (Hybris)
Their track record has been making consistently good albums, and this is not an exception.

05. Robert Svensson - Young punk are on the never-never (Nomethod)
A fantastic pop album that has me looking even more forward to the next Mixtapes and Cellmates record.

04. The Kid - Transient blood (Hybris)
On their second album, The Kid has transformed themselves into brooding pop masters.

03. Paavoharju - Laulu laakson kukista (Fonal)
A beautiful, cold, meandering album. Not only does this album sound natural, it sounds symbiotic with nature.

02. Markus Krunegård - Markusevangeliet (V2/Universal)
He's made classic albums with Laakso, and a great Hets album. Now Markus is a bonafide solo artist, and, with this maintains that he's one of the best songwriters around.

01. Juvelen - 1 (Hybris)
One of my most anticipated of the year. Ten songs, ten potential singles, yet one cohesive pop statement. Juvelen is here to stay.

Lars Garvey Laing-Peterson

10. Division of Laura Lee - Violence is timeless (I Made This)
This is a total gut decision. Part of me is not okay with this result, but enough of me is perfectly alright ousting at least five other contenders to make room for this dirty, energetic album in my top 10. Despite giving this album only an 8, it has survived in far better standing than a few 9s from this year. "LAX" has been on quite a few of the mixtapes I've made for friends over the past few months, and DoLL launched my brother and I across America this summer... I couldn't imagine 2008 without "Violence is timeless".

09. Robert Svensson - Young punks are on the never-never (Nomethod)
Mr. Svensson lost considerable ground on this list, especially compared to the first draft I worked up a few weeks ago. Still, even at number nine, "Young punks are on the never-never" made it. A wonderful debut solo album from Mixtapes & Cellmates' vocalist, marking the beginning of what is sure to be a fine career.

08. Park Hotell - Free for friends (Ultra Radio/BD Pop)
This top 10 list is populated with a lot of debut records. "Free for friends" is definitely one that I had been waiting for, and it didn't let me down. It's a perfect autumn record: tracts of introspection still fuelled by the reckless hope of summer days.

07. Kiki Pau - Let's rock (Pyramid/Johanna Kustannus)
While I was completely surprised by "Book of Norma", I at least knew who Norma were. Kiki Pau are my favorite surprise this year. Their style of indie rock is confident well beyond their years, harkening back to "Meat is murder"-era Smiths, contemporary NYC garage, The Clash ... and any album with a song titled "Bukowski" (with the lyric: "Steinbeck made me want to get drunk") gets my vote.

06. Convoj - Exceptionnel (Wonderland)
This latecomer also forced me to reconstruct my list. It was all about complete, too. Oh well. Convoj's "Exceptionnel" is a brilliant record, more than deserving of a top 10 spot.

05. Håkan Hellström - För sent för edelweiss (Dolores)
If it weren't for all the summer memories I attach to "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust", Hellström's effort would be in fourth place. The fact that this album is in fifth place is a testament to the creative forces at work in Northern Europe. When I first heard this record, I was pretty sure it would be in my top three albums of the year. How wonderful it is to be so wrong. "För sent för edelweiss" has become my favorite Håkan Hellström album, just edging out "Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg".

04. Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL Recordings/EMI)
The fact that Sigur Rós took risks on this album when they could have skirted by with "Takk pt. II" impresses me. It may not be their finest album, but it's fun, kinetic, and lush; everything we expect from the Icelanders, and yet something quite different, too.

03. Tiger Lou - A partial print (Startracks)
I struggled a little with "A partial print" at first, but it eventually won out. As I wrote in my review, the album is "a collage, a collection of images, all of them darkly beautiful extensions of the emotional landscape of "The loyal", but the connections between these impressions can take some time to present themselves, but they will, and then "A partial print" comes fully into being."

02. Markus Krunegård - Markusevangeliet (V2/Universal)
While I gave "A partial print" higher marks, "Markusevangeliet" has been a valued companion of mine since April -- and there's something to be said about resilience. I said back then that I thought Laakso frontman Markus Krunegård had possibly crafted the best record of the year... and, although I might have proven myself wrong, his accomplishment is by far one of the best solo records in recent memory.

01. Norma - Book of Norma (Novoton)
In a damned impressive year for Scandinavian music, my top prize goes to "Book of Norma". It's been a while since I have been as taken aback by a record as I was with Norma's latest effort, the first album I have ever given a 10 to here on It's A Trap! Just an absolutely brilliant album.

Arnulf Koehncke

10. Ane Brun - Changing of the seasons (DetErMine)
Someone wrote somewhere how well recorded this album is -- I can't help but agree. The songs are good too and it's actually the first Ane Brun record that I can really relate to.

09. Audrey - The fierce and the longing (Tenderversion)
Honestly, this record sounds a lot like their last one. That's a good thing in Audrey's case -- I think it's really rare that a band is this well defined regarding both songwriting and sound-aesthetics.

08. Fredrik - Na na ni (Jezebel)
It surprises me how much I still like this record. I didn't think it would be such a grower -- guess I was wrong.

07. Snöleoparden - Snöleoparden (Rump)
I just like the whole of-the-cuff playfulness and complexity that this record embodies. I dare anyone to listen to the daycare-singalong second track and not smile.

06. Hello Saferide - More modern short stories from Hello Saferide (Razzia)
If you'd asked me in the beginning of the year, I'd probably have predicted this album to top my year-end list. Well, it hasn't completely gotten me hooked yet, though I totally agree with all the praise for Annika's development. And "Lund" has already become a personal favorite of mine.

05. Bobby and Blumm - Everybody loves... (Morr Music)
This record is just so playful -- there's so much to discover in F.S. Blumm's guitar work and Ella's charming voice. It makes me wish I could see them live again.

04. V. Sjöberg New Jazz Ensemble - Do nothing 'til you hear from me (iDEAL)
Another great record, though it needs patience and concentration to really enjoy it as a whole. It's just great how it builds up all this tension with its drones and suspense curves only to then release the listener with a soothing return to tonality in the next to last track.

03. The Radio Dept. - Freddie and the Trojan Horse (Labrador)
Too bad their album was delayed until next year. This EP showed such potential with all its Prefab Sprout'ish moments and melodies. And it even delivered some nostalgia to me as a long-time fan when I listen to the hidden track's distortion and overdrive.

02. Vapnet - Döda fallet (Hybris)
It's amazing: This record is such an instant classic that I almost didn't think of it as a 2008-release. And doesn't that already say all there is to say?

01. Auton - Anywhere out of this world (Structures Sonores)
This record is just so good (which is why my review of it is just so overdue). Incredibly virtuosic yet never overbearing musicians that shift from straight-out jazz to drone to post-rock to Satie-like piano moments with such casualness and grace. My Scandinavian record of the year. Go to the label website now and order copies to give away as christmas presents ;-)

Nancy Baym

10. Don't I wish I could put something here. Like the Caesars. What a bummer that record was.

09. Mikko Singh - Uskotko että siellä on kukkia? (self-released)
An almost-entirely instrumental record that's somewhere between pop and new age, equally well suited to a massage or mellow downtime at home. Very pretty with some nice elements of fun.

08. Violent Years - s/t (Playground)
A fine contribution to the southern gothic alt country genre with many outstanding moments and at least one truly great song.

07. Kusowsky - Något speciellt (self-released)
Kusowsy are so unabashedly singalong guitar pop that I feel a little guilty enjoying them, but everytime a song from this EP showed up on shuffle this year I found myself stopping to smile.

06. The Social Services - It's nothing personal, it's national security (Stereo Test Kit)
Only 1/3 Scandinavian, but she's the singer so she gets extra credit. It's a smart, eclectic, cynical, funny, and loose indie pop album.

05. Tiger Lou - A partial print (Startracks)
I really wanted to love this record, but don't. As background music its dark, hypnotic and self-contradictory sound is stunningly close to perfect, but on close listening its repetitiveness becomes abrasive in ways I don't think were intended.

04. Markus Krunegård - Markusevangeliet (V2/Universal)
On his solo record, Krunegård avoids most of Laakso's glam excesses to deliver a powerful and rich electronically-driven yet organic and seductive sonic environment.

03. Vapnet - Döda fallet (Hybris)
They don't stray too far from the distinctive, poppy, and borderline corny sound of their previous recordings on this one, but that's a good thing because they are one of the most calming make-you-happy bands going today. I highly recommend this as a soundtrack for either hanging out on a warm beach or cleaning house, cooking, and other mundane chores of daily life.

01. Madrugada - s/t (Virgin/EMI)
Faced with the sudden death of their guitarist and an album 80% completed, Madrugada did the right thing by finishing it up. Even without the tragic back story, it's a powerful and mature rock album that I am still listening to regularly almost a year after its release.

01. Detektivbyrån - Wermland (Danarkia)
In a very disappointing musical year, this instrumental genre-collapsing folk album based on accordion and glockenspiel was the one extraordinary surprise. Everyone I've played it for ran out and got it immediately. You should too.

Simon Tagestam

10. Nordpolen - s/t (Sincerely Yours)

09. Joel Alme - A master of ceremonies (Sincerely Yours)

08. Envelopes - Here comes the wind (Brille)

07. Håkan Hellström - För sent för edelweiss (Dolores)

06. Markus Krunegård - Markusevangeliet (V2/Universal)

05. Love Is All - A hundred things keep me up at night (What's Your Rupture?)

04. Afasi & Filthy - Fläcken (P.O.P.E.)

03. Frida Hyvönen - Silence is wild (Licking Fingers)

02. Moto Boy - s/t (Songs I Wish I Had Written)

01. Vapnet - Döda fallet (Hybris)