Last week I listed my favorite songs of the year. Today comes my most cherished annual tradition, the "favorite albums" list.

It's hard to get as passionate about albums as I did when I was a teenager. I like to think my scope of appreciation is constantly increasing, but I rarely appreciate anything as passionately as I cared for some of the soundtrack of my formative years. 2007 was an abberation, a year that saw me obsessing over the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Lil Wayne and Peter Bjorn and John like a giddy college freshman. Few records captivated me that way in 2008. With more new music coming out than ever, less of it seemed to resonate powerfully with me. Sensory Overload, indeed.

Still, a quick overview reveals that this year yielded plenty of transcendent musical memories. Many of the following albums were woven into those moments. Meanwhile, the annual December cram session yielded plenty of evidence that I'll be discovering and enjoying 2008 records well into 2009.

In the meantime, these are the ones I discovered before the year was out, records that left an indelible imprint on my year. Maybe they mattered to you during these past 12 months. If not, perhaps they'll shape your next 12. Either way, I trust everyone can find something to enjoy among these 30 LPs. Let's get to the countdown...

Last week I listed my favorite songs of the year. Today comes my most cherished annual tradition, the "favorite albums" list.

It's hard to get as passionate about albums as I did when I was a teenager. I like to think my scope of appreciation is constantly increasing, but I rarely appreciate anything as passionately as I cared for some of the soundtrack of my formative years. 2007 was an abberation, a year that saw me obsessing over the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Lil Wayne and Peter Bjorn and John like a giddy college freshman. Few records captivated me that way in 2008. With more new music coming out than ever, less of it seemed to resonate powerfully with me. Sensory Overload, indeed.

Still, a quick overview reveals that this year yielded plenty of transcendent musical memories. Many of the following albums were woven into those moments. Meanwhile, the annual December cram session yielded plenty of evidence that I'll be discovering and enjoying 2008 records well into 2009.

In the meantime, these are the ones I discovered before the year was out, records that left an indelible imprint on my year. Maybe they mattered to you during these past 12 months. If not, perhaps they'll shape your next 12. Either way, I trust everyone can find something to enjoy among these 30 LPs. Let's get to the countdown...

(30) TV Ghost — Television Ghost (Die Stasi) I thought about combining this with some of the other high-profile shitgaze LPs (Eat Skull, Blank Dogs, etc.) and giving them some joint award. (And to be honest, I still haven't heard that much-hyped Sic Alps album, which might trump them all.) But this groovy, grueling slab from Indiana stands out for me. Normally I gravitate toward the poppier corners of this scene, but the harrowing drama that swirls throughout these nine songs is too much spectacle to resist.
(29) Why? — Alopecia (Anticon) The greatest albums are often the ones that welcome you into a world all their own and then reward your time investment with superb songwriting. Yoni Wolf's bizarre hip-pop odyssey fits that bill.
(28) Sun Kil Moon — April (Caldo Verde) Almost every song on this album lasts too long. It's all morbidly morose. In terms of quality, it's definitely not the best starting point for Mark Kozelek's expansive catalog. Yet for all its faults, April is still better than almost every album released this year.
(27) Cut Copy — In Ghost Colours (Modular/Interscope) Finally caved to the hype about this one. I've never delved deep into the music of New Order, but I love New Order ripoffs, and Cut Copy is a brilliantly conceived, sample-happy update on the Madchester sound. I suspect this will creep up my favorites list as I spend more time with it.
(26) Flying Lotus — Los Angeles (Warp) If DJ Shadow and Prefuse 73 procreated, their spawn might sound like this jazzy, blippy trip through LA's dark side. Perfect to pop in the headphones while reading.
(25) Hot Chip — Made in the Dark (EMI UK) I have often praised acts that can inspire dancefloor contortions and melancholy self-reflection at once. Hot Chip gets extra kudos for being so goofy and still pulling that off.
(24) Young Jeezy — The Recession (Def Jam) To ease you through the economic crunch, the most commanding voice in hip-hop delivers more bangers for your buck than any other rapper in the game.
(23) Born Ruffians — Red Yellow and Blue (Warp) Upon revisiting Red Yellow and Blue this month, I found it to be more spastic than I had given it credit for at first and twice as catchy as I remembered. Nothing can top Born Ruffians' frantic live show, but their debut LP is a solid introduction to one of Canada's most promising young bands.
(22) The Raveonettes — Lust Lust Lust (Vice) Once again I'll cite Sasha Frere-Jones, who has explained this record's appeal (and its superiority over its primary influence) better than I can: "The Jesus and Mary Chain reduced Phil Spector’s production style to a bored dude singing over one very unmanageable distortion pedal. The Raveonettes reduce the distortion a little, keep all the reverb, and fill out the remaining space with spy music and a lady. The world is a better, dirtier place for it."
(21) Thomas Function — Celebration! (Alive) Hooky, organ-powered garage rock straight from Alabama. When the music's this fun, I can't say no.
(20) Kanye West — 808s and Heartbreak (Roc-a-fella) Sometimes I love this album. Sometimes I hate it. Either way, Kanye's ballsy, childish breakup opus always fascinates me. I can't wait to hear what our generation's premier pop auteur does next.
(19) Coldplay —Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (EMI UK) Chris Martin hoped this epic reinvention would help his band to truly deserve the "world's biggest band" tag that had fallen on them seemingly by default. He and his cohorts did an admirable job, crafting their best songs softspoken debut Parachutes.
(18) Wale — The Mixtape About Nothing (self-released) The DC emcee mines his Seinfeld gimmick brilliantly throughout, spinning the sitcom and its stars into enlightening explorations of stunted manhood and the evolution of that ever-precarious N-word.
(17) The Bug — London Zoo (Ninja Tune) A gruff, totally immersive tour of London's bleakest neighborhoods from some of its most talented minds.
(16) Jay Reatard — Matador Singles 08 (Matador) "There's really nothing to it!" exclaims the increasingly poppy Memphis punk, and he tosses off brilliant little bursts of fuzzy melody at such a prolific pace that you almost believe him. He definitely should be paying royalties to the Buzzcocks, but like I've said many times before, I value quality over originality any day.
(15) Deerhunter — Microcastle (Kranky) The dragging middle section may have artistic merit, but the start and finish make Microcastle so memorable. Bradford Cox’s drug-addled despair sounds best with a little oomph behind it. Despite Cox's outsized persona, his bandmates bested him here; Lockett Pundt's “Agoraphobia” and Josh Fauver's “Nothing Ever Happened” are the standouts.
(14) Abe Vigoda — Skeleton (Post Present Medium) The best thing to emerge from L.A.’s heralded Smell scene, Skeleton is the sound of High Places’ prickly hallucinations snatched from the subconscious and manifested into a very real series of body blows.
(13) Spiritualized — Songs in A&E (Universal) Sober doesn’t mean clear-headed. Jason Pierce’s gospel-tinged meditations on ache and ecstasy are just as haunting after the fog is wiped off the lens.
(12) Titus Andronicus — The Airing of Grievances (Troubleman Unlimited) Overeducated and underfed, these youngsters burst out of North Jersey breathing fire and pissing blood. Disenchantment has rarely sounded so triumphant.
(11) Fleet Foxes — Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop) The latest entry in the indie rock canon comes courtesy of five Beach Boys-loving, woodsy types from Seattle. At first I appreciated it but by no means loved it. Little by little, as it became indie rock's consensus crossover hit of 2008, I found myself warming to the elaborate arrangements and hirstute harmonies. Maybe I had to get myself into a certain headspace to appreciate what Robin Peckinold and his bearded buds did here. Now that I've crossed over, I don't ever want to go back.
(10) Magic Lantern — High Beams (Not Not Fun) The sickest psych you'll hear this year is the sound of gargantuan death machines approaching and, rather than reigning destruction, throwing one hell of a kegger.
(9) Ne-Yo — Year of the Gentleman (Def Jam) With one of the most uniformly solid R&B records in years, Ne-Yo proved that just because you're smooth doesn't mean you can't have edge. I don't endorse the subhuman self-effacement of "Why Does She Stay?" — grow a pair, dude! — but otherwise I can get behind the crooner's give-not-take look at love.
(8) F---ed Up — The Chemistry of Common Life (Matador) Artsy window dressing could have neutered F---ed Up's fury. Instead it made their latest dose of sonic brutality into an event.
(7) Lil Wayne — Tha Carter III (Cash Money) Whether blabbering over chopped and screwed brain drain “A Milli” or the smooth, soaring strings of “Comfortable,” 2008’s weirdest star made the most of his moment. Nothing could have matched the thrill of hearing Weezy's bizarre brilliance running free on last year's Da Draught 3 mixtape, but the more time I spent with Tha Carter III, the more satisfied I was with Wayne's chosen path.
(6) Please Quiet Ourselves — Please Quiet Ourselves (Mushpot) Twee teens from Cali present the perfect throwback to ’90s slapdash pop.
(5) Love Is All — A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night (What's Your Rupture?) Sweden's finest throw another transcendent punk rock disco party.
(4) Crystal Antlers — EP (self-released) Seems like every band was playing psych in 2008 — and putting “Crystal” in its name — but Crystal Antlers stood out from both packs by uprooting its hippie-dippy bedrock and using it to angrily clobber onlookers.
(3) Times New Viking — Rip It Off (Matador) Love it or hate it (love it!), this crackling racket defines Columbus in the national music consciousness.
(2) Frightened Rabbit — The Midnight Organ Fight (Fat Cat) In a perfect world, this band would be leading arena-sized sing-alongs of its earnest, profane pop-rock tunes. Frightened Rabbit is contagiously good, so that day may be coming.
(1) Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar) Technically, the best album of 2008 came out in 2007, but Justin Vernon’s debut left its footprint on this year. For Emma got wide release last February and just kept building momentum as one listener after another succumbed to its beauty. Birthed in a wintry Wisconsin cabin, it transcends time, temperature or back story.