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GEORGE HENN’S TOP ALBUMS OF 2008

After years in the making, Guns N’ Roses finally released Chinese Democracy.

Sorry, Axl Rose, but it didn’t make Medleyville staffer George Henn‘s list of the best albums from 2008.

These discs did make the cut:

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1. MudcrutchMudcrutch (Reprise). Tom Petty‘s pre-Heartbreakers lineup releases its debut more than 30 years after disbanding, and it’s full of more spark and spontaneity than anything he has released in a while.

2. Matt KeatingQuixotic (MRI). Long under the radar, this New York songsmith offers twice as many reasons to finally discover him on this tuneful double disc that is delivered with the confidence of a seasoned pro.

3. Matthew SweetSunshine Lies (Shout! Factory). Seventeen years after Girlfriend, pop perfectionist Sweet revisits the lush harmonies and homespun sound (not to mention some of the backing players) that marked his breakthrough album.

4. Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True LovesRoll With You (Q Division). On only his second disc, the precocious Reed displays the chops of a vintage soul shouter, with a knockout band to match.

5. MudhoneyThe Lucky Ones (Sub Pop). Grunge may be old news, but its elder statesmen somehow sound ageless, and singer Mark Arm ensures that Mudhoney’s eighth studio LP is a howling good time.

6. Alejandro EscovedoReal Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan). The venerable roots rocker revisits his punk past, setting his typically aching, honest lyrics to an often raw, rowdy soundtrack.
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7. The Hold SteadyStay Positive (Vagrant). Critics’ darlings pick up where their Boys and Girls In America left off two years ago, with 11 more biting, bar-room anthems and plenty of piercing guitars.

8. The OfframpsSplit the Difference (Deluxe). Meat-and-potatoes, blue-collar rock meets punk angst — think Tom Petty sitting in with Soul Asylum about 20 years ago.

9. Gary LourisVagabonds (Rydodisc). On his solo debut, the ex-Jayhawks front man steers away from his former band’s country jangle with stark, confessional ballads (“I Wanna Get High”) and soaring, gospel-style choruses.

10. Foxboro Hot TubsStop Drop and Roll!!! (Reprise). Paying homage to the British Invasion under a not-so-secret identity, Green Day leans perhaps a bit too heavily on some key influences — at one point it sounds as if the guys are copping two Kinks tunes at once — but in this case imitation really does seem like the sincerest form of flattery.

Honorable mention/10 more worth buying (in alphabetical order):
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AC/DCBlack Ice (Columbia)
The Baseball ProjectVolume I: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (Yep Roc)
The Black CrowesWarpaint (Silver Arrow)
Black HolliesCasting Shadows (Ernest Jenning)
Billy BraggMr. Love & Justice (Anti)
The FratellisHere We Stand (Interscope)
Nada SurfLucky (Barsuk)
Smash PalaceEveryone Comes and Goes (Zip)
SupersuckersGet It Together! (Mid-Fi)
The WhigsMission Control (ATO)